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Thread: What works for me.....

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    What works for me.....

    I have been reloading for a little over 50 years, but have only been casting for about half that time. Over the years, I have developed some informal rules about casting that have cut down on my failures considerably. By using these rules, I can develop an accurate cast bullet load very quickly with very little experimentation. Every time I break these rules, I have more problems to work out before getting an accurate load. Here are the rules that work for me:

    1. I use cast lead, plain-base bullets up to about 20,000-22,000psi chamber pressures (check the reloading manuals for pressures).

    2. I use cast lead, gas-check bullets from there up to about 35,000-37,000psi.

    3. I use jacketed bullets with pressures from there on up.

    4. I have four ingredients that are used for the casting mix. They are:
    a. Soft lead at Bhn 5 from salvaged roof sheeting (about 1,100lbs).
    b. Wheelweights from large trucks & trailers at Bhn 11 (300lbs).
    c. Monotype at Bhn 28 (200lbs).
    d. Tin in either pure sticks or (mostly) in 50/50 or 63/37 solder (40-50lbs).

    5. I have a bunch of recipes on the wall of my casting room that tell me how much of each material is needed to get a mixture of whatever Bhn I want for the bullet.

    6. I air-drop almost all of my bullets onto a towel. Cooling speed affects hardness greatly. The weight of the bullet affects cooling. With bullets using the same melt and air dropped the same, a 100gr bullet will be about 1 Bhn harder than a 200gr bullet, which will be about 1 Bhn harder than a 400gr bullet. Dropping the bullet into cold water is another thing altogether and I have not done much of it.

    7. I try to match the chamber pressure to the strength (hardness) of the bullet: ie, Chamber Pressure divided by 1,422 to get the desired Bhn to use for whatever plain-base bullet I am using. That means I stop at about Bhn 15-15.5 for them. I know there is a lot of criticism of this formula around here, but when I use it, I have very few problems. The more I exceed this limit, the more problems I have. In the past, I had to spend a lot of time working out the problems (due to exceeding the limit) and decided it was a waste of time not to use the formula.

    8. I use Bhn 15 from then upward for gas-check bullets. That may be a bit lazy. I have seen some indications that I could probably go back down on the Bhn when I first go above 22,000psi with a gascheck and work it up to Bhn 15 by the time I get to 37,000psi. I have not experimented with that, though.

    9. I use different temperatures for different moulds and mixtures (the more complicated the mould shape – such as hollow-base – and the more antimony, the more heat that is needed), but I seem to run my mix hotter than a lot of people here indicate they do. That means I cast slower than some people here claim, but it is worth it to me. From my tests, a hotter mixture has less variation in weight than cooler mixtures. I use Boric Acid to cover (protect) the top of the melt rather than fluxing constantly (this is with a bottom pour furnace).

    10. I have had more problems with a melt that is too cool than with a melt that is too hot. Frosted bullets shoot just as well as shiny bullets even though they might not look as pretty. The only problem with high heat is when a bullet is partially frosted (especially a long rifle bullet). A partially frosted bullet is not usually straight. The major problem with high heat is when someone strikes off the sprue plate too soon. I am not advocating too high a heat here. Excess heat slows everything down, but otherwise, it is not the kiss-of-death some here have claimed.

    11. I get as large a glob of melt as I can on the sprue plate (before it runs off the side). I expect it to stay molten several seconds before it flashes over. During that time, a dimple should form over the sprue plate hole. If there is no dimple, there will be much more variation in weight. I never do anything to speed the flashover (such as putting a fan on it or a damp cloth). I want the melt to dimple and that takes a little time. I am not saying anything against those who do accelerate the sprue cooling, but it doesn’t work for me.

    12. Tin is a wetting agent and makes any mould cast better. Antimony is an anti-wetting agent (or clotting agent) and makes any mould harder to cast with. If I have problems when casting with a mould, I add heat progressively until I can cast easily or the pot will not get any hotter. If there are still problems (pretty rare), I will start adding tin until the problem goes away.

    13. I normally use a minimum of about 2% of tin in the melt (one oz of tin to 3lbs of soft lead). If I am using antimony, I use a minimum of 2% of tin, but try to keep the amount of tin approximately equal to the amount of antimony. Some people here use 1/2 of the amount of tin than they use of antimony (or less). That can be done, but it is more difficult to cast with (more rejects). Besides, using more antimony than (lead-incorrect word) tin makes the bullet more brittle.

    14. I start out with bullets sized 0.001” over the slugged bore size. With guns that are properly sized (chamber, throat, and barrel), that usually works fine. It the chamber or throat is larger than the barrel, I usually go to the largest bullet that will chamber easily. The bullet squeezes down in the forcing cone, but is still more accurate than if the bullet is sized for the barrel (but undersized for the chamber/throat). If the chamber or throat is much smaller than the barrel, I usually go to soft bullets sized to fit the chamber with a small amount of fast powder (light loads). This is to “bump up” the bullet and is the hardest combination to get to shoot well.

