Is casting bullets worth it?

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offensivename
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Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by offensivename »

Right now I reload for pretty much everything I own but I use jacketed for everything with the exception of the Martini-Henry. Now I have a trapdoor that should be on its way at somepoint and I'd like to feed it lead. The range I go to also has a really nice silhouette range that I want to shoot at a bit more with some of my fun bolt action rifles and that requires cast lead bullets.

So my question is it cost effective to cast your own? I see the lyman basic kit out there for around $90 but I don't know much about the time involved or difficulty and that might factor into things as well.

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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by lurker »

i had the same question when i got into black powder. the molds for .58 and .54 caliber are cheap enough. for me it was too much trouble to round up the lead and do the setup in a spot where i'm (nor the people downwind) not breathing the vapors. if you shoot that kind of ammo a lot it makes sense. for me, no.

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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by Bisbee »

It certainly ups the skill-set for reloading. If you like a challenge, go for it. I cast from range lead that I melt down and set into brick molds them test for hardness of each brick. When casting one has to determining the hardness of the lead for the intended boolit (pure lead is usually too soft for anything but .38 special target loads).

Like I say, it’s a fun challenge.
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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by eelj »

I ran into a deal that I just couldn't pass up. Free wheel weight lead. Lots of it. I now shoot nothing but lead in all of my guns. Plus just like reloading in general one can make what one can't easily obtain. The only cost to me is when I cast for my rifles since the bullets all need gas checks, I never expanded my DIY hobby to include making my own gas checks.

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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by ncbluedot »

I started casting to expand my reloading skiddles. I found a local lead source, a guy who has access to nuclear medicine cases. The half life of the meds are very short and the vendor doesn't want them back so he melts them down for reloading. I've done four or five sessions cranking out mostly 9mm and 38 special boolits a thousand at a time. Is it worth it? 9mm is pretty cheap these days but I average a little under a nickel a round when I can find good deals on primers. 38 special and 357 are definitely worth it. That being said if your reloading already, Berry's cost a little more than casting them on your own but you don't have to scrounge for lead and spend a half a day over a pot of hot metal either.

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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by TheMule »

Yeah, I have a few boxes from Berry sitting unused - may need to go thru the resizing die once. All my reloading is done on a single stage and I often feel tempted to purchase a progressive or less so, a turret press.

I'm not sure if I would do the volume and how much perpetual tinkering it would involve to get it going. The primers landing backwards or the powder drop being consistent....may be some day!!

I still do a couple of rifle calibers but no handguns since the Newtown price gouge years.

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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by shinzen »

We were just having the turret press/progressive/what would you do now talk in the LGC discord channel. I do most of my loading on the Lee Turret, just one caliber on the Hornady LNL.
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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by Marlene »

I only cast what I can’t buy. For rifles, sometimes that’s a particular size or shape, but most often the thing I can’t buy is quality. Perfect bullets are necessary for perfect groups. Someone would go broke throwing as many back in the pot as I do.
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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by offensivename »

So, what with the 'rona and the difficulty in finding the exact cast bullets I need I'm still thinking about this. My question, especially for those with a bit of experience, is what equipment would you go with that wouldn't make you want to immediately upgrade after a few days of casting?

I've looked at the Lyman kit but I've gotten wary of kits since I almost always end up replacing just about everything.

I'd be most interested in a ladle setup since I'd mostly be interested in doing large rifle rounds.

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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by eelj »

There are 2 types of electric casting pots. dipping pots and bottom pour. I have an inexpensive Lee production dipping pot and I use a Lyman dipper

that allows me to pressure pour into the mold. If you research casting and decide you want a bottom pour I would advise you spend good money for

an RCBS unit. Avoid the Lee bottom pour. Lee molds are usually a good buy especially the 6 cavity molds. If you are going to make your own alloy

I would suggest getting a separate casting pot for just that and propane turkey fryers are great for the heat source. You will need a good thermometer for regulating the temperature of the melt.

You will need a lube sizer and sizing dies for the bullets, I have 2 RCBS LAMS and use either RCBS dies or Lyman. Theres a lot more to talk about

here but I'm depressed today and getting drunk, my brains a little bit mushy.

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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by Marlene »

Recently worked for the first time with the newer rcbs pot that has a pid temperature controller. It’s meant for ladle use and includes tech that serious target casters have been hand building the past couple decades. The better temp regulation makes good casting much easier. I run mine without an additional thermometer and I think a mechanical thermometer on this pot is an extra expenditure you don’t need to make, so there’s some offset to the higher price of the pot.

You’ll need a mold and the Lyman ladle (the best choice out there). You’ll need gloves and a mallet (a foot of broomstick is adequate). You’ll need a steel rod to stir with, preferably something you can also use to skim crud off the top of the melt. If you can’t find a stir rod that is also good for skimming, then skim with an old spoon or fork that you mangle in a way that makes it too ugly to find its way back on to a table. Some steel rods (threaded or not) are zinc coated, which is definitely no good for stirring the pot and will fuck up your castings and whole melt and pot real good.

