Does Anyone Here Make Their Own Jacketed Bullets?


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Tomcat47
February 13, 2013, 08:46 PM
I have reloaded for a long time, and since the last weekend Gun Show and just the scarcity of components and prices of ammunition I sat down Sunday night with the question in my head...

1) How do they make jacketed bullets?
2) Is there equipment available?
3) Expense Involved?

My investigation on the net revealed that the process is available, the tools are available, and it is the simple process of swaging the jacket! ( I am familiar with the process and have done it in a different application. I have been in metalworking for almost 30 years now and it was not new to me )

Now as the questions above stand I hope there is some experience and wisdom from THR. My intentions are casting and jacketing for 9mm .45acp, .223/5.56, and .30 cal rifle.

I am not super concerned about expense to get started, but do want to know the cost after it is setup and going. Savings are kinda of a null factor (within a margin I suppose ) these days as the ability sometimes overshadows it.

I am sure glad I did not sell my reloading stuff through the years... went through some storage and found about 5k 5.56 brass and lots more goodies I forgot I had.... It was like Christmas all over again! :D

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Nanook
February 13, 2013, 09:04 PM
I haven't done it, but I must admit I'm considering it. I already cast my own when I want to, maybe this is the next logical step.

Rotometals sells the needed lead wire by the foot, on spools. CH4D is one company that makes dies, in fact one of the major players.

bdgackle
February 13, 2013, 09:32 PM
I've looked into it. Jackets can be made from copper tubing or old 22LR cases (for .224 stuff).

The capital investment seems high -- like $1-5k, depending on what you get. Possibly more viable as a part time business than a hobby, unless you do a lot of shooting or have fairly serious cash to invest.

Doesn't look much harder than reloading, though, from what I've read.

Lots of good info here:

http://www.corbins.com/

Sun Tzu warrior
February 13, 2013, 10:11 PM
There is a very good blog concerning this. the link is to a thread in that blog, where a guy is selling "all things nessessary" to do just this. Hope it is helpful!
http://castboolits.gunloads.com/showthread.php?156386-BTSniper-22-cal-swage-die-offer&

P.S Sorry you live so close to Chit cago.... I grew up in Elmhurst, I have been living in a free state for 30 years now, but still brave the tyranical state in which you reside 2 weeks out of the year to hunt.

chris in va
February 13, 2013, 10:23 PM
Fella at our range uses the 223 dies. I was a bit surprised the bullets weren't terribly uniform, but they'd be fine as plinkers.

ReloaderFred
February 13, 2013, 11:12 PM
I swage jacketed bullets for 9mm, .38/.357, .40, .41, .44 and .45 caliber handguns. The dies aren't cheap, but are available. It takes a sturdy press to withstand the pressures involved, too. I started swaging on my Rockchucker, until I mashed the shellholder slot, and had to get a replacement from RCBS (at no charge). I now use a Corbin CSP-1 swaging press, made for the job.

It's a tedious, time consuming process, but also satisfying. It's not a volume process, unless you buy automated commercial equipment, which would cost thousands for the start up.

CH4D has decided that swaging dies are now a special order item, and they only make them once a year, if then. They are currently out of the common calibers, and only have .41 caliber in stock. The used dies are going for more than new on the auction sites, too.

Jackets are a problem to get, with the main suppliers being Dave Corbin and Richard Corbin, which are two different companies. There are still some half jackets on the auction sites, but a lot of people, myself included, are making handgun and rifle bullets from empty cartridge cases. I use .32 acp and .380 acp for making 9mm and .38/.357 bullets. For .40 and .41 bullets, I use 9x19 cases, and for .44 and .45 bullets I use .40 S&W cases.

You can either purchase lead wire of the proper diameter, or cast your cores. I do both, but like casting my cores better, since there's less work involved, and less waste.

It's like any other aspect of reloading, or any other hobby. You can invest as much, or as little, as you desire. Some people do it with the minimum of equipment, and some invest quite a lot. It's all up to the individual.

Here is a picture of some of the steps involved:

http://i1134.photobucket.com/albums/m606/ReloaderFred/BulletSwaging001.jpg

And some of the equipment I used at the time, before I bought the Corbin CSP-1:

http://i1134.photobucket.com/albums/m606/ReloaderFred/BulletSwaging003-1.jpg

Hope this helps.

Fred

345 DeSoto
February 14, 2013, 11:14 AM
Hey...RELOADERFRED. Could you kinda explain a bit more about what you have in your picture of the cases/bullet/finished jacketed bullet? It would APPEAR that you've made a jacketed bullet for a 45ACP. I'm REALLY interested in your process...:confused:

bdgackle
February 14, 2013, 11:26 AM
Me too!

