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Jack,
a little slow today. I had reconstructive nose surgery this morning, between the blood dripping from my nose, the pain, and the pain pills, I'm a liitle slow on the draw. :)

Not buying the Star lube sizer is probably the biggest mistake you can make when getting started. It is at least twice as fast as the RCBS,Lyman, SAECO. The additonal $50 more that it costs up from will be saved in top punches and frustration on you part. It will lube bevel base bullets without leaving lube in the bevel. One sizing punch will do any caliber from 9mm to .45, unless you use a gas check bullet, then you will need the individual punch for each diameter, but you can still size as many different varieties of bullet with no additional tooling. The Star sized bullets nose first, which I believe to be the better way of doing it, it's a push through design that is twice as fast as the others as a result of this feature. It can also be accesorized to with many options that the others cannot. Star will make you ANY size sizing die that will fit in the machine with no need to have to custom dies made. I could go on and on, but I'll suffice it to say it's just better in every way than any of the others three. The Star machines can be purchased used, typically for about $140 on Ebay, I'd spend the extra $35 and get a new one.

I have a RCBS Pro-Melt furnace and endorse it as top quality. As mentioned the pour rate adjustment can be trying, but it's no big deal if you have the proper tools at hand to firmly tighten the adjustments. The main problem in the area of adjustment is eliminated by buying and using a casting thermometer. No thermometer would be about your second biggest mistake behind not getting a Star sizer when starting out. I started with a Lee 10lb bottom pour furnace, I still have it, it still works, and is a handy extra to have around for various different alloying and other experiements. If there is one Lee product that I would advocate for bullet casting, aside from their ingot mould, it would be their furnaces used in tandem with a good casting thermometer. I would buy an ingot mould, the 1lb bars store easily and it's easy to stack a few on top of the furnace to pre-heat while you're casting. Keeping a consistent alloy temp is key to good bullets and the one pound bars don't affect a 20lb furnace temp nearly as much as the bigger muffin tin ingots, but that is more a matter of preference on my part.

I've been using the Lyman Orange Magic lube for a while and it is a good lube with less smoke, as Jack pointed out. It works as advertised and the advantages Lyman claims ae real. I haven't tried Marshall's lube, so I offer any imput on that matter.

Who has tried the LEE alloy hardness tester??? Does it work??

For your first mould

Bullet casting eqipment is an investment, if cared for it will last you for many years. If you start out with the proper equipment, of good quality and design, it can very well make the difference of being a rewarding hobby or an exercise in frustration. I started casting when I was young and broke, as a result there are quite a few items I've purchased twice.
 

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jpsw,
I didn't get any of the options. I already had a base heater, which will be required with many lubes that you may want to use. The only option that I see beng worthwhile for my needs would be the air pressure cap for the lube reservoir. The unit with the bullet collator, the Lube Master, is a different machine than the Star Lube Sizer, and is a production grade machine and is not hand powered or inexpensive. The Lube Master is a machine for commercial, high quantity, bullet casting.

One tip I can pass on to help keep your alloy temp stable as possible--Put your rejects and sprue cuttings back into the pot while the sprue on the next mould load of bullets is hardening. The metal is still hot and you don't have to keep adding to the pot with fresh ingots as often. Keeps the bench top clean also.
 

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Jeff,
since I own a actual .38 Special revolver and a .357 Magnum revolver, I don't mess around with the hotter loads in the 38 Special casing. I have loaded some rounds with 200 gr bullets that utilized the Special casing for use in the .357, but these where easily visually identified by the bullet itself.

There was a gun writer, you might have heard of him, who used to do what you're doing. I think his name was Skelton. He was using, if memory serves, a Lyman 358156 mould that dropped a bullet that had two crimp grooves. One groove was for full length .357's and the other was for loading hopped-up .38's in his .357 revolers. The .38 Special loading would nearly approximate the .357 loading, but case life was very poor at that level. I believe he used hollow point and standard, non-hollow point, moulds of the same number for that same bullet design for just about all of his shooting in the .357. The reason for doing it was the lack of .357 Magnum casings in circulation at the time, we certainly don't have to worry about that at this time.
 

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jpsw,
I don't melt them in my casting furnace. I use a heavy, large, pot and a LP heat source. I don't wash or clean them in any way. I let the gunk burn off and scoop the clips and other debris off the top. I then flux the metal and pour it into 1lb ingots for easy storage and use. I can process a LOT of metal in part of one day going this route.

Whatever you do, DO NOT allow any moisture from your "washing" of the wheel weights to get ANYWHERE NEAR your hot lead.

I don't see the need to give them any special care before melting, except to make sure that they are free of moisture of any kind.
 

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jpsw,
I use a Pro Melt also, I typically leave the thermometer in the pot while casting. I leave it in there just for the sake of seeing the temperature changes when I add alloy. I do remove it before shutting the pot down and if I feel fluxing is in order. I use Marvelux and it leaves a residue that is somewhat messy, you don't want it on your thermometer. Besides it gets in the way while you're stirring in the flux and skimming the surface when done.
 
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