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Montana X-treme
Rifle Magazine
August - September 2000
Volume 35, Number 4
ISSN: 0017-7393
Number 206
On the cover...
This issue is only available on CD-ROM.The Marlin 444SS is chambered for the increasingly popular .444 Marlin. Moose photo by John R. Ford. Purchase the CD-ROM here
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Pulverized Antimony and Hurst Flux

Al Miller

When I first began handloading, one of the old hands who met each Saturday morning at Cal Higgins’s gun shop advised me to follow one simple precept consisting of three short words: “Always start low!” As new to the game as I was, those words made sense to me then. They still do. Of course, the old gent was referring to powder charges, but why it never occurred to me to apply that same cautious approach when alloying bullet metal, I can’t say - but circumstances reminded me of his advice just last week.

A friend gave me a bucketful of range scrap. Consisting mostly of handgun bullets, it was apparent most had been swaged from very soft mixes. Since I was about to embark on a series of tests requiring cast bullets to endure muzzle speeds of 2,200 to 2,400 fps, the scrap would come in handy, but it would have to be hardened considerably to be useful.

As luck would have it, right about that time Bill Ferguson (PO Box 1238, Sierra Vista AZ 85636), who sells bullet metal, sent some pulverized antimony and a sample of Hurst flux to try - manna from heaven!

Ever make little chunks of antimony out of big ones - or try to? It can be done, but it’s a poor substitute for a hobby. Now, thanks to Mr. Ferguson, nobody has to. He sells antimony that has already been crushed into small, useful fragments. The accompanying photo shows a small number of them scattered across a quarter-inch grid. The majority are about 1/8 inch long and wide. So sized, they are much handier to use and measure.

It doesn’t take much antimony to harden a mixture, so once the scrap liquefied (the electric furnace was set at 600 degrees), a teaspoonful of antimony was added. Next came the Hurst flux.

Bill had cautioned that pulverized antimony would melt faster if pot temperatures were held down. That proved to be true. He also recommended sprinkling flux over the mix with the aid of a salt shaker. That advice was ignored.

Hurst flux is flesh pink, and as I was to discover, a little goes a long way. I filled a teaspoon with the flux and scattered the stuff liberally over the top of the melting mixture. Some of the flux turned into a dark foam, indicating that too much had been used. Eventually, after stirring and stirring, the antimony particles disappeared and so did the excess flux.

Another teaspoonful of antimony went into the pot. This time, an old salt shaker was filled with flux and sprinkled over the steaming metal. It was much easier to control the amount of flux distributed, thanks to that shaker. As a result, a thin, fairly even coat was spread over the top of the mixture. After it melted, the alloy was stirred again until all the antimony had been absorbed.

Hurst flux was created especially for those of us who depend on electric furnaces. It is non-toxic. There’s no objectionable odor when it melts either. According to Bill, it is most effective when antimony fragments are no longer than 3/8 inch and no smaller than 1/8 inch. He notes that larger pieces take forever to dissolve in a melt, while those smaller than 1/8 inch sometimes solidify into hard balls of antimony and flux. Nothing like that occurred with the antimony he sent.

As I relearned, whether reloading cartridges or alloying metals, always start low. If you don’t add enough antimony to a mix the first time, you can always toss a bit more in later. If there isn’t quite enough Hurst flux to cover a mixture’s entire surface, scatter a smidgin more on, but be sure to do it with a salt shaker - it sure makes the task a lot easier.

Accurate Powder
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