Casting Lead Bullets for Big Bore Airguns – Part One
This month HAM Hunting Editor, Derek Goins, gives us the first of a two-part series on the basics of casting lead bullets for big bore airgun hunting. Take it away Derek…
There is something very rewarding about casting lead bullets for big bore airguns as you know exactly where they came from. And, of course, there’s that much more satisfaction when you have a successful hunt using them.
Listen y’all, this stuff is screaming hot – as in you’ll be screaming if molten lead touches you! Take care that you wear closed toe shoes, eye protection, gloves and a respirator if you’re going to work in an area without great ventilation. No matter who you are, you’ll have a really bad day if a splash of alloy lands in your eye!!!
Read, understand and act upon all safety information provided for the casting pot. In other words, RTFM! If you have any doubts, don’t do it…
For many big bore airgun enthusiasts, casting lead bullets is just part of the gig when getting into these guns. If you’re on the fence about casting, let me walk you through the process of casting lead bullets for big bore airguns. This will show you casting is not only affordable but will actually save you money after the initial investment.
Here’s what you’ll need:
– A casting pot to melt lead alloy
– Bullet Mold(s)
– Flux (Sawdust, tea candles)
– Small spoon or ladle
– Flat blade screw driver
– Gloves and eye protection
– Lead Thermometer
– Lead source
There are several options when choosing a casting pot. Realistically you could use a cast iron pot and a burner if you’re really on a budget. However I recommend going with a bottom pour pot like the Lee Production pot ($70) or even the RCBS Pro-melt ($380).
I use a Lee pot and have very little problems with it other than the common issue of the spout dripping. The dripping can be fixed by wiggling the flow rate screw to work debris loose. For a $70 pot an occasional drip is something I can live with.
When casting lead bullets for big bore airguns, your casting medium can be nearly any lead scrap. Some folks like using wheel weights that you used to be able to find for free at tire shops. The wheel weights seem to have the best ratio of pure lead to antimony (a metal that adds hardness to the soft lead).
Personally I use almost exclusively air gun range scrap and find I get very clean and well formed bullets. Since this article is a primer on casting lead bullets for big bore airguns, I will save raw lead procurement and processing for a future article and assume that you will be starting your casting adventure with clean lead alloy ingots.
By using airgun range scrap, I’m turning this…
The first step is to plug in your pot and add a few lead ingots to the bottom. I recommend staying at a low power setting while creating the initial melt in your pot.
A highly quality casting thermometer is very useful and something I would consider a necessity. Most of the problems I see when folks cast is the lack of a thermometer and knowing the temperature of the alloy in the pot. They’re a bit expensive at $40, but trust me… just buy it and save yourself the headache!
Most of my molds like casting temps around 750-800 degrees Fahrenheit. Experiment with different temps and molds. My aluminum Lee molds only cast good bullets with a hot alloy while my higher quality Lyman mold still does well at lower temps.
It’s best to use tongs when introducing a new ingot into your melt to avoid splashing. Notice as the alloy begins to melt, the temperature is dropping. As you cast and reduce the amount of alloy in the pot the temperature will rise again.
I like to control my temperature by adding lead to the pot instead of constantly fiddling with the power knob on the pot. The two photos below illustrate this
While we wait for the ingot to melt meet my casting buddy, Roxie, our yellow belly slider. It’s not unusual to see her bobbing around trying to catch bugs while I toil away.
I like to do my casting outside when possible as the lead fumes can make you feel sick without proper ventilation. Don’t try this indoors at home, folks!
The one enemy of casting lead bullets for big bore airguns outdoors is, of course, the rain. When water hits molten lead it turns to steam and creates a gas bubble that erupts flinging 750 degree lead in the most inconvenient places. It’s important to stay vigilant as even a drop of sweat hitting your melt can have you riding the silver dragon. When the forecast is grim, bring your casting to the garage.
Next time, we’ll be really smoking as we add more lead to the casting pot and y’all see the final result!