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Black Powder bullet casting question


Snakebite Dust SASS 75484
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Is it completely necessary to size bullets if you hand cast and pan lube? Looking at the 158 grain Snakebite mold set for 38 special. 

 

What are some bad outcomes if you don't size?

 

Considering this new adventure. My brother in law owns an automotive shop and is going to save his old lead wheel weights for me.

 

Thanks in advance for your words of wisdom!!!

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Potential bad outcomes are difficult or impossible to chamber rounds.  I check all my ammo in a chamber checker, if it drops in smoothly it will feed smoothly (in theory).

 

Just FYI the stick on wheel weights are almost pure lead and are ideal for black powder and subs.  The clip on ones will work for SASS level loads in both smokeless and black powder, but you might find the softer lead produces less/easier to clean fouling.  Also softer lead will cast slightly smaller, so if your goal is to avoid sizing this might be your best bet.  Be careful of the zinc wheel weights.

Edited by July Smith
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I have .32 bullets that cast at .317 and should be .311-12. They loaded and shot fine, but made me nervous so I called Lee. I was kind of surprised as he told me that if they'll chamber, shoot 'em. He said that lead bullets are not dangerous under these circumstances. So, I don't size any of my straight walled case bullets. Lube, load, shoot! Now 38-40, 44-40, 9mm and 45 ACP need to be sized to chamber correctly. Hope that this helps. Oh, the Lee carbide factory crimp die helps "size" them in the case. And, check your Ruger cylinders as the throats many times are too small and swage the bullets to an "undersized" bullet before it engages the barrel.

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7 minutes ago, Preacherman said:

I was kind of surprised as he told me that if they'll chamber, shoot 'em.

I've been casting for about 14 years and that is sound advice. 

 

Most experts will say you need to slug your bore/revolver throats, but I have found that in the end if it won't smoothly chamber nothing else really matters.  Go with the largest diameter cast bullet that will smoothly chamber in all your guns of that caliber and you will be fine (YMMV).

Edited by July Smith
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16 minutes ago, Chacón said:

Just curious, why are you not wanting to size?  The Lee sizer makes short work of sizing and isn't expensive ($20?).  I size all of my bullets after they're powdercoated, even for CAS, but I don't shoot black powder (yet).

The extra time and investment in a lube/ sizer equipment

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Consistency in seating is a problem by not resizing. I was having issues with lead shaving on the case after not reloading in a few months. Then it dawned on me that I hadn't resized the bullets after PC them. I ran the rest of the bullets through my Lee die and problem solved. The Lee die isn't much of an investment to worry about. I think I got mine for around $20 plus shipping. I can resize a bullet in about 5 seconds using my old Lyman Orange Crusher. Easy Peasy.

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The same mould will drop different size bullets depending on the lead alloy used at the time.  If you are using scrap lead the alloy will vary and this will cause a measurable variation is the unsized bullet diameter. Sizing ensures consistency.

 

Lee makes a very inexpensive press mounted bullet sizing setup that works just fine.   

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12 hours ago, Snakebite Dust SASS 75484 said:

going to save his old lead wheel weights for me.

 

Only use stick-on wheel weights.  They are very close to pure lead. 

 

Conventional clip on wheel weights are 2.5 % antimony, and are around 12 Brinell hardness.  Black powder loads, even subs, don't produce high enough chamber pressures to make a bullet of that hardness obdurate (bump up) to fit the bore exactly.  So you can get poor accuracy and barrel leading.

 

At the very hardest limit, you could use equal weight of stick-ons and clip-ons.    Be sure you don't melt in any Zinc clip-ons!   ZN will be embossed on most of them, and they don't melt until about 850 degrees F, while lead/antimony clip-ons melt about 675 or 700 F.  That alloy mix would be OK for cartridges, but too hard for Cap and Ball. 

 

Cap and Ball - needs pure lead so you can ram the ball into the chamber without bending and breaking the rammer.  And the pure lead is soft enough to shave off a ring, making a gas tight fit all around the bullet.

 

good luck, GJ

 

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
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Considering you are new to the casting bullets game, you will probably get different size bullets just due to your own inconsistency in your casting technique. Add in the fact that you will be making your own alloy mix and not buying certified alloy will just add to the problem. And the Snakebite mold itself may not even cast the diameter you need. The best way to get consistent ammo is to size them all. A LEE push through sizer is cheap insurance and can eliminate many problems. You don't have to buy a Star sizer to make proper cartridges.

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On 11/10/2021 at 9:11 AM, Snakebite Dust SASS 75484 said:

The extra time and investment in a lube/ sizer equipment

 

I began with a single cavity mold and a LEE pan lube set-up. Making the odd batch of 20 or so bullets for a project gun is one thing, but pan lubing gets old pretty quickly. My next step was a 45, followed by a 450, and after selling those a pair of 4500. Yes, it's a commitment, but the tools are easily sold if you move on. 

 

A wise man once said that Cowboy Action shooting is not for the faint of wallet. 

 

However, if extra time and investment is a concern, I'd suggest you fast forward to coating, either with Harbor Freight powder or Hi-Tek coating. BTW, Hi-Tek is the better way to go, but HF powder works well also. I'm not sure that is an option for BP cartridges, it may not be.

 

As far as sizing, LEE makes some inexpensive sizers, and the sizing process is fairly quick. 

 

Caveat: My knowledge of BP is minimal, but even back in the day Lyman sold a push through bullet sizer, I assume it was for a reason. 

 

Here's what I've learned: Too small a bullet is bad, a round bullet is better than an oblong one, a bullet with outer diameter voids is bad, sometimes soft bullets are bad, sometimes hard bullets are bad, sometimes it doesn't matter. 

