Lead source for casting own bullets...


January 31, 2006, 10:44 PM
Where's a good place to look? I've heard of using wheelweights, but where would I get them? Do tire shops give the stuff away, or sell it? Do I need to scrounge from the junkyard? Could I buy scrap lead anywhere, maybe a salvage yard? Are any of these good ideas? I've been planning to get into reloading for a couple years now, but things have been in the way. Meanwhile, I'm reading reloading manuals and trying to get stuff figured out ahead of time. Casting my own bullets is likely a long way into my future, but I'd like to learn what I can now. I did a search, and turned up nothing in past threads.

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February 1, 2006, 01:47 AM
I have luck getting wheelweights at the smaller tire stores .
The big Chain tire stores always tell me
they recycle thiers .
I think because lead is a hazardous material they are
worried about the legal aspect .

Good Luck , Bill

February 1, 2006, 01:51 AM
Hi again

I forgot have never got any for free .
What are you planning on Reloading for ?


February 1, 2006, 02:09 AM
Thanks, bfox. Do you have any idea about what you pay per pound? Obviously this will vary from area to area, and such. Just trying to get an idea.
At first I plan on reloading for .45 and .44 special. I'd like to get into rifle calibers and shot shells later on.

Sharps Shooter
February 1, 2006, 02:38 AM
Occasionally I've been able to buy linotype at the local salvage (Pacific Recycle) yard. It seems like I paid .65 per pound for it the last time. Linotype makes for good looking, but quite hard, bullets on its own. Lyman manuals show formulas for mixing their "#2" alloy using either linotype or wheelweights, pure lead and 50/50 solder.
26 years as an electrician at a place that used a lot of lead sheilded electrical cables allowed me to scrounge enough pure lead to last me the rest of my life. And I think 50/50 bar solder is still available at hardwear or plumbing supply stores.

Father Knows Best
February 1, 2006, 11:43 AM
The cheapest source are tire stores. Spend a day driving around and asking. You should find a place or two that will be happy to unload a 5 gallon bucket full or old weights. Some may want a few bucks ($20 or so) for them. I sometimes offer to buy lunch (pizzas) for the crew in exchange for the weights, which guarantees I'll get a call every few months when they have a full bucket ready to go. Even at a cost of $20-25 per bucket, you're getting a lot of really cheap lead. Anyone know what a 5 gallon bucket of wheel weights weighs? I dunno, but it's a LOT.

Other possible sources are plumbers (lead pipes), metal recyclers and ebay. I haven't had much luck with plumbers, other than my brother-in-law who saves old lead pipes for me that he collects on repair/rennovation jobs. Metal recyclers tend to be too expensive and have the wrong types of lead (linotype, for instance, which is way too hard for me). Ebay is actually a pretty decent source these days, thanks in large part to the USPS "flat rate" shipping boxes. There are sellers on ebay who collect wheel weights and scrap lead, melt it into ingots, test the hardness, and list it on ebay in 5-25 pound lots that often sell for well under than $1/pound. The shipping cost is what used to kill you, but the USPS $7.70 flat rate shipping box will easily hold 25+ pounds of lead ingots.

February 1, 2006, 12:02 PM
As above become friends with someone at a few non-chain tire stores, find out what they like to drink, and keep some handy. The larger stores use a local lead recycler; you might be able to buy some from them. Wheel weights will work fine for your pistol bullets as long as you donít try for max velocity without using gas checks. WWís are probably not hard enough for fast rifle bullets. Plumberís lead is ok for muzzleloader bullets, too soft for others. I have a buddy that owns a print shop, he gave me a bucket of Linotype a while back, the bullets I cast were in fact very pretty and very hard (probably good for rifle bullets. Do a search in here for casting, lots of good info to find.

February 1, 2006, 12:34 PM
I have just recently come across an excellent source of casting material. I found it on ebay and it was from old printing presses that used the letters formed of lead. It is close to linotype and was selling for $25 for 50 lbs. Good clean stuff nothing to worry about skimming off the top like you have with wheel weights. I bought 150 lbs of it so I should be fine for a while. http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=34853&d=1138815178

February 1, 2006, 02:00 PM
No firsthand experience here, since I dont cast, but I have read that you absolutely DO NOT want to use battery lead. Car batteries have a lot of lead in them but the impurities are very, very bad. I really don't know if it is a safety or performance issue.

