First non-lead rifle solids?


Another collector had asked me when the first use of solid rifle bullets was that were non-lead. I assume they were some sort of African big game load in solid copper? Any ideas are appreciated.


Probably the copper alloy boat-tailed spitzer “balle D” bullet introduced for the 8 m/m Lebel rifle cartridge at the end of the nineteenth century. Jack


I know Zinc bullets have been around for a long time, but the Balle D probably goes back even further. I wouldn’t be surprised that someone might have fired iron balls from rifles back in the muzzle loader days.

I’ve heard that the Balle D bullet was made of either brass or bronze, but I don’t know which (maybe both?). I’ve often wondered how they were made, would guess on a screw machine. I doubt they were cast.


Dennis, actually they were pressed.


Balle D ( Balle Desaleux–The French Army designer). 1898, initially for use in the Hotchkiss M1897 MG, and used in subsequent MGs and all French Rifles, starting with M90 and 92 Carbines (Clip loading) and then all French rifles including M1886/93 Tube loader, by inclusion of “Point Retaining Groove” in Case head. ( Original Round/Flat nose Balle “M” of 1886, was the original load for the Tubeloader; it was eventually discontinued by 1914, old stock being retained for training use only.)

Made from 90/10 Cu-Zn alloy, technically a “Brass” ( commonly called “Red Brass”, but also know in the trade as “Manufacturing Bronze”, despite there being No Tin, as normal Bronzes go.)

Sometimes improperly called “Gilding metal” ( although this term is restricted to 95/5 Alloy,) although Manufacturers of 90/10 do advertise the sheets ( 90/10) as being “Bullet-Jacket Metal”.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

Bullets made from straight wire, cut to length, and then swaged in a two-piece die set ( Bullet spire, and Bullet body/Boat tail,) in two steps ( two die sets)…leaving a swage “flash” where the cannelure will be later turned by an automatic lathe…Illustrations/Photos of process shown recently on this board (I think) and Video of cannelure tuirning in Ammo procduction Video (French, 1937…Mostly of 7,5x54 MAS manufacture, but with clip of Balle D turning included.

Anybody with a Corbin CHP- type hydraulic press and appropriate dies could make their own “Balle D” or similar solids using 90/10 rod, of the appropriate diameter. Finish turning , of course, is needed. ( Corbin mentions in his Literature that the CHP is capable of doing solids up to .50 calibre in copper, so an 8mm would be no problem.

IN these days of CNC Macining, I get both L2A2 (Nato, BT ) and US M2 (.30) projectiles made for use in Dummy (inert) rounds, both for “punk fashion” and Movie set dressing Use. Currwently in trials to see how they shoot as well ( Designs are about 1/6th less mass than original Lead core bullets ( ie, 7,62 is 123 grains, and “.30 M2” is 127 grains, for the same profile; I use 60/40 yellow brass…couldn’t get 90/10 alloy at the time, but have found a source now to make .50 cal projectiles.


Yeah, it was made by some press stages. Look here



IIRC the first bullets for the M1841 Dreyse rifle were made of iron.


Is the 1937 French cannelure production video on the internet somewhere? I’d like to see it. Some of you may remember the late Dick Geer. Quite a few years ago he told me that the Balle D bullet had been made in some places by use of an automatic screw machine, which is essentially a high-speed automatic lathe used for making small parts. These were old technology at the turn of the 20th Century, and survive to this day. Just where were Balle D bullets made (i.e., what countries) and would any manufacturers have used a screw machine instead of swaging? Were any Balle D loads made in the US during the WWI period?