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Shorty Jack Hammer

Bullet casting

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I am a member over at cast boolits also and will probably ask over there too, but I like this forum better so I thought I'd ask here.

 

I want to start casting my own bullets as an added little something to do, because I like do it yourself stuff. My question is about alloys. I like the idea of casting my own bullets but honestly the idea of mixing my own alloys right now doesn't sound appealing. I've read a little about BNH and velocities etc and it sounds like with lower velocities you want softer lead ( but not pure) and for higher velocities you want harder lead. A friend recommended 20:1 alloy for my Sharps 45-70 and said that would work for CAS too. I was thinking maybe the 20:1 for CAS (45 and 38) , but maybe Lyman #2 for my Sharps. Anyone else just use ready to go alloys? Looking for suggestions.

Edited by Shorty Jack Hammer

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I too like the notion of "do it yourself stuff". The casting bug got ahold of me about 2 years ago so I do not feel as if I'm a pro at this yet. I order my Lyman #2 from Roto Metals and have not had any issues. I use the Lee 10 pound bottom pour pot but want to get the RCBS Pro Melt soon. I have a variety of Lee and RCBS molds for SASS bullets.

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I mix my own as that's what I have access to. Really I don't pay much attention to hardness for CAS. I start with fairly pure lead and add enough tin so that the bullets come out smooth and without voids. I have a separate mix for high velocity for hunting rounds. Those I added a bit more tin to them, but only until I feel that they're reaching the Lyman #2 type hardness. I'll also water drop those versus just dumping them onto a pan to cool like I do for my CAS bullets. Water quenching adds a lot of hardness, air cooling doesn't.

If you are unsure of what to do, getting ready mixed alloys would be best and safest. However it is more expensive. I cast mainly for CAS so I don't need perfect bullets. My higher velocity hunting rounds do get special treatment though and usually only 25% of those make it through to loading as I'm not satisfied with the quality and consistency of the rest.

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Download this book in PDF.

 

From Ingot to Target:
A Cast Bullet Guide for Handgunners

by

Glen E. Fryxell and Robert L. Applegate

 

Will answer your current question and a whole lot more. I an also getting into casting and it cleared up a lot. A lot of what is written is oriented more towards handgunners but it can easily be extrapolated to rifles.

 

Then get the Lyman Cast bullet Handbook.

 

Just a hint but proper lubrication is as important if not more important than how hard your bullets are.

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I have cast my own bullets for many years, and have made my own alloys depending on the need.

 

I enjoy doing it, but plan to buy my lead already mixed from a couple of places I have found on the web

 

The one thing I will point out is by the time you buy your lead and pay for your molds and other equipment and figure your time it's cheaper to buy your bullets

Edited by Trailboss (Santa) Dave
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See my reply on Cast Boolits

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See my reply on Cast Boolits

Looks Like the cast bullets site has been hijacked. When you try to go to it your browser gets redirected to an unrelated site.

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I use as pure of lead as i can for CAS. I lucked into an endless supply of linotype and use that sparingly with wheel weight lead for my rifle bullets. Make friends with a plumber, printer, roofer and a tire shop guy. I also just got into making my own shot. WW lead for that.

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Good luck with your casting efforts! It's both easier than most folks think, and harder than it looks.

 

Since you have already been referred to the best learning materials (Fryxell's work and the Lyman Cast bullet Handbook) above, I'll add some quick-start tips.

 

Good, clean alloy of what ever hardness you choose is VERY important. So, never melt down range lead or wheel weights or any metal that is not already real clean and of known content in your casting pot. Get an old cast iron pot and melt "dirty" lead in that, flux and stir until NOTHING will come out of the metal, and cast small ingots of that to add to your casting pot. I can do all my casting now with three different stocks of lead ingots. Pure lead, slightly hard lead (about Brinell 9-10) and hard lead at about 16 Brinell hardness). And some tin to add when needed (old style solder or pewter).

 

The most common commercial alloys you can buy from the various vendors and their hardnesses are:

* soft (pure) lead - Brinell 5

* hardball alloy 6% antimony and 2% tin - Brinell 16

* Lyman #2 5% antimony and 5% tin - Brinell 15

 

So, I can make all three types of ingots I want with just the first and second of these.

