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Thinking about bullet casting

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by brewer12345, Sep 3, 2017.

  1. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

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    I am tempted to take up casting my own bullets simply because I enjoy doing things really by hand. The vast majority of what I shoot is 38 special so that is what I would start with. I have a couple of hang ups that I need to sort out before I even think about this.

    - I don't have anywhere indoors to cast. Is it feasible to do this outdoors? My backyard has a big concrete slab that would be a nice, fireproof place to do this.

    - Any health and safety precautions I should be considering aside from safety glasses, gloves, appropriate clothing and good ventilation (outdoors)? Everyone freaks out about lead so I have to ask. Respirator?

    - It looks like I need a furnace, dipper, molds, sizing dies, bullet lube, safety equipment and alloy. Anything else?

    What am I missing? Thus far, I have been sticking with purchased bullets simply because they are convenient and I can buy what I like for about 8 cents a round delivered. If I buy alloy and don't scrounge (leery of wheelweights and scrapyard fodder), I could probably cast for 3 or 4 cents a bullet. I don't shoot enough cast bullets in a year to make it a huge deal (would be lucky to pay for the equipment outlay in the first year), so this is really just an extension of the hobby of loading/shooting/hunting.
     
  2. blue32

    blue32 Member

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    I would start with a bottom pour. I still use the Lee 10lb pot I started with. They're relatively cheap and take some of the difficulty of learning to use a dipper out of the way. I always cast in the garage near the entrance with the door open. You'll need a lubrisizer and top punch for each bullet if you go the lubrisizer route. I've never done tumble or pan lubing. Don't forget mold handles unless you get a Lee as they come with it.

    For your first mold, I would recommend the Lee 38-158-RF. I believe the top punch would be Lyman #495 for ~$12. Mold and handles for ~$20 so you're not out a whole lot if you dont like it. I'd also recommend reading the stickies over at the castboolit forum regarding this pursuit. Lyman's 4th Ed. Cast handbook as well but most of the current manuals will have the data you need.
     
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  3. dgod

    dgod Member

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    I would recommend the RBS Lube-A-Matic. It is a Sizer and Lube applying tool all in one. You have to buy caliber specific parts to size the cast bullets. If you don't want to Lube your cast bullets, and if cost is a figure, then the Lee Sizing Die is pretty slick. I have both. And depending on what I am doing, I use either one.

    I have the 10# Lee Pot for casting, it works great, I have a 5# that was given to me, it is ok as long and you are not casting Hollow Point Bullets.

    For me, it is enjoyable, and rewarding.

    RMR has a pretty good deal going for Lead Alloy, that is a possible source for Lead.

    Good Luck,

    Dan
     
  4. VINTAGE-SLOTCARS

    VINTAGE-SLOTCARS Member

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    Look on Ebay for tools you need. I have built my equipment up slowly but at a great savings. Ask your local gun shops if they have anything not on display. I have also bought items at pawn shops. Second hand stores my have items occasionally. I keep a list on my phone so that I don't accidentally buy doubles. Good luck and have a blast making your own bullets.
     
  5. tacloader

    tacloader Member

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    I have a story I'll share as I got started and more interested in shooting I found it an economic necessity to find cheaper costs to reload .38 SPL ammo in 1975.. I had lots of time but little money. I had a Lyman loading book with information about casting and the local gun shop where I was buying components in my town had "this old timer" which I am now an "old timer" that knew about casting bullets. He encouraged me to start and I ordered casting equipment from a couple of catalogs he gave me. I started recovering lead from the Armor car range to get bullet alloy without the added cost. That company happened to be carrying .38s. Lead fumes are poisonous so a thermometer is essential to keep the metal around 725° and wearing a respirator rated for lead and having an exhaust hood. I started out with the basics and would take casting samples to him and get his opinion. It took a couple years to build up knowledge, more molds and upgrading my sizing machine to really feel I was turning out great bullets. lt was years later I would get a hardness tester so in my early days he would test the hardness by scratching it. I eventually made rifle bullets with gas checks for reduced power plinking loads which is alot of fun. Well like most people once I started my career I had money but no time so I mothballed my casting bench 30 years ago. I still shoot and reload using commercial bullets but with retirement on the horizon, I'm going to return to the casting bench to make a pocket full of 150 gr. 30-30 loads with 9 grs of Herco and polyester filler and head into the hills for some fun. Shooting is a great hobby and casting your own bullets extends the fun.
     
  6. Offfhand

    Offfhand Member

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    Mr. Vintage is right on about checking eBay. I often see some really good bullet moulds sell for a fraction of original price and there is usually a good selection of calibers and shapes. Look for the SAECO/Redding moulds, which are top quality, and also Hensley and Gibbs are tops.
     
