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Thread: Diemakers - Swaging a Hexagonal (Whitworth) Bullet?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Diemakers - Swaging a Hexagonal (Whitworth) Bullet?

    The rifle that got my father - and subsequently me - into casting is a replica of the Civil War era British / Confederate Whitworth sniper rifle. In the event that you're unfamiliar with the gun and its rather unique projectile, here's a good link that lays it all out:

    http://firearmshistory.blogspot.com/...whitworth.html

    In a nutshell, the round-nose bullet is a .451 (across the flats) x .459 (across the points) hexagon with the flats slanted to mechanically fit the 1-20" (possibly 1-22") twist of the hexagonally-profiled bore. The mold we are using makes a slight hollow base for inserting the "pigtail" of the paper patching these bullets are typically wrapped in to prevent fouling.

    Here's a link I found with pics of the mold we're using that also shows bullets produced in same:

    http://www.gunauction.com/search/dis...temnum=8831717

    The downside is that these long, hollow-based, nose-poured, punched-out-by-the-nose bullets are a BEEE-YOTCH to cast cleanly. It seems like that bullet design is an ideal candidate for press-swaging - - which would allow for variation in point design and weight - - if only dies could be constructed.

    I'm sure that there are mechanical challenges to making hexagonal holes in a die, but I lack the engineering background to articulate just what those might be. Thought I'd throw it out there for your contemplation.
    WWJMBD?

    I like my science WEIRD.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    Reload3006's Avatar
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    as a tool maker I can tell you making an internal hex that would be needed for a swage die would be a night mare and then some. the Hex punch wouldn't be that bad to make. but to make an internal hex I am not exactly sure how it could be done tightly. Guess you could wire edm out the hex and then sharpen up the corners but still there is going to be a radius. But you could match that with the punch. the big issue comes in in that they have to be togather within a couple tenths of a thousandth. can it be done? sure something you want to do or afford to do? probably not.

  3. #3
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    FWIW. A round bullet will "BUMP" up and take on the hexagonal shape.

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  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy
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    Cut flats like keyway, then polish/lap in on indexing vise, as a straight body fit nose punch to flats.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master

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    Maybe you could use this swage die. But instead of putting a 50 cal into it & a vise, use an arbor press to press in the lead. Use clamps, vise or whatever to hold the swage die.

    http://www.dixiegunworks.com/product...oducts_id=8084

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Yeah. . .I was a little dubious about the DGW die - doesn't seem like you'd have much control over the ends of the thing.

    I think the ideal solution may be to take the executive of a swage press company Whitworth shooting to get them hooked on Gen 1 sniper rifles. Wind them up and let them spin, as it were. . .
    WWJMBD?

    I like my science WEIRD.

  7. #7
    Edge Swaging Dies
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    That would be fairly east to build

    If it were me making that die, i would burn the shape into a point form die w/ my EDM. The cavity would have a straight hexagon shape into the point. The next step would be to make 2 "wrenches" that you could use in a jig to turn the correct helix on the bullets... kind of a workaround, but none the less, they would work, and would be easy to build.

    Edge Swaging Dies
    http://www.edgedies.com

  8. #8
    I would try talking to one of those places that makes iron fences and they usually can twist steel. Some of these places you can buy metal by the foot can also twist steel, or even groups of steel pieces together.

    I would get this twisted piece made long enough that multiple nose pieces and coring blocks coudl be cut from it. Then use teh piece of steel as acore and pour aluminum around it. You'll want to make extras at this point in time since it will be hard to press the steel core out. Worst case is that you can melt it back out and try again.

    My other idea would be using the barrel as a guide to cut rifling in a steel mold block, then you could cast an aluminum slug in it for making a nose piece.

    Handloader magazine also refers to Bob? in Texas when they can't figure out how to handload something......I htink that Bob should be a writer for the magazone and they should get rid of another author that doesn't even Handload on the magazine. He can also cast you some as I remember seeing him with the bullet.

  9. #9
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    .............I've been shooting a P-H Whitworth for about 17 years. There is no REAL need for the hexagonal slugs. Even back in the Whitworth's heyday of the 1860's, ten times as many conicals were fired out of them as the hexagonal slugs. The Whitworth bore form was discarded fairly rapidly as it wasn't that, that was magic but rather the fast (20") twist that did the deed.





