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Thread: Custom wads for Lee Key Drive Slugs

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Custom wads for Lee Key Drive Slugs

    I'm a "tinkerer" with no skills but there are some very skilled folks on this site. To them I propose an idea, Cap'n Morgan and Uncle Dino come to mind and there may be others that have knowledge of plastics. I guess the interest in the Russian slugs with snap on wads is what got me thinking. Everyone seems to have a lee slug mold as they are fairly cheap and reliable. In my dream world I sit at my bench, size and prime an ubiquitous Remington or Winchester hull and drop the appropriate powder charge. Reach over and grab my molded wad, the top of which is exactly like the hollow base pin on the lee key drive mold. My slug is a nice snap fit onto the wad that is the appropriate length for the hull with a good gas seal and crush section, a tight fit in the hull. The wad's diameter is large enough to fill the bore of my gun, rifled or smooth, larger than the slug. Crimp and go. When I fire the finished load the slug never touches the bore, but the wad engages the rifling or fills the smoothbore to center it. The inserts of the wad into the partitioned slug base keep the slug from spinning and becomes an attached wad all the way to the target. Of course I don't have an "easy button" and no such wad exists, but I do have a pattern from the mold base pin and and a typical wad to show someone in the plastics molding business for the gas seal and crush section. Is this feasible or do I just need to go back to bed?
    "My main ambition in life is to be on the devil's most wanted list."
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  2. #2
    Boolit Master


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    And I thought I had a complex question about the best material to make a card to sit under the wad. Plastic milk jug, paper milk carton, bar coaster or other?
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  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    William, whatever you use it needs to be the same size as the same diameter of the outside of the slug and 1/8" thick. The 20 ga card is slightly small and will often jam crooked in the base hurting accuracy. The 16 ga card is to big to fit the bottom of tapered wads. The compromise is first a 20 ga card then the 16 ga. Either is better than no card though.
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  4. #4
    Boolit Master Cap'n Morgan's Avatar
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    Okay... I'll bite.

    Your idea is intriguing. I believe Winchester slugs uses something similar but without a cushion-section and seal. Personally, I'm convinced accuracy will be better if the wad only serves as a bore-guide & stabilizer and the cushion/seal function is achieved with a separate wad (a used wad, picked up at the range and with the petals removed would do the trick)

    As for a dedicated Lee Key Drive wad it would certainly be possible, but since the slug is not a bore-rider the wad would probably need to be of a certain height to keep the slug from tilting - that's why my latest slug design has the wad partly covering the slug.

    I can see a slight problem getting the wad and slug to stick together during flight. The fit must be rather tight, and preferable the wad should match the internal profile of the Key Drive exactly. A dab of super glue would certainly not harm.

    The project would lend itself perfectly to 3-D printing. If someone has access to a 3-D printer, I would be happy to make the STL files for printing the wad provided someone can come up with the exact internal measurements for the Key Drive slug.
    Cap'n Morgan

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    Heh Heh Heh.....Cap'n you are a can-do guy with skills! I'd be happy to tear up a mold and send someone the built-in base pin from a lee mold to measure accurately, or the entire mold. The plastic would have to be stout enough so that the inserts wouldn't shear off when the slug engaged the rifling but soft enough to engrave, not fracture. Of course that wouldn't be a concern from smoothbore. Obviously I know nothing of plastics but something akin to the composition of an x12x gas seal. Come to think of it, imagine an x12x with inserts molded on sitting atop a BPI brush wad. I hate cutting and trimming petals.
    "My main ambition in life is to be on the devil's most wanted list."
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master RogerDat's Avatar
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    Most innovation is driven by people that "hate cutting and trimming petals" or some other annoying aspect of a process. Which causes them to start thinking about a better way.

    Have to wonder in the spirit of "gloves" is there a better way to cut and trim petals of an existing wad?
    Je suis Charlie
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master

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    How about a "under card" type thing molded to fit the keydrive with an integral 1/8" or so "card" base that fit a wad snugly? Could insert into the slug, dab of glue to attach the plug/card into the base of the wad so it would drop away immediately with the wad. This way it could be used with standard wads, simplifying the mold and increasing loading options to find an optimal fit in various shotguns.
    "In God we trust, in all others, check the manual!"

