Emergency bullet casting


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cordex
October 8, 2003, 01:53 AM
There are quite a number of members of this forum who cast their own bullets using reputable equipment and dies.
As a mental exercise, I decided to solve a theoretical problem and play with melting metal.

Assuming I were unable to buy bullets in any form, and assuming I had powder, primers and .45acp casings, how could I cast my own servicable bullets with readily available lead but without real dies?

Okay, so it's a long shot, but I said it was a theoretical problem, didn't I?

Well, I think I've solved the problem - at least for one caliber - and I'd like you folks to grade my solution.

Materials required:
Powder
Primers
.45ACP Casings
Scale
Lead
Propane torch
Container of water
Pliers
Flat faced file
Good, durable, non-flammable work surface. Metal or well glazed ceramic is your friend.
Inertial bullet puller
Reckless disregard for your own well-being, or at least an experimental nature.

Figured it out yet?

Process:
Place an empty casing (with expended primer still in it) upright on your work surface.
With the lead in strips or small chunks, slowly heat the casing and melt the lead into it. Yes, directly into the empty casing. Keep applying heat until the casing begins to glow and add lead until you nearly reach the top (we're shooting for a bit over 230 grains so you'll be real close to 230 when you're done).
Carefully lift casing + lead by the lip of the case and lower into the water.
Remove from water and place the casing in your inertial bullet puller.
Whack it until the "bullet" comes out. You now have something very much like this:
http://24.208.209.169/images/creek/castBullet01_sm.jpg (http://24.208.209.169/images/creek/castBullet01_lg.jpg)
Nifty! The lead going into the flash hole makes a little HydraShok-esque post (without the hollow point, of course).
All well and good, but ... will it work?
*measures, files base flat, weighs it and generally tries to check it for problems*
Well, it looks like it will be a wee bit on the small side (mine measured about .450 exactly, but this will no doubt depend on the case you use), but that's to be expected considering the methods. After filing, the bullet weighs just under 230 grains. Huzzah!
Chuck it into the reloader (I'm using 5.5gr Universal Clays) and out comes this:
http://24.208.209.169/images/creek/castBullet02_sm.jpg (http://24.208.209.169/images/creek/castBullet02_lg.jpg)
http://24.208.209.169/images/creek/castBullet03_sm.jpg (http://24.208.209.169/images/creek/castBullet03_lg.jpg)

Haven't tried shooting it yet, but I may. It does feed and chamber in my 1911, however.

Now, I understand that this won't be terribly accurate, will probably cause excess leading do to being undersized ... but does anyone see any real danger in firing this?

Keep in mind, I'm not advocating this process for general shooting, but for the mythical "SHTF" contingency, how's my solution?

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Mike Irwin
October 8, 2003, 02:12 AM
You have just scared the everliving hell out of me by saying lead and water in the same breath!

My Grandfather carried to his grave several scars on his face that were put there by molten lead in 1921. He died in 1982.

I'd be more inclined to try making my own casting blocks out of aluminum or even fire clay or soapstone.

Cal4D4
October 8, 2003, 02:12 AM
Make sure it is fairly cylindrical and it will probably work pretty well. .45 barrels have fairly shallow rifling so I wouldn't bet on 25 yard cloverleaf targets here. Maybe you could apply a little squashing force to bulge it slightly after trying a few undersize ones. Alloy changes may adjust finished size also. If you reuse case - watch out for any trapped moisture - does it distort from all the processing?

edited to add: I have scar on neck from lead/water mix in a casting experiment. Oops!

C.R.Sam
October 8, 2003, 02:22 AM
I'd let em air dry.
Keeps water out of the equation and...
they will be slightly softer and better obturate and fit rifling.

Now....lube.
You don't have lube groove...
Soooo a bit of oildag or waterdag (colodial graphite suspension) and a little paint brush. coat em, let em dry, load n shoot em.

Shouldn't lead, should work just fine at that diameter.

besides....yours are cute.:)

Sam

cordex
October 8, 2003, 02:37 AM
Maybe the water was a bad idea.
Thankfully, I survived. Brass case helped safely transfer the heat, I think.
If you reuse case - watch out for any trapped moisture - does it distort from all the processing?
I did try a couple of castings from the same case. I ended up warping it by picking it up with vice grips, but if you pick it up carefully with needlenose pliers on the mouth of the case, you can avoid that.

