Making Your Own Ammo – Cheap?

I started casting bullets last winter for my percussion guns, and since it’s been going well I recently started looking at bullet molds for the .30-30.  I don’t use the Winchester much, but if I could make ammo for a few pennies per round, I might use it more often.  I already have loading dies for that cartridge.

 

I figured a bullet mold would be a good investment, but then I figure for the .30-30 I need a bullet sizer (maybe a lubrisizer while we’re at it, ‘cause lead bullets need lubed), a .309” sizing die, top punch, gas checks, gas check seater plug, some good lube, handles for the mold.  Then I’ll need some different powder…

 

That’s several hundred dollars to start loading “cheap” ammo for a rifle I probably haven’t fired 100s of dollars of commercial ammo through in all the years I’ve owned it.  But then I figure I could also cast 9 mm and .357” bullets, but that’s more molds, sizing dies, and punches.

 

I don’t know; do any of you have all this extra hardware and cast a lot of bullets, and do you find it’s paid for itself?  Sure it depends on how much you shoot, but there’s also the independence factor – you’re making your own bullets.  Or is it just a big drag on your time, such that you find yourself buying more bullets or loaded ammo than you make?

 

Hmm.  The percussion revolvers’ chambers act as their own sizing die, the loading ram acts as it’s own “top punch”, I can lube the bullets by dipping them in the tallow I get as a byproduct from hunting, they don’t need gas checks or special lead alloys, or loading dies, punches, et al.  I already have the ~20 dollar conical bullet mold and the ~20 dollar ball mold and the ~60 dollar furnace.  That’s an investment of about 100 dollars.  After that it’s mostly just lead, powder and caps, and there’s no recovering of spent brass, no cleaning of brass, and no decapping, sizing or crimping the brass.  The drawbacks though are obvious in that we’re back to the mid 19th century.

 

I see that Lee is soon to come out with an eighteen cavity 00 buckshot mold.  It’s near the bottom of the page here.

14 thoughts on “Making Your Own Ammo – Cheap?

  1. Casting for 45acp has saved me a ton of cash. When I bought my Lee 6-up molds they were under $30. Since that’s the caliber I shoot most often it didn’t take me long to recoup my costs.

    Casting for .380 meant that last year I could practice all I wanted without hunting all over for ammo that seemed to evaporate off store shelves.

    I haven’t gotten a lubrisizer yet. I use the Lee sizers and either tumble lube or dip lube depending on the caliber. It’s not the fastest, but it works well, it’s cheap and I have more time than money

    I also use White Label lubes which are a LOT cheaper than anything else I’ve seen and work well.

  2. I’ve found that casting bullets has more than paid for itself and I have all the equipment you list.

    Of course, as you’ve said it’s going to depend on how much you shoot. I shoot competitively so I tend to shoot more than the average person. Some other things to take into consideration is that I haven’t had to paid for my lead. I use wheel weights and mix them with 50/50 bar solder at a 9:1 ratio. In addition some of the things you list for equipment can be used for multiple calipers such as the lubrisizer and the mold handles.

  3. I’ve heard it said that reloading doesn’t save you money, you just can shoot more for the same money. I don’t cast, but I’d bet the same holds true.

  4. I looked at casting lead for a brief moment, but I too saw all sorts of stuff I ought to buy, and decided that buying bulk packs of plated ammo didn’t cost a ton more and produced more desirable product. Also I’m in the camp that would likely need to buy lead as none of the local garages scrap their wheel weights.

  5. Buy a mould, Lyman 311041 would be my choice, a Lee push through sizer in .310, (you’ll get some liquid Alox with this) some gas checks, a dipper, small cast iron pot, and an old coleman stove. That is all you need to get started. You can spend a whole lot more. But with the above you’ll reload a box of 30-30 for about $3-$4 presuming you’re scrounging your lead.

  6. email me an address and I’ll send you enough of the above to give you an Idea of how they work.
    Bob
    except they will be lubed with Lar’s Carnuba Red

  7. It paid off for me because we had commodities squatters and a run on ammo supply pretty much back-to-back, and I also didn’t buy lots of unnecessary equipment or a “progressive” press. The price was high for me, but that’s understandable because it’s all front-loaded costs. Since I sort of went overboard and hoarded, I have yet to feel the price shocks. The hidden cost of reloading is time. If you have to option of working overtime late into the night, that extra money could be used to buy manufactured ammunition, so hand loading doesn’t make sense.

