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Thread: Swaging lead slugs with grease grooves

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Swaging lead slugs with grease grooves

    I'm interested in swaging a 200 gr lead pill in .44 caliber with grease grooves. I realize this can be readily cast in a mold (which I already do), but Iím primarily interested in very consistent weight from one to the next, and the ability to duplicate diameter in a variety of lead hardnesses.

    I have a machine shop at my disposal and have built swaging dies for paper patched 45-70 boolits, and I own a 7 ton mechanical screw press, along with a 50 ton hydraulic arbor press. I also have a copy of Corbinís #6 handbook but the only bullet examples Iíve seen are slick-sided, whether lead or jacketed.

    It occurred to me that a good way to create the grooves might be to roll them onto a finished slick, similar to a cannelure but wider and deeper. I can easily turn the form rolls on a lathe, which could create both crimp and lube grooves.

    Alternatively, I suppose a finished cavity could be made, but ejection becomes a problem and Iíd have to create a way to pull the undercut areas, similar to what is done on plastic injection molds.

    I donít want to reinvent the wheel, so Iíd ask if anyone has swaged a lead slug with grooves in a different manner, or am I generally on the right track?

  2. #2
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    Herters used to make a die for swaging bullets with a grease groove and crimp groove. The actual forming part of the die is in two pieces, split down the long length. Visualize two halves of a mold that come together, and are held in place by an outer cylinder. When the top punch pushed the two halves out of the outside cylinder (die body), they split apart and dropped the completed bullet from the two halves.

    I have a set of these for .38 HBWC bullets, but have never really attempted to use them, as I have more projects than time.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
    After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. - William S. Burroughs.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by ReloaderFred View Post
    Herters used to make a die for swaging bullets with a grease groove and crimp groove. The actual forming part of the die is in two pieces, split down the long length. Visualize two halves of a mold that come together, and are held in place by an outer cylinder. When the top punch pushed the two halves out of the outside cylinder (die body), they split apart and dropped the completed bullet from the two halves.

    I have a set of these for .38 HBWC bullets, but have never really attempted to use them, as I have more projects than time.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
    Hi Fred,

    That makes sense - it’s basically what I was describing in the injection mold analogy. Once an undercut is formed, something has to move to release the trapped features. Molds usually have mechanically driven slides that move out of the way during ejection. This would be a logical solution but I wonder about efficiency since it would be a hand loaded setup.

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    Like I said, I haven't used this die set, but in looking at it, you'd pretty much have to have uniform cores. In this case, I'd say 148 gr. cores, but that's just a guess, since that's what we shot in PPC matches back in the 70's, when the HBWC was in its heyday, so to speak.

    I do have a Corbin CSP-1 press that probably has enough mechanical advantage to form pure lead cores into HBWC bullets. I also have a Corbin .38 HBWC die, but with that one I use bullets of the right weight and just mash them into HBWC bullets, after they've been lubed, since the die would normally remove the lube groove. With lube already in the groove, the lube pretty much stays in place, so I end up with a "usable" HBWC for short range work. I no longer shoot handguns at 50 yards to much effect anymore, since my eyes aren't as good as they once were. Age has caught up with me, but I still like to tinker and "make things".

    Fred
    After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. - William S. Burroughs.

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy
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    Greetings,

    I recently started "bumping" 45 ACP bullets in my swage press.

    First, I cast them with 20:1 alloy.

    Second, I size and grease them in the Star with LBT Blue Soft.

    Last, they get bumped to final size and shape.

    The LBT lube is stiff enough that it does not weep out of the dies.

    Results have been promising. Kart NM7791414 barrel group fired at 50 yards.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by fc60 View Post
    Greetings,

    I recently started "bumping" 45 ACP bullets in my swage press.

    First, I cast them with 20:1 alloy.

    Second, I size and grease them in the Star with LBT Blue Soft.

    Last, they get bumped to final size and shape.

    The LBT lube is stiff enough that it does not weep out of the dies.

    Results have been promising. Kart NM7791414 barrel group fired at 50 yards.

    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	305116
    I've been reforming cast bullets in swaging dies for quite some time. As long as they're lubed first, the lube will pretty much stay in place and hold the lube groove open and the bullet remains lubed, even in the new configuration. Even wrinkled bullets can be made usable in this manner, and it's surprising how close they come to the same weight as non-wrinkled bullets do, as long as they're pretty well filled out.

    I have several SWCHP nose punches that work well for this. Making a RN bullet into a SWCHP bullet in one pass, and sometimes adding a gascheck at the same time, gives me a bullet with better terminal results. As long as the alloy isn't too hard, they swage into new shapes pretty easily.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
    After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. - William S. Burroughs.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Hi Fred,

    Am I correct in understanding you are giving the lubed cast bullets a squeeze in a smooth die to consolidate the lead? It makes sense to me that the lube would act like a hydraulic liquid and prevent total collapse of the groove, plus it also saves having to make a grooved die and having to break it at the parting line to release the trapped features. That method would be much easier to do.

