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Thread: Casting Bullet Hardness ???????

  1. #1
    Member RANGER RICK's Avatar
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    Smile Casting Bullet Hardness ???????

    For those who cast their own bullets .
    What is your method for making your bullets hard ?? heat treating , water quenching , Tin , Linotype or straight wheel weights ?? Or ????

    For myself I like to water quench . After a couple days they are at 22-24 Brinell .

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  2. #2
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    Default Bullet metal

    I have use wheel weights and add about 5% tin or cut with 50/50 bar solder (1lb to 9 lbs of wheelweights) to get a #2 alloy and a static hardness (unquenched) of about 15 BHN. These can be hardened by dropping into cold water right out of the mold to about 21 BHN. They are hard but also a little brittle. With the #2 alloy they can be quench hardened to about 21 and are not so brittle.

    I hear from those in the know that heat treatment makes them harder but not so brittle. This is done at 450 degrees F. for one hour then quenched in 70 degree water. Bear Tooth and Cast Performance make much better bullets than I make and they are 21 BHN after the heat treatment and not brittle. Also I understand that after a time treated bullets will loose some hardness down to about 21BHN. I also like gas checks. They allow higher velocity but also lower velocity/pressure as the hard bullets won't bump up until about 28,000 psi. This could be a big subject here I think I've received a lot of questions about casting and don't know enough about it. Don't forget to flux often.

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  3. #3
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    I cast straight wheelweights and drop them from a hot mold into a 5 gallong bucket of water if I want them hardened. I like to keep my casting as simple as possible, and hence oven heat treating and quenching is too much work.

    An important caveat is I believe the popularity of hardcast bullets is a bit overbloan, and in some cases, hardcast isn't the best route. With a bullet that is properly sized to the gun, and gun that has dimensions friendly to cast and a good lube, you can push an air cooled ww bullet pretty hard with little to no leading, especially with a gas check. And an improperly sized hardened bullet in a gun not friendly to cast will lead terribly.

    While I used to almost always water quench my bullets, I've gone the opposite route and now mostly air cool them. A little bit of bullet expansion is a good thing, and using a heavy for caliber bullet allows one to drive that mushroomed nose deep. This is for both revolvers and rifles.

  4. #4

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    I am fairly new to casting. Do a few hundred for several calibers every year. I drop the bullets into a bucket of water for cooling. I use straight wheelweight alloy and add a bit of solder usually.

    I size and lube my bullets on a Lyman 450 tool. I have fired some that were not lubed, they seem to be fine either way.

    I am into "scientific" testing. I smashed a Hornady XTP on my anvil and then tried the same on one of my cast bullets. The cast bullet deformed less. Last year, I fired some 454 Casulls into a big piece of Cottonwood. Splitting it open, I got about 27" of penetration and the bullet was not severely deformed.

    Maybe my bullets are too hard? I don't think they are brittle. Wouldn't they break apart or splinter when smashed on an anvil if they were brittle?


    Anyway, great to see this new forum. A good topic that I could learn more about.

  5. #5
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    I've never heard of even the hardest wheelweight bullets shattering, it is linotype that will shatter at high velocities.

    The 454 really strains things, and is a great candidate for hardened bullets. I'm shooting a 480, and at 1200 fps, I don't see a huge need for hardened bullets. In rifles, I like heavy for caliber bullets, so a softer bullet that'll open up is IMHO a good thing.

    I think in the past few years I cast about 1000 pounds of wheelweights, mostly big bore pistol bullets. Because I cast so many, I tried to find the easiest ways possible to get max yields of good bullets.

    First smelt the wheelweights down in something other then your casting post, I use a coleman stove and an old pot. Flux with wax or crayons, and make a pile of ingots, I like a good 50 pounds.

    Load up your furnace, and put your molds on the edge of the furnace to warm up as the alloy melts. Wheelweights work best when cast hot, and in a hot mold. Once the alloy is melted, I dip the edge of the mold in the melt for a few minutes to warm up the mold. I like to cast 2 molds at the same time. Since I cast hot, time is needed for the mold to cool a bit, and that is just enough time to fill the other mold.

    I knock the sprue off and back into the melt, dump the bullets onto a pile of shop rags or into a 5 gallon bucket. I can go through 10#'s pretty fast running two molds, and if it's a longer session, I rest ingots in the edge of the furnace to heat up, and add them as the level drops.

    When filling the molds, it takes practice to see how the mold likes to be filled. Some molds if filled too fast will get base porosity in the bullet. So when the pot is full, and the metal flows faster due to head pressure, I barely crack the handle. I like to give a good overfill and nice sized sprue button as the bigger bullets will suck metal into them as they cool.

    When I'm done, I do a visual inspection of all bullets, any incompletely filled grooves (cold mold) or base perosity and I put them in a remelt pile. Visually good bullets are lubed or gas checked and lubed.

    I have done accuracy tests of various lubes and have found LBT blue, Appache blue, homemade beeswax / lithium axle greese and Lee liquid allox to provide excellent accuracy. Stick alox and RCBS stick lube had poor accuracy. IMO, soft lubes are better than hard lubes. The only thing hard lubes are good for is commercial bullets as the lube stays in the bullet as the box bounces around during shipment.

