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Thread: Lubes for Conicals

  1. #1

    Default Lubes for Conicals

    Is anyone else casting their own conicals? I've been experimenting with several and finding that lube is a big variable in accuracy. I've tried a few, but I'm wondering what anyone else is using.

  2. #2

    Default Conical lube

    When using black powder or BP substitute, I've had good success using a mixture of deer tallow and pure beeswax (about 1:1).

  3. #3


    I'd read about that, but not much detail on mixing, application and use. Are you melting the works in a pan floating in hot water? Are you sheet-pouring to lube then using a "cookie cutter" to free the bullets? I'm still looking for something to use as a .54 cutter.

    And finally, how stiff is the stuff when cool? If it's tacky, have you found a way to hold and carry extra bullets in the field? I've been using some old TC Maxiball boxes to hold mine.

  4. #4

    Default Lube application


    The first time is a little tricky, but after that its simple.

    Have your lube pre-made and melted.

    Get a small pan and another larger pan (I use a loaf pan and frying pan) to hold the smaller pan and some water. Put them on the stove and turn the heat on low. Boiling will make the loaf pan "bump". All you need to do is keep the lube liquid at this point.

    Now you have two options: 1) Pour some lube into the loaf pan. The depth depends on the bullets, which will then be stood up in the pan. And, the level of lube is going to rise as you add the bullets. Kind of a trial and error thing. OR: 2) place the bullets (standing up) in the pan first, and then pour in the lube. Some bullets might fall over, but you can stand them up with a needle nose pliers. Keep about 1/4" of space between the bullets.

    After you get all the bullets and lube in the pan, you can just turn off the heat and wait for the lube to harden up as it cools. If you're steady enough, you can take the loaf pan out of the hot water and set it on the counter or a little cooling rack. If' I'm in a hurry, I'll put 'em in the refrigerator, but that can make bullet removal (next step) harder.

    Bullet removal: After the lube has cooled sufficiently, turn the loaf pan upside down and remove the whole assembly (this may require a little genlte persuasion). When removed, apply steady pressure to the nose of a bullet. It should push through the cake of lube, leaving lube in the lube grooves. Repeat for the rest of the bullets.

    For subsequent lubing operations, just stick a bullet in each hole in the cake of lube and place back into the loaf pan, and then into the frying pan (plus water) onto the stove and heat until the lube remelts. Let cool and remove as above.

    This deer tallow and beeswax lube is not messy to use in the field. And if its very cold can even get a little brittle. I've used Maxiball boxes too and they're fine. I also have some speed loaders that have a little chamber on one end for the bullet, and the other for the charge.

    Good luck. Let me know how you make out.

  5. #5


    Thanks Forestar! Just helped a new hunter dress, skin and hang a deer, and I didn't even think to keep any of the fat. Doh! Guess I'll have to go hunting....

  6. #6

    Default Fat to tallow


    Yeah, you'll have to go out and get your own deer now. I just cut the fat into small chunks and let it melt in a warm frying pan on the stove. Don't set the heat too high; you don't want it to burn. After a while, you can just drain the grease (tallow) into a used butter tub (or reasonable facsimile thereof) and discard the rendered chunks.


  7. #7

    Default Cold temps vs warm temps


    I checked some old notes last night and found that you may want to adjust the mixture (ratios) of tallow:beeswax depending on expected temperatures. For general use a 50:50 mixture would probably suffice. But for warm weather use you could go to 40:60 (tallow:beeswax), and for cold weather use go the other way, 60:40 (tallow: beeswax).

    I think those ratios are weight based, but I'm still checking.


  8. #8


    Still waiting for deer tallow Forestar, but I thought I would report back with some interesting results.

    I've been shooting both 300 and 380 grain Lee REAL bullets from a couple of 54's, lubing them with Bore Butter. Accuracy was only so-so till I swabbed between shots with a patch lubed with Bore Butter.

    The 380 grain bullets shoot very well (+/- 3 inches @ 100 yards) from an older scoped Knight 54, but poorly from my Lyman GPR with its slow 66" twist barrel (8-10" groups).