  8. #8
    Boolit Master

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    Not quite the same but similar...

    I've made forms up for other slugs to add a hot melt glue tail wad Brenneke style. My original goal was to try to duplicate AQ slugs at home with readily available items.

    It works and works pretty well except... hot melt glue guns are not injection moulding equipment! I have mostly been using CPVC pipe couplings bored out to suite the slug with wheelbearing grease as mould release. Slide the slug in one end then tip up and squirt hot melt glue in (heavy duty hot melt glue is like plastic), overfill the form a bit then invert the whole works and press down on a piece of cold steel. After they cool the slug and tail wad can be pushed out of the form. This gives a pretty good result and quite consistent tail wads but air bubbles are a problem as is shrinkage making for slightly uneven base at times.

    These are all wad slugs so no glue touches the bore. I also tumble the finished slugs in talcum powder to make sure the glue tail wad isn't sticky.

    I've posted photos before of some of my straight sided slugs and I have now made a form to suit Lee slugs so have some made up and loaded waiting to shoot... but it is snowing heavily again today so it may wait yet another weekend. Since I may be snowed in (we're expecting up to 10" snowfall today on top of what we have) I'll see if I can get some pics of the Lee slugs with tail wads then post them.

    With a better glue injection method this should provide a pretty decent slug an average guy can make using readily available moulds as Hal has commented on.

    One thing I have found with hot melt glue though is that with typical Foster style hollow bases with release tapers, the glue does not hold well to the slugs. The bond tends to be poor and tail wads frequently drop off. Pre-heating the slugs would likely help but I drill then put a screw in the HB so the glue has something to grip. That works. Alternately with a Lee Drive Key slug peening over the drive key before adding glue may provide enough hold.

    Just something else to tinker with!

    Longbow

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    Okay... here is a pic of 3 Lee 7/8 oz. Drive Key slugs with moulded glue tail wad.

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    Certainly not in the same league as Cap'n Morgan's work by any means! However, I have had some good success with this same idea using both solid slugs and Foster style slugs in the past and will be testing several more if and when it stops snowing!

    The added glue tail wad is the same diameter (a few thou smaller actually) than the base of the slug so will be paper patched to fit the shotcup. I have some straight sided slugs I've done this with as well so they are same diameter base to nose and get two wraps of paper just like a big 'ol PP boolit to ensure nice snug fit into shotcups in the bore.

    I'll see how this works out... if it ever stops snowing!

    Longbow

  10. #10
    Boolit Master RogerDat's Avatar
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    That glue tail wad seems easily repeatable without special equipment. I wonder if the wad jcren describes could be 3D printed for the Lee Key Drive slugs? Wouldn't that essentially be a disk with a raised center disk and a slot? Might be able to mold the original from hot melt glue injected into a slug base with some sort of release agent.

    3D printers are petty cool but complex shapes start to drive cost (time) up and often need manual touch up. The equipment and tools are not readily available to the average reloader. If a simple shape that worked could be found then bulk printing at reasonable cost might be possible. The CPVC process is probably in the reach of most reloaders. One could possibly even do them in a block holding the mold tube and using a cold steel bar to press the excess off of each one to speed up production. Although not sure how high volume shotgun slug production needs to be.
    Je suis Charlie
    Scrap.... because all the really pithy and emphatic four letter words were taken and we had to describe this way of getting casting material somehow.
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  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Here it is, just needs to be made of plastic from the ridge up. Can a printer do this? (click to enlarge)
    Attachment 214442
    Attachment 214443
    Last edited by Hogtamer; 02-17-2018 at 11:22 PM.
    "My main ambition in life is to be on the devil's most wanted list."
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  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Here it is, just needs to be made from plastic from the ridge up. Can a printer do this?
    "My main ambition in life is to be on the devil's most wanted list."
    Leonard Ravenhill

  13. #13
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    I've never seen a lee key drive slug mold in person.. Is the base pin removable? Now that we can get base wads from the Russians, it may be easier to make a base pin to match the Russian wads. D

  14. #14
    Boolit Master

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    Yes, the hb pin is removable. The old style were riveted on place but the new style have a screw. Problem is the drive key... the hb pin has a slit milled in it so a new hb pin would be needed. Not only without a slot but with a shape to suit the Russian tail wads.