February 1, 2006, 02:17 PM
last time I stopped by my local tire shop, I received 10 heavy cardboard boxes full...each weighed approx. 50-60 lbs and it was all FREE. Sure did make a difference on my shocks...I could definitely feel the load I was hauling.

February 1, 2006, 02:33 PM
Wish I had that option. I have asked all the tire shops around me and they all say they recycle it and can't sell it due to the contracts they have. That is why I went with the source I posted above.

February 1, 2006, 06:52 PM
Wow, thanks. I didn't expect this many responses so soon. I'm sure I'll be able to use one or more of these ideas. Way cheaper than I thought, too!

February 1, 2006, 07:12 PM
Ive had good luck scrounging from the local tire shops. I havent had to try much in a while. I think I have enough to last a while.
Hey TC66, where are you in SW Ohio?? I have some linotype like in your pic. I usually mix some with my wheelweight material and it makes some good looking bullets:)


February 1, 2006, 08:45 PM
I used to buy it for $0.50 a pound or sometimes half that depending on the manager's mood at the local goodyear store. I haven't bought any in quite a while as I ran into some at the plant they were having to dispose of legally. They were these HUGE batteries used for backup power for instrumentation in the plant in case of a power failure, nothing good on them, but the external electrodes which are BIG . You don't want the plates, mostly salts of lead, lead sulfate I reckon. But, it broke off the electrodes easily enough before dumping in the "hazardous waste" can.

Yes, the TNRCC (Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission) has newish draconian laws regarding such as lead for disposal. I'm not sure what the laws in Texas are as to treatment of tire weights. But, I know there's a passel of paperwork to be done by the small business owner. It is as if the state doesn't want anyone to make money, vow to regulate them to death or something. :rolleyes: To me, it's only a matter of time before private lead casting comes under the scrutiny of such as the EPA or state bureaucracies.

One thing I used to do, but haven't priced it lately. Lead shot used to be 75 cents to a dollar a lb. While I can get wheel weights, or at least could, cheaper, if all sources dry up I can always buy shot. I've also resorted to digging bullets out of the dirt mound at the range when no one was there. That's not a preferred source, but it's somewhat plentiful. Nobody else seems to use it, but me. Sure is a mess to get cleaned up, though, and the bullet jackets and such are a pain.

February 2, 2006, 01:06 AM
The last time I got some was from a guy at a flea market he
has a small tire shop . He gave me 6 coffee cans with about 20lbs.
apiece for $15 .
Other tire shop gave me a 5 gallon bucket and
a intertube filled with them for $20
I sure like the coffee cans better I am getting
to old to lug those 5 gallon buckets around .

Take care , Bill

Highland Ranger
February 2, 2006, 01:38 AM
Anyone know what a 5 gallon bucket of wheel weights weighs?

About 45 pounds*

Density of H20 = .36 lb/in3
Density of PB = .41

* Assumes a solid 5 gallon bucket of lead. Wheel weights = air space and less weight. My guess would be 40 pounds?

Howdy Doody
February 2, 2006, 05:47 AM
I bought a toy soldier type mold on Ebay a couple years ago. It actually has 3 indians in different poses. I cast them out and then paint them up with model enamel paints. They look pretty good, so good in fact that I never have to pay for wheelweights. Last time I needed some, I went into a tire store I had never been in before and I explained I like to cast out toy soldiers. I presented the guy at the desk one of the indians and told him they make good paperweights. He went right out to the shop and had one of the guys load two 5 gallon pails of old weights into my truck. I had brought only one empty bucket to give them and he said that was fine as they get their soap in the buckets. It works every time. I will frequent that place more, since I discovered when I got to melting them into muffin ingots that they had a lot of the stick on kind and I like them really well. I keep my bullets on the soft side, since I only shoot cowboy action.
A good source of pure lead is roofing lead sheets. I bought a 100 lbs a few years ago and I still have plenty of ingots left. I use the pure lead for round balls for my cap and ball revolvers.
I'd say the indian mold was about $20 shipped if memory serves me.
BTW, I cast my weights into an old muffin tin. Each muffin ingot is around 5 lbs, I get more like eighty pounds out of a five gallon bucket after throwing out the tire stems, candy wrappers and stuff.

