Your different hardness is likely from a different alloy. Lead does't act like steel, it doesn't get harder from a quick water treatment.
And, yes, dropping bullets directly into a bucket of water is a good way to cushion/cool the drop and prevents damage to hot, soft bullets.
Straight wheel weights are quite "hard" to the touch but they don't make real good bullets as they are, they need a bit of tin to help keep the antimony in alloy as they cool. Otherwise the hard antimony and soft lead will seperate and the exposed lead will smear onto your bore, sometimes badly so.
Last edited by wncchester; August 21, 2009 at 08:15 AM.