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Old April 5, 2013, 08:56 PM   #1
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Worth reloading lead bullets?

I started reloading a few months ago. Thus far I've loaded 9mm, 10mm, and .45 ACP on my Lee turret press, but I have dies for several other calibers. I've stuck to jacketed bullets thus far and I've had no problems at all.

Aside from cost savings, am I missing anything by not investing in some cast bullets? I shoot a fair amount of .38/.357 and .45 LC, and cast bullets are far cheaper than FMJ at several online retailers.

Leading, bullet shaving, determining proper bullet hardness, slugging the bore to ensure proper diameter, etc. just seem like issues that are a potential PITA. I can push jacketed bullets faster without worrying about any of that stuff. And I think barrel leading in some of my old revolvers would break my heart

Is loading lead really that big of a hassle? Or have I just done too much research on the internet?
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Old April 5, 2013, 09:03 PM   #2
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I, too, have been tempted by the "dark side" (casting lead bullets).

So far, I have only gone as far as buying plated bullets for pistol plinking. These are a lot cheaper than quality jacketed bullets, and generally don't have any of the lead issues you described.

I did buy some Oregon Tru-Shots for .44 Magnum, but these are a hard cast bullet with a gas check. As such, they aren't any cheaper than a jacketed bullet. Just a different design, for a different purpose.

There are a lot of fans of lead bullets. As a circular argument, why would there be so many if shooting lead caused all that much trouble?

So my two cents isn't related directly to lead bullets, as I quit shooting .45 ACP lead maybe 25 years ago. As such, I have essentially no experience with lead. I'm just suggesting you might look at plated bullets as a compromise.
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Old April 5, 2013, 09:25 PM   #3
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I buy lead at the local scrap yard for $1 a pound. Takes me 9 pounds to make 500 125 grain bullets for my 9mm. That's $18 per 1000 bullets and I love doing it.-
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Old April 5, 2013, 09:29 PM   #4
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The thing about lead is it is either a hassle or it is not. Generally it is not somewhere in between. If you gun has the proper barrel diameter and your don't mind you gun getting dirtier than lead is an excellent way to save money. If your gun has an oversized bore lead will give you all sorts of problems.

Most people who shoot commercial hard cast lead will have leading to some degree. They are made with a "one size fits most" mentality and are generally harder than they need to be. I've never had a problem scrubbing out leading with a copper brush and some lead solvent.
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Old April 5, 2013, 09:30 PM   #5
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Before bullets were coated (jacketed), they all were just lead.

Some cartridges started as lead bullets. Others just do well with lead bullets.

There are many reasons to use lead bullets and some are very good reasons.
There are many reasons NOT to use lead bullets and a couple may be valid.

Of the rounds you have listed, they all are candidates for the use of lead.

Lower costs are a very good point. Always having a source is another (cast them any time you need bullets).

There is an art to many aspects of lead. But for most of us, it is a very simple change over from jackets to lead. I have never made 'paper patched' lead bullets and I have been loading for 55 years.

I will pick on one of my favored bullets, the .45 ACP. The old war house is not mandated to have velocity to expand. It is big and does the job, hard metal jacket or just lead. My 200 grain lead .45 loads run less than 900 Feet per second and don't expand (guess they do if shot at rock or steel). The 230 grain FMJ .45 doesn't expand ether (same exceptions). So which is better?

I have shot home cast .375 280 gran lead out of a .375 H&H Mag. It makes an excellent deer stopper.

Lead isn't for everyone. Can't think of why off hand.


