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Old September 9, 2021, 10:33 AM   #1
Shadow9mm
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getting started with casting

IMPORTANT NOTE: I did already create a thread on Cast Boolits, since everyone seems to refer casting questions there. However I frequent this forum a lot more, and was looking for input from people here and hoping to help give a little life to the casting section here.


Well I cast my first batch of test bullets today. Thought I would relate my story of starting up and was hoping for input on ways to dial things in.

The lead
Is repurposed bullets at about 13bhn. The short version is I had a LARGE batch factory coated cast lead bullets (120lb ish) that were leaving heavy deposits of lead and bullet coating in the barrels after only 50rnds. I could not fix the issue after much testing and decided to repurpose the lead. Its a LONG story and I would rather not go down the rabbit trail again.

Cleaning it up
I got a small stainless sauce pan, and used my single burner camping stove with the green propane tanks and melted down bout 6lb at a time as more than that was too hard to pour. I have been able to melt down about 45lb so far. I got a Lee ingot mold. It was cheap, and I figured having 1/2 bar slots for making my own alloys down the road would be helpful. In retrospect getting the lyman 4x1 lb ingot mold would have been better. I have been heating it up in the sauce pan at full blast until it all melts then backing off the gas. while it was cooling a little I was scooping the bullet coatings off the top. Then I fluxed using the frankford flux to get the last of the crud out. I know there are other options, but it was cheap and does a long way. The lead pours fine in a single pour but leaves ripples in the ingots. it generally cools in 10-20 seconds. I figures since it is just going to get re-melted later the ripples are fine.

Casting
I got the Lee Pro 4, 20lb furnace, because it was cheap. I also got lee molds, because they are cheap and I am learning. I got a 125g round nose for 9mm, and a 158g wide flat nose for 38/357. I am hoping to get custom molds eventually but I want to get my technique down first. The only critique I have for the furnace is that the adjustment for the pour speed needs a lock nut as it moves when you pour. I started out with just 3lb. I set the furnace to 5, figuring I would let it warm up all the way and pour. However it was set too low. The bullets had lots of layer lines. and the lines from the mold were not clean. I had the molds on top of the furnace to pre-heat. I ended up turning it up to 9 and then backing it down. Around 7 1/4 ended up being the sweet spot. the bullets were clean and the edges were crisp. at 7 1/2 the bullets were frosting. at 7 the bullets were fairly crisp but there were some layer lines.

Sizing
I am planning to try sizing tomorrow. This is one of the things I am still learning about. How long should I wait after casting to size? I have heard if I size too soon and the lead has not reached even hardness it might end up under sized due to not spring back as much? For now this is a test batch and I am going to measure some as cast and size tomorrow.

I have a LEE app press and got the sizing kit and punches. For .357 I will be sizing at .359 (based on my cylinder size) and 9mm will be a .357. Hoping to set it up and try sizing tomorrow.

everything was done outside, and there was a light breeze.

So a few questions

Frost on bullets
From what I understand this means the lead or mold were too hot when pouring, is this right? Also does it effect the bullets in any way other than cosmetics?

water dropping
We cooled a few of the bullets in water so we could look at the, better right after casting. As I understand it this can harden the bullets. My basic understanding is that air cooled bullets start out a touch soft then evenly harden to where they started. Water cooled bullets harden and get much harder than air cooled but soften some over the next few days. But I dont understand the specifics. How much harder is a water cooled bullet? will it soften to its original hardness, or once it settles will it still be harder than air cooled. starting out at 13bhn. I understand this is not an exact science, just trying to get a ballpark idea. I plan to air cool the majority of my bullets, but am considering water dropping the ones for my full power 357 loads.

sizing
the bullets seemed to go through fine however I'm seeing a couple things I don't understand
1. streaks on the bullets. the sizing process is leaving lines down the sides of the bullets, is this normal or do I need to be fixing something?
2. the bullets are not sized all the way around. there are some spots on the sides that look like they were not touched by the sizer
3. some of the ogive is getting sized. is this normal, seems a touch odd and does not look the best.

lubing
seemed to go ok as near as I can tell, but I may have put too much lube on. had a couple questions.
1. the instructions say wax paper. will using foil be a problem for now or will it stick and pull buts of foil off
2. did I use too much lube?
3. how thick is the lube supposed to be. it was like a THICK grease. did not want to come out of the bottle


This is where I am now. I know I still have a good bit to learn. What can I do better?



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Old September 10, 2021, 07:31 PM   #2
dahermit
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Your bullets look a tad out-of-round to me.

Hold your closed mold blocks up to the light to see if they are mating/closing correctly. You should not be able to see any light between them, but I have had Lee blocks right from the factory that did.
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Old September 11, 2021, 07:48 AM   #3
Shadow9mm
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Will check it. Was suspicious they were out of round for the 38 mold. The 9mm mold is dropping round
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Old September 11, 2021, 12:46 PM   #4
big al hunter
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You are casting with Lee molds that drop close to .358 in 357, and 356 in 9mm. They are intended to be shot "as cast". Your sizer dies are a might too big for your bullets. Turn up the heat and cast as fast as the sprue frosts over. It will heat up your molds and expand the metal for slightly larger bullets.

Frosty bullets are indeed a sign of high Temps on the lead and mold. For your diameter sizer I would go for frosty. I size my bullets. 001 smaller than you do. And I powder coat first. When I get frosty bullets the sizer cuts my powder coat off.

