View Full Version : Repros of original colt style brass bullet molds - .36 & .44
January 26, 2010, 04:26 PM
I'm going to be making a case for my Remy as well as my Colt 51 and 61 Navies. I'd like to get a repro brass mold to put in them and I see that EMF sells them for .31, .36 & .44. My question is - has anyone had any experience with these molds to know what size ball and conical they actually cast? Any experience with shooting the conicals they cast? I'm somewhat of a traditionlist and would like to use them to cast with as well - are they "cherried out" accurately or are they just something to put in the case to make it look "pretty". I'm not in to competition shooting so I'm not looking for all the controversy on what shoots best, etc. - just looking to find out if anyone has used them and if they are satisfied with the results and what the caast balls actually measure. Right not, I shoot all .36 and a .375 ball works just fine in the pistols I have. Many thanks for your input! :D bedbug
January 26, 2010, 05:01 PM
I have had no experience with the molds which are close replicas of the ones supplied with the revolvers.
A brass mold with brass handles (if that is what you are talking about) which are sometimes presented as historically accurate very quickly become extremely painful. Those handles heat up to about three hundred degrees in about four nanoseconds. You can use gloves but then your dexterity drops off.
I have learned that you can control the size of the ball to a minimal extent by controlling the amount of pressure you use as the ball solidifies. Squeeze it hard and the ball is smaller along one axis.
Also, you will find that Aluminum molds come up to temperature much more quickly than steel molds. I generally throw away the first 15 balls from a steel mold but only the first six from an aluminum mold. They also drop off in temperature more quickly. So constant rythm is far more important in aluminum molds. If you can get that rythm working for you, you can really cast some consistent balls. I made a set of handles with a spring gizmo that always applies the same pressure to the mold with each casting. I use it with my Lyman and Ideal steel molds and I get very good results. I have reduced the standard deviation in ball size in half. They are actually better than a box of Hornadys at least in their dimensional consistency.
I find that my ball sizes measured with a micrometer are always larger than the advertised size of the mold by about .002 on average. I don't know why that is. I was originally measuring them with a cheap digital vernier from Harbor Freight. I just figured it was off. So I started using an extremely good Starret Micrometer. Exactly the same results.
I also drop the hot balls from the mold into a cup of cold water with a soft cloth on the bottom. The water cools the ball, breaks the fall and the cloth cushions the ball rather than allowing it to hit the hard bottom of the cup.
I don't shoot anything but round balls so I have not experience in casting conicals or minies.
There are other members of the forum who are far more experienced than I am at making bullets.
January 26, 2010, 08:43 PM
Thanks Doc - appreciate the info! I've cast for years - to begin with the hollow base .58 minie when I was a kid - a steel Lyman mold. My first muzzleloader was a 1863 Remington Repro. - cost the grand sum of $65.00 which to a 12 year old kid seemed like a fortune. Lots of lawn mowing, etc. to pay for it. I wanted it so bad I could taste it. My Dad finally helped me get it as I was afraid the old gunsmith would sell it before I could get enough money around. After 45 years, I still have the rifle and the mold still turns out great minie balls. I used to shoot NSSA so a lot of rounds have popped out of it.
I've used both steel and aluminum blocks - as you say, the rythm is everything. Once you get that down, you can run a lot of balls in an afternoon. I've had good luck with the aluminum block molds. I had a steel double cavity mold one time for a custom built Hawkin that I made - both cavities were SUPPOSED to be the same - same cherry used to cut them, but the balls from the two cavities varied by .002 - the one that was over .002 was just enouh to cause problems with the combination of patching, lube, etc. I finally just used the one cavity as it was no big deal.
I've cast in a "bag mold" as well (old style steel that were usually used and made for the individuual rifle) that had to have the sprue cut off with the sprue cutter that was part of the mold. I always wear welder's gloves when I mold and my ladle has a wood handle so it isn't too bad.
I've always dropped my balls on to a clean piece of muslin layed on a blanket (that sounds kinda bad, doesn't it?). I never thought about the water like you're talking about so will give that a try. It sounds like it would be just the trick!
