...So You Want To Start Bullet Casting?

Discussion in 'Vintage Topic Archive (Sept - 2009)' started by wizard93, Jan 30, 2008.

  1. Here's probably the best information I can find on the internet that can help you get started. It's on a wonderful website called www.surplusrifle.com . My method is very similar to his in the bullet casting operation, with a few slight differences. Read this article and feel free to ask questions.

    http://www.surplusrifle.com/shooting2006/swwheelgun2/index.asp

    ...And another article from his site talking about sizing and lubricating the bullets after you cast them.

    http://www.surplusrifle.com/shooting2006/swwheelgun3/index.asp


    wizard93
     
  2. Those are good articles on casting.
     

  3. Great articles thank you!!!
     
  4. Thanks for the articles, I am wanting to start reloading and am in the investigation phase.
     
  5. I know the feeling, Dru.

    I started casting about 3 years ago. But before I started casting, I had a heck of a time finding information as to tips and tricks, alloying, etc. So I just started out with the Lee Modern Reloading Second Edition manual and bought all Lee equipment. I loaded up on wheelweights and hoped for the best. I read the casting section in the load manual over and over, and even had the book open on the bullet casting table while I was setting everything up. Fortunately, I read all the instructions that came with the mold and prepped it accordingly, smoking the cavities until they were nice and black. Once I had a pot of wheelweights melted, I scooped out the clips with the ladle. Then after I fluxed and skimmed the metal, I was ready for casting. I heated up the two-cavity mold by dipping a corner of it into the lead for about 15 seconds and began casting. By the third drop of bullets, they were coming out perfect. I couldn't believe how easy this was turning out to be.

    I pretty much had to learn on my own, since I don't socialize enough to know people who can show me how it's done. I learned entirely on my own with just that Lee manual to go by. After a while, I developed my technique and got the "feel" for everything. Depending on the bullets I'm casting for, I will either drop the bullets on an old folded towel for softer bullets or drop them from the mold into a 3 gallon bucket for harder bullets. The 9mm, 44 caliber and rifle bullets I drop in the water. The 38 special and 50 caliber muzzle loader bullets I drop on the towel to cool.

    You will be nervous about trying bullet casting for the first time. But as soon as you see perfect bullets dropping from the mold, you will be hooked.

    wizard93
     
  6. Wizard: I am doing the same thing right now and it is starting to come together. I have read the lee book and the articles you and others have posted. I cant wait for my molds. No water in the molten lead and I should be ok lol.....


    So I say THANKS FOR ALL OF THE HELP GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!
     
  7. Silicon Wolverine

    Silicon Wolverine Well-Known Member

    19,446
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    i did an article on casting a long time ago. let me see if i can find it. keep in mind this was a cut and paste from a cahced website.

    In response to several emails and PM's have recived from memebrs of this forum about casting your own bullets id like to post my knowledge on this topic. I tried this on several other boards i frequent and nobody seemed interested but i have generated some interest on this one so ill try it again. Im going to do this in chapters for the sole reason of its easier to type a few paragraphs in a post box than a book. Firstly a little history.
    I have been casting my own for over 15 years (reloading for over 18 ). I started casting because at the time there was no good source for SWC 9mm luger bullets. I stated out with a MAPP torch, ladle, bullet luber/ sizer and a mold. Basic but it worked. I could cast maybe 50 or 60 bullets an hour. After a year or so i moved up to a lee production pot and double cavity molds. I used this setup for over ten years to cast thousands of bullets without any major problems. Later on i upgraded to 6 cavity molds and 20-30 lb pots.
    Now to the obligatory safety lecture. Lead melts at just over 600 degrees F. This alone is a danger to the user. I have several small splash burns on my arms from casting, but i have never had to visit an ER or doctor for them. It is a fact of life that melting lead is dangerous. Contact with ANY water or thin liquid can cause a "boiling splash" of molten lead that can take the skin off a finger or an eye. ALWAYS wear eye protection and leather gloves when handling molten lead! Lead and lead fumes are toxic and in some califonia studies have been shown to cause cancer. Thus i never cast indoors and i only cast outdoors when i can count on a slight breeze to keep the fumes away. this counts out casting in the wintertime (i live in south dakota) but its a small price to pay for your safety and health. Now on to the fun stuff!

