Casting Alloy?

  • Last Post 12 April 2016
Curtisb posted this 07 April 2016

I will be casting for 38spcl. 357mag, 9mm, 45colt, and 45 ACP.  And who know where this will lead to in more calibers in the future. My question for you experts is what type of alloy mix?  Hardness would I want to start with? Thanks for your help!

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R. Dupraz posted this 07 April 2016

Depends on what they are and what you want to use them for, plain base, gas checked.   I have loaded for all those cal's and then some and have used every thing from pure lino to range scrap with satisfaction.   But any more I just use plain old wheel weights for every thing with maybe a little lino to promote fillout. Maybe 9Bhn or there abouts give or take. Never measured. But then my pistol loads are not full throttle and are loaded for accuracy and the enjoyment of shooting at paper and other stuff.  

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 07 April 2016

when beginning casting, i suggest simplifying everything ... there are 4 or 6 things that matter to learn .. the trick is to ignore the 640 side-tracking forks in the road ....

so just order from rotometals at least 20 pounds of #2 alloy ...then when something funny happens when casting, it won't be your alloy.

whee ! now you only have 3 or 5 things left to learn !! the #2 alloy will do most things very well most of the time. ...

please feel welcome to ask more questions here ... it is good to find new casters getting into the hobby ...


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onondaga posted this 07 April 2016>Curtisb

2 Alloy is frequently recommended in the Lyman cast bullet handbook for a good reason. it matches the recommended load levels they use. The BHN15 hardness of #2 Alloy is important for the load levels.

Another alloy at BHN15 is “Hardball Alloy” and that is great for target shooting but less malleability for bullet expansion when hunting. Hardball is recommended for all the pistol calibers you mention and very suitable for load levels to factory ammo level with gas checked bullets.

I use a recreational alloy at BHN15 that I mix with equal parts soft range scrap or pure lead  and Linotype scrap. This shoots to the same POI as my #2 alloy hunting bullets.

I manage all my casting alloys with #2 from Rotometals, pure lead from Roto,  range scrap and Lino scrap. To match any load level I use the lead hardening formula for any hardness I desire from soft to Lino.

Also, I stick with the program of selecting load levels in psi related to alloy ultimate strength in psi as described in Lee's Modern Reloading 2nd Edition. That is an excellent reference for plain based cast bullets. Gas checks extend the load range about 10% in my applications.


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Norman posted this 11 April 2016

I am trying to find out how fast pure lead bullet can be shot. No gas check, just plain base bullet for 38/357 pistol

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 11 April 2016

i have shot a lot of recovered 22 rimfire lead ... nearly pure lead should get 900 fps... but if a good barrel i have reached 1300 fps in a 357 mag .

this is plain base and a slightly slower powder such as blue dot ...herco ... the limit is poor grouping; if you go hotter, some leading . actually i have seen minor leading at lower velocity with soft lead but not a fast buildup .

a special case is the commercial hollow base wadcutters ... about 900 fps is the best for me without leading in revolvers .

that is my experience .


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onondaga posted this 11 April 2016

Norman wrote: I am trying to find out how fast pure lead bullet can be shot. No gas check, just plain base bullet for 38/357 pistol There is not a definitive answer, your bullet fit, alloy strength and load pressure will determine this for your pistol.

Pure Lead is BHN-5 but you will not likely be able to make or obtain bullets softer than BHN-6.

BHN-6 has an ultimate strength of 8,816 psi. with plain lead bullets. You can approach that 8,816 psi in ballistic pressure, beyond that depends on your tolerance for how the bullets shoot with what you have. Few get past that with pure lead bullets and most just shoot bullets all over the place trying something that doesn't work.

Use load data that includes ballistic pressure in psi and you have a good start.  Lead bullets don't care about velocity, it is load pressure that damages them so velocity interpretations are completely misguided. The velocity is what you get after the load pressure gets you there and it is the load pressure that distorts lead bullets. If you don't understand that, it is covered very well in the 2nd Edition Modern Reloading, Lee,  in chapters 8,9 and 10.

As an example from Lee data, a 158 gr lead bullet in 38 special, Lee data shows velocities from 857-870 fps with their loads at Ballistic pressures of 14,100 -15,600 psi. This should tell you that you can't go that high with pure lead and expect to hit stuff.

However those loads are recommended for BHN-15 Hardball or Lyman #2 Alloy and shoot well with those harder alloys.

You have your best chance with lead bullets that are the largest diameter that you can chamber. Any less of a fit reduces the load pressure range of your bullets.

If pure lead is all you have, buy something to harden it with, check the hardness and load within the range of your alloy. Example: Pure lead plus Linotype alloy mixed at 1:1 yields a BHN-15 alloy very similar to Hardball Alloy, I use that mix for recreational shooting and it hits the same POI as my Certified Lyman #2 Alloy hunting bullets.

The only thing I use pure lead for is  Lee Sabot 12 ga slugs, Sabot 12 ga round balls, muzzle loading balls and bullets, and sling shot ammo. It is excellent for those applications.

Additionally, beware, pure lead requires precise thermodynamics and casting cadence to fill out molds well and pure lead is very challenging to cast well with compared to alloys with 1% or more Tin.


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Norman posted this 12 April 2016

Thank you to all that answered my question on pure lead bullets. Thank you, I am old enough to know that there are smarter people in this world than I am.

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