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How to Make Your Own Ammunition

Copyright June 3, 2009 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All rights reserved and all rights protected under international copyright law.

For Fair Use and Educational Purposes Only.

Warning: The failure to follow standard safety precautions when working with any type of explosive, or any type of molten metal, could result in a potentially devastating accident. Lead has documented dangerous health consequences and all safety precautions should always be followed whenever lead is being used in any manner. Therefore the information in this article is provided for information purposes only and the author disclaims any liability for any damage or injury as a direct or indirect result of the use of this information. If you use any of the information contained in this article then you do so at your own risk.

The following article is included in my book: Grandpappy's Survival Manual for Hard Times.


Boxes of Ammunition This article discusses the following topics in the following sequence on this page.
If you wish you may click on any underlined topic below to jump directly to that topic.
To return to the following list of topics, simply click the [BACK] button at the top of your Internet browser window.
Or you may read this entire article from beginning to end by simply scrolling down this page.
  1. Introduction
  2. The Three Basic Types of Ammunition
  3. The Four Basic Components of Centerfire Ammunition Cartridges
  4. The Brass Shell Case
  5. Primers (and how to get more)
  6. Gunpowder (and how to replace it)
  7. Lead Safety Hazards
  8. Bullets (and which ones are interchangeable)
  9. How to Make Lead Bullets
  10. How to Reload Ammunition
  11. How to Safely Disassemble a Live Cartridge
  12. Summary and Conclusion


The reason I am taking the time to write this article is due to the current worldwide ammunition shortage that has existed for several months now.

The Earth There are three possible future scenarios regarding the supply of factory-loaded ammunition:
  1. The demand-supply relationship may change and ammunition may once again become widely available the way it was prior to the year 2009.

  2. The current situation may become the new status quo. What we are seeing today may continue for many years into the future. In other words, we may see the occasional restocking of some calibers of ammunition in small quantities at some stores on a random basis. However, that ammunition will quickly disappear from the store shelves even if the store limits the number of boxes that may be purchased by each customer.

  3. The situation may get much, much worse and ammunition may eventually become extremely scarce or simply not available.
Therefore it would probably be useful if you knew how to replenish your ammunition without having to rely on the current ammunition supply chain. This article will provide some practical information to help you achieve this objective.

The Three Basic Types of Ammunition

Shotgun Shells Rimfire 22 Ammo Centerfire Ammo
Shotgun ShellsRimfire 22 AmmoCenterfire Ammo

There are three basic types of ammunition as follows:
  1. Shotgun Shells: Shotgun shells cost too much to reload. It is cheaper to buy new shotgun shells than to purchase all the individual components needed to reload an empty shotgun shell. The reason is because the only part of the shotgun shell that can be reused is the plastic shell case. But the plastic shell case does not cost very much. When purchased separately the other four components of a shotgun shell are significantly more expensive than a brand new factory fresh shotgun shell. Therefore a person would spend more money reloading used shotgun shells than he or she would spend on the purchase of brand new factory-loaded shotgun shells. At the current time shotgun shells are not in short supply in the United States and you can buy as many as you wish at almost any store that sells ammunition, including most local WalMart stores. However, this situation could change at any time so you should purchase as many shotgun shells as you think you will need right now while they are still relatively easy to obtain.

  2. Rimfire Ammunition: Rimfire ammo, such as the 22LR, is activated by striking the outside rim of the shell case. Rimfire ammo is not reloadable. Rimfire cases are single use applications and they cannot be reused. Therefore, if you need 22LR ammunition, then you should purchase an adequate supply of it while it is still available for sale.

  3. Centerfire Handgun and Rifle Ammunition: Centerfire ammo is activated by striking a primer in the bottom center of the shell case. Centerfire ammo may be reloaded if it is made of brass and if it contains a Boxer primer. The balance of this article will be devoted to centerfire ammunition.