I have a bunch of 40's that I pick up by accident since they look so much like 45 ACP... a practical use for those would rock.

jmorris
February 14, 2013, 11:27 AM
Look at the stickys at the top of this forum http://castboolits.gunloads.com/forumdisplay.php?41-Swaging

What they and Fred are doing is annealing brass, 40 s&w brass for 45 bullets, and swaging them into FMJ's after adding lead to the case. At the link above there are other threads like 9mm cases for 40 bullets and .22lr brass for .224 bullets.

ReloaderFred
February 14, 2013, 01:42 PM
What is pictured are .44 Magnum bullets made from .40 S&W cases. Those are 230 gr. .429" bullets, made with a 148 gr. wadcutter for a core. Since they are long for the weight, due to the base of the case being added to the weight of the bullet, and brass is lighter than lead, I use loading data for 240 gr. bullets, as the volume of the case is reduced slightly. I also make this same bullet using a 158 gr. .38 bullet for a core, which gives me a bullet closer to 240 gr. For that bullet, I use 265 gr. loading data, but have never been able to get over midrange loads using Longshot before I get sticky case extraction from my Model 629. As an aside, I found that primers do make a difference. With CCI primers the case stuck in the chambers, but the very same load with Winchester primers allowed the cases to drop out on their own. That's a subject for more experimentation later.

The process is labor intensive, and like I mentioned above, slow. I'll list the process in order:

1. The .40 S&W case has to be tumbled clean to remove any debris, etc.

2. The cases are then annealed completely, so they'll be dead soft. I do this in a ceramics kiln in batches of about 800 or so. In some calibers, including this one, the lead bullet cores are placed inside the cases prior to annealing, so it melts into the case. They are placed in stainless steel pans, case mouth up. I heat the kiln up to 1150 degrees F., which is a little high, but works well. Then I turn off the kiln and let it sit overnight with the lid closed, which seems to bond the cores to the jacket. In the morning, I open the kiln and remove the pans of bullets, which will still be about 250 degrees F., and let them cool.

3. After cooling, then I seat the cores in the core seating die. This ensures that all the bullets will be uniform and eliminates most jacket wrinkling when swaging.

4. The cases are then washed in a citric acid bath to remove the oxidation from the annealing process.

5. After the cases are dry, they are then run through a "notching die", which produces the folds in the nose, very similar to the Hornady XTP bullet. This die is purchased from Brian Thurner (BTSniper) for about $130.00, though I think the price may be different now.

6. Then lube is added. I place about 100 of them in a heavy duty ZipLoc bag and spray them down with Midway case lube, and then swish them around to make sure they're completely covered in lube.

7. Then each case/core is placed on the swaging die stem and run up into the die, which forms the bullet to it's final shape. In this case, I was making jacketed hollowpoint bullets, so that's the nose stem I used. The ram of the swaging press is withdrawn, and the bullet is firmly up inside the die, so it needs to be removed. If you don't have bullet ejectors, then the top stem of the die is driven back down with a mallet to eject the bullet from the die. I hate pounding on precision equipment, so I had some bullet ejectors made by a friend. During the actual swaging, you're moving both lead and brass, including the solid brass base of the case, which is why it must be fully annealed so it's dead soft. There is a lot of pressure applied at this point, which is more than most reloading presses can withstand. The linkages are the weak point, along with the slot in the ram for the shell holder. This is why I eventually bought a dedicated swaging press.

8. After the bullet is formed, including swaging the base out to .429", then I tumble the bullets to remove the lube and give them a shiny finish.

9. After tumbling, each bullet is given a cannelure on a CH-4D cannelure tool. This is time consuming and hard on the hands after awhile, but since the .44 Magnum is a pretty hard recoiling round, it needs the cannelure to crimp into so the bullets won't walk out under recoil.

I've probably skimmed over some steps, but this gives you a general idea of what's involved. It also gave me something to do with some of the buckets full of .40 S&W brass that I seem to end up with.

One thing I did skip was the case sorting, since cases vary by weight. I've found that Federal brass is the most consistant in weight, and I had a lot of Federal military brass that had been shot by the Coast Guard on our range, so that's what I used. If you notice in the pictures, the brass is headstamped "FC 08", but it's .40 S&W brass, made under government contract for the Coast Guard.

The case plus core equal the final weight of the bullet. I've found that variances of a few grains don't affect accuracy out to about 35 yards, which is what our pistol range is. I haven't tested them at longer distances for accuracy, since my eyes aren't as strong as they once were and my groups at 50 yards don't compare to the ones I was able to shoot 35 years ago, when I was on our department's pistol team.

