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GUNS Magazine July 2010 - Page 22
• John Barsness • CHEAP HANDGUN BULLETS! Of the cast variety. hile looking at the used firearms in a local sporting goods W store, I ran into a friend who’s equally addicted. We started talking and the subject of reloading component prices came up. He said he used to shoot cast bullets in his handguns, but they leaded the barrels so much he now just buys jacketed bullets. I thought about trying to explain what he obviously doesn’t know about cast bullets, but he’d worked himself into such a snit I decided to do it here instead. Maybe he’ll read this after he calms down! Casting your own handgun bullets is a great way to fight the component price rises of the past couple of years. It’s also not as complicated as many shooters believe, and doesn’t require nearly as much equipment. Despite my friend’s opinion, it’s also relatively easy to find a bullet recipe to keep bores lead free. There are three reasons cast bullets lead bores: The bullet is too fast, too soft or doesn’t carry enough lubricant. Luckily, bullets don’t have to be pushed very fast to work well in handguns, an adequately hard lead alloy is easy to find Leaded Bore Begone and lubing is cheap and easy to do. All you really need to cast adequate handgun bullets is a bullet mold, a pot for melting lead and a ladle to pour the liquid lead into the mold. Any more equipment, whether an electric casting furnace or an expensive lubricator sizer, isn’t really necessary for making adequate handgun bullets. This doesn’t mean the extra equipment might not help, it just isn’t necessary. Let’s start with the alloy itself. Most bullet casters use wheelweight metal, partly because wheelweights are relatively cheap. Tire stores used to give old wheelweights away, but today Itdoesn’ttakealotofmoneyorequipmentto getstartedcastingbullets. most places require some payment. I’ve never paid more than a $1 a pound for wheelweight metal, about 1/4 of the price listed for casting lead in the most recent MidwayUSA catalog. At $1 a pound, I can cast 150-grain bullets for a .357 Magnum for a little over 2¢ apiece. The cheapest price I could find for cast 150-grain bullets in the same MidwayUSA catalog was about 10¢ apiece. At a savings of about 8¢ a shot, it doesn’t take long to pay for some basic casting equipment. These days you can buy the least expensive electric Lee melting furnace for less than $35 from Midway USA, about the same price as a pot and ladle. A 2-cavity mold will run anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on the brand. I’ve used about all brands, and they all can produce good bullets. One my own favorite rifle molds, for instance, is a Lee costing $20 or so, for 405-grain .4570 bullets. It will cast bullets accurate enough to group into 1" at 100 yards— from an iron-sighted rifle. Cast bullets must be lubed. The easiest way to do this is to dump 100 into a used margarine tub, then squirt a dab of Lee Alox Liquid Lube into the tub. Snap on the plastic tub cover, roll the tub gently back and forth in your hand for a minute, and the bullets will be perfectly lubricated. Actual diameter and weight of any cast bullet varies with the alloy used, Lee Furnace Thislookslikeamiserabledayattherange,butitwasactuallyquitepleasantforMontanain February.GunisanHKUSP.40S&W. 22 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JULY 2010