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Casting basics remembered

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Almost all of us senior citizens whom have been casting bullets since the early days of interest that grew right after world war 2 have developed habits and preferences that are at some time hard to justify to today’s new body of bullet casters.

I personally agree with Colonel Whelan that only accurate guns are truly interesting. On my own, I have found that to be correct, but that the challenge of developing a accurate cast bullet loading in a basically accurate rifle is extremely more rewarding then just using factory bought jacketed bullets.

My pursuit of accuracy with cast lead bullets has never overridden my sheer enjoyment of a day of just plain shooting. I get a kick out of letting my friends and new shooters enjoy shooting some of the firearms and experience that I have acquired over the years.

The memories of casting with a one cavity mold and then the labor of sorting weighing and selecting the perfect bullet has in the past been pleasant and at the time challenging, but now that I have a few extra years behind me, just a day of shooting without looking for perfection has taken over my shooting programs.

I have now put aside most of my single cavity molds and use only two cavity molds or larger. I even have some 10 cavity pistol and rifle molds that cast bullets of such quality that I no longer bother to do any bullet weighing.

I have developed the practice of selecting two or usually three molds that I can work together with in a casting session. I try to select molds that because of their cooling characteristics can be run together in a cycle. I cast with one mold while the other two are cooling and drop the projectiles directly into a container of water. By moving down the line one mold at a time, each mold has time for the metal to solidify and produce comply filled out grooves and nice cutting of the cast sprew. There is no way to tell what molds will work out together until you have had a chance to use them together and adjust your casting rhythm to their casting style as a group.

When I have to mind to do some casting, I usually down a couple hundred pounds at a time and when I select a group of molds that I want to work with that are based upon their cooling patterns, I end up with some bullets that I may not use for some time in the future so I store them unsized and unlubricated. My basic casting metal is usually a mixture of wheel weights with 2% tin added to help metal flow and the cast bullets are dropped directly from the mold into a bucket of room temperature water.

Yesterday I wanted to try out a lot of Linotype metal that I have had on hand for some time now. My goal was to use a two cavity .375 plain base iron mold that throws a 245 grain plain base bullet. I had never used this mold before with Linotype and only wanted a couple of hundred bullets to play with. Rather then run a full casting session with two other molds with bullet designs that I really did not need at this time, I decided to make my selection of a companion mold based on what I would like to play with rather then mold cooling pattern.

The only other bullet that I was interested in playing with at this time was a two cavity aluminum mold throwing a 98 grain plain base projectile. This bullet is long in relationship to its’ diameter. I have found in the past that long bullets require a higher temperature for proper metal flow into the mold and to avoid the development of voids.

This lot of Linotype metal became liquid at the 600 degree setting on my RCBS melting pot.

At this temperature the iron mold started producing quality bullets after the second or third cast. The 257 aluminum mold produced wrinkled bullets at this temperature. After four or five pours, i assumed that the mold was cooling too fast at the rhythm I was working. I then turned up the heat to a setting of 750 degrees and the 257 mold started to settle down and produce a quality product.

Work a rhythm with these two mold however started to become a challenge. After casting the 257 bullets the Linotype in the 375 mold still had not solidified and when I would knock of the sprew and the bullets had a little frosting; also the sprew plate would pull out a plug of lead from the base of the bullets. It was necessary to give the 375 mold more time to cool before striking off the sprew. When I waited for the metal in the 375 mold to fully solidify the 257 mold had cooled down to the point where the next pour would again produce a wrinkled bullet.

In order to keep both molds going and have a good quality pour and production rhythm going, it was necessary to pour the 375 mold and then make two pours with the 257 mold. This is a different casting pattern then what I normally experience. However it worked and a quantity of good bullets in both caliber were produced in these casting session. Almost 90 percent of the 375 bullets were prefect without pulled out bases or wrinkles, but over 25 percent of the 257 bullets did not pass inspection. I believe that this was mostly due to the specifics of my working out a casting rhythm and pattern for both of these very different molds.

I size and lubricate my plain base bullets, both pistol type and rifle, in a Star Lubricator sizer using NRA formula lube. Magma Engineering can supply almost any size bullet diameter you need for this machine. Their quality is superb, The cost may keep some of us from having as many of the sizes we would like to have available, but you can not dispute the quality.

I sized and lubricated both bullet sizes within one hour of casting. They both passed through the sizer as smooth as you could wish for. My practice is to size nose first using a undersized punch stem that is flat nosed and matches the diameter of the sizing die within a couple of thousands. I use the feel of my finger to insure that the base of the bullet is flat with the punch stem and that the core of the bullet and punch stem are aligned together. You can do a pretty good job of this just using the feel of your fingers.

Since I had some 375 rejects that had been sorted out during the sizing operation, I thought that I might see what happens when a bullet is not in line when punch nose when first passing into the sizing die. With this question in my mind, I took a couple of the bullets and pushed them as far out of line with the center of the sizing die as I possibly could. They still passed through the die without any difficulty. However, as the die attempts to correct any misalignment and realines the bullet with the center of the die. The bases of the test bullets show major signs that the bullet had shifted during the sizing process. These marks are very prominent and a different indication that these bullet should be sent back to the melting pot.

Leo Grizzaffi is a lifelong hunter and veteran of many African safaris. Author and reloading expert, his specialty is the care and feeding of big bore double rifles, however he also dabbles with the little calibers. Leo resides in California, where being a lawyer and judge in the City of Los Angeles sometimes interferes with his busy hunting and reloading schedule.

All this goes to show that there is a lot of science in the manufacture of cast bullets for any firearm. The discoveries and recreation value continue to be unlimited and any shooter who uses only factory ammunition is missing out on a whole new world of enjoyment in the area of reloading and bullet casting

I plan to give these Linotype bullets a week or so to stabilize and will then see how they shoot.

In short, the challenges never seem to end.


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