The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Skunkworks > Handloading, Reloading, and Bullet Casting

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old September 28, 2002, 10:33 AM   #1
Gary H
Senior Member
Join Date: April 26, 2000
Location: California
Posts: 2,256
Why Cast? Time??

I reload for about ten calibers plus shotgun, but never cast my own bullets. I like good equipment and enjoy the process of reloading, but my time is so short. I'm thinking of casting for my Long Colt and .480 Ruger, but question the economics of casting. Not so much the money, but the time. I gather that the main tasks are the actual molding of the bullet and then sizing it. How long would it take you to produce 500 finished .45's?

Why buy an RCBS mold when you can find Lees for so much less?

Is there a best in such equipment..furnace, sizer-lube?

Reading posts..I already get that Lee Furnaces aren't long lasting.

Gary H is offline  
Old September 28, 2002, 10:41 AM   #2
Senior Member
Join Date: February 28, 2002
Location: Canton, Oh
Posts: 896
I can't answer all of your questions, but perhaps some. My dad has a Lee furnace that is older than dirt, also know a couple of people with lee production pot four's that have had them for years with no problems.

Time depends on how fast you can work, how many cavities in your mold and if it's hot out (or you have other difficulties managing mold temp) how many molds you have. The lube/size time depends on method (lubrisizer/liquid alox and a LEE sizer die, lube only no resize).

There are two big reasons I can think of for casting, besides being fun. There are far more molds available than bullet types, for example lee makes a LSWC-HP mold for .357/.38 and I've never seen LSWC-HP's for sale pre-cast. The next reason would be you can size your bullets to match your barrel perfectly.. thus better accuracy.
DoD# 2223
Meum scapha volitare plenum anguillae
braindead0 is offline  
Old September 28, 2002, 12:50 PM   #3
Steve Smith
Senior Member
Join Date: December 9, 1999
Posts: 4,131
I only cast for my .45 Colt. The only reason I do that is because finding large bullets locally is very difficult, and shipping is rediculous. (325 grain LBT-LFN is my favorite). I can crank out an average of 4-6 a minute. You don't always hve to size, but you do have to lube, which you can do in a tumbler. More later...
Favor the X.

Steve Smith
NRA Life Member
Steve Smith is offline  
Old September 28, 2002, 02:45 PM   #4
Senior Member
Join Date: September 7, 2001
Posts: 325
I used to cast for 45acp, 44mag, 357 and 9mm. I started out with a Lee pot and Lee molds, but moved to an RCBS Pro-Melt furnace and SAECO 4-gang molds. I was casting about 600 per hour if I recall. As with everything Lee makes except their Perfect Powder Measure, these tools were just adequate and meant for (s)low production quantities (what I might call a 'primer' set).

The RCBS Pro-Melt is a Cadillac next to the Lee's '64 Volkswagen.
The Lee pot spout would clog regularly; that didn't happen hardly at all with the RCBS, maybe once every three casting sessions. (I'd cast for 6 hours at a time, with a couple of breaks). RCBS pot would hold about 20lb of lead; Lee's was more like 3-4lb, and I'd have to stop all the time to refill and clean the lead (after waiting for it to heat up enough to liquify the lead). I'd have to fill the RCBS just as often as the Lee (on a timetable), but that was because the RCBS dropped lead so much faster. The RCBS was also capable of keeping the lead liquid and would continue to pour while melting more lead. The Lee didn't have the power for that, and the lead would 'freeze' at even the slightest additions.

The (steel/iron?) SAECO molds cost probably 4-6x the price of the Lee at the time (20yr ago); I don't know if they're still made. Their great advantage is that they were so big they dissipated heat much more quickly, allowing continuous use. I remember the aluminum Lees would heat up so quickly if I wanted them to keep pace with me, instead of vice versa, I'd have to dunk them in water constantly until it became so futile I'd either have to switch molds or take a long break (30-40 minutes). I was never forced to stop or quench with a SAECO, even their 2-gangs dissipated heat fast enough for a good steady pace.

No experience with anything else aside from an RCBS Lubri-sizer. Cheap enough even by today's standards, I remember it requires some muscling of the handle to size the bullet. Completely forget the rate at which I could lube/size, but I'll guess 20-25/ minute. The great advantage here is one could 'customize' bullet diameter for each gun, by slugging the gun.

