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  #1  
Old 06-01-2016, 01:26 AM
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My first adventure in casting - pills for a Nitro


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THIS is my Ruger No1H in 450/400 N.E. 3":

It's a beautiful rifle and it cost me the most I've spent on a single firearm. And it's fun to shoot. Here's it's first outing at the range:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdgyLsnD6vk
But some issues with using it raised their ugly heads early on. A box of factory rounds is at least AUD$125 per 20. And while I bought Hornady dies and cases I also had to contend with the AUD$65+ cost of a 50 pack of Woodleigh RNSNs. The prices headed up from there. To further complicate things our local ranges were suddenly given power limits of 7.62 NATO. So there were few places, even having paid the money, that I could actually shoot full house load with it.
But there was some good news. Although the power limits were frustrating we were allowed to shoot lead bullets bigger than .30 cal at 1500fps or less. That was to allow black powder, single action, and pistol round chambered rifles to continue to be used at our range. That opened stuff up considerably. So I began looking for a bullet that would suffice. I found some 210gn FPs designed for 41 Rem Mag but they were too small. So it was no choice but to cast them myself. Our club president, Ken, is an old hand at casting and he offered to help me so I searched for a mold.
Australia's Cast Bullet Engineering make a whole range of molds for tons of things and I found their 400-410GC amongst the 400 cal molds:
Cast Bullet Engineering 410-400GC Double Cavity
I spoke to owner David Commens and he said that it had actually been designed for older double rifles with .408" bores but promised to machine out the mold a thou and a bit to make it work well in the Ruger's .410" bore. Soon enough it arrived at my house along with some 41 cal gas checks.




At this point there was a long pause while my normal life went on. A fulltime job, wife, 7 kids, church and other commitments kept me from taking up Ken's offer. Until yesterday. I'd taken 2 1/2 weeks off to hunt sambar deer in Victoria (for the 5th year in a row a fruitless endeavour) and Tuesday was the last day before my return to work and a looming avalanche of paperwork for the end of the first semester. So we took it easy when I finally reached his 25 acre property south of town. Ken was a flight engineer in the RAF during his youth and his keen grasp of historical and technical detail and love of firearms is a dangerous mix for one such as myself. Finally we pried ourselves away from talking guns & club news (I'm the range captain) and got down to business. Here are some pics to show the progress.
The mold in the handles ready to be warmed up:


Putting solder into the lead to sort the alloy:


A couple of the many hundred ingots Ken has. Seriously, he has hundreds of kilos of lead.


Checking the fluidity of the lead with the scoop:


The first pour into a "cold" mold. The bullets were rubbish but we knew they would be:


The first bullets beginning to come together after quite a few duds.


The finished product after I got them home.


Here's a comparison between a 45gn 22 Hornet SP, a 7mm Nosler 120gn BT, a 9.3mm Speer 270gn Semi-Spitzer and the massive 400 grainer.


Last night I rolled them about in Lee Liquid Inox to lube them:


Then this afternoon I added some gas checks and ran them through a .41" cal Lee Lube Sizer die:


The sizer takes them back from .4115" to .410" so I'll try a few in standard .410" cal. If it doesn't work so well I'll have a local engineering firm open the lube sizer die to .4115". So here are the first dozen I cast. The strange shapes are basically lube on the nose of the bullet.


There was one issue with them. Ken told me to weigh them to make sure there were no voids as a bullet with a void is not balanced in flight. I got home and 34 of the 52 were good, all around the 400gn mark - between 398.9gn and 401.3gn. But another 18 all sat around 387gn within a grain either side. The 400 grainers I was comfortable with. But are all of those 387gn bullets rubbish? Are they voids? Surely a 13gn variation is a lot. Any tips there? And do my lubed, sized and checked pills look ok? Should I wipe excess lube off the nose?
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  #2  
Old 06-01-2016, 02:01 AM
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That's dux kombi! Cast bullets are so fun to shoot too.

