Casting lead bullets


October 1, 2013, 12:05 PM
So I have been reloading for a few months now and I am considering casting my own lead rounds. My question is what would a fair price for lead be? I called the better part of 40 tire shops and of those only 3 sell wheel weights. One shop wants 60 per bucket:what: and the other two just kind of mumbled something about regulars already have a claim. :confused:

Am I better off just buying lead bars or is there another source for lead? I want this to be as cheap as possible. ANY help or info will be helpful.

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October 1, 2013, 12:32 PM
$60 per bucket is a little steep, I went my local recycling shop and they had a pile of lead WW's in the corner, talked them down to $0.60/lb because of the clips, and because they weren't pure lead.

October 1, 2013, 12:34 PM
If I couldn't find wheel weights for free/cheap from a tire shop I'd check a local scrap yard and see if they'll sell you lead in some form or another. Some people will buy bricks/bars/pigs of lead from places like but at $2/lb it doesn't seem worth it. I can buy MBC 200 or 230gr boolits for $45-50 per 500. If I were to pay $2/lb for lead I'd be looking at spending about $34 just for the lead, not including shipping, and doing all the work myself.

$60 for a full 5gal bucket of wheel weights wouldn't be too bad if its all lead. You can get between 100-130lbs of wheel weights in a 5gal bucket. I picked up a free bucket of lead, had to dump it into 2 buckets to carry it, long walk out to my truck. But check you scrap yards first. I've seen some guys claim they get sorted, meaning all lead, wheel weights for $0.30/lb. They'll be dirty but that's a good price. I sprayed mine down real good with a garden hose and nozzle to clean off most of the gunk before casting ingots. If you "wash" them just be 100% sure that you let them thoroughly dry before putting them into a casting pot.

October 1, 2013, 12:43 PM
From what little experience I have, about $1/lb for ingots is about the going rate.

October 1, 2013, 01:18 PM
I just called the only scrap yard around and they will not sell any kind of metal to people for any reason...this is gonna be harder to find for cheap than I though.:scrutiny:

October 1, 2013, 01:37 PM
find a local range and stiffed the lead from the ground. Not to hard but takes a little time, last time I went I got two 5 gallon buckets before people started showing up to shoot and its FREE.

October 1, 2013, 03:32 PM
find a local range and stiffed the lead from the ground. Not to hard but takes a little time, last time I went I got two 5 gallon buckets before people started showing up to shoot and its FREE.

If I sift the lead out of a range backstop, is it ok to melt down and pour into an ingot mold, or do I need to add things to toughen up the alloy first? Will copper jackets and what not change the composition roo much to jave a good alloy?

October 1, 2013, 03:56 PM
Everything from the range, cases, jackets, dirt will all float on top of the lead and can be scoped off.

What are you casting for? That's what's going to matter when it comes to your alloy but I would image you'll find that the range scrap has everything in it so the hardness can really vary but if it's a handgun and you water drop it you should be fine.

October 1, 2013, 03:57 PM
Copper melts at a much higher temp than the lead. When you go to melt plated bullets or jacketed bullets that fully encapsulate the lead, you have to smash the bullet to expose the lead before trying to melt them. That lead is prettying dead soft lead. You'll have to add some tin and/or antimony to it. After I have all of my lead melted in a cast iron pot, I flux it (clean it), then alloy it (add tin/antimony). Others may wait to alloy it when it's in their casting pot but I figure adding it while casting ingots will keep the alloy more consistent.

October 1, 2013, 04:06 PM
Most of my bullets are cast from indoor-range bullet trap lead, and most of that is probably from people shooting .22's. It's softer than wheel weights, but harder than pure lead and it doesn't tarnish. I don't add anything to it.

October 1, 2013, 04:06 PM
Mine what you can from the berm, buy from Roto or MBC. I cast rifle/pistol still is only $15/7 per 100.

October 1, 2013, 04:30 PM
Free or cheap lead is still out there. You just have to ask. And ask and ask! I've scrounged up maybe 500# this year, and I have not tried too hard. Ask when you are traveling out of town. If you get serious about casting, you will soon develop a netwoork for lead.

Tire shops( yeah, I know you talked to a bunch), dealerships,mechanic shops can all produce wheelweights. Roofing and plumbing contractors can provide softer lead. Telephone linemen/cable splicers can provide cable sheathing. Some hospitals can provide isotope lead containers. Print shops or newspaper offices may have type metal( there are several types). Some salvage yards still sell to the public, so keep looking and asking. Lots of casters mine the back stops at their ranges, or the bullet traps at indoor ranges. Old sailboats have lead ballast, as do some old airplanes or dirt track cars. Maybe even run an add in your local paper! You might also watch craigslist and e-bay. You know the dangers there, though!

