how would I mix lead for 38 special bullets


May 2, 2014, 04:39 PM
I have scrap lead that consists of sinkers, stained glass lead, range bullets and some lead ball from the range. I have some solder that is 95% tin 5%antimony. how do I figure out how to mix these for 38 special bullets for my s&w 642. Any help greatly appreciated.

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May 2, 2014, 04:59 PM
Some will suggest separating the hard from soft (can you easily scratch it or not) but for me, it all goes in the same smelting pot.
Dead soft roof jacks, coww, soww...I toss it all in. :eek: :D
But I only use it for handgun, 9mm, 38/357, 44mag, 45acp. None are gas checked & nothing at screaming velocities, all out of 3 stock barreled glocks & a few ruger wheel guns with 0 issues.

May 2, 2014, 06:07 PM
Correctly ?

You are going to need something that determines hardness- such as the lee hardness tester kit.

Or, you can just wing it- but if you smelt it all, you don't have much to change the recipe if it ends up not being super duper.

May 2, 2014, 07:40 PM
I have scrap lead that consists of sinkers, stained glass lead, range bullets and some lead ball from the range. I have some solder that is 95% tin 5%antimony. how do I figure out how to mix these for 38 special bullets for my s&w 642. Any help greatly appreciated.

How much of each are we talking about? If all told, you have only 10-20 lbs or so, then melt it all down, except for the sinkers and the solder. Save those for modifying your alloy down the road. Then pour a blob/bullet/ingot and when it's cool check how hard it is. Between your fingernail and a pair of pliers, you will figure out all you need to know. It shouldn't be anywhere near as soft as a pure lead sinker, but you should still be able to scratch it with a fingernail. For 38 special, you can go pretty soft, so any mix of random alloys is probably going to be hard enough. But if you can't scratch it, it is probably harder than you want.

If you have buckets o lead, then I would personally melt down each thing separately, pour into ingots, and gauge for hardness. Take the one that is closest to what you want, and go from there. Shoot and see what happens.

May 2, 2014, 08:06 PM
For 38 special - Lead with 2 % antimony works. The scrap will have enough tin and other metals to make a good bullet. Melt all together, cast a few, check diameter. If undersize add some of your Tin/Antimony. Antimony will increase diameter. Your bullets do NOT need to be as hard as Lyman #2 alloy.

May 2, 2014, 10:33 PM
One pound of 95/5 plumbers solder to 9 pounds of your scrap lead blend will give you some alloy that will be good to 900 to 1000 FPS in a handgun without Gas Checks.
But if you were sure you had pure lead, and not some Mystery concoction, then you will be getting a consistancy that should be a BHN of 10 to 11 and will work in rifles up to 1800 FPS with Gas Checks.

May 3, 2014, 12:01 AM
melt it all together, flux it well three time and make ingots. Cast bullets.

May 3, 2014, 06:35 AM
Just dump a mix in the pot and get it melting. Once you have all the crap skimmed off cast a bullet and weigh it. From the weight you can calculate what your mix is and then harden it accordiingly.

May 3, 2014, 08:50 AM
An approximation of how much of each would help, but chances are you can mix it all up, throw in a foot or two of the solder, and make suitable bullets. Might be too hard though, depending on the power level of the load in .38 Spl., and depending on the mix you have.

May 3, 2014, 11:22 AM
The proper way to Smelt lead into a Alloy is By weight.
You do not know what your base metal truly is, so you mix all the scrap lead you have together, and cast it into ingots, Prefferably 1 Pounders, but ingots of Equal size will work too.
Now, That MIX will be treated as straight Lead for all intents .
That can be assumed that it will have a BHN of 5 and will be Too Soft for casting any bullets other than Buckshot, Muzzleloader Balls, or Shotgun Slugs.
But for bullets like .38 or 9mm driven no faster than 900 FPS or even .45's ,You should use a blend that has a BHN of at least 10 to prevent leading.
A 10 parts Lead to 1 part Tin will give you a BHN of at least 10.
The Foot or so of solder to an unknown weight of lead is not a proper way to gage your mix.
If you do not have a Scale, then Volume is the next closest way to balance a Ratio of Lead to Tin.
But remember, Tin weighs Less than Lead.
So a Ingot of Tin that is the same size as a 1 pound ingot of lead, will only weigh about 10 oz.
And you and not add enough TIN to lead to make a alloy that is too hard to shoot in a .38.
IE : A 8 to 1 ratio of Lead to Tin will not be any harder than a 10 to 1 lead to Tin ratio.
To make the lead harder or raise the BHN you would have to start adding Antimony.
You can pick up an old Postage Scale at a second hand store or Goodwill that will work for weighing your ingots.

35 Whelen
May 3, 2014, 12:51 PM
You're already getting conflicting and erroneous information in some of the above posts.

Two things:
Softer alloy, especially in cartridges such as the .38 Special, is better than hard.

Go here ( and read everything, then go here ( and ask specific questions.

Good luck and have fun!


May 3, 2014, 03:58 PM
Can't go wrong with '35 Whelen' advise.

How ever... I would separate the mix. I can always use some more straight lead for BP use.
The 'range' lead would be very usable as is for most 38s. The make up of the other materials would need to be determined. The 95%:5% is an oddity to me. But I have always worked with electrical solders and lower melt temps and less plastic state is desirable. Having a 95% tin content would not overly help with hardness and would raise the melt temp.

Best advise, follow what '35 Whelen' advised.

