Lead bullets


April 23, 2007, 05:53 PM
I shot an IDPA match last Sunday and was talking to somebody about bullets. I have never shot lead bullets. I use Berry's and Ranier plated bullets. He was telling me that in his experience lead has been the most accurate. I was wondering what some opinions were from those of you that have used both. Thanks,

Edit: Sorry I forgot to mention that I am looking at these in 9mm.

If you enjoyed reading about "Lead bullets" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
April 23, 2007, 07:45 PM
I don't think there are any "absolutes" when it comes to accuracy. Some pistols may shoot a particular bullet better than others and sometimes it just doesn't make any difference. I have a SA 1911A1 that is set up for a hardball gun for Leg Matches. It shoots lead and jacketed bullets equally well. The loads are different but I shoot 230 grain RN, both lead and jacketed at about 800 fps. Both bullets act about the same and they work.

Has your shooting buddy put his pistol in a Ransom rest and tried different bullets to see which one is really more accurate or is this just a subjective statement on his part?

Navy Vet & SWIFT Boat OIC

April 23, 2007, 08:10 PM
He isn't my buddy just somebody I was talking to at the match. I am not sure how he tested these, he was just telling me that he has had better accuracy with the lead. I was thinking about trying some in my CZ75 to try to cut costs down a little more.

April 23, 2007, 09:03 PM
Like cdrt says, it depends on the gun. I've got my old PPC revolver that will put 10 rounds of 148 grain hollow base wadcutter, over 2.7 grains of Bullseye, into 1.75" at 50 yards from a ransom rest, but it won't shoot jacketed bullets that tight. I have other handguns that shoot jacketed bullets better.

One thing that does help to find out is if you're going to see how accurate a particular handgun is with lead bullets, clean all the copper fouling out of the barrel beforehand. If you remove all traces of copper, the lead bullets will perform better.

I shoot lots of lead bullets and lots of plated bullets. My jacketed bullet shooting these days is limited, due to cost, but I do have some loads that are limited to jacketed bullets, and some that are limited to lead bullets. It all depends on the kind of shooting I'm doing, and the firearm I'm going to do it with. You can always buy 500 or so lead bullets and give them a try.

Hope this helps.


tasco 74
April 23, 2007, 10:38 PM
as was said all guns are different in regards to what they like to shoot well... that said my best friend and mentor used to shoot ihmsa big bore with lead bullets.. one of his silhouette handguns was a contender .44 mag bored out to .444 marlin...... he shot lead bullets in it out to 200 yards to knock the rams down.. that made me a believer in lead bullets..... all my reloads are homecast lead....... get yourself a lee pro pot and some moulds and you'll have even more of a hobby!

April 23, 2007, 11:37 PM
Rusty: you didn't mention caliber, but if you have a CZ 75 B in .40, the Oregon Trails 170 gr. SWC is a tack driver in mine. The only real advantage for using plated bullets to me is their cost compared to jacketed bullets. I don't use them much. I use JHP, JSP, Jacketed Silhouette or Hardcast lead bullets in every cartridge I load. CZs have exceptional rifling. Very precise lands that are cut very square and that helps when shooting cast bullets. Oregon Trails uses the hardest alloy of any commercialy cast bullet I'm aware of at 26 BHN and before you worry about topics like obturation and such, consider what pistols the loads were fired in. Northeastern bullets are very good also. BHN is 19 and 18 is typical with commercial casters that tell you that little or no leading can be expected with their bullets. Northeastern bullets are also molycoated if you prefer, as an option, but you can expect some additional smoke from the moly coating. Last time I heard, Northeastern was behind in production by several months. Maybe that's not the case now, but I'd have to check. Their bullets are very good in any case.

If your 75 is a 9mm, try the Oregon Trails/LaserCast 124 gr. RN for a similar profile as an FMJ.;)

April 23, 2007, 11:58 PM
I won't say that lead is any more accurate in my firearms, but accuracy isn't diminshed either that I can tell. I shoot quite a bit of lead in .45ACP and 9mm with very good results so far. It has definately been a cost savings as well.

