I have never cast bullets before today. After trying various ways of producing 6.8mm bullets- successful but stupidly labor intensive and expensive- I decided casting was the only way to get what I needed. Reluctantly. Very, very reluctantly. I’ve always used cast bullets, but never wanted to open the can of worms that is casting them myself.
Amazon had the mold I needed and it will arrive tomorrow. At Pinto’s today I came across a used Lee .452/130gr. mold for $20. I snagged it and my pal Steve offered a surplus Lee Production lead pot. Naturally I had to try it out.
I had some bullets I’d bought that tended to keyhole and some .36-caliber balls I got cheap. I tossed them in with some lead-free solder (tin, antimony and a whiff of silver) and…
…realized that I had no idea what heat setting I should use on the lead pot. I set it to 5 and waited to see what happened. What happened was the lead and solder melted. OK, working as intended. I had a stick to tap the sprue-cutter and knock out any sticky bullets.
I tried some pours to heat the mold and it seemed to work. I would pour, whack the sprue-cutter to cut the sprue off and opened the mold over a bucket of water. After a while the things coming out of the mold looked like bullets. I made a couple dozen and shut things down.
I fished the bullets out of the water and looked them over. Hmm…
OK, that’s not right. I checked with folks online and this is, as I suspected, symptomatic of either the mold or the lead being too cold. I bet on the lead; it seems like the mold would have been hot enough at some point. After dinner I turned on the lead pot and set the temp at 9 out of ten and waited for the lead to melt. Taking another suggestion from friends online I also set the mold on the edge of the pot to pre-heat.
I made several pours to heat the mold, then made about thirty bullets. 19 of them were fine, but the ones that weren’t displayed issues similar but less severe than the earlier bullets. I expect that as the lead continued to heat the bullets got better and better.
The came out at .452″ diameter and an average weight of .188 grains and look pretty good. They are hard; I have no way of measuring how hard they actually are beyond saying they’re very hard.
It’s a learning experience
So I now know to set the temp higher and give the lead more time to fully heat. Pre-heating the mold also seems to have been useful. Tomorrow night after the 6.8mm bullet molds arrive I can start casting and see how that goes. It will be interesting if nothing else…
Stay safe and take care,
Michael Tinker Pearce, 5 May 2022
Try placing the mold IN the lead, as opposed to on the edge of the pot. Don’t worry, it won’t sink – steel floats on molten lead.
Thanks for the advice! I considered this, but the pot is a bit small for the two-cavity mold I will mostly be using. It’ll wok with the single-cavity .45 mold though.