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  #1  
Old 08-05-2008, 03:09 PM
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Making copper bullets


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Sorry if this is in the wrong forum, if it is, please move it to the right place.

Has anyone ever lathe turned their own solid copper bullets?
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  #2  
Old 08-05-2008, 04:05 PM
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I know I've seen a couple of posts on the forum about guys turning thier own bullets. Don't know if a search would turn up anything or not. Most guys make jacketed bullets with solid cores of very hard material such as tungsten using something like the Corbon bullet making presses. I don't see any like threads at the bottom of the post here.

I had one of the little Unimat lathe/mills years ago I used for making small parts and firing pins and I don't see why making bullets wouldn't be a fairly easy job on something like that.
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  #3  
Old 08-05-2008, 04:51 PM
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I was looking on the RCE website and adding up the cost of equipment to make jacketed bullets. The price of what is needed jumped up to over $2K real quick and was pretty labor intensive. Die sets for additional calibers were about $600...each. It seems to me a lathe might be an easier way to go if you want to make your own bullets.
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  #4  
Old 08-05-2008, 04:56 PM
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Have done it a couple of times, just as an experiment.

Turned some solid .224's *(used little driving bands...like the old Nosler Zippedo bullets...to keep engravement force within reason) and shot them in a .220 swift. Wanted to reproduce the old Keith article on solid bullets (he was debunking the "velocity alone kills game" theory). He turned out to be right...at least until you lengthed the bullet to the point where it becomes unstable once it contacts game...probably "wobbles" a bit in flight, but still shoots well; contact game (or a twig) and it goes arse-over-teakettle and tears through varmints like a buzz saw.


Did it again in testing a Marlin 62 in .256WCF. Never got to the length that ould tumble on meat-contact, the little magazine wouldn't allow bullets of any real length. Were accurate, but nothing special.

Have a feeling some locations might take the view that these were a form of AP rounds, and might be ruled illegal (could amke a resonable copy of the French "Arcane" ammo for handguns)...my foooling around was long ago.
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  #5  
Old 08-05-2008, 07:04 PM
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During WWII the Germans used copper bullets with a 45 degree ojive as AP rounds in there 9mm burp guns. Was effective on light armor at close ranges. Having owned and operated lathes and milling machines I would view this as impractical on any scale other than experimental development. Would be too labor intensive compared to buying over the counter. Doubt whether one could make a box (100) in under two hours time with the necessary dimensional accuracy. Since most are making more than minimum wage it's not economically viable. Suppose one could set up a CNC Sherline for $2.5K to do the job.
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  #6  
Old 08-10-2008, 11:54 PM
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Just be careful of what your making. I once emailed Barnes about a solid for my .444marlin and they informed me that it is an illegal bullet as it can penetrate body armor. I have no idea who or why it was decided that a .429 solid is illegal but yet plenty of other bullets are out there that will do the same. Maybe it has something to do with it being a pistol sized bullet? I don't know. There is a place in South Africa who sells bullets that are machined on CNC lathes and such but I can't remember their names. Here is a nice site in Germany who makes some beautiful bullets.
http://www.lima-wiederladetechnik.de/
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  #7  
Old 08-11-2008, 04:28 AM
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Yeah Right (?)

The body armor thing is a big ol' bunch of BS. The Barnes guy was talking "thru" their lawyer. The .429 solid @ 2200 or so probably would. But........so would most anything else of that type. Body armor is waaaaaaay overrated. With the right bullet you could punch thru with a .30-30. I feel that the smaller diameter of bullet,driven as fast as possible with the right makeup and the right point/ojive,would easly punch thru ANY vest(or two).

Anyway........I had a buddy turn some solids for his 50BMG. He had access to a CNC lathe and they came out pretty good. There are a ton of vairables though. The slightest out of wack and the accuracy goes to heck.

P.O.Ackley did some testing with .224cal "pills" coming outta a .220 Swift. Some were solid copper,brass,and bronze. They were reported to be very effective against steel armor. As I recall the bullets were very light(20-30gr) and going very fast.

For the "little guy" to tool up and produce any real useable amount of accurate brass,copper,etc,bullets,at a reasonable cost,to me would be undoable. -----pruhdlr
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  #8  
Old 08-11-2008, 01:35 PM
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Starting at about 1,500 fps a bullet is going to go through body armor.

And, I've never heard that a bullet that would defeat body armor was illegal....5.7 does it, as does 7.65 (I think that is the number) Russian...and .22 mag.
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  #9  
Old 08-11-2008, 01:51 PM
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Hand turning on a lathe would indeed be miserably slow, and if you tried to do it on a small machine like the Unimat, with no power feed and no quick change tool post, what with having to stop and mic each one to check progress, you'd probably be lucky to get five an hour that met your spec. It really is a task for CNC tools.