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Old April 5, 2013, 10:05 PM   #6
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I buy commercial cast bullets in 9mm, 38, 357, 44 Mag, 45acp, and hard cast gas check bullets for my 500 Mag rifle, I've never had a problem with all.
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Old April 5, 2013, 10:10 PM   #7
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Loading lead is a little different so there is a learning curve but it is simple enough.
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Old April 5, 2013, 10:12 PM   #8
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I scrounge lead from our local gun club; there must be 100 tons in the backstop! Mine and smelt into ingots then cast everything from my 200 gr. .452 SWC (.45 acp) to full on straight wheel weight 500 grainers for the Sharps. THAT gun shoots into one hole at 100 yards which really makes you proud after doing all that work.
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Old April 5, 2013, 10:36 PM   #9
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You're over thinking it. Wade through the learning curve and size your boolits big to bore diameter and you'll never go back to jacketed. The only thing I load jacketed in is rifles. Some of my guns have never tasted jacketed bullets.
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Old April 5, 2013, 11:22 PM   #10
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Lead is ALL I load in 9MM and 45ACP
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Old April 6, 2013, 02:01 AM   #11
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Look, once you get the proper bullet shape, size and weight set up for your particular gun, you can crank out those suckers by the hundreds and shoot for a fraction of what even factory cast lead bullets would cost.

Three years ago I bought a 500ct box of FMJ for my CZ. It cost $60 back then. When I ran out, the store was sold out and I was stuck with having to buy ammo off the shelf, a real hit to the wallet. At that point I realized how dependent most people are on external sources for ammo and I wanted to buck that issue. I haven't fired a jacketed bullet since.

Honestly leading isn't that big a deal. You get a Chore Boy and wrap it around a bronze brush and scrub vigorously for a few seconds.

I should add I cast my own 9mm, 45acp and 7.62x39 from wheelweights. It's time consuming but worth it.
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Old April 6, 2013, 06:36 AM   #12
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I do a little casting myself.

I never understood what was such a big deal about it. Yes there is a learning curve, but it’s not all that difficult. You will have no problems if you use a properly sized and lubed bullet and don’t over drive it. If you do get some leading while developing a new load you can clean it out, it doesn’t damage the gun.
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Last edited by Shootest; April 6, 2013 at 06:56 AM.
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Old April 6, 2013, 06:57 AM   #13
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I shoot 95% lead bullets and 5% jacketed in 38, 357 and 45. When I am going to shoot jacketed after shooting lead I clean the barrels completely getting whatever lead is in them out before shooting jacketed. I don't know if its necessary or not but thats the way I do it.
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Old April 6, 2013, 07:43 AM   #14
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I have loaded and shot tens of thousands of commercial hard cast lead in .44 mag. through my Ruger Redhawk with nary a problem. Shot competitively with that combo for years.
Dollar savings is the big motivator.
No reason not to.
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Old April 6, 2013, 07:53 AM   #15
A pause for the COZ
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I really could not see myself doing this hobby with out reloading cast bullets. Even if you have to buy lead. ( I do)
Your cost still is at least 1/2 of purchased lead bullets. And jacketed are not even on the radar.
Last time I figured it out I have it down to around $4.80 for a box of 50 45acp loads.

But here is the biggest benefit. I HAVE AMMO!!! When I need it and I am not beholden to a supply chain.
I have 500 pounds of lead under the bench. ( Thats 25000 125gr bullets)I can make any bullet I need when I need it.

Another plus:
The friction caused by a lead bullet travailing down a barrel is a order of magnitude less than a jacketed bullet.
That equals extended barrel life. As a matter of fact, I dont expect to ever wear out any of my barrels.

Yes there is a learning curve. But after your done, your self sufficient.

Last edited by A pause for the COZ; April 6, 2013 at 08:05 AM.
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Old April 6, 2013, 08:55 AM   #16
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When I started handloading (only about six years ago) I bought 500 .45acp FMJ bullets, and some for 9mm as well. I also bought some lead 200gr SWCs I bought locally. After some more reading, I started with the lead bullets and the FMJ stuff is still sitting in a box.

Early on, I bought one of the Lewis Lead Removers, but I have never used it. The amount of lead left behind is minimal and comes out with the little bit of Chore Boy copper scouring pad wrapped around my bore brush.

So far, I have loaded .45acp, .45LC, .41 Mag, 19mm and .380acp--all lead. I have dies and components for .38/357 and 9mm, and will get around to those.