I'm sort of a non-comformist at times - I like doing things the "old way". I always looked on with amazement when I was shooting NSSA how some fellows got so carried away with exact grain measurement and weighing each minie ball, etc. It gets to the point sometimes of being ridiculous. I always thought that the NSSA should drive out with a pickup, drop off standard issue ammo - 60 grains of FFG - the same size minie ball, etc. - the same way it was done in the Civil War - issue them in arsenal packs. No sight blacking, no special lubes, no special tricks - everybody on the same leveland same page and then see what a true competition is. Obviously, I wouldn't have been too popular! :rolleyes:
I've used electic melting pots, plumber's pots and even wood fires to melt lead to cast. Actually, I prefer a good set of coals to cast with the same way that it was done by our ancestors. When I don't want to screw around with a fire, I now use a LP burner (ourside of course). I just flux with a ball of beeswax and that works fine to make any slag rise in the pot when it's stirred. I;m always on the lookout for pure soft lead and the last batch I bought from a scrap yard a couple of years ago - lead cable sheathing which was about as pure as you could find.
I have also noticed the difference in the balls with the amount of pressure put on the handles when you are casting. Your idea of what you use sounds like it would really work great! I'm surprised that someone hasn't come up with a commercially made attachement that would do that.
I've always wondered about the brass molds that I'm talking about. I've never cast in a brass mold but it shouldn't be much different than using a steel or aluminum block. When I make the cases, I want to include a mold, flask, etc. so will probably buy at least one and then try casting some balls in it when I get back to michigan in the spring. You see a lot of them in cased repro sets that come up for sale from time to time and I was just curious as to whether anyone had tried them and how they worked. Like any mold, if it's taken care of and treated right, they should last a long time as far as molding goes. If nothing else, they sure look pretty when they're displayed.
Thanks again for the info - greatly appreciate it! bedbug
January 26, 2010, 11:10 PM
I guess it all depends on who makes it.
My first gun was an Uberti 1858 Remington in a cased set that came with the brass mould. I used that mould for decades. It doesn't cast perfectly round balls, but they still shave off nicely around the rim of the chamber mouth and the face gets deformed from the loading lever, so who the heck cares?! Gloves are a must, and then some! Some cooling time is in order from time to time (for your hands, that is).
January 27, 2010, 07:27 AM
Yes...As long as the handles are insulated from the molds. Made out of wood or such.
My disadvantage is that for all of the years I have been shooting, (I started about 35 years ago but took a long break until about five years ago) I have always shot alone. Never with a club. Consequently, the things I learned, I learned on my own without any pointers from more knowledgable shooters.
I am sure I have made mistakes for years without realizing they were mistakes. I have also probably formed some bad habits. As an example, I always load all six chambers never leaving a safe chamber. Some others might be horrified. It is just a habit.
All that changed when I started participating in this forum.
January 27, 2010, 11:39 AM
Some years ago, I got hold of a bunch of ballast bars from Navy ships. I was told that they are pure lead to keep the size and cost down. When I cast with it, I get bullet weights that are very close to what pure lead weight should be. This is a kind of tough call since small amounts of impurities of tin, bismuth, antimony and such would not change the weight all that much.
About 20 years ago, I bought a Lee production pot. It is still going strong and I like it. But I don't cast with the gate, I use a ladle.
As a personal preference I simply cannot bring myself to use gloves.
And like you, I have very good performance from aluminum molds.
January 27, 2010, 11:42 AM
Doc - I know what you mean on the development of habits. When I first started shooting blackpowder, the only guidance I really had was whatever I read. Dixie Gun Works was the most noted then and I poured over their catalog and the information in the back of it for hours. I know that I probably drove my Dad nuts as he wasn't in to shooting. We lived on a farm though and there was plenty of places to plink as well as hunt squirrels, rabbits, etc. I had a fellow take me under his wing when I was 13 and he got me involved in shooting NSSA. I drifted away from it by college and didn't get back in to it for years. I shot for about four years - full size Parrot Rifles - 10 pounders - as well. I had eyesight problems defelope from my diabetes so stopped shooting in competition. I can still see well enough to drive and shoot but am not serious about it - never was - I'm just not that competitive. I applaud those who do but I'm just as happy now to set some cans up on a fallen tree and see if I can hit them. That's what it's all about anyway - fun! That's one thing I love about this forum - I don't care how long a guy has been shooting - there is always a lot to learn. I know I sure appreciate all the advice and help you fellows have to offer and it's amazing how much you can learn. I loved the comment by the fellow who responded that the balls weren't perfect from his brass mold but what difference did it make as they shaved when he loaded them, etc. - he's a man after my own heart! I'm going to see if EMF has a .36 brass mold in stock and if they do, I'm going to order one and see how it works. Thanks to all for your kind remarks and advice - it's appreciated and a tip of the hat to you all! :) bedbug
January 27, 2010, 11:45 AM
To prelube the roundballs, I put about fifty or a hundred is a plastic cup with about a teaspoon of bullet lube. Then I roll them around until they are well covered. Takes about a minute of light shaking and rolling.
