Finding A Golden Goose
That Lays Lead Eggs


The final product for your efforts, nice shiny bullets by you. In this instance,
LEE .501 430 grain flat-nosed, gas check slugs.

By golly, there’s nothing more I love than cast lead bullets! Their tradition, history and performance turn my insides all warm and gooey, just like the critters shot by them. Hell, I even like how they look. Is there anything sexier than a perfectly cast .44 Keith bullet classically crimped, its full-bore, front driving band seated seductively on the case mouth, the slightly radiused nose showing just a hint of aerodynamic curve?

The only thing better is how they shoot and penetrate game — big game! Nothing is as satisfying as converting dirty, greasy wheel-weights (WW) into shiny bullets you’ve cast yourself into the functional shape of your choice. You even get to pick the diameter, weight, base and nose-profile from the myriad of molds out there.

A typical bucket of WW. Be careful while sorting as razor blades, nails and
other sharp objects can be hidden in the mix.

From Lead to Gold

Cast bullets are predominately made of lead, mixed with other precious metals such as tin, antimony and other trace elements, adding to the alloy’s hardness and malleability. Most handloaders are frugal by nature, while those casting their own bullets can be downright cheap, and I proudly wear the label to all of the above. I want lead and I don’t like paying for it! I’ve been known to pick up a WW in the church parking lot while going to a wedding, I’m that much of a scrounger. Where do we get this free lead?

In medieval times, alchemists attempted turning cheap and abundant lead into gold. Today, that same lead is considered gold!

End of the Rainbow

To fill your pot full of lead, you need to look for a rainbow.

Every summer, I had to work the county fair. It was a great detail, as I had ulterior motives. There’s always a few “machine gun” games where you try to shoot out the red star of a target for a prize. They use Lead Shot as the BB’s. It’s all collected in a trap, in rear of the backstop. Every night they emptied the deformed BB’s into buckets. For years I’d end up hauling away 2-3 buckets of this shot for free. They were happy to get rid of it!

A machine gun nest, Tank reclaimed lead shot from games at the county fair.

And back when I had my copper job, I started hording lead for the future. I considered it my 401K for future shooting needs, and I needed all I could lay my hands on. Five years or so before retiring, I really upped my scrounging game.

I carried 5-gallon buckets in the trunk of my cruiser should I happen to stumble onto someone willing to give me WW. I quickly learned if you brought your own bucket, or were willing to exchange your bucket for theirs, people were more willing to give the WW to you. For some reason, these people were possessive of their buckets. Aren’t we all?

I’d hit the usual hot spots, gas stations, tire stores, and even our own county garage where all county vehicles were maintained. By the time I retired, I had over 30 buckets stored in my garage. Just remember to be kind, sincere and explain you want the WW for bullets you cast for yourself.

When explained this way, it makes people curious as you explain how you do it. Hell, offer them some bullets. Chances are they don’t handload, but they’ll appreciate the offer. And if they do, it’s a small price to pay.

It helps to know people. Tank received this lead sheathing from a contractor buddy of his.

Trading and Mining

Have any friends that are contractors? Tell them to keep an eye out for any lead sheeting used in construction of older homes. Plumbers are handy too, for the old lead pipe some homes had. If they happen to find any, make sure you offer to pick it up and make it easy for them to dispose of. Ply them with food, booze or bullets in exchange for your bullet building staple.

Some ranges, or impromptu shooting places have berms full of bullets. Where allowed, bring a few buckets, shovel and a 3-foot square framed with course screen for a sifter. Simply shovel dirt from the berm into your home-made sifter and sieve the dirt out.

Dump your bullets into your bucket for a meltdown. Copper jackets will float to the top of the melted alloy where they can be skimmed off with a big kitchen serving spoon. Save the bullet jackets and when you fill a bucket up with them, trade them for more WW at your local scrap yard. Same for WW made from Zinc. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

When melted down, cleaned and mixed to your specifications, you can make
ingots like these from old muffin tins and other containers.

Remember Your Manners

A successful scrounger is a polite scrounger. Be friendly and polite. If you can’t get the free lead, offer something to sweeten the pot. A case of beer, a bottle of spirits, a pizza pie on a cold winter day, it all works. Just be friendly and sincere, and if denied, leave on a high note and give it a month or two and try again.

Scrounging is fun, especially when you’re successful. Stay at it, and if you do it long enough, people will begin calling you to come pick it up. That’s when you know you’ve arrived in the scrounger’s world.

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