Bullet casting is perhaps more popular today than it was when there was almost no other way to get bullets! Partly this is because, eventually, some money may be saved by casting your own projectiles. Mostly, it gives the shooter a chance to have almost absolute control over the material in the bullets, the shape, and weight. Molds can be had for almost any shape or size bullet imaginable, and various metals can be “alloyed” in with pure lead – such as tin and antimony – to make the bullets as hard as you might want. If you can get them, discarded wheel weights have a good mix for bullet casting. A “hard cast” bullet can be made to give better penetration than all but full metal jacketed bullets. They will punch through bone and push a wide path through tissue,causing more damage than a FMJ bullet, making them an excellent choice for big, tough critters – like feral hogs!
For those who do not want to cast their own, many companies make and sell excellent hard cast bullets at prices well below that of jacketed bullets. Home-cast bullets need to be sized and lubed before use, but even the top commercially made bullets can benefit from extra sizing. What this does is make sure your bullets are not too big for the cylinders and/or barrel of your particular gun. I found that sizing and extra lubing helped a lot in getting some heavy hard cast to work through the cylinder chambers of my .480 Ruger Super Redhawk, for instance.
Lee Precision makes an excellent and economical sizing die that is used in a “regular” reloading press (single-stage). The die is screwed into the press, and a plunger is slid into the slot on the ram a case holder normally occupies. Bullets are fed through the die by the press’s ram from beneath by a plunger, and then exit the die into a supplied plastic hopper that slips over the top of the die and catches the sized bullets. Easy one step operation.
Although most commercially cast bullets will come with lube grooves cast into the bullet filled with a “crayola” type waxy lube material that is sufficient to help keep the lead from coating the barrel, it does not hurt to add more lube – some experienced cast bullet shooters even recommend it. Lee sells a liquid lube called Alox that is very good for this.
Bullets are placed in a bowl of some sort – plastic margarine tubs work well – and some Alox is dribbled over them.
Roll the bullets by swirling the bowl, until they are well coated.
Remove the bullets and place them on a piece of wax paper to dry at least overnight before loading them into your cases.
Hard cast bullets seem to work best when they are “heavy-for-caliber” and run at slower velocities. Actually, they can be pushed to more velocity, it just isn’t usually needed. When I first began shooting sub sonic .44’s for hogs with my suppressed Contender, I discovered that a 335gr .429″ bullet loaded to a muzzle velocity of 1050 – 1100 fps was sub sonic to insure more quiet operation, yet still gave great penetration on hogs at the distances I normally shoot them – 25 to 75 yards. Hollow point or soft nosed jacketed bullets usually do not expand reliably at such low velocities, but hard cast are not going to expand at any speed, so that is not a problem. When shooting a bullet that punches a near half-inch hole through both sides of the target animal, expansion is not really necessary. Most of the hogs I’ve shot with sub sonic hard cast bullets have been fully penetrated, and twice now I’ve killed two hogs with one shot – and still did not find the bullets because they went through both animals and kept going!
I am intending to shoot mostly big hard cast in my .44’s, .45 Colt and my .480 Ruger – all at roughly 1000 fps. The .44’s and .45 will use 300 – 310gr bullets, the .480 375 – 415gr. Recoil at these speeds is much more pleasant than pushing jacketed bullets at up to 1400 fps, and is easier on both the shooter and the handgun. It also usually aids accuracy. I may experiment with pushing them a bit faster from the .480. Factory Hornady 400gr XTP’s claim 1100 fps on the box, and that recoil is very manageable in my Super Redhawk, so the same speed or a teensy bit more – say 1200 fps – should be both shootable and deadly on any game I am likely to go after.
A note on cast bullet shape. The semi-wadcutters used for paper targets (hence the name) and popularized by the legend of that old rascal, Elmer Keith, are NOT what I would pick to hunt with. They were designed to make a clean, round hole in a paper target to make scoring in matches easier. They do not have enough frontal area to do what a cast bullet does best when used on game – no matter what their hardness is measured as. A hunting bullet to be used on hogs and other large, sturdy animals should have a wide, flat nose (“metplat”) – as wide as the cartridge itself is about right, or full caliber for the round. Tests in ballistic gelatin have shown that such a bullet actually penetrates better than a pointed one does, and causes more internal damage than an expanding bullet as it pushes through tissue. Of course, it also goes through bone and tough cartilage much better – although the hardness of the bullet also helps in that respect.
I used to get my cast bullets from Montana Bullet Company, but Dave is about to – or already has – gone out of business, and was trying to sell the company the last time we had contact. I liked dealing with him because he would make bullets of the optimum diameter for my handguns,always insisting I measure the chambers and barrel. The other companies I am using now are Oregon Trail, True Shot, Cast Performance, and most recently Hunters Supply. The bullets are all pretty much alike – I would not be able to tell which ones came from which company if I just dumped them all out and mingled them together. The major choices to make are caliber, weight, and whether or not to have a gas check included. Gas checks are copper discs that are pressed onto the base of the bullet that are intended to keep hot gases from going around a softened lead bullet, causing loss of performance and increasing the chance of lead build-up in the barrel. Do they work? Maybe yes, maybe no, but they probably don’t hurt. They also add a little more weight to the total of the bullet.
Amazon “sells” Lee reloading equipment, although I have gotten damaged stuff from their supplier, and Lee advised me to order direct from Lee. Amazon offers the lube and sizing kits in several calibers, but NOT the .475/.480 – I Had to get this one direct from Lee. Midway also markets Lee equipment.