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Old April 17, 2007, 05:45 PM   #1
John in AR
Join Date: April 17, 2007
Location: Arkansas
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Extremely lightweight revolver bullets

Being my first post here, I’m hoping to avoid giving the impression that I’m a whack or juvenile, just due to the subject matter. I’ve been reloading since 1991 and am comfortable with it, but am entering a new area that I was hoping someone may have tried before me.

I’ve done a little searching here on extremely light-bullet handgun loads, and found some discussion of the old Thunderzaps, as well as the “Nylatron” bullets. (That was a new one on me.) These are similar in concept to what I’m in the process of trying.

Sometime back in the 70’s there was a load called the “SWAT” iirc. This was back around when the Hydrashok was the “Hydrashok Scorpion”; an oddball, low-velocity .38-only load. I may be wrong on the name, but I believe ‘SWAT’ was it, and I remember reading about them and the Hydrashok Scorpion at roughly the same time.

It was basically a bullet jacket filled with epoxy rather than lead; giving a much lighter projectile and accordingly higher velocity with very little pressure and very low penetration.

My situation is this. I’m experimenting with the same approach, in a Ruger SRH in .454 Casull. My favorite bullet in this caliber (and favorite factory load, for that matter) is Hornady’s 240-grain XTP-MAG. Factory loaded, it runs right at 2,000 fps. I handload it at around 1850-1900. For this caliber I use a single-stage press exclusively, weighing each charge individually, and measuring each finished cartridge individually.

With the lead melted out of the XTP-MAG jacket (ten seconds with a propane or mapp torch), and the jacket refilled with epoxy, all the bullets I’ve thus modified weigh in at 91 to 93 grains.

My thought is to try them over a standard charge of 37 grains of W296; the same powder charge used with them unmodified at 240 grains. With the unmodified bullets, this charge runs them between 1850 and 1900 fps; I have no idea what they’d hit with the much lighter 93-grain version.

Anyone tried anything similar, or any concerns with the concept? Being the same powder charge, with the same bullet jacket (same friction coefficient), but at a lighter overall weight, pressure should be reduced. “Should be”...

I considered doing some first in .45LC (because I’m cautious at heart), but I can’t see how it could lead to a safety issue, when the only modification to an already-used load is a reduction in bullet weight.

Any experiences, or cautions I hadn’t considered, would be very greatly appreciated.
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Old April 17, 2007, 05:54 PM   #2
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Just curious........why would you want to do this?
Just my 2¢.
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Old April 17, 2007, 08:45 PM   #3
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I experimented with filling a jacket with shotgun pellets and epoxying them in, they were still very light. The caliber was .41AE and were loaded with normal data. They were very impressive as far as what they did to an old refrigerator, but accuracy was terrible. You shouldn't have that problem but you will want to make sure the epoxy doesn't have any air bubbles in it.

Good Luck
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Old April 17, 2007, 10:27 PM   #4
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there was an article about someone making bullets from nylon stock. iirc they were .44 bullets and weighed in at 37something grains.. shot from a .44mag at over 3kfps.
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Old April 18, 2007, 12:32 AM   #5
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The epoxy may melt at firing temps. The bullet has to be balanced also. Let us know how it goes.
Have a nice day!
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Old April 18, 2007, 02:07 AM   #6
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The only worry I have is the forcing cone. The epoxy will not want to change shapes as the bullet enters the taper there as a lead core would.

You may want to work up loads slowly and look for excessive fouling around the cylinder gap.


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Old April 18, 2007, 08:22 AM   #7
John in AR
Join Date: April 17, 2007
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Sasquatch – as far as ‘why’, just experimenting; although if it works well, I may do some in other wheelgun calibers. By ‘works well’, I simply mean substantially-increased velocity (and energy), while at the same time reducing both recoil and over-penetration dangers. Picture a 70-80 grain bullet at 1800-2000fps in a .38 or .357 ‘house gun’. The light bullet would substantially reduce recoil, but would deliver 500-700 ft/lbs of energy on target at short range. Again, at this point it’s conjecture, but it’s interesting in concept.

