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Old 03-17-2016, 11:45 AM   #1
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Casting bullets...?

Anyone here cast their own bullets much? I've been reloading since 1984 or so, but just started casting a couple weeks ago. The idea of being able to shoot for nearly the cost of just primers & powder is intriguing.

I started with a bunch of lead from several sources; mostly wheelweights that I sorted thru, and also some scrap lead from a salvage place. Cleaned/ingoted it up and ended up with 417 lbs of muffin-pan ingots. I've cast & tumble-lubed some bullets for 9mm & .38spl, but haven't loaded any of them yet.
 
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Old 03-17-2016, 01:39 PM   #2
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you might not need to size the bullets for .38 ammo, but I bet you need to do so for 9mm, or you'll bulge the cases. 9mm is a tapered case and most guys say use .356" bullets and heavy for caliber, to keep velocities low and reduce bore fouling and bullet keyholing. I never had any luck in 9mm with 115 gr tc bullets, and only with the mildest loads and 125 gr . most combat shooting guys use 140-160 gr lrn or swcs in 9mm, holding speeds to 800-900 fps. A new trend is 8 shot "full moon' clips for 9mm revolvers, or so i'm told.
 
Old 03-17-2016, 01:40 PM   #3
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search youtube for unusual lead sources. If there's any boating, especially boat building near you, the keels of old salvaged boats are full of lead. 400 lbs would be nearly 20k 9mm bullets, The way to go is a propane fired plumber's furnace, a big (spouted, NOT open top) dipper, and a big cast iron pot, with several of the 6 cavity Lee molds and the lee "hand sizer' kit, for use in a "c" model reloading press. not at all an expensive set up and you can turn out 500 finished bullets per hour. I call bs on not counting one's time. That time COULD be used making some money, so it DOES need to be counted. you lose about 1/3rd of the wheelweigh's initial weight to oxydation, and probably need to add a bit of tin and antimony, which are horrendously expensive, like $12 a lb. Especially if you are trying to use 125 gr or lighter bullets in 9mm, at normal speeds. You might also have to experiment with lubes. The normal bullet sizer luber machines are horrendous wastes of money ( Lyman and Rcbs) google a forum called "castboolits.com" lots and lots of good info there.

2 cavity molds, 11 lb casting furnace, and normal lube sizer means a production rate of under 100 bullets per hour, saving at most 5c each. to hell with that noise! Sometimes I see jacketed 9mm ball bullets offered for 5-6c each, if bought in bulk.

Last edited by nikto; 03-17-2016 at 01:48 PM.
 
 
Old 03-17-2016, 02:48 PM   #4
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I'm a high volume shooter loading 13 different calibers and the wife and I shoot 20-25 matches a year. Frankly I just don't have time to cast with everything else going on in life.
 
Old 03-17-2016, 03:13 PM   #5
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What I've cast so far in 9mm is the 124-grain TC in Lee 6-cavity molds. Haven't worked up any loads or tried any of them so far, and may well go to 147's to allow use of softer alloys & avoid additive costs.

Main deal with these is that they're solely intended for close-in, fast use on steel using a timer. So I don't care as much as I typically would about accuracy, consistency, or tweeking to get the best performance; I just want these for use with time drills to build speed.

Right now, I'm running in the mid to high two-seconds (2.45 is my best, 2.77 or so is typical) for six shots on three 12" plates at 30 feet; two shots per plate. I can sometimes best two seconds with a .22 kit on a 1911, but never with centerfire. And to be fair, that's not cold times either; it's after warmup runs.

Also, I think 7 yards is more realistic for defensive purposes than the 10 I'm shooting at now, and will be more comfortable shooting steel at 7 yards with lead bullets than with jacketed.

For purposes other than this (hunting, carry, target shooting), I'll stick with my old standby loads; some commercial, some loaded. Just looking to knock out rounds that go 'bang' and fly reasonably straight at short range.

I actually don't mind the time used up in this. It's pretty much a recreational thing for me, whether I'm using bought bullets or casting my own, and there's a strong cheapskate gene somewhere inside me that loves the fact that I've got ~20,000 rounds of bullet material for little cost and a modicum of effort. I spent probably 6-8 hours total and less than a tank of propane sorting out non-lead wheelweights and melting/fluxing into ingots. After that, two evenings of maybe two hours each got me around 850 9mm bullets and 800 .38spl bullets; using only 28 lbs or so of my 417 lbs of material. One nice thing about being rural as we are, I can actually still get free wheelweights from a few places. Got about a 1/3-full five-gallon bucket yesterday in fact when I had my oil changed; probably 40 lbs as it sits and maybe 25-30 lbs of usable lead to be had out of it someday, whenever I want to mess with it.
 
Old 03-17-2016, 05:55 PM   #6
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the scrap yards pay 30c a lb for wheelweights and CHARGE $1.20 a lb for them. wow. 6 cavity molds make a helluva difference. The 2 cavity Lee and RCBS molds are junk. they go out of alignment in 100 casts. ripoffs. so are those times from the leather? what spacing between the plates? what rig? what hand start position. At ten yds, from the leather, those are great times, if it's a standard gun, not a race gun, from surrender start, with a concealable rig, especially with full charge .45 ammo. But (I have no practical experience. Just ask garand about that.

Last edited by nikto; 03-17-2016 at 05:59 PM.
 
Old 03-18-2016, 05:06 AM   #7
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From low ready with safety on, not from the holster. Plates are anywhere from 30-35 feet out, spaced 3-4 feet apart. Using a full size 9mm, usually an M&P which I've come to like more than my glocks. Neither a race gun nor true concealment gun; more a plain full-size duty gun.

Part of the reason for casting is to get in more time using my M&P compact. First goal is to get to my current (full-size gun, 10-yard) times using the ccw gun at 7 yards, and with spring & summer coming up I'm hoping to do so.

