|Silver Bullet Pages|
|"You win a few and lose a few. For example, you start out with scrap silver and end up with a bad dream. After that, you get a sort of bullet and finally, like love, the real thing comes along.By then, your bullet mold's shot."|
There are those who feel certain the Gun World staff is composed of cynics. For example, we do not always believe manufacturers' claims for velocities of new calibers — and eventually prove them as overstated.
We have been beleagured by complaints from cat lovers since Ray Rich suggested an open season on the common house cat. And it is understood that Jack Lewis was hanged in effigy in Springfield Massachusetts after he discussed the inadequacies of the Springfield Arsenal and the political bungling of the M14 military rifle.
So, in looking for some other institution to discredit, the staff held a meeting, kicking about possibilities. "What about the Lone Ranger and his silver bullets?" someone suggested. "How do we know those things would really shoot?"
The idea of wrecking the idol of a few million kids appealed to nearly everyone, offering some idea of the mood this organization develops when individual members have been blanked in the hunting fields.
The first step in this search for truth was to obtain about twenty dollars worth of scrap silver from a Los Angeles silversmith, with the idea of casting it into bullets.
This was the first hint that this Lone Ranger was a figment of someone's fertile imagination — or at least his silver bullets were. We took the scrap silver over to Lloyd Carlson in Downey, California, who makes bullets for a number of shooting clubs and gun shops in the Southland area. He allowed that this should be no problem and immediately heated up his melting pot.
|"If I was a conformist, would I be running around in a black mask? Besides, compadre, I'm left-handed."|
He tossed the silver in the pot and went to get a cup of coffee while it melted down. In short, he drained several coffee pots and several beers before he came to the realization that this material wasn't going to melt. A bit of research showed that it requires some 1600 ° Fahrenheit to melt silver, and his gas-heated pot wasn't getting that hot.
But Carlson is a stubborn one. He lighted up an acetylene torch, and went after the silver, using this oxygen-fed flame in an effort to melt it down. He succeeded in cutting the bottom out of his pot, but the silver only turned black in color. It didn't even begin to puddle.
This called for a frantic, outraged message via Pony Express, which reached Gun World's offices thirty miles away in the dead of night. Sum of the message was the Carlson had retired from this battle in a fit of pique. There was also a bill for a new pot.
We should have given up then; we'd have been ahead of the game, but no one knew what to do with twenty bucks worth of scrap silver, including our accountant, who declared we couldn't just write it off as a bad idea.
So we took off on a two-pronged attack. Bill Thomas, a local reader and hunting enthusiast, had heard of our problem and volunteered to try getting the rounds molded. He started with a local welding shop, where he told them, "I want to melt some silver bullets for the lone Ranger."
The next welding shop had an organizational sense of humor. This was Supreme Welding in Covina, California, where Don Wheeler spent several hours and a six-pack of beer in trying to get an acetylene torch hot enough to melt the silver. He finally got the temperature up to 1743 degrees and puddled the material, but it kept on cooling off before he could get it into the mold. By the time it was over, he had burned up one ladle — and another was the only silver-plated ladle in the Western Territories. But he had bullets, such as they were.
There were problems with the waste materials, not to mention heating the Lyman mold to a white heat to keep the silver from hardening before it hit the botton of the single cavity model. And when the bullets came out, they were pretty as bits of pre-historic jewelry, but they weren't much as bullets. They looked as though they had suffered a bad case of smallpox or whatever non-organic disease pits silver.
|"From left to right: a 200-grain hollow point; a cast lead version and a genuine silver bullet."|
It was detemined that this would never do, but no one had any specific answsers until Bob Arsenault, Gun World's talent scout, reported that he had discoverd a lady school teacher who was taking a night course in jewelry design. She was invited over, complete with propane torch, various compounds of acid and a charcoal block. She showed us immediately that melting silver was no problem, but the products she turned out of the mold were no better then those from the welding shop. When she tried a Mexican silver dollar, this turned out to be the most unlikely looking bullet one is ever to see. It looked more like a bad dream by Dali.
But she did show us how to smooth up some of the pits in the bullets. This was accoplished by reheating them, then dropping them &mdash hot and sizzling &mdash into the acid bath. After that,we decided to polish them with a piece of steel wool,which made them look a bit more legitimate
After buying the lady silversmith dinner and drinks and paying the welding shop $16, the bullets had cost more than $3 each.
So then came the problem of loading the rounds. We insisted to Superdan Cotterman that they should be .45 Long Colt rounds and loaded with black powder. He insisted upon arguing, since he already had been told that he couldn't portray the Lone Ranger in this opus. He didn't have a white hat and didn't know the first thing about either sitting a horse or Indian sign language.
We went a step beyond, and decided that the rounds should be loaded with black powder of home manufacture. Theory was that the Lone Ranger might have to make his own powder sooner or later. Here, Cotterman drew the line, threatening to call the local fire marshal if we insisted upon turning the office into a makeshift munitions plant.
However, it turned out that Jack Lewis had some black powder left over from a shotshell loading experiment. Richard Murtaugh had mixed this up in his kitchen from an old recipe handed down from his ancestors.
