Is Harder Proven Better?

  • Last Post 6 days ago
MarkinEllensburg posted this 3 weeks ago

Over the weekend my oldest son cast 20 pounds worth of near as I can surmise pure lead into 311041.Two nights ago as I was setting up the lubrisizer for him to size I discovered that his bullets were much too soft to size and then it dawned on me that he started with a tin of 50 cal balls bought from a yard sale. Duh, muzzle loading balls are generally pure lead. As I'm pricing alternatives to harden his lead I'm starting to wonder if I would increase accuracy in matches with harder bullets. Currently I'm using wheel-weight alloy, near as I can figure.

Question is where is the evidence that harder is better? I'm interested in bullets that are lubed and gas-checked.

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Westhoff posted this 3 weeks ago

I normally shoot all my rifle bullets cast of lino.  It's getting kind of hard to find, nowadays.  I mostly compete in CBA military rifle matches, (all bench rest - I'm 90 years old)  and occasional issue rifle matches with my .308.  Lino shoots pretty good for me. However. some time ago I was "gifted" with over 20 lbs. of 2-7-91.  I believe that is very close to Lyman no. 2 alloy.  It actually seems to give me slightly better scores/groups than the same bullet cast of lino.  When I run out of my present supply of lino, I think I'm going to hit the local foundry for 2-7-91 alloy (assuming I'm still in good enough shape to compete).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Wes

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RicinYakima posted this 3 weeks ago


To the best of my knowledge, there has not been a definitive study specifically on that one factor, hardness. One of the problems is that there are many different mixtures of lead based alloys that all have the same hardness. However, they would have different measures of malleability, brittleness, etc.. There is nothing new in lead alloys research, as it was all done in the 1800's looking for the materials used in printing newspapers.

Like Wes, I use linotype for match bullets in rifles because it is so easy to cast bullets as alike as possible with that alloy. Alloys of low strength (people normally call them soft) turn to a plastic state like bubblegum when compressed by the powder gases. The bullets deform and allow gas cutting and none have the same shape when they exit the barrel.


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John Alexander posted this 3 weeks ago

I don't think that you can say categorically that harder is better or softer is better.  Like the answers to many questions the best answer is -- it depends.

Near half a minute groups are achieved with both linotype (Ardito or similar approach) and very soft 20:1 lead tin alloys (breach seated approach).

Softer bullet upset (bulge) more under a given chamber pressure than harder bullets. Sometimes this causes too much deformation and degrades accuracy as Ric noted.  Sometimes the upset bullet seals and blocks (obturates) the gas cutting in a less than perfect throat-bullet fit without deforming it too much and improves accuracy. This is easily seen in revolver bullets where hard bullets are often the source of a lot gas cutting and bad accuracy.

For what us casters call high velocity loads (over about 2,000 fps)  linotype and even harder alloys are clearly needed as the velocity goes up.

For the velocities that many cast bullets seem to like best 1,500 -- 1,700 fps I have  found that somewhat softer bullets like COWW often seem to shoot better than linotype for me although if the fit is near perfect linotype does just as well.

I think the Lee method of matching bullet hardness to chamber pressure, often touted on this forum, is conceptually valid even though the calculations for doing the matching are mostly goofy as Dan Lynch demonstrated in TFS # 142 which I suggest all of us should read again.




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Ross Smith posted this 3 weeks ago

I quit using my rcbs lube sizer because it was deforming the nose of WW bullets. I went to tumble lube and base push thru sizers like Lee and Noe have. U can use softer bullets that way and with trailboss powder you can expect good results. At least I did. Good Luck , Ross

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beltfed posted this 2 weeks ago

I, too, like to use LIno for the CBA Vin Mil matches. So nice to cast with and gives Very good accuracy.

BUT<  A KEY element , especially in harder bullets that do not bump up, is Diameter.  One should have the bullet base/body diameter 0.001-0.002 larger than the groove diameter to the bullets will seal

Better yet in addition to the above caveat,

AND                  Depending ON freebore/throat/leade diameter, closer to that diameter.  

YA GOT to try the diameter fits to find what's best in your rifle.  Chamber casts/land/groove dia determination 

are great to help with all this business of bullet fit for a given rifle.

Of course, somewhat softer than Lino or COWW- seems to be way to go in the Schuetzen crowd

as they need to have the bullet soft enough to breech seat. But, still at least the base band should be that 0.001' or so Larger diameter than the groove dia of the barrel




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Eutectic posted this 2 weeks ago

Alloy hardness should be matched to the pressure level of the load. This is not an exact relationship and there is quite a bit of latitude where results will be good. The LEE manual will give you a good starting point.


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MarkinEllensburg posted this 2 weeks ago

Thanks for the replies gentlemen! It seems I need to try harder bullets to see if it helps in my rifle. I'm still of the belief that the shooter is the largest variable and I still have plenty of room to improve there.

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admiral posted this 2 weeks ago

I quit using my rcbs lube sizer because it was deforming the nose of WW bullets. I went to tumble lube and base push thru sizers like Lee and Noe have. U can use softer bullets that way and with trailboss powder you can expect good results. At least I did. Good Luck , Ross

I use one of my RCBS Lube-a-matic 2's to strictly size nose first. I have never put lube in it. Sizing by pushing on the base of the bullet is the only way to go for me. The bullets self center and never have nose damage.

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Ross Smith posted this 2 weeks ago

Admiral: Amen.

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Ed Harris posted this 6 days ago

Another thing to watch is that the pure lead or dilute alloys will cast smaller.

Regardless of the load, with cast bullets FIT is what matters most. 

While a soft bullet will probably upset to fill the throat upon discharge, and will not lead if its strength and pressure limits are not exceeded, best grouping will be with a cast bullet which fits the throat and origin of rifling in the first place.

I use the Lee or NOE push-through sizers for rifle bullets. 

My RCBS and a Star sizers are used only for .38 and .45 pistol bullets.


73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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