    With this relatively simple approach, I get pistol bullets that'll consistantly shoot 1" 50 yd groups, and rifle bullets that'll when the stars align shoot 1" 100 yd groups, and those are 5 shot groups.

  6. #6

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    What about cast bullets for magnum velocities in .30 and medium calibers?
    I have not cast any bullets (yet) for high velocity levels. Will Wheelweights work at 2500 fps or maybe higher velocity?

    I have the Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook. Mostly their articles and data are for mild loads. I understand that with the right barrelling and twist, traditional lead formulations are very accurate at mild velocities. There is a cast bullet benchrest group, after all; but, what about getting good penetration and velocity?

  7. #7
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    At higher rifle velocities, you will definately want a hard cast bullet, ie BHN over 20. I'd try over temporing wheelweights, as they are supposed to be even harder then dropping from the mold into a bucket of water.

    I've limited my rifle loads to 2000 fps and air cooled wheelweights are fine at that speed.

    To get good accuracy and no leading at higher speeds, you need to have the right hardness, bullet sizing, bullet lube and a chamber/barrel friendly to cast. I'm lazy so I haven't ventured down that path, but there is plenty of good info out there on how to do it.

    For hunting applications, all I;ve read seems to indicate a softer alloy at ~2000 fps is about ideal. To push it faster you have to harden the bullet, and then you get into the issue of the bullet not expanding and shattering. Some folks cast a dual alloy bullet, with hard base and softer nose, but that is alot of extra work, accuracy isn't quite as good, and the one you happen to use on game might be the one that isn't bonded that well or has a void that makes it go wild. I like simple and reliable so figure medium bores, heavy bullets and moderate velocities are best. I've been wanting to try one of my 280 gr 35 cals on game but haven't had the chance.

  8. #8

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    My thinking/practices run more or less along the lines with Paul regarding hardness, lubes and velocities. Sounds like he works at it a lot more than I do, so if he's "lazy" what does that make me?

    I don't bother with chasing high velocities, rather I tend to follow the "Elmer Keith model" in choosing cast bullets and calibers. Disregarding trajectory gains from velocity, I rely more on bigger, heavier bullets for bigger, heavier game. While my 25-20 and 25-35 are great small game guns, I don't use anything smaller than 35 caliber for deer.

    Truth be known, I prefer 375 and up with heavy cast bullets for non-dangerous game including elk and moose, and like a bit of expansion. Even if you never get around to firing a high pressure, high velocity jacketed load through them, Ruger #1 Tropicals in 375 H&H and 458 Win are dream rifles for cast bullet hunters. Heck, my 458 with a 500+ grain cast bullet at 1250 fps is my favorite snowshoe hare rifle!

  9. #9

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    I always drop bullets from mold to a water bucket. I even put a sponge at the bottom to eliminate the risk of deformation. I am pretty pleased with the "anvil" testing method for hardness.

    I shoot only 250 grain bullets in my .338. Would like to have a flat point mold that cast 250 grains to 275 grains with wheelweight alloy.

    I have a .35 Whelen I could test cast pistol bullets with, I guess. A 160 grain swc might be a decent test. Maybe a 160 cast bullet at 2600 fps would yield the same effect (leading, accuracy etc) as a .338 250 grainer going the same velocity? Pressure and bearing area has to play a part, but if you could control leading the accuracy would likely be there too.

  10. #10

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    For your 35 Whelen, take a close look at the RCBS 35 cal 200 gr flat nose. That bullet has been a stone killer of deer for me in 358 Win, 35 Rem (Contender and Marlin), 357 Herret and 357 Mag (Contender, again). It's as accurate as can be in all those calibers/arms. One of the easiest moulds I've owned for casting clean, consistant bullets right from the gitgo.

  11. #11
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    Hello Friends.......My Dixie Slugs did quite a bit of work and tests before we were satisfied with our .730" and .625" slug/bullets.
    First of all.......for a very hard, but not brittle, slug bullet leave the tin out. Regular wheelweights still have enough antimony in them to heat treat. After the metal is fluxed and casting starts, do not throw the sprues in the pot until the next time you add metal. If you are running the pot rather hot and you see little tiny dimples or discoloration on the bullets......it the tin (if any) is vaporizng.
    The best heat treating we have found is to cook the bullets for one hour at 450 degrees and quench in tap water. This makes the bullets very consistant in hardness, but not brittle. We then dip then in an Alox wash and let dry.
    John Linebaugh/Todd Corder do all our stress testing and the results can be seen on the Dixie Slugs (dixieslugs.com) forum.
    We are of the opinion that when a slug/bullet gets 45 caliber and up, and proper hard cast heat treated slug/bullet, heavy and with a large meplat, is best for dangeous and/or heavy game. The Brits proved that with the shotgun bore rifled and Paradox guns in Africa.....what worked then, stills works today!......James@Dixie Slugs

  12. #12

    Default .338 mould?

    anybody have a 338 mould that they'd care to part with, preferably with a gas check. Will also need a sizing die for a Lyman lubri-sizer.

    Thanks

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