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Thread: Does hardness matter for pistols

  1. #21
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    N. IL. Kankakee County
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    Hardness matters if it matters.
    Fit is most important, but hardness can affect fit.

    I ran into a batch of range scrap last year that was extra soft.
    It sized down in 45acp cases (stock Dillon 550 expander), under .450”
    I have to harden it to keep it from sizing down.
    Either alloy it, heat treat or both.
    The base alloy doesn’t harden much or quickly when heat treated.
    IIRC the base alloy hardened up enough to not size down after about 2 months. Tested every week or so.
    I think that was after heat treating, not positive.
    I now keep better track of my casting sessions due to my experience.

    Others claim they have used very soft lead in 45acp.
    I figure they either have a larger expander or their load obturates more upon firing.

    I have played with this alloy a lot, trying different techniques.
    I learned a lot, but it has been frustrating.
    But that was my fault, I could have taken the easy way and just sweetened the alloy from the beginning and been done with it.

    Hardening it up so it doesn’t size down in the case is the only way to stop it from leading, for me.

    I am down to 50-60lbs if it left.
    Hopefully my next batch of range scrap is harder

    If I had a ton of it I might have a custom expander made up for 45acp.





    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  2. #22
    Boolit Master



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    Powder coating makes a great difference. I shoot my .45/70 sometimes with pure lead and have never had a problem, loading to .45/70 government pressures and sometimes a little more.

    I collect range scrap. What I get from the 25yd range (no jacketed bullets allowed and majority hand guns) is a lot harder than what I get from the 50yd range. There is almost only as hard as pure lead. I separate them now.

    If you have a lot of different alloys and are sure they are all good (no zinc) consider melting as much as you can at one time and making ingots to melt later for casting boolits. That way your hardness will be consistent, at least with that batch.

  3. #23
    Boolit Master
    Tom W.'s Avatar
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    I've been using COWW since I dunno when. I've had pistols and revolvers from .480 on down. Even the .454 was cast with COWW and a chunk of nickle Babbitt for the tin content. As long as the fit is good and you have a decent lube you should be just fine.
    Tom
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    Did I ever mention that I hate to trim brass?

  4. #24
    Boolit Master
    JBinMN's Avatar
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    I will add this to the topic since I did not see it covered here in this topic yet. At least I think it was not mentioned anyway.


    The softer you go with your lead alloy boolits, no matter the lube type( PC included), you will have to make sure you are not swaging down your boolits when you seat them.

    If you are going to go .001 - .002" oversize for fit, with lead alloyed boolits & not jacketed, then you will need to use a expander die that has the right size plug in it, like the M-dies from Lyman or something like the NOE expander plugs in the Lee Univ. exp. die. You can also use the plugs from other calibers depending on what caliber you are working on, like for example, the 38 S&W plug(.360") in a 38/357M exp. die(.358") to open up the case mouth to accept oversize boolits that are .359" or .360", etc, as an example.

    If you use the exp. plug that came with your die set, it is most likely set up with an exp. plug for jacketed boolits & will likely not expand the cases large enough around in diameter (as well as possibly deep enough, depending on the boolit used) and when you go to seat the softer lead alloy boolits, the case & die can squeeze("swage") the boolit smaller in diameter towards its' base, and create obturation/leading issues when fired. ( Lead streaks that are usually starting from the chamber end going down the bbl.)

    If you are already familiar with this info, then just consider it placed here for others who may read it later & did not know.


    G'Luck!
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  5. #25
    Boolit Master Hannibal's Avatar
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    If you can't shoot the difference then hardness matters not.
    Missing the target is not the worst thing you can do.
    Not taking the shot is.

  6. #26
    Boolit Buddy
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    It has been sort of alluded to but just in case I'll state it directly:

    For the most part velocity has absolutely nothing to do with how soft/hard the alloy has to be, pressure is the one and only factor. The bullet has to be soft enough that the pressure obturates the bullet against the barrel. This forces the bullet to engage the riffling in as efficient way as possible. If the pressure is too high for the alloy the gas will cut the bullet, leading to, well leading and loss of accuracy. If the pressure is too low for the alloy the bullet will not obturate properly, robing you of accuracy.

    then there is the fact that your gun has a set twist on the riffling. This translates into it preferring bullets of certain weight (it will have an easier time stabilizing said bullets). If you hit the sweet bullet weight/length obturation will be easier to achieve.
    Last edited by Don1357; 07-21-2019 at 12:21 PM.

  7. #27
    Boolit Master Drm50's Avatar
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    Another ditto for Outpost & Elmer. I don't cast my target loads any harder than necessary 20:1 lead tin is plenty hard if they are sized correctly. Magnums 50:50 WW Lead and still add 20:1 mixture with tin and gas check. I cast 25/20& 32/20 same as target loads and 38/55 & 45/70 with magnum mixture minus gas check. I been in it for over 50 yrs and only leading I've ever had was from factory lead swaged bullets. All lubed on 450

  8. #28
    Boolit Man
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Greetings all,

    I am going to be casting for .480 Ruger and possibly .38 special....

    So far, I have a 275gr Gas Checked Mountain Mold bullet mold, and a Miha 477 640 Cramer mold with pins for large hollowpoint, small hollowpoint, and solid nose, all non-gas-checked.

    I am wanting to make some really easy-shooting Trail Boss loads with some powder that I recently acquired.