    The 300 grain bullets are mediocre performers from the Knight (4-6"), but average 3-4" at 100 yards from the GPR (receiver rear and globe front sights). That's actually better than I get with Buffalo Ballets and on par with what it does with PRB.

    I solved the short term storage problem in a useful way. I had some empty Powerbelt blister packs around and started using them for lubed bullets. Work great, even if the original bullets were characterized by occasional wild flyers.

  9. #9

    Default Tallow substitute


    You don't have to wait for that deer to wander into your sight picture. You can go down to the local grocery store and ask the butcher for some beef, pork or mutton fat (don't use fat from ham as it has salt and other chemicals (i.e., smoke, etc.))

    Base your proportions on weight, not volume. You can also throw in a little commercially prepared Alox beeswax -- up to about 2 oz per 2 pounds of tallow & beeswax mixture. Alox beeswax is 50% Alox and 50% beeswax. A lot of guys use it straight to lube pistol bullets. Some people call that the NRA formula, and you can buy it through commercial vendors (you might try Midway). Whatever concoction you come up with, its probably best to store it in the refrigerator, as tallow will break down over time (years).

    Interesting results so far. And as you observed, you can generally do better by cleaning between shots, but you have to careful not to push a bunch of crud down into the breech, potentially blocking or plugging the nipple or flash hole. You could fire off a cap if you have any doubts.

    I wouldn't expect very good accuracy with heavy conicals out of that slow twist Lyman rifle. 1:66 is a roundball twist rate, so it makes sense that the lighter (and therefore shorter) conical would [should] shoot better than a longer (heavier) conical that requires a faster twist rate to stabilize it. Just the opposite is true with the Knight -- faster twist rate favors the longer projectile, and the accuracy of the short projectile suffers.

    Keep me posted.

  10. #10


    Hey Forestar.

    Thanks for the feedback and alternate source of tallow. You're right about the cumulative effects of swabbing between shots. Part of my routine at the range is to use a nipple pick along with the swab, but even that isn't enough to prevent a misfire after lots of shots. Time for a general cleaning at that point, which I have to do several times on a long range session.

    Here's an interesting result, speaking of fast vs slow twists. In my little Knight (scoped) a PRB over 50 grains of Pyrodex P will cut ragged hole groups at 50 yards. I suspect the GPR would do the same even with open sights if my eyes were still young.

    Factory sights on the GPR weren't good enough for my eyes, so I swapped them out for a Lyman receiver and globe front. That turned it into a real "target" gun, but was problematic for hunting in low light. I recently replaced the globe front with a red fiberoptic, then switched to the smallest aperture I could find on the rear. Suddenly I've got the clearest front sight I've had in years.

    If you ever need to do the same, be advised that almost all FO sights are for 3/8" dovetail, rather than the European standard of the GPR. I sorted it all out by getting a Williams 3/8" and dressing it down to fit the dovetail.

    On a side note, the Lyman receiver sight has to sit really high to line up with conventional front sight heights around .50 tall, to the point that the brace screw under the riser doesn't make contact. Using a .260 front sight lowers the rear enough for proper contact.

  11. #11

    Default Reduced loads & twist rates


    That's something I neglected to mention -- Yes, you can shoot short projectiles, like a PBR or light conical, out of a fast twist rifle and get fair results if you reduce the load (can be useful for small game). I've not found the opposite to be true however.

    I used to use the nipple pick too, but even had the occasion mis- or hang-fire doing that because you might just push crud back down when you load the charge. If I have any doubt about the flash hole being clear (test by blowing into the muzzle), I just fire a cap.

    I use receiver and/or tang peep sights whenever possible (as an alternative to open, iron sights) too. But unless you're after the finest target accuracy possible, I don't think it's necessary to use a small aperature. The human eye has a natural ability to find the center of a circle pretty easily, even a large one (try centering a round saucer on a larger round plate). For hunting, I generally remove the threaded aperature from the receiver sight altogether and just use that threaded hole as my aperature. It may seem huge, but I've not noticed any significant differences at the range, using that vs. the smaller insert. Your eye just naturally finds the center and you can focus on the front sight. I've also drilled out an aperature or two if the aperature isn't removeable. I'd be interested in hearing if you find any significant difference using large vs small aps.


