Why did lead become the go-to metal for bullets?

It occurred to me I have no idea why this started. Sure, it makes sense now, in certain contexts, as it's heavy but soft so it reduces worries about over-penetration and keeps more energy longer. But back when firearms were first being developed, I can't imagine there wasn't any experimentation with the "ideal" metal for the projectile. So why lead? Was it just cost, the cheapest metal to find, extract, and fashion into a bullet? Or were there more advanced thoughts behind its ultimate domination of the arena?

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  1. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Among the lowest melting point of common metals without being brittle like zinc.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      cooome back ziinc

  2. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Cheap

  3. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Lead is cheap. It's denser than iron. It's relatively soft and easily smeltable. You can melt and cast it to just about any shape you want using basic tool and a campfire. It's just a good, solid, material for projectiles.

  4. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    It's cheap and easy to work with. Additionally, given that bullets are generally fatal, the fact that lead is poisonous doesn't matter i.e. hasn't fallen out of favor from bullet use like it has for plumbing and kitchenware.

  5. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Cheapest metal and easy to form.
    Pure lead isn't ideal though, that's why Lead-Antimony is a popular alloy.

    Classic metals:
    Copper, Lead, Gold, Silver, Iron, Tin, Antimony, Zinc, Bismuth.
    Bismuth is almost the same as lead but rarer.
    Gold, Silver are expensive.
    Iron is hard to form.
    Zinc is far harder to use and more useful as brass/low melting point silvery alloys.
    Copper isn't as easy and was relatively expensive.
    Tin, Lead, Antimony are classic elements for low melting point alloys, type casting alloy, etc. Tin is more expensive so you end with Lead-Antimony as natural choice, both are 'trash metals'

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      >that's why Lead-Antimony is a popular alloy.
      This is absolutely true these days, though it alloyed bullets weren't used until relatively recently. Even long into the 19th century many guns were designed for plain 'ol lead and alloyed bullets were the exception. Also, mercury was preferred as an alloying agent back then as well, though they also used just tin or tin and antimony (aka "type metal")

      Picrel is from W. W. Greener's The Gun and its Development, this edition from 1910.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      >Bismuth is almost the same as lead but rarer.
      It's also way harder and more brittle IIRC. It could frick your rifling or just shatter with spin stabilization.

  6. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Lead has many good things going for it. It was cheap. It was easy to form into bullet shapes. It's very dense. It's softer than steel so it doesn't wear out the barrel and rifling can easily engrave upon the bullet.

  7. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Lead is one of the first elements ever discovered. Everyone knew how to melt it down into different shapes for thousands and thousands of years before people even thought of firearms (melting point is only 621 degrees)

    Also look up the Minie ball. Only because of the fact that it was lead was it soft enough to obturate (it's also extremely dense)

  8. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    It has many properties that make it a good material for projectiles
    >Its very common
    >easy to work with
    >cheap
    >soft enough to not wear out the barrel and rifling
    >hard enough to smash bone, wood etc
    >dense

  9. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Lead is soft so it won't destroy the rifling.

  10. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    it's also an easy metal to extract. it's dense, malleable, cheap.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      >it's also an easy metal to extract.
      not necessarily, iron is probably easier, but silver production will produce mountains of lead as a byproduct

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        Really? Why is that? Are the two metals often found mixed together, thus producing lead as the dross when silver is refined, or is it a byproduct of some process in refinement?

        • 1 month ago
          Anonymous

          >Really? Why is that?
          main source of silver is galena, which is actually a lead ore
          concentrations of silver in galena tend to be <1%, romans had to make do with 0.01% silver at times
          extracting the silver from the ore will lead to lead being extracted as well, which then requires a second step to separate the silver from the lead
          due to the low concentrations of silver, you are going to end up with lots more lead than you are silver

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            Really? Why is that? Are the two metals often found mixed together, thus producing lead as the dross when silver is refined, or is it a byproduct of some process in refinement?

            old timey galena processing is fricking fascinating. There are youtube videos of people doing it. Definitely worth a look

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            Cupellation, tl;dr lead and any non-noble metal is removed by oxidation from the lead-silver natural alloy. Cupellation and 'salting' silver out of electrum (gold-silver) are the oldest refining techniques.
            That was the reason why Romans had so much lead that they melted it into pipes at 'industrial' scale.

        • 1 month ago
          Anonymous

          Cupellation, tl;dr lead and any non-noble metal is removed by oxidation from the lead-silver natural alloy. Cupellation and 'salting' silver out of electrum (gold-silver) are the oldest refining techniques.
          That was the reason why Romans had so much lead that they melted it into pipes at 'industrial' scale.

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            in molten alloy*

  11. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    A questions that don't deserve their own thread thread question if there's ever been one. You fricking plebbit tourist, you killed a thread for the stupidest shit because you're too dumb to use Google or search YouTube. Liberalgunowners may be more your speed I'm sure someone there would love to spoonfeed you all day.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      Stay mad, hoe. I'm sure the world is a truly worse place with one fewer thread about ziggers seething.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      >reeeee this thread killed a thread that i could be shilling for ukraine in

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      I'm glad this thread makes you angry, hopefully it hits the bump limit

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      Bumping this thread just to make you seethe, homosexual.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      >you killed a thread for the stupidest shit
      That thread clearly refused to exercise its right to armed self-defense.