The best thing about the RCBS is the warranty. My unit is at least 20 years old; after 10 years in storage, I just sent it back for repairs. (Dunno why, but it worked the last time I used it, but not when I dusted it off a month ago.) Got it back last week, and they'd replaced the switch, cord and pot; the only thing left original was the casing and baseplate. That's one hell of a warranty.
moredes is offline  
Old September 28, 2002, 03:40 PM   #5
Gary H
Senior Member
Join Date: April 26, 2000
Location: California
Posts: 2,256
What is slugging a gun? Do you get an oversized bullet, wooden dowel and push the bullet through the barrel and measure bullet diameter?
Gary H is offline  
Old September 28, 2002, 07:36 PM   #6
Member In Memoriam
Join Date: November 29, 1999
Location: west of a small town, CO
Posts: 4,346
Casting is dirt cheap if you don't figure your time - & really who does with anything reloading? (probablly rhetorical for some)

Bullet availability is huge, as mentioned. Accuracy is better as you tailor your bullets' diameter/lube, etc. to your own bore (I have never done this & still get good accuarcy, BTW)

It's another step to the "whole-body" roll your own thing.

Still never used a casting pot/furnace - cast everything off a Coleman stove & old pot metal pot The Wife was gonna pitch years back.

Figure ~$40 for a good mould (Lyman or such - many are much cheaper) & the sizer/luber with the proper sizing dies (& you can get away with much less). I did use a .44 (.429) Lee mould once that threw 'em right at .430 & did the "roll 'em around lube" for a while. Dirt cheap bullets that shot very well to 50 yards or so.

I've gotten 1/2" groups at 100 yards with cast bullets in .30-06 & .308 - not too shabby for cheap.

& too, you're usually using much less powder (in rifles anyway) = cheaper even still. Very nice plinking/practice rounds for your big game rifles, etc.

The cat's meow for anything handgun.

Far as Lee's moulds = they're aluminum & don't have the staying power as does good steel, but I've used one Lee mould that lasted plenty good. Take care of it & it'll provide good service for a long time.
labgrade is offline  
Old September 28, 2002, 08:00 PM   #7
Gary H
Senior Member
Join Date: April 26, 2000
Location: California
Posts: 2,256
I've shot only jacketed bullets. Do lead take less powder for same velocity?
Gary H is offline  
Old September 28, 2002, 10:53 PM   #8
Member In Memoriam
Join Date: November 29, 1999
Location: west of a small town, CO
Posts: 4,346
Depends, Gary.

Part of the deal is what does velocity really gain you?

& that's a real serious (& maybe rhetorical) question.

Velocity gets you some trajectory, & maybe some other added bennies, but a goodly-size/weight cast bullet will do anything regards terminal ballistics (what the whole "game's" about anyway) anything else will do.

A heavy(ier) cast weight bullet will punch a full-caliber hole through whatever it is you'd want to.

May not have a "flat" trajectory, but what revolver-type caliber has that anyway?

I shoot a cast ~180 gr Keith-style .357 & I have no doubt that it'd do elk to 100 yards, no sweat, if I placed it properly. A 240 gr .44 could do it another 50 yards+ - with proper placement. Moose too.

Although I'd subscribe to the wonder-bullet JHP for personal defense, I'd be just as well served with a heavier cast bullet - defense or hunting & feel zero "lack."

Decent bullet in the right place = you are the "winner" - for whatever the game afoot.

The more I hunt, the less I see the "need" for velocity.
labgrade is offline  
Old September 29, 2002, 09:06 AM   #9
Junior member
Join Date: May 28, 2002
Location: Idaho
Posts: 917
Lee pots

I've got a Lee pot, still works great after over 10 years of use. Someone mentioned that their Lee pot held 3-4 lb. of casting material. Did they have the family cat in the pot? Mine holds a good 10 lbs. of casting material, I've never bothered weighing it. I have a few Lee moulds, I don't care for them as it's difficult to keep them at a constant temperature - they get too hot too fast and then you have to wait for them to cool down - and this slows down bullet production. I have a Lee sizer that screws into my Rockchucker, it works fine (bullets come out the top and are deposited in it's round plast case). I've got a RCBS sizer/lube machine but have never used it.
rick_reno is offline  
Old September 29, 2002, 12:18 PM   #10
Senior Member
Join Date: March 16, 1999
Location: So. CA Mountains
Posts: 540
Anymore, because I can't find the weight/shape I want, nor can I find them molyplated, which solved my leading problems in one swell foop . I only cast for handguns.

