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Thread: Declassified lead shot making photos

  1. #1
    Senior Member moya034's Avatar
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    Declassified lead shot making photos

    I love shooting shotguns at clay targets. So much fun. Only way to get good at is to shoot alot. That costs alot of $. Making your own shotshells helps. Making your own lead shot to put in the shotshell helps even more.

    So about 2-3 years ago a buddy and I got into making lead shot, and it turned into a business. For a variety of reasons, none of which including the viability of the business, it fell apart after a little less then a year.

    I'm going to get back into the business with in the next year or 2, so I can't show the internet what all my "production" equipment looks like, but I will show you the beginning setup we had. The backyardmetalcasting.com forums are seeing it first!

    This is what I call "The Lead Cycle" The antimony content of wheel weights gives the shot a hardness very suitable for shooting:


    Here are 3800 pounds of wheel weights waiting to be melted:


    This was my lead work area. You can see the lead pot to the right of the shot machine. It is a 90lb "Castmaster" Edit: http://www.magmaengineering.com/item.php?id=5 It is a high quality machine, 3000 watts, BUT HOLY COW IT ALMOST DOUBLED IN PRICE SINCE WE BOUGHT IT. I used this only for making ingots.


    This is a picture of me the first time I ever made shot: I SHOULD be wearing a nomex hood in this picture.


    This is the "Littleton Shotmaker" it's a product you can purchase. http://www.littletonshotmaker.com/ You can see the lead dripping out of the nozzles. You can use a variety of fluids to cool the shot. Pictured is automatic transmission fluid. We quickly changed to a different liquid. The "production" machine I used could melt 500lbs of shot in less then an hour.


    Here is some shot drying on a screen. Before it is packaged/used a little bit of graphite is added to it. This helps it flow easier through the shotshell loader.


    Edit: I have sold shot to world class shooters that have used the shot pictured above to win money at shooting competitions. The shooters who think that what I make, which is considered "soft shot" is useless; well, they don't know a damn thing about shotguns, and it's all in their heads.

  2. #2
    So then basically the molten lead is dripped out onto a slightly cooler plate that it then rolls down, rounding it off before letting it fall into a coolant?

    I don't think that appliance would be something I would buy. The ladle is Cast Aluminum according to the site, meaning it probably wouldn't take much for most of the people here to make their own- the toughest part being making the drippers.

    Probably could drive it very nicely using a small propane burner, or even an alcohol pot since it doesn't have to be that hot to handle lead.

    Still, that is pretty neat. I had considered making bullets before, but had no idea what went into making shot.
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    Senior Member moya034's Avatar
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    Lead has a very high surface tension. This means it wants to form in the shape with the least amount of surface area... a sphere. Rolling down the lip actually has nothing to do with the roundness of the shot, it's only there to direct it into the coolant.

    The viscosity and heat transfer properties of the coolant help the shot solidify in its "natural" shape.

    Electricity is much better. The heating elements in this and my production machine were stove elements. You want an exact temp. In fact the temp will change the size of the shot. The lip is the same temperature as the ladel. It does not start cooling till it leaves the lip. The lip is coated in soapstone to keep the shot from sticking to the aluminum.

    You also need good control of the temp because the hotter the lead, the hotter the coolant gets. I DID have a fire one time (good thing I had the fire extinguisher), because I used an acetylene torch one time to speed the melting cuz the ladle accidentally ran low. The coolant I was using at the time reached it's flash point...

    I never got around to it, but I wanted to put electronic temperature control on my production machine, using thermocouples to sense the temp. I also wanted to use this to add a safety system that would stop the machine if it got too hot.

    You can cast the ladle from bronze too. I'll be casting my own ladles this time around. Edit: I always wanted to try bronze ladles, I think they will help to keep the ladle an even temperature while adding the ingots. (Yes, preheating the ingots helps too)

    I do not recommend buying that machine. It is a cheap piece of s@#$. The insulation of the wires inside got hard and cracked. The switch even died.

    The nozzles need to be made on a lathe, and drilled with the right size bit (very small) I had a machinist make them. A harder steel then what you find on bolts needs to be used. You can purchase sets of nozzles already made from the littleton site.

  4. #4
    Administrator Site Admin Anon's Avatar
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    Tool steel? Interesting . . . I wonder why? I don't see any particular stress that the nozzles would be under, that they would need a harder or stronger steel to make them out of.