February 2, 2006, 06:33 AM
I have the stuff for casting bullets, but have not really bothered to do much yet as it still seems cheaper to buy them from commercial casters. I have got quite a few fishing leadhead and weight molds though and they are a better savings for the time involved. I did post on a fishing board looking for a source of lead and had a tire shop owner who swapper me scrap for fishing weights. I think I gave him 20 lbs. of weights for close to 200 lbs of scrap. I still have not converted that all to fishing use yet.

February 2, 2006, 08:48 AM
A 5 gal bucket full of wheel weights averages close to 135-150 lbs.

cracked butt
February 2, 2006, 11:03 PM
Look for independent gas/service stations especially the ones that look like superfund sites with lots of oil stained gravel/concrete around them with cars parked around the building in various states of salvage or disrepair. These places aren't going to care too much about EPA regulations or recycling and will often give away wheelweights for the asking. Bring along a few 5 gallon buckets to exchange with them for full buckets of lead. The last one I went to, I hit the jackpot- 4 5 gallon buckets of wheelweights, mostly truck wheelweights too- the best stuff, free for the hauling. My back was a little sore and I might have lost an inch of height after carrying them to, loading and offloading them from my truck, but it was worth it, considering scrap lead typically sells for $0.50/ lb these days.

About 45 pounds
A 5 gal bucket full of wheel weights averages close to 135-150 lbs.

DMiculek was a whole lot closer to the mark than Highland Ranger. A hand truck would be a good thing to have to move these things. :D

Father Knows Best
February 3, 2006, 11:59 AM
DMiculek was a whole lot closer to the mark than Highland Ranger. A hand truck would be a good thing to have to move these things. :D

Hand truck? Try a forklift and a Kenworth! I once was getting new brakes put on my little Pontiac Vibe hatchback. While hanging around the shop, I asked whether they had any wheel weights they wanted to get rid of. They said, "Yeah!" And loaded me up before I left. I think I had three and a half buckets in the back, and it was pretty comical. The rear suspension was just about fully compressed and sitting on the stops. I drove really slowly....

Highland Ranger
February 3, 2006, 01:17 PM
Maybe the math or the density figure is wrong . . . . but at 8 pound per gallon, water would be 45 pounds multiply times 1.14 you get 51 pounds.

Take into account air . . . . . .

Father Knows Best
February 3, 2006, 04:15 PM
Your density figure is wrong by an order of magnitude. In metric units, water has a density of 1 g/ml. Lead has a density of 11.4 g/ml. Therefore, lead weighs 11.4 times as much as an equivalent volume of water. Since a gallon of water weighs approximately 8.33 pounds, a gallon of lead weighs approximately 95 pounds (8.33 x 11.4 = 95).

That's not to say that a five gallon bucket full of wheel weights weighs 475 pounds (5 x 95 = 475), because as you point out there is a lot of air space in the bucket. If you filled a five gallon bucket with 5 gallons of molten lead, however, it would indeed weigh 475 pounds.

February 3, 2006, 04:29 PM
If you can't get them from a tire store or auto wrecking yard, one can find wheel weights in the most interesting places. Take a stroll along a truck route and you'll find more than you can carry. Ditto for places where RVs and trucks park over night. No, I'm not saying take them off the trucks/RVs, I'm saying they fall off on their own (look how short the 'hook' is compared to the rim thickness and youll see why).

But as a 25# bag of lead shot is about the size of a carton of smokes, bring a wagon!

February 3, 2006, 04:47 PM
fjolnirsson, Where do you buy your tires? If you're in Oregon, You've got to have a Les Schwab tire center near you. On a hot summer day, grab a cold six pack of Coke/Pepsi or what ever. Drive up near one of the work bays. Don't go to the store front. When an employee askes you if he can help you. Hand him the six pack and ask about getting some wheel weights.

