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Old November 3, 2009, 09:08 AM   #1
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Semi-wadcutters I don't understand the value

I've come to hate semi-wadcutters. Yet they are the favorite for bullet casters apparently and I'm baffled.

Semi-Wad cutters are a pain to work with. I'm sure somebody has made jacketed semi-wadcutters somewhere down through the years but they are an oddity at best. So you automatically get to deal with the lead all over your hands, your table, shavings on your press and everywhere else. Something that isn't an issue with jacketed bullets normally.

Shooting lead bullets is always dirtier. First time I shot some I thought I did something really wrong or that the powder (titegroup) that I was using was akin to black powder LOL. Turns out it was just the lube. I can shoot off hundreds of jacketed bullets and not get my gun half as dirty as I do with just 50 lead bullets. On top of that I don't have to reduce my load to prevent leading of the barrel or worry about gas checks.

A semi-wadcutter gains a little speed by having less of the bullet in contact with the rifling but then that big parachute in the design of the bullet theoretically should eat up all that gained velocity. The front of a SWC just plain looks like a parachute. Big flat surface surrounding a cone with a flat end. It's gotta have the aerodynamics of a winged bulldozer.

Having less contact with the rifling and that the base of the bullet is disproportionately important to trajectory than bullets without that parachute I'd think that even the slightest bubble in the base of a SWC would cause wobble. A similar bubble in the base of any other type of bullet would have far less impact I'd think since the bullet is far more symetrical than an SWC and the base isn't getting anywhere near as much contact with the air as an SWC does. Since the base is the only part that is touching the rifling I'd think that any weight differences in the base caused by bubbles contaminates and such would disproportionately impact the trajectory as well.

A round nose should have the best aerodynamics, truncated flat nose next then hollow points and SWCs last the WCs.

In terms of penetration the round nose should have best penetration followed by a truncated round nose. The Semi-wadcutters with that parachute will penetrate deeper than a hollow point but should have a smaller wound channel I'd think than a round nose, hollow point or truncated flat point as that parachute base should logically roll up creating essentially a smaller wound channel. You get the punch that all that flat surface delivers but I suspect it's not enough over a truncated flat nose to be significant or to justify the hassle of dealing with SWCs.

When I talk about hassle, I mean you have to use a kinetic bullet puller. With .357s if I crimp at all pulling a bullet automatically destroys it. The force necessary to dislodge it flattens the nose of the bullet when it strikes the end of puller and the sides are distorted by both seating and unseating the bullet while pulling. I toss any pulled SWCs strait into the lead pile while I'm able to reuse %95 of other kinds of bullets pulled with any kind of puller but almost %100 I can pull with a press mounted puller. I'm able to pull almost anything but a SWC with my press mounted puller. Of course ideally you never have to pull a bullet but this aint an ideal world

So I don't understand what it is about SWCs people like. I don't have ballistic gel yet to try penetration tests and see what the wound channels are like with different rounds but it's just plain counter intutive for a SWC to produce either deeper or wider wound channels than a Truncated flat nose or deeper than a round nose or wider than a hollow point. Theoretically the Truncated flat nose and hollow point should deliver more energy than a SWC as they'll have more surface area making contact, the hollow point especially should be good at not over penetrating but leaving a massive wound channel.

What advantages does an SWC have aside from being really great at punching holes in paper which is essentially what they are designed for that would make anybody go through the extra hassle of loading them?
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Old November 3, 2009, 09:12 AM   #2
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A gun that shoots nothing but wadcutters is modified typically to allow them to feed reliably. A semi-wadcutter has that sharp cutting edge but also has a cone shaped fore-end to allow them to feed reasonably reliably in unmodified guns (and still cuts nice scoreable holes in targets).
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Old November 3, 2009, 10:16 AM   #3
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Rattle has it. It's all about score. Nice neat holes in paper. Target shooters using revolvers use wadcutters or hollow base wadcutters. Again, it's all about score.

BTW: The wadcutter family tends to be more accurate.
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Old November 3, 2009, 10:26 AM   #4
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Jacketed bullets have a soft swaged core and a light copper jacket.

Lead bullets are often hard-cast and are considerably harder than anything jacketed.

Jacketed projectiles often experience separation... where the core of the bullet is peeled away from the jacket. Lead bullets do not undergo this phenomenon.

