noob ? about lead bullets


April 27, 2007, 09:35 PM
I'm new to reloading, and have only made one or two small batches of .38Special so far using a friend's button nosed, lead bullets.

Today I got my shipment of my own lead bullets (the FMJ bullets are on backorder), several hundred each of .38 SWC lead bullets and 9mm lead roundnose bullets.

These bullets did not come lubed (the boxes don't say they are anyway) and I doubt they are. From what I read, I could go ahead and load these but I'd probably get excessive leading of the bore. Is this right? I didn't buy any bullet lube and will have to go find some I suppose... I was really motivated to load up a couple dozen each of these and go try them out tomorrow. Should I get lube first? My reloading manuals talk about lubing in the context of cast lead bullets, but they seem to stop short of saying you HAVE to do it. Opinions and experience with lead bullets for .38 special and 9mm?

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April 27, 2007, 09:39 PM
Are the lead bullets hard cast and have a blue, green, or red stripes around them this is the lube.

April 27, 2007, 10:15 PM
I would definately not shoot any cast bullet without lube. It is just not worth it. That's not to say that I haven't done it before, but the leading was so bad in the barrel that you couldn't hit anything at 25 yds. after a 8-10 rounds being fired. Takes all the fun out of it. Plus, that level of leading is a real bear to clean. Take my advice and go online and order a lube-o-matic, a sizing die, and some red rooster lube and do it right.

April 27, 2007, 10:23 PM
If the bullets don't have blue, green red, orange, etc. bands around them they are not lubed. You can buy a bottle of Lee liquid alox and follow the tumble lube directions. It works pretty well and does not require the expense of a lubrisizer. If they do have the colored bands then load and shoot.

April 27, 2007, 10:25 PM
Ah, thanks for the explanation. These bullets do not have the colored bands and are thus certainly not lubed. (My friend's bullets I was using did say they were lubed, and they did have blue bands around the shank)

Liquid alox it will probably be then.

April 27, 2007, 10:30 PM
for sure lube them.

April 27, 2007, 10:34 PM
One final piece of advice would be to check the OD of the bullets to see if they need sized. I believe that .38 specials should be .358 for lead but others may be able to give better advice on them as it is not a caliber that I load. If they are not sized correctly a Lee sizer die will work fine and they are pretty inexpensive. They won't size benchrest quality stuff, but will do for most purposes.

April 27, 2007, 10:43 PM
Hint: Next time I would make sure the cast lead bullets were SIZED AND LUBED before you got them. Kind of a pain to do it yourself unless you have your own sizer/lube equipment. I have always cast, sized, lubed my own bullets and didn't know anyone sold cast bullets without sizing/lubing them before delivery to customer.

Good shooting and be safe.

tasco 74
April 27, 2007, 10:58 PM
i have bought hornady .38 cal wcs before and they had some kind of black lube on em.... there were no lube grooves as it were just three shallow serated looking grooves....... they shot real good and were very accurate..... are your bullets kinda black??

April 27, 2007, 11:06 PM
You never mentioned what brand of bullets. Some, like Speer, etc. use a swaging process rather than casting. The bullets are coated with a lube rather than using the lube rings. If these are Speers, etc. they may be lubed already.
I sent you a PM about this as well.

Navy Vet & SWIFT Boat OIC

April 28, 2007, 01:30 AM
yea post the make of the bullets, unless im really off base, you have to seek out non lubed lead bullets, in my experience they are the exception not the rule.

April 28, 2007, 03:16 AM
"...excessive leading of the bore..." That's caused by trying to drive a cast bullet too fast. Lubed or not.
Are these bullets swaged by any chance? Swaged bullets usually don't have the ring of lube. The box should say if they are swaged or cast.

April 28, 2007, 03:34 AM
"...excessive leading of the bore..." That's caused by trying to drive a cast bullet too fast.

Well, it's definitely caused by trying to drive a swaged bullet too fast. Usually as soon as you get above sub-sonic velocity. If a hard cast bullet is properly sized to the bore and has a BHN of 18 or higher, leading isn't much of an issue. Oregon Trails bullets take this a step furhter with their alloy that yields a BHN of 26 with many of their bullets. Most commercial casters use an alloy that yields a BHN of 18 +/- 1.

X: You may have ordered Swaged lead bullets.;)

April 28, 2007, 07:57 AM
I have never seen commercial lead bullets that did not come lubed. I guess they are out there. Strange. They may have some type of lube on them other than the traditional lube in lube grooves. (like Rooster Jacket or Tumble Lube types).

If they are not lubed at all they willl definitely lead your barrel to some degree or another.

Also, remember, just getting hard cast bullets will not guarentee no leading. The bullets can be too hard for the pressure/velocities you are shooting at as well. You are loading the 9MM and the .38 Spl. which are very far apart in pressure generated and also you are dealing with chamber throats with the .38 Spl. where you are not with the 9MM.