You might want to check out the castboolit forum. Lots of info there, and several members sell lead. There may even be someone within driving distance from you. Good Luck in your search, but beware that it can be addictive! Lightman

October 1, 2013, 05:23 PM
Ask for wheel weights to make sinkers, you will get more.

October 1, 2013, 06:38 PM
Thanks for all of the info everyone. Ill give mining a go and I will call some local indoor ranges. And if it helps I will be casting 9, 40, and mayber 223 one day. I also plan on powder coating all of my bullets. Also is there a good way to tell if your lead alloy is hard enough or its it kind of a trial and error? Again thanks again for the wealth of info everyone! :D

October 1, 2013, 06:42 PM
I'd expand your search area and include the tiny mom and pop garage/tire store. Give the guy behind the counter $20 cash and tell him you'll do the heavy lifting. It's been my key to success.

And like 243 said, they are for fishing weights. People get weird when you tell them your making bullets.

41 Mag
October 1, 2013, 06:49 PM
I had a similar issue as you, and my final response to it all was simply to search out the classifieds in the shooting forums and pickup what I needed there.

As mentioned above there are usually a couple fo folks selling range lead or WW ingots over on Castboolits, not to mention this site as well as a couple of others.

It isn't free, but most usually are selling for around a buck a pound delivered to your doorstep. Most ship 65'ish pounds in medium flat rate boxes. As also mentioned you can develop relationships with some who supply a lot and sometimes order just what your wanting verses what they offer to the general public. I have a couple of folks who I contact a couple times a year and will just say hey, or ask what they have on hand or might be looking to pour or pick up. Generally I can wait until they have what I need rather than having to search all over creation and hope I get what I want. It makes it MUCH easier on everyone. When I DO buy I usually pick up two or three boxes at a time, so I have plenty to last me a while of the same alloy for the most part.

If your looking for something specific in what your casting then Rotometals is the place to go. Yes they are a bit high, but their alloy is also certified to be what it is supposed to be and not what you or the seller is guessing it should be. If you have a source for softer lead, then you only need to pick up something like Hardball to alloy it up into something harder. If all your looking to pour is target loads not exceeding around 1000fps then just about anything could work with the right fit and lube.

October 1, 2013, 06:58 PM
I'll leave the bullet casting to the guys who have the big machines. I was at the range early one morning and there was a guy there sifting out spent bullets of all types and putting them into a 5 gallon bucket. He had nearly half full. Asked him how he was going to get it back 100 yds to his truck. He hadn't taken that into consideration.

October 1, 2013, 07:19 PM
It varies from area to area.

When I was in North FL I got it for free easily or cheap.

Down here everyone has a guy or the going rate is around a doller per lb.

If a tire shop tells you to have at the bucket they have dont just grab and lift.. a 5 gallon bucket can weight over 150lbs. I about pulled my back out when I was starting out.

Hondo 60
October 1, 2013, 09:14 PM
Around here there are enough reloaders that the tire shops are all spoken for.

So I have to buy my lead.
It's a LOT cheaper than buying bullets.

david bachelder
October 2, 2013, 10:21 AM
Call a plumbing supply house. They often have very good lead at reasonable prices. It probably will come in five pound ingots, linked together in groups of five.

October 2, 2013, 10:26 AM
What do you pay per LB for the plumbing supply stuff?

Arkansas Paul
October 2, 2013, 11:24 AM
Go to and you can usually find wheel weights already smelted down into 1# ingots for around $1 per pound. I would do that before paying $60 a bucket.
I have paid $40 a bucket but that's my limit. You just never know how much steel and zinc weights you're going to get out of one.
$1 a pound is a little more expensive than $40 a bucket, granted. However, the work is already done and you know every single pound is useable lead.

October 2, 2013, 11:27 AM
I had heard several places about the $1.00 per pound plumbing lead.
I checked at the local Locke Supply. He said he would have to order it as they do not keep it in stock. When he looked up the price it was $25.00 per five pound ingot.

Arkansas Paul
October 2, 2013, 11:45 AM
That's likely going to be pure lead, so even after paying $5 a pound, you're gonna have to mix it to get it hard enough for bullets.
There's a guy right now on the castboolits site selling berm mined lead ingots for $1 a pound shipped. They're coming in at 14 BHN so you wouldn't have to do a thing to them, just melt and cast.

October 2, 2013, 12:15 PM
IF you mine a backstop berm, make sure you leave it in good condition. (I'm sure you all know that already, so this is just a reminder)

My outdoor range has 2 lanes set up with falling metal targets. Whenever I go there I take a gallon ziplock freezer bag (the thick ones) and a trowel. If I'm the only shooter, I scrape up a bag of lead from right under the targets. Just takes a minute or two to get about 15 pounds if it's been awhile.

