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Old 03-20-2011, 10:02 AM
David LaPell's Avatar
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Default Making Minie balls

I have a slew of old lead roundballs that I picked up in .50, .54. and .58 caliber. I don't have a .50 or .54 anymore, and my Enfield doesn't like roundballs, so I was thinking about melting them all down into Minie balls for my Enfield. I was going to order the mould this week from Dixie, so what is all involved in recycling old lead roundballs into Minie balls? Can i just drop them in and flux away?
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Old 03-20-2011, 10:23 AM
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How much do you know about casting?
If you know the basics, pure lead (which you need ) is easy to flux and cast.
The 3-piece minie moulds are more complicated than a round ball mould, and need to be smoked and heated to cast well.
If all this is new to you, a read of a casting book would save a lot of frustration.
Instructor, CRO, CSO

Last edited by OKFC05; 03-20-2011 at 10:26 AM.
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Old 03-20-2011, 10:38 AM
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You might want to buy a few different weights and design types of 58 minies and try them before buying a mould.
Some shoot better than others just like any other firearm.
Dixie or Track of the Wolf usually has cast minie bullets you can buy. I'm sure there are others.

How and what you lube them with can make a big difference in accuracy too.

I didn't find any of them more accurate than a .570 patched RB in my .58 Zouave. But the minies were surely more convenient on the range especially using some old skirmish loading tubes..
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Old 03-20-2011, 11:27 AM
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Just a suggestion. If this is all you expect to cast either buy a Lyman electric lead pot or just a plain cast iron pot from Lyman or Lee or a 1 quart cast iron sauce pan. Fo just a few hundred over time the cast iron pot to use on your kitchen stove or gas camp stove will be most economical.

Pure Lead has a significantly higher melting point than either binary or tertiary Lead alloys commonly used for "normal" cast bullets. The Lee electric pots work well with alloys, but often they will not get hot enough to cast pure Lead.

Simply drop the round ball you have in the pot and put it on the stove until it melts. Flux the melt with a small chunk of parafin, Beeswax or bullet lube (expensive) stir and skim the dross then start pouring bullets.

Even though I prefer moulds from the major manufacturers they are relatively expensive. This is a place I would suggest Lee moulds strictly for cost. They also have quite a variety of Minie' moulds. The Lee moulds come with instructions which are sufficiently comprehensive to get you started.
Gunsmithing S&W since 1961
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Old 03-20-2011, 11:18 PM
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I used to shoot my Parker Hale 1853 Enfield a lot, and after experimenting w/ 4-5 moulds figured out that the Lyman 575213 (old Style) worked the best for the rifle. Minies are a bit more difficult to cast with the thin skirt. I learned to run my lead a little hotter than I usually did and keep the mould hot.

FWIW, 60-65 gr. of FFG (equivalent to the service load in the 1860s)and the above Minie shoots about 6" above point of aim in my rifled musket @ 100yds. but it groups well.

BTW, lube of 2/3 neatsfoot oil and 1/3 beeswax works good with Minies in my musket and a friend '61 Springfield as well.
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Old 03-24-2011, 05:40 AM
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It's been a long time but I went through a black powder phase that included an Italian made Navy Arms .58 1863 Springfield copy. It would group .570" round balls into about 3" at 100 yards, but because of its authentic shallow 3 groove rifling, only with light charges, very tight fitting patches cut out of old jeans, and frequent cleaning. Round ball rifles typically have deeper grooves to grip the patches better so they can use heavier charges. Low power charges are fine for target shooting out to 100 yards and the extra work involved in loading patched balls is still a lot less trouble than casting mini balls. I'm afraid that if your first efforts at casting are mini balls you might give up casting before experiencing how trouble free and fast casting can be. By contrast, round balls are the easiest shape to cast.

If you're going to start with a mini ball mould, I would get an iron mold despite the cost. After pouring a mini ball you have to tap the mini ball out of one side of the blocks then tap it off the base plug then get the three pieces back together before they cool down or your mini ball skirts won't fill out. Adding to the difficulty, pure lead is the hardest bullet metal to make fill out and it will only do so if it's very hot. A flaw in a mini ball's skirt will blow out before the entire bullet clears the muzzel causing a flyer. Lee's aluminum mold parts cool off fast. For shape I'd just start with Lyman's modernized version of the civil war mini ball, the 575213 or 585213. Civil War soldiers used a pretty sloppy fitting mini so they could load fouled barrels fast but we're mostly concerned with groups on paper. I found that getting a close fit of mini ball diameter to groove diameter by changing from a 575213 to a 585213 improved accuracy a lot. I forget who sold them, but sizing dies for minis were available in .001" increments. The sizers came with a rod that had one end shaped to fit a 575213's hollow base. A mallet is used to tape the minis balls through the sizer nose first. I had a .582" sizer to match my .582" land diameter. The manufacturers of rifled muskets have not standardized a land diameter so I would measure yours before picking out a mould.

For starting equipment I'd get an iron pot from a yard sale or second hand store for casting over a Colman stove and a laddle with a pouring spout like the ones RCBS sells. Kitchen stoves that have a good exhaust fan also work well if your wife is agreeable. I was a long time hold out and stuck with old iron cooking pots and kettles for 20 years, long after my friends had all purchased Lee 10 pound bottom pour pots. 10 pound pots wouldn't heat lead fast enough to keep up with my casting rate using gang molds for handguns and I didn't want to put out the price for an RCBS 20 pounder. Eventually I inherited an RCBS 20 pound bottom pour, but the point is you don't need a lot to get started. A lead thermoter, a variety of molds, and a lubricator sizer for modern bullets should get priority over an electric pot, or at least thats the way I did things.

Good luck and be carefull,

Last edited by k22fan; 03-24-2011 at 11:48 PM.
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Old 03-24-2011, 05:53 AM
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I had an Italian copy of a three band Enfield back in the '80's and cast some Minie bullets with Lee's 500 grain mould. The rifle must have been bored a little on the large size because I had a fairly large percentage of keyholes on target. I found I could slightly squeeze the bullet end-to-end in a vise and check for a tighter fit in the muzzle by trial and error. That took care of it.

Those slugs that tumbled made a distinct sh-sh-sh sound. In some accounts of battles during the CW, mention is made of that sound and I now know what caused it. If there could be anything worse than having one of those hit you point on, it would have to be sideways.
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