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Lee Lead Hardness Test Kit Product Review

Lee Lead Hardness Test Kit

This week we're going to be looking at the Lee precisions lead hardness test kit. The first thing people usually ask about these is why you'd ever want to test the hardness of cast bullets. The short answer is that bullet hardness plays an important role in accuracy as well as keeping your barrel clean. A bullet that's too soft will leave heavy lead deposits inside your gun's rifling grooves reducing accuracy and requiring substantial cleaning bullets. However, bullets that are too hard won't operate properly when fired, failing to fully engage the barrels rifling and allowing propellant gases to escape around the sides. Both scenarios are frustrating particularly when you're loading your own ammunition to try and surpass the accuracy of factory cartridges. Opinions differ on the ideal hardness for cast bullets, but I prefer to use a mid-range alloy made from wheel weights quenched in water. This yields a bullet of roughly 18 on the Brinell hardness scale and that'll be testing for today. When I first saw the Lee Lead Hardness Tester, I have to admit I was a little bit sceptical as it's easily the cheapest option on the market by a wide margin and I didn't have much faith in their visual measurement system versus the dial gauges favoured by competitors. As it turns out while researching other options I came across a fantastic article written by the folks at the Los Angeles Silhouette club on this very subject ( LASC conducted dozens of different tests using multiple testers from six different brands and compared the results to lab-verified alloys, guess what their findings concluded? That the lead tester appeared to produce the most readings that were both consistent and closest to the actual laboratory results I was so impressed by the depth and detail of their testing that I ordered the Lee model the very next day and I'm glad I did.


So, what exactly do you get for your money? The tester comes in one of these standard plastic cases complete with a ball and enter V block compact 20 power microscope and a simple set of instructions. Installations of snap just slide the block into the ram of a single stage press and thread the end to enter the top just like you would an ordinary reloading die that's it. After filing down one side of our bullet provide a broad flat test service simply lay it sideways in the V block and you're ready to test. Next, raise the bullet to the indenter and apply just enough force to cause the internal spring rod to rise upwards until it's perfectly flush with the tool's body. Now hold it steady like this for 30 seconds, this ensures we always apply the same amount of pressure for an identical period of time which is essential for accuracy and repeatability. Next, lower the ram and remove our bullet as you can see here there's a clear and prominent indentation directly in the middle now will get out the microscope and measure the diameter. I apologise in advance for the poor quality of these measurement shots, both the ocular and objective lenses are very small, and I had a horrible time trying to film this. Essentially what we're doing here is lining the First Division line up with the far-left side of the indentation and then counting over to the right to measure its diameter. Hopefully, you can at least get an idea of what the microscope looks like. I ended up reading it off-camera. It's very important to note that when you're taking your measurement each division is not one but a 2007 inch. Lee mentions this explicitly, only in their documentation but even as large and prominent as it is it's easy to forget about. My indentation came to just slightly under .054 or 54,007 inch, if we look that up on Lee's included scale, you'll see that 17.9 BHN is almost exactly 18. Also included is some other nifty info, particularly the Max pressure in PS. I load data for my 45ACP cartridge into Kids, it generates a maximum chamber pressure of 16,800 CUP. My bullet can withstand 22,852 PS without letting the berrill so it's well within acceptable tolerances.


So what's the verdict only precisions lead hardness tester? Well, there's a lot to like here, for starters it's the cheapest product on the market which is a big win. Also, it’s well made, the indent result steel the microscope has a metal body and glass lenses in quality matters to me. But the most important feature is that it measures well thanks to LASC independent testing we know this is the most accurate and reliable product available. As much as I like this tool, it's not perfect although my gripes here are pretty minimal, I respect the fact that they are at least trying to keep their prices down using universal packaging as much as they can, but the fact that the V block doesn't fit in the recess board is pretty disappointing. More annoying still is the fact that the microscope is too long to fit in any of the grooves or slots in the case, meaning you must just let it flop diagonally across the top which is a rather poor way to treat any optic. My biggest complaint though is the actual taking of readings, holding the microscope and bullet steady can be challenging especially when everything's magnified 20 times, I feel like a simple plastic tripod or holder of some sort would have made it much easier to use and likely lead to more accurate readings. Hopefully, Lee updates this kit with something to that effect in the future. Those issues aside though I do think this is a solid product. One of the reasons I keep coming back to Lee is their ability to manufacture tools that leverage my existing equipment in space, and this isn't. I'm certainly pleased with the best functioning tool also being the cheapest.