    BTW, I am interested in a softer bullet, likely with a gas check at some point - so I can push around 1400-1500 fps and still get good expansion. I also want to reform some pure lead bullets for use with black powder. I have swaged smooth sided 45-70 bullets for paper patching but never anything that needed grease.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Sasquatch-1's Avatar
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    I too have reshaped bullets using a Dave Corbin "S" Press and dies. When doing this I am using range scrap lead which is fairly hard. As of this time it has only cost me $110.00 to replace a die body, so be careful using this method.

    When doing this I also lube first and most of the lube remains in the groves. The hardness of the lead does not allow for a reduction in weight.

    Most of the time now I reform without lube and PC when done. With my .44's this eliminates leading.
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  9. #9
    Boolit Master Sasquatch-1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ReloaderFred View Post
    Herters used to make a die for swaging bullets with a grease groove and crimp groove. The actual forming part of the die is in two pieces, split down the long length. Visualize two halves of a mold that come together, and are held in place by an outer cylinder. When the top punch pushed the two halves out of the outside cylinder (die body), they split apart and dropped the completed bullet from the two halves.

    I have a set of these for .38 HBWC bullets, but have never really attempted to use them, as I have more projects than time.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
    Having broken a die in the past from too much pressure I can't figure out how this die stays together. Does the main body of the die fit inside a jacket of some sort to prevent the halves from spreading?
    A vote for anyone other then the conservative candidates is a vote for the liberal candidates.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by HWooldridge View Post
    Hi Fred,

    Am I correct in understanding you are giving the lubed cast bullets a squeeze in a smooth die to consolidate the lead? It makes sense to me that the lube would act like a hydraulic liquid and prevent total collapse of the groove, plus it also saves having to make a grooved die and having to break it at the parting line to release the trapped features. That method would be much easier to do.

    BTW, I am interested in a softer bullet, likely with a gas check at some point - so I can push around 1400-1500 fps and still get good expansion. I also want to reform some pure lead bullets for use with black powder. I have swaged smooth sided 45-70 bullets for paper patching but never anything that needed grease.
    That's correct. I take an already sized and lubed bullet and run it into a regular smooth sided swaging die, which is actually designed for making jacketed bullets, hence no lube grooves.

    When I'm adding a gas check to an already sized and lubed bullet, I use "plain base" checks that I've made myself for this. The gas check is designed to go over the plain base of the bullet and is swaged on when run through the swaging die. It also works with plain based bullets when run through a regular sizing die, but in this case I'm swaging the bullets into another shape, and I just add the gas check so I can drive them a little faster.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
    After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. - William S. Burroughs.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sasquatch-1 View Post
    Having broken a die in the past from too much pressure I can't figure out how this die stays together. Does the main body of the die fit inside a jacket of some sort to prevent the halves from spreading?
    The actual swaging part of the die is in two parts, split down the middle. Visualize cupping your two hands together, finger tips to finger tips, like in praying. The actual bullet would be formed inside the two halves (your hands, in this case). The exterior die body is the threaded portion of the assembly, and the two parts that actually form the bullet slide up into the exterior die body. When the two piece portion of the die is pushed back out the bottom of the die body, it splits apart on the long axis and the formed bullet can be removed.

    Like I mentioned previously, I haven't really tried this die to see if I can make it work, but that's the premise of the system.

    I've broken a nose forming punch in a Hollywood set of dies from too much pressure. I made a new one, but haven't had a chance to see if it's going to hold up, yet.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
    After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. - William S. Burroughs.

  12. #12
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    The few people Iíve heard from that actually tried those Herterís dies did not report a lot of success. There would be flashing between the halves, missing lead on the bands, or sometimes both. They might work after a lot of study and practice, but people who tried them generally gave up on them after a few horrible examples had been made. The rarity of those split dies is another indication of how successful they were. Iíve been to a zillion gun shows and go through all the loading dies looking for such oddities, and still have only seen them in pictures.

    Another George L. Herter invention that was, alas, ahead of itís time.

    If you have the facilities, a canneluring setup with rollers for your straight sided swaged bullets would be the best way to go if you want a decent output of usable bullets. Thatís the way the factories do it.

    Alternatively, you could use a knurling tool and put a light pattern on the entire side of the bullet. Somebody (forget name) offered slugs so made commercially, and lube sticks in the knurling even better than in cannelures or cast grease grooves.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by ReloaderFred View Post
    That's correct. I take an already sized and lubed bullet and run it into a regular smooth sided swaging die, which is actually designed for making jacketed bullets, hence no lube grooves.

    When I'm adding a gas check to an already sized and lubed bullet, I use "plain base" checks that I've made myself for this. The gas check is designed to go over the plain base of the bullet and is swaged on when run through the swaging die. It also works with plain based bullets when run through a regular sizing die, but in this case I'm swaging the bullets into another shape, and I just add the gas check so I can drive them a little faster.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
    That makes perfect sense to me - thank you for the information.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bent Ramrod View Post
    The few people I’ve heard from that actually tried those Herter’s dies did not report a lot of success. There would be flashing between the halves, missing lead on the bands, or sometimes both. They might work after a lot of study and practice, but people who tried them generally gave up on them after a few horrible examples had been made. The rarity of those split dies is another indication of how successful they were. I’ve been to a zillion gun shows and go through all the loading dies looking for such oddities, and still have only seen them in pictures.