    Those of us with lathes, or even good-quality drill presses, ought to have no trouble making nozzles like that. A MIG contact tip, or modified version thereof, might also work if you were willing to accept a limited number of shot sizes.
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    Senior Member moya034's Avatar
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    The shot sizes have to be exact. I only made #7.5, #8, #8.5, #9. Bigger then 7.5 and it's dangerous cuz your shot is flying outside of the safe shotfall zone at the range, smaller then #9, you wont break your target. You really need to have a sorting mechanism too (which we had, but was rather crude) (Only reason I made 8.5 was I had customer's BEGGING me for it)

    You need the good tool steel so the nozzle stands up to abuse. You have to take them out of the ladle for cleaning every so often. Cleaning involves higher temps then the ladesl get's to. I never had a clogging issue cuz I made clean ingots, but the holes might have to be redrilled if you really get something stuck. Mild steel wont stand up to it over time, where as a better steel will.

    Edit: If anyone here tries to make nozzles, contact me privately to get a trade secret. (There are tons of trade secrets in the shot biz)

    Edit2: When I make my future shot machine, there is a good chance I may try to enlist someone here to make my nozzles.

    Edit3: The lathe is used to cut the threads on the nozzles. Good quality nuts are used to hold them in. I'm pretty sure a milling machine was used to make the hex head of the nozzle.

    Edit4: Since I like electricity best for the shotmaker, that's where the renewable energy (or at least homemade energy) part of my hobby comes in! I hope to power my future new shotmaker off the grid I also plan to make a used motor oil fired furnace, designed only for melting wheel weights.

    Edit5: I'm not going to encourage anyone here to make lead shot. However since I now that last statement won't sway anybody who is interested, I'll tell you a resourceful person here could get a "hobby" setup going fairly easily for a few hundred bucks, enough to serve his own shooting needs. A complete setup that you can use to run a business and sell shot, or even supply your friends, will cost you a few thousand. There is a HUGE difference between the two, in both the cost, and methods of production. The shot, however, is the same.

  6. #6
    Senior Member moya034's Avatar
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    Interesting science note:If you had the photographic equipment to examine a drop of water falling in the air, you would see it shaped more like an out of round sphere then how an artist typically represents falling water drops with the classic "teardrop" shape.

    The surface tension of the lead makes the drops even more rounder then water.

    They used to make shot with "shot towers" These were up to 300 feet tall, They just dripped the shot from that high, it formed in a ball naturally, and solidified on its' way down. It would then hit a vat of water to cushion the fall and further cool it down. The lead would be completely hard BEFORE hitting the water.

    There is only one company left in all of the United States that makes soft shot with a shot tower.

    Edit: I had fun experimenting with my own "shot tower" one day. I brought the littleton up to my second story porch, had a tub of water beneath it on the ground.(I told everyone on the property not to go outside ) I swear if I was only another 15-20 feet higher it would have worked with the size shot I was making.

    Edit2: As soon as I can afford to buy some property in the country, or an industrial park (years away) I WILL build my own shot tower. Even if I don't sell shot!

  7. #7
    Senior Member moya034's Avatar
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    HOT DAMN!

    All this shot talk got me thinking...

    If I can easily cast my own ladles at will, I could try scraping the aluminum smooth on both sides from the casting, and then just drilling nozzle holes directly in the ladle. However It may not be that simple, cuz well, oh that's where the "trade secrets" come in.

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    Sounds very interesting, I have done lots of reloading but never even put any thought into making the shot, I would like to see more if your going to get back into it.

    welder19

  9. #9
    Senior Member moya034's Avatar
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    Once I have my new equipment built, and the business well established again, I will likely release all my shot making knowledge (and pictures) to the internet for free. However until then, I have a few local people I know of who would love that info, and I don't want them to have it, at least for now. If you are serious about getting a setup going for your own shooting needs, feel free to contact me privately.

    welder19, have you ever shot at M&M?

  10. #10
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    No, I mostly shoot just to practice for hunting and just do it locally with the guys I hunt with and we just do it on each others property or in a couple of the gravel pits that we know the owners of.
    I have never done any real competitive shooting or gone to any of the organized shooting clubs, there is a place not too far from here that you can go and shoot clays and they have a course set up where you go and shoot clays in the woods as they launch them but that is as far as I have been.
    Where is M&M?

    welder19

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