    In addition to the Whitworth I built a clone of a Rigby long range match rifle using a 34" octagon 45 cal Green Mountain barrel. A standard 6 groove .450"x .458" barrel. Both will shoot the same slugs equaly well. The Rigby is more accurate simply due to it's having much better sights. The Whitworth is a copy of a 1862 Military match rifle, while the Rigby would have been more at home in the 'Unlimited ' class



    Forgive the poor photo quality. It was originally taken with a 35mm film camera many years back, and then later a (at the time, state of art) 1 mpx H-P digital camera took a picture of the photo. The first slug on the left was cast in a 'Kranen' mould. This was the maker's last name, and he lived on one of the islands in the English channel. The mould was very complicated as in order to release the slug, the center cylinder with the cavity had to actually rotate apart (it was in 3 pieces) while opening, in order to release the slug.

    The next slug is simply the Saeco #745, 525gr 45 cal design, as cast and then swaged in the 2 piece swage blocks (it isn't swaged in the photo). The third bullet was from a mould made by the guy (forget his name) who makes, or made reproduction Spencer repeating rifles. I think he was in New York state? Anyway it was better then nothing if you HAD to have a hex slug, was pretty expensive, and the definition of the skewed flats/corners was blurred. In effect the design was altered enough to allow the mould to be made (and release the slugs) in a 2 block conventional system.

    The final paper patched slug was from, I believe 2 brothers named Pelisier who did actually swage them, and then somehow formed the nose shape afterwards. They were intended for paper patching, and THAT was a real joy



    The above are almost all of the slugs I've tried and shot in the Whitworth, and then later the Rigby. I did early on, commission a custom adjustable weight HB mould to be made. It's pictured 4th from the left. You can use the 2 piece blocks to swage 'as cast' 45 cal (.459 / .460") slugs, and they work. But you really need a .468" OD, and that's what this mould dropped. Using a 50 caliber bullet is pure idiocy of the first water. However they did not shoot as well, overall as cast 45 cal rifle bullets that had been lube-sized .458" and then sent up through a Lee .452" push through die. For 100 and 200 yard shooting or for hunting, the Lyman 457121-PH 475gr slug they offer for the Whitworth is great. That 3 piece mould setup shown in the picture with the Whitworh rifle on the auction site was made (don't know if it still is) by a gentlaman in Great Britian, and is really nice to look at but not much good for anything except to look at. Or maybe if you were to make up a fancy cased rifle setup with all the do-dads, it could go in what all the other stuff.



    What I ended up doing was to buy a set of swage dies from Richard Corbin to produce a .443" slug. I then paper patch it to .450" and THIS is what I use for serious long range work in the Whitworth or the Rigby. All that hexagonal stuff is simply a waste of time that you could be using to cast, reload or for shooting.

    .............Buckshot
    Last edited by Buckshot; 06-05-2012 at 02:35 AM.
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  10. #10
    Boolit Master


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    This hexagonal rifling has now been resurected as pologynolal rifling it appears! Excuse spelling errors.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by deltaenterprizes View Post
    This hexagonal rifling has now been resurected as pologynolal rifling it appears! Excuse spelling errors.
    two diff. things

  12. #12
    Boolit Master


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    Looks similar to what I see in a Glock barrel. Can you explain the differences, besides one may be cut and the other hammer forged?

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    The net effect is exactly the same - recovered Glock bullets look like little baby Whitworth slugs (awwww...)

    The big differences are - as you guessed - the fact that they weren't hammer-forging barrels in the late 1850's, and that the original Whitworth concept was a mechanically-fitted bullet.
    WWJMBD?

    I like my science WEIRD.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
    a.squibload's Avatar
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    More Qs than As here:

    I take it an actual Whitworth boolit would engage the barrel flats with little to no swaging as it's fired.
    Is it necessary for the boolit/cartridge to be aligned with the barrel flats on chambering?
    What if it's not aligned, maybe higher pressure as it tries?
    Might swage itself anyway?

    Paper patched or plain round boolits seems the best option although PPing
    is magic to me.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Squibload. . .we're dealing with a muzzleloader here. The hex bullets are paper-patched and they're fitted to the hex when loading, rotating as they're rammed home.
    WWJMBD?

    I like my science WEIRD.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    I musta missed that little detail! Thanks.

  17. #17
    hi everyone, last year in the US on holiday me and my bud we came across 24 whitworth sharpshooter bullets only 20 showing in the photo, a couple of enfields and a cs buckle, we manage to dig 24 in a week. happy hunting and good luck Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by cruzybri69; 06-28-2013 at 03:54 AM.

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