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Old 03-13-2011, 10:10 PM
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Default Wheel weight bullets and quenching

I am hoping to get into casting bullets in the next few weeks and I have a line on alot of wheel weights. (About 20 pounds worth and they are already sorted by material so its all lead). The question I have is, after the bullets are smelted and I start to melt down whatever ingots made from WW's I have, how much does water quenching add to the hardness of the bullets I am going to make. I am trying for some .38 caliber bullets for my .357 and .38-44 Outdoorsman and I am figuring for velocities around 1200 fps. I am going to try for around 15 BHN or so. So does quenchin make that big a difference?
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Old 03-13-2011, 10:22 PM
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Quick answer is yes , cold water quench will make the bullets harder. Straight wheelweights are the minimal I would use. I cast my low velocity and black powder stuff from straight wheelweights. Ya might want to add a bar of 50-50 bar solder to every 20lbs of ww's for a bit more tin. My bullets for magnum velocity rounds are cast from half wheelweights and half linotype , water quenched. They are lubed with hard lube and I have clocked them at 1300-1500fps with no measurable leading.

Lyman's Cast Bullet Handbook is a very good source of info.
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Old 03-13-2011, 10:26 PM
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David,
Water dropping or quenching will only work if there is arsenic in the alloy. Since wheel weigh material can vary quite a bit in alloy, a test will have to be made with your specific batch.

I have had some that dropped from the mould and in a few days of air hardening, came to the 12BHN level on their own. That hardness, if they are the right size for your firearm, bore or throat size +.001" to .002" and you will need nothing harder to 1200fps, that is, if you have enough of the right kind of lube on them.

What bullet style/mould number, are you going to be using? What kind of lube are you planning on using? How are you going to size the bullets?

If you want an in depth study of the subject, look here: NRA - IHMSA Handgun, Rifle, Air Pistol Silhouette Shooting. The Excitement Of Reactive Steel Targets At The Los Angeles Silhouette Club I think this will help. Check out the "Intro to casting" online book. There are lots of articles by Glenn Fryxell and they are required reading, in my opinion.


Back to your original question, 30BHN + depending. So, yes, water quenching does in fact change the hardness of your bullets. There are other ways too, some I think are covered in the additional articles by Glenn.

Hope this helps.

p.s. I have driven my cast bullets in 357Mag to 1580fps from a Marlin 1894 rifle with no leading period. Straight wheel weights with White Label's BAC lube.
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Old 03-13-2011, 10:42 PM
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I am going to size these bullets to .358 and the mould I want to try first is Lyman's #358429. The lube I have not figured out yet since I am trying to figure out the smelting first. I am looking at maybe picking up a Lee Electric melter that ladles out for my wheelweights since it might be easier for my set up then trying to buy a propane stove that I have no room for and then buy a second electric furnace for casting the bullets themselves.
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Old 03-14-2011, 12:19 AM
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David, I run 358429s at 1700 fps out of .357 brass using a 22" Handi rifle. They are made of 50/50 clip on to stick on wheel weights and they don't lead in anything I shoot them from. I size at .359" and use White Label BAC for lube.
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Old 03-14-2011, 02:00 AM
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Checks this site out. You may find it helpful

Cast bullet reference on lead alloy's, min / max pressure, lube, shrinkage,
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Old 03-14-2011, 05:54 AM
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Good morning
For smelting WW any heat source and any old yard sale cast iron pot or scillet willl do the trick.
I do my smelting on an old Coleman 2 burner camp stove and a stainless pot from a yard sale. I still have the old skillet I started smelting with and still iuse it for small batches.
Here in Peru I use a table top propane stove with a heavy rack I lay on top of the origonal light weight grill work.
I know a couple fellers who use a wood fire to smelt large batches or lead.
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Old 03-14-2011, 08:06 AM
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Back when I started casting I used wheel weights and did not quench the bullets. I started with a 255 gr. RF out of the .45 Colt at 945 FPS and the bore promptly became leaded with the first six rounds. It was so bad that the bullets would hit sideways at five yards and not stay on a man size target at 10 yards. The rifling was completely clogged and it looked like a smoothbore. I had to scrub out all the lead with a copper scouring pad wrapped around a brush. I promptly started quenching my bullets and I haven't had a problem since, and that includes gas checked wheel weights shot out of a .30-30 at full power.

I have never added tin or antimony. A plumber just gave me a bunch of tin and I'll probably never use it. My method is simple and works well enough without it.

Dave Sinko
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Old 03-14-2011, 11:02 AM
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Quenching or not is NOT the answer in itself. The key is to match bullet hardness with chamber pressure. You need to have the bullet base obturate adequately to prevent leading. Lower pressures, softer lead. Higher pressures, harder lead. I shoot a half dozen different rifle and pistol calibers and quench none of them. All my loads are mild though for paper punching and get no leading at all. All my 9MM's gave me problems with leading until I stopped quenching. If yoou want to drive rifle bullets a higher velocities you will have to use harder lead.
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Old 03-14-2011, 01:54 PM
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David,

There's so much good advice in the above posts that it may be hard (no pun intended) to digest it all. I've been casting and reloading for 51 years. For the first 40, I agonized over the correct Lyman #2 alloy, gas checks, etc., etc. As tin and other components became very expensive and more difficult to obtain, I was forced to reluctantly try compromises and shortcuts. Now I'm into easy things that work, and cost less.

(A) I've switched to straight wheel weights, period. They are fine up to 1200 FPS or so. Beyond that, use gas checks with the same alloy.

(B) Yes, quenching makes the bullets harder, but what you gain does not come close to justifying the effort, and in almost no case is it really necessary.

(C) Your bullet lube is probably more important than the lead alloy. With modern lube recipes including an Alox equivalent, you can use otherwise poor and soft alloys up to rather high velocities, without any sign of leading. You can buy or make your own lube. Recipes are all over the place; most of them work.

(D) This I know for certain, and it is contrary to everything I "thought" I knew several years ago. Using straight wheel weight alloy and gas checks, you can drive .30 and 8mm rifle bullets in the 2600 FPS range, through a smooth and unpitted bore, without leading. And you can do this in a gas operated rifle without leading up the gas cylinder. I've done this in several of my Garands and several M-1 carbines. In the past, I had terrible luck with this. Correct bullet lubricant made all the difference.

(E) Test new methodology before deciding it won't work. There is a lot of good information on the Internet, but also a wealth of misinformation. And I realize that a lot of what I've said above is contrary to some popular thinking from some knowledgeable people. That's why I made reloading unnecessarily difficult for myself for too many years.

Summary: Use straight wheel weights, a lubricant including an Alox equivalent, and gas checks above 1200 to 1300 FPS. Don't worry about water quenching, but do it if you like to play with a pail of water. Our real worry is that socialist fanatics presently calling the shots are in the process of trying to ban the use of lead alloy wheel weights in the United States. That's why I've stockpiled a good supply. Make some friends at your local tire shop.
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Old 03-14-2011, 03:43 PM
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PhilOhio said a mouthful with this statement: "Test new methodology before deciding it won't work. There is a lot of good information on the Internet, but also a wealth of misinformation."

The misinformation is not always intentional. Slight differences in methods, components and/or firearms can sometimes yield drastically different results. That's why it's important to learn and read as much as you can, but at the end of the day test things out for yourself.
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