Flux with sawdust or a blob of wax or bullet lube. DO NOT get fooled in to buying Marvelux to flux with. All it does is rust all of your gear.
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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by offensivename »

Thanks Marlene and eelj.

Marlene I know you don't size your bullets, have your run into any issues? I think we have a similar goal bullet wise. I'm targeting the big old black powder rifles that have larger bores so I'm guessing being a little oversize isn't the end of the world.

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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by Marlene »

A couple thousandths oversized in big bores is nbd, but also push-through sizers from Lee are cheap and work great. Pretty easy to lap one up a size with a hand drill and emery paper on a stick if needed. Lead is soft and BP pressure is low. If they load ok and shoot ok, then they’re great.
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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by Marlene »

Also, you can influence the size that bullets drop from a mold by changing the alloy around
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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by eelj »

Saw dust is great but sawdust from treated lumber is quite toxic. If you go to places like Menards or Home depot much of the sawdust has been

contaminated from treated lumber. Better to go to an actual lumber yard and ask them about what they have to offer.

Temperature is very key because the differing melting points involved. Lead melt is best somewhere depending on the alloy between 600- 675 deg.

Zinc melts and alloys with lead at 750 deg.

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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by Marlene »

Ah! Here’s a difference between what I do and what eelj does: the mostly lead with a little tin alloys I use work better at higher temperatures which makes zinc contamination more of an issue. Eelj uses alloys with antimony and a generally higher percentage of alloying elements, which flow well about a hundred degrees cooler.
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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by eelj »

Marlene wrote:
Sat Apr 04, 2020 11:49 am
Ah! Here’s a difference between what I do and what eelj does: the mostly lead with a little tin alloys I use work better at higher temperatures which makes zinc contamination more of an issue. Eelj uses alloys with antimony and a generally higher percentage of alloying elements, which flow well about a hundred degrees cooler.
Let me be clearer in my post. First off my lead alloy starts off as wheel weights, linotype and reclaimed range bullets. They then get melted

or smelted in a large cast iron dutch oven. In that there will be many unknowns that might be harmful to my alloy. I then pour that into ingot molds

for bullet casting. I cast bullets for everything I own, they range in size from 55gr 22 cal for my 222rem to 325 gr 45 cal. In between I do 243, 38s and 30 cal, I have molds by Accurate, NOE and Lee all aluminium. Each bullet pours best at varying temperatures and pouring methods. Once I have my alloy ready to pour into ingots I have 3 different ingot molds for that, they are of different shape and size so I can identify them at a glance. Each mold has almost it's own personality in what it needs for good fill out. I have never used a cast iron mold and can't afford a brass one.

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Re: Is casting bullets worth it?

Post by NuJudge »

Casting yourself is more worth it if you need a specialty product, are an excellent scrounger, and you are shooting a lot. For your Trapdoor in particular, you may need specialty bullets. There is significant variation in groove diameter for Trapdoors. If you simply consult the guidebooks and go with a .457" or .458" Lead bullet, it may be way too small for your barrel, giving you poor accuracy, tumbling bullets, and probably severe Leading.

Remember, you are dealing with a toxic metal. If you practice poor hygiene, your blood Lead levels will go way high. For males over 25, it is not that serious a problem, but for children or women of child bearing age it is huge. I've been casting and shooting Lead for 50+ years. The Doctors get concerned when your blood Lead is over about 5 on their scale. Mine is close to that, but my Doctor is not concerned. People in a gun club I belong to were careless, and ended up with blood Lead levels in the 30s, and their Doctors were quite upset. I believe the treatments to remove it are rather expensive.

The starter casting set-ups will simply not work. Molds heat up by you casting in them. Molds will be too cold at first, and produce bad bullets, until they warm up. The starter casting set-ups run out of liquid Lead before your mold gets hot enough to cast good bullets, and then you have to shut down until you have more liquid Lead, and by that time your mold will be cool. If you're casting .45-70 bullets, you need at least a 10, and maybe a 20 pound furnace. Casting .44 or .45 bullets with a 6-cavity mold, I get excellent quantities, but I draw down a 20 pound furnace awful quick, so I am typically casting from one while I am melting in the other.

It used to be easier to find scrap Lead, cheaply. One could also find an important alloying element, Tin, as cheap scrap also. Not any more.

My advice would be to try to find someone who casts around you, and ask if you can participate. Ask about getting your Trapdoor's barrel "slugged" so you can know what your groove diameter is, so you can get a mold in that diameter.

Some links:
http://www.lasc.us/Fryxell_Book_Contents.htm
http://castboolits.gunloads.com

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