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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Reading some Civil War sites online, I stumbled across one about medical treatment of wounds in the Civil War. Yes, MANY amputations, but one reason given was the Mile' Ball, pure lead, in wide use. When shot thru a rifled barrel it was catastrophic for those hit. Usually .58 caliber, it was a slow, heavy projectile that would greatly expand when it hit anything like a bone, shattering bone, tissue, organs, anything - if it exited it left a huge hole in the victim. A shot in the guts was automatically lethal because the intestines were ripped all over the place, a shot thru the victim was, as alluded to, also lethal. Sounds like an absolutely wicked ball.

I'm not into violent talk, but wanted to give a description of the wounding capability of a 150yr old round and ask: if we are interested in quick stopping power, why do we go nuts with jacketed bullets and jazzed up powders etc? Why don't we just use lead since it was so effective so long ago. Yes, I know we don't use .58 bullets, but still a lead 45acp or even 9mm seems better just to leave it alone: a plain lead projectile. So, why don't we do this?

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Because we are all caught up in speed, meaning that faster is better.

Lead works wonderfully well, always has but it has limitations when it comes to speed. The faster you push lead, the more lead that it leaves in the barrel which makes it more difficult to clean.

Copper jacketed, or brass for that matter, allow lead core bullets to be pushed much faster without the leading. Also, a lead bullet going fast, does more damage than a lead bullet going slow and the trajectory of a faster bullet is less than a slow bullet which makes hitting at long range easier.

At some point in time, exposed lead bullets were banned for military use do the wounding and infection that resulted from it. Full metal jacketed bullets that could pass through were considered to be more "humane" for use. I never could understand that since you are trying to kill the enemy before he kills you and who cares how you do it.
 

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Some folks still use lead especially in large caliber hand guns.

Lead can and will foil a barrel if not properly cleaned out of the rifleings.

Lead slugs from a 12 gage weigh 1 once each and at close range are very effective stoppers, this may compare in some way to the mile' ball at close range.
 

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Barrier penetration, less fouling with higher speed projectiles, less smoke and flash with each shot - all in lighter weight and smaller weapons.

That said, many still use lead with SWC's.
 

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Lots of reasons. Lead is very soft, meaning it easily deforms. Depending on the gun this can lead to feeding problems. Another obvious one is that lead is very toxic. Constantly handing it without gloves can lead to some very serious health problems. It's also terrible to breath, which is why many indoor ranges ban the use of unjacketed lead bullets. As was previously mentioned bore leading can be very bad and barrier penetration can be very poor. I suppose a 750gr lead projectile would still penetrate barriers pretty well but a 230gr bullet at 750 fps...probably not so much.

Hard cast bullets will mitigate most of these concerns (except the toxicity issues) but of course hard cast behave more like FMJ/TMJ than lead.
 
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BTW, I suppose the real reason we still abide by that particular rule of war is that lead nosed bullets don't feed as reliably in military arms as FMJ, particularly in machine guns.
 
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There is a massive difference in a lead Minie-Ball fired from a rifle and a lead projectile fired from a pistol. With the pistol round a soft lead projectile would deform quickly, too quickly and not achieve the needed penetration depth to hit vital organs. Hence the need for a harder jacket material to allow penetration before expansion occurs and slows velocity. A lead projectile fired with a large black powder charge behind it is moving much faster and has less issues with penetration. The Mini-Ball was also fired from a muzzle loader, so no need to worry about deformation while feeding because you were feeding them one at a time manually instead of during a mechanical operation.
 

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Well, those are quick answers I got to my question. And make much sense. I do however, for my Colt Detective (which should shoot .38 Special (non +P) ) - use a hard cast wadcutter that I believe is lead. https://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=111

(By the way, anyone listen to that audio from 1938?)
Lead semi-wadcutters have a good history with .38 Special. They expand better at lower velocities from a snub barrel than some jacketed bullets. Apparently one problem with them is that they can't be crimped as tightly in the cartridge, so with the super-light snubs, the bullets can work their way out of the crimps as the gun recoils, potentially jamming the action.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Lead semi-wadcutters have a good history with .38 Special. They expand better at lower velocities from a snub barrel than some jacketed bullets. Apparently one problem with them is that they can't be crimped as tightly in the cartridge, so with the super-light snubs, the bullets can work their way out of the crimps as the gun recoils, potentially jamming the action.
The Colt Detective is a steel gun, light enough to Carry with no problem but substantial enough to give low recoil and easy accuracy - not one of the super-lights.
 

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Reading some Civil War sites online, I stumbled across one about medical treatment of wounds in the Civil War. Yes, MANY amputations, but one reason given was the Mile' Ball, pure lead, in wide use. When shot thru a rifled barrel it was catastrophic for those hit.
That is only a small part of the problem. The bigger part of the story isn't the lead, but the state of medical arts at that time. There was no such thing as transfusions to replace blood loss or antibiotics to protect against infection at that time, both bigger reasons for battle related deaths than the use of lead bullets.
 

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The Colt Detective is a steel gun, light enough to Carry with no problem but substantial enough to give low recoil and easy accuracy - not one of the super-lights.
Right. In that gun, i wouldn't worry. Too bad they don't make those any more! But in the 10-14 ounce guns, apparently it's been a problem with hot loads.
 
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What was a major wound at that time today would be minor. Remember they did not really have much in the way of real medical care.
Cut it off was a common first option then.
Lead rounds with tin mixed in to harden it some are still used and are an option
 

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From what I have seen, nothing beats a heavy dose of lead from 750-1000 fps.
And I actually believe that a soft lead bullet at 750 fps from a 45acp has no equal. It's fast enough to deform, but slow enough to not be too penetrative, and still bust bone.

Jacket bullets are necessary for velocities above 1000 fps, unless a gas check is used.

When you reduce a caliber from 58, to 30, velocity becomes more important.
And when you look at the jump from 58cal to .22 caliber, well, velocity is all you have left.
 

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Because we are all caught up in speed, meaning that faster is better.


At some point in time, exposed lead bullets were banned for military use do the wounding and infection that resulted from it. Full metal jacketed bullets that could pass through were considered to be more "humane" for use. I never could understand that since you are trying to kill the enemy before he kills you and who cares how you do it.
The reasons are actually pretty good; It takes 3 men out of action (instead of one), when you WOULD a soldier. The one wounded, and two to carry him off. THEN you get into the morale effects on the living; A soldier screaming, or moaning in pain for hours on end, (assuming that they didnt have transport out for him), etc.
 

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It wasn't the expansion of the minie ball that was so lethal. At tis size and weight, if it struck bone, it didn't simply break the bone, it tended to shatter it, often from joint to joint. Even now such a wound would most likely be cause for amputation. The quality of medical care during the Civil War was as much a cause of death as the wounds themselves. A large caliber, hard-cast pistol round at respectable speed will be perfectly effective within its limitations, as do all bullet of any size, design, and velocity.
 
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Ummmmmm The ammo I use always has some lead in it. Maybe a copper jacked, or a hole in the middle, even something stuffed in the hole... But it's all around lead... Wad cutters, semi wad cutters, jacketed wad cutters jacketed hollow points... all lead no?
 

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Attend a good lecture on Civil War medicine by some of the Army doctors that are in to the history.
More died from Dysentery than battle wounds, infection cause more than than than gun shots.
The rounds I use in the 45 Colt long and most of my ACP 45 are a lead ball round
 
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