Question for Casters

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Question for Casters

Post by jmdavis on Thu Oct 08, 2015 12:22 pm

So, I've run the numbers for my .45 reloads and reached the conclusion that after the first firing, my .45 reloads are cheaper than 22 match ammo (Norma Tac or Tac Match or Eley Target). 

I could cut costs a bit by casting and I know retired shooters who did just that in the 60's and 70's. But I'm wondering who is doing it today. With cheap wheel weights and adding lino, I can get good hard cast that approximates Lyman #2. I'm told that a good caster with two good 4 cavity moulds can do 600 bullets an hour. That's not bad time wise. 

So who casts his or her own bullets for bullseye these days. And what advice would you offer the novice handgun caster? 

I do and have cast bullets and ball for muzzleloaders and BPCR. But that is not on a scale like it takes for pistol bullets.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by Ghillieman on Thu Oct 08, 2015 12:30 pm

I use a Magma Engineering Master Caster and cast everything in the fall. Careful casting and the right mix can produce very accurate bullets.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by Fire Escape on Thu Oct 08, 2015 1:32 pm

I am leaning toward doing some casting as well but have yet to commit to it. I have a fairly good sized pile of lead (left from making 2 pound sinkers for tuna fishing years ago) but have noted that supplies are not so easily obtained these days. Wheel weights don't seem to contain much lead now (and it is often plastic coated to add to the 'fun') and linotype is not the staple of the printing industry anymore so .... where will we get a sustainable quantity?

Bruce

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by jmdavis on Thu Oct 08, 2015 1:33 pm

Lead wheel weights are available as is lino. Check online for lino. My local tire stores still use a lot of lead.  The stickons are softer than the crimpons.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by CFPlinker on Thu Oct 08, 2015 4:01 pm

I have been casting for bullseye shooting since the '70s. I use the RCBS pro-melt pot and have a number of 38 and 45 mods. My lead source is trap cleanings so, for me, the cost is zero since I get them from a club I belong to. Using a cast iron pot over an old gas hotplate I melt the scrap down, flux it, and cast 1 pound ingots.

On a casting day I empty the can of sprues  from the previous session into the pot and add enough ingots to fill the pot and place a few more on the tip of the pot to warm up. As this "initial charge" melts it settles down in the pot. Then I continue adding ingots until the pot is full. As the last of them are melting I put the mold on the top if the pot to warm up. When everything is ready I start casting. Since the mold is already warm I only lose a few to get it up to casting temperature. The sprues go into a coffee can and the cast bullets go either in to a shallow box with a towel in the bottom or, if I am water quenching them, into my quench water. When the pot is empty it gets turned off to cool and the bullets spread out to either finish cooling or to dry.

I usually get just over 400 185 grain bullets out of a pot using a single 3 cavity mold and it takes about an hour and a quarter from the time I start casting. They are stored in old coffee cans -- 500 per can. The day before I am going  to load them I size them using a Lyman 450. This takes another hour and a quarter. Not counting the ingoting there is just over 3 hours of time in casting, sizing, and lubing 500 bullets.

My advice would be to find some shooters who are casters and see if they would let you watch them the next time they cast. This way you would get a good feel for what is involved so you could see what you would need in the way of equipment and space to do it.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by GrumpyOldMan on Thu Oct 08, 2015 6:58 pm

What CFPlinker said.

IMO, casting is for those of us who either have enough more time than money, or who want to spend a dollar's worth of time to save fifty cents (that might be the proportion...).

Me, I have a do-it-yourself satisfaction and "provident living" and self-sufficiency ethic that yields happiness from casting far out of proportion to the cost savings per bullet. And until I got sloppy and loaded a pile of .40s that really should have flunked inspection, I also always got ammo as accurate and often better than what I can buy.

I suggest you go lurk on the www.castboolits.gunloads.com website, as well as the newer and less-populated www.artfulbullet.com board. Depending on your alloy desires and how big a shipment and what physical shape you want (ingots or other pot-feed stock vs. medical radioisotope containers weighing like 15 kilos or so), you can get lead to your door for between $1 and $1.50 a pound most any time you want. That's including shipping.