As far as Lee equipment, and I regard Lee with great suspicion..., considering their stuff much better designed than built, I've used their molds with great success, they are one Lee product I recommend.

And mostly because I can! cast, that is...
There are damn few situations so screwed up that adding government to them will not make 'em worse...
The best homeland security is an armed & informed citizenery!
Molon Labe!
swifter... is offline  
Old September 29, 2002, 01:55 PM   #11
Black wallnut
Join Date: September 28, 2002
Location: Central Washington
Posts: 17
I cast because it's what my dad does. My bullet quality, IMHO, is better than lead bullets available from a dealer. It is almost impossible to wear out a barrel using cast bullets, and leading seems to be eaiser to remove than copper fouling. I have been using a Lee 20 lb. bottom pour pot for close to ten years with out any problems. I also use Lee, Lyman, and RCBS moulds. Lee moulds also IMHO drop bullets just as good as any other moulds which I've used, although they are not as durable. Moulds by thier very nature are precision tools and should be handled carefully. When casting I always cast with two moulds at the same time thus controlling mould temp is easiser.
marK in WA
I always bring a gun to a knife fight!
Black wallnut is offline  
Old September 29, 2002, 07:41 PM   #12
Senior Member
Join Date: August 7, 2000
Location: Floating down the James River in VA
Posts: 2,599
Economy-I cast for a muzzleloader,and soon for shotgun slugs. Minieballs cost approximately $5-9 per 25 commercially. I can load hundreds of them using free lead,my time and some gasoline on a Coleman camping stove. The fixed costs of my casting (A $17 Lee mould,$3 dipper, free cast iron pot) have long since been capitalized away by the value of the bullets I've cast.
Poodleshooter is offline  
Old September 29, 2002, 07:57 PM   #13
Senior Member
Join Date: February 28, 2002
Location: Canton, Oh
Posts: 896
As far as slugging your bore, probably the easiest way is to find a round fishing weight that's slightly over size. Use a soft hammer (brass, plastic/wood mallet) and pound it into the bore preferably from the chamber end, if you can't (revolvers) the muzzle works too. Once it's in the barrel, you should be able to push it through with a cleaning rod.

You might want to lubricate your barrel first, with whatever you have available.

Now, if you have an odd number of grooves, it may be difficult to get the absolute groove diameter without some calculations..
DoD# 2223
Meum scapha volitare plenum anguillae
braindead0 is offline  
Old September 30, 2002, 03:28 PM   #14
Senior Member
Join Date: June 30, 2002
Location: NH
Posts: 253
I cast for all of the handguns I own, .22's aside, of course, primarily for economy. The rifles I own are primarily semiautos, and so wouldn't allow the use of cast slugs for very long. Primary calibers are the .40 S&W (summer carry weapon), and the .38 Special (winter use), but 9mm, .44 and .45 are also available, from stock, as they say.

I use SAECO and Lyman blocks, with an RCBS bench tools: both a Pro melt, 84 ish, and a more current sizer, the latter supported by a Midway heater, and it normally lubes with Red Angel.

Lee seems to be a starter tool to me: with a few thousand rounds a year to do, they never seemed to cut it.

Most important to me is the ability to control the hardness of the bullets: I could afford to shoot with commercially available cast or swaged slugs, but polygon barrels require hard rounds, and any load producing 1000 FPS or so requires something beyond the soft lead normally used in the commercial examples.

Keeps me busy during the cold winter months, too, since while the Dillon really will reload a couple of thousand rounds per morning's work, it requires the components to do so, and I shoot more in the warm summer sun!

Given that I ignore the time required to do the casting, I figure, with reloading, that it costs about the same as .22 LR to fire a centerfire pistol.

Then, too, there's the independence thing...


I shot out an old Charter Arms .44 Bulldog, which was my choice for winter CCW (or, perhaps, not really shot out, since I got it fixed, but the trigger is so bad that, while it's safe...)