A 300gr Federal Cast-Cor bullet will out penetrate a Sierra 300gr JSP loaded to the same velocity... especially if the bullet encounters meaningful resistance such as bone or dense muscle.

I shoot lead predominantly for that reason.... and cost. It's much cheaper.
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Old November 3, 2009, 10:38 AM   #5
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I've never seen so much unfounded bias and misinformation in one post. There is no "hassle". I shoot cast bullets almost exclusively (99% of them SWC's) and your post "boggles" my mind. I drive them anywhere between 700fps and 1400fps and the problems you complain about are non-existent, even without gas checks. Can't remember the last time I had to clean a leaded bore. The extra smoke is a minor issue and the carbon just wipes right off the guns.

Your "theory" about the SWC's downrange performance is completely without merit. At typical sixgun ranges ballistic coefficient is not an issue and anybody with even a 2nd grade education in sixgunning knows how well the 250gr Keith bullet does at several hundred yards. Your ideas about terminal performance are just as silly. You REALLY need to open your mind and do some reading. Read some Elmer Keith, John Taffin, Ross Seyfried, Dave Scovill and Brian Pearce.
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Old November 3, 2009, 10:39 AM   #6
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Damn, I've shot a gazzilian lead SWCs over my shooting life, I didnt know they were so bad.

The ones I've shot (38, 357. 44s, mag & special, 45 ACPs and LCs. I never had any problems.

They are accurate, good penitration, and stopping power. I dont think they are unreasonably dirty, nor do I get unreasonable leading. Of course I clean my guns every now and then.

They punch nice clean holes in paper, and I've dispatched several moose from moose/car accidents using SWCs 357s our of a 4 inch Model 28. I found they work better then the 125 Win 357 HPs our dept issued. (I went with the Winchester 158 SWCs after I got caught using reloads, which was a NO-NO on our dept.)

I dont use gas checks (on pistols) and I dont use excessively hard cast bullets. I do use a good lube.

I don't understand the OPs comments. The SWCs work for me, the ones I use in my 38s & 357s is the Lvman 150 grn 358477. It matches my 148 WCs as far a impact so I dont have to make sight changes switching from targets to carry loads. Not to mention the cost, I can cast and shoot a lot of SWCs cheaper then buying jacked bullets.

By the way, Speer and Hornady do make (or use to) jacketed SWCs. I haven't used them in several years as I saw no advantage of those vs. my cast SWCs.

NO Sir, I'll keep my cast SWCs. To each his own.

There is a reason the SWCs are so popular, THEY WORK
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Old November 3, 2009, 10:51 AM   #7
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You seem to have two separate issues here, one is your hate for SWC and the other is your distaste for cast lead bullets and all that goes along with them (compared to jacketed bullets.)

Cast lead bullets do require different methods than jacketed. You do get to see wild differences in hardness, lube, manufacturer quality and size, these are typically traits you don't have to experience with jacketed bullets. In exchange, you shoot a bullet that does VERY little with regards to barrel wear. Yes, you have more smoke and have to do a lot more cleaning, but the bullets are phenomenally cheaper. And for those who enjoy bullet casting, it's something you can do at home. Do it that way and the costs don't compare at all, not even close. Compared to the cost of buying manufactured jacketed bullets, it's almost like shooting for free.

In my opinion, you've got to weigh the benefits of shooting cast lead against the issues that come along with it. I would never suggest it's for everyone. But I know that it works quite well for me. Sounds like it doesn't work for you... no problem, just get your wallet out and enjoy your jacketed bullets.

As for your long diatribe against SWC... really, man, they are target bullets designed to punch relatively clean holes in paper. They were never meant to be anything more than that. Basically, a wadcutter, a full target bullet with a long, large bearing surface that returned great accuracy in target guns with a nose on them that promotes feeding in self-loaders and also promotes chambering from speed loaders and devices for revolvers.

Seriously... arguing about aerodynamics of a low-speed pistol bullet is like comparing the difference in the ability of a school bus versus a dump truck in a 1/4 mile drag race. At the speed SWC bullets are designed to be sent, it wouldn't matter if there was a little pygmie on the bottom of the bullet dragging a parachute behind it.

The SWC was designed to punch an easily scored hole in a paper target with a cardboard backer. Compare the hole it punches to a LRN bullet and you can see the difference.