When it came to loading the rounds, Cotterman took one look at this powder and swore that he could outrun any bullet loaded with it. So we played it safe. We loaded half the rounds with Murtaugh's Brand X, and the rest with commercial black powder obtained from Hodgdon's.
By this time, all hands were ready to agree that the project was getting out of hand. As Arsenault put it, "You can bet your pink drawers that the Lone Ranger never went to all this trouble to be a good guy.""
|"Of course, there's always someone trying to crab the act. Take Superdan, for example. He'll even bring along his own phone booth for his quick costume changes."|
|"No, Tonto, that smell is not from a broken sewer main. That's how the fast guns won in the old days. If you couldn't hit the villian he passed out with powderitis."|
Using a pre-war .45 Colt's Peacemaker, we made for the wide open spaces. We also had decided that the Lone Ranger needed a white horse, so we had gone to the Gene Holter Ranch outside of Hollywood.
|"Don't laugh. Silver was quite a stud in his day."|
Since we were working on a budget for this article, we didn't want to pay full rental for the horse, and Holter finally agreed upon a cut rate for this spavined plug on condition that we wouldn't run it. In reality, the horse is too old to run. In fact, it's too old to walk. All it does well is to stand still, and it doesn't do that very fast!
|"It's strange, Tonto, how these yellow glasses make your red skin look a bright orange."|
Jack Lewis, who owns a white hat, was selected to portray the Lone Ranger, but insisted upon stepping out of character by wearing his prescription shooting glasses over the familiar mask. When someone insisted (probably Cotterman since he was still being bitter) that the Lone Ranger had excellent eye sight, Lewis' reply was: "So prove it yet."
Meanwhile, Duke Roberts had been cast to portray Tonto, and showed up in a loin cloth and wig. There were more comments as to whether the real Tonto had such skinny, spindly shanks, but Roberts blithely ignored them. Instead, he went shrieking all over the scenery with what he insisted was a bonafide Cherokee war cry. More realistically, it sounded like the mournful cry of a coyote.
Superdan Cotterman was still insisting that he could outrun the bullets loaded with the black powder concocted by Murtaugh. The brew was so weak that it failed to push the bullet through the length of the barrel. Finding in this case was that the Lone Ranger probably didn't make his own powder. If he did, he knew a hell of a lot more about it than Murtaugh!
|"Never trust a redheaded Indian. You never know whether he's loading bullets or his peace pipe."|
Murtaugh still insists that his ancestors used this formula for making their own powder and fighting Indians back in Connecticut before the French and Indian War, but if this is true, one cannot help but wonder how he inherited so much hair. It's pretty obvious that these same ancestors didn't have any after the Indians were done with their scalping knives. Not if they were using this formula to preserve their respective hairlines.
Once the bullets had been cast and the crew had had sufficient time to recover from this particular ordeal, the silver slugs had been turned over to Cotterman, who had complained that he would have to resize them. They had been cast in a 240-grain mold, but when he started measuring he found that the silver bullets only weighed 225 grains each and that instead of measuring .454, the size of the mold, the bullets had shrunk in their making, thus measured only .450.
This presented some minor problems. They were going to fit a bit loosely in the barrel, and in doing the loading, Superdan had to put one hell of a crimp in the case even to hold these bullets. Used were Winchester .45 caliber Long Colt cases and CCI magnum pistol primers.
|"Tonto digging for fired slugs. At three bucks a bullet, this was the most profitable operation."|
We then loaded up the Peacemaker with the loads carrying the commercial black powder offered by Hodgdon's and let fly at the chronograph screens. The time the bullet made its way out of the barrel ahead of the 40 grains of FFFG. We found that it was being propelled along at 804 feet per second. We fired several of these three-dollar bullets and came up with an average of 802 fps on the shots that didn't louse up the chronograph with black powder percussion. Then, for comparison, we fired a modern swaged hollow point bullet, this one of lead and weighed 200 grains. It tracked through the screens at 733 fps.
So much for velocities. Then we got into the matter of accuracy. In order to keep Tonto Roberts from sulking, picking up his wig and going back to the reservation, we allowed him to test the rounds for accuracy. He fired a group — or what was meant to be a group — and there was some discussion concerning the wide spread
|"It may be hard to tell the difference, but the unfired bullet is at left. The other was recovered in sand."|
"I don't think you could say that one could cover that group with a sombrero,"" Roberts testified soberly.
"Hell, you couldn't cover it with a tent," was Ray Rich's discouraged rejoinder.
We tried some of the bullets on a quarter inch steel plate, too, and these didn't upset too well, although they punched a neat hole through the steel — with the rounds that were on the target at fifty yards.
When it was all over, everyone was convinced that the Lone Ranger wasn't going to go around shooting guns out of the villians hands — unless it was by accident
And we could not help but recall these immortal words of Lloyd Carlson's after he had failed to melt the initial batch of scrap silver: "You can bet your last loading die that Tonto didn't melt this stuff over no campfire!"