View Full Version : Cast bullet hardness ... ?

Bud Helms
January 8, 2000, 06:19 PM
Even though I have been reloading for a long time, there are two areas into which I have not ventured: shotshell reloading and lead bullet casting.

I am still uninterested in shotshell reloading, but I will soon begin learning about bullet casting. I have a lot of reading to do, of course, but I have a couple of questions that were prompted from reading another thread.

I may have some built-in assumptions that are not correct, but here are the questions.

<LI>What are the most widely used methods of lead bullet tempering (hardening)?
<LI>How did grandpa do it? (Are there old methods vs new methods?)
<LI>How deep into the lead alloy, does the hardening take effect?
<LI>How much of this hardening does resizing remove when bullets are resized after hardening? (i.e., how much of the bullet is typically removed by the sizing die?)
<LI>Recommended literature for my education on this (besides Lyman, of course)?

I can see why one might want resizing to be the last operation. But I can understand the argument for tempering last, too.

I need some practical advice, based on experience from both methods. Has anyone tried it both ways?

I'll be learning on a .38-55. (.375/.376)


PS: This topic has been posted on the Handloading and Reloading forum with no response.

[This message has been edited by sensop (edited January 08, 2000).]

Bill Mitchell
January 8, 2000, 07:20 PM
Howdy Sensop,

Admittedly,I know very little about casting. I'm interested to know what make of .38-55 you plan to cast for. I know a few folks who have .38-55s,specifically Marlins,and they use .379 bullets to get the best results.

Bellicose Bill

Bud Helms
January 8, 2000, 09:20 PM

I came into a Wickliffe copy of a Stevens 44 1/2 in .26-'06 (believe it or not) a few years back.

The throat was eroded ... I cerrosafed the chamber to verify.

Anyway, I rebarreled it in .376, chambered for .38-55.

I have been shooting 270 gr Magnus hard cast bullets with good effect.

I may go to black powder, but so far I am using IMR 4227.


[This message has been edited by sensop (edited January 13, 2000).]

Ned Roundtree
January 8, 2000, 11:32 PM
What did he say? :)

Trigger Jerk
January 12, 2000, 12:57 PM
I aint no expert on bullet casting but I done it a little bit, and here's what I think I knows.

Bullet hardness is determined mostly by your mixture of lead, tin and linotype. You can make bullets a little harder by dropping them into a bucket of water right from the mold. I don't think you can temper them after they are cast like you can with other metals.
That's the same way that grandpa did it. I am unaware of any new fangled methods.

I beleive the hardenss goes clear through, as opposed to hardening metal parts which is only on the surface.

For Black powder you definitely want pure lead, because it is soft. For smokeless, either is fine, but soft bullets tend to lead more.

Sizing is more squeezing as opposed to shearing to size. Lead remoaval while sizing is unnoticable.

[This message has been edited by Trigger Jerk (edited January 12, 2000).]

Bud Helms
January 12, 2000, 07:56 PM
[This message has been edited by sensop (edited January 13, 2000).]

February 7, 2008, 02:21 PM
If you still have the original barrel, I would like to buy it. All it may need is a throating reamer to clean the throat area up. Or it can be opened up to a magnum caliber.
The action was tested by H.P.White Labratories, and found to be capable of 120,000 units of pressure. With no failure of any kind.
It may be the strongest action ever made.

February 7, 2008, 08:01 PM
Hardening lead by dropping it in water only hardens the surface a little bit. Sizing takes the hardening off.

W. C. Quantrill
February 11, 2008, 12:37 PM
Hmmm, leading in a barrel depends upon the velocity that you use, pure lead bullets or hard cast depend upon velocity. Using 20/1 Lead/Tin, which is a pretty soft bullet, they do not lead until you try to push them over about 1500 fps or so. Above that, a harder alloy works better.

Dropping hot bullets in water tempers them (softens them). Hardness is determined by their alloys.

Jim Watson
February 11, 2008, 12:48 PM
At standard velocity of maybe 1300 fps, you don't need a particularly hard bullet. With black powder you don't WANT a hard bullet, the 20:1 lead:tin alloy Q mentions is good, very few BPCR shooters use anything with antimony.

If you want to hotrod it, the bullet should contain antimony and a trace of arsenic for quench hardening to work well. Don't panic over the arsenic, it is a common impurity in lead; wheelweights in the mix or some birdshot will supply enough to trigger the hardening.

Sizing after quenching softens the surface and wipes out a lot of the advantage. Try for a mould that casts at or slightly over groove diameter without having to size down an oversize bullet. Or size first, then heat the bullets in the oven and quench. Then lube in a pan or with a lubrisizer die that does not move the bullet any more.

February 11, 2008, 12:53 PM
Hardening lead by dropping it in water only hardens the surface a little bit. Sizing takes the hardening off.

Hmmm. Some of the old lead boolit masters that are helping me out on casting tell me to drop the bullets out of the mold into cold water, preferably even with some ice cubes still floating in it.

They say, and I've seen in firsthand, that you'll up your BHN from around eight to just over sixteen doing that. I've put such bullets in the die, sized and lubed them, then punched the BHN in them, measured and it was right at sixteen even after sizing.

There's also an "oven bake" method that looks intriguing.

I'm just getting into this, so it's still fascinating stuff to me--a whole new dimension to the world of reloading.


February 11, 2008, 02:04 PM
Best possible resource for this is castboolits.com . Great buncha guys over there, got me into it. I cast for 38Spl and 9mm. I have a Lee TL124 356 mould that drops at .360, so I can size it to .358 for 38Spl, and .356 for 9mm, and it works great for both. My other moulds are just laying about, now.:p