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GUNS Magazine July 2010 - Page 16

BE THE MASTER OF YOUR BULLET SUPPLY In a leaden sort of way. ecently I searched the gun stores in this region of Montana, R plus a couple of gun shows, in search of a box of jacketed .32 Auto bullets. In normal times, they weren’t abundant. In the “Great Component Shortage of 2009/2010,” they just didn’t exist. The great shortage affected all components: powder, primers, bullets and brass. There’s not a lot the ordinary fellow can do about powder and primers except keep stocked up. (Modestly, not hoarding!) Used brass can usually be found and in a true pinch many cartridges can be formed from others. As for bullets, there’s really no excuse for anyone being completely out. You can be the master of your own bullet supply—well, at least for about 90 percent of rifle bullets and certainly for all handgun bullets—if you’re willing to cast them yourself. Some consider bullet casting an obnoxious chore. It certainly can be in the heat of summer, or when moulds are being recalcitrant. The solutions are: don’t cast in the heat of summer unless your casting area is air conditioned, and learn enough about casting to overcome mould problems. (We’ll troubleshoot some of those mould problems in future columns.) Personally, I’ve turned bullet casting into quality time by listening to verbatim readings of books on cassette tapes or CDs. When engrossed in a good book, I find myself looking for an excuse to pour more bullets. In fact, I keep four electric lead furnaces on hand. Three are dedicated to specific alloys and the fourth is kept empty in case one of the others quits on me. The smallest handgun bullets I currently cast are 75-grain .32s to take the place of the jacketed bullets I couldn’t find, and the largest are 265-grain .455 Webleys. For rifles, I currently cast 6.5mm on the small side, up to .58 caliber Minié balls for a replica Civil War rifle musket. My heaviest rifle bullets are .45s weighing 560 grains for BPCR Silhouette competition. The shelves above my casting table hold about 120 moulds among those parameters. Already I can hear some readers’ thoughts: “Sure you can cast bullets for all those old and obsolete oddball cartridges you love so much, but I’m into modern stuff like the 9mm in pistols, varmint shooting with my .223 Remington and elk hunting with my .300 Weatherby Magnum. I have to buy jacketed bullets.” Duke’sextremesincastbulletsinhandgunsrun fromthe75-grain.32Autobullet(farleft)tothe 265-grain.455Webleybullet(2ndfromleft).In rifles,hiscurrentsmallestis140-grain6.5mm (3rdfromleft)andlargestisthe58-caliber MiniéBall(2ndfromright).Hisheaviestrifle bulletisthe.45caliber560-grainCreedmoor style(farright). Bycastinghisownrifleandhandgunbullets, Dukeconsidershimselfthemasterofhisown bulletsupply.Notetheshelvesfullofbullet moulds. 16 Of course, you’re not going to be able to (easily) drive homemade lead alloy bullets to the 3,000+ fps speeds of .22 centerfires and .30 magnums. That doesn’t mean you can’t shoot cast bullets from them. In prior days, I had You Do And You Don’t great luck with 22-caliber cast bullets in .22 centerfires. From bolt-action .22 centerfires (even a .220 Swift) I’ve gotten accuracy of 1.5 minute of angle at 100 yards at about 1,800 to 2,000 fps. In times of severe bullet shortages, that could keep someone plinking small varmints out to 150 and perhaps even 200 yards. As for the big boomers, back in the 1970s I gave a handful of .30 caliber cast bullets to a Montana friend whose primary hunting rifle was a .300 Weatherby Magnum. He wanted them to pot the occasional grouse he encountered. One morning he hadn’t walked into what he considered “elk country” yet, so he had one of the cast loads chambered in his rifle. To his surprise, he stumbled upon what turned out to be a trophy book mule deer at less than 100 yards. Going through the antics of unchambering the cast load and getting a jacketed one ready would have spooked the deer into the next county. So he dropped it with one cast bullet shot. His only complaint was he thought the cast bullet ruined more meat than his jacketed loads. Lately I’ve talked a lot about building a collection of World War II battle rifles. So far I haven’t delved into building WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JULY 2010

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