I've got a Les Schwab tire center in my small town. They sell the weights by the 5 gallon bucket for $10.00. It's not quite as clean as the news paper stuff, and has less antimony as WW's did in years past, but that's thousands of bullets in a bucket. Thousands.


February 4, 2006, 12:55 PM
E-mail sent.

JK in SC
aka HiVelocity

February 4, 2006, 08:06 PM
My local Walmart tire Center was more than happy to give me 3-4 gallons worth for free. I'll I did was ask.

Now I need to find a mold, a cheap way to lube, a makshift heat source--will a coleman stove work?


February 4, 2006, 09:41 PM
My local Walmart tire Center was more than happy to give me 3-4 gallons worth for free. I'll I did was ask.

Now I need to find a mold, a cheap way to lube, a makshift heat source--will a coleman stove work?


You can buy a simple lead pot to put on the stove. If you have a gas stove, it'll melt lead. I guess a coleman might work. But, it's a pain because keeping the lead at the proper temperature for casting is a PITA on a stove.

I broke down and bought a Lee electric pot with the spout on the bottom. It was about fifty bucks back when I got it 20 or so years ago and it's still going strong. It has a dial rheostat to control temp and it keeps the lead at the right temp. You don't have to mess with a ladle which, in itself, is hard to keep at the right temp. If you try to cast too cold, you get lots of ripples, non-uniformity. If you try to cast too hot, you get glazing and what looks like little gas pockets in the lead, not good either.

Lee molds work and they're the best values and aluminum molds are easier to use than iron. You'll need to keep the sprue cutter lubed. I just melt a little alox on it from time to time. Also, use a wooden rod or rubber mallet to knock the sprue cutter. Don't use a steel hammer, you'll cause damage to the sprue cutter where you whack it. Set the mold down on something solid before whacking the sprue cutter, will help keep the handles from messing up.

I've taken to annealing my bullets, dropping them from the mold into water. This gives the surface a little more hardness. If you don't wish to anneal, drop 'em on a soft towel or something, not a hard surface. There are instructions in the Lee mold box that will help you.

As for lube/sizing. I try to use tumble lube molds, but have some favorites I bought before the TL molds were even available. TL bullets to not require sizing. You can use Lee liquid alox lube on any design, though, and it's the ultimate in simplicity. I tumble lube, then size my bullets which aren't TL bullets. You can get a lubri-sizer and use stick alox, but it does no better job in my experience and it's more PITA and more investment, especially than doing the TL bullets which need no sizing. I think the Lee liquid alox is the best thing in casting that's come along in a while, myself.

February 5, 2006, 02:56 PM
Bought a Lee 10-pound capacity bottom-pour furnace years ago, and I love it for casting!

Wheel weights and old bullets, I generally melt and flux to get the crud and clips out, then cast it into ingots; that way when i need to add to the furnace I just slide a block in.

February 5, 2006, 04:34 PM
Bought a Lee 10-pound capacity bottom-pour furnace years ago, and I love it for casting!

Wheel weights and old bullets, I generally melt and flux to get the crud and clips out, then cast it into ingots; that way when i need to add to the furnace I just slide a block in.

I don't have an ingot mold, but have this old fishing weight mold that casts these HUMONGOUS fishing weights. I just use that. And, bonus, when i wanna run trot lines up the river, I have weights. :D

cracked butt
February 5, 2006, 06:04 PM
An old cupcake pan makes a good ingot mould. Beware that the lead will solder itself to some of them though and you'll wreck the pan trying to get them out.

If you have a rifle where you can purchase a Lee push through sizer .001" over goove size of your rifle, you're golden, though there are some calibers especially 8mm that lee not only casts undersize but the sizers are undersized. The lee sizer makes the bullets very concentric, and seats gas checks on straight to boot. Lee liquid alox is good stuff- just follow the directions. You can leave this stuff in the bore of your rifle after shooting as well- it makes for a very good protectectant.

February 5, 2006, 10:49 PM
I have a .308 Lee sizer that screws into the press and you push the bullet through, but my .357 and ..452 sizers are hand held. Ypu put the bullet in, put a driver on the bullet, and whack it with a mallet. I tried to find one of those when I bought the .308 sizer, but Lee didn't offer it. I guess they've discontinued 'em in favor of the press mounted system.

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