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    Silicon Wolverine
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    Joined: 15 Aug 2006
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    PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 8:19 am Post subject: Casting Pt 2 Starting out Reply with quote

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    For the beginning caster, all you need is a mold, some way to melt lead, and if you use standard molds, a luber/sizer. If you use Lee tumble lube molds you can eliminate the luber sizer. I reccomend the tumble lube molds for beginners as it eliminates a tricky and sometimes expensive step. you can upgrade as your skills improve. I use Lee products almost exclusivly as they have proven to be the most reliablr, trouble free casting products on the market. You cant go wrong with them. I have tried RCBS, Lyman and others and under use they just dont hold up as well as Lee does.
    To begin casting for your first batch i would reccomend you buy a block of pre-alloyed bullet lead. It is the easiest to get your pot up and working with and you dont have to worry about using flux (we'll discuss that later). Warm up your pot with a small amount of lead in the bottom (about 1-2 lbs) and warm your pot up slowly to let it melt. you dont want to overheat your pot and warp it. While your pot is warming up, take a candle (any will do) and "smoke" your mold. Just hold the interior of the mold above the flame and let the carbon in the smoke blacken it. this makes your bullets fall free of the mold easier and your mold will last longer. Some people use "drop free" mold lubes and that is up to you from your expierience casting. I find smoking is a cheaper alternative that works just as well. after you smoke your mold, let it set on top of your pot and warm up. it neednt be smoking hot but warm enough you dont want to touch it with a bare finger. By now your lead is melted and youre ready to cast! I use a Lee pot with a nipple on the bottom that lets you pour right in to the mold. Some pots you have to dip out of and while ive used these, they are a little more inconvientent. either way fill you mold till the lead runs off the sprue plate. Wait for it to harden and then whack the sprue plate on teh bench. the sprue will shear off ( dont worry, you can re-melt them later and make more bullets). I drop my bullets right out of the mold into a bucket of water. this cools them and makes them a tad harder as well. As you first begin to cast you will make alot of defect bullets. THIS IS OK! it takes alot of practice to make good bullets. Dont get discouraged cause you make 50 bullets and 25 have wrinkles or voids. I have been casting for 15 years and i have about 10% rejects when using wheel weight lead (more on this subject later). Just remelt them and try agin. Drop teh bullets in your bucket (be careful not to get your mold wet!) and youre ready to make another. Close the mold and sprue plate and do it again. Always remeber to leave some lead in the bottom of your pot. it helps your pot warm up tomelting temp the next time around.

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    Silicon Wolverine
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    Joined: 15 Aug 2006
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    PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 8:34 am Post subject: PT 3 A word on wheel weights Reply with quote

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    Many casters deride the lowly wheel weight as not being good enough for a lead source for bullets. I am living proof this is not true. I have cast tens of thousands of bullets from wheel weights with no ill effects to me or my firearms. the only caveat to using wheel weights is they arent as accurate or consistent as alloyed bullet lead, and they leave more leading inside your barrel. I generally shoot about 250 rounds of WW lead bullets before i run a brush down the barrel a few times. after about 1000 rounds a good cleaning with slovent and lead remover is needed.
    that being said there are several extra procedures needed when casting with wheel weights. Firstly they contain steel clips and large amounts of oxidized lead. they also may contain raod debris, salt and other contaminants. Therefore when i melt WW lead, i do it with a dedicated system that has ONLY WW lead in it. If im melting alot of WW i use a cast iron pan and old BBQ grill. DO NOT use your family grill for this as you contaminate the entire thing with lead oxide residue. Just set the pan down on teh burner, fill it with weights and crank it on high. After they all have melted use an old tablespoon to skim off the steel clips and geryish oxidized lead material. i keep on old tin coffee can to dump this into. When you are done skimming you have a pot of sliver molten lead. Now you need to flux it to get out any remaing impurities. I use frankfort arsenal flux. Dip about 1/4 tablespoon per 10 lbs into your pan. Expierence will dictate how much to use but this is a good starting point. CAREFULLY stir in the flux. A thick, grey layer will form on the surface. Spoon this off just like you did the steel clips. Some casters call this process "drossing". When all the grey layer is gone the lead is clean and ready to mold. I generally mold it in to bars at this point to be cast into bullets later but you can mold right out of the pan if you want to. WW can be gotten from about any car shop or tire dealer for free or a small amount. I go to a local salvage yard and buy them for 5 cents a pound.