Arkansas Paul
October 2, 2013, 12:38 PM
^ I've done that too. Perfect little round disks of lead.

david bachelder
October 2, 2013, 01:07 PM
Plumbing lead. I was quoted a little less than 1.00 per pound. It came in 25 lb. linked ingots. I'm thinking it was 20 bucks for 25 lbs. It was Coburns Plumbing Supply, they also had to order it but the clerk said it wasn't a big deal.

I never bought it because I stumbled across about 600 lbs. in my Dads garage. I still have the biggest part of it. I usually try to make an alloy rated at a BHN of ten.

October 2, 2013, 02:03 PM
I have also had very poor luck finding good sources of cheap lead. I have melted down a couple hundred pounds of WWs but, where I am at, the cheapest price I have found is .60 per pound. They are also so full of steel and zinc that I only end up with about 50-60% useable lead. I estimated that it is costing me a little over 1.20 per pound with fuel etc. I find lead regularly on ebay (either range lead or wws) for around 1.40 per pound. I haven't had a bad batch yet and, to me, it isn't worth my time to save .20 to .30 per pound. I am still on the lookout for cheaper WWs but won't do it again at the prices I am seeing.

October 2, 2013, 07:28 PM
One of the issues of buying wheelweights for casting bullets is that an increasing percentage of tire weights are being manufactured in steel and Zinc. The steel ones just float to the top and you can skim them off the top.

The zinc ones also float to the top. But donot allow them to get too hot, or they will melt into your lead alloy and ruin it. It turns to a porage like consistancy.

I spend some time before melting the weights and go through them to remove non lead wieghts. I just
Take a smallsetrated knife and scratch each weight as I pick it up. Lead is very distinct in the big scratches it shows.
Zinc is Wayyy lighter, and wayy harder!

If it doesnt scratch easy, its scrap. Some wheel weights are marked as well. I have been lucky to get around 1500 pounds of wheel weight lead for free. No need for quite some time to replenish
My Stock.

October 3, 2013, 12:12 AM
What is the best way to go about testing the hardness of the lead ingots? I have seen the Lee test kits that go into a press, but is there a better or more efficient way of doing it without spending a bunch on the Lee kit?

41 Mag
October 3, 2013, 04:51 AM
There are a number of ways that folks check for basic hardness. Some use their thumbnail some use a drop test, some simply hit it with a hammer. They all work for what ever use the person doing the test is looking for.

When I started out I found the following link and after reading through it a few times decided to give it a try with my then unknown alloy.
Testing-hardness-with-pencils (

While it isn't the finite end all to hardness testing it will get you in the ball park with a little practice. Then there is the Lee testing kit, as well as a Saeco, and LBT, and the Cabine Tree testers. For me the pencils worked for close to a year until I started to blend my own alloy into different batches for different uses. WHen I got to that point I went with the Cabine Tree kit, and have been happy ever since.

While the others are also great and you will get great reports from users of all of them, the Cabine Tree IMO is the easiest to use and most adaptable to my uses. I use a variety of ingot molds and the Cabine Tree will accommodate just about all of them with the exception of the angle iron ones. You have to have something which will sit flat against the plunger while the point is screwed into the other side.

Pick your favorite search engine and put in lead bullet hardness testers and it should bring up some example of them all.

Hope this helps,

October 3, 2013, 09:55 AM
You could try a web site that is for giving things away free and asking for things for free. Up here we have one in new england called freecycle. com , I asked for some lead to cast fishing wieghts with my grand son , got 3 buckets for free.
Also talk to some hospital lab people. They return the stuff that comes in lead shields and they can give you main supplier phone # and they will sell old ones at decent price.
Any big construction on a hospital can get you some x-ray wall sheeting. just have to burn the paper off.
If you have anyold boat yards around, many keels are wieghted with lead, maybe they will have some.
Just my thoughts, good luck.

October 3, 2013, 10:15 AM
Call a plumbing supply house. They often have very good lead at reasonable prices. It probably will come in five pound ingots, linked together in groups of five.
My plumber son keeps me supplied with those, he is a union guy and they are left overs from large commercial jobs.

October 3, 2013, 02:03 PM
When I started out I found the following link and after reading through it a few times decided to give it a try with my then unknown alloy.
Testing-hardness-with-pencils (

That's cool!

