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Thread: melting lead tips?

  1. #1

    Question melting lead tips?

    I could be losing it...I swear I read an article that on a study using high speed photography showing lead tips melting by air friction when fired at velocities over 2800fps. Am I the only one who read it? Even Murphy couldn't verify it...that's what made me really doubt whether I actually did! If someone can't verify it, then I guess it's a plate O crow...probably shouldn't have said that last comment, cause some would enjoy that. Thanks.

  2. #2
    New member
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    Apr 2006
    Bethel, Cantwell, Fort Yukon, Skagway, Chevak and Point Hope


    I don't remember the gentlemans name from Hornady that I e-mailed and ask this specific question of but he said that the velocity was about 2600 FPS. The reason I had e-mailed him was because of a thread I started on Gun Broker about 5 years ago about this very same subject. Nobody on that thread could refute it nor could anybody prove it but there sure was a lot of speculation on both sides of the aisle.

  3. #3

    Default Lead smearing?

    I have had bullet disintegrate in the air shortly after leaving the barrel. I tried to shoot a 45gn bullet designed for the 22 Hornet out of a 22-250. The bullet came apart about 3 feet from the muzzle and left a cloud of bluish dust in the air. Neither the bullet nor any jacketing material made it to the target.
    I could see the lead smearing off the tip of a soft point bullet designed for low velocities being pushed to excess speeds. I.E. a 150gn. 30-30 bullet being pushed to 3000+ fps out of a 300 Win Mag. A camera set-up properly with low light conditions would be the only way to test this theory
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Southwest Alaska


    So this thread is about projectiles? I was confused as I had no referent to a "tip".

  5. #5
    Member Darreld Walton's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Arco, Idaho

    Default Blue Streaks...

    Interesting phenomenon...I've had bullets fail to make it to the target in rifles of known accuracy and properly sighted in. Stand off to the side and crank one into the berm, and notoice a light blue streak, and sometimes a glint of the jacket flinging off like a shotgun wad. Only witnessed it in the .22-250 Ackley and the Swift, though. I'm sure if you used the little 60 gr. .257 flat points made for the .25-20 in a .25-06 at 3900-4000 fps, you'd see the same thing.
    I would be hard pressed to believe that air friction alone would melt core material, BUT, add the heat from the friction of being shoved down the barrel, and the heat of the combustion gases on the base, and it's plausible.
    I'd be more concerned about the exposed tip being banged up when the cartridge slams back and forth in the magazine, and is pushed along the wall of the chamber on chambering than the core melting in flight.

  6. #6
    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Oct 2005
    Wasilla, Alaska, United States

    Default You aren't losing it....

    I recently watched a segment on Guns and Ammo (or one of the other shooting shows on the Outdoor channel) that talked about this phenomenon. They were talking about bullet weight retention and how the lead tipped bullets like the Remington Core-lokt would lose their tip prior to the target due to heat buildup from the air friction. I don't remember the exact fps they said this occurred, but it was up around 2600-2800 like you mentioned.

    The porcupine is a peacful animal yet God still thought it necessary to give him quills....

  7. #7
    New member George's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default believe it!

    I have seen the high speed photos- a long time ago! Surely Murphy knows about this.... I think the research has been done a few times, slightly different methodologies and times and purposes. But it certainly does happen. One thing that differs and changes the reaction of the exposed lead tip is its alloy. In the cited case from earlier in this thread about the light weight Hornet bullet blowing up just out of the muzzle. Likely two things likely were going on simultaneously. The very high air friction temperatures generated at high velocity can start melting the lead at and near the bullet tip AND, at the same time, the bullet is being subjected to a tremendous centrifugal force which attempts to radially fragment the bullet at the high rotation rates generated by the twist of the bore rifling. Most high velocity rifle bullets spin at a rate exceeding 100,000 rpms (some much higher) as they leave the muzzle.

  8. #8

    Talking there's hope

    At least for now. I'm glad that some of you still have your memory intact. I feel a lot better now. I've has a similar experience with SX 50gr, 22 cal bullets, when fired over 3500fps. they just peppered the target at 100yds. I also experimented with deforming lead tips and found no accuracy loss at all, at least to 100yds, because that's as far as I've fired them. Anyway, just my experience. Thanks.

  9. #9


    Speer's website advises against using lightweight .22 cal bullets in 1 in 7 twist barrels because the centrifical force tears them apart. They recommend using 70 gr.

    I've read stuff where guys deliberately deformed exposed lead tips and it didn't seem to affect accuracy. Perhaps the combination of heat and centrifical force spin the things off to the jacket. It would be interesting to see some high speed photography of what happens down range.

    I accidentally posted this in the wrong thread. Hope I got it right this time.


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