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Thread: Cost and Productivity of producing .224 bullets at lowest cost

  1. #1
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Cost and Productivity of producing .224 bullets at lowest cost

    Would those of you who use . 22 LR cases to produce .224 jacketed bullets be willing to share real world data? The objective is to establish expected production with the lowest cost option....therefore using a standard press like the RC.

    Time needed to cast cores and the number of cavities.
    Time to clean and de-rim .22 cases.
    Time to produce the bullet.
    What dies you are using. No need to share cost of dies as I can do that.

    Lastly, the average of five 5 shot groups or your best 10 shot group.

    I am planning to purchase 12k bullets and wonder if making my own makes sense.

    Thanks
    Don Verna


  2. #2
    Boolit Master Sasquatch-1's Avatar
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    First, I don't do .22 cal bullets.

    But swaging of any caliber is both expensive and very time consuming. I swage .44 using .40 S&W brass. I believe the steps are going to be similar except I do not have to de-rim.

    1. I have to cut to the size I want. (Not 100% necessary but I like a soft point.
    2. Anneal. I do this with a torch, so it is very time consuming.
    3. I cast my cores using a rifle bullet mold. (You could use lead wire)
    4. Form core cylinder
    5. Seat core in brass
    6. Point form
    7. Clean finished bullets.
    8. Finally load rounds.

    Cost of equipment would greatly outweigh the cost of the purchased bullets. So, if you are looking at saving money, the answer to your last question is NO. If you are looking for a new hole to through money down, by all means, take up swaging.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Man
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    I live in the UK and finding components is getting more and more difficult , because of this I am going to get back into swaging in the hope of being able to make an accurate bullet that I can make whenever I want and not have to rely on random stock supplies at ever increasing prices.
    I enjoy swaging but if I could find and afford 12k suitable bullets I would buy them today.

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by DAVE A View Post
    I live in the UK and finding components is getting more and more difficult , because of this I am going to get back into swaging in the hope of being able to make an accurate bullet that I can make whenever I want and not have to rely on random stock supplies at ever increasing prices.
    I enjoy swaging but if I could find and afford 12k suitable bullets I would buy them today.
    Here is what I can get:

    https://www.armorally.com/shop/horna...r-spire-point/

    12k 55 gr SP Hornady bullets for $1060.

    I am 71. Added to what I have, it would be a lifetime supply.

    Corbin offers a kit for $975 that uses .22 cases for the jackets. But that offers no savings.
    Don Verna


  5. #5
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    Red River Rick's Avatar
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    Save yourself the aggravation and buy the bullets.
    By the time you factor all the steps involved in making your own bullets, plus the costs for tooling, the 12K bullets you intend on buying would be a deal. The time saved by not swaging will be better spent shooting the factory bullets.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master


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    The press and dies will hold their value and possibly increase!
    It will be a long time before you can if ever produce the quality of commercial bullets.
    I did not sort cases or use a core squirt die for my 223 bullets and they are similar to FMJs in accuracy.
    Sorting cases and uniform cores takes time, but you get out what you put in.
    I bought my Corbin dies for $250 in 1992, I can double or triple my money!

  7. #7
    Boolit Master pertnear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deltaenterprizes View Post
    The press and dies will hold their value and possibly increase!
    It will be a long time before you can if ever produce the quality of commercial bullets.
    I did not sort cases or use a core squirt die for my 223 bullets and they are similar to FMJs in accuracy.
    Sorting cases and uniform cores takes time, but you get out what you put in.
    I bought my Corbin dies for $250 in 1992, I can double or triple my money!
    ++1 I agree with deltaenterprizes 100%

    As to your questions about bullets from .22 hull production times & cost, it all depends on what process you adapt to swaging bullets. For instance, some boil the empty cases, others ultrasonic, others pin tumble & some do nothing. You can cast cores or use lead wire. Cutting lead wire is faster & easier than casting, but more expensive. Uniforming cores is time consuming & I've heard that some don't bother with that step even(?) Then as to accuracy, that's all a a matter of your Quality Control. You need to sort hulls, weigh cores, weigh bullets & check your finished product carefully bullet-by-bullet. You sort out the rejects to be just plinkers, but they still shoot surprisingly well. As others have said the dies/punches are an investment that hold their value. I do recommend that you buy a press specific for swaging.

