Bullet Casting for Beginners

Mike R
by Mike R

Welcome to our second series regarding reloading! The good people of LYMAN have wanted to continue their partnership with TFB, and you the readers. The reloading series was a great challenge, and I enjoyed every minute of it. This series will be an entirely new challenge. My challenge will be to do series on an aspect of reloading I have never done and until recently knew little about. Casting bullets! Hot molten lead….what could possibly go wrong??

Behold my TFB patch next to my first ingot

With the wealth of knowledge and experience out there among our readers, I am confident we can go from start to finish with a solid end product. I have been at it for a few weeks and look forward to the discussion. So, those of you who have experience with this please comment. Here are a few things you will need to acquire:

Furnace

The furnace is what melts your lead prior to pouring lead into the bullet mold. The LYMAN Big Dipper Casting Furnace is what Lyman was good enough to send my way. For a beginner it is great. Believe it or not, it is 110v and gets plenty hot and more than enough volume to cast plenty of our beloved “PEWS”. The more advanced furnaces pour the hot lead out the bottom, but as a beginner, this is more than enough for my needs.

The Lyman Big Dipper, my little workhorse

Lead

This will be the basis of the entire first article. Finding a fair amount of scrap lead is NOT as easy as it sounds. I thought wheel weights were the way to go. Range pick up is an option. Lead can be toxic, and less toxic alternatives exist, so lead is much less prevalent in society. With a little searching, I did end up with over 25 pounds of lead ingots. Some may be wary of the health concerns. I believe it is just like dumping powder, if you are responsible and safe you will be fine. Basically don’t let it in your body, via ingesting, injecting, or inhaling.

Molds

You will need molds. There are ingot molds and bullet molds. The ingot molds are used to create your lead bricks. The process is necessary if you are starting from scrap lead. If you have a place to acquire lead ingots it is a skippable step. You will, however, need the bullet molds. Each mold is caliber and bullet weight specific. Molds are inexpensive and easy to come by.

There are a great variety of bullet molds on the market

Sizer and Lubricator

Following casting, you will need to size and lubricate the bullet. We will go over this, but I will probably go on a bit of a tangent at this point. You will need lube….you always need lube. Bullet lube NOT like “magic bullet” lube.

Manual

Yes, here I go again about the all-holy manual. The LYMAN casting handbook goes over the entire process and gives load data to your precious newborns. The entire process is explained in detail. There is a chapter written by a metallurgist that gets down and dirty, with the science.

A few others

If you go the option of using scrap lead, an old deep-frier base and a used up cast iron pan will be needed. You want to keep your furnace as clean as possible. Only lead ingots go into my furnace. I do all my casting outside (I recommend you only do it outside), but still had a fan to assist dissipating fumes. Use a space outside that has a fair amount of room without clutter so manipulating the molten lead will be done safely. These are only the basics, I will introduce a few of the other tools as we go.

Scrap lead being melted down to separate dirt and other metals

Conclusion

First off a huge thanks to LYMAN for continuing the partnership with TFB for this new series! They know TFB has the readers they want to reach out to. Second, a high five to Fire Captain B! A brother firefighter who came out to help with pics, and be my set medic.

Okay, readers, I am hoping for good conversation as we take on this new aspect of reloading. If you are interested in diving into this, there is a great forum with a huge amount of information, you can find it here; http://castboolits.gunloads.com/

Again this is a multipart series. The next installment will be out in a couple of weeks and will cover important setup and preparation. If you are interested in following along, make sure to get the below gear (or similar) as this is what will be used in this series (disclosure: the below are affiliate links that help support the site):

Here are some pics of the casting I did a couple weeks ago. As expected I made some mistakes. I believe I know what I was doing wrong, but let’s hear what you have to say. Be nice to the rookie caster!

I thought this a good pour, but it was not
Was not surprised for the first casting. What is your diagnosis?

Disclaimer; Lyman has provided me a number of the products used in this series

Mike R
Mike R

Mike spent his entire adult life riding an ambulance throughout the Southwest US. He found humor in long in-depth philosophical conversations with crack heads and other urban street survivalists. His highest point was being invited to instruct for some "special" medics in the military. He spent almost 10 years there. A 30 year gun enthusiast, he started down the path of reloading to keep up with his desperate need of more ammo. Reloading is like medicine, you never stop learning.He can generally be found at the local range picking the brains of the old timer, looking for brass, and banging away at gongs. He reloads everything from .32 to .45, .223 to 7 rem mag.

More by Mike R

Comments
Join the conversation
3 of 29 comments
  • John John on Aug 25, 2018

    I didn't see it mentioned, so I'm bringing up a very important rule:

    NEVER COOK OR EAT OUT OF CAST IRON USED FOR CASTING LEAD.

    I noticed you used a Lodge pan, Mike R. In my area that's a real problem because lots of people love collecting antique and garage sale cast iron and often eat with them.

    Please cover the handle with duct tape and write Do Not Eat or Lead Only or something visible and keep it well away from the cookware. It'll help you and anyone else who handles it.

    • Mike R. Mike R. on Aug 25, 2018

      @John I will be discussing this in the next article. It is stored in my storage shed with all my casting equipment, it will never be used for cooking

  • Bill Laflen Bill Laflen on Aug 30, 2018

    2 things cause the deformation of cast bullets. 1) Your mold was not hot enough. or 2) If you were using wheel weights for your casting, it was contaminated by Zinc wheel weights which will give you the same condition. I have experienced BOTH problems.If your bullet has a frosty texture to it , your mold is too hot. I use several of the same molds and rotate them to prevent overheating.

Next