 

Casting bullets and shooting cast is an art form, not a science. It is somewhat akin to a ZEN like undertaking. Learn to accept failure and learn from the mistakes. Most of the advice you get will be wrong. 

 

Have fun.

 

BB

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The consequences with heavy oversized bullets that are not sized down is they won’t chamber and or the reload pressure will be high

 

Bullet diameters should be 3 to 4 thousands greater than bore diameter to properly obturate in the grooves.  And no if the bullets are properly sized, they do not have to be resized if pan lubed

Edited by John Boy
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2 hours ago, John Boy said:

The consequences with heavy oversized bullets that are not sized down is they won’t chamber and or the reload pressure will be high

 

Bullet diameters should be 3 to 4 thousands greater than bore diameter to properly obturate in the grooves.  And no if the bullets are properly sized, they do not have to be resized if pan lubed

What would be the best way to lube and size bullets for BP? Should I size and lube on one machine? Will the RCBS luber sizer work well with some type of BP lube? If so, what would be best?

 

Or would it be better to pan lube and then size? Or would it be better to size and then pan lube?

 

If shooting 38 special, should I size to .358? If not, what size should I size to?

 

Sorry for all the questions, casting and lubing is totally new to me if I decide to take it on

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18 minutes ago, Snakebite Dust SASS 75484 said:

What would be the best way to lube and size bullets for BP? Should I size and lube on one machine? Will the RCBS luber sizer work well with some type of BP lube? If so, what would be best?

 

Or would it be better to pan lube and then size? Or would it be better to size and then pan lube?

 

If shooting 38 special, should I size to .358? If not, what size should I size to?

 

Sorry for all the questions, casting and lubing is totally new to me if I decide to take it on

 

Best way is what works for you. Lots of ways to get the job done. How you do it depends a lot on how much time you are willing to spend. Will you be shooting 500 rounds a month or 500 a year?

 

What BP lube you use is a matter of choice. For our game almost any recipe works. I currently  use SPG because right now it is easier to buy a BP lube than it is to make my own. That said I am researching a formula to make my own in the future. For long range BPCR and Creedmore matches the choice of lube becomes much more involved. 

 

Yes the RCBS Lube/sizer works just fine with BP lubes. Same is true of the Lyman and Star lube/sizers

 

Pan lubing works best if you size first and then lube. Doing it the other way around is rather messy.

 

.358 will work for all modern 38/357 firearms. If you are shooting a 100 plus year old firearm then slugging the bore to determine bullet size would be a good idea. Bore dimensions for 45 colt and 44 WCF vary a lot by manufacturer and should always be slugged to determine bore diameter.

 

A great reference for bullet casting is From ingot to Target, A Cast Bullet Guide for Handgunners, by Fryxell & Applegate

 

The Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook is also a great resource. 

Edited by Sedalia Dave
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Might want to check out www.castboolits.gunloads.com  also.  Casting bullets is not rocket science, it is 90% pouring lead in a hole. But it is the other 10% that can make your life easier or a big trainwreck.

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59 minutes ago, Sedalia Dave said:

 

Best way is what works for you. Lots of ways to get the job done. How you do it depends a lot on how much time you are willing to spend. Will you be shooting 500 rounds a month or 500 a year?

 

What BP lube you use is a matter of choice. For our game almost any recipe works. I currently  use SPG because right now it is easier to buy a BP lube than it is to make my own. That said I am researching a formula to make my own in the future. For long range BPCR and Creedmore matches the choice of lube becomes much more involved. 

 

Yes the RCBS Lube/sizer works just fine with BP lubes. Same is true of the Lyman and Star lube/sizers

 

Pan lubing works best if you size first and then lube. Doing it the other way around is rather messy.

 

.358 will work for all modern 38/357 firearms. If you are shooting a 100 plus year old firearm then slugging the bore to determine bullet size would be a good idea. Bore dimensions for 45 colt and 44 WCF vary a lot by manufacturer and should always be slugged to determine bore diameter.

 

A great reference for bullet casting is From ingot to Target, A Cast Bullet Guide for Handgunners, by Fryxell & Applegate

 

The Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook is also a great resource. 

+1

I use an RCBS lube/sizer I bought dirt cheap from a fellow shooter who no longer casts.  I use SPG Tropic lube and find it flows well without heating.  (I do have a heater if needed.)  My firearms like bullets sized to .358.

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I never tried it on real black, but Lee liquid Alox tumble lube works great for me in all applications. Very easy and cheap. Lee says it will work. Some say maybe not as good for the real stuff. Try it.

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On 11/10/2021 at 8:36 AM, Preacherman said:

Oh, the Lee carbide factory crimp die helps "size" them in the case.

On 11/10/2021 at 9:50 AM, Cholla said:

I was having issues with lead shaving on the case after not reloading in a few months.

 

If my time is worth more than the accuracy of the rounds I'm putting together, i.e. I need to bust out a bunch of 38 special ASAP because we're going to put a bunch of it in the hill tomorrow, I just powdercoat and load.  I'll get lead shavings that need to be wiped off my press every 50-100 rounds, but as far as sizing, my lee Auto Breechlock Pro has the 4th station so I factory crimp them and that sizes them in the case.  cheap and low time investment, not what I would do for accuracy.  

 

On 11/10/2021 at 8:54 AM, Chacón said:

Just curious, why are you not wanting to size?  The Lee sizer makes short work of sizing and isn't expensive ($20?).  I size all of my bullets after they're powdercoated, even for CAS, but I don't shoot black powder (yet).

 

If you want to save time on sizing, and you have a Lee Bullet Feeder, you can often rig those to feed into your sizing die depending on your press arrangement.

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