View Full Version : Casting .308 Bullets -- Honestly Feasible
December 12, 2006, 09:51
Just how feasible is casting .308 bullets for use in semi-auto firearms? The supply of pulled surplus bullets likely wont last forever either and I have no desire whatsoever to pay $20/100 for commercial jacketed bullets to shoot in my rifles.
Lee has quite a few .309 molds, but most of them are for flat nose bullets. Lee doesn't make a 150gr spitzer mold, but the closest is a 160gr round nose mold with a .252 ballistic coefficient. Looking at Midway, they are only available in a one or two cavity though. This sounds veeeeery sloooow. Does anyone make a four, six or even more cavity 150gr spitzer .309 mold?
For the other parts of the operation things seem pretty straightforward. You need a tall melting pot that has a bottom pour spout since using ladles is very slow and inefficient. You've got your lee lube and sizing kit using liquid alox which seems pretty obvious, however if you are loading for .308 win. I know you use .309 molds, but are you supposed to use the .308 or the .309 sizer kit?
The biggest question is what lead alloy to use to avoid as much lead fouling as possible and what good loads are there for cast bullets. I'm not going to be loading "plinking" rounds here. I want to emulate M80 as closely as possible with a cast load, so Im looking for the highest velocity loading possible while still being able to to use common cheap (or free) scrap lead instead of expensive lead alloys.
What are my options here?
BTW I dont need a lecture on how to safely work with lead. Wear a respirator, work outside, always wash your hands, limit your exposure, yadda yadda yadda. Thats not whats in question here. I'm talking about how to make effective bullets as cheaply as possible here.
December 12, 2006, 15:55
I'm certainly no expert. I'm not even well informed, but it doesn't sound feasible to me.
I've loaded with lead for 40 Auto and 45 ACP, and whenever I start moving them much beyond 1100 fps, I start getting a lot of fouling even with good quality bullets.
I expect it's a combination of heat and friction, but there seems like more than enough of both in a 308 load to cause fouling problems.
December 12, 2006, 15:59
I don't think it's practical for 308, swagging might be a different story however.
December 12, 2006, 18:45
Anything I've ever heard about shooting cast bullets, even gas checked bullets, in gas guns, it's a PITA. You get nasty fouling in the gas system, lead build up to the point that disassembly is difficult. Not trying to rain on your parade.....If you want to emulate M80 ball loads your going to have to cast them as hard as possible and then I'm not sure you'll be able to get them hard enough not to foul your rifle.
I'd think that swagged bullets would be even worse. One time I bought a whole bunch of what I thought were cast handgun bullets and instead they were swagged on a header machine. They were soft as hell and I leaded the barrel of my Anaconda something terrible.
Something I just remembered.......there used to be a company that sold empty jackets and dies that you could make your own jacketed bullets. I can't remember who it was/is or where they are. It's been many many moons since I've heard of them. They may not even be in business anymore.
December 12, 2006, 19:54
Corbin makes good swaging tools.
But, don't do it to save any real money if you are loading .308
The oddball bullet-swage makes a lot more sense for situations where you want a unique bullet that is not available from a commercial source.
Some folks like to swage .223 bullets out of .22 LR hulls. I guess that's OK, but I doubt that the product is that great, and I can't see that there would be much money saved unless you knocked out 100K or so. I think you'd have to be pretty nuts to go for the "economy" justification for bullet swaging in any common caliber.
I think you could cast .308 bullets if you had some very, very hard casting material, and used a gas check with a low-velocity handload. Still not at all practical.
From the perspective of sheer economy, and assuming that your time has no value whatsoever, it still makes sense to buy surplus components and assemble the ammo yourself.
Myself, I'm not gonna handload unless I can realize at least 50% savings on the loaded ammo, or I can create a "pet load" that gives me at least 30% better accuracy.
For everything else, I'll just have to shoot surplus, or .22 rimfire.
December 12, 2006, 23:31
Cast bullets in a semi are very practical and cheap, but they do take up your time. Best thing to do is first buy the book, "Modern Handloading", by Maj. George Nonte. He probably did more cast bullet work with semis than any one else, and has a very good chapter on shooting cast bullets.
You are working with the pressure curve to operate a semi, so the bullets will have to be heaver than ball. I used RCBS version of Lyman 31141, 170 gr bullet for my Garand. Best group is a bench fired, 3/8 x 3/4 at 100 yards! Never got that close again, the usual was 1 1/2" - 2," but it showed me that the rifle would shoot that load.
Using linotype and dumping them out of the mold into a bucket of water increased hardness. Good lube and gas checks and I've had had no leading problems. The gas port gets cleaned after 1K or so rounds.
I don't cast now only because surplus is cheap (well...kinda cheap these days) and you trade your time for money. I'd rather shoot than cast, lube, size, and load.