Thanks for the advice, Sam. I'll give that a try for a few shots. I think I'll get some real dies if I decide to really get into casting my own.
besides....yours are cute.
*grin* I thought so.

Steve Smith
October 8, 2003, 08:12 AM
Mike, never water dropped bullets before? Works just fine.

You have just scared the everliving hell out of me by saying lead and water in the same breath!

Water, lead! Water, lead! Water, lead! Water, lead! Water, lead! Water, lead! :neener:

uglymofo
October 8, 2003, 10:25 AM
Carefully lift casing + lead by the lip of the case and lower into the water. Remove from water and place the casing in your inertial bullet puller.

I'm with Mike on this one. When I used to cast, I'd speed up the cycle by dropping my bullets into a bucket of water on the floor. That bucket was 3 feet lower than my face, and about 2 feet lower than my gloved hands. The water would sizzle when the bullets hit it, but the volume of water overwhelmed the lead's ability to vaporize.

But this description makes me itch too. As I read it, I easily imagined the steam created by slowly immersing a "glow"ing-hot case containing molten lead into water. Just a drop of water/steam in that case and those protective lenses ain't worth a damn for all the damage to the rest of the face.

Steve Smith
October 8, 2003, 10:37 AM
Oh, I certainly agree with the danger, but water a lead are not always a "Bad Thing" (tm).

Mike Irwin
October 8, 2003, 12:27 PM
"Mike, never water dropped bullets before? Works just fine."

Yes, but not by dunking the mold blocks IN the water.

In order to prevent splashing, the hot bullets were dropped on a carboard trough, which channeled them into a 5-gallon bucket with a small hole cut in the lid to cut down further on the chance of water and molten lead mixing.

Archie
October 8, 2003, 01:37 PM
dropping recently cast lead bullets in water is NOT a problem. Yeah, they sizzle a little when they hit, but it's not a gross problem.

There is a real problem with pouring molten lead into a form of any type with some water in the bottom.
The lead INSTANTLY boils the water, evolving a much larger amount of steam; that steam then INSTANTLY expels the still molten lead back out of the form (mould, 45 casing, pipe joint) pretty much at the pourer. (Pappy used to be a plumber).

One little drop of water in that 45 case will give catastrophic results!

Addressing the basic thought of this thread, it sounds like a good idea. I would think the lead would solder itself to the brass casing, but yours doesn't seem to do so. Allow me to suggest using CCI Blazer cases; they are aluminum and the lead will not stick to aluminum. And Blazer aren't reloadable anyway.
The base of the bullet must be square for maximum accuracy. Don't have any brilliant ideas about that, but these are "field expedient" products in any event.

Oh, be sure the casing has a FIRED primer. Pouring molten lead onto a live primer will ruin your underwear if nothing else.

cordex
October 8, 2003, 01:50 PM
There is a real problem with pouring molten lead into a form of any type with some water in the bottom.
Right.
I heated the casing with the torch before I put the lead in it (and the lead was solid when it went into the case ... I kind of used it as a crucible). This chased any remaining water out, I think.
I would think the lead would solder itself to the brass casing, but yours doesn't seem to do so.
Didn't notice that at all.
Allow me to suggest using CCI Blazer cases; they are aluminum and the lead will not stick to aluminum. And Blazer aren't reloadable anyway.
I'll try that. The brass worked pretty well, though.
The base of the bullet must be square for maximum accuracy. Don't have any brilliant ideas about that, but these are "field expedient" products in any event.
I filed the base flat-ish, but not perfectly square. I don't think it would be too hard to play with a tube and dowel to hold the bullet perpendicular to the file ... hmmm.
Oh, be sure the casing has a FIRED primer. Pouring molten lead onto a live primer will ruin your underwear if nothing else.
Yep! More dangerous than the water, I'd wager.

I'm thinking about trying to get my hands on some .45Glock cases. I think those would get pretty close to ideal weight by filling them entirely.

Mike Irwin
October 8, 2003, 02:30 PM
"This chased any remaining water out, I think."

With all due respect, Cordex, that ranks right up there with the redneck's last words before dying... "Hey y'all, watch this!"

