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Thread: Lead for practice? Will it kill my barrel?

  1. #1
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    Default Lead for practice? Will it kill my barrel?

    I recently purchased a Ruger Redhawk .44 mag. I also got a great deal on lead bullets for it. They aren't poor quality from what I understand of them, they are meant for practicing as I see it so I'm not concerned with the bullets actual performance on the target.

    What does concern me is leading out my barrel. I have heard a lot of things from a lot of different guys about it and I've heard from some that it's not a worry. Other say it's not a worry with certain loads, and still others say that if I just clean it it's not a worry at all.

    I did buy 1000 of these rounds so far to work up hand loads ranging from .44 special loads to .44 mag for training purposes and I'd like to know what people think of shooting lead for this purpose.

    Will I kill my gun? I'm figuring I'll probably shoot 100-200 rounds a month total, maybe a little more in the summer because I carry it for bear protection and will want to be current on it, and maybe less in the winter as cold and time dictate.
    River Runnin

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    Cool Barrel Leading

    river runnin, lead is softer than copper or brass, so it won't have a negative effect on your barrel. depending on the softness of that lead and how fast you want to push them, you'll get leading, but it's not damage, it's just an annoyance. 100-200 rounds a month is nothing. If you try to push the loads to 1400 feet per second, and they are very soft lead, your gonna get that leading, without a doubt. You need to find out what hardness factor the bullets are, then decide how best to load them. I know there are some "garage methods" for finding out the hardness, but can't remember them off hand. I think one way is to scratch the surface with a fingernail, and see if you can remove lead that way, if not, the loads are at least good for about 1000 FPS loads. But research this a little further than me, and you'll be able to make a good decision. if they are too soft to push really hard, then, you can always afford some better bullets to push hard since you got such a good deal on those. Follow? Also, not to push brands, but the Cast Performance slugs that a few of the stores up here have, are outstanding bullets for carry purposes for pistols. The gas checked ones are in the 22 BHN hardness range, and can be pushed extremely hard without leading.
    I hope I have been of some help.

  3. #3

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    Naw. I've got something over 100,000 rounds of lead through one of my Redhawks, and it's still the most accurate revolver I've ever owned, whether shooting lead or jacketed bullets.

    There's maintenance required though. You need to start your lead shooting sessions with a completely clean bore. Get rid of the copper jacket fouling in your bore and you'll experience less leading.

    Adjust your velocities up or down depending on the hardness of the lead alloy used in your bullets.

    Clean lead thoroughly from your bore, especially from the forcing cone, and from the cylinder mouths. Once it starts to build up, it builds up fast.

  4. #4
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    I have a new, about one year old 4" Ruger redhawk that has about 1400 rounds through it now. About 100 of that number was with jacketed bullets. The rest were by various makes of cast bullets at least half that number were full magnum performance loads and many did exceed the 1200 fps level. I have shot as many as 200 rounds without showing more than a trace of lead on the top strap and not a trace in the barrel. Many of these loads show only the slight lead wash on the face of the cylinder. And this was with all loads at 1200 fps or more. That's about all I get from most bullets in the 4" gun. But I do routinely shoot cast lead bullets at 1500 fps from a 454 5 1/2" gun (FA83) with no trace of lead in the barrel. And with the FA's tight cylinder gap lead around the top strap is nil.

    I don't know what bullets you have but the size of the bullet and the diameter of the cylinder throats need to be matched. The BHN number and bore diameter are to be considered. Also the bullet is of proper hardness, properly lubed and with a gas check. (little copper cap on the base) leading will be negligible in the stainless Ruger. I say all these things that matter, they will allow you to shoot to magnum level performance. If you shoot light or very light loads, some of the things I mentioned aren't so important. Generally 44 mag bullets sized to .430" or .431" are adequate for 99% of 44's. The 44 isn't bad to lead and the stainless guns seem to lead less.

    I shoot the 44 Laser cast (silver bullets) at about 1050 fps without leading and the Beartooth and Cast Performance bullets to 1500 fps and more without leading but they are sized to fit my throats and about .001" over bore diameter. I shoot about 600 rounds of lead bullets each week through a handful of guns, semi auto and revolver and rarely ever shoot jacketed.

    I have an S&W M28 6" gun that has had nothing but cast bullets through it since 1976. A 357 is notorious for leading when velocity gets above 38 spcl levels. I drive 180 grain hard cast gas checked bullets to about 1400 fps from this gun without out a trace of leading in the barrel. They are sized to .358" the lube is the tough stuff that isn't sticky and doesn't fall off in shipping, the bullets are BHN of 21 and are gas checked. The barrel of this old gun is smooth as was common with S&W of the era and it is well into the tens of thousands of rounds and still going strong. The finest shooting 357 I've ever owned and it hasn't seen a jacketed bullet. I think jacket bullets are hard on good guns.

    Lead is easy to remove from the barrel with a bronze brush and eldo grease and I have a little bronze or brass brush shaped like a narrow tooth brush that gets lead off the top strap and around the frame. There is a device for about $20 called a Lewis lead remover that is a rod with rubber plug that you fix a circular brass screen wire sleeve over and pull through the barrel for really bad leading problems.

    Shoot that lead!
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



  5. #5
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    Thanks guys! That's what I needed to know.
    River Runnin

  6. #6

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    Lyman has a cast bullet manual that's worth poking through. It is probably one of the more useful and convenient collections on casting and loading cast bullets out there. There is quite a bit more consideration that goes into loading lead than jacketed stuff but don't let that scare you off. Lead actually has advantages over jacketed. Lower pressure, longer barrel life, and in a lot of cases better accuracy.

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