December 13, 2006, 08:35
I'm not sure you'll be able to get them hard enough not to foul your rifle.
I am sure on this. The answer is no. Prepare yourself to clean more vigorously than you ever have before. if this is okay with you, then by all means, get after it. The cast bullet hobby is very rewarding, IF you like it.
Forget Lee. No way, no how. If you want to use a load behind a cast bullet of any consequence you MUST use a gas check. I am unaware of any means to do this with the Lee systems. (I stand ready for correction, as ever) For this operation you will need a Lubri-sizer. RCBS and Lyman make the two most popular.
Molds- Forget Lee (again) If you are going to SERIOUSLY cast rifle bullets, get a Lyman, Saeco (I think they sold to another company-check the Graf & Son's catalog) or RCBS mold of your liking. There have been gang molds (4, 6 and more cavity) for rifle bullets. Trust me, casting a nice, filled out rifle bullet is an art. A short, fat pistol bullet is fairly easy to master. I have ONCE handled a six cavity 7mm rifle bullet mold. I had a few years under my belt and STILL had a hard time being consistent. Stay with a two cavity. Buy at least TWO molds. You fill one, set it aside, fill the other, open the first, re-fill, open the second,,,on and on.
Loads- The gas check will allow a hotter load. Never as hot, no where NEAR as hot as a jacketed round. The softer material, even at it's hardest will not remain graved down the bore if driven too fast-hot. It WILL jump rifling if you try it. Been there, done that. I ran 30-06 past 1800 FPS and started losing it in a GArand and in my 03-A3. About 1500-1600 worked fine. (in the 03-A3)
Alloy- Lyman #2 alloy is touted as the standard. It works. I have shot pound after pound of it. My alloy is what I simply call the "641". Six pounds of Linotype, four pounds of wheelweight and one pound of virgin lead. I will make up some of this, cast a few bullets and test it on the BHN tool. If it comes up softer than I want, I add 50/50 bar solder to the alloy until it comes up. I have never had it take more than a pound per 20 pounds to fix it. The variable in my recipe is the wheelweight. This material is not as consistent as say, virgin linotype from a supplier. Also, when you are making your alloy, you MUST flux and mix and skim dross (do not skim the tin, it can look like junk on the top, but it ain't) off your batch. If you do not do this properly, at the proper temeratures, your components (lead, tin and antimony) will separate and you will have inconsistent bullets in terms of hardness.
Quenching- Many casters do this. I have not found that it helps significantly. It only hardens the surface of the bullet in any case. (or so I have read) I see no difference in BHN reading from a quenched to a non quenched drop. I therefore skip it. I just drop on a soft towel to prevent knocking a dent in them.
I could go on and on. I love it. I learn every time I mess with it. I would hate to be without my casting stuff. For my EBR's, I will buy bulk FMJ's 5 or 10 k at a time. If it gets so bad I have to cast for them I will be in a bad jam, IMO. Lol
December 13, 2006, 09:53
I've been looking at the Corbin Swaging website (http://corbins.com/prices.htm) they sell everything you need to swage jacketed or unjacketed bullets. They do still sell the kit that allows you to swage .224 bullets from your own cast lead cores and fired .22 lr cases, but there is no such "easy" solution for .308 caliber bullets, apparently. The .224 kit if $600 and thats just a few tools that fit into a standard 7/8" press! Crazy talk! Looks like you have to either have to buy pre-made jackets ($$$) or make your own from not-so-common-sized copper tubing to make your own 30 cal bullet jackets.
So let me put it this way, what will YOU do once the supply of surplus .308 bullets runs out or jumps to buckwild crazy prices just like loaded surplus ammo has done in the past few months? You know it will at some point. Don't deny that it can happen.
The supply of affordable ammunition has always been the achilles heel of the shooting sports, and all they have to do to let the second amendment wither on the vine is to make it impractical for the average Joe to go shooting by pricing him out of the required affordable equipment or closing down the necessary places to shoot.
The best price I can find on commercial 150gr FMJ spitzers is about 11 cents a round with shipping. Thats almost as much as I was paying for fully loaded Santa Barbara M80 three years ago, for JUST THE BULLET. Thats nothing to say about the other components like primers brass and powder that are skyrocketing in price as well. We have a problem here, friends and the solution isnt to switch to shooting 9mm or 22lr or not going to the range at all.
How many of you are making twice as much money as you were three years ago? You'd need to be to compensate for all these higher prices. Weak dollar? Fuel prices? UN Conspiracy? Thats not what I want to hear. What I want to hear is someone has figured out a way for me to make or acquire serviceable ammunition for ALL of my firearms as cheaply as humanly possible.