And honestly... if you choose bullets by how well you can pull them when you screw up a batch of ammo, I'd suggest you buy the cheapest bullets you can find. Maybe some wood bullets or rubber ones would work better on your bench.
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Old November 3, 2009, 11:00 AM   #8
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+1 with Kraigwy, Craigc, and Sevens. Lots of misstatements in the OP IMO. I prefer to shoot cast lead SWC bullets and have done so almost exclusively in .357 Mag, .44 Mag, and .45 ACP for many years. Velocities ranged from about 800 fps to 1425 fps with no problems. My target loads of 800-1100 fps leave the barrel as clean as jacketed bullets. The cast lead bullets not only cut nice clean holes in paper but are very accurate, aerodynamically stable, retain velocity well, and penetrate extremely well in game. Not only that but they are much less expensive than jacketed bullets and cause virtually no wear on the barrel. If the OP doesn't like cast lead SWC bullets, I think he is missing out on a good thing.
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Old November 3, 2009, 01:23 PM   #9
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lead is cheap, that is why I shoot it. Any miniscule amount of additional cleanup is well worth the cost savings.

Last I saw both 357 and 45acp were around $25.00/box, I shoot lead for between 5-7/box. That makes it worth it to me.
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Old November 3, 2009, 01:38 PM   #10
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Draciron, you don't get out much, do you! What I mean by that is you haven't read anything on handgun hunting, especially the big guns like 454 casull, 460 and the 475's and 500's. Most of those shooting those big thumpers use nothing else than large meplat SWC lead bullets. Even in the lowly 44 mag, a large meplat SWC is deadly on just about anything that walks the north American continent. I wouldn't feel undergunned even against a grizz.

It's not just expansion that does the most damage to flesh and internal organs. That wide-flat meplat displaces flesh and smashes bone far better that a soft lead hollowpoint. Then stays together to penetrate deeply to reach the internal organs and even exit for additional blood loss.

If you're getting leading, you are doing something wrong. It's as simple as that! Either the bullet is undersized for your bore, or the lube isn't working. Slugging your bore, then loading bullets that are .001 over that diameter will result in minimal leading.

Further, I don't get all the comments about excess smoke. Shot outside, there's always some air movement to carry away the smoke. If you shoot inside without ventilation you will have problems seeing after a cylinder full! But then you'll get a high dose of lead for your bloodstream!

Oh, if you're damaging those bullets with a kinetic puller, simply put a foam earplug in the bottom, it'll cushion the impact of the bullet. You could use a cotton ball too.
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Old November 3, 2009, 01:55 PM   #11
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H'mmm I with all the rest,I don't remember the last time I've shot a jacketed bullet out of my revolvers or semi-auto. My Blackhawk 38/357 gets a steady diet of 158 gr. SWC on the 9mm side it's 125 gr. RN cast bullets.

I put one box of jacketed ammo through my 9 x 18 Mak. when I first got it but as soon as my reloading dies came in and I secured a supply of cast bullets for it thats all it's ever had fired through it. I love my cast bullets there cheap,shoot great and leading has never been a problem even at 1200 fps.+ in my 357. Everyone has there points of view on reloading and components good and bad,what doesn't work for one might work great for ten others I just happen to be one of those that it does and suits my purposes.

If the jacketed bullets are an issue cost wise vs.dealing with lead issue there is always the middle ground alternative in the Berry's or Rainier plated bullets. I shot the Berry's in 115 FMJ and 124 HP's in my 9mm loads and have no issues at all with them.
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Old November 3, 2009, 02:05 PM   #12
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I shot bullseye competition for years. Lord knows how many wadcutters and semi-wadcutters I've sent down a pistol barrel. I cast my own and never had a problem. They must have worked OK, when I finally quit I was classified by NRA as a Master.

Loading for my pistols I almost always use wadcutters or semi-wadcutters. The only thing I don't load with them is for hunting or self defense. They're cheap, accurate and reliable, who can ask for anything more.

By the way, does anyone remember the 38 Special load that used a 148 grain wadcutter pushed to about 1200 fps. I think it was in one of Lymans old cast bullet handbooks? Hurricane Katrina destroyed my copy and I would like to know what the load was.
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Old November 3, 2009, 04:04 PM   #13
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Quote: "By the way, does anyone remember the 38 Special load that used a 148 grain wadcutter pushed to about 1200 fps.