RJ
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Old 06-01-2016, 04:36 AM
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Well, thanks, RJ. I am kinda pleased with the results but I'm a newcomer to this casting lark so I'm not really sure if or what I'm doing wrong. I hope to load these ones for the weekend as I have a Cadet & Trainer shoot on Saturday morning and I should be able to fire a few off after the match.
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  #4  
Old 06-01-2016, 05:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kombi1976 View Post
The sizer takes them back from .4115" to .410" so I'll try a few in standard .410" cal. If it doesn't work so well I'll have a local engineering firm open the lube sizer die to .4115". So here are the first dozen I cast.
You take good pictures. Looks and reads like you are doing good.
Unless you have some reason to think your bullets are out of round, I can't think of a reason to spend money having your sizer opened to 0.4115 if the bullets are already at that diameter. Might shoot fine as is?
Little blob of lube likely won't matter on a bullet that heavy, but purdy don't hurt anything.

Nice rifle.

Cheezywan
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Old 06-01-2016, 05:03 AM
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They look good, Kombi.


CBE do great molds, I have one for my snider. Generally the first lot of casting or two with the brass molds don't turn out too well. They get better though, to speed this up you can heat the mold on a hotplate and let it cool down to room temp a few times.

The lighter bullets are most probably voids in the casties. Another explanation could be a difference in the alloy. Did you mix a second batch of your alloy due to running low?

Bob.
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Old 06-01-2016, 05:14 AM
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Geez, thanks. The pics are only from my iPhone 5S, which just goes to show how far phones have come. The top photo of the rifle is much older, taken on a Nikon digital camera and the quality is palpably lower. How far have we come!
I don't think the bullets are out of round but I think it's good to have a uniform size for all of them and if the Ruger likes em fatter then it's not much trouble to get it opened a little.
I'll pretty them bullets up before loading. Actually, that's the next challenge for me. I need to work out what sort of charge I can use that is a) hot enough for the powder but b) isn't too hot for the bullet i.e. sub 1500fps. I don't really want to knock the stuffing out of myself and keeping the velocity down will help. I'll probably use ADI AR2213SC or AR2217 but they use 80gn and 87gn respectively for a jacketed RNSN close to 2000fps. I'm wondering if I can use more like 70gn with a filler and magnum primer (of course!) to get that lower velocity, or if I'll have to go for Trail Boss.
We did add extra solder later on for better consistency, Bob. Maybe that's the reason. So the more I cast with it the better they'll be? How do the Lee aluminium molds go then?
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Last edited by kombi1976; 06-01-2016 at 05:16 AM.
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  #7  
Old 06-01-2016, 05:27 AM
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Actually Bob, if this is a successful venture I'm thinking of getting one of these from CBE in 520gn and seeing if Dave can do it with a gas check.
411-440PB Single Cavity
It'd be a LOT of fun to play with.
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  #8  
Old 06-01-2016, 05:48 AM
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I haven't had any experience with Lee molds, but I can't see any reason why they wouldn't do the job they are supposed to.

The 440 mold looks good, speak with David, I have found him to always be very helpful and accommodating.

This is the mold I use.

589-420CCBB Single Cavity

The picture is actually the 420 CCBB, the 480 has an extra cannelure. It is a 480 grain Colin Clarke bumblebee "inspired" mold, but I use a 40/1 lead tin alloy and it casts more like 530 grains.

Sat next to a .22 for size comparison.

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  #9  
Old 06-01-2016, 09:41 AM
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You will never know how those 387 grain bullets will shoot until you shoot them!

You can't say for sure the light weight is due to a void, for one thing. Second, extensive testing by folks in the cast Bullet Association have proven almost no benefit to weight segregation! Doesn't sound logical but casting is still an art, not a hard science.

Ed Harris, who's kind of a legend in the CBA, once sectioned bullets cast by a top CBA competitor. What he found was a bunch of tiny voids, but the method of casting, ladle poured so the melt swirled into the mold, resulted in the voids or air pockets, being located evenly and closely to the center of the bullet. This guy had won many matches and set a few national records IIRC.

As to sizing, I's recommend using some Lee liquid Alox or pan lubing some of those .4115 bullets before opening up your sizing die. I shoot plenty of 30-06 bullets that cast at .310 and I lube them in a .311 sizer. Many times they'll shoot as-cast better then sized because any sizing cause localized surface softening.

One last idea. Because you are velocity-limited, you might shoot some without the copper gas check. They may shoot just fine or might work with some type of soft check. It never hurts and can save some money on those expensive copper checks.

