Why not make all bullets have steel cores instead of lead ones?


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dodging230grainers
July 13, 2005, 02:15 AM
If steel cores penetrate better, why not just dump the lead core and make all bullets have steel cores? Plus it would help the environment! This would seem to really help out handguns because they lack penetration compared to rifles. Just a random thought that occured to me while browsing the boards.
What do y'all think?

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sumpnz
July 13, 2005, 02:30 AM
If steel cores penetrate better, why not just dump the lead core and make all bullets have steel cores? Because the bliss-ninnies would cry that they were "cop-killer" bullets or some such none-sense (as if it would kill a non-cop any less dead). Besides which, lead cores are desirable for self-defense from the standpoint that the expansion and fragmentation limits penetration and therefore reduces the chance that the bullet will exit its intended target and go on to injure an innocent bystander.

Cesiumsponge
July 13, 2005, 02:35 AM
You can't put steel cores in pistol ammo that is designed specifically for piercing armor. Look what they did to steel core 7.2x39mm Russian stuff when the OA-93 came out. Look at the stink they're creating over the FN Five-seven even though civilians can only buy JHP ammunition.

Pistols aren't designed as rifles and suit a different purpose. They aren't primarily created to penetrate bulletproof vests or heavier targets. That is where rifles come in. The irony comes in because proper ammo selection specifically in the 5.56mm round can produce results that penetrate less than pistols, or more.

Steel doesn't deform at velocities seen in common chemically propelled bullets when striking soft targets. This is even more true with steel that is hardened to a high hardness for the sole purpose of armor piercing. How do you make usable jacketed hollowpoints in pistols expand and deform using copper jacketed steel? The only example of a good steel-core "man stopper" is the 5.56mm M855 round, but it uses high velocity to shatter the copper jacket into fragmenting upon impact. You won't get those velocities in a pistol.

A more sensible idea is to use bismuth instead of lead as a filler material. Both are very similar in atomic weight and properties, except bismuth is not poisonous. The only problem is that it is much harder to come by and more expensive. It also oxidizes easily and readily forms crystals.

GW
July 13, 2005, 02:37 AM
Cuz steel is more expensive than lead and harder to work with and
Steel sparks when it hits certain materials and that can cause fires

Oleg Volk
July 13, 2005, 02:46 AM
AFIAK, mild steel is cheaper than lead but less dense, so doesn't retain downrange velocity as well, requires longer bullets for the same weight.

chopinbloc
July 13, 2005, 02:58 AM
afaik, there are no steel cored bullets. the m855 is coppered jacketed, lead cored with a tiny steel penetrator in the nose of the bullet. penetration is not a big issue for civialians as most any cartridge with adequate power will penetrate humans deeply enough to reach vital organs. same for car doors, sheetrock and other intermediate objects. the issue is actually reducing penetration or balancing it with energy transferance to reduce risk to bystanders and disable the target quickly. there are similar concepts at work in hunting ammunition. leo and military have a little better reason to use armor piercing or highly penetrative rounds as they have a greater chance of meeting an adversary with armor protection. but the issues of energy transfer and endangering innocents still exist. the end result is that armor piercing ammo has a very limited use.

now before anyone starts screaming about their right to own whatever ammo they want, i'm not talking about rights, i'm talking about practicality.

Majic
July 13, 2005, 03:00 AM
Lead is a natural deposit and steel is an alloy (made from lead) that has to be made. Thus lead is cheaper.
One big problem with making all bullets with steel cores is to make steel cores disrupt and expand at handgun velocities. Not to mention as posted above that steel is lighter than lead so the bullets will have to be longer to achieve the same weight.

Moonclip
July 13, 2005, 03:15 AM
If lead is cheaper than steel how come thw first lot of Chinese Norinco 7.62x39 ammo were steel core? I wuld assume they wanted to use the cheapest materials available. I heard there has been attempts with zinc bullets but they are generally not considered that great.

RyanM
July 13, 2005, 03:27 AM
afaik, there are no steel cored bullets. the m855 is coppered jacketed, lead cored with a tiny steel penetrator in the nose of the bullet.

Uh, in M855, the entire front half of the bullet is steel. In Russian military 7.62x39mm ammo, the bullet is made of a steel core and a steel jacket, with a thin layer of lead in between. M2 ball (.50 caliber, not .30-06) is a solid steel bullet with a thick copper-alloy jacket. Lots of other steel-cored stuff.


Lead is a natural deposit and steel is an alloy (made from lead) that has to be made. Thus lead is cheaper.

What??? Steel is an alloy made from iron. Some steels do have some lead content for machinability, but steel is primarily an alloy of iron and carbon.

And as to the actual price, lead is currently going for $0.3788 per pound, while mild steel seems to be more like $1.50 a pound. Going by volume, lead is $0.1552 per cubic inch, while steel is around $0.4266 per cu in.

Doesn't sound very cost-effective, but copper bullets are becoming fairly popular, and copper costs $1.6187 per pound, or $0.5241 per cu in.

Moonclip
July 13, 2005, 03:35 AM
wow lead is cheap then. Makes me laugh too as there is a fellow that used to want to buy lead from the backstop at a range I knew. The reason why was he had a couple of tons or so of scrap lead he used for ballast in a yacht he was building.

One night some people broke in to his yard and stole all the lead! A lot of work for the low scrap value lead brings.

