Ammo Reloading/Casting Thread

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by bunnspecial, Apr 27, 2015.

  1. bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #1
    We've had a few discussions that have strayed into reloading topics, and I know there are a few reloaders on here.

    Rather than continuing to side-track threads, I thought it might be interesting and productive to consolidate discussion into one thread on the subject.

    IN THE INTERESTED OF WHERE THIS IS POSTED, I DON'T INTEND THIS TO BE A PRSI-WORTHY THREAD OR A THREAD IN ANY WAY TO THE RKBA. Instead, I'm just looking for some fun discussion on techniques, "recipes" and other things related to a hobby(yes a hobby) that apparently more than one of us on here engage in. Our reasons are varied, but economy and custom-tailoring loads to our guns(usually for target use) rate high.

    So, just as a conversation starter-

    1. What calibers do you load

    2. What sort of equipment do you use(both brand and the all-important single stage vs. progressive discussion

    3. Do you cast?

    4. Any other interesting tidbits.

    5. And, finally, the contentious one-what is your favorite powder or powders?
    And, to start things off:

    In metallic cartridges, I reload reload the full range of straight wall 32 caliber cases revolver cases(although primarily 32 S&W Long and 327 Fed. Magnum), 32-20, 38 Special, 38 Super, 357 Magnum, 44 Special/Magnum, and 45 Colt.

    I also reload 16 gauge shot shells, although primarily just to throw the occasional buckshot load(not commercially available). I don't shoot my shotgun that much, and if I watch for sale prices can usually buy economy birdshot cheaper than I can reload it.

    I started out as a Lee man, but have upgraded my press and several other key components to RCBS. Most of my dies are Lee, and I also swear by my Lee Auto Disk powder measure. I use a Lee hand priming tool. I have a smattering of other brands, including a Lyman case trimmer, a couple of sets of Redding dies, and a handful of Hornady shell plates. I'm a big fan of MTM Caseguard for plasticwear like loading trays and primer flippers. My ultrasonic cleaner and tumbler are Harbor Freight specials, although Lyman sells an ultrasonic cleaner that is identical to the one I have, and RCBS sells an identical tumbler.

    I don't cast-that's going to be my next big adventure. With that said, I'm a big fan of swaged lead bullets in certain applications, which of course I can't make at home.

    As for powders-the last two years of powder shortage have made me experiment a LOT including some new to the market powders and I have probably 30 different powders on hand. I've tried powders from most of the major brands(Alliant, Hodgdon/Winchester/IMR, Vihtavouhri, Accurate Arms). At the end of the day, though, I keep coming back to the "holy trinity" of Bullseye, Unique, and 2400. I like Unique enough that it's the only powder I've ever bought in an 8lb keg(although I'm buying the next one of Bullseye I see). I have been using Win 296 in preference to 2400 some, as I was running low on 2400 for a while(I've managed to replenish here and there) but could get 296. It's always fun at an indoor range for the "Boom" and fireball that it makes.

    I've come to really like IMR PB in 45 Colt for its low burn temperature(keeps a single action-which requires a lot of handling during reloading-from getting too hot), although Hodgdon has put it on the chopping block. I bought a case of it(10 14oz. cans) for that reason.

    Blue Dot has become my go-to for 38 Super, although it makes Unique look clean :) . I recently picked up a pound of Power Pistol that I'm going to try. Hodgon advertises CFE Pistol(which I have two or three pounds of) as being "great for 38 Super" right on the bottle, but load data is limited :rolleyes:
     
  2. prostuff1 macrumors 65816

    prostuff1

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    #2
    Mostly 9mm, some 38 special, 40 s&w, 45, and 10mm.

    Lee Loadmaster progressive press. I also have a Lee single stage I use for my test rounds. When i do new powder combos I load 50 rounds in the single stage to test with first. I also do my conceal carry loads in the single stage since I want absolute consistency with those.

    I do not at this time. I have thought about it but I would need a little more space if I wanted to start casting.

    Not really, though I do deprime on the single stage and hand prime everything. It's not that I don't trust the Lee progressive press to do it, I just like to feel the primer as I press it into place with the hand priming tool.
    I use a tumbler from Harbor Freight along with a 80/20 mixture of ground walnut shells and corncob.
    My Dies are almost all Lee with a few random ones thrown in. I don'e seat and crimp at the same time, always crimp separately.
    I have a trim mate that gets used for all my conceal carry loads.