These bullets are solidly bonded to the cores, without the use of bonding flux. This is probably due to the high temperature I anneal them at, plus letting them "cook" overnight inside the kiln. The recovered bullets from the dirt berm are fully mushroomed, especially from my Marlin rifle, but the only way to separate the core from the jacket is by melting it out. If bonding flux is used, it must be thoroughly removed from the die, or it will rust terribly overnight, which is why I don't use it.

Hope this helps.

Fred

gamestalker
February 14, 2013, 04:26 PM
This is something I actually looked into myself some years back. And now that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find bullets, I'm taking that thought to a more serious level. One of the things that really appeals to me is that old worn out brass will get a second life in becoming a jacket, so costs can really well maintained. Kind of like, another mans trash would become another mans treasure, regarding discarded non re loadable brass. Not too mention all the 22 lr. brass and other types I find heaps of on the public lands where I shoot.

GS

JSmith
February 14, 2013, 05:06 PM
Reloader Fred said since the .44 Magnum is a pretty hard recoiling round, it needs the cannelure to crimp into so the bullets won't walk out under recoil.

They move out? Doesn't recoil tend to drive everything backward?

In the photo in post #6, the bullet on the right appears to have the base of the original case intact. Does that not make a difference?

ReloaderFred
February 14, 2013, 06:43 PM
It's basic physics. Under recoil, the whole firearm moves back. With the bullet being the heaviest part of the cartridge, it takes more energy to get it moving, so it tends to want to stay in place a fraction of a second longer than the lighter case. Neck tension and crimp are what hold it in place, and if there isn't enough of both, the bullet "walks" out of the case, making it longer in OAL. If the bullet works out far enough, it will lock up the cylinder.

You can test this for yourself in a heavy recoiling revolver by carefully measuring the OAL of 6 rounds. Place them in the cylinder and fire the first five and then measure the OAL of the remaining 6th round. It will probably be a little longer.

You may be referring to bullet setback, which is a problem in semiauto handguns, and is caused by both recoil while in the magazine, and when the bullet hits the feedramp while feeding. It's a completely different set of circumstances.

Yes, the base of the original case is still there, but expanded to .429" diameter, and becomes a part of the jacket. That's why I noted in the third sentence of Post #10 that I use data for the next heavier bullet to account for the reduced volume inside the case.

Hope this helps.

Fred

Nanook
February 14, 2013, 08:56 PM
P.S Sorry you live so close to Chit cago.... I grew up in Elmhurst, I have been living in a free state for 30 years now, but still brave the tyranical state in which you reside 2 weeks out of the year to hunt.

Ha, I'm sorry too. I plan on moving at least to Indiana in the future. It will be nice to live in a free state. Better taxes, way better gun laws, just an all around better place to live.

That's a great link, by the way. Tempting, I must say.

hueyville
February 14, 2013, 10:20 PM
I have been swaging .224 rifle bullets for years. Gives me an excuse to sweep up all those pesky rimfire cases at the range. It's the natural progression from casting. They are as accurate as any milspec bullet and will drive racks if you put a little more technique into it. The deal mentioned earlier in the thread looks fair tm me. In fact just sent that link to a friend that gets jealous about the cost of my .224 bullets. Keep meaning to get a set of does in 30 caliber.

JSmith
February 15, 2013, 08:59 AM
It's basic physics. Under recoil, the whole firearm moves back. With the bullet being the heaviest part of the cartridge, it takes more energy to get it moving, so it tends to want to stay in place a fraction of a second longer than the lighter case.

Thanks, Fred! That makes sense; I thought the bullet would move deeper into the case because, once moving under recoil, it would keep going backward for a (very) small distance.

(I didn't read post 10 in detail as I have neither the equipment nor the skill to do what you're doing.)

USSR
February 15, 2013, 10:47 AM
Tomcat47,

I would suggest you cast your own bullets for the 9mm and .45ACP and forgo the rifle bullets, unless you would be satisfied with low powered rifle loads, in which case you could cast bullets for them as well. Creating your own jacketed bullets requires a hefty outlay of cash for the dies, and is very labor intensive, and is not really needed for the handgun rounds. Just MHO.

Don

tacxted
February 15, 2013, 10:51 AM
This is an aside, not trying to derail the thread here,

It seems to me that making plated bullets would be faster and easier. of course jacked bullets offer high velocities.

whats to stop someone from making plated bullets? it cant be any harder.

ill start another thread on plated bullets later.

SSN Vet
February 15, 2013, 10:54 AM
I can't imagine ever setting up to do this myself, but I think it's awesome that Fred is doing it.

We need guys like you, Fred, to test the envelope and push back the boundaries. Then we as a group will have more opportunities opened up for us.

Why climb a mountain? NOT because it's there..... but because you can... or at least, you think you can and want to prove to yourself that you're right.