We have a scrap yard 20-30 minutes from us that charges 75 cents per lb for scrap lead; around a hundred lbs of what I've ingoted is from there, the rest is wheelweights. Paid $20 for one bucket of wheelweights, all the rest were free.
 
Old 03-18-2016, 05:13 AM   #8
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Fwiw, anyone who casts or is curious about getting into casting might want to check out the www.castboolits.gunloads.com

Those guys have a lot of practical, hands-on experience with casting, alloying, lubing, etc; lot of info over there.
 
Old 03-18-2016, 09:28 AM   #9
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7 yds is still twice as far as makes sense for civilians and it's extremely unlikely that you'll have to HIT more than 2 attackers, altho it might be advisable to put a bullet into all of those present, to establish that you were WAY out numbered, especially if none are armed.
 
Old 03-18-2016, 09:37 AM   #10
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I'm already logged into castboolits, they have great information for those shooting "obsolete" calibers.
 
Old 03-18-2016, 10:26 AM   #11
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react, raise and hit chest, at 7 yds, should run about .60 second. with practice, it can be done reliably in .45 econd at 10 ft, cause you need not bend your elbow, or rotate at the shoulders, just flick your wrist up a bit. repeat hits should run about .18 second or a hair faster at 7 yds, and with targets that close together, a traverse to another target, .25 second. so, react, raise, double tap 3 targets, should run about 1.70 seconds.
 
Old 03-18-2016, 10:29 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nikto View Post
7 yds is still twice as far as makes sense for civilians...
Don't disagree with that, at least for probably 95% of situations; but it's as close as I want to be shooting steel plates at. Even at 30-35 feet I get the occasional sliver back at me. No way I want to get them closer than ~20 feet.

Carbine drills, I keep out at 100 ft when using steel. Much further than any likely need, but is still so close that .223 fmj pits the AR500 slightly; and more than 'slightly' if I catch an edge of the target.
 
Old 03-18-2016, 12:01 PM   #13
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You can just staplegun 9" pie plates to 1x2 stakes when practice at less than 5 yds. somebody used to (does?) make "self-healing" plastic/composite target disks, which fall to the shot (probably jump around if suspended) to remove the splash risk. people don't go "dong", when shot, ya know. and too often, they don't fall, either! :-)

http://www.amazon.com/Do-All-Outdoor.../dp/B0037NA994

never have personally used this stuff, John. I'm too cheap. :-)
 
Old 03-18-2016, 12:49 PM   #14
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I like the audible feedback of steel over paper; basically confirms hits without going back to review video or counting holes in paper. Big part of it is that I just enjoy it; I just started seriously shooting steel on a regular basis in the last year or two.

Fwiw, when I do shoot paper with pistol, I like the 5"x8" post-its, several of them on a normal cardboard target backer. They're pretty cheap, they make a good 'reduced center-mass' target size, and you can use different colors for different drills as well.

My favorite cheap & reactive targets are something I rarely use anymore, but are great especially for .22 rifle work. Cut a double kerf (~3/16" or so) in a board length-wise and stand salting crackers in it as targets, or drill holes every few inches along a board the proper size for the paper sticks on cheap dollar-store lollipops. Like the post-its, you can set up challenges almost like duelling-trees with them - "you shoot all the orange ones before I shoot all the green ones", etc. The lollipops are more forgiving of errant shots, since hitting the board with even a .22 will dislodge a lot of the crackers.
 
Old 03-18-2016, 03:59 PM   #15
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Well put John in AR, I have found lately that I also enjoy shooting steel more than paper also. Especially when I'm running a match, less to patch.
 
Old 03-27-2016, 12:10 PM   #16
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if you buy scrap lead in the form of bullets from a firing range, BEWARE. there's likely to be "litter" in the form of live .22 ammo mixed in with the bullets. If you pour the mix into molten lead, you'll get lead splashed all over you. Elmer Keith's face got badly scarred in this manner. Ditto if you've got ice or water in the bottom of the container. I had that happene. But I have no practical experience. Just ask Garand about that.
 
Old 11-28-2018, 11:41 AM   #17
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Happened to think about this thread when a tire shop gave me a bucket of cast-off wheel weights today. This one weighed at 128.2 lbs, which based on previous loss percentages should yield around 93-95 lbs of usable lead after separating out the zinc & steel and smelting into muffin-pan ingots. Should work out to around 5,000 bullets or a little more, given 90% of them being 9mm/.357 bullets and the other 10% in .45 caliber.

Other than the cost of some propane to melt them down, there's literally no out-of-pocket expense other than time. Not going to mess with them anytime soon; too much going on with other life stuff, but it was a nice boost to inventory, especially being free like that.
 
Old 07-06-2019, 04:43 AM   #18
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I have never had to size a lead bullet (and stopped after testing shows better accuracy with unsized bullets) and all my 9mm guns are quite happy with 0.357-0.358" lead bullets. Seat them square and there is no case bulge. Seat a 0.355" bullet crooked, and there is a case bulge.
Get a seater stem that fits the bullet (I like them NOT to contact the meplat/nose at all and only contact the bullet as far down the ogive as possible. For SWCs, I use seating stems that only contact the bullet's shoulders--this also helps to align the bullet during seating.I drill out a central hole for full wadcutters so, again, the seating force is on the "shoulder" of the bullet.
 
Old 07-06-2019, 02:35 PM   #19
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the bullet fit to the seater punch is a good insight. In the 70s, I was using a rn punch to seat Hornady .45 jhp's in .45 L Colt, and seatigg them smashed the nose cavity to a much smaller ID. This, on top of Hornady's much too thick/stiff jacketing material meant no expansion in animals, even at 1500 fps.
 
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