Friday, March 27, 2020

The Wron-Hole

I found a correspondent in my inbox, a fellow who inherited his grandfather's old Winchester 94.  And he asked me about cast bullets in the .30-30.

Let's drop down this worm=hole, shall we?  His question:
So I can't use the same load data for FMJ for lead ammo ? What's a good manual you recommend? I've found this load data but I wanted your expert opinion.
 I bought some 155 grain lead bullets without the gas check can I use the same load data as a 155 grain with gas check?
I feel sorry for this guy.  He's about to drop down a worn-hole with the best of intentions. It's a world where sane men sometimes venture and learn that everything they thought they knew was patently false.

My latest answer:
My rule of thumb.  Below 1500 fps, no check.  Between 1500 to 1900, gas check.  Above 1900, jacketed.  A gas check is important s that bore gasses don't erode the base of a plain based bullet.  This becomes more important as speed, and pressure increases. 
Be cautious using factory made cast bullets.  Many of us use a lot of factory cast in handguns, but in rifles, you're getting into that range of speed whee alloy really matters. You ca't drive a soft, pure lead bullet much over 1200 fps and expect it to perform properly.  Over 1200 fps, you need to alloy the melted lead to give it toughness.  Many of us grew up using wheel weights, which used to contain 95% lead, 3% tin, and 2% antimony.  This was a great alloy for cast bullets, and approximated the Lyman #2 alloy.  Some of us alloyed our own metal with pure lead and Linotype metal.  Be careful using wheel weights today because most of them are made of zinc, which is totally unsuitable to casting bullets and will ruin your alloy.
Getting in to cast bullets is like going down a worm-hole, and you might not be the same person when you come out the other side.  Everything you thought you knew about reloading is wrong.
For hundreds of years prior to the late 1800s, everything was shot with pure lead bullets, but they used black power as the only propellant.  Black powder is a low-pressure propellant and is perfectly suited to pure lead.  However, in the late 1800s two things happened, almost simultaneously: the invention of smokeless powder and the invention of the cupro-nickel jacketed bullet.  Smokeless powder gave higher pressure, and velocity and the jacketed bullet let us take advantage of that pressure.
In 1895, Winchester unveiled their new cartridge, the .30 WCF (.30-30) which was the very first cartridge designed to use smokeless powder, and the world changed. It was advertised as a whiz-bang modern wonder, capable of taking any game in North America, to include grizzly bear.  In the intervening century, advances in smokeless powder almost mad the lead bullet obsolete for rifle cartridges.
Surprisingly, the most popular cartridge today, the most sold ammo in the United States is ab obsolete design that uses a heeled, pure lead bullet and is loaded to black powder velocities.  The .22 Long Rifle.
The very best resource for cast bullets, almost a bible among cast bullet enthusiasts, is the Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook, available from Amazon. It is a wealth of knowledge from cover to cover.  It covers bullet casting, alloys, and has load data or almost every cartridge suitable for cast bullets.
Have fun going down this worn-hole.  Stay safe.
I hope I didn't scare the guy off.


Mark O said...

I am a pistol guy. In a pistol with lead you have to be concerned about leading above 1000fps. What about a rifle?

zdogk9 said...

You should have thrown paper patching into the mix just for fun.

Owen Family at Far Better Farmstead said...

Ah! A life changer for certain. I found the Frugal Outdoorsman in maybe 2014? When I read about Junior's cast bullet camping adventure I realized how easy casting could be. I guess I now own about 20 different Lee molds and haven't shot a jacketed bullet in 5 years! My friends that reload don't even know how to hold a conversation with me. Frugal Outdoorsman was also how I found Paw Paw's house and I read your blog every day! I do miss Junior and I wish someone had a true frugal how-to site like that one nowdays.