The Myth of the Perfectly Cast Bullet: Three Defects to Look for in Your Bullets

It seems to me that anyone who loads cast bullets buys bullets from a commercial maker at least once before they start thinking they can make their own. They get all excited (especially after they find out how relatively cheap it is to get started) and start casting their own bullets, only to quickly find out their ugly lead pebbles don’t look anything like the ones they bought at the store. They get discouraged and hang up their ladle for good, which is a real shame because in reality there is no such thing as a perfectly cast bullet and those misshapen little lead balls you made yourself may shoot just as good out of your gun—if you know how to spot actual defects.

For a couple of years now, I’ve noticed that gun magazines would have you believe that only the most perfect bullets, devoid of any defects whatsoever should be kept and all the others should be tossed back in the pot. For starters, there are many types of defects in a bullet and some can be detrimental to accuracy, and others have no bearing on accuracy whatsoever.

1.  Base Defects

Bullet Base Defects

When comparing the quality of your cast to that of commercial bullet makers, there are a couple things about the big guys that you always have to keep in mind: they have some of the best casting equipment in the world, the lead they pour is properly regulated and kept at an ideal temperature (they have the means to do this as well) and only the best bullets are kept and shipped out. Simply put, the guy casting bullets for himself with his little melting pot in his basement cannot feasibly compete with commercial bullet makers because their quality control is so strict.

That stated, when it comes to your own quality control, the most important part of a cast bullet is its base and this needs to be perfectly molded and sharp on any bullet you decide to use.  If there are any rounded off edge here, accuracy will suffer, so any bullets with funky bases should be immediately considered as candidates for your melting pot.

The imperfect base is one of the things that can go wrong when pouring lead into a bullet mold. There are others.

2.  Wrinkles

Wrinkles in Casted Bullets

The most common defects you see when casting bullets are wrinkles and these can be a problem or not, depending on where they are.

If the area around the driving bands (serrations on the bullet that help it to catch the rifling and spin in flight), the sides or, of course, the base of the bullets have wrinkles, they need to be put back in the pot. However I have had some wrinkles, minor mind you, towards the top of the bullet itself and shot excellent groups with them. Your bullets can stand a wrinkle or two in the right place (i.e. towards the top) as long as they don’t look like a geriatric after long soak in the tub.

So why does a bullet come out looking like a raisin and less like a bullet? Either the lead or the mold was not up to temperature, or both. A good thermometer like the one RCBS offers will keep you informed when the lead quality and consistency is going the wrong way. I suggest while the lead is heating up, keep the mold on top where it can heat up too. This will cut down on the number of rejects that end up back in your pot.

3.  Improper Lubrication

Improper Lubrication

Okay, it’s not a part of the actual casting of the bullet, but it is an essential part of the casting process and one that can cause serious issues at the range.  The good news though is that the only trick to lubing is to thoroughly cover the bullet.

Many magazines will tell you the proper way (which means the only way) to lubricate your cast bullets is with a lubrisizer.  For a fairly cheap process, this piece of kit can be expensive so a while back I tried a little experiment.

I lubricated half of my cast bullets, all from the same batch and mold, with the RCBS lube-a-matic and the other half with the old Lee Alox lube that you squirt on and toss the bullets around in like Shake and Bake. I can tell you with a clean conscience there was almost no difference in accuracy using nothing but a simple Lee sizer die and the Lee lube versus the RCBS.

Your bullets don’t need to be one hundred percent perfect to show good accuracy. Most of us cast our bullets for a wide range of reasons, and we have found that they don’t have to be as perfect from a commercial company to get the job done.  Just remember practice makes perfect so until then keep your eyes peeled any defects.

Cover courtesy of British Military Forums

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