Perhaps before you even spend an afternoon or evening with a friendly bullet caster, maybe you should buy 500 projectiles from one of the commercial suppliers popular with the shooters here. Reloading lead might be enough different for you that you might reconsider. If bullet fit is good, the commercial lubes from places like...well, look 'em up in the ammo forum for people's experiences, I don't remember names...the lubes will work and prevent leading if the fit is correct. Undersize bullets suck AND don't group AND leave lead streaks all over the bore.

Clean-up can be nasty(er) if more traditional lubes are used, almost the same as after shooting jacketed with the newer offerings. Don't bother reading the entire "extreme lube" thread--it has several years' of experiments and a few dead ends along the way. What's been posted in the last year is the most valuable.

One way to analyze your output is to log your time, including inspection of the product and lubing them, BEFORE loading, then calculate using the raw materials costs going in (including that small amount for lube), and use the price of buying commercial cast as your benchmark. Figure out what you just paid yourself per hour to get the same cost per bullet of the commercial offerings, then decide if your personal satisfaction (or higher production and lower reject rates next session) is worth it to you.

Do those two or more trial sessions on borrowed equipment before you start buying equipment. Ignoring the value of your own time in the calculus will probably having your equipment "pay for itself" in two or three years. Gotta have a long attention span to reap those benefits.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by Al on Thu Oct 08, 2015 7:04 pm

Like CFPlinker, I use reclaimed range scrap.  It's free to anyone in our local club who will show up to help with cleaning.  I also use the RCBS pro melt and a selection of H&G and Lyman molds.  I usually have 3 or 4 of them setting on my casting table and keep cycling through them.  That way none of them get too hot.

If I'm looking for really pretty bullets I'll use a Linotype mix, usually 3 or 4 range scrap ingots to 1 linotype.  As was mentioned, that stuff is getting harder & harder to find.  I've got enough to last me my casting days but not sure about the future.  I usually cast them into 50 cal ammo cans during the winter and lube them when I need to load.

I lube them on a star sizer.  While I've never actually counted, it is really fast.  Most likely in the 1000 per hour range.  It usually takes 2-4 seconds per bullet, depending on my fumble fingers and lube use.

Al

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by john bickar on Thu Oct 08, 2015 8:28 pm

GrumpyOldMan wrote: Figure out what you just paid yourself per hour to get the same cost per bullet of the commercial offerings, then decide if your personal satisfaction (or higher production and lower reject rates next session) is worth it to you.

Profound truth right here. So much advice floating about (not in this thread though) that assumes your time is worthless when it comes to activities like reloading and casting - spend 1,000 hours over the course of a year to save $1,000.

Me, I hate reloading, and don't even want to think about casting (my childhood bedroom being right next to the casting and reloading room might have something to do with it). It sounds like you enjoy it, which is great.

The cost savings should be looked at as a bonus to an activity you enjoy, rather than an end in itself.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by jmdavis on Thu Oct 08, 2015 10:20 pm

I do already cat for muzzleloading and Black Powder Cartridge. It is the best way I know to get good bullets or round balls. 

I have been reloading 2000 bull-x 185s that a friend gave me for the wad gun and practice ammo for the ball gun. I also have a few thousand zero 185s to work with. 

The way I see it at this point is that it doesn't make financial sense, right now. I do enjoy reloading and casting though. I may change my mind in the spring, depending on when the next zero order arrives.

Thanks for the advice everyone. I do appreciate it.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by john bickar on Thu Oct 08, 2015 11:55 pm

Another thing I forgot, having lived in temperate climes for too long:

If reloading and casting are indoor hobbies that you can enjoy during long, long winters (when you can't shoot), and they make you less likely to go all Jack Torrance on your family, then that's a tangible non-monetary benefit as well.

