From: email@example.com (Norman F. Johnson)
Date: 13 Feb 1996 17:26:56 -0500
# I have read a little about cast bullet tempering using a stove in
# the Lyman Pistol and Revolver handbook and will like to hear from
# others on this subject if you have tried it.
# Will use of the kitchen oven, be dangerous to my life (RE: Wife)??
# In all seriousness what are the hazzards of lead fumes in the same
# oven as I use for day to day cooking ?
# Is it best to temper before sizing or after, I have just pur-
# chased a Star sizer this weekend and I am guessing that that this
# baby can handle just about anything!
# My main reason for this is leading in the forcing cone and barrel
# of my S&W Mod 66. I also notice slight problems with my wife's
# P220 in .38 Super but not as bad, while my .45 Gvt. has no prob-
# lems at all. All casts are made from the same mix and at the same
# time. I have just re-cut my Mod.66's forcing cone to 11 deg. and
# I hope this will solve most if not all of the problems.
Random thoughts and findings:
I suspect that by tempering you mean heat treating/hardening.
Bullets are usually hardened by oven heat treating, which leaves
them as hard as that particular batch of alloy can attain. It is
accomplished by heating cast bullets to just under their slumping
temperature, then quenching quickly in water.
Tempering is reducing hardness after hardening. Tempering is
used to bring the bullets down to a reduced hardness level as is
required for one's shooting requirements. This is done by bring-
ing the bullets up to some temperature in the oven then allowing
to cool slowly.
The Cast Bullet has had numerous articles over the years on doing
both heat treat hardening and tempering.
There is no danger in using the same oven for heat treating and
bullet processing. This has been checked by CBA members with
sophisticated equipment and written up in detail. Many of us
have done it for years. Lead outgasses at about 1100F and poses
no threat at casting-heat treating temperatures.
You may very well find that your bullets shoot better with no
sizing at all. My bullet sizer is virtually retired these past
10-15 years. The reason is that most bullets, as they fall from
the mold, are undersized for modern production revolvers. Here
In a revolver the throats are the areas in each cylinder chamber
immediately ahead of the portion of the chamber where the brass
case rests and into which the bullet projects. If the bullet is
sized so that it is a gentle force fit in the throat, all else
being equal, your accuracy potential will increase greatly.
Two factors come into play here to improve potential accuracy:
a) the bullet axis is more nearly coaxial with the barrel axis.
b) gas cutting, which will positively RUIN accuracy, is virtually
Despite what the gun writers say, my tests show that there are no
observable pressure increases when using bullets up to .006" over
My Blackhawk came with .4545" throats and a .449" bore. That is
a rediculous mismatch, yet I shoot .4540-.4545" bullets in it, in
both target and "boomer" 350 grain hunting loads, and it is as
accuracate as any revolver I know. However, if I use
standard .452" bullets, it shoots all over the countryside.
Using an old C-H Swage-O-Matic bullet swaging press and appro-
priately modified (opened) dies I am able to reshape and resize
most pistol bullets, including most of my cast bullet rejects, to
useable and usually very accurate projectiles. If one does not
require that the increase in diameter exceed a couple of
thousandths, and the bullet is not too hard, (no jacketed bullets
here) a bullet sizer with the appropriate die can sometimes be
use to "bump up" a given bullet to proper size altho this does
not provide the same control and consistancy as bullet swaging
equipment. Be careful tho, it's easy to break the sizer handle.
Book after book has been written about revolver/cast/swaged
bullet accuracy, some of them containing highly misleading mate-
rial. For anyone seriously interested in revolver accuracy, The
Fouling Shot, published every other month by the Cast Bullet
Association is INVALUABLE! These are people who DO it, not just
talk about it. I have improved a Redhawk .44 Magnum from a
"best" of 2" at 25 yds. to a constant .75" at the same distance
by changing bullet diameter. Now THAT'S satisfying!!!
Measure the throat diameters and slug the barrel. If you
have a gun that has throats smaller than the groove diameter,
(fortunately, an infrequent condition) there is not much hope for
reasonable accuracy. Revolvers will not tolerate an undersize
lead bullet rattling down the bore.
Your forcing cone leading is very likely because your cylinder
throats are oversize, not because your alloy is too soft. In
fact, sometimes, for a given powder charge, a softer bullet will
shoot more accurately because softer alloys will allow for more
complete obturation (bumping up) and reduce or eliminate gas
Lately I have been working with .38, .44, and .45 target loads
using NO bullet lubricant. When my bullets are fitted for an
easy force fit into the chamber throats, there is no observable
leading after 60 rounds. The sixty round figure is because I
have just begun these tests and have not fired more than 60
rounds at an outing.