Sheldon
October 8, 2003, 05:14 PM
Was the bullet tight enough in the case that you wouldn't worry about the bullet pushing way into the case during feeding from a magazine? That would be my main concern. I have a couple bullet molds and have cast a few rounds of bullets just to mess around.....but man that seems like so much work compared to getting them bulk from a commercial caster. Even more so if you are lucky enough to have a local one near you so you can avoid the shipping costs related. I have a good supply of lead, but at $0.04 a bullet or less for commercial made ones I have not been able to motivate myself to make them myself. Let's not even talk about lube and sizing the bullets after casting them!!! I have cast a bunch of 1/4 and 3/8 ounce leadheads for fishing plastics though. Course I don't go thru them 200 a visit when fishing!!!

griz
October 8, 2003, 11:03 PM
That's a pretty good idea for a field expedient bullets. You might also try Lee's liquid Alox for bullet lube. Even with no grooves it should do OK for a low pressure round like the 45.

Poodleshooter
October 9, 2003, 05:28 PM
Neat!

BTW, if it doesn't obturate in the bore, perhaps a FMJ-RN placed into the filled casing would give you a sort of field expedient "core pin" minie styled bullet. That way you get the flared base upon firing.

cordex
October 9, 2003, 05:46 PM
Good idea, poodle. If I get some time tonight, I'll give it a go and post the results.

Mike,
Don't worry. I'll leave the water out of the equation this time.

Sheldon,
I didn't notice any bullet setback after chambering, but I did have to adjust the crimp die.

I doubt I'll do too many more of these. They're pretty labor intensive per bullet, but I figure it isn't a bad option to have if I need it and I thought I'd share with others.

C.R.Sam
October 10, 2003, 02:32 AM
cool expirement.

Sam

444
October 12, 2003, 11:27 PM
So make up a few of them and let us know how they shoot.

cordex
October 21, 2003, 02:23 PM
Okay, I tried it again, this time without the water. The lead is much softer this time, due to the air cooling as opposed to the quenching.
Used poodleshooter's idea for the hollow base, which decreased the amount of lead the case could hold. Filed it down to 185.0 grains and it is mighty spiffy looking for such primitive methods. The lead soldered itself to the FMJ bullet nose, but I was able to pop it off without too much trouble.

I'll get some pictures of the new bullet soon. I think I'll cook up a total of 5 230 grain and 5 185 grain hollow base, shoot them sometime this weekend and then file this for "fun stuff you'll probably never do again".

However, I may start casting for .357 with more traditional tools.

444
October 21, 2003, 03:01 PM
I anxiously await the results.
This is kind of a neat idea. Something fun to play with. I suppose if you wanted to carry the experiment a little further you could use cases other than .45 ACP to cast different bullets. You might want to try a .45 colt case for example. And of course you could grind the case down to make it mould a bullet close to the size you want............................

Bullet casting is a lot of fun, and interesting at least to me. Like most things, if you try to justify it in terms of money and time you wouldn't do it. You can just buy cast bullets after all. But, there is something about doing it all yourself that gives you a certain satisfaction. And, you can cast bullets that are a little harder to get. You might have an oddball caliber that doesn't have bullets readily available for it. You might desire a certain bullet shape that isn't readily available. You can play with different alloys to give different performance characteristics. You can play with different sizing since all bores and throats arn't the same size, thus maximizing your accuracy and minimizing barrel leading. You can play with different bullet lubes for the same reasons. You can even pour custom bullets with a soft nose and a hard shank giving you something like a partition bullet for hunting. The last handloader magazine had a wonderful article on classic .38 Special loads: the old factory loads from back in the day. They fired them out of a pair of old 1905 Hand Ejectors. The author makes a point in the beginning of the article that you need to have a soft alloy for these guns; almost pure lead with just enough tin to fill out the mould. The reason is that the lands and grooves in these old barrels are equal in width and really grab the bullet. If you use too hard of an alloy you can crack the unsupported section of the barrel between the frame and the cyliner face. Since I have a couple similar guns, this is yet another reason to cast my own bullets rather than buying commerically cast bullets.

A little of subject, but you mentioned getting into casting and one other post talked about how cheap it is to just buy cast bullets.

Steve Smith
October 21, 2003, 05:58 PM
After getting your bullets out of the cases, put one on a cookie sheet and place it in the oven. Increase the temp very slowly until you see the bullet slump. Note the temp. Now put a lot of the bullets in the oven and cook them to just under the slump temp for about 20 minutes, then remove and allow to cool. They will be harder. You could also water drop them at this point for really hard bullets.

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