That value may indeed be incalculable.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by kwixdraw on Fri Oct 09, 2015 2:50 am

I do it a bit differently. I hate scrap lead. I got a few wheel weights with some zinc in them and it really jacked up my bullets for a while. As Magma's book on casting bullets for income explains, you have to keep adding lead to dilute the % of zinc until it quits making your bullets come out funky. It's a whole bunch of lead too.  I buy my lead from Rotometals. Their hardball alloy is the most reasonably priced alloy for our purpose and is sort of the modern equivalent of Lyman #2 (which they also sell). I use cheap Lee production pots so when I toast one its no big outlay. The next one I buy wont have the bottom pour feature as I find that I get better bullets pouring them with a dipper. You can get several good ones from Rotometals but I sometimes find that my old RCBS dipper is best for smaller cavity count molds. The Rotometal dipper is king when it comes to four or more cavities. The Rotometal alloy makes your results very repeatable and a lot less frustrating than melting a bunch of unknown crap and then trying to add good alloy to it to try making something in the ballpark. And you don't have to worry about contaminants so much. I also cast muzzleloader balls from pure lead which I buy from Rotometals in a "pig", AKA big ass chunk. About 50 lbs. I melt that in a plumbers pot over a propane outdoor fish fryer burner. About $65 at Home Depot or Bass Outdoors. You could cast pistol bullets from that pot if you were going to do a bunch of them but you would want to be using a couple 4 or more cavity molds and to my way of thinking it's too risky having that much molten lead in your shop that is sitting on top of something that is no more stable than that burner. You want to be doing it outside and there just cant be a chance of rain starting or someone trying to be nice and bringing a cold sweating glass of iced tea to you while you are working over the pot. If you are casting during the colder months, be real sure to warm your dipper before you dunk it in the pot. Condensation forming on that dipper can blow lead all over the place. Lots of opinions on molds so I'll just say I've had very good luck with NOE molds. Get on their email list and you will get emails when they have clearance prices on their product which is already reasonably priced for the quality you get. On non hollowpoint bullet designs they make five cavity molds and a guy could crank out serious quantities of bullets with a couple of those. I lube my bullets on a Star lube sizer and believe me its worth it to get the bullet feed, heater and air powered lube feed. It just makes things go so much more consistent and fast. I made an extension tube for my bullet feeder so I can load 60-70 bullets in the tube and crank right through them. LS White label lube. 2500+ works very well with no leading but I'm trying the Carnuba Red because the 2500 is soft enough that it's messy to handle and you have to keep cleaning out your dies during reloading from the residue that builds up over a few hundred rounds. Go right to LS' website to buy. The owner is a disabled vet and is great to deal with. You will get the best price from him and he teaches Boy Scouts to shoot. Our kind of guy.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by Bill Treanor on Fri Oct 09, 2015 10:04 am

I cast bullets for use on the short line. I enjoy doing it but can't really justify doing it simply to save $$. Two benefits are maintaining your own quality control and maintaining a supply during times when components disappear. I have found that softer alloys have produced less leading for me at the lower velocities for bullseye shooting. For the .45, I like to cast 185 grain bullets, size at 0.452", and I use BAC lube from White Label. For DR loads, I like using the tumble lube Lee bullet in a 6-cavity mould. I can cast a bunch of them, tumble lube them without sizing them, and have a good supply for a year or two. They shoot fine on the short line. If you are interested in bullet casting, I highly recommend you check out the Cast Boolits forum. I have learned a lot from those folks. One handy trick I learned there is to use a hotplate to warm up the mould(s) you will be using for a casting session. Be forewarned: bullet casting is a whole new hobby unto itself, in addition to reloading and bullseye shooting. Good luck, have fun, and be safe!   Smile Smile

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by rich.tullo on Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:30 pm

Anyone Swag their own bullets seems easier in theory?

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by kwixdraw on Fri Oct 09, 2015 1:52 pm

The hot plate is a good tip. I use that also. It gets your molds up to temp before you start and you can use it to keep things stabilized during casting sessions.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by Bill Treanor on Fri Oct 09, 2015 2:10 pm

All other things being equal, I have found swaged bullets to be more accurate than cast bullets. However, I've looked into swaging and decided it wasn't for me. From what my research told me, the capital cost to begin was quite high (at least compared to casting). Also, I believe that you can produce more bullets per hour by casting. Because 2/3 of my shooting is done at 25 yards, it made more sense to me to buy swaged or jacketed bullets to use at 50 yards and to cast my heads for the short line.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by Al on Fri Oct 09, 2015 3:59 pm

The cost savings should be looked at as a bonus to an activity you enjoy, rather than an end in itself.