  7. .308 Norma

    .308 Norma Member

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    As blue32 said, "You'll need a lubrisizer and top punch for each bullet if you go the lubrisizer route." I'll add to that and say if you live somewhere where it gets cold in the winter (as I do) and if you do your sizing/lubing in an unheated basement (as I do) you'll need to figure out a way to keep your lubrisizer warm, or the lube will get hard and won't flow.
    You can buy special lubrisizer heating pads from Midway, I think. But I just clamp an inexpensive heat lamp to my bench to shine on my lubrisizer when I'm using it in cold weather.
    I mostly buy commercially cast bullets these days. But back before I became so lazy, I cast thousands of them in the summertime, mostly outside on the patio, then sized and lubed them during the winter in the basement.
    Be careful about leaving your casting equipment and alloys outside in the weather. Believe me, water and molten metal is dangerous.
     
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  8. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    I cast my own bullets originally in the 1980s and then stopped sometime in the 1990s. I picked it up again a couple years ago for various reasons.

    Originally, I used a small Lee pot, a dipper, pan and cookie cutter lubing, and Lee push through sizing dies. All worked well and I still had the equipment when I restarted casting.

    When I restarted casting, I got a bottom pour pot and a lubri-sizer. A bit more expensive to get started but a much better casting system.

    If you are planning to cast outdoors, sounds like .308 Norma has got the plan. Cast the bullets when the weather is nice and lubricate and size them indoors when the weather is not so nice.
     
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  9. USSR

    USSR Member

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    Really gonna limit when you can cast, but if that's your situation, there's not much you can do.

    Glasses, gloves, and long sleeve shirts. No, you don't need a respirator. Lead doesn't oxidize until about 1100 degrees, which is far higher than the 700-750 degrees that you will be casting at. The only way you will get lead into you is to ingest it. So, no eating or drinking while casting, and keep your hands away from your face. Also, wash your hands afterwards.

    Forget the dipper. Get yourself a bottom pour furnace. Lee has them for as cheap as $70.

    Simply no reason to be leery of scrapyard lead, as long as the lead source is identifiable. There is an alloy program that is available that allows you to come up with suitable alloys by inputting your various lead types. Much, much cheaper than buying from RotoMetals.

    Don
     
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  10. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

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    Thanks, folks. I live in a climate with relatively few rainy days (Colorado), so I imagine I could choose my days for casting and get it done outside in good weather.

    I see Lee even has a mould for 35 Rem. It would tickle me greatly to whack a deer or hog with a bullet I made myself.
     
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  11. lightman

    lightman Member

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    I can't think of much to add. I was thinking up a response to your safety questions but USSR covered it pretty well. You won't vaporize lead at casting temps but the oils, trash and other stuff will smoke, as will your flux. Try to stay up wind of this. Exercise good hygiene while handling lead and afterwards. Young children are pretty susceptible to lead poisoning so keep them away from the area. And certainly keep them away from the hot lead itself.

    As equipment goes, you can spend as much or as little as you want. Your finances can dictate the price level of equipment you choose. It holds its value pretty well. I would skip the dipper and go with a bottom pour pot. If you plan to cast larger bullets or use 4 or 6 gang molds I would skip the 10# pot and go with a 20#. Gang molds and big bullets will empty a 10# pot pretty quickly and you will spend a lot of time waiting on a new load to melt. Welcome to the casting hobby and Good Luck!
     
  12. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    If you don't get a bottom pour pot, get a bottom pour ladle. I built my own home made burner (Old stove parts) with a thick aluminum pot (Club Aluminum) surrounded by a piece of iron pipe to help hold heat, and a bottom pour ladle. Worked great. Minimum expense.
     
  13. Hondo 60
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    Hondo 60 Member

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    Good! you don't want to do this indoors.
    A garage is OK, but it MUST have excellent ventilation.

    A solid chunk of lead is NOT hazardous.
    It's lead dust, smoke or particles that get inside you.
    So outside is the ONLY place to do smelting & molding

    A respirator is NOT necessary as long as you don't do it indoors.

    And wheelweights are PERFECT for 38 Spl.
    Infact as long as the bullets are sized correctly, wheel weights can be used for a LOT of calibers. That's all I use for approximately 12 calibers.
     
  14. USSR

    USSR Member

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    That's ridiculous. Guys all over the country cast indoors in their basement without respirators. I have been doing it for 35+ years and recent lead level testing shows no problems. However, I do recommend smelting lead into ingots outdoors, not because of the lead itself, but rather because of the smoke/fumes generated by the dirty lead.

