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Old November 4, 2013, 09:52 AM   #1
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Hard Cast Bullets vs Soft Cast

There have been some shooters on this forum that have stated that they encountered severe leading problems with using hard cast bullets at lower 38Spec velocities in their handguns. I've used hard cast bullets, 18 BRN, at lower velocities (715 to 730 fps) in my 38 Spec with no leading evident whatsoever. I've always been under the assumption that the reason for using hard cast bullets was primarily to avoid leading and increase penetration regardless of the velocity. I don't understand why some would get the leading at low velocity and with hard cast bullets and others don't.
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Old November 4, 2013, 10:08 AM   #2
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It is my understanding that it has more to do with fit rather than hardness like most people think. If you get a good fit (1-2 thousandths over bore size) you should not have leading problems at normal handgun velocities. It is recommended that you slug the barrel before attempting cast. I am sure somebody can give you a more complete answer..
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Old November 4, 2013, 10:14 AM   #3
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With cast bullets, fit is king. Everything else takes second place.
I don't understand why some would get the leading at low velocity and with hard cast bullets and others don't.
If the bullet doesn't properly fit the bore, or in the case of a revolver, if the proper relationship between cylinder mouth/forcing cone isn't right, then the bullet will lead the bore. A soft bullet at low velocities might obdurate sufficiently to reduce leading, it might not. The key is to have a proper fit of the bullet in the bore.

I normally shoot dead-soft lead up to about 1000 fps, go to a harder alloy at 1000-1500 fps, and use my linotype for bullets that will go past 1500 fps.

Richard Lee and Hodgdon powder did some interesting work with pressure several years ago and tried to define the relationship between pressure, bullet speed and bullet hardness. Lee added that research in one chapter of his book, Modern Reloading. It's well worth the effort to get a copy if you're interested in those relationships.
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Old November 4, 2013, 10:31 AM   #4
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A lot of it just depends on the gun , or maybe the gun/bullet combo. I shoot more 38's than anything else, out of 8 different revolvers. Loads that leave the bore on one mirror clean, lead in another..........

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Old November 4, 2013, 01:36 PM   #5
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As Paw Paw stated; fit is king. Proper bullet fit is waaaay more important than bullet BHN. A hard bullet (BHM 18+) driven at any velocity will lead the bore if it is undersize and does not fit the gun. A soft bullet (BHN 10) will shoot fine, no leading at normal (even magnum) handgun velocities when properly fit to the gun, and some shooters have shot cast rifle bullets to 2000+ fps. Hard cast is a term often used to separate swaged from cast, no matter what BHM is, and commercial casters give the buyers what they want. Many new lead shooters think "harder is better", but it just ain't so, and "hard cast" really means nothing. I have driven .357 Magnum cast lead bullets, wheel weight alloy (approx. 12 BHN) to over 1200 fps with no leading, and .44 Magnums to over 1100 fps., both plain based SWC.
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Old November 4, 2013, 03:47 PM   #6
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As was stated fit trumps all else when it comes to lead deposits. If they are too small they will lead up the barrel no matter how hard, or soft they are.

Next thing that will play in is powder. Some powders just do not play right with plain based lead, and will work great with gas checks.

The other thing is to make sure all copper has been cleaned out of the barrel before shooting lead. If you think it is clean then wait a while, and clean it again the results would surprise a lot of people.
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Old November 4, 2013, 04:26 PM   #7
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+1 for Modern Reloading it's good info.

Bullet fit is king but I've also found a proper amount of lube helps prevent leading. I've looked down the bore of a few pistols just prior to cleaning and if. There is leading it's usually going to be the last little bit of the bore. Correct me if I'm wrong but it usually it's an indicator to me that I'm not using enough lube.
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Old November 4, 2013, 10:13 PM   #8
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I agree with fit being key. But all the responses seem to focus on the groove diameter of the barrel. I have found much more variation in the throats. And you can have a bullet that is 0.001 to 0.002 larger than the barrel groove, but if your throats are undersize, you are going to have issues.

If you slug your barrel and that slug doesn't press through the throats with finger pressure, good luck in finding a bullet that will not lead.
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Old November 4, 2013, 11:13 PM   #9
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So far, What I have found works for me.
I have had way more success with softer bullets.
I have found that the window for successful loads is wider.
As long as I stay under 2000 fps in rifle loads. I never have had leading in any of my guns.
My best success has been in the 1700 fps range. Regardless of rifle caliber.
I always start at that speed and most loads. That turns out to be the most accurate.

As long as you stay in that window. Hard cast bullets dont help at all.

I have only one effective load using hard cast bullets. All mine ether lead or pattern at the target. Trail Boss being the only exception. Seems Trail Boss will hit the target no matter what you shoot ahead of it. I dont shoot it much though because the velocity is much less than any of my 1700 fps loads.
I use it mostly as a way to validate that a particular fire arm can shoot cast bullets. If its going to, it will with Trail Boss.

All that being said. Guys that are using hard cast bullets in rifles successfully.
Are in a whole different class of shooting cast bullets than where I am at this time. Pumping up the Velocity over that 2000 fps threshold takes a whole new set of skills and attention to detail.

This year I am going to pick a rifle and solve that problem.
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Old November 5, 2013, 09:17 AM   #10
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I'm of the opinion that both fit and hardness are important. I've also found that most quality commercially cast bullets will fit most popular and common modern commercial arms with some exceptions which are usually semi-autos. I wouldn't slug a barrel unless I had issues.

A small bullet through too big of a bore will "strip the threads" just like bolt in too large of nut The result is lead left behind. A tight fit ensures the bullet catches and rides the threads. A bolt make of softer metal will strip much more easily in even a proper size nut, as will a soft bullet.

Bullets expand in the barrel from the pressure behind them. Softer lead expands more easily in lower pressure target loads, fitting more tightly, and giving better accurracy and no stripping of lead. If you push them too fast to hold the rifling, they will start stripping.

It takes more pressure to expand hard cast bullets but they will hold the rifing at much higher velocities and pressure. I shoot good quality hard cast bullets at full power .357, .44 mag, and .454 Casull velocities without leading that would make a mess of soft lead bullets.

Cold swaged (lead) bullets are cheaper than cast so sometimes I'll grab a box of 500 for use in .38s, but usually I don't make a point to buy them. I mostly load .38s from a box of cast bullets for .357. I don't get leading at light loads because they fit. (.358") They are not match grade accuracy like you'd get from a HBWC but for shooting pop cans at 50' they work just fine, and with bullet price based on volume, it makes sense to use the same bullets in light and heavy loads.

Incidentally, the old Speer 158gr SWC were soft lead, and their load data showed you loading them to 30 velocities for .357, and in their #11, #12 manuals it warns about heavy leading at .357 velocities, and it wasn't because their bullets didn't fit.

If you want to do more shooting for less money, cast is king, and volume is much cheaper than a wide array of selection.
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Old November 7, 2013, 10:32 AM   #11
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I think the main reason for hard cast and the junky lube that comes with it is so that they stay looking good after shipping.
The lube sucks and the bullets are too hard, but they are almost always undersized.

All I use is 12-13BHN in all my guns except when I want a softer hunting/defensive bullet. My 30-06 loads are almost 2200fps with a gas check. 98% of what I shoot is cast bullets, and there is not a stitch of lead in any of my pistol or rifle barrels.
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