    IMHO, swaging .22 hulls into bullets is a great add-on/extension to your reloading hobby. For what you spend on setting up to swage you can probably buy a life-time of quality bullets instead. Where's the fun in that?
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  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy gc45's Avatar
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    Red river Rick has it right. I used to make my own 22 bullets from 22 cases years ago but after about 2000 I quit, sold the dies and just bought bullets..These home made bullets did shoot well in several guns but just to much work for me but if having the time it is a good hobby.

    Back when Bullet Seconds were available and cheap, I bought three boxes containing 5000 each of 40 grain Win spitzers, also 5000 once fired LC 223 cases that came in a white bucket and both turned out to be great for my varmint guns at the time. In the 90's I switched to shooting sub caliber rifles, mostly 17's but still have lots of those 223 cases and Win bullets..Glad I saved them too.

  9. #9
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Thanks for the replies and opinions.

    There is not enough reward for the work involved.
    Don Verna


  10. #10
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    Bought my Corbin .224 dies and press in the late 1980's. It was in storage for several years as I was deployed a lot at the time in the USMC. When I retired from my 1st career as a Marine; got it out and started making swaged .224 bullets. The Dies and Press had doubled in value.

    Today; I project I have made at least 30,000 .224's of various weights using .22LR, 17HMR, and 22WMR brass. I could have bought bullets along the way - cost would have been higher currently a pound of lead can still be acquired for ~$1.00 if one is patient and shops well. That translates to 120 jacketed 60 Grain .224 bullets (actually more because of a 50 grain core weight) - or about 8.6 cents each. Just looked on MidSouth Shooters web site and a 62 grain .224 is about 15 cents each. So a little less than twice the cost of making them myself.

    Question is if it's "Worth it"? In my experience:

    Employed - my last employment was valued at $92.00 per hour by my Employer for Managing very complex and highly regulated programs. Available recreational time and salary/time analysis; it was not worth my spare time to make .224 bullets.

    UnEmployed (Also called retired the 3d time) - my income was $0.00 for may labor. Ability to do something I enjoyed (and enjoy) made making the .224's very "Profitable". Particularly when with the 60 Grain .224's I made/make were shooting as well or slightly better than those I bought.

    Is it worth it - all depends on where and when the question is asked in one's life.


    Oh by the way. The Corbin Press and Dies - all still in great shape - have increase 600% in value since I bought them compared to buy-in a new replacement today.

    You pays your money and makes your choice.
    Mustang

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  11. #11
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Good post Mustang.

    I am 71. My son is woke. I have no one to leave my “junk” to.

    When I was 20 years younger, I was too busy to even cast pistol bullets. I was buying 15-20k bullets a year.

    But your point is valid. Different folks at different times in their lives have different circumstances.

    Swagging is not for me, but others can learn from this thread. One size does not fit all.
    Don Verna


  12. #12
    Boolit Buddy

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    I do both! I make .223 bullets from lr casings and buy 1000's of hornady projectiles! Ha!

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    When I was actively shooting sage rats, I was shooting thousands of rounds a year.
    Bullet cost was the big factor.
    I stumbled on a deal from a good friend that was selling out the estate of an avid shooter/reloader.
    I bought 120# of 50 gr 22 caliber HPs made from 22 LR cases.
    That pencils to over 15,000 JUNK YARD bullets as I called them.
    I sorted them by visually looking for folded jackets and other imperfections and by weight.
    I probably culled out 10% and sold them.
    They were shot in a Ruger M77 223.
    I was using a medium load of 4895.
    They would hold MOA at 100 yds.
    Nothing special but not far off what the rifle was capable of.
    I had a lot of fun and cheap shooting with these bullets.
    The bullets were very explosive on sage rats at approximately 3000 FPS
    As an afterthought, these bullets seemed to be easier on a barrel than bullets with typical gilding metal jackets.
    Would I spend the time and money to make them myself? No thanks.