Absolutely!!

I only started casting as a means to get good bullets with decent bases.  It seemed like the UPS guys looked for my boxes to see how far they could drop them without breaking them open.  When I got into it, I found I do enjoy it.  It takes my mind off everything else and I have the pleasure of creating a better product than I can buy.  The fact that I can shoot my 45's with match grade ammo for less than 1/2 of what even mediocre 22 ammo costs is an even bigger plus.

Al

ps: jmdavis, if you're already casting bullets good enough for black powder cartridge, you'll have no problems with a short fat 45 bullet.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by Wobbley on Fri Oct 09, 2015 6:59 pm

Bill Treanor wrote:All other things being equal, I have found swaged bullets to be more accurate than cast bullets. However, I've looked into swaging and decided it wasn't for me. From what my research told me, the capital cost to begin was quite high (at least compared to casting). Also, I believe that you can produce more bullets per hour by casting. Because 2/3 of my shooting is done at 25 yards, it made more sense to me to buy swaged or jacketed bullets to use at 50 yards and to cast my heads for the short line.
If you're really flush you can get machinery that'll swage bullets a lot faster than they can be cast. 

But the reality is that we can buy Swaged or cast bullets for not a whole lot more than the cost of the lead.  Roto is listing ingots of hardball alloy at $15 per 5 pound ingot.  1000 cast 200 gr 45s cost about $110.  The lead cost alone is $90.  Considering the time spent to cast and lube the bullets you don't save much.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by jglenn21 on Fri Oct 09, 2015 8:06 pm

and we are really lucky to have some great cast bullets coming from sources like Magnus and Penn.. Terry's bullets are really consistent. I simply gave up casting when I made enough $$ to just buy them. That and I was casting and loading for the whole family( 4-5 of us)

figured it was better for my health too.

only thing I miss are flat based bullets in the H&G  68 molds...wish some of the commercial casters would offer them.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by KenO on Fri Oct 09, 2015 8:13 pm

I have casted for over 30 years, I actually enjoy it. There is a learning curve, and having someone help you get started would be an advantage. More heat is better than not enough, I have thermometers, but rarely use them anymore, I get the heat up enough to frost, than back down some.

Another trick for lubrisizing beveled base bullets with a Lyman/RCBC type lubrizier, is before starting, stick a Styrofoam meat tray (like your steak would come on from the grocery store) in the sizer, and punch it down. It will cut a perfect gasket that will seal around the base. If you start getting lube around it again, cut another, and let them stack.

I never paid much for lead. I give $20 to tire shops for a 6 gallon bucket of wheelweights, which weighs out at 150 pounds. I lose 10 or 15 pounds to clips/zink/bolts etc. I don't know how many bullets would make, but quite a few.

Helped clean out the bullet trap at our indoor range once, and got five buckets, I don't do this anymore, it took a lot more to separate out the wood/paper from targets etc.

A neighbor dropped off a few hundred pounds of sheet pure lead, he was remodeling an X-ray room at a hospital. Another friend had buckets of linotype, he was a printer years ago, and wanted to get rid of it. I smelted it at 1-4. I still have lots of that left.

Just saying I don't think many casters are buying new lead. The Cast Boolit forum has ingots for sale from guys smelting down wheelweights etc, for a reasonable price.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by 243winxb on Sat Oct 10, 2015 9:28 pm

I still cast at age 70.  You must have a source of free wheel weights. If you dont, just buy swaged, as they are more accurate. No hidden air bubbles.

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Re: Question for Casters

Post by james r chapman on Sun Oct 11, 2015 10:38 am

I often buy commercial swaged bullets and re-swage them to my preference just for fun.



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