This isnt just a "hobby" to me. Being priced out of your firearms is being price into slavery.
December 13, 2006, 10:03
save that last battle pack for a rainy day gentlemen...
December 13, 2006, 10:09
IF, repeat IF I fired 1000 rounds of rifle ammo a year, and IF I live to be 100 it won't break my budget to buy enough readily available jacketed bullets to stock me for life. Matter of fact, I am about halfway there now. (both to 100 yrs of age and that much stock)
A battle pack of .308 and a couple hundred rounds of .45 acp is far more than I want to think about using in anger. Anyone who thinks they will need 10k rounds for SHTF best get their affairs in order. :skull:
I ain't sweating it. I KNOW me and Temp is gonna smoke seegars and drink likker from our lawn chairs while the Red Dawn breaks.
December 13, 2006, 10:24
Originally posted by owlcreekok
IF, repeat IF I fired 1000 rounds of rifle ammo a year,
I think I fired 500 rounds just the last time I was at the range for a few hours. And yeah, each shot was aimed. I dont punch paper from the bench and measure my group sizes with a caliper like some very anal retentive people, though. I shoot steel torso silhouette targets out to 400m from various field positions. I also practice burst fire with my select fire rifles (when I can).
When I think of and plan for a "SHTF" scenario where I'll need ammo, I don't think of something that lasts a few weeks like with Katrina. I think of a scenario where nothing is ever the same again at all. Decades, at the very least. At that point I surely wont be shooting that much, but do I have enough ammo to defend myself and anyone I care to arm for 10-20 years, weight/mobility issues aside? Even if I take my tinfoil hat off for awhile I still see a world where I might be told by my government that I'm not allowed to buy firearms and ammo anymore, since you know, the Constitution is just some "old piece of paper". Do I have enough ammo when and if that day comes?
Not nearly enough. Not by a long shot.
December 13, 2006, 10:33
I see your side of it. Seriously, if I was shooting that much and concerned as you are, I would buy up brass, bullets and powder. It is out there for the taking. Before the ready rolled ammo gets REALLY expensive (or regulated) a lot of people are going to smarten up and find out that their time spent at the press is all they got.
It is a sobering thought to have a list made out of reloading components that may well be the last you buy in your lifetime. :sad:
December 29, 2006, 12:32
I don't know, but would a lead bullet even make it from the magazine into the chamber of a FAL without being damaged?
fire for effect
December 29, 2006, 19:42
I have the Corbin Dies and Corbin press for Swaging .308 Bullets. I also have the dies to make Copper Jackets out of copper tubing. The set up was expensive by the time I picked up everything I wanted, but I think it was worth it.
I can now make any .308 bullet I want. I should say in any weight. I have made .308 bullets in weights from as little as 110 grain up to 270 grain, with the same dies.
You can tailor the bullet weight to match your gun, and not have to depend on what the factory makes.
I did this specifically because Clinton was contemplating a cop Killer Bullet Ban that would have banned any rifle bullet presently made out there.
Here is a picture of my bullet swaging bench:
In the center of the table is my Corbin Bullet swaging press, with a point forming Swage in the press. On the right, is a canelure tool for cutting the canelure in the finished Bullets.
December 31, 2006, 15:10
I cast 30 cal bullets all the time and have no problem. I cast them for ak's, m1 garands, carbines, lever actions, etc. The bullets in the Ak do get a little deformed sometimes in feeding but never jam and shoot just fine.
My favorite load is Lyman 311284 loaded with sr4759 and puff lon filler. Out of my 03 springfield and 1917 they will shoot 1 to 2 inchs at 100 yards. I have not developed a load as yet for a fal or m1a but will soon do so. 311413 is a good one and at around 150 grains probably good for 308.
Dont believe the myths about cast bullets, if of proper hardness and lubed properly gas check bullets do not foul the bore of rifles. They get a bad rap from revolvers where it builds up around the forcing cone. You will get a nasty looking goo around you gas piston but this is mostly lube and will wipe off with a rag soaked in bore solvent.
Bullets do not need to be that hard I shoot the lyman #2 alloy which is 9 pounds of wheel weights and one pound 5050 bar solder.
The advatages to cast is that they are much easier on the gun, do not wear out the bore, recoil less, and THEY ARE CHEAP.
If you want to cast do not waste money on lee moulds, they will gall and not cas true. Spend the money on a good lyman, rcbs, saeco iron mould. They take a little longer to break in but are much better quality ans will not wear out.
fire for effect
December 31, 2006, 20:47
Casting bullets is always a skill that one should master, simply because someday the liberal bastards will get around to banning Bullets, and you will need to know how to make your own, either casting or swaging. I decided on both. I cast pistol bulets and I swage rifle.
Corbin also sells dies for swaging lead bullets.
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