In it I carried exactly what I practiced with, a lineotype cast, 245 nominal, 429421 Lyman backed by 4.7 of Bullseye for around 725 FPS or so. I figured that, with a 3" barrel, nothing I could shoot was going to expand, but that that bullet would put a .429 hole ALL the way through, regardless.

Technology isn't always the answer, especially if you can't define the problem!
benewton is offline  
Old September 30, 2002, 03:37 PM   #15
Junior member
Join Date: March 2, 2002
Posts: 481
A Heads-Up for braindead0

Actually, Hornady now makes a 158 gr LSWC-HP for .38/.357.

This illustrates the only reason that I do NOT cast. Every time that I consider going into casting because some bullet that I want is otherwise unavailable, I end up finding it as commercial cast.

That said, I still may do so after I finish slugging all of my Mosin Nagants. So far, I am getting some pretty wide variations in groove diameter. This explains some of my accuracy problems with the non-Russian M-44s.
Cee-Zed is offline  
Old September 30, 2002, 03:54 PM   #16
Shooter 973
Senior Member
Join Date: February 3, 2001
Location: Home town of John M. Browning, Utah
Posts: 499
Why cast?

I cast because if I had to buy the same number of bullets that I cast and shoot it would break me. Plus a few years ago there was a threat of banning bullets as a dangerous substance and now no matter what I will never be with out bullets for my guns. And it just plan fun. I do my casting out on my patio in the evenings when I wouldn't be doing anything but watching the tube anyway and with a TV on the other end of the table I can feel like I'm acccomplishing something more than just wasting my time.
The problem with America is stupidity. I'm not saying there should be capital punishment for stupidity, but why don't we just take the safety labels off of everything and let the problem solve itself?
Shooter 973 is offline  
Old September 30, 2002, 05:58 PM   #17
Join Date: January 14, 2002
Location: Tupelo, Ms.
Posts: 69
I started in casting for the economic benifits. I had a lot more time than I had money! Scrounged wheel weights, Coleman stove for heat source, old cast iron pot.
Graduated to the Lee production pot and have been satisfied after about 20 years of use. I use only LYMAN molds, tried a Lee but never did get a good bullet.
Speed depends on many things: comfortable set-up, how long can you cast in a session. Quality of mold and number of cavities in the mold.
I have molds for several pistol and rifle calibers, more than one is some pistols. Like another shooter said, I like having them "just in case"!!
JWC in MS is offline  
Old October 1, 2002, 10:22 PM   #18
Senior Member
Join Date: August 15, 2002
Location: Central Texas
Posts: 111
I have a Lee production pot that is as old as dirt. Mine works well, I add lead as I mold. It definitely holds more than 3 lbs. I have molds from several makers. Lee molds make good bullets. You have to be aware that aluminum heats up faster and can overheat if you attempt to mold too many bullets too fast. If you want to mold as many as you can in a short time, then either buy one of the non-aluminum molds or buy a couple of Lee molds and alternate their use. Aluminum molds tend to gall the top of the mold to the sprue plate if you get them too hot or allow the top of the mold to get dirty. I started as a kid with my father with a steel pot over a coleman stove. This works fine, but in todays produce as much as you can in as short a period as you can way of thinking, it is contrary to mainstream opinion. If on the other hand you want to have fun, cast bullets you shoot, not shoot a 1000 rounds a week, almost any setup will do. I used to mold a lot of mini balls for my .58 Cal Zoauve. I also molded a lot of round balls. You can also find a lot of molds for many different bullets and experiment with different bullet shapes and weights. I plan on pulling out my pot soon and molding some .45-70 bullets , expensive to buy, cheap to mold. Have fun!
TBAUS is offline  
Old October 2, 2002, 08:24 AM   #19
Senior Member
Join Date: October 7, 2000
Location: In the Lost State of Franklin
Posts: 482
Ditto Shooter 973

It's only a matter of time before we get another Liberal Gun Banning Democrap (Yes! I know it's redundant!) President, and Congress falls into their Totalitarian hands. If you value your shooting, guns and Freedom, you'd better have a good cast bullet load for any guns you wish to shoot!