Greetings from another old/ex-Bullseye target shooter. I found these loads in a Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook purchased back in the '60's using their #358495 bullet.

I DO NOT ADVOCATE NOR RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING LOADS. From Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook (3rd Edition):


.38 Special case, #358495 cast bullet:
W231 3.0g 667 fps 8,500 psi // 4.9g 1001 fps 16,800 psi
Uniq 3.8g 757 fps 10,300 psi // 5.3g 1013 fps 16,700 psi

.357 Mag case, #358495 cast bullet:
2400 10.5g 1015 fps 18,200 psi // 14.6g 1376 fps 39,700 psi
Blue Dot 9.6g 1134 fps 21,800 psi // 11.2g 1382 fps 40,600 psi

These loads were reportedly fired thru a "Universal Receiver and Special Vented 4 inch Barrel".
Good shooting and be safe.
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Old November 3, 2009, 04:06 PM   #14
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if you don't understand the value i will help you out a little.
1000 LSWC for the 45 ACP range from 60-70 bucks. The last 1000 I bought was 68.
That is 6.8 cents per round. +3 cents per primer, +.001 cent for powder(maybe?) and not even.
Jacketed bullets are twice as much. My box of 50 is costing me 5-8 bucks at the most. Compared with jacketed where it would be almost 15. I might as well buy from factory.
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Old November 3, 2009, 04:32 PM   #15
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Hardcast bullets are not harder than jacketed. I don't know where that's coming from. Copper ie gilding metal is about a 50 BHN. The hardest oven treated lead alloys will maybe get 30-32 BHN, a far shot from copper hardness.
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Old November 3, 2009, 06:49 PM   #16
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Thanks, you got the right bullet #356495, which is a 141 grain wadcutter not a 148 grain one, I stand corrected. You might have the right loads too. Which are still in Lymans book, but I still remember the load in question doing something in the 1100 fps range. A couple of us loaded some of these and they were very peppy out of a S&W revolver. Of course in my advanced years I may just be having a "senior moment" from too many six o'clock sight pictures.....
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Old November 3, 2009, 07:15 PM   #17
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I can't understand the lead all over the place. All I ever use is cast and I have yet had a problem with lead all over the place I don't even see it on my press.
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Old November 3, 2009, 07:16 PM   #18
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Kieth Elmer

I think he saw the title of this thread and rolled over in his grave.
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Old November 3, 2009, 08:40 PM   #19
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I can't understand the lead all over the place. All I ever use is cast and I have yet had a problem with lead all over the place I don't even see it on my press
I think the OP is shaving lead off the bullet because he isn't belling the cases enough for the lead bullet. It is the only reason I can think that there would be lead all over the place.
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Old November 3, 2009, 10:32 PM   #20
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Disdain for SWCs? Ban the hairy tick.
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Old November 4, 2009, 12:21 AM   #21
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Jacketed revolver bullets are obsolete.

First there were swaged lead bullets which, when the .357 came along, did lead the barrel. So jacketed bullets became considered the way to go with the modern cartridges. But they've had their day of being the better bullet. In the larger bores, good cast bullets have always been as good or better than jacketed. In the last couple of decades there has been a proliferation of great cast bullet designs that leave nothing to be desired in jacketed bullets. I think there are now better cast bullets than, "Keith", semi-wadcutters; but they are still cast. Keith style SWC's will be with us for a long time because they are a well-proven design. However, it is essentially a revolver bullet that sometimes does not feed well in rifles. Therefore, those who use a lever-action companion-piece to their revolver are often better served with a round-nose-flat-point design with a large meplat such as Lee's excellent .45 caliber 255 grain RNFP. But again, it's a cast lead bullet, leaving little if anything to be desired in a jacketed bullet. Jacketed revolver bullets are so 1960's........get with the program and start casting your own.
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Old November 4, 2009, 12:41 AM   #22
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I may be able to explain it for you.

Rawlings is to baseball as Lead Semi-Wadcutters are to shooting.


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Old November 4, 2009, 02:21 AM   #23
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Welcome to the forum, I think

Originally Posted by Draciron
I've come to hate semi-wadcutters. Yet they are the favorite for bullet casters apparently and I'm baffled.

