By now, you’ve read part one of this series where we discussed the history, as well as the benefits, of casting your own bullets. In part two of our “Bullet Casting” series, we examine what you will need to purchase and discuss the process to follow in order to cast your first bullet. It is only proper, however, that we stress the fact that bullet casting should only be done by expert reloaders: if you are a newcomer to the reloading world, it would be a better use of your time to hone your skills and perfect your reloading process before moving on to expert-level operations.
What to Buy
When I think of casting bullets, I immediately picture Mel Gibson’s Character in the movie “The Patriot” as he drops lead soldiers that belonged to his deceased son into a basic bullet casting mold and holds it over an open flame, using it against the British Army. Casting bullets can be as simple and inexpensive as you want to make it. While it’s not recommended, many have even cast bullets over their kitchen stove.
However, if you want to do it the right, and safe way, buying an electric casting furnace is the way to go. You can purchase them from trusted reloading supply companies relatively cheap. It is recommended, though, that you get one that is thermostat controlled; it’ll make your life a little less stressful.
The only other equipment you'll need is a sizer-lubricator with sizing die(s). This apparatus sizes the bullet to the correct diameter and perfect roundness and fills the bullet's lube grooves with lubricant. These tools are available from many of the same reloading companies you already purchased from, though prices and operation vary widely. By casting your own bullets, you'll soon discover that you can make dramatic improvements in handgun accuracy simply by experimenting with bullet diameters-something you can't do with jacketed bullets. Likewise, experimenting with different lubricants, or even concocting your own, can result in better performance.
A bullet made of 100% lead will be too soft for modern pistol charges, rendering your work useless if you don’t add an alloy. A good, all-purpose, alloy for both pistol and revolver bullets is 10 parts lead to one part each of tin and antimony. Depending on your source of lead, which might be scrapped cable sheathing, lead pipe or odd scraps of lead of an unknown alloy, you can make a good workable alloy by adding one-part tin. An easy source of tin, by the way, is plumber's solder. Adding one-part tin to wheel weights, which already contain antimony, makes good hard bullets. Sometimes wheel weights are a workable alloy once they are melted, fluxed and skimmed.
While using scrap lead is cheaper, it often contains unwanted contaminants: a lot of cruddy-looking stuff will float to the molten surface. While some can be skimmed off, be careful not to remove the stuff that looks like cruddy scum because it may be an essential-but only separated-part of the alloy. Getting it all back together and further cleansing the alloy calls for fluxing. This is a simple and quick process accomplished by tossing small slivers of beeswax or candle wax into the pot and stirring the melt from from the bottom up. These fluxes make a lot of, which is why using a commercial flux powder is the best way to go to prevent the smoke and smell.
After fluxing and skimming off the remaining crud, you're ready to begin casting. Look for Part three where we actually cast the first bullet.