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Thread: Air cool vs water cool

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Drew P's Avatar
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    Air cool vs water cool

    Iíve always water dropped bullets, made sense to me because air dropping a hot bullet seems like it would cause deformation at the very least. Itís very easy to drop in bucket and let them pile up at the bottom. But seems like a lot of air droppers here. So why?

  2. #2
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    Sig556r's Avatar
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    I PC, so don't wanna contaminate prior to tumbling. I water-quench after baking tho.
    ...Speak softly & carry a big stick...

  3. #3
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    I have never cared for water quenching. I now use a small towel folded and placed in a cake pan. None of my bullets are damaged. I have also accidentally dropped new bullets right out of the mold on the hard bench top. No damage. Maybe because I never water dropped sinkers when I was a teenager, and when I started casting bullets pre-web and read nothing about quenching. My shop (casting and reloading shed) has no running water and while it may seem a minor inconvenience to some, I don't want to tote a 5 gal bucket of water into my shop and I normally don't want water around my casting/reloading area. I have always "hardened" my alloy by mixing, producing a harder alloy.
    Last edited by mdi; 02-18-2020 at 12:47 PM.
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  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy
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    Same here... I air drop on a towel in a dollar store cake or jelly roll pan. I drop in the same place on the towel every time. When I have a dozen or two dropped, I lift one end of the towel to roll the previous dropped bullets to the rear of the towel, and cast a dozen or two more. Repeat until I am shocked at how many bullets I have made because my brain was off thinking about other things while I was casting. At some point with a mold you are familiar with, casting becomes all muscle memory and my brain drifts. Like how this reply drifted into other subjects...

  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Water dropped bullets are too hard and don't shoot as well in standard-pressure revolver loads.

    I have no need for "hard" bullets and am another one of those old fuds who prefer drop their bullets onto a folded towel for gentle cooling and easy visual inspection.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drew P View Post
    I’ve always water dropped bullets, made sense to me because air dropping a hot bullet seems like it would cause deformation at the very least. It’s very easy to drop in bucket and let them pile up at the bottom. But seems like a lot of air droppers here. So why?
    I air drop on a towel draped in the bucket so the bullets roll down the towel to the pile at the bottom.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    I also don't need hard boolits for my application. More to the point, like Outpost, I like to eyeball the casts to check for defects and to monitor mold temp (to much frosting tells me to slow down).

    I drop onto folded towels on top of a tilt board. I keep brushing the inspected boolits to one side until the pile gets too big, then I just tilt everything into the pan under it and start building the pile again.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by Outpost75 View Post
    Water dropped bullets are too hard and don't shoot as well in standard-pressure revolver loads.

    I have no need for "hard" bullets and am another one of those old fuds who prefer drop their bullets onto a folded towel for gentle cooling and easy visual inspection.
    Same here. I air cool my rifle boolits as well.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master Thumbcocker's Avatar
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    Air cool mostly but I do water drop for the M1.
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  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    ive only ever gotten dents water dropping because I cant control if they land on eachother unless I built something to go in the bucket to slow them down mid water before they hit eachother. air cooled I have several feet of space to drop them on my soft material so I drop a few casts around the center then push them off to the sides while im waiting for sprue to set or whatever. when I want hard I water drop after PC using NON non stick foil so they stay on my tray when I throw it in water and they still don't hit eachother.

  12. #12
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    I can cast faster when water dropping and have had no problems getting great accuracy with normal pressure loads, nor have I had any problems PCing boolits.
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  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by bmortell View Post
    ive only ever gotten dents water dropping because I cant control if they land on eachother unless I built something to go in the bucket .
    Back in the old days, it was common to take air dropped boolits, bake them to a certain temp.
    then dump them in a bucket of water to temper/harden them.

    Someone came along and dropped straight from the mold into a bucket of water to shorten the process.
    and that idea caught on.

    Then the issue of dents came up.

    One guy's solution was to cut up a couple of the big car washing sponges, or use a hand full
    of dish washing sponges to float on the surface.


    The boolit hits the wet sponge, cools & hardens,
    then rolls off to land on the bottom of the bucket-- with no dents.
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  14. #14
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    I used to water drop boolits into a five-gallon bucket with a 2" foam pad in the bottom. Never had any damage issues with even the heaviest boolits. These days, since I took up PC, I air cool everything, dropping onto a beach towel folded down into a 16"x24" pad right next to my Mag 20 pot. Using this, I can drop 525 gr. RNs, cast from 30/1, without any noticeable dings or dents so I doubt if anything lighter would be distorted.

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  15. #15
    Boolit Master



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    I drop mine into water because I got dents and worse otherwise. When everything is right and I’m in the groove, I don’t want to stop to move boolits around, so they don’t land on each other. I use a four gallon bucket and have never had problems with dents. The one drawback is you can’t throw your culs back into the pot. I PC often too. I usually don’t PC the same day and have no problems. If you’re in a hurry, you can always put them in your oven for a few minutes. They say warm boolits coat easier.

  16. #16
    Boolit Grand Master

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    I've never seen the need to water drop. Like most of the others, I drop the hot bullets on an old folded up towel. The only damage that I have had is when a stray bullet gets away and hits the floor!