  14. #14
    Boolit Buddy Brassmonkey's Avatar
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    Projects like these you don't wanna start just to save money, you have to want to do it and enjoy it, those savings rarely make up for the time & tooling required.

  15. #15
    Boolit Bub
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    I started about two years ago because we could not find bullets. In the PNW you couldn't beg, borrow, or steal a .224 bullet.

    I saw the WW2 swaging set up available on e-bay and decided to try it. It makes good bullets, but it is slow.
    My club had plenty of 22rf cases in the scrap barrels. I bought a 5 gallon bucket full.

    It's a lot cheaper to buy bullets. IF you can. But if you don't like the idea of being without because of others, then swaging is an option.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by dverna View Post
    Good post Mustang.

    I am 71. My son is woke. I have no one to leave my “junk” to.

    When I was 20 years younger, I was too busy to even cast pistol bullets. I was buying 15-20k bullets a year.

    But your point is valid. Different folks at different times in their lives have different circumstances.

    Swagging is not for me, but others can learn from this thread. One size does not fit all.
    I guess it's been discussed and decided, but I'd like to add, that since the 22LR shortage, FREE spent 22LR cases are not common anymore. Obviously the cases are still out there, but if your source thinks the cases have some value, you'll be paying for them. And just like anything else in swaging (and reloading) consistency is key, so it's best to use the same manufacturer for best results...try finding someone to sell you a flat rate box full of 22LR spent cases that have matching HS You'll surely be paying more than scrap brass value.
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  17. #17
    Boolit Buddy tiger762's Avatar
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    Let's cut to the chase. There is no way to make this a profitable work-from-home business The cost of extruded lead wire is $3/pound. Once RCE stopped making jackets, the prices are outrageous. The cost of finished bullets. So one could cast cores and use cartridge brass. Yep, and do 25-50 bullets an hour after it's all said and done. I bought all the 30cal and 45cal jackets I'll ever need from RCE in 2015, but I prefer to use cartridge brass where possible because I cannot replace the jackets I have. Yes, Center X Bullets. We all know of that. Premium price. No thank you.

  18. #18
    Boolit Buddy gc45's Avatar
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    For me it was just to time consuming and it ain't that profitable even for ones self. I could make many, many times more money working than making 224 bullets. It is a good hobby though for those who have time on their hands. Many of us older guys had this same discussion long ago, before computers came along. I still have a friend who spends cold winters in Montana making them saying, he has little to do when its cold. He then has plenty of bullets for summer gopher shooting so in his case it's worth it...

  19. #19
    I never viewed swaging as a way to make cheap bullets. With top notch jackets like J4 and high quality lead wire, you can make excellent, high precision bullets tailored to your specific needs. They aren't cheap, but I got started in swaging for performance. When I started, there were virtually no low drag bullets available so I started making them for other competitive shooters for 600 and 1000 yard competition and long range hunting. Now there are lots of excellent (and not so great) low drag bullets to choose from. I still have a couple of designs I make for myself and a few other people, as well as swaging paper patch slugs for a few calibers but they are not cheap.

    Home swaging will never be as fast or cheap as casting, but you have the opportunity to make bullets that can use far more potential of your weapons.

    I think a lot of people try to compare casting and swaging, but that is a serious apples and oranges comparison. Swaging with good equipment, components and care can make high precision bullets that can use every bit of performance out of a bottle necked center fire rifle. Cast bullets can never compete in that realm. You can shoot them, but they are a compromise at best except for some straight walled rifle and pistol cartridges, where they work very well.

  20. #20
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    A good question and certainly the right place to ask here from the OP. One that has been debated since ...... well a long time I'm sure.