    15. I have tried several types of bullet lube, but have brought them down to three: SPG for anything under about 800-850fps (for both Black Power and Smokeless). Tamarack (NRA 50/50 formula) for just about anything over that speed. If I have problems with the Tamarack lube (usually when pushing the maximum pressures listed above, particularly in rifles), I put a little Lee Liquid Alox over the bullet and the Tamarack. It is double lubed. I rarely have leading problems, but have learned that the bullet is not holding when the accuracy suddenly goes bad while working up a load.

    16. I go through every new or used mould I get, take them completely apart, make sure that they close squarely and completely (with and without the mould handles), make sure they have air vents, and there are no sharp edges or flaws on the parts that move against each other (especially the sprue plate). Use a very fine sharpening stone for any adjustments.

    17. I oil the mould after I use it. There is a lot of humidity where I live and there is a rust problem if I don’t oil them. I clean it in soap and water just before casting, then dry it with my wife’s hair dryer. Cleaning them is because trying to “burn off” the oil while casting takes too long. I also preheat the mould in the melt for 60 to 90 seconds before starting to cast (remember to preheat the sprue plate, too). This procedure means that I usually get keepers within 5 casts.

    18. I consider the Lyman “Cast Bullet Handbook” to be where to start for beginners (grade school level casting). Col. E.H. Harrison has a book “Cast Bullets” for intermediate casters (high school level). He also put out a very small “Cast Bullets: Supplement No. 1” with additional information. Veral Smith has a book “Jacketed Performance With Cast Bullets” for experienced casters (college level). Beyond that, all you need is practice (experience). Start at the beginning, not at the end. You have to walk before you can run.

    19. Just remember that whatever works for you, works. There is no one way to do casting. If you do something different from this and it works, great. If something doesn’t work, consider changing it.
    Last edited by Harry O; 02-12-2013 at 05:27 PM. Reason: Item 13 - used the term lead when I should have used tin

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    nhrifle's Avatar
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    Good post. This should be a must read for all new casters. Thanks for posting!

  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy

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    Thanks Harry. I'll put some of this to use. What is your average range of temps for the melt?

  4. #4
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    Lot of wisdom here.
    The only thing I would add is that I match my casting techniques to the gun. 9 mm blasting ammo gets less attention than 30 caliber silhouette rounds. For most of my plinking stuff, I use 4, 5, or 6 cavity molds just as fast as I can make 'em. None of my 9 mm's is really super accurate anyway. I do force cool the sprues with a fan (thanks Mike Venturino).
    For rifle rounds, I cast at a more deliberate pace, making sure the sprue cuts rather than tears. I too watch for the dimple.
    _________________________________________________It's not that I can't spell: it is that I can't type.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    Thank you for taking the time to put this together.I am sure this will help many new casters to understand what works , including myself.
    If you are unwilling to defend even your own lives, then you are like mice trying to 'negotiate' with owls. You regard their ways as 'wrong', they regard you as dinner. John Farnam

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Very good post, thank you!
    Raisin' Black Angus cows, outta gas, outta money, outta tags, low on boolits, but full 'a hope on the Rocky Mountain Eastern Slope!
    Why does a man with a 7mag never panic buy? Because a man with a 7mag has no need to panic!

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  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    ddaniel1: Back when I had a metal thermometer that worked (don't drop them), the most I could get out of a Lee 10lb pot was about 850degrees or so. It eventually burned out. I now have a small pot for dipping (manufacturer unknown) and a Lee 20lb bottom pour pot that I use most of the time. The small one goes up to 10 on its rheostat. The Lee goes up to 9.5. I cast simple flat bottom bullets (like 9mm round nose) I can use it as low as 7.0 to 7.5 without any problems, say 650 to 700 degrees. For hollow-base bullets or high-antimony bullets, I have to go all the way to 9.5 or 10.0, say about 850 degrees.

    I have seen people here say that they use the Lee pot with settings as low as 5 or 6. I cannot go that low and get good bullets.

    rintinglen: You are correct. Some bullets take a lot more attention to detail than others. Unfortunately (by choice), I use a hollow-base Rapine bullet for the 41 Long Colt for my CAS handgun caliber. I cast a lot of them (I shoot 1,200 to 1,500 of them per year at about 45 seconds to cast each one). If I don't see a dimple in the sprue lead, there is a flaw in the bullet. Either the skirt will not be completely filled out or there will be a small void at the tip of the hollow. I also have to spend a lot of close attention when casting my high-antimony rifle bullets. I have cast up to 15% antimony (just once as an experiment). It took an equal amount of tin to keep the bullet from breaking when crimping the bullet into the case. I was using a 270gr bullet mould (with a normal mix) and ended up with about a 250gr bullet with a 70-15-15 mix.

    For my .38 Special and 9mm (Luger and Largo) bullets, I don't spend nearly as much time. Rather than cool the sprue, though, I reduce the heat control on the pot. Whatever works for you though.