    Another George L. Herter invention that was, alas, ahead of it’s time.

    If you have the facilities, a canneluring setup with rollers for your straight sided swaged bullets would be the best way to go if you want a decent output of usable bullets. That’s the way the factories do it.

    Alternatively, you could use a knurling tool and put a light pattern on the entire side of the bullet. Somebody (forget name) offered slugs so made commercially, and lube sticks in the knurling even better than in cannelures or cast grease grooves.
    I got to thinking that the commercial bullet factories of the late 1800's were probably rolling the grooves, since that would be quite fast. Alternatively, one could set up a pair of plate rolls, as are used to make threads on common fasteners. The bullets can "walk" down a track and be rolled as they advance into the dies. That would be continuous and no ejection is required.

    It would be cool to find some pictures of the old equipment and tooling used by UMC and Winchester to make the old 45-70 and 44-40 grease bullets from about 1870 to the turn of the century.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bent Ramrod View Post

    Alternatively, you could use a knurling tool and put a light pattern on the entire side of the bullet. Somebody (forget name) offered slugs so made commercially, and lube sticks in the knurling even better than in cannelures or cast grease grooves.
    It was Hornady who made the knurled HBWC bullets. They used a dry lube, or covered the bullets in a fine powder after lubing.

    I bought the Herter's die as a novelty, not to really hope for good bullets. That's probably why I haven't found the time, or inclination, to really experiment with them. I just have too many hobbies and not enough time. Anyone who tells you retirement means the "leisure years" doesn't have an active mind, or innate curiosity.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
    After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. - William S. Burroughs.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master Sasquatch-1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ReloaderFred View Post
    The actual swaging part of the die is in two parts, split down the middle. Visualize cupping your two hands together, finger tips to finger tips, like in praying. The actual bullet would be formed inside the two halves (your hands, in this case). The exterior die body is the threaded portion of the assembly, and the two parts that actually form the bullet slide up into the exterior die body. When the two piece portion of the die is pushed back out the bottom of the die body, it splits apart on the long axis and the formed bullet can be removed.

    Like I mentioned previously, I haven't really tried this die to see if I can make it work, but that's the premise of the system.

    I've broken a nose forming punch in a Hollywood set of dies from too much pressure. I made a new one, but haven't had a chance to see if it's going to hold up, yet.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
    OK, It's a 3 piece die where two halve push into a tube that is screwed into a press. Bent Ramrod mentions the problem I thought would be inherent with these dies which is flashing.
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  17. #17
    Boolit Master Sasquatch-1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bent Ramrod View Post
    Alternatively, you could use a knurling tool and put a light pattern on the entire side of the bullet. Somebody (forget name) offered slugs so made commercially, and lube sticks in the knurling even better than in cannelures or cast grease grooves.

    C-H4d made a knurling wheel for their cannelure tool. It replaced the cannelure wheel on the tool.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sasquatch-1 View Post
    OK, It's a 3 piece die where two halve push into a tube that is screwed into a press. Bent Ramrod mentions the problem I thought would be inherent with these dies which is flashing.
    That's correct. Maybe sometime this winter I'll get them out and see if I can make something usable with them.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
    After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. - William S. Burroughs.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    There are a lot of ways to skin the cat, but the process has to be efficient and fast. One concept I thought of is a rotary table with a set of cams at one station that drives two slides inward to create the grooves. This method would also allow fairly fast changeover to different calibers. Drop the bullet in station one, index to the cam station, withdraw the cams then rotate to ejection, which could be just a hole under the holder so the bullet falls thru into a collection container. The slides could be mechanically driven or possibly by air cylinder. The hardest part of this setup would be getting the contact points correct for the grooves on the slides. Good machining is required; a small plunge EDM would also be helpful once the electrodes are made.

    However, I suspect a simple three roller setup will be easier in the long run. The two lower rollers can be driven, with the groove roller advancing at a rate that won’t stall rotation. The major issues with this setup will be loading and unloading, but I think those can be overcome.

  20. #20
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    I'm just throwing this out there for someone to get further ideas. I use Corbins motorized cannelure tool and as fast as you can load them, they will cycle through the machine. The advantage is that the cannelure wheel is driving the bullet through an adjustable half-moon assembly.

    A different drive wheel with one or two grooves would be needed. The main issue would be driving the bullet around the half-moon. The depth of the grooves would also be a factor to how much force would be required which would relate to how much motor HP is required. The gear motor on the Corbin unit is a fractional/HP motor and may only be 60/rpm, I'd need to verify that. The only issue I can see is that the driving roller would just slip and not drive and roll the grooves into the bullet. The driving bands could be made to have serrations on the outer edge which would then grip the bullet driving it around the half-moon. The depth of the groove is another issue as to not distort the bullet.

    Just something else to think about.

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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