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Get started casting!

Discussion in '10mm Reloading Forum' started by Any Cal., Jun 23, 2012.

  1. Any Cal.

    Any Cal.

    Oct 27, 2008
    Just a note on casting for those who aren't doing it yet. There is some general interest on it here, which is a bug I had caught not long ago. I figured I would put up a couple of the things I have been learning, and others who have been doing it longer than I can chime in too. Ideally, it will make it easier for anyone who has an interest to get some questions answered and get started.

    I wasn't sure if I wanted to put the time and money in it, so I scrounged, built, and recycled most of my setup. To try it out, I had to buy a mold and handles, then scrounged lead, used a broken stainless pot and an MSR Whisperlite stove, made lube out of junk in the shed, etc. If you put some time in, you could cast bullets for less than $100 investment, under $60 if you have some of the right stuff, $30 if you are being a skinflint. You will probably want to add equipment later, but you can try it out for cheap. Best of all, molds and handles hold their value fairly well, so if you want to get out, you won't have lost much.

    Here are just a few things that seem to apply, I may be oversimplifying them a bit, but that is because I'm a beginner and well, rather simple...:tongueout:

    • You need a mold, but the 6 cavity Lees are a good, cheap, bet. Order them and handles from FSReloading or Titan reloading.
    • You need a way to melt lead. Old campstoves and turkey fryers work to start, though they are not optimal and steepen the learning curve a bit. You can smelt lead down in a bonfire pretty easily(smelting is just melting junk lead to get all the crap out of it, so it is easier to use when you want to cast bullets).
    • You need a ladle of sorts to pour melted lead, you can buy one, or fashion one out of an old kitchen ladle. Or spring for an electric pot.
    • The lead doesn't have to be really special if your loads are not very demanding (The stuff you scrounge up is more likely to work). Lower velocity and pressure is easier all the way around. Easier for your homemade lube to work too. Worst case scenario is you buy some lead from somewhere, RotoMetals, Ebay, or a vendor on CastBoolits.
    • You don't necessarily have to size your bullets. If they come out of the mold too large to chamber, you may have to, but try them as cast first.
    • There are different ways to pan lube, which is how you apply lube to bullets with out a sizer. The only equipment required is a garage sale cookie sheet, or cookie tin lid, or disposable pie tin, whatever. It is fast and easy, and no real up front costs.
    • If you are doing moderate loads, most lubes will work. Candles, grease, vaselline, olive oil, ATF, etc, all get thrown into varieties of mixes. Look them up if you have some of the stuff sitting around the house, or just mix a few of them 'til you get something that sticks to the bullet and isn't very hard.
    • You could just buy lube cheap from White Label Lubes, and save the trouble of finding odd bits of junk around the house. I haven't used them, but it seems like a trouble saver, and they don't cost much.
    • Do a bunch of reading on CastBoolits, it will make things a lot simpler.
    • Oh, time required... The nicer your equipment is, the less time everything takes. Just like reloading, you can do it on a single stage or a progressive, each has its merits. With the simplest of equipment, it takes me, a beginner, a few hours to cast and lube several hundred bullets. Experience or equipment can speed that up considerably, but an afternoon casting can get you quite a bit of shooting fodder.
    • Payback? Really depends on how much you spend to get started, what your lead and heat costs, etc. If you have to buy everything at full price, you would probably save money buying cheap commercial cast bullets. If you compare the cost of higher end cast bullets, $23-$26/100, then there is the potential to save some money, if you don't count your time. It really depends on how much time you have, how much you shoot, and what you are trying to accomplish. For getting the cheapest bullets possible, you will probably save money just watching for sales and buying in bulk, vs. spending several hundred investing in equipment, to make it back at $3/100, not counting your time.
    These are just a few things I have played with. You can get started easily, though buying better equipment makes things more enjoyable or productive. I am still trying to get a handle on things, but I think that casting is easier to get started on than many realize. Remember, people used to cast bullets in front of a fire and lube with whatever animal fat they had around at the time. Even a campstove and a Lee mold is probably a big step up.

    Below is my starting set-up. What you see in the picture I had $3 into, which is what a tire shop charged me for the weights in the pot. That and homemade or scrounged everything else along w/ a mold and handles got me my first 350 bullets or so...

    Last edited: Jun 23, 2012
  2. atakawow


    Jan 19, 2009
    Seattle, WA
    Nice write up. :wavey:

    Approach casting as a hobby instead of a money saver and it will be very worth while.

  3. WeeWilly


    Nov 12, 2011
    I even have one of those MSR stoves! The barriers are fallng down around me!
  4. Yondering


    Dec 3, 2011
    Yes, start casting, whatever it takes. It doesn't have to be expensive. Here's my casting setup, as I was using it this evening, experimenting with some hollow points. I have about $60 into this casting setup, if you count the cigarette lighter. (Not counting the mold of course, that's a $100 Mihec HP mold.) I got the Lee Pro 4-20 electric pot for $40 used on castboolits, and the dial thermometer was $15 from Surplus Center. Electric heat control and a thermometer are a huge improvement for casting consistent bullets, BTW.


    The Lee sizers are cheap, and just mount in your reloading press like a normal reloading die. The table is messy, but you can see the extra sizer dies in the background.

    If you don't want to pan lube or use LLA, you can get old lubersizers like these for $40-50 on castboolits. The sizer dies can be $18-25 each though. But, you can make different top punches to form different shaped hollow points and other cool stuff.


    Once you get the casting bug, this is where you spend a lot of money - the molds. The Lee 2-cavity molds are cheap, around $20 each, with handles, so you can experiment with a bunch of different designs. The 6-cavity molds are about twice that cost, and don't come with handles, but are much better quality, and the handles can be had for $11-15. The Lyman, RCBS, and Saeco molds are more expensive, $50-$80 now, and although they are more durable than the Lee molds, they don't necessarily cast better. Just look for the mold design you want. Or, you can buy custom molds, at up to $150 or more.

  5. Your drawer looks familiar!

  6. nickE10mm

    nickE10mm F.S.F.O.S.

    Apr 13, 2004
    Wichita, KS
    Excellent post, Anycal... thanks! I'll be reading this in FULL later on tonight!
  7. _The_Shadow

    _The_Shadow Ret. Fireman

    Jul 23, 2007
    Southeast, LoUiSiAna
    This is a Plumber's or Roofer's smelting pot, that holds 65-70 lbs of melted lead, the burner is mounted to the 5 gallon propane tank. I use this to reduce wheel weights or huge bars of alloy.

    I use a Lyman ProMag 20 furnace or LEE Pro-4 20lb pot to cast with, sometimes I'll have both pots going for a heavy casting secession...