Reloading your own ammunition is an enjoyable hobby and a way to achieve the best accuracy from your firearm. It can also be a substantial cost saver over factory ammo, assuming you can find factory ammo! These savings allow you to do more shooting and the extra practice will pay off when that tough hunting shot happens.

Another hobby under the reloading umbrella is bullet casting. By making your own bullets, you further reduce your costs and can custom tailor unique hunting loads to your firearm. But before you jump into this hobby, you should know the limitations of using cast lead bullets.

First, there are potential health and environmental concerns. You’ll be working with lead alloys which melt around eight-hundred-degrees Fahrenheit. Handling lead and the vapors from melting the alloy can be harmful. When you are casting bullets, work in a well-ventilated area and be conscious of the temperatures of the molten alloy. When you are finished with the casting session, thoroughly wash your hands before handling food items.

A second limitation with cast lead bullets concerns the velocities at which the bullets can be driven. Reloaders using factory jacketed bullets routinely push their rifle reloads into the 2800 feet-per-second (fps) range and beyond. A cast lead bullet, even one made from a hard alloy, can only achieve maximum velocities in the range of 2000 fps before significant leading in the barrel begins. Once the lead starts building up, your accuracy will degrade.

Virtually all revolver and semi-automatic pistol calibers shoot ammunition with velocities under 2000 fps, so cast bullets work very well in these firearms, even for heavy hunting loads. You can shoot cast bullets in your rifle for practice or as small game hunting loads. If you hunt big game with cast bullets, be aware of the reduced velocity compared to factory loads.

The last consideration is the cost of getting set up to cast bullets. While you can melt the alloy in a pot on the kitchen stove, a much better method involves the use of an electric lead furnace specifically designed for bullet casting. Then you need the bullet mould itself, in the specific caliber and bullet design you intend to use. Next are the mould handles, the mallet to bump the sprue plate open, the bullet sizing press, the bullet lubricant, the specific diameter bullet sizing die and top punch, the alloy fluxing chemicals and ladle stirrer, the ingot mould, a lead alloy thermometer, and a bullet hardness tester.

Just getting set up to cast one style bullet in one caliber using the listed equipment can set you back $400 or more. Once you have the furnace, bullet sizing press, and bullet mould, the rest of the items are relatively inexpensive. If you shoot often, as with your ammunition reloading equipment, the bullet casting equipment will pay for itself over time.

Now that you’re equipped, what type of lead material should you use? That depends on what type of bullet you are casting and what you plan to shoot it in.

If you’re casting round balls for a muzzleloading rifle, use pure lead. Bullets intended for a magnum revolver or a blackpowder rifle can be cast from salvaged lead wheel weights. Lead alloys used in bullet making contain only three main materials – lead, tin, and antimony. To make a soft alloy, use more lead and less of the other two. To harden the bullet, a higher percentage of tin and antimony is required.

If you scrounge, you can secure scrap materials to further reduce your costs. If you wash the salvaged materials to remove acids or dirt, make sure the pieces are bone dry before you put them in the lead furnace to melt.

I scrounged some lead plates out of an old battery once, washed them off and, without thinking, tossed them into a pot of molten lead alloy. The water vaporized immediately, and the expanding steam blew molten lead out as if I had tossed a firecracker into the pot. Luckily, I was not splashed.

If you cast a batch of bullets using an unknown alloy mix and they turn out to be the most accurate ever, how can you repeat the process? You can’t, exactly. Just assess the alloy’s hardness and make the next batch to that same specification.

If you’re seriously thinking of casting lead bullets, buy two books and read them cover-to-cover. Once you’ve digested RCBS’ Cast Bullet Manual and Lyman’s Cast Bullet Handbook, you will be knowledgeable enough to move forward into the hobby.

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