    Don
     
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  15. dgod

    dgod Member

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    I do all my Lead Work, indoors, with the door outside open, and 2 fans (1 High and 1 Low) blowing to circulate towards the door. Safety Glasses, Gloves, and a lot of carefulness. I place my Die on top of the 10# pot as I start it to heating. When the Lead reaches 725, I stir, Flux if needed then the Mold should be up to Temp, and I start Casting, throwing the finished casts into a metal bowl of cool water. I can do several hundred this way, depending on the caliber, I may have to add lead about halfway thru, but that's Ok, It serves as a little break.

    Very Rewarding

    Enjoy
    Dan
     
  16. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    Yes
    It is indeed very satisfying to hunt, shoot, compete with bullets and balls that you have made yourself.

    I have a Lee 20# bottom pour. And a complement of molds.

    20170226_161533.jpg 20160205_174839.jpg
    Now if I could only find a way to make decent #7.5 shot
     
  17. FROGO207

    FROGO207 Member

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    I figure that being able to roll your own bullets also keeps you from not being able to load and shoot when normal supplies dry up. Having the stuff necessary to do it and some lead put back is just being cautious even if you now can buy cheap bullets. Just practice casting them now when things are plentiful so later you have it all worked out to make good bullets without wasting time/supplies. YMMV

    Armored Farmer the correct size screen on a platform up 25-30 feet or so and a tub of cold water on the ground and it is surprising what you can do.;)
     
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  18. jdfoxinc

    jdfoxinc Member

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    Shotgun World forums has an archived thread on using Lincoln style shot drippers. I have done this successfully. Castboolits has a forum casting for shotguns that has several threads on this subject. The person making the Littleton shot maker posts there. You can open or pri
     
  19. hdwhit
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    hdwhit Member

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    I've been reloading 40+ years and as a matter of pride, I load everything I shoot (other than rimfire and initial rounds through a new gun), so I see the attraction for making your own bullets. It just seems a natural extension of the concept of reloading. Please keep us in the loop as you proceed. If nothing else, I can live this part of my reloading life vicariously through your posts. :)

    I suggest you get a published manual specific to casting bullets, read it thoroughly and follow its recommendations as to procedures and equipment.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
  20. hdwhit
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    hdwhit Member

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    Respect lead but don't fear it. :what:

    As others have already pointed out, the concern with lead is not so much vapor (you shouldn't be boiling lead anyway) as much as it is dust, particles and what you get on you that you don't wash off. But, you will generally not be working with pure lead but alloys and those may have different handling considerations from lead. Personally, if I were going to take up metallurgy and casting, I would get a respirator to protect myself from the vapors attributable to contamination as well as other alloying and processing agents.
     
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  21. John Joseph

    John Joseph Member

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    Outdoors is fine for casting. I use a picnic table and a piece of roofing flashing to protect the wooden table top. An electric fan blows away the fumes.
    I use an old, battered Coleman propane stove and a cheap import cast iron saucepan with a wood handle Some strategically placed rebar and brick will help the stove support the weight of the pot if needed.
    For ingot smelting a slotted spoon is excellent for skimming the dross. I use sawdust for flux. My ingot mold is an aluminum muffin pan from Walmart. For filling the molds I use a ladle--both the slotted spoon and ladle are stainless steel from Smart & Final and cost a coupe of bucks.
    For casting bullets a real bullet casting dipper like Lyman is worth the investment---the cheap Lee "spoon" is OK for skimming dross but not what I'd recommend for filling moulds.

    For safety ,leather welder's gloves, wear long sleeves and pants(cotton, not synthetic) and of course eye protection.

    For sizing and lubing, a Lee "push through" sizer and pan lubing is economical and works fine.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
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  22. John Joseph

    John Joseph Member

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    BTW if you use a steel muffin pan, hit the cavities with a drill mounted wire cup brush to get the non-stick off the cavities and let a fine layer of rust form, so you don't "solder" your lead ingots to the muffin pan.
     
  23. dgod

    dgod Member

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    Lee and Lyman have very good casting books available, I would recommend either or both as both a learning and reference point.
     
  24. Cannibul

    Cannibul Member

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    You don't need a lubesizer. You can just powder coat or use Hi-Tek and the NOE push though sizing bushings and dies. I just started casting about 10 months ago, I've cast thousands of bullets, all have been either powder coated or coated with Hi-Tek. I already had a RCBS furnace for my lure casting.

    I use wheel weights/pure lead in a 50/50 mix with 1% added tin. This alloy is used for everything from 750 fps .38 spl wadcutters to 1300 fps 10mm hollow points. With proper bullet sizing I don't have any leading problems. That's the nice thing about the NOE push through sizing system, bushings are only $9.75 each. In .38/.57/9mm I have bushings from .356 to .359.
     
  25. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    That method would work fine for my 12 ga sxs dbl bbl.
    I may experiment with that someday. 'Swan shot'

    20160405_071338.jpg
     

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