    I usually go between a couple powders. I usually stay with Bullseye for most of my handgun stuff, but also like Unique, w231.
     
  3. bunnspecial thread starter macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #3
    I'm getting ready to load up some Wadcutters for my(new to me) Smith and Wesson Model 52. This is one of the few semi-auto handguns chambered in 38 special, and can only shoot flush-seated wadcutters at "target" velocities.
     

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  4. prostuff1 macrumors 65816

    prostuff1

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    #4
    Nice, I will have to get a picture of my little work area that I reload in.
     
  5. bunnspecial thread starter macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #5
    My workbench isn't much, but gets the job done.

    My shotgun press is similarly mounted on a 2x4-just like the RCBS. When I want to reload shot shells, I just loosen the C-clamps holding down the RCBS press and replace it with the shotshell press.

    My shotshell press is a Lee Load-All. Fortunately, these are made in 16 gauge, although they are a bit hard to find. It's not as nice as a Mec, but then considering how few shotgun shells I load it works just fine.

    Here's a bag of 100 Wadcutters-freshly loaded over 2.8gr of Bullseye. They are all gone now :)
     

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  6. bunnspecial thread starter macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #6
    I (figuratively) bit the bullet today and bought one of these

    http://www.lymanproducts.com/lyman/bullet-casting/Big-Dipper-kit.php

    It's a pretty basic kit, but none the less should get me going. The price($80) was attractive enough considering that the furnace alone is around $45, the book around $20, the ingot mold the same, and the dipper about $15.

    Cabelas had a pretty limited selection of molds, but I did pick up a two cavity Lee 200gr .450 mold. I'll probably end up ordering some others. I have a friend who-for the most part-won't have anything to do with Lee products but loves their Aluminum molds, so I bought it on his suggestion. I occasionally load black powder in 45 Colt(it's always a ton of fun at the outdoor range, with the big white cloud of smoke and surprisingly stout recoil). Hopefully, I can pick up some pure lead and can get good performance out of the .450 bullets over black powder if I paper-patch them. They'll get pan-lubed with my own concoction of Beeswax and Crisco(black powder and petroleum lubes don't mix well) and I'll see what happens.

    I also called a local tire shop today who told me that they sell used wheel weights for $100 per 5 gallon bucket(at 130-150lb per bucket, that's well below the current going rate for lead). The shop has a good reputation in this area and the owner insisted that he only uses lead, so I'll pay them a visit and stock up. It's a shame that Linotype is mostly a thing of the past, as newspapers use to also be a good source of lead(and Linotype alloy has a great reputation as a bullet material), but that time has long passed. I have a standing offer from a friend to come and dig out the back of his sink hole where he's been shooting for 50 years, so may also take him up on that.

    This should be another fun adventure to get started on. I'm going to keep my eyes open for old molds at the next gun show-as long as they're kept correctly they never wear out.
     
  7. bunnspecial thread starter macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #7
    Well, I dug in today. I first visited the tire shop and picked up my 6-gallon bucket with 150lbs of wheel weights in it. While I was out, I stopped by the dollar store and picked up a tub of beeswax(for flux) and some cheap stainless steel spoons.

    For one thing, I didn't appreciate how much "crap" is in wheel weights. It takes a fair number of them to get a pot full of lead. Fortunately, the clips are light enough that just float up to the top, but 10lbs of lead(my furnace capacity) will come with a LOT of clips. I probably had a pile of 20-30 of them. There were also some "mystery metal" weights that were dense enough to want to sink in the molten lead but didn't melt.

    Once all of those were out, I had to deal with getting the dross-i.e. dirt and other crud-out of the metal. This is where the beeswax comes in, as apparently a lot of the dross is tin oxides. Tin is desireable in a casting alloy, so the hot beeswax serves as a reducing agent to reduce these back to their metalic form. I got a little bit of a shock when I added the wax and it caught on fire, but apparently this is actually a desirable situation. I then skimmed what-I now know-was probably too much dross. I did save it, so will try remelting it.