    That's exactly what I am wanting to do with my push out slug mould... Just need some Russian tail wads to check the spigot fit.

    The hot melt glue tail wads do work but it's hard to get a nice clean shape with no flashing and no air bubbles.

    3D printing might work if you can print a tough plastic. The plastics I have seen are fairly brittle and the layers are not well bonded. Plus it's slow.

    Injection moulding or machining from rod would be much quicker but beyond the abilities and tooling of most home tinkerers.

    Hot melt glue is readily accessible and affordable but hard to get perfect tail wads. I'm working on it though!

    Longbow

  15. #15
    Boolit Master Cap'n Morgan's Avatar
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    Hogtamer;

    A 3-D printer can do things not possible with ordinary injection molding, as the shapes are build up one small layer at the time. This means that you can have internal cavities in the part itself (like a hollow sphere) which would be impossible to make with traditional molding. But the real force in 3-D printing is the ability to test and modify designs as you go. Once the design has been found to work it's time for an injection mold.

    I have no experience with hot glue, but for a simple, thick walled shape - like a Key Drive wad - it should certainly be possible to make your own low-pressure molding machine and make wads from polypropylene or polyethylene. Before I had access to injection molding I planned on doing just that - even bought a small deep fryer for melting used wads from the shooting range. The wads melted just fine, but because of the high viscosity of melted PP or PE, some sort of pressure thingamabob doohickey is needed for filling the mold. (in "real" molding machines the plastics flows like water due to the extremely high pressure)

    Anyway, a simple, homemade molding machine, perhaps based on an old reloading press to provide the pressure, should be doable. Any takers...?
    Cap'n Morgan

  16. #16
    Boolit Master

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    Cap'n Morgan has hit on something there!

    My biggest problem is air bubbles and shrinkage with the hot melt glue. Using an old press or sizer as a piston pump should provide enough "oomph" to squirt melted glue (or plastic) into a form, though it would have to be vented. The problem there is keeping that glue or plastic melted on its way to the form.

    Possibly just using a hot melt glue gun connected to the form would work reasonably ~ remove the nozzle and connect a length of small pipe or tubing to the form. You'd still have to take care of ejection of the finished wad/slug somehow. I do it manually just pushing the completed slug out of the form but nothing is totally enclosed or sealed... hence some of the inconsistencies.

    Something to ponder a bit for sure.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    Fact is stranger than fiction! At our men's Bible study class this morning a guy was there I haven't seen in several years was there. He had moved away with work and ready to come home back to the company he was with. What biz you ask???? Yes, plastic injection molding! Of course showed him this thread started only yesterday....no problem. Yes, printer is way to go initially, this would be pretty easy. Signs and wonders. So I've got a connection and will be pursuing this in time. Signs and wonders I say!
    "My main ambition in life is to be on the devil's most wanted list."
    Leonard Ravenhill

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    Y'know guys, if the people at Lee were on top of things, they'd market a .735" o.d. wad to fit their own mold! The Drive-Key Slug has been out long enough that we know it's accuracy isn't a sure thing with commercial shot-shell wads. The only thing missing here is a wad that reliably engages the drive key AND the rifling! If they didn't want to set up their own shop, they could easily contract it to someone, there's lots of injection molding shops that would love to have more work!
    "We'll kill them ALL!"

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  19. #19
    In the interest of not trimming petals and using 20g wads which I found stuck sometimes and gave me a flyer, I also created an STL wad in 3D and printed it for the lee Slug
    I printed this round snap in one, which I guess is similar but lighter than the hot melt glue version above.

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    It worked and gave me the same accuracy as a decent 20g Carded slug that didn't stick id I snapped and glued the printed wad in the base of the Lee slug. I tried a not attached version and the accuracy was slightly less. I then came up with this finned version when again was a attached snap fit, but had finns.

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    This was a slightly better grouping, so I stuck with this design for now. It's easy to print and pop in the bottom of my cast slugs. (I use the 1oz but plan on trying it with the smaller version)

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    I also do it for my 10g slugs, although they work better with the standard cylindrical design.

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  20. #20
    Vendor Sponsor uncle dino's Avatar
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    BMT. That is sweet! Good job..d

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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