ReloaderFred
February 15, 2013, 01:11 PM
I certainly didn't pioneer this process. The credit goes to others who first tried it and found that it worked. Sometimes you find there isn't just darkness beyond the boundaries, and sometimes there is. You don't know until you try.

Another good example is cast bullets. I've got a smokeless powder load for my .45-120 Sharps, in a modern rifle (Browning B-78), where I'm driving a cast bullet at over 2,200 fps, with no leading at all. This is done with a large dose of IMR 4895, the use of a gas check and Super Grex as a case filler, which actually results in a double gas check when the Super Grex is compressed when the round goes off. I worked this load up over time, since there wasn't any data for it 30 years ago when I first bought it. Now it's in the QuickLoad Program and my load is shown as a safe one, but the program doesn't allow the input for the Super Grex, but the cases just fall out of the rifle when the action is opened. I could go hotter with the load, but as it is, it's about all I want to put up with as far as recoil is concerned.

Back to the swaged bullets:

By using common cartridge cases as jackets, it gives another option, especially since bullet jackets have gotten scarce and expensive. Corbin is charging almost as much for handgun jackets as finished bullets cost. Well, that was before the current craziness started.......

Right now I've got another batch of about 1,000 .40 S&W cases in the tumblers, getting them ready to convert into .44 and .45 bullets. The cores are cast already, and all I need is the time to make them. I was promised "leisure years" when I retired... Yeah, right!

I've also got quite a few .380 brass all tumbled to make into .357" bullets, and the cores are already cast for them, too......

Hope this helps.

Fred

USSR
February 15, 2013, 02:32 PM
FWIW, I use hard cast lead bullets WITHOUT a gas check for full power .30 Carbine rounds (~1900fps). You simply have to size them properly and match the alloy to the intended velocity.

Don

Fryerpower
February 15, 2013, 02:37 PM
I'm not a reloader, but love the thread. I love the idea of using old casings as jackets!

Ever thought of quench hardening the final bullets? I could see lots of problems with the slug separating from the jacket, with the jacket changing shape or cracking from the thermal stress, and the question of if you really want hard jackets.

Jim

ReloaderFred
February 15, 2013, 03:20 PM
Jim,

Copper and brass don't quench harden like ferrous metals do. Once heated up, brass and copper are soft, and remain soft whether quenched in water or air cooled. It only work hardens.

In order for lead alloy to harden via quenching, it has to have a very small amount of arsenic in it to properly water harden.

Don,

Yep, bullet fit and alloy are the determining factors with cast bullets. My wife and I shoot them by the thousands in SASS matches, and leading hasn't been a problem, but I fit the alloy and the diameter to the bores. I've found that Bhn 12 is just about perfect for our needs.

Hope this helps.

Fred

JSmith
February 15, 2013, 05:59 PM
By using common cartridge cases as jackets, it gives another option, especially since bullet jackets have gotten scarce and expensive. Corbin is charging almost as much for handgun jackets as finished bullets cost. Well, that was before the current craziness started.......

Is it possible to make jackets with copper tubing?

ReloaderFred
February 15, 2013, 06:14 PM
Yes, a lot of people make bullet jackets from copper tubing. It takes another die to fold over the base and then you swage it flat with the base punch.

More people seem to make rifle bullets from copper tubing than handgun bullets, since rifle bullets generally require thicker jackets for the greater velocity. The thicker tubing fulfills that need.

Hope this helps.

Fred

Tomcat47
February 15, 2013, 10:52 PM
Wow! I appreciate all of the information this thread generated. It is really interesting using the spent casings to create the next caliber up.

I think I am going to tackle this endeavor this year and see where it goes. I am particularly interested in the calibers I mentioned and now have a reason to keep all those .22 mag casings laying around.

I absolutely love what reloaderFred said in the above post....Sometimes you find there isn't just darkness beyond the boundaries, and sometimes there is. You don't know until you try.

In this day and time I think we as enthusiast must step outside the box and challenge ourselves with that darkness.

I have not been engrossed in reloading for more than a decade. The end of last year and the storm I seen coming made me go through all my equipment and supplies I had stored from the last move. I have managed to reload thousands of 5.56 and hundreds of 9mm, .45acp and have many components left for .38/.357 .41 mag, .44 mag and lots of rifle in .30 caliber.

So after getting back into the groove and trying to acquire supplies this endeavor took form. Again I appreciate all the input.

Tim the student
February 17, 2013, 12:47 AM
There is a pretty cool thread (http://www.ar15.com/mobile/topic.html?b=1&f=5&t=1388428&page=1) on arfcom about it. If I had more time and money I'd like to give it a go.

ETA: Arfcom is well, arfcom. So not necessarily safe for work or young eyes.

Clark
February 17, 2013, 03:14 AM
I watched the man and his wife make the world's 19 cal bullets at Calhoon.

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