    It took me a while to get the metal prepped, by which point I was tired and ready for dinner(I probably spent 3 hours working on it). I was advised a long time ago that an ingot mold was a necessity, and I thought at first I could get away without it. Fortunately, the kit I bought contained one. My initial bullet casting attempts left a LOT to be desired, so I ended up just tossing them back in the pot and cleaning up by casting ingots. They're ugly( a good sign that my casting technique needs work) but at least serve their purpose well. At least now I have a bunch of nice, shiny clean ingots that should be more-or-less ready to go when I make my next attempt-hopefully tomorrow.

    I expected casting to have a pretty steep learning curve, and was not disappointed. Now I just need to get enough ingots cast out of my wheel weight bucket so that it's easier to move around :) .
     
  8. bunnspecial thread starter macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #8
    I'm still in the learning curve on casting, but think that I'm at least making some progress.

    I ended up remelting all the bullets I cast tonight(about 25), but am getting closer to getting good results.

    I've also found that sorting wheel weights makes things a LOT easier.

    For one thing, non-lead wheel weights are generally marked as such. I actually found a rather sizable number of steel(or iron) weights in the bucket-these are marked F or Fe. Fortunately, throwing them in the melting pot doesn't hurt anything, but just leaves you with something(often a very sizable chunk) to have to fish out, although vigorous stirring of the molten lead will bring them to the top to make the job easier. I found these as both stick-on and clip on weights.

    Also worth watching for are Lead-Zinc alloy weights. I found that these were marked P-Zn or Pb-Zn. These have a melting point similar to pure lead(or the common Pb-Sb and Pb-Sn alloys). The zinc "poisons" the alloy for bullet casting, and makes it difficult to get a proper cast-or at least from the metallurgical articles I've read on the subject.

    Another thing of note were the weights with some the wheel weights with a polymer coating on them. These came in steel, steel-zinc, and lead-zinc, and pure lead. The pure lead ones were fine-the polymer burned and peeled off as dross that can be skimmed off the top.

    I have a feeling that my fill-out problem might be related to too little tin and/or antimony. I did use a lot of stick-on lead weights, which are almost pure lead and can cause the "ripples" I was getting. I wish I had ready access to XRF so that I could check the alloy composition.

    I may try throwing some solder in tomorrow. Regular electric solder(that, fortunately, we can still get in the USA) is 60% tin(balance lead). Plumbers solder is usually about 95% tin and 5% antimony, so it might end up being a more economical way to add some of both metals. Of course, I also have an ancient 40lb spool of 40:60 lead:tin that would be a cheap way to get some more tin in the mix. 5% tin or 1-2% antimony is really all that's needed. Assuming that I already have some of both in my alloy, it wouldn't take too much solder to bring up the tin concentration.

    Of course, the ideal thing would be to find some old Linotype alloy. It's been a favorite for years, but(IMO) gives bullets that are way too had when used straight. It's high in tin and antimony, though, which makes it ideal for blending. Unfortunately, with Linotypes now being effectively extinct(except for a few small independent print shops keeping them alive) Linotype alloy is no longer easy to find nor is it inexpensive.
     
  9. bunnspecial thread starter macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #9
    Casting has become surprisingly time consuming, but it's quite fun in that I don't really even realize how much time I'm spending over the lead pot.

    I visited a reloading store that I try to visit every 2-3 months last week, and quite literally was in heaven when I walked in and saw a shelf with virtually every mold that Lee makes.

    I picked up three-a 125gr .356 round nose mold for 38 Super, a 250gr .452 SWC mold for 45 Colt, and a 158gr .358 RNFP 6-cavity monstrosity for 38 Special/357 Magnum.

    The 6 cavity is the only mold of the bunch that I've used so far. Like all new molds, it took a fair bit of preparation. I've read all the stories about using matches, candles, lighters, and the like for "smoking" molds(putting a graphite deposit on them). I've not had a lot of luck getting a good soot coating using any of these methods. So, after lubricating the new 6-cavity, I hauled out a kerosene lamp. With the chimney removed and the wick turned up sort of high, it makes a huge amount of soot in just a few seconds and puts a nice coating on the mold. It's also very convenient. I've started smoking the mold every time I start a casting session, and then again every time I pause to add more lead to the pot.