Dondor – That sounds like the thread here on the Nylatron bullets. They were very light, but hit something like 2,500fps in a .45LC Blackhawk and 3,000+ from a carbine. I don’t want to go with a bullet quite that light; I still want a little bit of ‘meat’ to the projectile. While 93 grains is light for a .45-caliber, it’s still relatively substantial. Some of the exotic & experimental loads I’ve seen in the past were down around 10-20 grain bullets in .38/.357, and I prefer to experiment with something a little heavier than that. (Don’t want it disintegrating in a mid-air collision with a mosquito... )

tINY – I wondered about that myself, and is the reason for using the “-MAG” version of the .452 jacket. It’s made specifically for Casull pressures & velocity and should (there’s that word “should” again...) minimize that effect. I considered using .451 jackets for that reason, but to be honest, went with .452’s because I already use them and have them on hand.

I may load a few in .45LC first, just to work my way up; but I confess I’m a little intrigued by the possibilities. In the .454 case, dropping the weight from 240 grains down to 93 may well increase the velocity from 1,900fps up to 2,700 or even 3,000.

Powder selection is likely to be an issue as well. The W296 is almost certainly slower than ideal for this light a bullet at this speed; but again, it’s what I’m starting with because doing so allows me to experiment while only changing only one variable in the equation – the bullet itself.
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Old April 18, 2007, 02:21 PM   #8
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Back in the 70's, a friend and I made bullets using copper tubing swaged in a Corbin swaging press with beeswax instead of lead for the bullet core. A .357" JFP weiged 90 gr, loaded with 296, and would leave my 6" Python at over 2400 fps. Accuracy was only fair, sometimes terrible, but the fireball that accompanied it was impressive. Terminal performance was absolutely devastating on jackrabbits, with no pass-through (jacket found in the remains). We tried 87 gr bullets intended for the .380 ACP also, with similar results.

Trying to duplicate Glaser Safety Slugs by putting shot into a jaclet and plugging the cavity will yield spotty results because of bullet balancing. If that's what you want, buy Glasers.
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Old April 18, 2007, 05:18 PM   #9
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"Trying to duplicate Glaser Safety Slugs by putting shot into a jaclet and plugging the cavity will yield spotty results because of bullet balancing. If that's what you want, buy Glasers."

Scorch, If you're referring to my post I wasn't trying to duplicate Glasers, I was copying Mag-safes manufacturing technique at the time. When I said accuracy was terrible I meant for me, for a self defense situation they would have been perfect, unless the bad guy was hiding behind a refridgerator. I learned alot from that old appliance and an old stove, and one of the things I learned was I won't be buying any Glasers, ever. I also found a new technique to solve the balance problem but never got a chance to try them out yet.

Now let's get this thread back on topic, my original post was only because the bullets were much lighter than original, not much different than what John was asking about.
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Old April 20, 2007, 11:45 AM   #10
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There was an article in one of the earlier editions of the ABC's of reloading by Dean Grennel in which they used wooden cores to make ultra light bullets with some very impressive velocites. Just an FYI.
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Old April 26, 2007, 10:51 AM   #11
John in AR
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FWIW – still working slowly on this. I’ve done the epoxy-conversion on another bullet as well, to use as a starter load to work up from. The original ones were XTP-Mag’s; originally 240-grain .452’s, that ended up at 91-93 grains when done. These second ones are normal XTP’s; 185-grain .451’s, that come out at 46-48 grains when modified. The thinner jacket on the non-“Mag” version of the XTP makes a real weight difference.

These second ones are really intended for .45acp loads and don’t have a cannelure, so they’re not perfect, but being .451’s they’ll reduce barrel friction and backpressure somewhat, as long as chamber pressure is kept low enough to not disrupt the thinner jacket that they have. I plan to start with .45LC loads and gradually work my way up to the Casull range, using only the -Mag's in the upper-range loads.

My thinking is that the thicker jacket of the “–Mag” version ‘should’ negate any complications due the differences in hardness of lead & epoxy, when entering the forcing cone & such. Only gradual load workups & evaluation will tell if that holds true or not.

I’ve not touched any of them off yet, because I wanted to clock them as I progressively worked my way up the load scale, and (this is embarrassing to admit) I didn’t own a chronograph. I’ve been several years without one, just using past, familiar, loads, and not being overly concerned with (or interested in) clocking them, since they were loads I’d already used for years previously.

Anyway, I received the new chrono yesterday, and with any luck will get some time to load up and test out some of the starter loads in the next week or two. When I do, I’ll post results here.

If I don’t post in the next few weeks, it means I've either been very busy [which I have been lately] or else I did something very stupid in my experimenting...
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Old April 30, 2007, 04:18 PM   #12
John in AR
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Couldn’t resist; I tried some starter loads over the weekend. Results are below.