Leading can be caused by oversized throats in a revolver, too soft an alloy, too hard an alloy, to little lube, etc. Where the leading is in the barrel gives us a very good idea what is causing the leading. We can then make adjustments. Lead bullets can be shot in almost all applications with little or no leading with some research and work. ( is often recommended here for great info on shooting lead bullets.

April 28, 2007, 10:05 AM
Just got going this morning, thanks everyone for the guiding questions. It's a little embarrassing but I didn't know to ask any of this stuff when I ordered, I incorrectly assumed all lead bullets came sized and lubed like the ones in the box that my friend lent me. I ordered these from Midsouth Shooter's Supply over the internet, simply because they had lead bullets in stock and no-one else seemed to have what I wanted in stock (I have jacketed bullets in 38 and 9mm on backorder from Cabelas).

The 38 bullets are Hornady 158gr .358" SWC, and I don't see anything on the box label that indicates cast or swaged. The bullets are a dull lightish gray in color and appear to be coated with a powderish finish that's loose inside the box.

The 9mm bullets are Speer .356" 125gr round nose, and are dark gray in color like a pencil lead, and very smooth even slick to the touch. Again, no info that I can see anyway on the label to indicate whether cast or swaged.

Does either of these appearances (powderish finish and light gray, or dark gray lead color and very slick) say anything significant?

The loaner bullets I'd started with are 38 148gr SWC (button nosed) that came lubed, and other than being a little sticky with the lube on them they were a plain lead color, not as dark as the Speer. Neither of these guys that I bought of the Hornady or the Speers looks like these.

April 28, 2007, 10:17 AM
Sent you a PM back. Sounds like you got this all figured out. Now everyone can give you their pet load for these bullets. :)
I don't load 9mm anymore, but a nice load for the .38 with the 158 SWC is 3.0 grains of Bullseye.

Navy Vet & SWIFT Boat OIC

April 28, 2007, 12:45 PM
The Hornady's are lubed. I have no experience with the Speer, but I suspect they are also. :)

Try 3.3 Grs. Bullseye, 3.5 Grs. 700X, or 4.0 Grs. W231 for around 750 to 825 FPS with the Hornady 158 Gr. bullets. :)

Redneck with a 40
April 28, 2007, 05:28 PM
+1 on Oregon Trail laser cast, excellent bullets. I have 500 180 grain 40 bullets loaded with 5.1 grains of Unique with CCI 500 primers, this is an excellent load, mild recoil and accurate.:D There is absolutely no leading in the barrel either.

April 28, 2007, 05:30 PM
Try taking a knife and scraping the bullet. Chances are good that you'll see that there is a coating on the bullet (the gray ones).This is lube coating, no need for any further lubing.

April 28, 2007, 07:05 PM
I made a box of 50 9mm's today (3.9 grains of Unique) using the 125 grain Speer lead round nose bullets and CCI primers. I'll try them out tomorrow and see how they do especially with respect to leading.

April 29, 2007, 01:52 PM
If memory serves, the Hornady .358" swaged bullet has knurling on its shank and are not lubed, but coated as BBQJOE pointed out. I think the SPEER is swaged also. I haven't used them in a long time and they were when I did. Maybe someone will have more up to date info. But, if you have a SPEER manual, there is load data in it for their bullet. If you're going to use W-231 here also, the load range for the 125 is 3.8 (911 fps) - 4.1 (982 fps) velocities were from a Beretta with a 4.9" barrel. ;)

April 30, 2007, 10:19 AM
Ah, they must have been lubed as several people here were kind enough to tell me. I shot the 50 9mms through 3 different pistols, probably about 30 of them through a Kahr CW9, and didn't see any signs of leading that I could tell when I stripped the pistol down afterwards. Just to be sure I then shot one or two magazines of FMJ through to try and clear it out, but the bore still looked about the same to me. Maybe some little grains of powder in the bore, but it all came out easily.

The one thing I did learn was the 3.7 gr of Unique isn't quite enough for 125 gr LRN in a 9mm semi-auto. Had one or two FTF and FTE jams, and on all 3 pistols there wasn't quite enough "umph" in the load to make the slide go all the way back - the slides on all pistols generally did not lock back on the last round as they do with the store bought 9mm.

Since the next disk hole size on my Lee Auto-powder loader is 4.4 grains when I measure it, I'll do that and see how it works even though 4.4 is near max loads per one of my manuals. I also today ordered one of those more precise dedicated powder loaders and an electronic scale. For pistol anyway I think I really need the ability to control the amount of powder more finely than in increments of 3.7 grains or 4.4 grains.

May 19, 2007, 11:55 PM
I bought a thousand Speer swaged bullets many years ago. NEVER AGAIN. Even with a light target load they plastered the last three inches of rifling in my 6" revolver so that I couldn't see the riflings and grooves.

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