Best of luck!
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  #10  
Old 06-01-2016, 09:53 AM
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kombi,

Great pictures. Casting is a fine hobby and I have done it since 1962 for all my rifles and handguns except for the .22s, of course. May I suggest you buy a pair of heavy work gloves and wear them when casting 900 degree lead. The photo of your bare hands holding the dipper and mould blocks made me shudder so close to the pot.

I suggest you buy and read the Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook. Be safe around hot lead and alloys.

Webley
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  #11  
Old 06-01-2016, 04:52 PM
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Thanks so much for all these tips guys. I'll definitely try some of the non-sized bullets as well as the sized ones. I'm yet to properly assemble my own casting set up so I'll make sure to take those precautions in future. They're actually Ken's hands in the pics. I'm few years younger than him (43). But likewise I also wasn't wearing gloves.
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Old 06-03-2016, 07:04 PM
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I ask you, what does a young man......ok, heading for middle aged man, with a large family and a mamoth pile of paperwork all due throughout the next fortnight do to keep it all together? Why we instead stays up to 7am reloading 310 Cadet and 450/400 Nitro Express 3" ammo and disappears off to the range for the morning instead of spending the whole of Saturday doing the critical paperwork. Yep, that's what I did. Sadly, it was ducks' weather today and only 3 people (including myself) turned up for the Cadet & Trainer match for which I'd loaded EIGHTY ROUNDS!! If I'd known it wouldn't go ahead I could've had 2 hours more sleep.

No matter. What I did put together was a half dozen rounds of 450/400 NE 3" to test. My Lee Autoprime won't fit the 450/400 cases so I had to use their Ram Prime:


Here are the 6 cases neck sized, flared and primed:


And now the first 3 rounds I've ever loaded for it!!


And the 6 rounds fully loaded, half with ADI AR2207 powder and half with ADI AR2209 powder.


Despite the terrible weather I took the Ruger to the range this morning and placed a target at about 25yds. Here are a couple pics of the shooting:






And the outcome?


Suffice to say thats a VERY short distance and my loads are very reduced. But it looks like a winner!
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  #13  
Old 06-03-2016, 07:25 PM
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Fantastic.... except I now want one!

Great job Kombi!
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Old 06-04-2016, 01:09 AM
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Well, this can only complicate the issue further, Mike. Here's the video!http://vid253.photobucket.com/albums...pshqkypcsm.mp4
Enjoy!
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Old 06-04-2016, 03:58 AM
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Thats all rather impressive .
Nice groups for your first cast bullets.
Well done.
The cadet shoots sound like fun , were abouts are you (ruffly)
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Old 06-04-2016, 04:44 AM
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Thanks. Cadet is plenty of fun and we've begun a "Rorkes Drift Volley Fire" match as well as the core 3P match. I'm 2 hours south of Sydney, ACT direction.
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Old 06-04-2016, 05:27 AM
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I'm an hour out of melbourne heading your way, would i be right in guessing you are about 4 hours from Albury.
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Old 06-04-2016, 06:14 AM
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Well done kombi. I'm eager to see some 100 yard groups now.

Where's the hat? I miss the hat.

RJ
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Old 06-04-2016, 09:02 AM
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Thanks, RJ. I'm likewise interested to see how it shoots at 100. But after only 6 rounds the bore was VERY mucky. I get why guys who rarely clean their rifles but exclusively use cast pills and smokeless can get away with it. I dread to think what the bore would be without gas checks. I used some Short Scrub solvent, gave the bore a good scrub and let it sit for 15 minutes before running some patches through to get the residue out. The first patch was drenched and filthy and I noticed a bit too late that it had spread the love around when I pulled the rod back out through the breech and it fell off onto the floor. I hope my missus doesn't notice the mark on the rug......

So next weekend I'll head back with some more loads and see how this sucker goes at 50m and 100m. If it can put them inside 2" that's a win IMO. It's a big bore, not a varmint rifle.

Btw, which hat are you talking about? My Akubra or my Foreign Service Pattern pith helmet?
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Old 06-04-2016, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by shreck View Post
I'm an hour out of melbourne heading your way, would i be right in guessing you are about 4 hours from Albury.
I guess I'm 4 hours from Albury. By the time I'm heading home from there I'm not usually thinking about time and when I'm heading through I'm also not thinking much of time. You must be in sambar country.
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