Informal tests, starting with .38 special loads, working gradually up to some .45LC loads. Guns were a Smith 4" 681 for the .38 loads, and a Ruger SRH .454 Casull for the .45LC loads.

Chronograph is a new Chrony-F1. Had chrono problems with a couple rounds of .45LC; no way the velocity was as low as the unit said. After two reads that I didn’t trust, I shut it off & put it in the shade for a while; and then brought it back out & it seemed fine again. I confess it’s a new chrono and different from my old one. I may have just failed to do a necessary reset after ten shots (all it can record in a single string); I can’t say, as I was focused more on the loads than the chronograph.

Regardless, I’m happy with the results so far. I need to re-do the low-end .452 loads, that got bad reads on the chronograph, to gather more info on the gradual increases that I lost due to the bad reads before I go too much farther up the power scale.

Even the final load (the 82-grain .452 with 10.0 grains of Titegroup) didn’t have any visible signs of excess pressure, but visual inspection by itself is not (repeat NOT) a valid indicator [especially in non-magnum calibers such as I was using], so don’t try these in your cowboy action .45LC gun. I was shooting a heavy, .454 revolver that I knew could absorb a substantial degree of error or stupidity on my part.

Very non-scientific test. Penetration expectations were very low, so target was one layer of ¾” plywood, followed by three layers of 7/16” Oriented Strand Board (“OSB”, “blandex” or chip-board, commonly used in roof and wall decking in place of ½” plywood), backed by a 3” thick pine timber. All layers of wood were tight together; no spacing between boards. Only round with a different setup was the one .357 load made from an XTP bullet. It was the first round I tried, and underestimated its velocity & penetration both. I only had made up one of that particular bullet, so when I lost that one, I couldn’t re-do the round to see what it’s really capable of.

Given below, are:
- what the bullet originally started out as (in bold),
- what the final weight was (after melting out the lead and replacing with epoxy)
- charge of Titegroup (in grains – all loads were individually weighed before loading)
- velocity @ 10 feet from muzzle
- and comments on the round in general

.357 160-gr Speer JSP
25 - 5.3 - 1114 - Penetrated to back edge of 3/4" plywood. No deformation
25 - 6.5 - 1577 - Thru 3/4" plywood, stuck into/onto 1st OSB - sub-normal pressure indications
24.5 - 7.5 - 1957 - Thru 3/4" plywood, sticking out backside of 1st OSB - sub-normal pressure indications
24.5 - 8.5 - 2231 - Same penetration as 4 above, but larger 1.25" diameter damage in OSB

All above loaded to 1.30" OAL, with slightly heavier than normal crimp.

.357 125-gr XTP
37.6 - 5.3 - 1217 - Passed thru 2 layers 7/16" OSB and lost - underestimated penetration - my mistake.

All .38's fired from 4" S&W 681, chrono'ed 10' from muzzle.
All .38's loaded w/WSP primer in virgin Winchester .38 SPL brass

.451 185-GR XTP (.45acp bullet)
51 - 7.0 - 903 - Thru 3/4" plywood & halfway into 1st OSB. Sub-normal pressure (primer backed out)
51.5 - 9.0 - 2114 - Thru 3/4" plywood & halfway into 1st OSB. No signs of excess pressure.
51 - 9.0 - 2177 - Thru 3/4" plywood & halfway into 1st OSB. (re-do because I didn't believe the velocity of load above.)

.452 240-XTP-Mag (.454 Casull bullet)
81 - 8.0 - 368 - Obvious bad chrono read - penetrated 3/4" plywood & all 3 layers of OSB, and dented backstop timber.
81 - 9.0 - 300 - obvious bad chrono read - same penetration as "B" above. Reset chrono; these two reads have to be wrong.
82 - 10.0 - 2459 - Thru plywood, 3 OSB, and > 1-inch into backstop timber. No visible excess pressure signs.

All .451 and .452 bullets loaded with WLP primers in once-fired, mixed, .45LC brass
All .451 & .452 fired from 7 1/2" Ruger SRH - chrono'ed at 10 feet from muzzle.

All loads in both calibers are with indicated charge of Titegroup powder.

(Sorry about the formatting; it's ugly, but the info is there. It's from an excel spreadsheet and doesn't copy-&-paste well.)

