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Old 04-07-2011, 10:40 PM
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Default Air cooled vs water dunked for handgun hunting bullets

After reading some of Glen Fryxell's work on casting handgun bullets, it seems as though bullet hardness was very subjective, especially before WWII. Apparently back in the days of Elmer Keith and Phil Sharpe, the bullets that they thought were hard were actually soft by today's standards.
My question is, say I want to hunt whitetail with a heavy .38-44 load (and I do), which would be better, the BHN I am likely to get with an air cooled bullet made from WW's and moving at say 1200-1300 fps or a water quenched bullet for the same velocity? I also want to hunt with my .41 Magnum but I plan on keeping that a moderate load no more than 1200 fps, so the same question applies to that. Am I better off giving up some of the BHN hardness for some extra expansion vs penetration?
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Old 04-08-2011, 06:55 AM
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My guess is that either load is probably going to pass through a deer.
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Old 04-08-2011, 07:44 AM
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In my early days I used air cooled wheel weights in both .38 Special and .45 Colt at mild velocities and experienced severe leading. Quenching the bullets in water took care of this problem. I use wheel weights only and never add any antimony, so 1200 FPS would be considered "high velocity."

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Old 04-08-2011, 08:21 AM
Beemer-mark Beemer-mark is offline
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Every rifle is different but @ 1200 fps I wouldn't be hardening the bullets. Alloy 2 shpuld work fine. You want that bullet to expand when it hits. Have you slugged the barrel?
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Old 04-08-2011, 08:36 AM
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I have, and the .38 Outdoorsman I am going to load for has throats at .358 and my Model 57 has throats at .410.
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Old 04-08-2011, 08:55 AM
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I used to cast a TON when I was a teenager for a guy that reloaded for me. He'd load me a box of .44 specials or .44-40s for every 5lbs of .9mm and .38 that I'd cast for him out of wheel weights. I ALWAYS water cooled mine, just for the ease of getting the things into the lube press faster. The problem that I saw was that sometimes if you didn't give them enough time in the mold, they would develop a crackly appearance on the outside from cooling too fast.
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Old 04-08-2011, 09:43 AM
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From my experience water quenched hardness is not necessary on deer sized game. Cast bullets are not likely to expand to any significant degree and on broadside shots generally pass through completely. However on heavier boned animals I have used quenched bullets to good success when encountering heavy shoulder bone or in breaking down the structure of an animal. Still you are looking at minimal deformation and often complete pass through.
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Old 04-08-2011, 09:56 AM
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As others have said, I doubt that expansion will take place on a solid cast bullet with either method. So it really depends on how they shoot in your gun at the speeds you want them to. If you don't get any leading with the air cooled bullets then you're good to go with either method. I personally water quench my bullets for the .44 becasue they work better for me than air cooled, but that's just me and my gun. Good luck with your hunt.
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Old 04-08-2011, 10:08 AM
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Are you using gas checks or plain base? If plain base, I'd go as hard as you can get them at those velocities. If gas checked, why does it really matter? Expansion of a cast bullet is not so much an issue as placement, penetration and meplat size, imho. You aren't going to get a whole lot of expansion anyway unless using almost pure lead.
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Old 04-08-2011, 10:09 PM
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First I try to make sure the bullet fits,next come the hardness depending on what I'm shooting the bullet in and at what velocity. For plain base bullets I like a mix of 50/50 WW/Lead for low velocity stuff. For mid range loads around 1200 fps. in 357 mag. pistol and 30-30 plinking loads I use straight AC WW.

sometime I water quench them as well doesn't seem to make any difference and for the 30-30 plinking loads I leave the gas check off didn't make any differance in accuracy that I could tell.

Now when I step up the 357 loads I like either a gas checked bullet which I can cast softer or water quench the plan base bullet for sure. I also use a gas check on the 30-30,300 Sav,7.62 x 39 and 54r bullets because I'm shooting them somewhat close to there original factory jacketed velocity. Gas check allow me to cast the bullet softer I find a 30:1 Lead/Tin mix gives decent expansion with FN bullets at mid range velocities.

On the X39 which is a semi-auto I water quench or heat treat them,the extra hardness helps keep the bullet from getting damaged when transitioning from the magazine into the chamber. Not sure if there are any available but a good gas checked HP design would give you some good expansion.
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