Cast Bullets: More Bang for your Buck
Cast Bullets: MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK (Newsletter 2/1998)
Most of us have rifles and handguns which are beyond valuable. They are irreplaceable. Whenever you put jacketed bullets down those venerable barrels, something is being permanently lost. A future collector may not love you for this either. Still it would be a shame to hang our collectibles on the wall. They were made to be shot!
As you can guess, I’m leading up to something. Yes, you can shoot as much as you want and save money at the same time. Try cast bullets.
One of the advantages of cast bullets is that you can prepare a load which does precisely what you want. For me, that means something that can be clip or charger loaded into a military rifle and group reliably in the 10 ring at 100 yards at Kokohead. That includes rapid fire.
For the older militaries (up to about 1914), cast bullets are also the best option when using the original sights. They will shoot to the sights. The notorious battle zero of the Springfield is downright useful at a nominal 1600 fps with an 180 gr. cast bullet. (If you use the ladder sight, try the 600 yd. setting.) Brass tends to last forever if you prepare cases property. And if you use rimmed cases, you can forget special case preparation. This is without case fillers. The NRA no longer recommends fillers because of reports of ringed chambers. Actually, if you have a property adjusted load, you don’t need the extra step of adding a filler.
For loads in the classic military calibers (6×55 through 8×57, including 308, 7.62×54 Russian and .303 Brit),a nominal load of Unique and a gas checked bullet satisfies requirements. Others prefer Green Dot and 2400. They all work. I have found the so called “universal load” of Red Dot recommended by C.E. Harris in the Handloader’s Digest, 12th Edition, to be touchy. It will shoot in some rifles but not others and is definitely not for the 7.62×39.
To get started, you can simply purchase gas checked lead bullets in the mid to heavy range for your chosen caliber (180 grs. in the 30’s) from the firms listed in the Handloader’s Digest. I would also recommend that you purchase Lyman’s book on cast bullets. Good reading and lots of loads. Loading will require either an “M” die or the Lee Collet Outfit. Once you get into cast bullets you will probably end up either with the Lee set or a dedicated neck sizing die and M die. The brass will hardly be worked at all. (50 loads per case is not unusual.) In fact, some shooters do not size fired case mouths, but then they don’t clip load and shoot rapid fire either.
I mentioned case preparation eartier. When using a rimless case with light loads, primer blast will cause the case to set back and, in two or three firings, produce excessive headspace. Irs a gradual thing. You will know something’s wrong when your previously tight groups start opening up and a pattern starts forming at 5 o’clock. That’s a headspace problem. The solution is to drill out the case flash hole with a No. 39 (0.099″) drill. Of course, once you do this, that case is to be marked and used ONLY for midrange cast bullets. The pre-war Army did the same thing and notched c:l~ rims with a file. This works, but case tumbling will smooth out the notches. I prefer to use Birchwood Casey’s Brass Black on my cases. But do not use these cases for full power loads, jacketed or cast.
If this sounds complicated, use a rimmed case. I have found the .303 Brit to be ideal. You can purchase a clip loading bolt gun with peep sights that just reeks of history for a nominal cost and have a natural cast bullet rifle! The Enfield 5 groove rifling system is especially kind to lead projectiles. (If you want to wave this in the face of a Springfield lover, feel free.) The 30-30, Krag and big Russian also work just fine as is.
I will not recommend speCific loads and you all know why. Having loaded up,there is one thing more you have to do before firing off the first round. Cast bullets will not shoot accurately in a metal fouled barrel. Give your barrel a good cleaning first. Once That’s done, and you keep the velocity to about 1600 fps, you can shoot all day. With our modem lubricants, leading is not a problem. I occasionally run a patch through my barrel but it’s mostly for form’s sake. Same for the thorough scrubbing thing when you’re done firing. Run a patch with Hoppe’s No.9 if it makes you feel better. Once back at the range, just run a clean patch for appearance’s sake. The main thing is to maintain a uniform bore condition.
The benefits are many: you can shoot all day at pistol prices. You can use the rifle the way it’s designers intended (clip loading, rapid fire, etc.) and the recoil will not beat you up. You really will get to know your rifle better and the next generation will get a rifle with an unworn, polished barrel.
Consider the memories cast bullets make possible. I have a Boer Mauser with a pitted barrel. Exercising that old war horse is something Rey Graulty will never understand. And what about that nice Springfield 1903A1? And yes, saving a few bucks is nice too.
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