    PS If you have any particualr questions either PM me or email at wolvrine@pop.ctctel.com and ill get back to you as soon as i can

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    Silicon Wolverine
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    PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 8:47 am Post subject: Pt 4 High velocity and gas checks Reply with quote

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    High velocity cast rifle bullets almost always require a gas check. this is a small copper cap that is crimped onto the base of the bullet during sizing. this cap prevents the hot powder gasses from getting to the lead at the base of the bullet during firing. This is a nessecary step when casting high power rifle bullets. The only cast bullets i know of that dont use gas checks in rifles are for cowboy loads of low velocity (under 1250 FPS). A few handgun bullets use gas checks but these are few and far between. I cast very few rifle bullets in the last five years or so. the cost of good alloyed lead ( i dont reccomed using WW lead for rifle bullets ) and gas checks has taken the profit out of it. When i first started out casting rifle bullets i could reload a box of .30-06 150 gr loads for aoubt 6 bucks. Im up over 11 bucks now. I can buy it at wal mart and have jacketed bullets for 12 bucks or less. Versus a handgun round (9mm) i can load 121gr loads for under 3 bucks a box. The cheapest 9mm i have found is some surplus of dubious quailty for around 4-5$ a box. Usually a bullet mold will tell you what type and part # gas check to use. It is wise to buy your molds and checks together. the customer service at your outlet of choice can help you. A good realoding manual is a very good idea if you're intent on casting high power rifle bullets as well.

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    ARI
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    PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 11:02 am Post subject: Reply with quote

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    Thank you! I have found my grill Laughing
    _________________
    ****Mosin, Mosin, Mosin that is all I ever hear!*****

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    stroo
    Distinguished Expert


    Joined: 22 Feb 2006
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    PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 10:39 am Post subject: Reply with quote

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    Thanks. I started reloading about 4 months ago and have thought about casting but have been reluctant to get started. This is a lot of good information.

    Glock,

    Ist there any way to sticky this thread, so it will be available for future use.

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    Silicon Wolverine
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    PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 5:24 am Post subject: Reply with quote

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    Excellent point Tiel! i was going to get ot that in my section on alloys. Its a little ahead of the game but we'll do it now since the topic came up. We've spoken about wheel weight lead before and as Tiel said, quenching them in water makes them slightly harder. Ive found this works best in smokeless medium velocity firearms such as handguns. Rifles seem to prefer "hardball" alloys of 2% Tin, 6% Antimony And 92% Lead. this provides the best all around performace in fast bullets. Linotype lead (sometimes found at salvage yards) is VERY hard. 4% Tin, 12% Antimony And 84% Lead are its contents. The high antimony percentage makes this alloy almost unuseable unless cut with pure lead 1/2 and 1/2. Its is also not very consistent from lot to lot of material. I tend to avoid linotype unless there is no other source of lead. You will also see 20:1, 25:1, and 30:1 lead tin mixes. these are mostly for blackpowder cartrigde shooters. As "cheap" casters most of us will deal in WW and scrap lead. DO NOT use the lead plates you find in car batteries as a source for casting lead. DO NOT DO IT! i know this is an attractive source of pure lead but if you melt it in a common pot, the oxidized sulfuric acid in the pores of the plates will vaporize and come off the top as a fog. THIS IS LETHAL IN VERY SMALL DOSES. a good lungful would likely kill you and just a sniff would do permanent damage to your lungs and sinuses. The commercial recyclers that handle batteries have a very complicated process that traps and renders safe the fumes from teh molten lead. On occasion you will find lead pipes from old houses. While they contain a large amount of "debris" (lead was usually used in sewer pipes) it is a fine source of lead that is relativly free of other metallic contaminants. I reccomend you melt it in a seperate pot like WW to skim off the junk. Similar to pipe material is old lead roof sheathing. treat it as such. lead can also be found in dismantled X-ray machines as shielding from the radioactive cores. I have only persoannly been near one X-ray machine and it only contained about six pounds of lead sheets. I have no idea what kind of contamination they had from its use. The only other common source of lead is old organ pipes. My salvage yard tore an old organ out of a church one time and about 40% of the bass pipes were lead, and a few of the very high pitched pipes were lead as well. I was told it was 75% lead/ 25% tin to alter the pitch of the pipe. I was never able to confirm this as the pipes were sold before i had a chance to sample them.