Yes, you’re reading that right. The last .452 load, (82-grain bullet over 10 grains of Titegroup) hit 2,459 feet per second according to the chronograph. Could be a bad read; I can’t say. Obviously, more testing and measuring is needed, both to get data on the progression of loads, and just to satisfy my obsessive-compulsive distrust.

Conclusion? So far, so good. I really need to re-do the low-end .452 XTP-Mag bullet loads, to get info on how they gradually progress. I also will definitely be experimenting with the .357 XTP and .451 XTP bullets more. But it’ll take me a while to work my way up to .454-level loads.

Also, I learned two things about the epoxy. (Normal dual-syringe stuff available at hardware stores.) First, it takes a long time to dry completely inside the case, I assume due to lack of air exposure. Some rounds took days to be fully hard. Secondly, it gets slightly lighter as it hardens; possibly due to evaporation, I can’t say. I weighed the bullets when freshly-filled, and the .452 XTP-Mags all weighed in at 91-93 grains. When completely set (days later), they all were between 80 and 82 grains. No exceptions, they were all slightly lighter when the epoxy had completely set. Odd, yet a good thing to know.

Again – do NOT take this as me recommending everyone run out & try this. It’s potentially VERY dangerous. It’s potentially VERY dangerous. I’m just experimenting for my own purposes, and sharing what I find; I am NOT trying to get others to follow my example. If you do, and you blow up your gun (or your hand or your face), it’s on you, not me.

If this is violating any site policy or practice, or is just a cause of concern for any reason, any moderator is obviously free to delete any or all of this post; and I'll understand completely if that happens. Not trying to push the envelope of what's acceptable here at all, I just figured I'd share what I've learned so far. Don't mean to cause heartburn or worries for anyone.
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Old April 30, 2007, 07:01 PM   #13
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Good job on the range report. Hope you had fun doing it!
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Old May 2, 2007, 05:58 AM   #14
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just conjecture, here.....

as bullet mass decreases, acceleration increases (f=ma);
but as bullet moves, combustion chamber volume increases, so f decreases,
and so does combustion efficiency.
answer is, the lighter the bullet mass, the faster the appropriate powder.
in your case, the fastest powder available: tightgroup good, bullseye maybe better.
very little will be needed.

if you are looking for an extra-ordinary low mass projectile at extra-ordinary high velocity, you may find the barrel twist inappropriate.
any out-of-balance moment of inertia (lack uniform mass distribution about axis of rotation) at higher rotation would result in decreasing accuracy and tumbling.

since you are interested in short range target only, a smoothbore barrel may be appropriate.
(a lighter projectile with large frontal area will be slowed more rapidly by energy transfer to the air in flight, so long range application would be problematic.)

the answer, avoiding legal problems of short barreled smoothbore weapon, would be to use a slightly undersized projectile backed up by a gas check or some kind of wadding, very lightly crimped or possibly sealed with grease.
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Old May 2, 2007, 02:19 PM   #15
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Intresting project ---

Just a bit of advise from someone who has screwed with a fair numebr of epoxy polymers among others and all with close to zero formal training...

1. Check out they will have more choices of epoxy than you can shake a stick at and while if you are going to be using gallons of the stuff there are far cheaper places to buy than mcmaster, if you are paying hardware store prices for the stuff Mcmaster is likley cheaper. They are good to deal with and will sell to anyone in any quantitiy.

2. For your use I would go for the thinest epoxy possible so that it pours easy and is easy to get the air bubbles out of. Mcmaster also has the various metal filled epoxy compounds that you could experiment with if you really want to get into this... or if you want to bed an action

3. If you want to get all of the air out, if you can find or make a small vaccume chamer this will help greatly... you put the mixed epoxy in there and suck down to a decent vaccume and all the air bubbles expand and float up to the surface and leave the mix... works best for thin mixtures. If you pour carefully you will introduce few bubbles back into the mix, or you could pump a second time when the casings have been filled.

4. Most all epoxy systems can be speed up in cure rate by heat... don't quote me on it but I will use a 150 degree oven all the tiem to do this and have never had a problem but again I'm always doing this with non-critical items... if you buy epoxy that they use in making the 767 it will ahhve a 4 page spec sheet that might warn aginst this but then that's for the MAX strenght and bond.. usually we can settle for good enough...

5. If you can jig up the holder for the casings so they sit as nearly close to level and plumb as possible then the epoxy in it's liquid state will assme a better balanaced configuration, when semi-hard you could then move to bake it.

Hope that this helps of is food for thought... it's an intresting project you have there, was good reading.
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