When you slug your barrel, note if there is a tight spot or area
anywhere in the barrel. PAY PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO THE BACK OF
THE BARREL WHERE IT ENTERS THE FRAME. A tight spot here IS
COMMON and can size down your bullet just as an undersize throat
The 11 degree forcing cone can help accuracy; but only if the
basics are known and followed.
Sorry that this got so long; hope it helps.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Norman F. Johnson)
Subject: Re: [Reloading] How fast for hard cast?
Date: 2 Feb 1997 10:56:44 -0500
# I was reading the current issue of Handloader, and one of the writers
# was commenting on hard cast lead bullets. He stated that most bought'n
# hard cast bullets are so hard that they do not obturate (upset to fit the
# bore) well at 1000 f/s or less, and can lead even worse than swaged
# slugs. Which brings up the question (which he thoughtfully didn't
# address), how fast is fast enough for hard cast bullets?
He was absolutely correct:
Excerpt from "The Fouling Shot" Issue #81, Sep-Oct, 1989 "Match
Wheelgun and Load Preparation, page 81:
Correct bullet hardness for revolver target loads is about
8-12 BHN, depending upon the charge giving best bullet stability
and the chamber pressure generated.
The usable maximum chamber pressure of an alloy is a
function of its Brinell Hardness Number. As a rule of thumb,
optimum chamber pressure for adequate obturation without leading
is about four times yield strength. The conditions of firing in
a revolver are more severe than in a rifle, so this figure must
be taken as an absolute, though in a rifle this approximation can
be exceeded to about 5 times yield if everything is "perfect."
Within the range of alloy hardness we use for typical as-
cast or heat treated bullets (from 5-30 BHN), yield strength is
approximated by the BHN multiplied by 480. This means that a
soft alloy of 8 BHN, such as factory swaged lead bullets will
stand up to about 15,000 CUP (8x480x4=15,360), and an alloy of 12
BHN will stand 23,000 CUP.
This corresponds to the pressures generated by 4-6 grains of
fast burning pistol powders such as Bullseye, 231, Red Dot, Green
Dot or 452AA, which are all well suited for the .44 Spl. My
favorite all-purpose alloy is a mixture of indoor-range backstop
lead (mostly .38 wadcutter and .22 rimfire bullets) mixed with
about 1 part in 20 of Linotype to provide some minimal tin to
improve casting. This stuff makes a nicely filled out, soft
bullet of 11 BHN. Eric uses a similar alloy for his gallery
pistol loads. By the way, this soft alloy also shoots well in
moderate .30 cal. rifle loads up to about 1500 f.p.s., and is
without peer in the big bores, such as the .45-70.
The rest of this article is jamb-packed with other valuable tips
for improving revolver accuracy. It is posted in an effort to
convince you to become members of the Cast Bullet Association.
It's newsletter, The Cast Bullet, has more immediately usable
information in it in any given issue than ALL other gun periodi-
cals combined -- guaranteed! A great deal of the articles apply
to jacketed bullets as well as cast.
VELOCITY REQUIRED TO EXPAND OR DEFORM VARIOUS HARNESSES
TERMINAL HOLLOW *
BHN VELOCITY POINTS
*** ******** ******
30-50 2400 fps NR
20 2200 NR
18 1900 NR
14-15 1500 NR
10 1400 900 fps
8 1300 800
5(pure lead) 1200 700
NR - Not recommended for game shooting because of extreme
destructiveness. Good for varminting, though.
* - Hollow point size and bullet nose shape affect required
terminal velocity greatly, so these can only be considered
approximations. Hollow points are best used with pure lead or
tin-lead alloys as even small amounts of antimony cause bullet
break-up. If antimonial alloys are used, do not exceed 1 1/2%
antimony or 10 BHN.
The 1991 Jan-Feb issue of the Fouling Shot has an article by O.H.
McKagen and Dennis Marshall entitled "On Lead-Tin Solders", page
89-8 through 89-14. It is the best explanation of bullet alloys,
their hardening, softening, time dependent characteristics (no,
that bullet that you cast last week is not the same bullet that
you have on your shelf today) that I have ever read. It puts
into perspective the nature of a number of alloys used for
cast/swaged bullets, time hardening, time softening, boundary
slippage etc., in words that the layman an understand.
The resulting knowledge can be used to give the caster/swager
more control over his bullets than he might have ever dreamed was
possible. It also helps one to recognize errors that often
appear in the glossy gun magazines when the writers presume to
relate their infinite wisdom to those (us) serfs who are
unread, unwashed -- you know the rest.
ANOTHER CBA PITCH
There are a good many articles in the pages of the official
journal of The Cast Bullet Association that correct many of these
Cast Bullet Association
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