Welcome to the forum and let me apologize for the rough reception you have received here. You came with an honest question and many of the replies opened brusquely. Please stick around.

On the good side, those same rude posts do have good, valid information buried in them. There's probably more than 400 years of experience talking there, so pay attention. Some of the remarks are probably made in good humor, and I may be thin-skinned. So, if I have misinterpreted, please forgive me and let me know in a PM, please.

Here are my observations on lead and semi-wadcutter bullets.

When I first started shooting and reloading (my first gun was accompanied by my first press) I discovered very quickly that my fastest, hottest loads were accompanied by progressively worse leading. I quickly found the point where leading disappeared and my loading manuals told me that I was probably pushing 1,000 fps with a 158 grain SWC. They were very hard cast with a high melting point (I infer, I never actually tested them). I used to buy all my bullets from one shop in Apache Junction, Arizona. Some local caster, I imagine. I never knew and I should have asked. Once, I tried some other bullets with all other components precisely the same. They leaded like crazy. The particular alloy mix makes a big difference.

It didn't hurt that my barrel was very smooth inside, either. So, to explain your experience, I will point out that a barrel polished very smooth will lead less than one that is rough inside. How is your barrel? Probably things would improve with a bit of lapping. This also helps with copper fouling as well as leading.

Jeff H suggested that your lead shavings in your press might be due to insufficient belling of you case mouths. I tend to agree. Lead bullets are cast a little bit larger than jacketed bullets because they do swage down into the rifling with less force than jacketed bullets. If the case mouth is not opened up wide enough, it will shave lead during the loading process. I've done it. I quit doing it. Some lubes have a lower melting point than other lubes. To keep your hands and your equipment cleaner, lower your thermostat or just keep your (lubricated) bullets chilled before loading. Or use a higher melting point lube.

The nose of the bullet is important, but at handgun velocities, not so much, I think. Round nose, hollow point, flat nose, full wadcutter. The most important thing is that all the bullets you shoot have the same nose as each other. That they behave all the same is important to good grouping.

Now, with terminal ballistics, shape, hardness strength of the material (jacket and core) is a whole different story. I recall a composite bullet back in the '70s that consisted of a very soft lead nose and center and a very hard lead base and sides. A caster would cast the base part of one formulation of lead with a deep, wide hollow in it. Looked like a very tiny coffee mug with a conical shape to the inside. The rest of the bullet was cast of a soft lead. The two were epoxied together. When the bullet hit thick-skinned game, the nose would flatten and create a wide wound channel like a good soft-point should do. The hard base and sides would keep leading to a minimum because you would use a very hard alloy which, if the entire bullet were the same alloy all the way through would not flatten, much less expand. Anyone remember those?

Whatever the hardness of the alloy, it is widely held that when contemplating shooting thick-skinned heavily muscled game (bears, wild boar, stuff like that) a hollowpoint is not as desirable as a heavy, solid bullet with a wide, flat meplate that will penetrate deeply to where the bones are. Expanding bullets rarely penetrate that deeply. semi-wadcutters may not be the best shaped profile for that job, but they are close to it.

I don't want to discount your experiences in loading and leading, but I have not shared many of them and most of those we have shared, I have been able to mitigate by adjusting my techniques, loads or components.

I like my semi-wadcutters. I have shot round-nose, hollow point, solid soft point and the occasional full wadcutter. I have shot fully jacketed, half-jacketed and copper-plated lead, but I keep coming back to the economical and efficient SWC in lead, plated or jacketed.

Keep loading, keep asking questions and keep an open mind (but not so open that your brain falls out.)

Good luck and don't pinch your fingers in your press.

Lost Sheep


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Old November 4, 2009, 06:25 AM   #24
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Wadcutter load

Hogbuster: Just a quick addition - those 141s were cast in Linotype alloy.
If the OP wishes to shoot jacketed SWCs - there are a number available. Remington makes a 185 grain match bullet that is marvelously accurate. Remington now calls them FMJ Truncated Cone but its the same bullet that they sold as a match SWC some years ago. Hornady, also, makes a 185 gr. JSWC, as well as a 200 grain JSWC that they call FMJ Combat target.
Personally - I cast and shoot lead SWCs. Never a problem.
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Old November 4, 2009, 07:26 AM   #25
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SWC are bad? Darn, what am I going to do with the 3,000 of them sitting in my basement?!?
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