  12. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    It's toxic, the feds want you to get cancer and take your guns when u die

  13. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Cuz lead kills ya dead

  14. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    You can melt and cast lead bullets with a camp fire, great for muskets
    Turns out, a soft metal that can obturate was useful in the transition to muzzle loaded rifles as well
    Boom, why would you use anything else until copper jacketing came along to fix the issue of lead breaking apart at higher pressures and velocities

  15. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    what would really answer OP's question is if there are any historical documents on projectile developments in the handgonne to Renaissance era when people were still trying to figure out the concept of "gun" in the first place.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      There absolutely are, and the earliest guns fired arrows.

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        >ye olde APFSDS

        • 1 month ago
          Anonymous

          There truly is nothing new under the sun.

  16. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Something to remember is that lead was already being used to make sling bullets for millennia. It's where we get the word "bullet" in the first place.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      >this
      Purpose made cast lead projectiles were already common and well understood before guns (which used other ammunition originally, actually, similar to wood crossbow missiles)
      Lead bullets came first

  17. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Cheap, malleable, dense and heavy, soft enough to expand upon impact imparting its energy into a larger surface area. Also soft enough to squeeze down rifling.

    Basically it’s the perfect metal for bullets.

  18. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Lead is dense = better ballistic coefficient = retains energy over longer range

    Plus it's cheap

  19. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    the real question is why were cannonballs traditionally made out of iron instead of lead?

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      Most early shot was stone, not iron or lead. Allowed for a reduced charge, less chance of bursting the gun, and had fragmentation effects on impact. Unfortunately stone shot is hideously time-consuming to manufacture. That doesn't matter when you're using a bombard with a twelve-hour reload and reset cycle, but as time went on and carriages, barrel technology, and gunlaying techniques improved it became a very real issue. Semi-coincidentally, this was around the time people were transitioning away from hoop-and-stave to proper barrels.
      At the same time as the new methods of construction could handle it, iron abruptly became much more common because there was industrial capacity for casting it, and sufficient quantities of reasonably pure iron to just waste a couple hundredweight on shot for one gun. Non-homogenous iron projectiles tended to shatter in the barrel and frick up your day. And gun. Proper iron projectiles also have the advantage of smashing through the sides of ships where stones tended to lose a lot of energy fragmenting, though ships kept stone guns for almost a century after they were abandoned in field armies specifically for their antipersonnel uses. That changed with the invention of canister shot.
      Lead roundshot (for anything bigger than a rail gun) was never all that common. It tends to deform and become erratic when fired from anything bigger than a couple inches across and there aren't many advantages to it over iron shot. It can theoretically lead to slightly higher chamber pressures than iron shot for a given charge because it has more inertia. Given how sloppy the fit was on most period cannon, however, that wouldn't become a factor until the gun was heavily-fouled.

  20. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Would gold make ideal bullet material if it was more available? Maybe in a scifi story asteroid mining provides so much material that people use golden bullets.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      if money was no object then you might as well use osmium instead

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      >Would gold make ideal bullet material if it was more available?
      while heavy enough, its also much softer and will deform on impact
      this would lead to some rather terrible barrier penetration and next to no armor penetration
      no reason it couldnt be used to kill people, it would do fine, but tungsten is only 10% less dense but several times harder

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        Gold is easier to harden, just add copper, or simply don't remove the copper of natural gold.
        Melting point could be a problem, even if soft, cold forming gold would add cost

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        >its also much softer
        I don't know why this fuddlore keeps being spread. Pure lead is softer than pure gold. Look it up. Nevermind the fact that either metal is easily made harder by alloying it with something.

        >this would lead to some rather terrible barrier penetration
        you have this backwards you fool. gold is both denser and harder than lead. In fat, it's much denser than lead, nearly double the density. Gold would make a MUCH better bullet than lead. Only problem is the cost and the very high melting point of gold.

        Gold is easier to harden, just add copper, or simply don't remove the copper of natural gold.
        Melting point could be a problem, even if soft, cold forming gold would add cost

        Melting point is a problem. It's trivial to melt lead over a basic fire. Gold's melting point is just under 2000F, that takes a lot more effort to reach.

  21. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Cheap, dense, obturates.
    Lead really is the perfect projectile material.

  22. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    >I can't imagine there wasn't any experimentation with the "ideal" metal for the projectile. So why lead?
    What a fricking moron, romans already made lead profectiles for slings 2000 years ago. Our ancestors weren't moronic.

  23. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    >Why did lead become the go-to metal for bullets?
    Lead bullets predate guns. In ancient Greece slingers would stick their thumbs in dirt or sand and pour lead into the small holes to make bullets for slinging. Lead was used because it was available, easily smelted and easily remelted, heavy, and couldn't be used for much else like cookware or swords (though there were certainly attempts).

  24. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    People were already using lead for sling bullets so using it for gun bullets was an obvious choice.

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