Is there a better way?
January 27, 2010, 08:56 PM
I've got one of the 31 cal brass molds and it casts nice balls and conicals for my Baby Dragoon. I put on some broomhandle extensions with pipe clamps that allows for confortable glove free casting. I put the corner of my mold, brass, steel, or al. in the pot for about 30 seconds before casting and usually get a good cast on the al and brass by the 2nd try. I've left the steel one in for about 3 min. and got a good 1st cast.
January 28, 2010, 06:43 PM
This is what you need!
A vintage-looking grease dispenser! :D
It works great!
I bought mine several years ago from a place in Orlando, but Dixie sells them too.
Best $35.00 you'll spend in the muzzle loading accessory department.
January 30, 2010, 04:02 PM
First - a big THANK YOU to all who shared their experiences with the brass molds - it's greatly appreciated!
Second - thanks to all for the fine tips on casting - a lot of great ideas!
Doc - your way of lubing sounds like a good one. Normally, I cast up a whole bunch when I'm at it. I have quite a few 500 count musket cap tins that are empty. I usually fill them up and spray them down well with WD40. Sometimes they stay in the tin for a long time (shut tight with the cover) and usually, they are in really good shape when I go to get them - no patina to the lead, etc. I have had some tins thugh that after sitting for a long time, the WD40 runs down into the bottom of the tin just from gravity. It would probably be better if I used a different type of lube on them that would adhere better. I normally carry my balls in a buckskin bullet bag (no jokes please :eek:) and to be truthful, if they are carried over an extended period of time that way I'm sure that whatever lube I've used on them has probably rubbed off or been absorbed by the leather. I've always used Crisco to seal the chambers (I use a felt wad as well) but as anyone knows, if it's hot, that gets real messy real quick. I'm going to order some tallow from Dixie and play around with mixtures of that and beeswax until I can get the right consistency that won't be so apt to be affected by hot weather and the heat from discharges. I've never tried "Bore Butter" but have heard a lot of good about that lube as well - I have a tendency to be "thrifty" - my wife has another word she uses :D - I just like experimenting to see what different lubes, etc. will do. I've even tried different animal fats - not commercial things like bacon that have added salt, etc. though. Most of those have proven to be extremely messy and just so so as far as performance.
I had a friend who used the lube dispenser like the one fellow posted a photo of and he loved it - it was easy to use and saved a lot of mess. If I remember correctly, that type of dispenser is used for cake decorating but I may be wrong.
Again, many thanks to all for your kind responses and sharing your ideas and thoughts - it's greatly appreciated! Sincerely, bedbug
January 30, 2010, 04:13 PM
An afterthought on the lubes - when I was a kid, I experimented with Crisco and beeswax - I tried different ratios of it. I used a tin can in a saucepan of water to melt it - like a double boiler - the first time, I combined the two, stirred it well and then took it out of the water. I got impatient with the solidifying process so put it in the freezer to hasten the process - mistake! I don't think that it really separated but it ended up weird as far as hardness and consistency. Letting it air cool seemed to work well. I can't remember what the ratio was that I ended up with but after I cast my minie balls, I'd dip the bases in to it to fill the rings and wipe the excess off. I didn't size them at that time as they fit my bore pretty well right from the mold. In summer months, it worked pretty good. Fall and winter, there evidently was too much beeswax as it fouled things up fairly fast. I haven't played with that combination in years so don't know if it would be feasible for lubing balls (perhaps somehow putting warm balls in to coat them with a thin layer to prevent them from oxidizing over a period of time while storing them) and sealing chambers or not.
