Tire weights for casting Black Powder Minies


May 6, 2003, 03:44 PM
I was handed a 30 lb bag of tire weights a few years ago and I was thinking of using them for casting minies for the muzzleloader. I was wondering if the composition of the lead weights if correct to cast for the muzzleloader, or should I use new ingots? Any help would be appreciated.

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Steve Smith
May 6, 2003, 03:54 PM
You should use pure lead for BP guns, not wheel weights, which have alloys that could damage your gun or cause an overpressure.

May 6, 2003, 04:56 PM
You don't want completely pure lead. You still need 1-2% tin to get some castability, otherwise your mold won't fill out smoothly. The wheelweights probably have 4-5% antimony in addition to the tin. If you get the pot hot enough, I believe that you can remove some of the antimony out of the wheelweights. Don't flux, just keep skimming off of the top over and over again, while keeping the melt really hot. This should generally be a golden/yellowish crystalline like scum. Reduce temperature before actually casting. This seems to work for me. My bullets end up weighing at or even slightly above what the molds predict their weight to be in "pure" lead.
Check out the Lyman guide to bullet casting if you get the chance. They have an informational chapter on muzzleloading projectiles.

Steve Smith
May 6, 2003, 05:13 PM
The guys I know doing BP use pure lead.

Come to think of it they use centrifugal molds though...nevermind.

May 6, 2003, 07:51 PM
You want to use almost pure lead. It works fine once you get the mold nice and hot. 50:1 or 100:1 tin works too, just for surfactant effect, you're not looking for hardness. Wheel weights are bad for BP. The antimony makes them more brittle as it adds hardness and with the Minie balls will induce blowing the skirt off more easily. You can remove the antimony, like PD shooter said, but it'd be easier to just buy 10lbs of pure lead IMO, and save the WW for handgun bullets. S/F...Ken M

May 6, 2003, 08:50 PM
John Paul will jump in here momentarily and expound on the differences between the various types of lead and lead alloys....

May 9, 2003, 09:39 AM
You won't like the results of trying to substitute WW for plumbers lead. The WW expands slightly after cooling, -along with being substantially harder than plumbers lead. (Yes, plumbers lead has a trace amount of tin and whatever else was in the ore/slag/ect. hence not PURE lead). The result is that they are somewhat harder to load (you'll probably need a leather mallet or plastic hammer to load bullets).

I've had decent results with the Lee REAl bullet, and the Minie' may be 'ok'. I've had better results with WW and round ball, as you can go to a thinner patch material and compensate for the difference in diameters. (.002-.003"). Something I've been thinking of trying is to anneal the WW after casting it, to see if that makes it any easier to seat the bullets.

There is really no worry about pressures from M-L, as the bullet is already swagged to bore diameter by the seating process. Actually, the opposite problem is that with greater hardness, you may not get obturation of the base of the bullet and will get gas escaping around the heel and subsequently poor velocity, accuracy, and leading, much like occurs with light loads and hard cast pistol bullets.

I've also had similar experience with trying to use shotshell shot. If you really want to use the WW in your muzzleloader, the best route is to cast them into a pistol bullet and shoot them in a Sabot. There is no problem associated with the hardness and the bullets can be sized to proper diameter. I suggest you use a .45 acp bullet in .50 cal. and use 185gr to 200gr bullets unless you have a twist faster than 1-48". I've had good luck with the Lee 200gr RF, sized (not lubed) to .452, and fired in Hornady Sabot through a CVA-Inline w/1-28" twist). Still MUCH cheaper than most of the "pre-packaged" rounds.

Paul "Fitz" Jones
May 11, 2003, 02:14 PM
The purpose of Minie bals with their hollow bases or skirts and the modern Thompson Center Maxi balls it to UPSET and expand to fill the bore of your blackpowder weapon. They are small enough to drop down the bore then fill the bore when fired. To do that they have to be soft. In visiting a scrap yard the lead needed should be bluish, can be scratched with a fingernail and will deform easily when dropped on the ground or when hit by a hammer.

I have sold hundreds of these molds and have several Lee 45/70 minie ball molds in .575 diameter and weight of 472 grains that have the expandable skirts with SOFT lead. Also Have Saeco 4 cavity Thompson center MaxiBall molds in 45 and 50 caliber.

John Paul
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