    I'll attempt to offer a bit of the pro swaging side without being bias

    A lot of info buried here to answer all questions but might take a while to find. As for the accuracy of bullets made from 22lr brass, or any brass case for that matter, I have always been surprised at the accuracy I have obtained. We had a postal shoot many years ago where we all posted two 5 shot group sizes with these 22 cal bullets. Seems most were able to achieve 1/2MOA and some even better some not. I have shot many different caliber bullets made from various scrap brass into very small groups, I have posted many pics of these groups and will find a few to post here for those interested.

    As for cost of swaging vs. buying commercial..... many have already posted but not many have mentioned how it felt to shoot their own vs. store bought, or knowing you will always be able to make more no matter the market. I find a lot of pride in shooting bullets I have made myself and I show these bullets to my friends every chance I can when I'm out shooting. The only caliber of commercial bullets/ammo I buy now is 22lr (when I can) and you know what!!!!!! I can shoot 223 rem 55 grain for 12 cents a pop (cost of primmer and powder @ pre 2020 prices). I know recently 22lr ammo was going for more then that and may still be?

    Anyway.... swaging, like reloading your own ammo, is a hobby, if we wanted to save money at our shooting sport we would probably do neither, there are certainly worse things people spend their money on.

    Making a lot of bullets from 22lr somewhat quickly is possible, anything is possible and I have said that many times, I have even posted my results in reducing the steps involved in turning 22lr brass into bullets. I think I cut the typical process in half and still achieved very good and accurate bullets, more on this in a moment. This thread reminds me of a saying, I think I may even have heard it here, I'm sure many of you have heard it.... actually I think it might have been an auto mechanic saying..... "if you want something cheap it won't be fast, and if you want something fast it won't be cheap." It applies to a lot of things in life I'm sure and it certainly applies to swaging bullets or reloading ammo.

    If I wanted to make a lot of 22lr bullets from 22lr brass I know I could and this is what I would do. Let's use 12,000 bullets for the number. Keep in mind we are not making these to sell, we are making them to shoot ourself so we are going to make what works best for time allowed....... I can hear your thoughts...... "what about accuracy?" these bullets shot for me, very tight groups. In this instance I made 69 grain bullets and I'll tell you why 69 grains was chosen in a moment.

    1. hook up pneumatic air to a press for the deriming step. I can easily do 600 cases an hour with zero fatigue but it requires an air compressor and ability to rig something up yourself or $$$$ to buy a set up. I figure I can do about 4 hours at a time in front of this machine, so about 5 sittings in front of this press. Should be able to nock it out in 4 or 5 days (less if your young). Hydrologics works even better but is a lot more money.

    1a. start with cleaned 22lr brass, use RCBS case lube to derim then rise clean, rotary tumbler works best with stainless steel pins. Let clean brass jackets dry.

    2. custom 11 cavity mold that drops cores at around 58 grains. In a two day weekend casting session one could easily cast ???????? 50-100 lbs of lead in this mold, 100 lbs of lead would be roughly 12,000 cores. Average weight variance should be able to maintain +/- 1.5 grains, possibly better, one shouldn't worry too much about exact core weights if they want to make a LOT of bullets in less time, we all know the 22lr brass can vary +/- a grain.

    3. Skip the core bleed! Skip cleaning the cores. Skip annealing. Skip the cleaning and drying required after annealing! (Skipping these steps will cut out a LOT of time) Go straight to seating the core in the jacket. You should easily be able seat 600 cores an hour, that is only 10 per minute or one every six seconds So just like deriming figure atleast 5 four hour sessions to seat 12,000 cores

    4. Form point of bullet. Again I use 600 strokes of the press per hour as an average so another 5 four hour seasons. This step should and will go even faster as you don't have to seat a core in the jacket, simply grab the jacket with seated core and push into die, done! When done with all bullets grab beach towel and pore a good number of jackets on to it, grab like a hammock and tumble bullets back and forth a few times to clean off excess lube. You are good to go!
    Last edited by BT Sniper; 08-17-2022 at 02:22 AM.
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BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
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GC Gas Check