Majic
July 13, 2005, 05:19 AM
You are correct. Late night posting fogs the mind. Steel is primarily iron, carbon, and varying degrees of nickel.

Lucky
July 13, 2005, 06:42 AM
I'm not quite awake, but I think steel is under $500 per ton.

entropy
July 13, 2005, 10:23 AM
afaik, there are no steel cored bullets.

Well, chopinbloc, now you know there are. Besides the 7.62x39 Chinese ammo aforementioned, it was made in 7.62x54R by at least the Czechs and Hungarians. This I know for fact, I have recovered many steel cores from the berms behind my targets. They even made some with a binary core of steel and lead. Not that the Chinese or Warsaw Pact nations were ever concerned with the Hague Accords concerning non-expanding ammo, (considering the AK-74 round) but they would assure compliance.

Cesiumsponge
July 13, 2005, 05:18 PM
Here's an example of a mostly steel core penetrator--a picture of a .50BMG armor piercing incendiary round. Intact on the left, sliced open copper jacket on the right. Notice the hardened steel core makes up a majority of the actual bullet with some incendiary fill in the nose and a lead cap on the rear.

Standing Wolf
July 13, 2005, 06:11 PM
I'm ready for copper.

Larry Ashcraft
July 13, 2005, 06:24 PM
but I think steel is under $500 per ton.
Current scrap price for steel is $80-120 per ton, though the processed price is going to be much higher.

DarthBubba
July 13, 2005, 06:40 PM
Why not steel?

For starters the energy transfer to target is much lower for steel.
Steel just does not carry the energy down range that lead does, why do you think they had to keep increasing the size of shot gun shells we went from 2 inches to 3 inches in order th accommodate enough steel shot to do the job. The same will happen to rifle chambers the cartridge will have to get larger in order to match the ballistics of lead core or alloyed core ammo.
It would all come down to the, need a really big boom for not so much bang problem.

DarthBubba :D

Cesiumsponge
July 13, 2005, 07:17 PM
Energy transfer is based solely on the kinetic energy relation to mass and velocity. Steel or lead don't have any greater or less ability to "carry" kinetic energy. Lead has more mass than steel. You can make the two equal in kinetic energy by raising the mass of the steel round or increasing its velocity. There is nothing wrong with steel core ammunition; it has it's place

I think it all boils down to the following: Steel or harder cored ammunition have little value to the majority of civilian shooters like hunters. Little demand results in little supply in the civilian market.

There are plenty of steel-cored penetrators, and even tungsten or depleted uranium penetrators used in the military because there is a specific need for these types of rounds.

another okie
July 13, 2005, 07:21 PM
We'd have to get higher grade steel plate racks for shooting competition.
Also, I know steel shot is harder on barrels; maybe steel rifle ammo is too, I don't know.

Cesiumsponge
July 13, 2005, 07:29 PM
Steel core stuff for rifles have a copper jacket. Even with the barrel rifling gouging out the copper jacket during acceleration, it never actually goes deep enough for steel-on-steel contact.

GW
July 13, 2005, 07:30 PM
It shouldn't be tougher on the barrel as long as its jacketed
Steel shot isn't, hence the wear and tear

Gunwalker.44
July 14, 2005, 02:10 AM
Swedish MilSurp 6.5x55 has a mild steel jacket no copper coating.
Apparently that's the way the Swedes have being doing it for years.
My Carl Gustafsen (?spelling, I'm not opening the safe at this time of night to check) still has a great bore and its about 90 years old.

chopinbloc
July 14, 2005, 02:45 AM
i was aware of the use of steel in the core of some ammo, even large amounts like in dedicated armor piercing ammo, but i never knew how far some loads took it. seems to me range would be dramatically reduced.

i had one of those swedish mausers a couple years ago. the range banned them because the surplus steel jacketed stuff was punching holes in the gongs.

sumpnz
July 14, 2005, 03:24 AM
Sure it was steel jacketing? My Turk 8mm surplus ammo has a cupro-nickel jacket that looks like steel, and is quite hard, but defiantely not steel.

berettashotgun
July 14, 2005, 07:21 AM
Been waiting on this question. Roughly~ steel has a density of 8 grams per cubic centimeter, lead is closer to 11. Price is practically double on steel, manufacturing cost for steel ( in the US ) is more, for now, than lead. Been loading steelshot waterfowl loads, and dove loads,for 7 years :banghead: and although steel works- the lower density of steel would make smaller caliber pistols practically worthless because of the case volume needed for the ensuing powder charge to drive the same sized projectile to velocity/energy levels worth using. The 357 would be reduced to a paltry and weak 38 power level- now who would want that?

Brian Williams
July 14, 2005, 08:49 AM
2 reasons in manufacturing

Melting points
Lead melts around 600 degrees +- 100 degrees
Iron Melts around 3000 degrees +- 300 degrees

Mallability (ability to flow under pressure.)
Lead, real low will flow at room temp.
iron/steel, real high almost must be heated to red hot which is hotter than lead melts.


Metal/ Symbol /Melting Point F /Melting Point C/ Specific Gravity /Weight in Troy Ozs/Cu In
Iron/ Fe/ 2802/ 1539/ 7.87/ 4.145
Lead/ Pb/ 621/ 327/ 11.34/ 5.973

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