There are many reasons some shooters choose to “cast” their own bullets from lead and certain cast-off (pardon the pun) materials. Economy is one, satisfaction another – or the desire to have almost total control over the bullets used in our firearms. When casting your own bullets you can control the weight, shape, and “hardness” of the finished projectile by choosing the proper molds and materials. Harder bullets generally can be pushed to faster velocities and give better penetration on game, and the raw lead can be made “harder” by the addition of tin and/or antimony to make an alloy in the melting process, often by adding discarded automobile wheel balancing weights or old linotype from a printing process. If you only want to “make” bullets for target shooting, a straight, un-alloyed lead would be preferred.
In a former life, I was once a lab technician in a metal foundry, so much of the casting process is familiar – even most of the metals. I have not yet begun casting my own bullets, but would expect no big surprises, and I am familiar with the safety steps and equipment required.
Where would a person interested in casting bullets get the most information about this subject? The Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook is over 300 pages of information on bullets and bullet casting. Containing information on cast bullet use in both handguns and rifles, it is very heavy on the actual casting process, with 15 chapters by noted gun and reloading expert Mike Venturino, covering techniques, equipment, and safety issues. It does contain some load information, but don’t buy it for load data alone. The final chapter on the metallurgy of cast bullets, however, is especially informative. Heck it even has 7 blank pages in chart form you can use as a reloading “log”, burn rate charts of popular powders, charts for the proper shell holder for selected reloading equipment, alloy formulas, and Lyman bullet molds and equipment. There is also a valuable chart of the hardness of the various common bullet alloys – as tested on a Brinell testing machine – and suggestions for what hardness range to use for which purposes.
If all this is not enough, it contains recommendations for other reference books, and links to various websites.
This is truly a “bible” of sorts for those who cast and/or use their own bullets!