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calendar   Wednesday - June 25, 2008

Happiness is new lead

Sixteen to the Pound




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Happy Day!! Not only did my tax return check show up today, I also got my first batch of new bullets from my west coast friend Maurice. You think I’m a gun junkie? Ha!! He made the last batch from straight wheel weights and they worked just fine. This batch is cast from a complicated formula that uses wheel weights, bar solder, birdshot, and linotype and results in an alloy very very close to the proverbial Lyman #2 alloy, but with added arsenic. This means they can be heat hardened to a very high degree, and that the hardening should last a long time. And hardened lead can be shot faster without leaving a mess.

You see, the thing about lead is that it is very soft. So soft, in fact, that you can’t actually shoot pure lead bullets very fast without them tearing up a lot inside the barrel of your gun. So bullet casters add some tin, some antimony, and sometimes some arsenic to the mix. In the right proportions you wind up with an alloy that is thick enough to carry plenty of mass for a good hard hitting bullet, thin enough so that the liquid metal can easily fill all the little nooks and crannies in the mould, soft enough so that it will distend - what shooters call mushrooming - when it hits something, thereby cutting a much bigger hole, yet hard enough so that it can take the high pressures necessary to launch the bullet at a respectable velocity. This ought to be the perfect mix. I have to send him a quick Thank You email, and find out if this bunch has been water hardened, or heat hardened, or just air dropped. Then I have to go about figuring the proper amounts of the right kind of gunpowder to shoot them at the right pressure, and see if they’re accurate. If he hasn’t oven treated them, I’ll set a dozen aside and cure them in my own oven, and see if that makes a difference.

Ooh, what lovely things these bullets are. They might look pretty messy to you, but that mess you see is the lubricant. He gave them a double dip in the Lee Liquid Alox lube, before and after sizing them to .460”. I’ll wipe the extra off after they’ve been loaded up. The bullets pictured here are cast from the very well designed Ranch Dog TLC 460-425 RF mold and weigh in at 433 grains each - almost exactly one entire ounce per bullet. Which is exactly what they should weigh. The bit of brass on the end is actually a bit of brass. It’s called a gas check and helps to keep the furnace hot burning gunpowder gases from messing up the end of the bullet when you shoot it. Plus it helps seal the bore a little, and that usually adds to the velocity. There are two aspects to the Ranch Dog bullet design that make it superior. All their bullets are actually designed to shoot in lever action rifles, which means the bullets can’t be very pointy. Ranch Dog developed the nose shape to feed perfectly in these rifles, plus made the nose as aerodynamic as possible given that it has a significant meplat. The meplat is the name for the flat end of the nose of the bullet. A big meplat cuts a big hole in your target, instead of just pushing things to the side the way pointy bullets do. A large meplat adds to the drag, but vastly increases the bullet’s hitting power, even if the bullet doesn’t mushroom.  The other great part of the Ranch Dog design is the number and shape of the lubrication grooves. Most cast bullets only have one or two grooves. Sometimes 3. This one has 8. Nearly half the bearing surface - the parallel sides of the main body of the bullet that rub against the inside of the barrel - is lubricant. This means the Ranch Dog is a very low friction bullet, which means it will shoot faster at a given amount of gas pressure. And faster is almost always better. Now add in the nature of the alloy and the hardening, and you’ve got a bullet that can be pushed very hard but is still soft enough to expand to about 1” in diameter when it hits the target. Like a deer. Or a bear. Or an elk. And a bigger hole, all the way through and out the other side, is always better. Always.

I have a very strong “magnum throated” .45-70 (almost a .45-90) rifle so I can safely test these bullets at pressures in the 52,000 psi range. With the right powders it should not be hard to get these babies going 2000 feet per second. Maybe 2100. Yes, that’s nearly as much power as an elephant gun. But I figure, hey, what with Global Warming and all, I’d best be prepared in case those pesky polar bears starting invading New Jersey.

Whoo hoo! I needed an excuse to go shooting anyway. 


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 06/25/2008 at 05:44 PM   
Filed Under: • Guns and Gun Control •  
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