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    Silicon Wolverine
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    PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 5:47 am Post subject: Reply with quote

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    Alloying your own lead can be a process that goes from extrely frustrating to rewarding. When i first started out alloying my own lead mixtures i had a lot of "flub" lots that didnt work right and all the tin floated out or it cast with goofy shrinkage voids or stuff like that. It takes ALOT of practice and trial and error to find the mix that works best for you. My own particular favorite recipie for general hunting use is 25 pounds of WW, one 7.5 Lb bar of hardball lead and about two ounces of pure tin. this makes bullets with best shape retention and the least barrel leading for the dollars spent. For just plinkin' rounds i use strainght WW lead, no mix. i have expieremented with all kinds of odd metal mixes including bismuth, thallium and indium and also adding powdered metals to the lead mix like cobalt, zinc and nickel. None of these has ever given any performace improvement over that standard mixes other than indium which seemed to make the bullets more "elastic". I shot some ballistic wax with 75% lead/20%indium/5% tin bullets and they all stretched out long and thin from the impact and friction of traveling through mass. the cost of making them (about 1$ each for a 125 gr bullet) negated any potential advancement. Adding powdered metals to the mix creates some interesting terminal effects but makes the bullet structurally weaker and thus you cannot load it very fast. the bets results i had was with a 90% lead/5% tin/5% cobalt mix. this bullet tended to shatter when it hit anyhting and when shooting it into a 12" square block of ballistic wax 24" long from 10 feet it would generally split the block in two along its vertcal axis, with lots of small fragments. All other powdered metals i tried the bullets disintigrated under a very mild pressure and i discarded the recipe without ever firing any as i feared they would shatter in the barrel. Alloying custom lead recipes like this is not for the faint of heart and i dont reccomend it for anyone that hasnt done this for some years and has a background in some type of chemistry or metalurgics. I posted it mostly for informational purposes and i thought it would be interesting for you guys to read.

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    Silicon Wolverine
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    PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 6:04 am Post subject: Reply with quote

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    Quenching bullets in water makes them harder by virtue of the fact the bullet is cooling very quickly and the atomic structure is changing slightly when the temp drops. It is the same basic process as tempering steel but instead of iron and crabon molecules you're playing with lead and tin. Quenching pure WW lead bullets is a good idea as it leaves less leading in your barrel. Quenching high velocity rifle bullets needs to be expiereimented with to find if it helps or hurts your groups and barrel. I loaded a batch of rounds with 155Gr gas checked bullets for a .30-06' and tried them in four different rifles quenched and unquenched. Out of the four i had two that leaded very heavily and were totaly inaccurate with unquenched bullets but decent with quenched. One that it made no difference in accuracy but unquenched left heavier leading and one that shot them both with equal accuracy and leading. Its a trial and error process for your particular rifle. Handguns seem to like quenched bullets better for the smaller calibers up to around 10mm/.40 cal. I havent expieremented much with .40 cal cast bullets but .44 and .45 rounds like softer lead. i usually dump them on a towel or a stack of old t shirts covered with tin foil to cool. (the tin foil keeps them from burning the towel and sticking to it) 9mm, .357/.38, .32, .30 carbine etc like to be quenched. Ive triend quenching in ice water vs. plain water and there is no difference in hardness.

