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Old March 14, 2011, 10:51 AM   #1
Hog Buster
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Hardened (Quenched) Cast Bullets

There’s at least 7000 opinions on hardened (quenched) cast bullets. After using them for a while here’s my considered opinion.

Does it work? Yes, to a point, depending on alloy.

Is it necessary? In most cases it’s not, but in some it helps, others it hurts.

Are hard bullets more accurate? Not necessarily, it depends on the gun being used.

Do hardened bullets raise pressure? You couldn’t prove it by me, I’ve used both and saw no discernible difference.

Do hardened bullets work better in rifles than pistols? They seem to work best at velocities of around 1800 -2000 fps. If your pistol can burn them out that fast, go for it.

Will they stop barrel leading? Not if they’re sized wrong.

Can they help failure to feed or fire problems? Sometimes.

What hardness is the best? Depends on who you ask.

Do they make good hunting loads? Only if you’re looking for penetration, under certain conditions even penetration may be poor.

Do they make good hollow points? No.

How about target loads? Yes, for me, for others it’s debatable.

How can I find if they work for me? Trial and error, just like any other phase of reloading.

I have one rifle that performs better with hardened (quenched) cast bullets. A .375 Winchester, I also have a 45/70 than will not perform with any lead bullet, hardened or not. Go figure?

OK I’ve left some room for the other 6988 opinions, so let ‘em rip.
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Old March 14, 2011, 12:00 PM   #2
GP100man
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Quenched bullets

Are they worth the effort ??? for most applications NO

For most applications a correctly fitting bullet will fill the bill !!
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Old March 14, 2011, 12:03 PM   #3
DiscoRacing
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Quote:
There’s at least 7000 opinions on hardened (quenched) cast bullets
Thats alot of opinions...

... I dont do mine.
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Old March 14, 2011, 12:53 PM   #4
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My mosin and AK both prefer a quenched WW alloy. I keep seeing threads about AK's and SKS's with gas pistons locked up darn-near from so much leading---mine is always as clean as if I were feeding it jacketed. My .40S&W doesn't seem to really care one way or the other--it's always clean too--I started quenching those actually by accident when I was casting a bunch of rifle boolits, then switched molds and started dropping them in the water bucket out of repetition. Then thought "well, why not--we'll see how they run. Everything else is AC and runs like a champ.

You'd have difficulty convincing me to NOT water drop for my AK. Everything else is open for discussion.

Just my .02 from experience with lots of rounds down-range and shiny bores. The only thing that has ever really given me fits was my .32 Win Spc. But that was a size issue. Once I lapped out the mold and sizer to get a good seal, it ran perfect with even very soft hunting boolits.
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Old March 14, 2011, 01:07 PM   #5
maillemaker
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I quench my bullets, lead and WW, because I don't know how you'd drop them otherwise without dinging them up.

I drop them into a towel suspended over a bucket of water. The towel has a hole cut in the middle. The bullets drop onto the wet towel, roll to the hole, and gently fall through the water to the bottom of the bucket.

Steve
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Old March 14, 2011, 01:33 PM   #6
Rangefinder
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Quote:
I quench my bullets, lead and WW, because I don't know how you'd drop them otherwise without dinging them up.
If you're referring to how to drop Air-Cooled without dinging them up, it's just a matter of an old towel for them to drop on. I have a bag full of old tee-shirts for cleaning rags, waxing the bike, etc. One of those in the bottom of a small plastic bucket does the trick nicely. No dings ever.
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Old March 14, 2011, 06:50 PM   #7
maillemaker
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Quote:
If you're referring to how to drop Air-Cooled without dinging them up, it's just a matter of an old towel for them to drop on. I have a bag full of old tee-shirts for cleaning rags, waxing the bike, etc. One of those in the bottom of a small plastic bucket does the trick nicely. No dings ever.
OK, so you drop one bullet onto the towel, and then what? Subsequent bullets don't crash into the other bullets sitting on the towel? Or do you have to stop and fish each bullet off of the towel to a safer location?

Steve
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Old March 14, 2011, 07:28 PM   #8
Gerry
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maillemaker, just make yourself a soft ramp that your bullets can roll down after releasing them from the mold. I use a piece of cardboard that's covered in a towel that rests in a plastic kitty liter box (don't ask). I bunch up the towel at the edges to that it's raised and the bullets cant roll off the sides - just down the ramp.
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Old March 14, 2011, 08:41 PM   #9
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For air cooled, I don't even go that far. A big soft towel doubled over and I drop boolits right onto it. When the pile starts getting big enough to ding them I just move over on the towel and drop in a different spot. EVery once in awhile I pick up one end of the towel so they all roll onto one side.

Water quenched...I use the towel with a hole in it over a 5 gal bucket. Dropping boolits into water and making a splash is not good near a pot of molten lead. If a drop of water landed in the pot, the rapid expansion of the water turning to steam will cause a mini explosion which will throw molten lead all around. Be mindful of this.

I wondered about water quenched hardness and sent some test boolits to a buddy who has a hardness tester and water quenched WW's harden to about 24-26 brinnel hardness, and the same boolits dropped in hardness over a few months to ~18-20
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Old March 14, 2011, 10:44 PM   #10
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I mostly air cool and oven heat treat. I have water dropped some and like it . I just drop into a 5 gal bucket full of water and aint used a towel like most guys, but aint had a problem yet.

When I air cool (with a 2 cavity), I just drop them on a folded towel and refill the mold. While I wait for the fresh boolits to cool in the mold, I pick up the previous ones with needle nose pliers and inspect them and throw the good ones in a cooling pan. The bad ones go back in the pot. About the time it takes to do that (plus 1 or 2 seconds), the fresh ones are cool enough to dump, I refill the mold and do it over again. That way none are falling on each other and only the good ones are saved.