January 30, 2010, 04:28 PM
The prelube that you mention above, is it alox? The store bought balls I have seen are always darker than my castings, so I would assume they lube with graphite, but it never comes off on the hands, so it mightbe something else.
I have only been BPing a few years and honestly didn't know that the RB was lubed. I lube the grooves of all my conicals with the homemade beeswax/alox/crisco concoction. I wish I had an old dedicated LYMAN luber for just the BP stuff, it's kinda messy, but I just do it while watching Lee Ermey tear things up when he shoots some new toy.
January 31, 2010, 07:13 AM
The prelube that I use for lubing bullets is the same as I use for bore lube. It is a mixture of Crisco and wax rings from toilets. I think I have arrived at the conclusion that two rings and a can of Crisco gives me the consistency that I like. (It stays put on a hot day in a hot pistol) A long time ago, I got hold of two ingots of beeswax. I melted down some beeswax and Crisco and I liked what I got. But at that time, I did not shoot enough to be able to make a descent comparison so I can't really talk about my opinions regarding which is better. Crisco and Toilet cookies works for me so that is what I use.
Back in the day, when I was buying bullets, the only thing I used was from Hornady. I am not sure those bullets were lubed at all. I know that I had a devil of a time getting them to start unless I smeared them up with my own concoction. I only shoot roundballs so I guess I would have to change my technique if I started shooting a ball with a different shape.
I also cover the chambers with lube so I guess the only reason for lubing the roundballs is to make loading easier. I don't use wads or filler (yet) so the ball goes pretty far into the chamber and thus the lube above the ball is abundant.
Actually I just fill the chamber to the rim, shake off the excess and then squeeze the ball in until it will clear the frame. I AM JUST KIDDING!:p
I don't like Thompson's Bore Butter because for me it is too runny and it smells a little too much like springtime in the Rockies. I use a popcycle stick and manage to get the stuff where I want it in the right amounts. The Lyman Luber that Andy uses is nice, but it does not fit my haphazard technique. Andy is clearly to be trusted on this one. He has been shooting a long time and knows what he is talking about.
I must hasten to call you attention to my shooting experience. I never shoot with anyone else and I don't belong to any clubs. So everything I know I learned by trial and error and by reading this forum or books. I have shot black powder for a total of only about ten years over a thirty five year span. I have never shot for competition. I have never engaged in any concerted scientific effort to improve either muzzle velocity of POI performance. Most of these other guys are infinitely more exsperienced than I am. I just know what works for me.
January 31, 2010, 08:43 AM
Doc Hoy said ...
"I am sure I have made mistakes for years without realizing they were mistakes. I have also probably formed some bad habits. As an example, I always load all six chambers never leaving a safe chamber. Some others might be horrified. It is just a habit."
For shooting I don't consider this a bad habit..note I said shooting.
NOT for carry....Holster or other wise.
Loading at the range on the line, muzzle pointed down range and shot empty.
In fact your not allowed to even have a holster on.
When shooting CAS ..course you load 5 and drop the hammer on the empty chamber, because you are using holsters.
Rules require load one,skip one, load 4 ...once 5 are shot and if there is a one shot reload on the clock , you can use the empty chamber.
Don't do this if your shooting C&B.
Loading 6 and just capping five, with the intention of capping the 6 shot on the clock ( a la 1 shot reload ) is a open invitation for chain fire.
Oh ...my shooting experience ? 47 years with Muzzle loading & C&B.
CAS about 28 years or so.
January 31, 2010, 10:40 AM
Only chain fire event I experienced in my life was (I am almost certain) due to a nipple chain fire and not a chamber rim chain fire. I had schmootzed all of the chmabers but had poorly fitting nipples. Had to squeeze them to get them to stick.
It loosened the arbor (brass frame) on my .36 Cal 1851 pattern Sheriff's model. It is still good looking but I don't shoot it much any more. It was a good shooter too. My first six shots from that pistol were inside of four inches at fifteen yards, hand held. Has a very nice trigger pull. Almost too light.
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