    I have managed to get plain-base bullets up to about 28,000psi on occasion, but there was a lot of experimenting to get it to work. When I tried the same pressures in a different caliber, what had worked before did not work again. The experiments had to start all over again. That is when I decided on the 22,000psi limit for plain-base bullets. That easily handles a .38 Special +P. That also makes me wonder when someone here says do that or do that to get your relatively high pressure load to work. It might. But, then, there is a big chance it won't with a different person in a different gun with different etc, etc, etc.

    In addition, I have managed to get gas-check bullets to work at about 42,000psi on occasion (.30 caliber carbine). Same problems as before trying to transfer what worked for it to other loads of similar pressure. Each one was a rule unto itself. That is when I backed the limit on them back down to 37,000psi. That easily handles a .357 Magnum and 9mm Luger.

    Actually, I have had a whole lot of experiments that failed miserably. I could make a lot longer post on them, but it would not be nearly as helpful.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
    Mk42gunner's Avatar
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    Good advice Harry. I really like thuis one:

    19. Just remember that whatever works for you, works. There is no one way to do casting. If you do something different from this and it works, great. If something doesn’t work, consider changing it
    .

    It seems that people alway want to know what works; but don't want to hear or read, "It depends."

    Robert

  9. #9
    Boolit Master







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    Well done, and well thought out!
    1Shirt!
    "Common Sense Is An Uncommon Virtue" Ben Franklin

    "Ve got too soon old and too late smart" Pa.Dutch Saying

  10. #10
    Boolit Mold
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    Thanks for putting this together, being new to casting, you've given me a place to start. I'll be ordering the Lyman Cast bullet book soon.

  11. #11
    Boolit Mold
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    Thanks for all the info! I work with lead alloys and use a hand held X-ray analyzer to get the right mix after cooling. Then adjust accordingly.

    My question is there is usually copper in small amounts in linotype and monotype, how dose this affect hardness and or casting?

    thanks stan

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Brassballs: I have never tried linotype, so I cannot tell you about that. I have read several places that straight linotype works great for rifle or higher pressure handgun bullets.

    I have a couple of hundred pounds of monotype and have used it a lot to sweeten the pure lead and/or WW's I normally use. I originally tried using straight monotype for full power rifle bullets and it does not work for that. Straight monotype is way too brittle for bullets. I have actually cracked them while crimping them into a rifle case. In fact, if you bend the original monotype sticks, they break with very little bending. Any more, I mix monotype with either lead or WW and add enough tin to get at least as much tin as there is of antimony. The bullet can be fairly hard and still tough that way.

    I have no idea how copper works into the equation. I am pretty sure there are lots of trace elements in most lead mixes. For example, scrap lead is usually said to be Bhn 5. The stuff I have is just below Bhn 4.5. It came from 100 year old building roofs. From what I have read, that was more pure than many other lead products. Scientifically pure lead is supposed to be Bhn 4.0. Wheelweights are the most variable of any of the lead mixes I have worked with. The ones I have used through the years have ranged from Bhn 8 to Bhn 13. I would imagine that trace elements had a lot to do with that.

    Sorry I was not able to specifically answer your question. As long as they are trace elements, I would not think it would be a problem.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    Copper, like arsenic, is a grain modifer. Look for an article by wiljen on the subject. You can find it at the LASC website (link at page bottom) and possibily CastPiks. In small amounts it will reduce the size of the grain structure (lattice) of heat treated bullets. It will speed up the hardening process as well.

    There have been several recent threads here about Cu enhanced alloys. Try the search function.

    Regards,

    Tony

  14. #14
    Boolit Mold
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    Nice post, pretty much what I do, however, I use sawdust to cover the melt to prevent oxidation, works well and I have lots of it. What I have been finding though, is problems with wheel weights. I have a large plumbers melting pot and lately I have found wheel weights made of zinc, some of it mixed with lead. Performed some experiments with a torch and found that some of them, when heated on a flat steel plate, the lead melted easily and the zinc seemed to cling together. I also found that if you get the melt too hot, like in the 700 degree range, the zinc will melt along with the lead. I keep the melt just at the lead melting point and anything that floats is discarded. I have found most of the weights here locally in Portsmouth, VA are being made of steel, aluminum, zinc and some kind of conglomoration mix of other stuff. The stuff coming from some of the foreign car dealers are using some kind of plastic or whatever, also some are coated with a substance to match the wheel covers and this causes a lot of extra stuff you have to skim off. I am guessing that in the coming years, lead wheel weights are going to become a thing of the past which is why I am making extra effort to stock up on them while they are still around. If you can find a private tire place, most of what they have is the real stuff. Is anyone else find this in their area. I am in Portsmouth, VA.

    Beekeeper

  15. #15
    Boolit Mold
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    Thank you for posting this..I am new to bullet casting..Very good read!

  16. #16
    Boolit Buddy Chapo's Avatar
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    awesome advice. I learn here every time I log in

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    My big takeaway in this is that Harry has found what works best for him and he sticks with it. He did the work to find what works in his guns and he runs with it.

    Do the homework and the rest gets easier.
    You will learn far more at the casting, loading, and shooting bench than you ever will at a computer bench.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check