Turning lead into bullets - Part 2
by B.B. Pelletier
Reclaiming lead from used pellets
Before we begin today, I want to alert you to a HUGE price drop on the RWS model 52 sidelever. If you've ever contemplated buying one of these, now might be a good time! The Striker Combo is an especially good deal at this time.
We began this report on casting bullets yesterday. Today, I'll finish and show the results.
When the metal is ready, the cast iron bullet mold must be brought up to temperature. I start by sticking a corner of the mold into the molten metal for a minute, then I begin casting. It takes about 15 bullets before the mold is warm enough to cast a perfect bullet. From that point on, casting goes on continuously for as long as I care to work, or until the metal runs out.
The furnace I use has a spout on the bottom from which molten lead will pour when a valve is opened. With many molds, you can hold the mold up to the spout and fill it perfectly with little wastage. However, with the particular mold I'm using today--a 370-grain .439 caliber bullet for the .43 Spanish rifle cartridge--I have to pour the lead in from a distance. So, the mold is held below the spout about a half-inch, and the lead is allowed to pour in until it puddles on top of the sprue plate. Every mold will be unique in this respect, though I often encounter this characteristic.
Though I want to move through the steps rapidly, the newly cast bullet is still hundreds of degrees and cannot be touched. I have to do things to avoid touching it. When the metal has hardened in the mold, which takes 5-10 seconds per cast, I cut off the sprue by striking the sprue plate with a plastic hammer. Then, I open the mold and strike the handle joint with a plastic hammer to dislodge the new bullet.
Once perfect bullets start coming, the rhythm of casting allows for 3-4 bullets a minute. After that, I stir the pot every 5 minutes and flux with more beeswax every 15 minutes throughout the casting session. If I'm motivated, it's possible to cast several hundred perfect bullets this way in a couple of hours.
I always put the mold away with a bullet in it. That way, the inside of the mold will never rust.
Inspect every bullet ruthlessly. They should be as close to perfect as you can make them. Look for voids in the base of the bullet and also look for driving bands that are not filled out perfectly.
This is the one thing I can't teach, because every cast bullet will have imperfections, if you look hard enough. An anal person is going to reject most of the lot, while the slacker will wind up shooting fishing sinkers.
As for me, after I am finished with my rejections, the bullets you have seen me cast here will shoot into a 1.5-inch group at 100 yards when I shoot off a rest with military open sights. That's all I am after. I rejected about 25 percent of the bullets seen here.
Because this process isn't easy to explain, Edith also filmed me casting. I'll write an article about casting bullets and include a narrated video that should explain things clearly. I'll try to get it out this month.