Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sustainable Armory - Casting Bullets a Winter Project

Somewhere in between cutting, hauling, splitting, stacking wood, all my other daily chores and now insulating my Mom's new mini-cabin/retirement home. Oh and working about 20 hours a week give or take. Now that it is finally almost, really Winter...

Which ya know Winter may not officially start until December 21st but I consider anything after the middle of October the Winter season. To me this should be almost Mid-Winter. Whatever you want to call it December and January are about the least hectic months of the entire year for me. Too cold and wet to do much outside except on those rare days. Dark by like 4:30 in the afternoon and I am usually quite broke from Christmas over spending anyway.

So this year I intend to get back into reloading some of my horded brass again. It's a Winter tradition for me to pump out about a thousand rounds of two random calibers I shoot each year. Last year I didn't get very far because it was so damned cold I couldn't get out into the shop enough but this year so far it has been fine. Perfect smelting and casting temperatures if you ask me.

This year's project is to cast and load up one thousand 152gr. .38/.357 rounds and also a thousand 5.56 rounds. I don't cast the 5.56 bullets though.

The first step is to cast the 1100 or so .38 bullets. After casting them I will then let them sit for a couple of weeks and cure/harden as much as possible. The cold temps out in the shop will actually increase their hardness level a good bit before I finish em and start pressing out rounds next month. I will try and do about 50 to 100 a night between the 10th and Christmas then switch to the 5.56 reloads.

Here's my little set up. I should invest in a six or higher cavity mold but so far the two cavity one seems to keep me going it just takes a bit more time. I buy some lead mail order and mix in wheel weights then use a mixture of beeswax and saw dust to flux out the impurities. It yields out a good high teens hardness which is just about perfect for slower pistol rounds in my opinion. Because my set up is pretty small it was cheap to get into and start casting but as I said not the most efficient time v. labor wise. It works for me though.

The candle is for smoking the mold to give a nice soot coating in the cavity area which allows the cast bullets to release easily. I find it's the quickest and cleanest way rather than using other release agents. It also allows the mold to be a little pre-heated before pouring the molten lead mixture directly into it which is somewhat important on these cold Winter nights.

The casting, mixing the lead and fluxing is just the first step however. After the bullets harden a good amount of time I will then lube em using an allox and beeswax mixture I concocted, heat em in the oven a little and then run them through my sizing die all before starting to press em into the cases I have primed and ready.

The .38/.357 round is my selected meat hunting and survival round in a post collapse situation. Not necessarily for defense but it will stop a deer easily and the straight walled cases stand up to many more reloading sessions than the tapered rifle rounds. I also have a single shot handi-rifle in .357 as well. Add all this to the ability to cast my own bullets for this caliber and a few thousand (at least) rounds laid up (plus powder and primers) I could be shooting .38/.357 for literally decades before needing new supplies restocked.

Of course the close in woodland area I live in with smaller fields means much shorter ranges so the slower, flatter pistol rounds work well for hunting. I wouldn't want to have to use this set up out in Kansas or Nebraska that's for sure.

So that's the first step. I will post up the next couple of steps as I go. Gotta work a 12 hour shift tomorrow so that's why I am posting this tonight.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


  1. Sounds like you have a good plan with the 357s and 556 will be like minting coins.

    1. Sf - I figure it is the cheapest and easiest way to insure I have ammo long after the stores dry up and the factories quit running. The straight walled cases especially last a long time.

  2. My bud and I managed to acquire 200 pounds of lead/wheel weights last winter and cast it all into 1 pound ingets this past spring. We split it all between us. Needless to say we both will be busy this winter making rounds for each of our different fav calibers. It is a good pastime for 2 old farts with nothing better to do in the great white north.

    Carl in the UP

    1. Carl - UP? Is that upper peninsula? Great place!!!

      Casting the bullets keeps me nice and warm too although fluxing makes my shop stink. I find it is a very enjoyable thing to do in the Winter as well. Nice score on the wheel weights too!!!

    2. yes I am in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Our Winters are pretty much different than yours. It is very remote and our economy is toast. But the folks up here are real and we really do not experience many of the problems that plague more urban areas.


    3. Carl - I have never spent a Winter in the UP but I have spent a couple in Door County so I wasn't too far off geographically even if they are worlds apart in population and seclusion.


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