    I don't need the hardness and don't want the hassle dealing with water.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master Drew P's Avatar
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    I wish I’d made this a poll but too late. It’s interesting to me that dents are a leading reason NOT to water drop, since that is the only reason I do it. I’m not after the hardness per se, because I ice drop after coating anyway, which may or may not harden. I should give up on antimony and just use the right alloys to begin with but hey, that’s part of the fun isn’t it. But I’m wondering how you can keep from damaging buckets unless you’re cooling them a lot more than I do. I would think that the temp of them hitting a rag and bouncing off each other could damage.
    As far as the water, I use a large bucket, maybe 4 gal, and I keep the water level high, so the boolits are falling through water at least 5” or so which gives enough time to come way down in temp, probably below 200į before they hit the pile. I have to admit that it would be nice to be able to eyeball them all as they come out to monitor for flashing issues or temp issues.

  18. #18
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    1.) I don't like the water mess .
    2.) I size and lube on a Lyman 450 ..hard boolits are harder to size .
    3.) Elmer Keith didn't say you should do it .
    4.) He did say fit was more important than hardness and most people used way to hard an alloy than needed .
    " for regular loads : 1 part tin / 20 parts lead was best and for
    heavy magnum loads : 1 part tin / 15 parts lead is hard enough . "
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    Last edited by gwpercle; 02-18-2020 at 08:08 PM.
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  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    I'm still torn between water dropping or quenching out of an oven. I only use either oven quenching or water dropping for hardening bullets, not as a shortcut. I actually find air cooling easier. It certainly doesn't warp bullets.

    The problem I always had with water dropping was damaged bullets. I don't care if you have 10 feet of water. Lead sinks fast, and if the base falls on the edge of another bullet, you just ruined that bullet. I assume most people just look the other way, as they will still shoot out of the gun with no other problems besides reduction of accuracy. Gas checked bullets might get some leeway here. If you are air cooling, you are presumably dropping onto a T shirt or towel. You have total control. Don't just stack 1000 bullets on top of each other. I've got a nice big area I lay a towel out, and I can easily get 1000 bullets on it, caliber dependent. One person said they don't like to move bullets around. While you do have to do that to keep a clear dumping area, I haven't found it to be any bother at all myself.

    As for water dropping in a 5 gallon bucket, I've tried draping a towel over the top. I've tried cut up sponges. I've tried a towel on the bottom. None of them worked for me. The fact is the damage is caused by bullet hitting other bullets. With water dropping, you have almost no control after they hit the water. The way I currently do it, is I found a square tote, not huge, probably holds 5-8 gallons. Now the trick is that I prop one end up. I drop bullets on the high end, and they hit the bottom with no damage. The bulk of them then roll to the low end, out of harms way. I don't use a towel or anything. The plastic does not hurt them.

    For quenching out of an oven, the biggest problem I've had was keeping a consistent temperature. I use a wire basket to hold the bullets, but if I just put that in there, the elements melt the top and bottom bullets when they kick on, even if the overall oven temp is below 480 degrees. My work around so far has been to set the basket on aluminum foil, and then put another aluminum foil on the top. The problem then is the heat doesn't seem to radiate around, and into the bullets. A convection oven would work much better. There are numerous benefits to oven quenching. 1. you can size the bullets whenever you want before you quench. Although I have had no problems sizing water dropped bullets, many claim problems can arise if you wait more than a day or two to size. Also there is a theory that sizing work softens a water dropped bullet, but I don't worry about that. 2. you can adjust the hardness of the bullet. You can get a little more hardening water dropping by adding ice to the bucket. I use snow. With oven quenching you can make a softer bullet than water dropping, or harder if you wish. 3. You can avoid any bullet damage during casting by dropping on a towel. Since I put the bullets in a basket in the oven, I just dunk that whole basket in the water.

    There are a few advantages to air cooling, but the main one of course is that it allows the softest possible bullet. The one and only drawback I'm aware of is that bullets tend to have a less consistent hardness from bullet to bullet. This is bizarre to me, but multiple tests have shown that quenched bullets are more consistent. Over time air cooled bullets stabilize their hardness, and maintain it for decades. Air cooled bullet hardness never really varies what I consider a significant amount. Quenched bullets on the other hand are a little more dynamic. They quickly reach most of their hardness in a few days, then continue to rise for a few months. Don't quote me, I forget the exact number. After that they slowly soften. As far as I'm concerned, there is no significant reduction in hardness for 10 years or so. All that said, some of the most accurate bullets of all time have been air cooled. Hardness is not nearly as important as a perfectly cast bullet.

    I use all three techniques, depending on what I'm doing. I mainly air cool, but I water drop for a few high pressure handguns, and rifle bullets. The big thing bullet hardness gets you is that it keeps the bullet from deforming during firing. Bullet design plays a big part in this, but it still comes down to the less a bullet deforms, the better it will fly.
    Last edited by megasupermagnum; 02-18-2020 at 08:13 PM.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    I air cool all of my boolits. I must cast slower than other people. I Drop my freahly cast boolits into a cardboard box and have had no problem or dents. Don't try to get boolits immediately out of mold.

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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