Bullet Making – Part 2

Bullet Making – Core Seat Operation

 First off when I make bullets I normally do them in batches of 500, the exception to that was when I made 22’s. From reading articles over the years many bullet makers wash there jackets, so far I have not found a reason to do that, not that I am a definitive authority on this but I do not find it necessary, you may have a different preference. I have assembled what is necessary for the jacket prep and lube operation, scales, lube, mesh laundry bag (from dollar store), tumbler and jackets.

Tumbler, Mesh Bag, Scales and Jackets

What is necessary is to shake out the fine copper shavings, which are done by putting them in a mesh bag and tumbling them by hand. I do this before weighing them on my high tech scale, yup found this in the junk but it works. I clean a couple of jacket buckets so when I dump the jackets in after tumbling I can make sure that all shavings have been removed, if not I re-tumble. At this point I weigh out 500.

Hand Tumble Jackets

Weighing out 500 Jackets

Next I weigh out the amount of lube on a piece of waxed paper on my Dillon scale; this is a necessary step in maintaining consistent lube from batch to batch. The lube is wiped on the walls of the drum (I like the old pickle jar so you can see what is going on) and jackets are placed inside. When weighing lube the scale is zeroed with the paper on it first and after the lube is in the drum the paper is weighed again, in the pic my scale reads 7.2 or something for after wiping as good as you can it will weight 2 grains heavier than zeroed, you can never get it all off. The amounts I use are not by any means law, if the jar is not cleaned the amount used is adjusted to a lesser amount, I have done it enough times to be able to tell how much by feel. Jackets are tumbled and timed for 20 minuets; I feel this is adequate for coverage, after that I will test a couple in the press to see that there is enough lube on them for this operation. In all the times I have lubed jackets there is only one time I didn’t have enough, if you have too much lube they can be tumbled with some pieces of cut up tee shirt to remove the excess.

Weighing Lube

Tumbling Jackets

 Next I place the lubed jackets in MTM P-100-9 ammo boxes, this method came form the late Ray Wild, and I have just continued it this way since I started making bullets. For the budget minded or doing small runs such as I do I cannot justify bullet boards, they have advantages but so do my ammo boxes. I can load the boxes, snap the cover shut, put them on the shelf and not worry about them getting contaminated; also they can sit there for long periods of time before finishing. I took an old MTM ammo box lid, cut it out so it conformed around the P-100-9 box so that lubed jackets can be dumped and shaken, most will drop in the slots right side up. Loading the box this way saves considerable time, I use a pair of tweezers to finish what holes are not filled and to reverse the few jackets that are upside down. All lubed jackets are loaded before going to the next operation of dropping in the cores which takes clean hands so as not to contaminate them, once there in we are ready for core seat.

Loading Boxes

Loading Boxes

Loading Boxes

Loading Boxes

 The next photos I am in the process of setting-up the core seat die, determining which punch is needed for this operation. This is a new batch of jackets and I am finding that the punch I used the last time is too small for this batch. Once I have this set-up completed I will move on and drop the cores into the jackets making them ready for the seating operation. I cannot emphasize enough of maintaining a clean area, clean hands and anything that may be dropped is put aside to be re-cleaned before swaged. I have had some foreign materials get into my die in the past and caused much grief but fortunately it didn’t do any damage so the phrase “cleanliness’ is next to godliness” applies here.       

Core Seat Die Set and Punches

Finalizing set-up

 In this operation (core seat) I am going to make some statements that some may not agree with, I have tested all this over the last 11 years. First, in my opinion the emphasis of having .0002 between punch sizes is BS, a more realistic dimension is .0005, the punch needs to have enough space as not to scrape the jacket during this operation and close enough as not allow the lead to bleed by too much, if there isn’t some bleed by you are trapping air. Second, a common fault is to have the punch fit too tight with too much pressure hence trapping air, they pop the jacket like a 22 shell going off, that is taboo. Third, is attempting to expand the jacket way too much in the core seat operation, the core just needs to be expanded solidly to the jacket walls and remove any trapped air, this will also keep lead bleed by to a minimum. Fourth, a common complaint is lead build-up on the punch, caused buy too much pressure and too loose fitting punch.  Fifth, obtain a 10X jeweler’s loupe to be able to see down inside the jacket after seating the core, looking for scraping the jacket and the amount of lead bleed by, if you have a bore scope it is much easier, I used the loupe until I got my scope. Sixth, what one thinks is not enough seating pressure you need to consider the compound leverage and the surface area being worked; it is surprising how much is at the end of that punch. Seventh, at this time I use pure lead and knowing now what I didn’t some 7-8 years ago I would have ½ to 1% antimony in that lead, it just works cleaner, especially in the core swage operation. Eighth, when all is well, all adjustments are finalized and ready to seat the batch take a small dab of lube and rub it on your fingers, not much but just enough so your fingers are not removing lube form the jackets as you pick them up. Now lastly something I adhere to religiously is let the seated cores rest, I allow a minimum of 48 hours, longer doesn’t hurt just don’t go from core seat to point-up in the same day.

