I have had some friends ask me about how to go about casting lead bullets. So, today I cast some and took some pictures and thought I’d show you how it’s done.
First, you might wonder why a person would want to go to the trouble to cast lead bullets.
Some folks do it to save a little money, as cast bullets, if made from low-cost or free lead, are really cheap. But the main reason I do it is that I simply cannot buy exactly the bullets I want to shoot, so I cast my own. Besides, like most things gun-related, it’s fun to do.
There is some expense to get started, as you need some basic equipment, but the more bullets you cast and shoot, the more profitable it becomes.
Now, before we start, let me emphasize that this is the way I do it. There are many other ways to do it, but this is the way I have done it for about 40 years. And, I have sent a lot of bullets down range in that time.
The first thing we need to be aware of is that molten lead at 700+ degrees F, can be dangerous.
So, I always wear safety glasses, and leather gloves.
I also wear a shop apron that I bought at Harbor Freight, in case any lead splatters on me.
One experience with molten lead will make you a believer.
My old buddy Tman was once casting bullets with shoes and no socks on, and had a sprue fall into his shoe.
He always said that the experience was “memorable.”
I also would warn you that lead fumes can be harmful, so I always work in a well-ventilated place.
I usually cast bullets in my workshop.
It has a door and window right next to the work table.
And it also has a big door at the other end of the shop, with a floor fan that can help draw a breeze through the shop if no wind is blowing.
The first piece of equipment I use is my electric Lyman Casting Pot.
You can use many types of equipment to melt the lead, but this system is one of the easiest to use.
It has a dial on the front that allows easy regulation of the temperature of the lead, and has a draw at the bottom of the pot that allows easy mold filling.
More on that later.
You also need some lead.
If mine looks like lead corn pones, well, that’s what they are.
We started out with wheel weights and melted them down, and removed the clips.
We then added some tin and antimony to harden the mixture.
I also had a friend whose Dad was a printer in the old days, and he gave me some linotype, which was used in the printing process years ago.
It is high in tin and antimony and is excellent to mix into the lead to harden the resulting mixture.
We then fluxed the mixture. This is the process of adding flux, which can be beeswax, or grease, of candle wax, or many other things to the mixture.
This causes the undesirable elements to float to the top of the lead where they can be removed.
We then poured the lead into the corn pone molds for ease of storage and use.
You will also need bullet molds. Here are some of mine that I have collected over many years.
It is important to prevent them from rusting and I do this by storing them in an ammo can with a good rubber gasket.
I put a jar of desiccant in with them and this keeps them dry and rust free.
You can oil them to prevent rust, but then you must clean them very carefully, as any oil will ruin the cast bullets.
I prefer to just keep them clean and dry.
Today I will be casting some 510 grain, gas checked .45-70 bullets from a Lyman mold.
For a flux, I use something called Marvelux.
As you can see from the can, it lasts many years.
Any time I add lead to the pot, I flux the mixture.
I plug in the melting pot and let it get hot.
I also have found that if I place the mold on top of the pot, it will also get hot and allow casting good bullets much quicker.
It takes a while for the lead in the pot to melt.
I always put it up full of lead to prevent the inside of the pot from rusting.
As it starts to get hot, the lead will bubble up on the side first.
When it is fully melted, I take a screwdriver full of Marvelux and put in on the lead.
Then I use a long spoon to stir it into the lead.
This will cause the dross to float to the top where I can remove it.
We are now ready to start making bullets.
You place the bullet mold under the spout and lift the handle of the pot.
This will allow a small amount of lead to fill the mold.
It will leave a puddle of lead on top of the mold.
This puddle is called the sprue.
You can watch the sprue and as it becomes clouded and cools, this tells you when the bullet is solidified and ready to remove from the mold.
I then use a small hammer to knock the sprue cutter aside and cut off the sprue.
I catch the sprues in a pot to add back to the melting pot every now and then.
I then open the mold, but the bullets often will adhere to one side of the mold.
You just tap the hinge with the hammer and the bullet will fall free.
Close the mold and fill it again, and you are on your way.
When you first start casting the first couple of bullets will need to heat up the mold.
Here is the first bullet between two others.
You can see that the base of the bullet did not fill completely.
I just added it back to the pot.
I always place a towel over the holding pot to catch the bullets.
They are “soft” as they come out of the mold, and dropping them on a hard surface can dent them.
After a few seconds, you can dump them into the holding pot.
When casting big bullets like these 510 grain bullets, you will use lead pretty quickly.
As the level in the melting pot drops, I just add a piece of lead,
…stir it really well,
and then flux the mixture again.
Stir it to mix it well.
Then I scrape off the dross and I am ready to go again.
Keep at this for a while and before you know it, you have a pot full of bullets.
In part two, we talk about sizing, lubricating, and reloading these bullets.