  12. #12


    That's the way I always used them too- before age started taking it's toll. Now a small aperture works much like those little discs you can put on shooting glasses rather than corrective lenses. Forget the name, but they really work. Basically the smaller the aperture, the more clearly you can see the front sight. The only downside is my tendency to crawl the stock with small apertures. A 430 grain conical on top of 120 grains of powder will break you of the habit!

  13. #13

    Default Srink rate


    Since you are casting your own slugs, Have you put a set of calipers on them?

    I have found that mold temperature can case a big variation in diameter size of the slug. Sometimes upwards of .0012. Just a thought from us tight wads...

  14. #14


    I've miked them, but only cast in the summer. No big variation in diameter once the moulds are warmed up. I'm in the habit of dumping the first half a dozen bullets back into the pot, so my temps are pretty consistent. I hadn't imagined that a few degrees change in air temp would make much difference, but you've sure given me something to think about and test.

    BTW- Using pure lead, the diamters come out exactly as advertized. I have noticed that with age and use the Lee moulds can get a little "shifty." You have to be really careful that they are closed right. Signs of problems are a visible seam on the bullets corresponding to the junction between the mould halves.

  15. #15
    Member Daveintheburbs's Avatar
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    Apr 2003
    Eagle River, AK

    Default one more question

    Has anybody used something other than tallow or Alox to mix 50/50 with the beeís wax? Ö Crisco maybe? About 15 years ago I cast up and lubed about a zillion maxi balls with a friend who is now deceased. Iím down to my last few and Iím sure he didnít use tallow but I canít figure the recipe out. What ever it is we just stood the conicals in a pan, poured the lube around them and wiggled them free after the mix hardened. Succeeding batches went right into the original holes for remelting.


  16. #16


    I've heard of quite a few oils and fat being used Dave, including Crisco. Probably no way for anyone but a biochemist to be sure which was used in your case, but based on the era Crisco is a very reasonable bet. It would be pretty easy to test, at least in an offhand way, since you still have some of the orginal. Mix a little and see how it looks, feels and smells.

    I rendered a bunch of fat from a buck I took a week ago, and am just waiting for the opportunity to mix that with beeswax and try it out. A friend swears up and down that his great granddad used straight tallow as a patch lube for shooting PRB, and based upon how this stuff feels, I think I'll try it. Again, when the opportunity strikes for a range session.

  17. #17
    Member Daveintheburbs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Eagle River, AK

    Default Well it tastes like...

    Chicken, doesn't everything? Thanks, guess I'll just keep experimenting with mixtures untill I get it right.

  18. #18

    Default What is Crisco after all?

    Isn't Crisco lard? What is lard? It's rendered fat, which is "tallow". Now, Crisco may have some other additives, and it may be pasteurized or homogenized, but fat is the basic ingredient.

    You may have to play with the proportions to get the right consistency, but I don't see why it wouldn't work. But I would avoid anything that contains salt, sodium whatever, and other stuff that could cause rust, etc.

    If you don't have any deer or other wild game fat, you can probably get some beef suet or fat at the grocery store meat dept.

    Good luck.

  19. #19
    Member Daveintheburbs's Avatar
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    Apr 2003
    Eagle River, AK

    Default Thanks Forestar

    Actually Crisco is vegetable oil with good old trans fat added to stiffen it up. I used to use it a lot to seal the ends of cap and ball pistol cylinders. It makes a distinct smell when shot that way. My reason for rediscovering my old mixture is that it works great. I probably need to just start from scratch and experiment with different mixtures.

  20. #20

    Default Hmmm, I thought . . . .

    . . . it was lard. Sorry about that. At any rate, if you're going to use Crisco stay with the plain stuff, not the "flavored" varieties. And I'd still be concerned about the additives, especially sodium.

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