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High-performance alternatives to lead

3850 Views 16 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Sleepy
Lead Works

I like to shoot lead. It makes for more accurate and flatter trajectory shots than steel and I feel it's safer because it doesn't rebound/ricochet with such force. On the downside, it tends to deform on impact and is toxic. We've discussed that before; mods feel free to merge this thread if it's not worthy of independence.

Lead Toxicity

Here's a list of symptoms of lead poisoning as a refresher:
  • Messing with your head: Insomnia, delirium, cognitive deficits, hallucinations, memory loss
  • Messing with your nerves: tremor, and convulsions,
  • Giving you pain: headache, abdominal pain,
  • Making you weak: weakness, male reproductive problems*
  • And eventually lots of even more serious stuff, like: kidney failure, etc. and death (see links to Wikipedia and WebMD)
So remember to wash your hands after shooting and if any of these symptoms come up (*or fail to come up when called upon) you'd best get yourself checked out.

I've been considering alternatives.

Other Materials

The first approach is to look for spheres in another metal:
  • Steel 0.28 lbs/ - classic bearings, but they seem to come back off my anvil as fast as they left the pouch. Duck! Relatively lowdensity.
  • Brass/Copper 0.30 lbs/ - hard to obtain. Lighter than lead.
  • Lead 0.41 lbs/ - soft, heavy, but toxic. Oxidises.
  • Tungsten 0.71 lbs/ - ideal, but expensive as heck, even in rough sintered alloy spheres rather than pure tungsten bearings. Low toxicity.
What other ways could we get a hard hitting, low drag coefficient shot?


We could make aerodynamic steel bullets, but the jury's out as to whether that'll work.


We could encapsulate the lead in a jacket of an inert material.

I've just learned that Haendler & Natermann Sport GmbH make excellent match-grade plastic and copper jacketed lead ball from .307 to .690 cal. As long as this doesn't make it too expensive, that's lovely.

Cost is a big issue for me. I'll soon be getting my lead moulds which will save me money compared to sinkers. I have cast lead on a cottage-industry scale before and I know to reduce exposure during the process. But how could I reduce exposure later? I know copper jacketed bullets are made by filling the jacket with lead and then swaging the tip or tail in a forming die. I don't have the tooling for that and I can't find the jackets.


Maybe I can coat the lead shot by spraying it. Here are some alternatives:
  • Spray paint or spray lacquer - seems very easy. Remelting used ammo would cast this off as a scum, but fumes may be an issue.
  • Gun-kote - applied much like spray paint and then oven cured. The melting point of lead is comforably higher than the sintering temperature of the coating. The coating is hard wearing and thinner than paint.
  • Plastic coating - I'm not too comfortable with heat dipping or powdercoating lead and the jacket may be too thick. Like 'Nyclad" bullets
  • Electroplating - lead is conductive so a heavy electroplate of copper could be applied. I already have the high current DC supply and I have some Copper Sulfate powder in the workshop. Like "copper washed" bullets
It's a nice thought that if cast metal finned or spin-stabilised ammo is made then the resulting shot can be coated in its entirity.

Has anyone tried any of these techniques before or bought H&N jacketed roundball?
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Doing all that stuff is way too time consuming and dangerous for me. melting and casting lead can be hard work and potentially more hazardous than buying sinkers. I just remember to wash my hands after handling them, I also keep in mind not to eat them
. Lead packs a punch, cheers to lead. Im Lovin Lead
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