2 thoughts on “Bullet Making – Part 2

  1. Hi Dan,

    First off I am no expert on bullet making and what I have in print is my method and only mine. There many bullet makers out there that will totally disagree with some of my methods and that is their right and one of the reasons I do not post on any boards, it would get into a pissin match.

    Here is the way I look at it and this is from observation over the years I have been doing this, the radius at the base on the core seat means nothing! It is more important that the core is seated properly; i.e. – that when swaging the core into the jacket that it is not trapping air and the core is not squeezing up around the punch. The radius will flatten out in the point-up operation and what ya get is what ya get. The so called fish mouth is a product of not enough lube or pushing the bullet too far into the die, Blackmon dies no mater what cal will have this more pronounced than Nemi or Simonsons carbide dies, why, probably because of less pressure to push them in or eject them, less friction.

    Now and this is my take, only mine, whether you or anyone else agrees or not and I will not put this in writing because it will only start an argument is, get a bore scope or something that you can look into a core seated jacket. After you seat a core, take a good look at the amount of lead that has squeezed past the punch, there should be almost nothing and you shouldn’t scrape the jacket inner wall either, that is a NO – NO and will produce lousy bullets! This is where the clearance issue between the jacket and punch comes into place, too tight and you trap air, too loose and the lead squeezes past the punch, the more pressure you exert on the core seat operation the more lead squeezes past or the more stress you put on the jacket depending on fit. I have heard others say that they have blown out jackets, they pop like a 22 shell going off, and I have tested this myself to see its effects and when there is over pressure the base is almost sharp.

    I want the core to be seated firmly to the jacket walls with no pockets of air, little to no bleed by and pay no attention to some micrometer reading, the only reading that is important to me is the finished bullet. I do monitor dimensions periodically thru the entire operation for consistency reasons but that is about it.

    Now to reiterate this is my method, I learned the hard way by trial and error, I found that this works for me. Also I recheck the fit of the punch each time I change buckets of jackets, have had the same lot require a different punch just changing buckets. The punch that J-4 uses has to wear, they have to have a tolerance so when new it is one size and when it has a half a million hits it is another size, just because it is the same lot doesn’t necessarily mean it is the same size.

    Another problem I encountered, I have 4 Rockchuckers that can be used for bullet making but only use 2, one out of the 3 that are dedicated for this is only good to make marginal cores, it will not seat a core or point-up a bullet to any consistency and never obtain the finished dimensions of the other two and no visible or notable differences. I have tried 3 different rams in it, returned 2 to Blackmon and asked of another but nothing works, now that I have a mill I should make one of my own, something I have forgotten about until now.

    Don’t know if this answers your question

    Thanks

    Rick

  2. Just wanted to say that your article was very very good and well laid out. Most of your steps are the same as mine. The only difference is I put the jackets in the laundry bag and then into my laundry to wash with my other cloths before I do anything. It is surprising how shiny and clean they are and look. Try it one time and if it does not work for you then chalk it up to a learning experiment! Since I am here in south Florida I use the direct sun light to dry the jackets that are spread out on a flat dark colored towel. I am sure placing them in the oven at 300* would work just as good. The rest is basically the same as you outlined with my bullets I have had very positive result at the range. I know that most benchresters bullet makers will never acknowledge this, but I have a set of Corbin dies that make .224 bullets 8S 50 grains that will shoot under .225 all day long on a calm day in my 222 remington 40 XBR. I also have a very nice set of Bob Simonson 22 cal. dies.

    Just a note! It is sad to see that J4 jackets have taken such a big increase in price, but if you want the best there is no compromise!

    Thanks again for a good article,
    Rich

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