And besides, IT'S GREAT FUN!
Your Most Humble & Obedient Servant
Fred J. Drumheller
NRA Life
NRA Golden Eagle
Pampers is offline  
Old October 5, 2002, 06:55 AM   #20
Senior Member
Join Date: March 22, 2002
Location: In The Hardwoods
Posts: 1,110
If you use a single, two cavity .45 caliber, 250-275 grain, iron mould by Lyman or RCBS with a cooling fan you can dump it appox. every 20 seconds using 92-6-2 alloy at 675 degrees. That's 6 per min. or 360 per hour. You can subtract 12 per hour for flux time.

If you like good equipment and buy a Star Lubersizer you can size and lube your bullets as fast as you can feed it.

For most, to cast blasting bullets isn't worth the time and effort. Machine cast bullets are just too cheap. Your hunting bullets are a different story.
LAH is offline  
Old October 5, 2002, 11:06 AM   #21
Paul B.
Senior Member
Join Date: March 28, 1999
Location: Tucson, AZ
Posts: 3,075
Only one person has even come close to getting it right. Thanks Pampers for your comments. It won't make much difference how much time you have if you can't buy commercially cast bullets to load, or jacketed bullets for that matter. Some of us are old enough to remember WW-2, and the only ammo that was available was either .22 LR or 30-30, and you'd best be on a list of preferred people to get some. The .22's went to farmers to protect their crops, and the 30-30's to ranchers to protect their livestock. (cattle & sheep) I was just a kid then, but this old guy that lived across the street from me has a good supply of lead, primers and several pounds of Hercules Unique and #2400. he also had a good bullet mold. he kept his 30-30 and 30-06 shooting throughout the entire war. Unique for the light practice loads and #2400 for his deer loads. He taught me how to cast, lube, size and apply gas checks to his bullets. That was a long long time ago. Since that time, I have acquired my own casting setup and have, at last count, 67 different molds, from Lee, Lyman, NEI, several special order and custom molds, SAECO's, Hoch's, and the good Lord only knows what else.
To put it bluntly, being able to cast your own bullets is nothing more than plain and simple INDEPENDANCE!
Don't you find it strange that tire shops, car dealers etc. now can legally only sell their used wheel weights to "certified" recyclers? This is the line I'm getting from all the suppliers I've been dealing with.
Lee molds will work, to get back on the subject, but they are a touch fragile. Lyman's quality has gone a bit downhill lately. I much prefer RCBS, but I can find faults with them as well. Custom mold makers are expensive, but the quality is first rate.
I'll pick on Lyman again. One of their most popular bullets is #311291. I have bullets cast from three different molds, and none of them are the same. Diffeent nose lengths, different dimensions on the width of the lube grooves, even the shanks for the gas checks are different.
Still, and all, most mold will work just fine, and with care will last a long time. My first Lyman #311291 was given to me by that old bullet caster years ago. It's a single cavity, and the bullets from it are the best of the bunch that come from the three different molds in that model number.
can you hunt with them? Of course. I've taken roughly 25 Mule and Blacktail deer using the #311291 in a 30-30. You can load that one to full power with cast bullets.
All I can say is this. Once you get hooked, it's an addiction you won't want to quit.
Paul B.
NRA Life/Endowment member
Paul B. is offline  
Old October 5, 2002, 11:18 AM   #22
Junior member
Join Date: November 12, 2000
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Posts: 9,494
Independance, economy, performance & fun.

This is Lymans 300 gr gascheck mould, which fall out at 320 grs with wheelweights and gascheck. Shot from a Ruger Redhawk.

The flyer was my fault.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 44-50yds.jpg (119.1 KB, 40 views)
Edward429451 is offline  
Old October 6, 2002, 12:30 PM   #23
Senior Member
Join Date: March 22, 2002
Location: In The Hardwoods
Posts: 1,110
The question was about the economics of time when it comes to casting. While I agree with Paul B. that casting is a good thing to get into for a lot of reasons; one of which he brings forth, I still feel blasting and plinking bullets are better bought than self cast.

I encourage every one to cast their own but always impress that it is time consuming. I make bullets every day but still buy several machine cast bullets to use as blasters.
LAH is offline  

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:58 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2017 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent:
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.11835 seconds with 8 queries