What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

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Bulseyetom
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What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by Bulseyetom » Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:46 pm

If I was an old buffalo hunter packing my trusty 50 Govt rifle, what weight pp bullet would I have used and what alloy was most popular? Thanks Tom

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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by bruce m » Sun Feb 21, 2021 3:14 am

if you were shooting a 50 govt it might have used greasers.
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bobw
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by bobw » Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:21 am

Gov't might have been 1/16 tin/ lead but you said ppb and that might the same. A lot of buffalo hunters loaded their own and cast their own bullets . Those probably only had enough tin to get the alloy to pour with better fill out in their molds. Casting bullets over a camp fire had to be a very tedious process to get it hot enough to melt lead and keep the fired tended at that heat. Try it sometime over buffalo turds you will see and smell what I mean. Bobw
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Distant Thunder
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by Distant Thunder » Sun Feb 21, 2021 8:12 am

While I have not cast bullets for a Sharps over an open fire I have cast a good many round ball over just a small campfire and enjoyed the heck out of it every time! It's easy and very satisfying to do so, but it is a bit slow. That is one of the soul satisfying aspects of a flintlock, rifle (or smoothbore) shooting in it's purest form.

I don't think it would be a big deal with the type of mold the buff runners used to cast 50 to 100 paper patch bullets in an evening over a wood fire and patch them for hunting the next day. Powder was measured by volume and bullets seated by hand, no real fancy tools use. A hunter and two skinners could get it done in time for the evening meal of buffalo tongue and beans, Must have been quite a life, though potentially a short one!

I don't know how much weight you can put into it but I have read that at least some of the buff runners kept their lead as soft as possible (40:1?) so the paper patch bullet could likely be recovered under the hide on the far side by the skinner and recast that evening for the next day. I think their profit margin was pretty slim if it existed at all and resupply was often a long way off.

I would love to see how it actually went in a buff runners camp. I am reasonably sure it wasn't near as glamorous as Hollywood would depict it! Fun to think about though!
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Don McDowell
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by Don McDowell » Sun Feb 21, 2021 8:44 am

Most likely the bullet weight would of been 470 grs +-.
Alloy is a good question, could of been anything from pure lead to 16-1 or harder. Depending on whether shooting factory, which factory, or casting their own and what alloy they were able to resupply with. The old ledgers only say x lbs of lead, no mention of alloy. Those ledgers also only say patching paper, no mention of whether , heavy, medium or light weight.
Reloading the ammunition was most times left to the camp tender. They usually camped on water, fresh water preferred, so they likely had some wood for fires.
Lots of information can be gleaned out of the Buffalo Hunter and skinners series of books, and some of the biography books.
I agree with Jim, casting roundball over a bed of coals is a good experience.
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by Kurt » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:53 am

bobw wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:21 am
Gov't might have been 1/16 tin/ lead but you said ppb and that might the same. A lot of buffalo hunters loaded their own and cast their own bullets . Those probably only had enough tin to get the alloy to pour with better fill out in their molds. Casting bullets over a camp fire had to be a very tedious process to get it hot enough to melt lead and keep the fired tended at that heat. Try it sometime over buffalo turds you will see and smell what I mean. Bobw

Bob you just send your wife out to get more chips :D
And women now days complain when the water heater pilot goes out :D
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by desert deuce » Sun Feb 21, 2021 12:40 pm

FWIW

Seems like it was about the late 1990's we were at the Whittington Center and by chance struck up a conversation with a fellow from Alaska.

He allowed as how he was a native Alaskan and Moose hunted every year with a Cap Lock .54 Caliber Muzzle Loader. He said, if I recall correctly, he used a pure lead patched round ball and 105 Grains of 2F Goex. Most of his shots were within 50 yards and the mostly flattened ball was recovered just under the off side skin after a double lung shot of a Bull Moose. Said he never lost a Moose.
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by Woody » Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:33 pm

DD,

17 of the 18 Elk, (5 bulls and 13 cows), that I harvested while living in Colorado were shot with a muzzleloader. One with a .58 cal Model 1861 Special Colt and the rest with a .50 left hand Hawken that I built from scratch in 1988. Pure lead works well. Not a single elk got out of sight prior to collapsing. My .58 used a 515 grain mini in front of 60 grains of 2 FG Swiss. The Hawkins fired a .50 cal "Buffalo" bullet in front of 80 grains of 2FG Goex or Swiss. "Magnum" at hunting ranges is not needed, accurate shot place is.

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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by LazyM » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:03 pm

Just a side note to reiterate what Woody said about placement....

Living now down south in YuppyLand, where they are doing a cull hunt...and wounded does in the Yuppies back yards (not good). A.22 with a head shot at 25 yards in my back yard would attain the desired result, without having to resort to night vision scopes and silencers. Placement, placement, placement.

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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by Orville » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:15 pm

I had a mould and swage made a copy of an original 473 gr. Pp bullet for the 50 2 1/2. To get the wt and length to match the original I use 1-60 alloy, this alloy also works for the 44-77, and the 40-70 SS, the 44 405 gr and the the 40 330 gr.
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Bulseyetom
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by Bulseyetom » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:46 pm

I wonder what the biscuits that pioneer woman baked tasted like? She would make a great camp cook as long as we had a cold camp!

bobw
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by bobw » Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:06 am

Last time I went on a buffalo hunt I brought home a bag of dried buffalo patties. Made a fire with them and it did not get hot enough to melt lead hence my comments. Naturally you would use wood if there was any and that wasn 't allways the case. Dried buffalo chips were used alot for cooking fires and running ball but like a lot of things in this era they don' t exactly detail the "how" of it. More than a few references in books on the buffalo for fact ,that only shooters using factory ammo had hard alloy the pros who ran their own mostly pure lead pigs and whatever recycled bullets retrieved from the carcasses. In Miles Gilbert's book " Getting a Stand" O P Hanna who hunted with Jim White mentions using just enough tin to get the balls to fill out well in the mold yet they were soft enough to expand and be found under the hide on the far side. Occasional hunters probably did use more factory loads for their casual hunts of short duration
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by bobw » Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:06 am

Last time I went on a buffalo hunt I brought home a bag of dried buffalo patties. Made a fire with them and it did not get hot enough to melt lead hence my comments. Naturally you would use wood if there was any and that wasn 't allways the case. Dried buffalo chips were used alot for cooking fires and running ball but like a lot of things in this era they don' t exactly detail the "how" of it. More than a few references in books on the buffalo for fact ,that only shooters using factory ammo had hard alloy the pros who ran their own mostly pure lead pigs and whatever recycled bullets retrieved from the carcasses. In Miles Gilbert's book " Getting a Stand" O P Hanna who hunted with Jim White mentions using just enough tin to get the balls to fill out well in the mold yet they were soft enough to expand and be found under the hide on the far side. Occasional hunters probably did use more factory loads for their casual hunts of short duration
Bobw
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Don McDowell
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by Don McDowell » Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:51 am

Bulseyetom wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:46 pm
I wonder what the biscuits that pioneer woman baked tasted like? She would make a great camp cook as long as we had a cold camp!
They may have been great, they may have been horrid. But what gets lost in modern society is, food was scarce, money too, and you ate what you could get.
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desert deuce
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by desert deuce » Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:00 am

Can't imagine the hardships that pioneer women underwent on a daily basis in the frontier days of the mid to late 1870's
Sometimes you get the chicken, and sometimes you get the feathers!

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