    The 6 cavity mold brought a fairly steep learning curve with it. I don't have a bottom pour pot, so pour from a lead ladle. Even though the ladle holds more than enough to fill all 6 cavities, I've found that I can't pour all 6 with one fill of the ladle as the lead cools down too much. Instead, I pour two at a time. I also incline the mold slightly downward and fill going uphill to avoid inadvertently having lead "drip" into a cavity before I do a complete pour in it(a sure way to get a "wrinkled" bullet). I need to keep the pot a bit hotter than I do with a two cavity mold.

    All said and done, I do get defect bullets fairly often with the mold(usually an incomplete pour) while I almost never get them with a warmed-up 2 cavity, but the much greater production rate of the 6 cavity makes up for the occasional reject.

    The other issue is that it drains my 10lb pot VERY quickly. It's actually not so much the bullets themselves, but rather than with pouring two at a time I tend to end up with a sprue that weighs 2-3 oz. I've found that to keep things going reasonably, I need to toss the sprues back in after three or four pours. Putting them back in while they are still relatively warm keeps things moving along, and avoids the "plastic" phase(for the most part) that happens when adding a lot of cold lead at one time. I've managed to crank out about 300 bullets so far from this mold. That's not a whole lot, but is at least a decent start.

    Also, in line with the above, I devoted 3 hours this afternoon to cleaning up lead and casting ingots. I didn't cast a single bullet today, but having the ingots ready will make casting with the 6 cavity pot much easier in the future.
    I managed to melt down about 40lbs of lead out of the wheel weight bucket, which turned into about 37lbs with the clips and other "crap" skimmed off. I also culled a lot of steel and zinc from the bucket. That was a lot of work now, but when in a "casting mood" I have a bunch of clean lead ready to go. Initially melting the weights is the nastiest part of the job. Many now are polymer coated, which gives off a horrendous smell when melted. There's also a lot of road "crap" that comes off. All of these combine to make the whole process very stinky. I had been working at the front of the garage with the door open and a fan going, but have been banned from doing this initial step there as it still gets terrible smells in the house. I worked outside this afternoon-just outside the garage door, but with the door closed. The cleaned up lead doesn't have much smell when melted, so I should be able to move back under the cover of the(open) garage for my next session.
     
  10. bunnspecial thread starter macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #10
    I loaded some more Wadcutters last night-mostly to get the rest of the Bullseye out of my powder measure.

    Tonight's project is going to be loading some "real" 357 Magnums. I normally shoot a mild 357 load(usually 6.7gr Unique/158gr SWC) but also keep some hotter stuff on hand. The "barn burners" (or at least the ones that stand a chance of catching a target on fire if it's too close) are 22gr of w296 under a 125gr of some sort, but I do have a load I put together that's sort of "in between."

    Generally, I use 14.5gr of 2400 under a 158gr lead SWC. This gives a little under 357 max pressures, but also gives decent velocity. I'm nearly out of these, so want to put together some more. I just need to rummage through my unsorted brass and come up with 100 pieces or so of 357, which shouldn't be a big deal but will take a little while.

    Now that I have a fully functional S&W Model 19 again, I'm also tempted to try "Elmers Load." A local bullet caster makes a 170gr Keith type bullet. It's a true Keith bullet, too, not the "sort of Keith bullets" that a lot of places sell-it has the distinctive three evenly spaced, square driving bands, a flat base, a 70% diameter meplat, and a double radius ogive. To shoot these bullets in an S&W Model 27/28(and other popular 357s like the various Colts) in a 357 case, they have to be crimped over the front driving band. The longer cylinder of the Model 19 allows them to be crimped between the first and second driving band, as one would a "normal" SWC. Depending on one's preference, this can either mean more powder(thus more velocity) or reduced pressures with the same load. Despite using "Elmer's load" I was getting serious overpressure signs(cratered primers) with the bullets crimped over the front band. Thus, I think I'll keep the load the same and just extend the OAL.

    IMG_1674.JPG

    In any case, I'm set up and ready to go-I just need 100 or so 357 cases.

    BTW, I love buying estate powders. The can of 2400 cost me $5, and is over half full-compare that to $25 for a new one(if you can find it).
     

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