    The process of casting looks complicated, but it’s really not. Pot, ladle, thermometer, mold, lead stock. It makes sense economically when you learn how to scrounge lead, and good quality alloys can be had if you know where to look. (Hint: not major retailers who sell tremendously overpriced ingots labeled as “bullet alloys”.) That said, making rounds for rifles with cast bullets requires preparation through study, experimentation and careful progress. Many people are negligent and incapable of conducting an experiment, so they end up with a bore full of lead fouling (and it’s *much* more difficult to clean a fouled rifle barrel) and then latch on to some tall tales about the evils of lead bullets and spend the rest of their lives insisting that lead is impossible to use.

    Some pointers:
    * Don’t assume that the bore is .308″; slug it with a Cerro alloy or something
    * Choose a lead alloy appropriate for the expected chamber pressure
    * Lubrisizers suck because they’re junky and expensive, but they save time when they actually function correctly
    * Hard, smokey, paraffin-based commercial bullet lubes don’t adequately seal the bore, don’t stick to the bullet and require a lube heater
    * Get a good chamber gauge so that you can consistently load rounds so the bullet shoulder is seated the minimum safe distance behind the throat (I bet you own one anyway, since you already hand load)
    * Don’t expect a modern mold to produce round or appropriately-sized (diameter) bullets
    * Alloy effects final bullet diameter; antimonial lead alloys seem to “spring” back to a larger diameter
    * Keeping a bottom-pour pot from clogging or leaking is a black art; I use a ladle pot

    I’m not sure why it will cost you several hundred dollars to start casting for one rifle cartridge.

  8. I think it is not a matter of money its a matter of love. People who make bullets must really love what they do. It is a very important art form.
    I like to think I know a little about bullets and guns but I don’t because I don’t understand what you folks are saying. Thanks the mad science work because if you discover a better bullet it usually comes to market. Eventually.

    But even if I saved a lot of money( hard to say if you will, bullets seem to be dropping in price (Russian new ammo). Also you have to love working alone making bullets. I loved making furniture but making bullets would make me crazy. I guess it depends of how Zen you are. Bullet guys/gals are the monks of fire arms.

    Merry Xmas,

    M.D.

  9. If you have the time, you will probably shoot a great deal more for the same money rather than save money, in my experience. And like guns, if you’re careful with your equipment you can always sell it on if it’s not right for you.

    You will also learn a LOT, and have a new depth of control over your ammunition. Bullet casters and swagers are the only ones who really “make” their own ammo. Go here: http://castboolits.gunloads.com and start looking at the stickies-

    That 30-30 is likely going to want at least .310, and maybe as large as .312. Find a SOFT Lead ball and slug your barrel before buying a sizer- I have an assortment of .30 moulds and use sizers from .309 to .313 depending on what the groove Dia. calls for. I too will be happy to send you some samples to get started with, once you know what your groove Dia. is. Maybe a Lyman #311291 to start. I second the suggestion of using White Lable Lubes.

  10. Wow. Thanks for the advice, all. I was thinking something in the 150 gr range for the 16″ Win ’94 carbine. You think the 170ish 311041 or 311291 would be a good first mold for the carbine?

  11. Yes, these relatively heavy and blunt cast bullets are likely what will serve you best. Try the 311291 with 15 to 16 grains of 2400, if the bullet is correctly sized this is a recipe that just plain WORKS. And my mould drops these at over 180 grains using wheel weight alloy + 2% Tin!

    The 30-30 is a very cast bullet friendly cartridge, the long neck lets you seat such heavy bullets without the gas check going below the neck. You CAN use light bullets for short range plinking or small game if you’ve the desire. But I’d start with the classic bullet moulds, they’ve been around this long for a reason.

  12. (quote)

    Isn’t the .30-30 moving too fast to use unjacketed bullets?

    (end quote)

    I shoot gas checked grease groove cast bullets up to 2500 fps, some people shoot paper patched cast bullets from belted magnums at full jacketed bullet velocities. I have no problem shooting cast from 30-06, including the M1 Garand at levels that operate the action.

  13. I crank out a 180 grain sphere of pure lead from a 24″ barrel at over 1,920 fps..with a cotton cloth patch around the ball, lubed primarily with animal tallow. I bet it would take a lot more, if I thought there was the need to punish the rifle so much. The patches come out ragged on the edges (almost as if they’d been shot out of a gun at supersonic speed) but otherwise in good shape.

    So yeah; the lead bullets can take it, if you know the black magic of bullet lubes, alloys and such. Which I don’t. Yet.

    I’ve been looking around here though;
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/index.php

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