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Dangers of Pure Lead 'Cowboy' Bullets

Dangerous Pure Lead 'Cowboy' Ammunition

One of the dangers of firearms usage is that users often don't understand the dynamics of what they are dealing with. As ONE example; lets discuss the danger of using pure or almost pure lead bullets such as those used in normal 'cowboy' type loads.

These very soft pure lead bullets shed a lot of their material when they are fired and first hit the riflings. A great deal of lead will sluff off the bullet and become deposited in front of the chamber and after continued firing will often fill the rifling grooves. The amount of lead that sluffs off and where it sluffs off, will vary with barrel smoothness or other internal features of the barrel. So, what is the danger?

If you have been shooting 'cowboy' loads in your 45 colt rifle/revolver or 45-70 rifle and a severe leading of the barrel has occurred and you then load and fire a higher pressured jacketed or hard cast load, (such as our 45 colt+P ammo or our 45-70 magnum ammo) those severe lead deposits will act as a bore obstruction as the harder and less 'slick' jacketed bullet is forced into a barrel that has become constricted with lead. Because the jacketed bullet or hard cast bullet is harder than lead and not 'slick' like a lead bullet, it will not squish/size down like lead bullets at lower pressures will as they pass through the lead deposits in the barrel. The result is very possibly pressures that are raised beyond what the rifle design can withstand.

I've seen rifles and revolvers 'come apart' in real life with the above scenario.

In essence there is nothing wrong with 'cowboy' loads if you never switch to higher pressured jacketed bullets, WITHOUT REMOVING THE LEAD DEPOSITS FIRST. You can shoot all the pure lead bullets you want and never clean the barrel, if you keep shooting ONLY lead bullets. (though, your accuracy will likely fall) However, once you switch to higher pressured jacketed bullets, you need to make sure you've first removed the leading from your barrel.

None of the above applies to properly hard cast bullets as a hard cast bullet has little in common with a lead bullet. To learn more, read my essay on 'The Differences Between Hard Cast and Lead Bullets.'

You get what you pay for and there is a reason that pure lead bulleted ammo is cheap to buy.