Is Harder Proven Better?

  • Last Post 06 March 2018
  • Topic Is Solved
MarkinEllensburg posted this 04 January 2018

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.

Attached Files

Order By: Standard | Newest | Votes
Westhoff posted this 04 January 2018

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

Attached Files

  • Liked by
  • David R.
RicinYakima posted this 04 January 2018


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.


Attached Files

John Alexander posted this 04 January 2018

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.




Attached Files

Ross Smith posted this 04 January 2018

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

Attached Files

beltfed posted this 08 January 2018

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




Attached Files

Eutectic posted this 09 January 2018

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.


Attached Files

MarkinEllensburg posted this 09 January 2018

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.

Attached Files

  • Liked by
  • RicinYakima
admiral posted this 11 January 2018

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.

Attached Files

Ross Smith posted this 11 January 2018

Admiral: Amen.

Attached Files

Ed Harris posted this 16 January 2018

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

Attached Files

MarkinEllensburg posted this 29 January 2018

.611 group

One group doesn't prove anything however I'm going to spend more time with linotype to see if it makes a difference consistently. This ten shot group was 5 from each cavity and not weight sorted.

Time to experiment with different alloys.

Attached Files

Scearcy posted this 29 January 2018

That 10 shot group would get my attention! .

Nice shooting.

Did you tell us what cartridge you are shooting? 308? 3006? 30 BR?


Attached Files

Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 29 January 2018

mark:  ken likes that group! ...   it looks just like one that i would like to shoot someday ...   ken

Attached Files

MarkinEllensburg posted this 30 January 2018

.30 BR

Just ordered 50 pounds of Lynotype. I'll see if I can repeat the results.

These bullets were cast with a small batch of alloy that should be close to lynotype, ww + tin+70/30. All that is unknown is the specific alloy of ww. I assumed it was 97.5 /2% Sb/ .5% Sn.alloyed with the other two mentioned to closely match the makeup of Lynotype The load chronographed about 1800 fps, not exactly smoking fast. Range conditions were near ideal, cool, overcast, not a single breathe of wind.


Attached Files

giorgio the slim one posted this 30 January 2018

Ed is aklways on the mark . I totally agree with him 

Attached Files

Ed Harris posted this 30 January 2018

Frank Marshall always liked to say, "There are no lucky ten-shot groups!"  

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

Attached Files

  • Liked by
  • TRKakaCatWhisperer
  • RicinYakima
MarkinEllensburg posted this 03 February 2018

Thanks for the vote of confidence Ed!

I am nearly positive my rifle is capable of even better groups. I'm doing better but think there is room for improvement in my bench technique. Likely there are possible improvements to my casting as well. Great groups IMHO are a function of doing nearly everything right all at once. If only we could identify exactly what "everything" includes so as to duplicate the outcome of a great group on demand given environmental factors in agreement.

Attached Files

OU812 posted this 03 February 2018

Most cast bullet shooters blame cast bullet inaccuracy on their technique. Technique is important, but an accurate load is way more important. When you discover a load (cast or jacketed) that shoots well, it is very easy to shoot good groups.

Shooting cast has improved my jacketed grouping, just because I blamed my poor cast grouping on technique.

Attached Files

OklahomaRebel posted this 05 March 2018

while linotype may be very accurate, and easy to cast with, using it alone is a waste! half line/ half pure equals hardball or 6-2-92, and is plenty hard for any rifles. also COWW + 2% tin work very well,  and if you think you just have to have a harder boolit, you can size them, then heat treat them, and run them through the same sizer and lube them. with linotype disappearing rapidly, ( at least in my area, it's near non-existent) it is a shame to hear of people using it up like that... but at the same time, it IS yours, and this IS America, so do what you will! god bless the USA!-Travis

Attached Files

BudHyett posted this 06 March 2018

An alloy of 92% Pb / 6%Sb / 2% Sn was the alloy I used at the beginning of experimentation at Windhill when I lived in Illinois. I got this from my uncle who used it for everything from Bullseye Pistol to 1800 fp rifle loads. He dropped all the bullets from the mold into a bucket of water with dry ice to quench and harden. When we shot his .45 ACP loads into a steel backstop, they shattered into fine crystalline powder. 

HIs theory was only 2% Sn is needed to get optimum flow characteristics and 6% Sb for hardening. Where he got these figures, I do not know.

Then we at Windhill Range went together and bought eleven tons of linotype which became the alloy of choice. When the linotype was consumed, I went back to approximating my uncle's alloy for hardness,  without the ice water drop. These softer bullets shot as well, at least my scores stayed the same.

Alloy hardness is one factor, and I concur with Ed Harris that "Fit" is more important,  There are so many factors in each shot that isolating one factor is difficult. The only way to ensure a conclusion is valid is data and that will be a side trip on the year's competition season. I will endeavor to test hardness for each casting and record the results from practice and matches. However, the scores I shot with my uncle's alloy have been as good as with linotype or with 50% linotype / 50% wheeleights. 

Country boy from Western Illinois, living in the Magical Pacific Northwest

Attached Files

  • Liked by
  • RicinYakima
Show More Posts