Bottom line--lead practice rounds are (IMHO) the way to go.
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Old April 6, 2013, 09:15 AM   #17
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I live that round nose COZ, what is it?

Here's one of mine:
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Old April 6, 2013, 09:26 AM   #18
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Those are Lyman 452374's In my opinion one of the best bullets for the 45acp.

But you should try them in HP's

The only issue I have run into with these is lube sizing them with a Star Lube sizer.
They tapper just in front of the front lube groove. I get lube on the nose from the star sizer.
That does not happen when lube sizing from a RCBS LAM or a Lyman lubber.

Other than that they are top 10.

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Old April 6, 2013, 09:27 AM   #19
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In my opinion the real question is should i use anything else than lead. Its very rare i dont load lead.
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Old April 6, 2013, 09:28 AM   #20
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Thanks for all the opinions, guys. Sounds like something I need to wade into.

Can someone tell me exactly what is different in the operation of my turret press when loading lead? I shouldn't use the factory crimp die at all? Flare the case mouth less or more?
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Old April 6, 2013, 09:33 AM   #21
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COZ the bullet I'm casting has a full diameter front driving band & still at times I'll get some lube on the front. I also cast the Lyman 452374 & it's a little harder to keep the lube from where is doesn't belong.

H&G #34

Lyman 452374FX
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Old April 6, 2013, 09:38 AM   #22
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Can someone tell me exactly what is different in the operation of my turret press when loading lead? I shouldn't use the factory crimp die at all? Flare the case mouth less or more?
Everything remains the same, nothing changes. All I have ever loaded is lead. Factory crimp die a must for "ME" with all my loads, revolver and semi-auto. No change to flare of the case. I shoot Missouri Bullets with a BHN of 18. I have had no leading issues and I use a fast powder, Titegroup in all my loads, 38 spl, 357 mag, 9 mm, 40 S&W, 45 acp
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Old April 6, 2013, 10:01 AM   #23
A pause for the COZ
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hmmm I may have to look into that.
It certainly appears your Lyman 452374FX's are getting a real good seal in front of that lube groove.

I am running a pretty soft mix.
You think if I added some Lino to the mix it might drop them a little fatter?
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Old April 6, 2013, 10:11 AM   #24
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Absolutely it is worth reloading lead bullets!

All I load is commercial lead bullets. .357, .44spec, .44mag, .45ACP, .45 Colt and of course round ball for the BP guns. I haven't got into casting yet, but buying commercial you still save a bundle over jacketed. Cartridge loading is no different than jacketed. Crimp into the crimp groove if you have one, otherwise (like .45ACP) do you COL check and taper crimp.

I've used lead bullets from 600fps to 1300fps with no leading. Never have used a gas check either.

There are some things to know, like throat diameter to bore diameter, forcing cone angle, lead hardness, bullet size, and bore constrictions to minimize/eliminate leading. For example, in a Ruger SA, the cylinder throats are usually under size. This causes the bullet to be undersize when it hits the bore and causes leading/inaccuracy. Reaming them out to .452 and problem solved. You want to 'seal' the bore. This is the biggest concern when shooting .45 Colt. In one of my revolvers the group size was cut in half after this was done. Then there is slower the bullet, the softer the bullet, faster the bullet, the harder the bullet. I'll stop here, as you can find many discussions on the subject around the net on lead hardness, fire-lapping/taylor throating to remove constrictions, etc.

Remember you don't have to do all these things ... just if you have a leading problem, then start looking around for 'why'. Usually it is one or more of the above problem areas.
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Old April 6, 2013, 10:19 AM   #25
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Absolutely. I've had nothing but good luck from commercial cast lead bullets in pistols, and I bit the bullet so to speak and started gathering tools to cast my own. At pistol velocities you can get away with plain base lead bullets of pretty much any lead composition. Higher velocity rifle rounds need a harder mix and gas check or paper patch.

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