Recipes for softening hard alloys

Snakeoil

Active Member
I did some searches and I have read a few posts here about analyzing alloys like WW material as well as hardness testing. I understand that hardness is just part of the equation in finding loads that shoot. So, here is the basis for my question.

Shooting 20:1 cast bullets from my original 03 Spfld with 17 gr of 2400 out to 500 yds has proven to be a superb load. This week, I pulled out my stash of pure lead and pure tin and decided to make it all into 20:1 alloy and made 90 lbs over two days. In the process of confirming every ingot of pure lead was indeed pure by doing a hardness test on each, I ran across two ingots that were in the 14-16 BHN range. I probably made these 20+ years ago and have no idea what is in them. Could be old WW, range scrap or a combination. Are there any formulas for reducing the hardness of alloys by adding pure lead to them if you know the weight and the hardness? Yes, I know that the constituents of what one is trying to modify plays a role. I must admit that it's more curiosity right now than anything else. But I'm also thinking there may come a time when any lead alloy will be like gold and we'll have to modify it to suit our needs. Along those lines I have a bunch of old motorcycle batteries I'm thinking of neutralizing and stripping the lead out. Retirement tends to generate "Red Green" kinda side projects. I also have several thousand commercially cast (rock hard) bevel base bullets I'm thinking about melting down, making softer and casting into something usable in my .38-55. Might give breech seating a try.

If I'm dreaming here because of my ignorance of metallurgy, just tell me. I'm not thin skinned. I made the question bold since I tend to ramble on and on and on....

thanks,
Rob
 

Joshua

Taco Aficionado/Salish Sea Pirate/Part-Time Dragon
Weight and hardness can only hint at alloy content. It’s real hard to plug hints into a formula. Mystery alloys require either trial and error shooting analysis. Or a proper lab/scrap yard XRF gun/ analysis.

It is often recommended that folks melt all their mystery lead into one big batch, then by trial and error you will come to know the functional nature of your alloy. Or, again make a big batch and have it analyzed and then you can plug it into a formula.
 
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RicinYakima

High Steppes of Eastern Washington
No, without knowing what is in the X alloy, you can not calculate what dilution will turn out to be. The practical thing would to dilute 1X with 1pb and remeasure. Then you will at least have a trend of what you might get.
 

BudHyett

New Member
I did some searches and I have read a few posts here about analyzing alloys like WW material as well as hardness testing. I understand that hardness is just part of the equation in finding loads that shoot. So, here is the basis for my question.

Shooting 20:1 cast bullets from my original 03 Spfld with 17 gr of 2400 out to 500 yds has proven to be a superb load. This week, I pulled out my stash of pure lead and pure tin and decided to make it all into 20:1 alloy and made 90 lbs over two days. In the process of confirming every ingot of pure lead was indeed pure by doing a hardness test on each, I ran across two ingots that were in the 14-16 BHN range. I probably made these 20+ years ago and have no idea what is in them. Could be old WW, range scrap or a combination. Are there any formulas for reducing the hardness of alloys by adding pure lead to them if you know the weight and the hardness? Yes, I know that the constituents of what one is trying to modify plays a role. I must admit that it's more curiosity right now than anything else. But I'm also thinking there may come a time when any lead alloy will be like gold and we'll have to modify it to suit our needs. Along those lines I have a bunch of old motorcycle batteries I'm thinking of neutralizing and stripping the lead out. Retirement tends to generate "Red Green" kinda side projects. I also have several thousand commercially cast (rock hard) bevel base bullets I'm thinking about melting down, making softer and casting into something usable in my .38-55. Might give breech seating a try.

If I'm dreaming here because of my ignorance of metallurgy, just tell me. I'm not thin skinned. I made the question bold since I tend to ramble on and on and on....

thanks,
Rob
Don't even think about this. Regardless of how old the batteries, they will contain cadmium and other alloys. Cadmium fumes are dangerous and cadmium in the alloy will enter your body through handling. Small amount of lead, big amount of danger.
 

Snakeoil

Active Member
No, without knowing what is in the X alloy, you can not calculate what dilution will turn out to be. The practical thing would to dilute 1X with 1pb and remeasure. Then you will at least have a trend of what you might get.
Okay, that's kinda what I thought I'd need to do. Dilute it with pure lead and measure hardness. I have so little of it, not worth the effort. Have a guy at the club that will cast with pretty much anything, mostly range scrap. I'll give it to him.

Bud, appreciate the caution. I'd often heard that salvaging lead from batteries was dangerous, but always assumed it was simply a matter of the risks from the electrolyte. Guess I'll bag that idea.
 

CZ93X62

Official forum enigma
BHn 14-15 alloy (92/6/2) is my most-used alloy for rifle and autopistol applications. For Loverin-type designs I'll add 2% more tin, 'cause that alloy gets better fill-out in the tiny drive bands of Lymans #225438 and #245496. I have run the alloy to 2400 FPS in 22 Hornet and gotten 1.5 MOA to 200 yards, Carnauba Red lube.

IOW, I darn sure wouldn't hand off the hard alloy. My soft alloys (pure lead to 30/1 Pb/Sn) go in revolvers. I have run Magnum revolver calibers with pure lead SWCs to 1000 FPS using Herco powder and received zero leading (50/50 Bw/Alox lube, Keith bullets--BIG lube grooves).
 

Snakeoil

Active Member
We tend to shoot softer bullets at lower velocities to keep from ruining the steel targets. A month or so back I was shooting commercial cast bullets in my .22-250 at around 1950 - 2250 using different loads and those tiny little bullets put small dents in the targets at 100, 150 and 200 yds. Never thought there was enough energy and mass to dent targets with that round.j

If I do my job and the conditions don't beat me, I can shot MOA out to 500 yds, sometimes a little worse, sometimes a bit better. Posted a 10 shot turkey target that required me opening up my hat size a notch or two.