The little lines you see from the sizer are machine marks inside your sizer. Nothing to worry about. Clean your sizer dies after use with a bore brush to help prevent buildup of lead inside.
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Old September 11, 2021, 03:02 PM   #5
Shadow9mm
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I will clean the sizer before I use it again. I'm sizing large for my revolver throat .358 will pass through, and slugged barrels to ensure a good fit 9mm barrels are a touch over .355
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Old September 11, 2021, 03:22 PM   #6
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Agree with big_al, your as cast bullet size for the .38 is likely less than the .359" sizer die you are using.

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Old September 11, 2021, 04:25 PM   #7
Targa
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You might want to consider a lead thermometer, I wouldn’t cast without one.
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Old September 11, 2021, 04:53 PM   #8
Mike / Tx
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Quote:
You might want to consider a lead thermometer, I wouldn’t cast without one.
Check Midway, Natchez, Midsouth and other sources, start with a full pot and try to keep around half full for consistency. I like to run mine between 690 and 740 but do have to bump up one some of the smaller diameter molds to keep them up to temp.

Using aluminum foil is fine especially if it is the non stick type, but I generally use wax paper for tumble lube. If you have a vacuum sealer those bags are awesome for tumble lubing. I generally put in a hundred or so bullets, then drizzle about a dozen drops of the LLA on them and heat it all up with a hair drier for a minute and start rolling them around in the bag. Usually that's all it takes. I was told if you can see it there is too much. I've run my 300gr 454 bullets up to 1600fps without issues using that approach so I know it works.

My 45 ACP gets choked down if I have too much lube on the 185 and 200gr SWC's. Running just enough to feel it on the bullets or see a slight discolor on them is plenty.
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Old September 13, 2021, 11:21 PM   #9
big al hunter
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9mm barrels are a touch over .355
You should be able to size the 9mm to .356 then. Have you tried cast bullets in the .358 and .356 diameters and found them to be inaccurate? Or are you going on the premise that they should be more accurate sized larger? I cast for both calibers and have had excellent results. I have not taken the time to slug my barrels because I see no need. I would put slugging the barrel on the list of things to do diagnosing issues rather than as preparation for casting.
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Old September 14, 2021, 04:09 PM   #10
Shadow9mm
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Originally Posted by big al hunter View Post
You should be able to size the 9mm to .356 then. Have you tried cast bullets in the .358 and .356 diameters and found them to be inaccurate? Or are you going on the premise that they should be more accurate sized larger? I cast for both calibers and have had excellent results. I have not taken the time to slug my barrels because I see no need. I would put slugging the barrel on the list of things to do diagnosing issues rather than as preparation for casting.
No, I slugged my 9mm barrels and to maintain a minimum of 0.001 over dimeter I had to go to .357.
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Old September 17, 2021, 12:25 PM   #11
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So a couple of things... I wouldn’t size your .357 projectiles for cylinder size, I would size for .001 over barrel. A little (and by little I do mean little) loose in the cylinder helps make loading easier if you load a bullet with a long bearing surface that goes past the throats in the cylinder. I would size to .001 over barrel size. That will also fix the uneven contact with the sizer die problem you have.

I also personally go for frosted bullets. I cast clip on WWs for my center fire projectiles, and I often cut that alloy with pure lead some. My tin content is likely quite low, and I don’t get great mold fill unless I start running a little hot. There is no harm in frosting bullets.

I water drop anything that is alloyed with antimony and shot through a center fire. Ups your BHN a smidge. Honestly some rounds would be just fine with pure lead. .38spc, .45 colt (non Ruger loads), and numerous other low pressure/velocity rounds are pure lead safe. Of course, I also launch pure lead balls to near 1200 FPS out of my NMA repro with almost no leading... go figure.

I don’t lube I PC. It’s actually quite easy to do and very little up front cost. A cheap yard sale toaster oven, a few Tupperware containers, and some HF red powder will get you going. No lube buildup in my pistols. When I shot lubed bullets, I could count on cleaning my 1911 halfway through a range trip if it was an all-day 300+ round affair. Now I can go 500+ rounds easily.

I only use a thermometer when melting down weights, and then just to ensure I stay under the melting point of zinc. I use a propane burner and I have my regulator set to where I want it... which is on the warm side.

Most importantly, read and listen to long time casters here and over at cast boolits. And keep trying. I was nervous getting started but have found that casing is fairly forgiving if you follow a couple of guidelines.
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Old September 17, 2021, 01:37 PM   #12
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I size so it's a tight fit to push a bullet through the throat. There will be a taper in any quality revolver where the cylinder goes from the charge hole diameter to the throat diameter and a correctly sized bullet won't get hung up.

Sizing to the barrel doesn't really provide any benefit. If the barrel is larger than the cylinder throat you're in trouble because the bullets are always going to come out the small throat diameter. If the throats are larger than the barrel, you are still better off sizing to fit the throat. The bullets will be aligned better and the barrel will bullet will be sized in the barrel without issue. If the cylinder throat and barrel are the same it is irrelevant.
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Old September 18, 2021, 11:19 AM   #13
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I size so it's a tight fit to push a bullet through the throat. There will be a taper in any quality revolver where the cylinder goes from the charge hole diameter to the throat diameter and a correctly sized bullet won't get hung up.
Yep, size to your throat diameter. With one of my S&W Model 25's, I size to .455" despite my barrel being .452".

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