Alloy or pure lead for percussion revolvers?

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by sigwally, May 2, 2021.

  1. sigwally

    sigwally Member

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    I have seen adds for both .44 and .36 caliber balls and bullets. Many give you the choice between soft pure lead or alloy (antimony added) hardened lead. I will be shooting Models 3rd Dragoon .44, 1860 Army .44 and an 1862 .36 police ( small 5 shot frame ) all Uberti Models. Which do these revolvers usually prefer accuracy wise? Also would shooting the harder Alloy type bullets raise pressures? The Kaiko (Kaido?) bullets are also available in both soft and alloy lead in both calibers. Any comments or experience with those?
    Thanks everyone for the help and advice, learning the finer points of percussion revolver shooting. So the learning curve is rather steep at this point.
     
  2. whughett

    whughett Member

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    Many folks on this forum will tell you pure soft lead for blackpowder. And indeed the proper size ball will seat easier, shaving that ring of lead if it’s pure lead.
    I’ve been casting and shooting round ball made from what ever lead I could find for many years and I can’t say it honestly makes a difference in accuracy and seating the ball isn’t much of a problem either. I don’t worry about it myself.
    Conicals may be a different story.
     
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  3. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    I broke a screw in my loading lever on some too hard balls.

    Pure soft lead only for me.
    I ended up melting balls down and repouring centerfire ammo with the lead. Never again.
     
  4. whughett

    whughett Member

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    I think the qualifier here is “proper size”. Trying to force a .457 into a 44 chamber cut for .454 or even.451 can be problematic regardless of lead hardness.
    In the 36’s where the choice is .375 or .380 it can be even more crucial.
    457 for ROA’s 454’s for all my 44’s and the 36’s take 375 except for one Navy arms with chamfered cylinder mouth which take .380’s. I’ve yet to bend anything.
     
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  5. Thomasss

    Thomasss Member

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    You want soft lead so the projectile will obturate in the barrel and improve accuracy. Basically soft lead will form the contour of the barrel for pressure and grab the lands for rotation. Hardened lead can cause stripping which means the projectile will skip over the lands and lose the rotation and accuracy along with it. That said, antimony isn't all that bad depending upon how much is in the alloy. Pressure is usually determined by the type of powder and how much you use with all else being equal. Start with soft lead and keep a diary on loads and performance. Then you decide whether you want to try harder lead and see what is best. I am not familiar with Kaiko. I have used Hornady and cast my own using a variety of alloys. Generally the .36 police should be more accurate and more controllable, but that is not always true. If you can find the perfect load that each gun likes, you may surprise yourself and me. That is what makes this sport so much fun.
     
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  6. skeeterfogger

    skeeterfogger Member

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    Always pure soft.
     
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  7. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

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    In percussion rifles I am happy to use softer alloys (stick on wheel weights and the like). When dealing with a loading lever, pure soft only.
     
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  8. Malachi Leviticus Blue

    Malachi Leviticus Blue Member

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    A patched roundball is going to be more forgiving to a harder alloy than shaving a ring in a cap and ball revolver.
    If I was casting a harder alloy I'd save it for guns that use a patched roundball, but since you have an option for either, go with the pure soft lead.
     
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  9. derek45

    derek45 Member

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    Pure soft lead

    I use .454" in my .451" guns.

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    aAkVhoy.jpg
     
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  10. whughett

    whughett Member

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    7FD4899C-07B0-436D-A1BD-1F142AC54149.jpeg 2D1038FA-4577-4BF2-825B-9D15477D9069.jpeg B6CE321C-E3E7-469D-81DC-9CCF248C2241.jpeg 2D1038FA-4577-4BF2-825B-9D15477D9069.jpeg CDD19BFD-56E5-48EF-8462-D5B4692D83F7.jpeg 270A758F-F4E1-4D8A-843C-536C6EE22D72.jpeg 270A758F-F4E1-4D8A-843C-536C6EE22D72.jpeg 243CFE13-FC08-478E-8AFC-2F2D7AAC1645.jpeg 75880B8E-55EC-4AB7-B902-6506F891E9C4.jpeg 2D1038FA-4577-4BF2-825B-9D15477D9069.jpeg B6CE321C-E3E7-469D-81DC-9CCF248C2241.jpeg CDD19BFD-56E5-48EF-8462-D5B4692D83F7.jpeg Revolvers using projectiles cast from the same lead alloy of unknown hardness, primarily lead recovered from the gunclub back stop. Some roundball others metallic cartridges
    Not disputing the importance of lead hardness just illustrating that for casual target work with hand guns at target velocities it’s not all that important.

    In the OP’s situation where he’s asking which to purchase, buy what’s available at the best price. If it’s roundball it’s most likely pure lead anyway. Just my opinion and a chance to post some photos.
     

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  11. Tommygunn

    Tommygunn Member

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    Pure soft lead for percussion revolvers, as others have said. You don't need to over-strain loading levers and some people have damaged their guns this way.
     
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  12. Loyalist Dave

    Loyalist Dave Member

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    Yes indeed!

    For the benefit of new shooters...,
    You actually swage the bullet twice. First, you swage it into the chamber when you load the ball.
    THEN when you fire the round the ball swages down onto the rifling. Round ball doesn't obturate (widen) as it moves into the revolver barrel. The opening to the barrel is called the forcing cone because the ball is forced into a slightly reduced diameter and onto the rifling lands.

    NOW..., IF you get a conversion cylinder for a .36, that shoots .38 special ammo..., the best accuracy is to use .358 hollow base wad cutter bullets which do obturate as they move forward and engage the rifling as they are .358 with a hollow base, and not a solid, round .375 ball.

    LD
     
  13. NathanHale

    NathanHale Member

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    The width and breadth of great questions and then informed answers from folks that have the experience is incredible. I have read questions that I didn’t know I had.
     
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  14. gtrgy888

    gtrgy888 Member

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    I load lead alloy conicals over 21 grains for my .36, but only with a press with the cylinder removed. I mutilated my loading lever screw and worked the arbor loose overcompressing before. Now I just load off the gun and keep the loading lever as a decorative feature with limited field use for seating paper cartridges.
     
  15. Captain*kirk

    Captain*kirk Member

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    Pure lead.
     
  16. Ugly Sauce

    Ugly Sauce Member

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    Not sure what advantage a hard lead ball would have. ?? I'm thinking none. In high pressure modern guns it will eliminate leading, up to a point. Our cap and ball guns will never come close to those kind of velocities or pressures.

    Yes, when you ram a ball in the cylinder it swages a short flat section around the ball, it's no longer a ball. Kind of a round nose, round base, very short bullet. !!!! Anyhow, that helps it engage the rifling better. If you used a hard lead ball, that was sized just right so that you could seat it in the cylinder okay, then you would be left with that tiny circumference of the ball to ride the bore and grooves. Again, I can see no advantage, unless it would be slightly better penetration, but that could be achieved by simply shooting a slug/bullet instead.
     
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