Pure lead - easy, In old melting pot, toss in the pure lead. Maybe add 0.5% by weight of tin to make the lead fill molds better. Comes out about BNH 6

Use this for casting round balls for percussion revolvers

 

 

Slightly-hard - about 10 Brinell - 2 pounds of soft lead to 1 pound of hardball

Good for almost all SASS shooting. Even use it for 1911 pistol bullets.

 

 

Hard - 16 Brinell - straight 6/2 alloy cast into small ingots.

Good for long range smokeless loads for rifles, especially Wild Bunch BAMM bolt action rifles.

 

And for black powder cartridge loads, a pound of my slightly-hard ingot to a pound of pure lead ingot. Gives about 8 Brinell.

 

 

An old muffin tin makes a good ingot mold for small 1 1/2 pound ingots that go into any casting pot.

 

Avoid calcium alloys (from maintenance free batteries in cars, trucks, golf carts) - it makes any metal that contains it hard to cast and clogs up pots and is dangerous to your health.

 

Avoid zinc alloys (from the new zinc wheel weights) and even some use of zinc bullets in target loads. Lots of scrap thought to be lead is found later to be zinc. It makes any alloy hard to cast, increases bullet hardness a lot, and makes bullets more brittle and lighter weight than normal.

 

Clean molds really well with hot soapy water and a scrub brush immediately before first use. Pre-warm molds with an old hot plate. Never use steel brushes, knives, picks, etc to clean up lead on molds. Brass brushes are even too rough.

 

Keep all of the mold cavities clean of oil and other material while casting. The sprue cutter plate and the top of the mold will sometimes collect lead alloy, especially if you are not waiting a few seconds to cut off the casting sprue (puddle). That can be cleaned with a rag just moistened with 2-cycle engine (for mixing in gas) oil. I use the synthetic version of 2-cycle oil with great results. It keeps the sprue plate and mold top lubricated even when they are hot, so lead won't stick nearly as easily.

 

AND, NEVER let any damp, moist or wet ingots, tools, or fluxing material get near the molten lead. Water explodes into steam at the temmperatures of molten lead, and throws molten lead around wildly. Wear gloves - and a face shield if you like seeing things. Wear leather boots or work shoes - lead spilled down onto tennis shoes or flip flops becomes a life-long problem!

 

Good luck, GJ

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
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Download this book in PDF.

 

From Ingot to Target:

A Cast Bullet Guide for Handgunners

by

Glen E. Fryxell and Robert L. Applegate

 

Will answer your current question and a whole lot more. I an also getting into casting and it cleared up a lot. A lot of what is written is oriented more towards handgunners but it can easily be extrapolated to rifles.

 

Then get the Lyman Cast bullet Handbook.

 

Just a hint but proper lubrication is as important if not more important than how hard your bullets are.

Been casting for 40 years. Yes, this is the answer. Sure wish I'd had these resources when I first started. The above and other great articles can be found on the Los Angeles Silhouette Club website.

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Thanks pards, all great info. I'll download that From ingot to target PDF. I got the Lyman casting book for Christmas and have been perusing the LASC site. GJ I like your methods with mixing those various lead alloys to get the hardnesses you want, in fact I copied and pasted your post into a document to save. I've been reading about mixing lead, tin, and antimony and that doesn't sound fun. A guy I went to high school with owns a scrap metal/ wrecking company and sells lead for .75 a pound. Don't know what it is exactly but I'm assuming a lot of WW's and such. I calculated out some prices to make my own bullets and when you factor in shipping it comes out slightly cheaper to make my own, way more to make my own when you factor in time and equipment costs, but I don't really count that stuff since I'm doing it more for something fun to do to occupy time.

