Want to cast your own bullets?
You need to start by collecting lead. Scrap yards and tire repair shops are the first place I would recommend. Scrap yards bring in lead from all kinds of sources and sell it at the scrap price. However tire repair shops have buckets of old wheel weights (and they may just give them to you if you just spent $500+ on a set of tires). Wheel weights are perfect for casting bullets since they contain small amounts of tin and antimony. This mix gives you the workability and hardness you would need for pistol calibers. If you want to cast rifle calibers you will need to do a little more research because the alloy of the lead you collect may need to altered for different rifle rounds. That is beyond the scope of this blog. Be sure and sort out the zinc wheel weights and set them aside. You only want the lead weights. Tap them on a heavy piece of steel – the lead will make a “thud” sound and the zinc a “ping”. You can find more info on this online. Also avoid the stick-on wheel weights since they are pure lead, save them for when you want to play with the alloy mix of your bullets.
Once you have your burner set up in a well ventilated area and your heavy pot for melting the lead you are ready to start. I like a cast iron pot since I know it will handle the heat and weight of the lead. You will need the bullet molds and a ladle to dip the molten lead from the pot and slowly pour into the bullet molds. There are ladles made for this purpose and I would recommend you grab one. They are strong enough to hold the weight of the lead and have a small pour spout. You will also need a large steel kitchen spoon and a large steel slotted spoon. You will need a few small pieces of wax, candles or even crayons as a fluxing material. Safety glasses and a pair of welding gloves are a must.
Heat the wheel weights in the pot until they start to melt. Keep slowly adding more until the molten lead mixture is a few inches deep. Wheel weights have a steel clip attached and these clips need to be removed from the mixture. This is why you need your slotted spoon once the lead is melted – you can simply scoop out the clips. You will see all the crap, dirt and grease on the weights start to come to the surface and smoke and burn – this is good since it is cleaning the lead mixture.
Once your wheel weight mixture is melted and you have scooped out all the clips and crap, it’s time to flux. This is a way to remove most of the impurities from the mix. Drop in a few pieces of wax. Be careful this will often flame up and smoke. Once the flames burn out slowly still the mixture and scrape the sides and bottom of the pot. This will bring all kinds of crap to the surface so that you can scoop it out and discard it. After you do this a few time the mixture will be relatively clean. You may need to do this every once in a while during casting since more crap starts to come out of the mix.
Now I would recommend you grab a few ingot molds from Midway or Brownells online. This way you can cast some nice 1 lb ingots to store your lead once it is clean and ready to make bullets.
Bullets molds are easy to find online and not very expensive. Make sure you get the correct mold and one that has handles. Follow the directions that come with the mold as far as assembly and preparation. I have Lee Precision molds and they work great.
Once the lead is molten, simple ladle the lead mixture into the closed bullet mold. Wait about 5-10 seconds for it to harden. Now open the mold and allow the VERY hot bullets to fall out onto something soft. I use an old wet towel that I wet with a little water so it doesn’t burn. If the bullets stick in the mold lightly tap the back of the mold with a piece of wood to free the bullets. Once the molds get hot the bullets will be more consistent and look great. Keep repeating this until you have the amount of bullets you want or are out of the lead mixture. If you have some of your lead mixture left in the pot when you are done casting simply make lead ingots for next time.
Please keep in mind EVERYTHING is VERY hot and will remain hot for a long time. Also if any water sweats or anything wet drops into the molten lead you will have a small explosion and molten lead will fly everywhere. I had a drop of sweat fall from my arm and I was splashed with some lead on my leg and arm. (I now no longer wear shorts and short sleeves when I work with molten lead)
Take your time and collect everything you need. This is a great prepping skill and just a relaxing way to spend a few hours outside.
You will need to size and lubricate the newly cast bullets so look for part 2 of this article.