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    Silicon Wolverine
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    PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2006 8:26 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

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    Had an Email question on making ingots for lead storage. If you are melting ALOT of lead from any source, ingots are a good idea. I generally spend a whole "melting day" (i wear old clothes, wind is right etc) Just making ingots of clean, ready to cast lead. This saves time when im casting bullets and also gives teh lead an extra cooling/heating cycle to get out contaminants. If you are melting small quantities of lead ingots, while not a waste of time, are an extra uneeded step in the process. If youre melting 5-10 lbs of lead for bullets you could spend an extra hour ingoting that 5-10 lbs.

    Now if you do decide to cast ingots there are a few things you should know. there are no real differences between any of the ingot molds available with the caveat that the ingot must fit in your melting pot. ( i know this from expierence) ;-) Pour the lead into the mold and let it cool. The question i had was is it OK to dip the mold into water/cool liquid to speed the cooling process. Thats a tricky one. On the surface it would seem harmless until you think that you a dipping something at arounf 400-500 degrees into liquid thats room temp. Thermal expansion and contracation could crack your mold, or cause a "bubble" of still molten lead to splash. Its also likely the liquid you dip it in will flash boil and you could be burned by steam/hot water. Ive never done it and i dont think its a very good idea. Anyone with expierence with this please feel free to jump in.

    SW

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    jbar4ranch
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    PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 4:25 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

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    Good post. I've also been casting bullets for nearly thirty years now, and started mainly due to my job. I worked at an ASARCO lead smelter here for 23 years, and the company didn't bother you if you didn't get greedy. We would process our lead in 120 ton capacity kettles, and ship it out by rail in ten 10 ton pigs, 100 tons at a time. Typically, 200 tons per 24 hour day would be processed and shipped.
     
  8. So give me some idea on costs for casting your own.
    I don't need the costs of the tools as that's a one time investment, just a breakdown on cost per 100 bullets for example would be nice.

    Just this week I received 1,000 Hornady LRN, 230gr bullets. I was very impressed actually as I was at the range today and I had 0 problems feeding and they actually were very accurate.

    The only other lead bullets I've tried are LaserCast and I wasn't impressed with those.

    The laserCast look prettier but prettier doesn't make holes in whatever one is shooting at. I also had some feed problems with LaserCast but that could have been a no name magazine I was using at the time. It also seemed that I had sume bulge in the loaded cases with LaserCast but do not see this with the Hornady.

    The 1,000 Hornady cost me just a bit less than $95 delivered.
    How does this compare to casting your own?
    I thought the price and the quality/accuracy were very good.
     
  9. Well I am going to have just the cost of my time and the bullet lube that is used to flux the allow and oil the mold. If you dont add what I have into the equip.

    I got 2 full sticks for 10 dollars. I have read that it takes some where in the size of a large pea to flux the alloy and about the same sive to oil the mold.

    I payed nothing for the lead no cost there. So when I reload it will be cost of the primer and the charge.

    I plan on doing a cost per round for the first 1000 with the reloading equiptment added in the mix.
     
  10. If you can get the lead for free, and have already accounted for the one time cost of the equipment, the only real cost you will have is for primers and powder. Basically you can reload large rounds like .44 and .45 for pennies provided you buy your primers in bulk.
     
  11. yeah I was planning on buying cci primers in 5000 case. As far as powder I have not found what I want to use for my 9mm and .38 spl.. But after I do it will be bought in 8lbs containers.

    Should make the rounds as cheacp as I can. I dont want to go for the milsup style. I will just eat the price of CCI or Winchester primers.