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Thanks pards, all great info. I'll download that From ingot to target PDF. I got the Lyman casting book for Christmas and have been perusing the LASC site. GJ I like your methods with mixing those various lead alloys to get the hardnesses you want, in fact I copied and pasted your post into a document to save. I've been reading about mixing lead, tin, and antimony and that doesn't sound fun. A guy I went to high school with owns a scrap metal/ wrecking company and sells lead for .75 a pound. Don't know what it is exactly but I'm assuming a lot of WW's and such. I calculated out some prices to make my own bullets and when you factor in shipping it comes out slightly cheaper to make my own, way more to make my own when you factor in time and equipment costs, but I don't really count that stuff since I'm doing it more for something fun to do to occupy time.

Be extremely cautious of scrapyard lead. Bulk un-melted WW are ok as is sheet lead. Ignots of unknown composition may contain zinc.

 

Even a tiny amount of zinc ruins lead for casting bullets and is difficult bordering on impossible to separate out. If you buy bulk WW be sure to check each one to ensure it is lead and not zinc.

 

My dad still has over 2000 lbs of lead in small ingots of various sizes. Problem is some or all of it may contain zinc. As I have no reliable way to know if the ignots have zinc in them they are useless to me for casting bullets.

 

40 years ago we were casting large fishing sinkers and having a little zinc in the mix didn't matter. We melted down anything we could get for little or no cost. Made a special pot for melting down WW. I probably melted down at least of ton of bulk WW. Never bothered to check for zinc ones. Just filled the basket, dunked into the pot and after it melted removed the basket with the clips and slag all together. Nobody cared if a sinker was a little wrinkled all that mattered was that they were inexpensive.

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Be extremely cautious of scrapyard lead. Bulk un-melted WW are ok as is sheet lead. Ignots of unknown composition may contain zinc.

 

Even a tiny amount of zinc ruins lead for casting bullets and is difficult bordering on impossible to separate out. If you buy bulk WW be sure to check each one to ensure it is lead and not zinc.

 

My dad still has over 2000 lbs of lead in small ingots of various sizes. Problem is some or all of it may contain zinc. As I have no reliable way to know if the ignots have zinc in them they are useless to me for casting bullets...

 

Why not test them for the proper hardness, or in this case softness, and if they are soft enough, then why not use them?

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Why not test them for the proper hardness, or in this case softness, and if they are soft enough, then why not use them?

It's not the hardness of the finished bullet, as much as the difficulty of getting proper mold fillout when you have 1% zinc (which is what dissolves in most bullet alloys) in the melt. They just get hard to cast. They have to be cast at about 75 - 150 degrees F above normal. This often means you start frosting the bullet surface when you get the alloy hot enough to cast well-filled bullets.

 

Bottom line, zinc in the melt is a BIG headache. Which is kinda making me very hesitant to cast from melted range scrap any longer....

 

Good luck, GJ

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708

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For me I have found that short of pure lead anything I melt and cast does great at SASS speeds.

 

I've used COWW, SOWW, lead folks have given me, stuff I bought off CastBoolits.com and even diving weights which were interesting to say the least.

 

I have gone to powder coating so my lube doesn't melt off during Texas summers. I also like that part of the process, too. I've been running tests over on castboolists as walterlaich.

 

I cast, powder coated and sized 15 lbs of 200 gr RNFP .45 Colt yesterday and today.

 

I would say jump in and start learning--after all the mistakes and less than perfect ones go back in the pot but you'd be surprised how well the less than perfect ones will shoot.

 

cr

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I've been reading about mixing lead, tin, and antimony and that doesn't sound fun.

 

Alloying your own tin/lead is simple. But if you try to find metallic antimony to add to your alloys, it is tough to find and even harder to get it to melt into lead alloys because it is so much higher melting point.

 

The Antimony Man (now passed on I believe) in Sierra Vista Az used to have a special flux and procedure and metallic lump (pure) antimony available.

 

Now, it's just better to get your antimony already alloyed. Linotype is a common antimony source, wheel weights of course have 2-3%, And the hardball 6% antimony is the common commercial bullet casting alloy. Which can be diluted 2 or 3 times with soft lead for what works best for Cowboy shooting.

 

 

Good luck, GJ

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Looks Like the cast bullets site has been hijacked. When you try to go to it your browser gets redirected to an unrelated site.

works now

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