Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges: Part 7

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 2 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 3 Bore size versus performance
Part 4 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 5 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 6 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges

This report covers:

  • Bullets
  • Ton to the rescue
  • Sheathe the mold handles
  • Change gloves
  • Hotter lead pot temp for soft lead bullets
  • Better bullets
  • 38-grain bullets
  • Flashing
  • 25-grain bullets
  • Summary

Now that we know how to get positive ignition with a reloaded rimfire cartridge, it’s time to reload some more and get to testing.  In Part 6 we learned that both the primer powder that I bought commercially from Sharpshooter and the powder I removed from toy caps were successful to prime .22 rimfire cartridges, when used according to the directions that came from Sharpshooter. It’s time to move on and load more cartridges to test.

Bullets

If you recall, I was disappointed by the bullets I cast the first time around. The little mold I got from Sharpshooter is all-aluminum and also too small. The aluminum handles heat up so hot I cannot hold them, so I was casting from a relatively cold bullet mold last time. That’s never good. It was 300 to 400 degrees, which is too hot to hold and too cold to cast well.

On top of that I used up all the barely acceptable bullets when I reloaded the 28 unsuccessful cartridges. So I had to cast more bullets and they had to be better.

Ton to the rescue

Ton Jones was reading my report and called me over to AirForce. He gave me a pair of Ton Jones barbecue gloves to hold the hot handles of the bullet mold. What a great gift! Thank you, Ton!

Jones gloves
Ton Jones gave me a pair of his famous barbecue gloves to help me hold the small bullet mold.

Ton told me the amount of time and at what heat these gloves will work. They are effective for temperatures of up to 900 degrees F for 10 seconds, but at the estimated 400-degree heat of the mold handles they work for several minutes.

Sheathe the mold handles

Besides the gloves I decided to sheathe the mold handles with wood. My neighbor Denny had made a nice pair of wooden handle covers that I tried fastening with electrician’s tape last time. The tape melted from the heat, so it was ineffective, but these wood handles are now held to the mold handles by two bolts with nuts on each side. Some reader suggested to use epoxy, but there is no commercial epoxy including muffler cement that can withstand the intense heat for as long as it is needed.

mold handles
The wood handles Denny made are held on the aluminum mold handles with two bolts on each handle.

Using the wooden handles and the gloves I was able to get the mold up to a good casting temperature and cast enough bullets of both sizes for a really good test. The bolts that hold the wooden handles on do transmit the temperature, but the gloves allow me to hold the mold better. I hold the handles toward the rear where the bolts are not located, though I do come in contact with them. 

Change gloves

I found I only need one glove on my left hand, so the other one sits around until I need it. Every few minutes the glove I’m using gets too warm and I switch with the idle glove. This allows for an unlimited time of casting.

Hotter lead pot temp for soft lead bullets

I also discovered this time that I needed to set my Lyman lead furnace hotter because I was casting softer lead that has less tin. Pure lead flows at a higher temperature than lead alloyed with tin and antimony. There was some of each of those metals in the pot, but less than if I was casting bullets for a large caliber firearm pistol. As a note to myself I set the pot at 7.5 on the scale instead of the usual 6.5 for the harder alloys. And the bullets that came from the mold remained shiny, which indicates they were formed at a good casting temperature.

Better bullets

The worst of the bullets I retained from this casting session are better than the best bullets from the first cast. There are still some problems, but they look mold-related and are unlikely to improve.

38-grain bullets

Here are some of the 40 or so 38-grain round-nose bullets that I kept after inspection.

38-grain
The 38-grain round-nosed bullets cast cleaner this time.

38-grain flashing
Some 38-grain bullets had flashing that has to be removed before they can be used.

Flashing

The flashing occurs because the mold halves don’t come together tightly and the sprue plate doesn’t fit the top of the mold tightly. That is a function of the mold. A better mold would not have those problems, but the bullets I get from this mold are suitable for the current project. If I was going to cast thousands of bullets it would be worth spending the money on a better custom mold.

25-grain bullets

The first time I cast bullets the smaller pointed 25-grain bullets fell easily from the mold and the longer 38-grain bullets were harder to get out. This time that was reversed. I believe the hotter mold was the principal reason for this.

I did get about the same number of keeper bullets in the smaller size this time. But some of them also had some flashing on them. I will clean that off before loading the bullets, but I plan to use all of the keepers, or as many as possible.

25-grain flashing
Most of the 25-grain bullets have a little flashing on their base, but these two were the worst.

25-graion tweezers
The 25-grain bullets came from the mold cleaner than the 38-grain bullets. One of them is held in the cross-locking reverse tweezers I mentioned recently.

Summary

This casting session went better because I was better prepared for it. I am also better prepared to load the next set of cartridges for testing because of the experience I have gained from recent testing The next test will be the velocity of both types of bullets with smokeless powder and with Pyrodex, using both kinds of priming compound.

After that I will shoot the cartridges for accuracy, but I’m looking to pare down all the test variables, to keep this testing manageable. I think I will wait to see the results of the velocity test before I load for the accuracy test.