About the only boolits I heat treat are 500, 44mag, 223 and some 257's. For some reason I've had better luck with hard 223 over soft. This summer I'll try harder 243's for a little more speed and distance (for p-dogs) than what I'm getting now.

30-30, 30-06, 38, 357, 45ACP, 45LC, 243, 380, 9mm are all air cooled for me.
Most of my 44 plinkers and 257 RBTS are air cooled, the heavy loads are heat treated.
500 S&W, 41 mag, 223rem and 223 WSSM are heat treated
This year I'm going to work on 220 Swift also, probly hard boolits.
I have a 270 I'd like to work on too.

Last edited by reloader28; March 14, 2011 at 11:01 PM.
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Old March 14, 2011, 11:55 PM   #11
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All air cooled for me. I tried water dropping, it was a PITA.

As for how to prevent damage, what damage? People seem to think hot bullets are easily damaged. Once that lead has set in the mold, it takes a lot of abuse to ding one up. That said, I use an old paint roller pan with a folded up terry cloth towel in it. The "high end" is towards me, the paint well is in back. The bullets sometimes roll back to the well on their own, otherwise when the landing zone gets crowded, I lift the front edge of the towel to scoot them to the back.

An observation; How are you keeping the water cold in that bucket? Huh, you're not???¿¿¿ Heat treating lead boolits depends on a rapid temperature change. And the same start and stop temp. Now, don't you ever have a boolit hang up in the mold, refuse to drop? That boolit is cooling while you're cussing at it and banging on the handle hinge to free it. Then, after a 100 boolits have hit the water, do ya think it's still cold? NOPE!

A cooler boolit hitting warm water won't do a thing for consistency. Get it? The real hot ones hitting the coldest water will probably be the hardest, the one that cooled while you're trying to get it loose, then hitting water that has been warmed by repeatedly being hit with hot boolits will be darn near air cooled hardness.

If you're going to heat treat, learn how to do it with an oven. Best bet is a small toaster oven, one with an accurate thermostat. Then get a big bucket, fill it with the coldest water you can find. Temp to heat to is dependent on the alloy. You should be just below where the boolit will begin to slump/melt. Then right out of the oven into that cold water.
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Old March 15, 2011, 01:13 PM   #12
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If you're using a 5gal bucket, you're gonna have to have more than 100 bullets to make a difference in water temperature...'course I'm only using those little 45 230gr LRN and .41 210gr bullets.
The danger of a DROP of water landing ON the melt is overrated. It'll poof into steam. It's when it gets INTO the melt that you have a problem. When I cast and WD, I put the water OVER one step away.
My cast table is set so I swing to the left from the pot. Next is a towel, or several, for about 3'. THEN is a 2-gal container of water. If water drops hit the mold, they're gone...The drops, not the mold, lol.
Have fun,
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Old March 15, 2011, 02:30 PM   #13
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Quote:
An observation; How are you keeping the water cold in that bucket? Huh, you're not???¿¿¿ Heat treating lead boolits depends on a rapid temperature change. And the same start and stop temp. Now, don't you ever have a boolit hang up in the mold, refuse to drop? That boolit is cooling while you're cussing at it and banging on the handle hinge to free it. Then, after a 100 boolits have hit the water, do ya think it's still cold? NOPE!

A cooler boolit hitting warm water won't do a thing for consistency. Get it? The real hot ones hitting the coldest water will probably be the hardest, the one that cooled while you're trying to get it loose, then hitting water that has been warmed by repeatedly being hit with hot boolits will be darn near air cooled hardness.
This is why I went from water dropping to oven hardening. With my water dropped, there was too much variation in the hardness of the bullets.
It is not an issue with the water heating up, it is an issue with the bullet cooling slower for those not dropped in the water as soon as others.

Last edited by dahermit; March 15, 2011 at 04:21 PM.
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Old March 15, 2011, 02:43 PM   #14
maillemaker
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Quote:
An observation; How are you keeping the water cold in that bucket? Huh, you're not???¿¿¿ Heat treating lead boolits depends on a rapid temperature change. And the same start and stop temp. Now, don't you ever have a boolit hang up in the mold, refuse to drop? That boolit is cooling while you're cussing at it and banging on the handle hinge to free it. Then, after a 100 boolits have hit the water, do ya think it's still cold? NOPE!
I'm sure the water does warm up, but after dropping hundreds of bullets into my 5-gallon bucket the water is still quite cool to the touch when I fish them out.

Suspending a towel over the bucket with a hole cut in the middle eliminates splashing problems.

Steve
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Old March 15, 2011, 03:02 PM   #15
chris in va
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When working up a bullet/load combo for my CZ, I tried several different recipes and bullet shapes/weights/hardnesses.

Bottom line, I found the water quenched to be more accurate than the air dropped in the CZ, as proven on a rest at 15 yards.

Now the 45's are better air dropped, probably being a much lower pressure round.
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Old March 15, 2011, 07:46 PM   #16
dahermit
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Quote:
air dropped
Do you mean: "air cooled"?

I have found applications where hardening lead bullets is counter productive. For instance I had a Winchester 94 Legendary Lawman in 38-55 Win. It had the true old bore diameter of .379 and I could find no bullet mould that would drop a bullet bigger than .375. So, the accuracy was pretty poor until I let the bullets air cool (and stay soft), When I shot the soft bullets with just under max for cast bullet loads listed by Lyman for 38-55, they evidently orbitrated (swelled to fill the bore, not sure of the spelling), and filled the bore adequately to give pretty good accuracy.
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