What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

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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 9:14 am

It's pretty well documented a number of them went insane.
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ndnchf
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by ndnchf » Mon Feb 22, 2021 7:13 pm

As I sit here patching bullets tonight, I thought about this discussion. It made me wonder about their patch paper. Did they buy it in rolls and cut patches in camp, or did they buy them pre-cut, ready to use?
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ndnchf
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by ndnchf » Mon Feb 22, 2021 7:13 pm

As I sit here patching bullets tonight, I thought about this discussion. It made me wonder about their patch paper. Did they buy it in rolls and cut patches in camp, or did they buy them pre-cut, ready to use?
Never trust a man who wears both suspenders AND a belt.

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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 7:29 pm

Most of the ledgers I've seen it looks like patching paper was sold in sheets.
Altho the 1979 Winchester catalog list patches as being sold by the 1000, and paper could be purchased by the "squire"
Sharps also listed precut patches and paper by the 100 sheets
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ndnchf
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by ndnchf » Mon Feb 22, 2021 7:36 pm

Thanks Don. If they only bought the sheets. I imagine they got pretty good at cutting patches with a pair of scissors sitting around the fire at night.
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pete
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by pete » Tue Feb 23, 2021 7:56 pm

The references I have seen say "lead" with no mention of an alloy when they make their own bullets.

Bob,
I didn't see anything about tin in O.P. Hannah's account, maybe I missed it. On pg. 144 of "Getting a Stand" he states "We used the softest lead we could buy......." and then. "Lead was very expensive and we reloaded all of our shells."
There are 2 different accounts in "Encyclopedia of Buffalo Hunters and Skinners" that are interesting. One by Sam Houston Black in vol. 1 pg. 35 and another in vol. E-K pg. 149 by John Cloud Jacobs. They are almost the same word for word. "We put 50-80 lbs. of lead in a large skillet and got a good blue heat on it. We would dip out the lead with a spoon and mold our bullets. Any ball with the least flaw we put back in the heat. Nothing but smooth, true balls were used." It's almost as if they copied each other.

I wanted to do something different in 2020 for antelope hunting so I decided I wanted to cast my pure lead hunting bullets over a wood fire. It was tougher than I thought and in 2 1/2 hours I had 11 bullets :shock: :?. Conical bullets are harder than round balls. I learned some things though and I want to do it again this year because I managed to kill an antelope with one of my "campfire bullets" and it was a good feeling.

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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by powderburner » Tue Feb 23, 2021 8:34 pm

A small block mould or a sharps style would help your cause a bunch. It would heat faster.
And use buffalo chips from a native grass prarie area. It has more btus init than pasture patties
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by mdeland » Wed Feb 24, 2021 2:19 am

I was thinking about the lead being melted in they're camp skillet ! Bet breakfast the next morning was healthy! :lol:

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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by bobw » Wed Feb 24, 2021 3:45 am

Pete , I have my doubts of anyone melting lead to a blue heat temp range in the amounts of 50-80 #'s a batch in a big fry pan. I have 1 of those cast iron pans from a auto hog waterer and could not get it hot enough for good bullets on a turkey cooker burner, propane camp stove will do it to ladle pour into ingots but you have to move right along. The bigger the pan the harder it is to keep it hot , a steel 1/10 cu/ft unit weight bucket holds a lot of molten lead but takes a lot of btu's to keep the lead molten. Short of a portable forge bellows to get a below the surface campfire it's pretty hard to get enough heat for good casting. I did see and read a reference to the construction of a rock lined firepit with a tunnel like hole to feed air to the base of the fire to get it really hot. Maybe some buffalo chips are better than others, I do know they have to be very dry to burn and the ones I used were made by buffalo eating big and little bluestem grass in the Nebraska Sandhills. Bobw
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by Kurt » Wed Feb 24, 2021 4:05 pm

The dinner bell rang and the buzzards and robins finally got the hide cleaned the hide off the Buffalo scull.
IMG_3845.JPG
This is what a .44-77 loaded with a 485 gr 1/20 PP bullet will do shooting the Buff behind the ear. He dropped like a rock.
All three Bisons I took with 1/20 alloy and I never recovered one bullet, all pass throughs.The Sharps is a devastating rifle in the .44-77 caliber.
But the .44/90-2-5/8 BN hits like Thors hammer over the .44-77.
IMG_3844 2.JPG
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by pete » Wed Feb 24, 2021 7:21 pm

Bob,
I agree, it's hard to image the wood or buffalo chip fire it would take to melt that much lead to that temp. It's too bad there's not more first hand accounts that describe what they did. I guess they just thought it wasn't worth talking about. That those two guys tell pretty much the same story is interesting too and not sure what to think about that. I don't want to be one of those guys that think just because I can't do it that it can't be done but man that's a tough one to grasp. It's obvious they melted lead for bullets but how much at a time is still debatable. The little cast iron pot I used is 4 1/4" wide by 2 1/2" high and I'm sure they used one bigger. Casting in the winter would be even harder.
Cow pies from domestic cows eating grass would be a good substitute after all it's all just bovine digested grass. Doing some of this living history stuff is one of the fun things about these guns and I plan to try it again this year. A little more educated.

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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by bobw » Wed Feb 24, 2021 7:40 pm

Pete I can't remember where I saw the pic but the casting firepit was kind of a far cry from a campfire. They dug it down below the surface, line the walls with rock and had a trough dug in the ground upwind side of the pit with a inclined surface over it to funnel air to the fire for hotter glowing coals. Yeah I have one of those little 10 lb lyman cast iron pots too. I have a coal fired open top horse shoe forge and i'll bet that dude would melt lead in damn short order it has the hand crank blower on it. Bobw
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by Orville » Thu Feb 25, 2021 6:29 am

I’ve done it, cast bullets with a Sharps mould melted the lead in a small cast iron pot, on a normal wood fire, nothing special about just a wood fire with a good bed of hot coals. Patched and loaded the bullets with original type loading tools and shot them, they shot as good. Posted pictures on here a few yews ago.
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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by Yellowhouse » Thu Feb 25, 2021 9:41 am

Well I admit Ive never tried lead but well dried cow patties make a long lasting and very hot fire in my estimation. I'll have to try it again .

I wonder. If you had an assistant with a small set of bellows I'd think it sure enough would get hot enough.

More later!
Sam

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Re: What alloy did the buffalo hunters use

Post by Yellowhouse » Thu Feb 25, 2021 9:41 am

Well I admit Ive never tried lead but well dried cow patties make a long lasting and very hot fire in my estimation. I'll have to try it again .

I wonder. If you had an assistant with a small set of bellows I'd think it sure enough would get hot enough.

More later!
Sam

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