Are Lead Bullets really dirtier?


TGT Addict
TGT Supporter
May 11, 2009
Leander(NW Austin)
Ok, so I'm kinda new to reloading. I have always believed that lead bullets are dirtier in the sense that they leave more residue(leading) in your barrels rifling. However, IME my lead cast reloads for the colt 45 and ACP all seem to shoot pretty clean. Now, of course I always get some leading in the forcing cone of my SBH Hunter and a touch in the cylinders but in the ACP I see no difference. My theory, when pushed at the right velocity, lead bullets can be as or more accurate than jacketed ones and the lead pushes right out with a brush while copper requires solvent to completely remove. Anyways, just wanted to get some other opinions.

Bullseye Shooter

Active Member
Apr 28, 2008
Texas Panhandle
Lead bullets sometimes are dirtier because of the lube on the bullet, not because they lead the bore. There are several lubes out there that are used by commercial bullet makers. The most common are a red lube and blue. Once in a while you'll see a grayish lube like those available to hobby bullet casters. There is a difference in the red and blue lubes. I can never remember which one is which, but one is made for hotter loads.

Most of the gunk that gums up my Bullseye pistols is not powder residue but the residue from a combination of powder and bullet lube. A lot of guys complain that Bullseye powder is dirty. I use it exclusively and the dirty part comes when shooting lead bullets because of the lube and because Bullseye is a pretty hot powder. Jacketed bullet loads are just as clean as when I've used 231 or similar powders.

Pushing a bullet beyond it's capabilities will lead your barrel. Softer bullets, like swaged Speer bullets cannot be driven as fast as hardcast bullets like Oregon Trail brand. That's why it's important to watch your loading data for the specific lead bullet you want to use and keep your velocity down with swaged or softer brand bullets.

Make sense?


TGT Addict
TGT Supporter
May 11, 2009
Leander(NW Austin)
Red lube vs Blue

Thanks for your input. It all definitely makes sense. I have noticed oregon trail LC bullets now use a green lube, berrys uses a red lube and Meister uses a blue one. All of them do seem equally smoky in my guns. However the Berrys always seem to outshoot the Meisters, which are all outshot by Hornadys 454 swaged bullet(45LC) which has a powdery gray coating all over them and no lube ring. Go figure ...


Active Member
Jan 9, 2009
Round Rock
A good hard cast bullet with a decent lube should not cause much leading at or under 1000fps. Swaged lead bullets generally should be kept as slow as possible (under 800 fps?).

One of the things people overlook is that the leading is most likely not from the sides (driving bands) of the bullets, it is from the base. The hot, high pressure gasses will erode the base of the bullet and vaporize some lead. That lead vapor then solidifies as it contacts the (relatively) cooler barrel. Gas checks enable a bullet to be driven faster as the base is protected. I can shoot hard cast (linotype) 57 gr .224 RNGC bullets at 2300 fps w/o any leading in an AR.


TGT Addict
TGT Supporter
May 11, 2009
Leander(NW Austin)
Lead bullets...

Good call Robocop. In the past I have always reloaded my hardcast bullets just like the swaged Hornadys. In the future I will try to remember to keep em' dialed down. So far, most of my reloading experience has been with the 45 Colt which I shoot out of a Rossi rifle, a Cimmarron pistol and a Super Blackhawk SS Hunter. All of these I tend to keep light for reduced recoil(probably all at/under 800fps in the pistols). By the way, just bought dies for my .223, maybe you could PM me about those linocasts for the AR or post the source here. Thanks - TexMex


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
Guys, I would recommend the cast boolits forum to learn about the many variations of cast bullets and lube. The site is a treasure trove of how to get the job done with lead bullets.


I have been casting 38 wadcutters since 1972 or so. The Cylinder on a revolver must have the bullets sized to be just smaller than the smallest cylinder. Also the alloy must be the right hardness for the pressure of the load. To hard at low pressure will cause leading just as to soft at high pressure will. Soft for low pressure, medium hardness for medium pressure and hard for higher pressures.

I have found wheel weights work just great with my 45's, 230gr lead shoots just as clean as 230gr hardball but much cheaper.

A mix of wheel weights and linotype metal makes for great medium to hot magnum loads (.357-.41-.44)

Straight linotype works for hot magnums.

(I use classic Keith style bullets for my revolvers)

I still use classic 50/50 beeswax/allox lube. Works for me.

Have fun


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