Arkansas Paul
May 3, 2014, 05:14 PM
You're already getting conflicting and erroneous information in some of the above posts.

Yeah, I was sitting here chuckling reading some of the responses.
There is a ton of knowledge here and also, you can go to and find out pretty much anything you want to know about casting bullets, or boolits as they call them over there. It's a great place. That's really the only gun/shooting forum I visit other than THR.

41 Mag
May 4, 2014, 07:12 AM
Like mentioned above, it depemds on how much of each you have.

When I first started out I was only pouring for one revolver, it just happened to be a 454. So I was really concerned about leading up the barrel. I researched the alloys used as well as everything else in general for close to a year or so before I ever poured my first bullet. You can get into it pretty deep once you start taking notes and then researching the notes for answers. I do however advise taking notes as you read or search out answers. It will help on down the road.

As for my alloy, well I had some clip on wheel weights, and a big pile of mystery metal that some friends all pitched in on when we were pouring up 1-2 pound surf weights for shark fishing. It was simply a couple hundred pounds of ingots and the contents could have been anything from roofing lead to shower pan to wheel weights. I read about testing the hardness using penciles over on Castboolits. Seemed pretty straight forward so I picked up a set for $12 and started off. I found that around half of my mystery pile was soft and half was hard, meaning around a 6 on the soft side and 14 on the hard side. I had also purchased some alloy from a couple of folks on different forums at the time. What I ended up doing was taking one of each ingot, weighing it, and then smelting it together with one ingot of the others. I called this my base alloy as it came in around a 12 using the pencil test. At that point, I made up piles of everything I had, and smelted it all into one huge batch, which after air cooling came out right in the 11-13 range which was fine with me.

Since then however, I have tried to stick with known, as reasonable as I can, alloys. Either clip on wheel weights, pure lead, range lead, an so on. It simply makes things a whole lot easier to pick which one I needed for what caliber or velocity load.

Most say that 1-2% tin is a must for good bullets, and that something around a 10 is needed for this or that caliber. I have found that even alloy as low as 6-8 works great in lower pressure loads like for the 38SPL and ACP using DEWC's and SWC's over powder like Bullseye or AA-2. Most of these loads run in the 650 - 850fps range and you don't really need a lot of hardness for those. Get outside of that range without gas checks using the softer lead however and you will start to see leading pretty quickly.

I still however use some mystery metal alloy to pour up the lower velocity bullets, but when I do I start off with only the lead ion the pot. I make sure my alloy is in the 695 - 700 degree range, and that my mold is up to somewhere close to temp. In other words I either set a 2 cavity on top of the pot while the alloy is heating up, or I use a hotplate set to just past medium. Once the alloy is up to temp the mold is usually ready as well and I will start pouring bullets. If after pouring a couple dozen or so they don't fill out properly or are having wrinkles, that is when I will add in a 6-8" piece of 95-5 solder to the pot, stir really well and start over. This will usually get me good bullets with sharp features and rings. If not then I usually switch molds or shut down and go scrub the mold out due to oxidation, or oil contamination from over doing the sprue plate lube. This usually will show up first in the closest cavity to the sprue plate screw but can migrate if you use too much. I try to only use enough that you can actually see a smear on the plate as when it gets hot it will spread out.

Anyway hope that helps some. I had a ton of help when I started out from some very experienced folks and it got me well ahead of the curve in doing so. That said though I was asking questions about things which I could not find in the stickies or by using the search feature. This helped out a lot as I didn't get, "go read here, or there, then come back with your question on it". Read the stickies on Castboolits as well as the other link posted above to LASC, as they will help you out a ton.

May 4, 2014, 09:28 AM
Whatever you decide to do, if you just smelt it all together you can always buy some known alloy to adjust it. Chances are still pretty good it will work. .38 Spl isn't overly picky unless the alloy is too hard, and even then if it fits well you might get away with it.

Sure would be interesting to know the mix though.

May 4, 2014, 09:43 AM
I shoot cast .38 spls that are 95% Lead, 2% Antimony, and 3% Tin. I cast my .45acps out of the same recipe. I get no leading, even pushing my .38's with 4.9 gr of W-231, a Lyman max load.

I was getting leading shooting pure lead cast bullets, even at slow velocities. (I had to try, didn't I?);)

My point is this: Save your solder. It's expensive. Mix everything else together and cast some bullets. Say, 100. Measure them carefully. If they're too small, melt them down, add some of your solder, and cast them again. If not, shoot them. If they don't lead your bore, cast the rest of your alloy.

Trial and error is a time proven way to succeed. Leading is not that difficult to clean from a bore. If they lead the bore, try again adding some of your solder.

In my opinion, and experience, a good soft lube will go a long way when preventing leading. A hard lube won't work as well. Lee Alox works great.

Oversize bullets lead less than undersized bullets, in general.

This is just my experience. I am no expert. I just like to shoot the least expensive bullets I can, and pure lead is free for me.

May 5, 2014, 02:10 PM
This is a perfect example of a situation where K-I-S-S is good advice.

The .38 Special is probably the most flexible and most forgiving cartridge on the planet for a handloader.

Do as others have already suggested....melt all of it together (except the that for future reference).

FORGET about hardness or any other such complications, Your S&W won't care.

Melt it all as a single batch for reasonable uniformity, then cast a butt-load of bullets. As mentioned, the softer the better....but don't concern yourself with the actual hardness or "adjusting" the mix.


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