    I am also planning to turn up the heat on some of these loads with some 2400 Alliant powder, probably hitting 1150-1200fps with the 380-400grn loads, and 1400-1500 with the 275 grn loads.


    So, my question is, I have some pure soft lead that I just bought, and I have wheel weight ingots that are clean and ready to go.

    Should I cast bullets with one pound of wheel weight to 9 lbs of pure lead for the lower velocity (650-700fps loads with trailboss)? Air cooled or water dropped?

    Should I then run pure wheel weights for the faster velocity loads that likely will push 1000 fps?

    Air cooled or water dropped?


    Thanks all!

  9. #29
    Boolit Buddy
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    As I said two posts before yours stop thinking about it from the standpoint of speed. What pressures are you working with? For a given hardness there is a minimal pressure needed to obturate the bullet and a maximum pressure where gas cutting becomes likely.

    Think about it this way: a +P+ 38 special round going at maximum pressure for cartridge (22k PSI) at a speed of 1,100 FPS would have about the same alloy requirements as a .480 ruger heavy bullet with a wimpy load pushing the bullet at say 700 FPS, if the pressure on the ruger is also 22k PSI. The difference in bullet lengths and diameters play a role but the starting point to experiment is the pressure, not the speed.

  10. #30
    Good post from JB, You can also use un resized cases to avoid damage to soft slugs.

  11. #31
    Boolit Master



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    To the OP what you are doing works keep it up and forget about it till it don't.

  12. #32
    Boolit Mold
    Join Date
    May 2019
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    Thanks for all the replies folks! I'm still trying to learn and I see a hardness tester in my future

    Sent from my moto e5 cruise using Tapatalk

  13. #33
    Boolit Bub
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    Jan 2010
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    Hard lead with low velocity = leading ing the barrel.
    Autos need harder bullets for feed.

  14. #34
    Boolit Buddy
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    This is interesting...

    Testing a water quenched boolit was fairly consistent on the nose and side with a value of .050 which allegedly translates to 20.9 BHN. the nose was the same whether I tested it with or without grinding. The butt of the boolit which it says if not a reliable spot to test came at .060 or 14.3 BHN.

    is it really softer or an artifact of how the structure of the bottom coalesce at the end?

  15. #35
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by Outpost75 View Post
    Elmer Keith’s book Sixgun Cartridges and Loads (1936) on pgs. 69-70 states:

    “For most revolver cartridges, including all light and normal pressure loads, there is no use to having the bullets harder than one part tin to twenty parts lead for really heavy loads a one to fifteen mixture is hard enough… For automatic pistols, the bullets should be very hard, consisting of about one part tin to ten parts of lead, in order for them to slide up easily out of the magazine into the chamber… A mixture of part tin and part antimony works very well for some heavy loads, but such very hard, brittle bullets are not needed for any revolver load except in the case of extreme penetration, where no upsettage or expansion is wanted.”



    I have found Keith's suggestions to work in my last 50 years experience following them.
    I’ve been curious about this for a long time, the use of so much tin, up to 10%. When I started casting 30 years ago, I did what the Lee instructions said and bought a roll of solder for the tin. I had no idea what I was doing and basically just wasted a bunch of expensive solder. Then I was told years later that tin doesn’t really harden lead so much as it improves fill out. I’m still confused; why did the old timers waste so much tin, and why does Keith talk about using tin to harden lead?

    I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I must be missing something.

  16. #36
    Boolit Buddy gnostic's Avatar
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    It's always been my understanding, that the softest bullet that doesn't leave the bore leaded, will be the most accurate. I've shot bullets cast of linotype that were too small that leaded the barrel, and dead soft that didn't leave any lead at all. As long as they chamber, bigger is better...

  17. #37
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by gnostic View Post
    It's always been my understanding, that the softest bullet that doesn't leave the bore leaded, will be the most accurate. I've shot bullets cast of linotype that were too small that leaded the barrel, and dead soft that didn't leave any lead at all. As long as they chamber, bigger is better...
    I'm setting up an experiment were I'm going to shoot 20,700 PSI .44 special loads with boolits of BHN 4, 10, 22 heat hardened, and an alloy that is naturally 22. I'm going to record bullet speed, accuracy, and look for signs of leading.

    On a side note I got a hold of some weird 1/4" machine shielding thing that has the softest lead I have ever seen, the impression with the Lee hardness tester is .106+. I'm really curious to see what 20k PSI will do to those.

  18. #38
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    Fit in the BORE is the fit you shoot for pun intended.

    Proper fit in the throats is achieved when the throats are sized to just a tad bit over boolit diameter, .0005" to .001" this serves to ensure boolits are delivered to the bore sized as intended, and not sized down by the throats.

    -OR- your throats are sized .001" to .0025" over groove diameter, and you size boolits to a light drag fit in the throats. Either way works just the same.

    You can also let pressure size the boolits to the throats, as a softer alloy AND most j words will bump to throat diameter with enough of a charge under them.

    (This is a good trick to know when loading 44-40 and you can't load a .431" because the neck of the loaded round won't chamber, but you can load a soft cast .430" over enough powder and it will leave the front of the cylinder at throat diameter).

    These are the 3 ways I know of, to get the optimum fit of cast boolit in the bore.
    Got a .22 .30 .32 .357 .38 .40 .41 .44 .45 .480 or .500 S&W cylinder that needs throat reaming? 9mm, 10mm/40S&W, 45 ACP pistol barrel that won't "plunk" your handloads? Shoot me a PM! Also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Cylinderhone-756429174391912/

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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