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 todays 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
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
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.