For the tl;dr crowd, it looks like you can get away with just reading post #23 and #36 (which is as far as I got :o )

October 4, 2013, 12:57 PM
Here's another great source if you know what alloys you have going into your smelting.
I've got a deal with a guy here local. He gives me raw unprocessed lead, and I give him cast, lubed and sized bullets based off of the amount of lead he gives me. So 100 pounds @ $1.00/pound scrap price. Once I calculate out the time to process the lead, cast it, lube and size it. I give him back the appropriate amount of bullets.
So last time he gave me 190 pounds of lead and I would have gave him 3900 .45 ACP LRN bullets, but instead of bullets he convinced me to load for him and gave me the brass to reload. So for 190 pounds of lead I loaded him 1,000 rounds. So for powder and primers for the 1K cost me $40 I got to pocket 170 pounds of lead. Which puts me at a raw cost of ~ $.24/pound for the lead. I made bullet buckets to catch and recycle my lead so 170 pounds will last me litterally forever. By doing that I calculate my cost of each round shot based off of the lead being 1st shot or recycled from my bullet buckets. So right now I am shooting .45 ACP for the cost of powder and primers puts me at about $.05/round. Can't get much cheaper than that.

October 4, 2013, 01:20 PM
instead of bullets he convinced me to load for him and gave me the brass to reload. So for 190 pounds of lead I loaded him 1,000 rounds.
You gotta be careful with doing this. From a legal standpoint. Just look into it. :)

October 7, 2013, 06:22 PM
You gotta be careful with doing this. From a legal standpoint. Just look into it. :)

I am by no means an uneducated person and I have been around the reloading scene for awhile and I research anything that could have potentially dangerous outcomes whether personally, physically, legally, or financially. It's a program that I have to review and train people on every year called ORM (Operational Risk Management). I all ready looked into it and after I gave him the full lecture of the pros and cons of shooting OPR's (Other peoples reloads) he gave his full understanding from one military man to another that he accepted full liability and responsibility for the ammo he received. Also with the understanding that as we are both in the military he understands my understanding of procedural compliance. Especially due to the fact that we both serve in a very unique branch of the service that beats into us from day one that you WILL follow procedure, and you WILL check, second check, and then recheck everything, and always have a backup for a backup. Because if not, people WILL die. That was proven with the loss of the USS Thresher in 1963. I fully well understand that neglect on my part can cause the death of myself and those around me and that is something that I live every day of my life and have for the past 13 years and will continue to do so until the day that I die. I guess it is a unique trait that military men and women adopt over time that 99% of the population fail to recognize the fact that there are other people in the world outside their own personal little bubble and their actions can and do affect those around them.
So enough of my rant, I'm off my soap box and thank you for looking out for me an assuming that I know nothing and I am part of the 99%. Us 1% need to stick together. Maybe next time ask a question vice assuming that I am uneducated. Just sayin....

October 7, 2013, 06:54 PM
That's not what he's talking about. Look up "ITAR" and "FFL 06".

October 8, 2013, 12:19 PM
So you mean to tell me that every guy and gal that has a booth setup at a gun show has paid the ITAR license fee and has an FFL 06? Resellers of ammunition are not required to have an FFL 06. Only persons manufacturing ammunition for the purpose of SALE from a fixed place of business are required to apply for an FFL 06. This came from the FAQ on the ATF website.
So in this case my friend gave me lead and brass, i provided the powder and primer. How is this a sale? Now if I sold the lead he gave me for a profit I could see how that could constitute a sales transaction as having taken place but that is stretching it and really trying to grab for a thread. But there was no money excahnged, and I in no way have made a monetary gain. The only other straw you have left to grab at is the $30 license for 3 years required for the manufacturing of projectiles for sale. But again I haven't sold anything, no money has exchanged hands, and I did not profit from this transaction at all.
If you break it down I got 170 pounds of raw scrap lead. The scrap yard here pays $.30/pound for dirty scrap lead. That comes out to $51 dollars. He gave me the lead and brass and he got 1000 rounds of .45 ACP. Sportsmanswarehouse here local sells HSM (Remanufactured or reloaded ammunition) for $22/50 rounds that's $440/1000 rounds. SO ifffffffffffffffffffff I was in the business of selling ammunition I would be a horrible business man and I would be out of business faster than any other business in history. Once you look at the numbers from a business or profit standpoint I fail to see how I made a sale or a profitable one at that. Just the cast bullets alone are worth more resale than the lead he gave me. The brass as well, well acctually he was short 200 cases that I gave him so there I was out another ~$20 in .45 ACP brass. So after crunching the numbers I got $51 worth of lead, and I gave him $20 worth of brass, $25 worth of powder, $25 worth of primers, $100 worth of bullets, and 4 hours of my time for smelting, casting, reloading, @ $10/hour so another $40, $5 for other material costs, plus I delivered them 60 miles round trip at 4 gallons of gas at $4.50 a total of $18. For an overall total of $233 subtract the costs of the raw lead of $51 and that brings me to a total of -$182. What sale?

October 8, 2013, 08:12 PM

I'm not going to argue with you. But you need to be careful and discreet. ITAR and FFL06 and liability insurance are the issues; you're a big boy, you can decide what to do.

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