Ol` Joe
April 24, 2007, 06:22 PM
Lead can be very accurate, then again some jacketed bullets are known for being very accurate and are common at bullseye matchs. You will have to try them to see how your pistol lekes them.
Personally I would think they would be fine for IDPA type shoots. The ranges are normally very short and MOA accuracy isn`t a requirment. The lower cost and what should be more then sufficiant accuracy should be a win/ win situation for practice and likely for matches also.

April 24, 2007, 07:06 PM
As previously mentioned some guns shoot lead some shoot jacketed better. With lead you can size to fit the bore. When I first started shooting bullseye the first thing we would do was fire a cast bullet into water (55 gal drum) then mike the bullet and that was your bore size. Some barrels likes that size, some .001 tighter some .001 looser. Accuracy is a great thing when everything comes together.

April 24, 2007, 09:20 PM

He was telling me that in his experience lead has been the most accurate. I was wondering what some opinions were from those of you that have used both

The short answer to your query regarding cast bullets is, they can easily be "as" accurate, as any jacketed bullet made if you do your homework with them.

I've cast bullets and used them in handguns exclusively for many years. I use to use jacketed bullets in my handguns mainly for hunting up until the early 80's, and cast bullets for target, PPC and Police matches. But since shortly after that time, I used cast bullets exclusively for everything. And, every bit as accurately as jacketed bullets in handguns. Rifles require much more involvement to get them shoot "as accurate" as most jacketed bullets, but in a reduced velocity, and using only the best inspected, they can be as good or better in many cases.

I've been casting bullets since I was a little duffer, and after many years, I've never really lost interest, and if anything, I've delved much deeper into it. I also included making my own jacketed bullets when I need something odd, or different, including swaging my own lead bullets.

I did, and still do cast for the 9mm, although not as much as I once did. The 9mm's have been so cheap commercially, most just buy them anymore.

You didn't mention the gun you were using, but you need to pay attention to the rifling, in that, is it square cut standard type rifling, or is it polygonal (rounded looking) like Glocks have ?
The reason being, is that depending on the brinnell hardness of the lead alloy the bullets are made of, standard "square cut" rifling will have a more positive "bite" into the bullet than the polygonal rifling will.
As a Glock armorer, I have always been advised in their armorer's schools against the use of lead bullets in their guns....period.
Now I know some guys who are aware of their warning, but also realize that hardness levels of lead have a lot to do with their safe function in the Glocks....but the company states a resounding "no way" when it comes to their use.

Most bullet jackets run approx. 40BHN (Brinnell Hardness Number), and on the opposite extreme is pure lead which runs at 5BHN. Wheel Weights run on average at 9BHN, but if cast and dropped directly into cool water right out of the mould, can harden to a BHN of 15 or 16 within a few days.

My old 9mm cast load was a Lyman 120 gr truncated cone, plainbased bullet, loaded over 4.5grs of Unique and a CCI 500 primer. I use to shoot it out of several 9mm's back in the day, but mainly a S&W 3906 I once had.
The load function and shot superbly......very accurate, with light to moderate recoil.

Most 9mm bores run anywhere from .3545-.356. The majority probably are .355-.3555....but you gotta slug your bore to make sure.
Cast bullets will shoot the best sized to exact bore size, or slightly over. If a cast bullet when dropped from it's mould, has to be sized more than .003 down from it's dropped diameter, normally this will ruin it's chances of decent accuracy.

If your going to buy them, check your bore diameter and try to buy the bullets on a couple of simple points;
Depending on the hardness of the lead, if it's softer lead "swaged" bulk bullets, buy them at a .356 diameter (which they usually are)....
If the bullets are commercially cast, and the lead is harder, you can use them at your bore diameter, or over by no more than .001.

In revolvers, the old adage of sizing the bullets to fit your bore is incorrect. Lyman has instructed this for years, but when you check the charge holes in the revolver's cylinders, you always find that they are always larger, sometime from .002-.004 over the bore diameter....how could this situation possibly allow a bullet to shoot accurately ?.....it can't.......

Sizing the bullet to just push through the chamber's charge holes with moderate thumb pressure is correct. In other words, at charge hole diameter, but no more than
.002 over bore diameter.
I've been told that .003 is the absolute maximum recommended overbore diameter allowed, but hardness factors and other things come into play when you start to push things.

