Brotherhood of the Traveling Lead


Staff member
The Brotherhood of the Travelling Lead

By Glen E. Fryxell

This is a story of some lead that got around…..a lot. My friend Lyle really liked to recover range scrap to recycle as bullet metal. This was a routine that he picked up in the Navy in the early 1970s, and carried with him for the rest of his life. In 1991, when he was getting a divorce, I helped him pack up his truck and move out to his new bachelor quarters, a rental house across town. Part of this task included the 40-50 large coffee cans that he had stashed out in the garage that were full to the brim with range scrap that he had recovered and washed (over 2000 lbs total). We got him settled into his new digs and he lived there for about 6 or 7 years, then his landlord was getting a divorce and needed the house to live in, so Lyle was got pushed out, on short notice.

We found a new place for him to stay, and only had a few days to get him moved out of the rental house, and into his new digs. And yes, I got the pleasure of once again loading up all those cans of lead and moving them into his new house. Lyle wasn’t set up to cast at this point in his life, so none of this lead had gotten put to use at this point. He was just storing it, “for a rainy day”. He lived in this house for about 12 years or so. After a long, toughly fought battle with cancer, Lyle died in 2010, and I helped the family process his estate – clothes, furniture, shooting stuff, etc. As we were cleaning out his garage, I saw those coffee cans full of lead, old friends by now, and loaded them up once again in my truck. It turns out that there were also 3 drums of recovered range scrap in the backyard that we divided up amongst some of the gun club members, they were happy to help out.

Anyway, I hauled those coffee cans full of lead home and put them in my shed. Over the next couple of years, I melted about half of that range scrap down and cleaned it up and made ingots with it, and used it for my bullet casting. It was averaging a BHN of about 8, and cast very nicely, so I used it in everything. If I needed something harder, I just added a little linotype. In the spring of 2015, I took a job in Atlanta. Initially, I was just going to move down there myself and “bach it” for a while to see if this position was work out long-term, and if it did then move my wife and household down later. It didn’t work out that way, the company folded up a little while later, but in the spring of 2015 I was looking at moving my household cross-country, and I was looking at ways to lighten the load. I looked at that pile of heavy coffee cans, and called up Charlie, one of my bullet casting friends. “Hey buddy. Want some free lead?” He came over a couple of days later, and once again, I loaded that blasted lead up in the back of a pick-up. We shook hands, then Charlie drove home, and I drove to Atlanta.

Charlie melted down much of that range scrap and made ingots out of it, but he still had several hundred pounds left in Lyle’s original coffee cans (now showing their age, they were ~30 years old). A mutual shooting buddy (Dave) mentioned to Charlie that he was running low on lead, had heard that I had given him some range scrap, and did he have any to spare? Once again, the coffee cans were loaded into a pick-up truck and hauled over to Dave’s (at least this time I didn’t have to do the loading!). Dave made an executive decision and decided that the coffee cans were done for, and dumped the range scrap into fresh new 5-gallon plastic buckets, with tight-fitting water-proof lids (important, because he was storing them outside).

At this point, Dave was still melting down his inventory of wheelweights that he had scavenged years ago, so he never got around to doing anything with Lyle’s range scrap. Once again, it was being “saved for a rainy day”. Well, Dave died in the fall of 2017, and once again I found myself helping the family deal with a friend’s estate. Once we got the guns and loading components dealt with, Charlie and I turned our attention to the lead…..

Charlie and I split it, and now I have 3 5-gallon buckets, each a little over half full of range scrap, that have come back to my house, again. And once again, I had the pleasure of moving this lead…..again….

I am going to make a point of finding a nice sunny, cool fall day and melt all of this stuff down to make ingots. No more saving this range scrap for a rainy day. I’ve spent enough energy moving this stuff, time to shoot it.

And when I am done making ingots, I am going to cast some very special bullets with it – bullets that I will have several Brothers with me every time I go shooting. And I will think of this Brotherhood of good friends, some still present, some passed on, with every shot I fire. And I will think of how many miles this lead has travelled, and how many times I loaded and unloaded, loaded and unloaded, loaded and unloaded it…..and I will unload it one last time, at high velocity!