Somebody would have to check the BATFE rules, but I thought only handgun AP was illegal?
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  #10  
Old 08-11-2008, 04:19 PM
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Have you bothered to check on copper prices? I think you'd figure out pretty quick that it's not economical to lathe turn your own copper bullets. Cost of the copper alone would be prohibitive (remember, a lot of it will be wasted), never mind the time in labor.

"Armor piercing" handgun ammo is illegal in some places. Rifle ammo is not. There's a lot of misconceptions about that, perpetuated both by the media (of course) and by people in the gun community who don't know or understand what they're talking about. Some of us evidently have been conditioned to believe that "armor piercing" ammo is illegal, and evil, and all that.

A lot of high velocity rifle ammo will penetrate low level body armor. Depends on the armor too though, there are different grades. Some is designed to stop "armor piercing" rifle ammo. Some is nothing more than a few layers of fiber cloth, Kevlar for example, which depends a lot on the number of layers for it's effectiveness.
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  #11  
Old 08-11-2008, 06:24 PM
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No doubt about it, can't make them that way and make a profit....at least not in today's world.

Do remember that when Nosler first started, those partition jackets were lathed bored, cores inserted, then swaged...but that's when he was more or less a one-man shop (one of the old guys...like 90years old...would help unload the long lengths of rod).

If i just had to have a handfull of bullets of some off the wall size, would pick one of the existing monolithic bullets a size TOO BIG, send them off to be centerless ground. Would be expensive as all get out, but if you just had to have a handfull of .237" or .261" bullets, would work.
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  #12  
Old 08-12-2008, 06:12 AM
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Can you actually centerless grind something as soft as bullet copper? I would have figured the abrasive would just load up with the copper and stop grinding? I never tried it, so I don't really know? Interesting idea, though. Perhaps the abrasive cylinders could be protected by loading it with chalk, like a file?
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  #13  
Old 08-12-2008, 07:45 AM
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IIRC, Ross Seyfried had a batch of .338 bullets centerless ground to .330" for a .318 Nitro Express. Thinning the jacket improved expansion as the lower .318 velocities.

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  #14  
Old 08-12-2008, 10:01 AM
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jack, i may be thinking of someone else but i thought that he had barnes swage them down... i was thinking that he was using one of their original bullets.
i really don't see centerless grinding working at all, i would think that as the wheels loaded up you would lose the ability to maintain the consistancy of diameter and also surface finish.
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  #15  
Old 08-13-2008, 06:33 PM
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Dan,

It would be interesting to know for sure. My reaction to centerless grinding soft copper was the same as yours. On the other hand, an older tool maker who does work for me from time to time is able to surface grind aluminum, which I would also have thought impossible for the same reason. He uses a soft stone (not so commonly found these days) and covers the aluminum with Crisco. He gets an incredible finish. That's why I wondered if some similar trick to protect the stones from loading might be done (Crisco, chalk, etc.)? I'll have to ask if he knows one?
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  #16  
Old 08-13-2008, 06:57 PM
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I've seen rubber rollers for copiers ground to their final finish.
At room temperature, wth liquid coolant/lube.

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  #17  
Old 08-13-2008, 07:17 PM
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Rubber can be ground at high surface speeds. Freezing it first makes that even easier to do. Regardless of temperature, it's a bit different from grinding soft metal because the rubber isn't really malleable enough to smear and fill and conform to the grit surface. Unlike soft metal, it's particles keep trying to retain their shape after significant deformation.
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Last edited by unclenick; 08-13-2008 at 07:19 PM.
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  #18  
Old 08-13-2008, 07:58 PM
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unclenick, that is interesting! was he grinding for the sake of meeting a dimension or was it a surface finish he was going after? before i jumped ship to the railroad i was schooled as a machinist/toolmaker and had worked in a pretty basic die shop... never did try to grind aluminum...hmm.
obviously it cam be done, as i sit here and think about the machining properties of aluminum vs copper i feel like copper would be more apt to grind better. my experience with aluminum is that it can be "gummy" to machine. thought provoking to say the least.
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Old 08-13-2008, 08:01 PM
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You could be right about Seyfried's bullets. IIRC, the article was in Guns&Ammo, and the magazine is up in the attic.

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  #20  
Old 08-14-2008, 04:44 AM
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Dan,

He was trying to get it flat. It was cooling block for a thermal conductivity instrument, and getting a flat surface for the Peltier effect chip we were using helped its efficiency. Experienced toolmakers often have a number of tricks that aren't in the book.

As to copper being easier than aluminum, it certainly would be in the harder alloys, like beryllium copper. In something as soft as bullet jackets, I don't know? Someone used to make a tool for forming gas checks from aluminum cans, so the aluminum can't be all that radically different from the copper as far as flying down the barrel goes. Maybe at higher speeds it's not as good? If it were, I figure we'd see bullet jackets commonly made from it. Light weight would be the main drawback.
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