I use to do it Lymans way many moons ago, with spotty results. After many discussions with Lyman about it over the years, they've finally changed their view from the old ways, and admittedly use the same cylinder measuring method.
Coming through the cylinder "tightly", then with the forcing cone squeezing the bullet down to fit the bore, the bullet has no room to cant and shoots straight.

If I can help...don't hesitate to ask..

Take care,

April 25, 2007, 09:39 AM
If your intent is to shoot IDPA, use plated/coated/jacketed bullets. When shooting lead rapid-fire, targets can become invisible from smoke every now and then. As for accuracy, you are looking at an 8 target (0 zone) and a long shot will be 35yds. You will also need enough accuracy to hit the 6X6 head out to the IDPA set max of 10 yards. FWIW my 9mm IDPA load is 3.1gr VV310 with berrys 147gr plated.

April 25, 2007, 11:44 AM

Your right regarding smoke when using lead loads.

Much of it can be trimmed by using different powders and all that, but the main culprit has almost always been bullet lubes.

Lead in itself smokes very little, if any, but a lot depends on the alloy.
I used to use the old 50/50 alox-beeswax mixes back in the day, and when shooting PPC matches and stuff, the smoke from those lubes, in conjunction with small charges of Bullseye (yuk) would gag you. It coated the gun terribly with that sooty goo.

Sizing is real important regarding any smoke from the cast rounds alone, but I switched my lube from the old 50/50's to lubes like LBT's "Blue Lube", or Lyman's "Orange Majic", and this has greatly reduced my cast bullet smoke to visually no more than a jacketed load produces really.

Many indoor ranges, to meet indoor air standards in some states, have switched solely over to non-lead bullet requirements, and, understandably so. Myabe their ventilation systems can't handle the smoke adequately, or for some other reason, but usually they choose this route to meet a criteria.
Other indoor ranges don't allow anything other than non-jacketed (lead, cast or swaged) on their range due to their backstops, or other conditions.

I've shot at both....but it sure pays to find out ahead of time, for obvious reasons.

Plated bullets are a good alternative in cases like that, but cast, if you can buy them cheap enough, or do them yourself, they can save quite a bit of cash over time.


April 25, 2007, 12:26 PM
another way to cut down on the smoke of commerical cast bullets is to get some lee tumble lube.just a light coat tumbled and let it sit overnight on wax paper will really decrease the smoke.the magma lube which really is a good lube but wax base.it will smoke some but better than most others out there.
try some lee tl it works.


April 25, 2007, 08:06 PM
Thanks for all of the great information. I was thinking about buying some because with shooting and reloading I have enough hobbies right now. The person I was talking to offered to give me 100 to try so I think I will take him up on that offer. I will be shooting these in a CZ75 BD Police 9mm.

April 25, 2007, 09:11 PM

Pull your barrel and when holding it up to the light, look through it and see if the lands (raised portion) are "rounded looking". There is a visibly distinct difference between regular cut rifling, and the rounded polygonal type most common in guns like the Glocks, and some others.
Instead of being machine "cut", the polygonal rifling is formed by placing the barrel over a forming mandrel and the impressions are "hammered" into it when the barrel is forged down onto the mandrel.
Polygonal rifling has a very finished shiney appearance to it, whereas cut rifling looks cut as in rough looking.

The reason I'm jabbering on here, is that unless the cast bullets are of a reasonably hard alloy, they could skid through a good portion of the rifling if it's polygonal, leading pretty badly. If enough of this builds up, the next, or following rounds fired can break this lead buildup loose and it'll wedge between the bullet and the barrel like a doorstop. The result can be a bulged barrel, and a locked up gun.

I had it happen on the range one day when one of our Investigators grabbed his qualifying ammo out of the wrong boxes. He was carrying a Glock 9mm. The best the factory would do was sell us a barrel at our police cost.

Two things, first check your barrel like I mentioned, and then ask the guy who cast the bullets for you, how hard they are, or what they're made of (for sure).

Lead hardness levels of "air cooled" wheelweights (9BHN/hardness rating), or harder should be fine.
Pure lead at 5BHN would be a no-no, and a potential problem.

Take care,

If you enjoyed reading about "Lead bullets" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!