The Four Basic Components of Centerfire Ammunition Cartridges

Cartridge Components

All metallic centerfire ammunition cartridges have four standard components as follows:
  1. Brass Case: After you have fired some of your existing ammunition, you can save and reuse the empty brass cases from that ammunition. The brass cases may be reused several times if you keep your powder loads to a reasonable level.
  2. Primer: Centerfire primers may only be used once. They can't be recycled. You must replace the used primer with a new primer. You can buy boxes of new primers (if you can find them available), or you can remove the primers from new factory-loaded ammunition (preferably from a caliber that you personally do not need).
  3. Gunpowder: You can buy canisters of gunpowder from a gun shop that sells reloading equipment, or you can remove the gunpowder from new factory-loaded ammunition (preferably from a caliber that you personally do not need).
  4. Bullet: You can cast your own lead bullets using a bullet mold. You can make these cast lead bullets using scrap used lead wheel weights from any automobile junk yard or any tire store.
If you have all four of the above components, and you have a standard universal reloading press, and reloading dies in the caliber you need, and a bullet mold of the correct caliber, then you could reload your own ammunition.

Individuals who are not familiar with the reloading process sometimes criticize hand-loaded ammo as being inferior to factory-loaded ammo. In response to this it should be noted that on July 25, 1993 Robert Fray set a new world's record for the smallest shot group at 1,000 yards using ammunition he loaded himself. This implies that it is not the reloading process but the diligence of the individual who is doing the reloading that determines the reliability and accuracy of the reloaded ammunition.

With this in mind, let's now examine each one of the above four components of ammunition.

The Brass Shell Case

The Shell Case:
Brass Shell Case
  1. Holds the primer firmly in its correct position.
  2. Contains the powder charge between the primer and the bullet.
  3. Holds the bullet firmly in place above the powder charge.
  4. Keeps everything in its correct position.
  5. Protects the primer and the powder from moisture (humidity) damage.
However, the case can't protect the cartridge from high heat. Therefore, always store your ammunition, primers, and powder in a cool dry area at normal room temperatures (or below if you have air-conditioning). Never store them in an attic, garage, inside a vehicle, or in direct sunlight.

After you have fired an existing cartridge save the empty used brass shell case. The empty brass shell can be reloaded several times depending on the quality of the original brass case and how much powder you use when you reload the case.

If your ammunition is sold in boxes and each box contains a plastic tray that holds each cartridge in its own separate individual area then put your empty brass shells back inside their original storage tray.

If your ammo is loose packed then save your empty brass shells in an ordinary plastic sandwich bag. Use a permanent black marker to write the brand of original ammunition, the caliber, and the date on the outside of the plastic bag. If you don't have a permanent black marker then write this information on a small piece of paper and place it inside the plastic bag with your empty shell cases.

Brass consists of approximately 70% copper and 30% zinc.

All factory-loaded ammunition does not have a brass shell case. Some of the factory shell cases are made from mild steel, or aluminum, or copper. Brass cases can be reloaded. Steel, aluminum, or copper cases cannot be reloaded. Steel cases are sometimes coated with a lacquer finish to protect and seal them and this finish can make the steel case look like it might be brass. Brass is non-magnetic. A simple magnet will help you identify the steel cases.

Most ammunition made outside the United States has:
  1. A shell case that is not made of brass and is therefore not reloadable, or
  2. It does not have a Boxer primer and therefore it is not reloadable.
However, most ammunition made inside the United States (and some European ammo) are made of brass and they are also Boxer primed. Therefore they are reloadable. Primers will be discussed in the next section.

In summary, in order to use standard reloading equipment to reload your own ammunition that ammunition must have:
  1. a metallic brass shell case, and
  2. a Boxer primer.


Lets briefly review the information presented at this beginning of this article.

Ammunition may be either rimfire or centerfire:
  1. Rimfire ammo, such as 22LR, is activated by striking the outside rim of the shell case. Rimfire ammo cannot be reloaded. Rimfire cases are single use applications and they cannot be reused.

  2. Centerfire ammo is activated by striking a primer in the bottom center of the shell case. Centerfire ammo may be reloaded if it is made of brass and if it contains a Boxer primer.
The primer ignites the powder inside the cartridge case. Primers are single use disposable items. They cannot be recycled. Used primers must be discarded and replaced with new primers.

There are two different types of centerfire primers:
  1. Berdan Primers: Originally invented in the mid-1800s by Hiram Berdan, an American ordinance officer. It has two (or sometimes three) flash holes that are off-center around the edges of the primer. Berdan primers are used in Europe and in the communist countries. (Note: Berdan primed cartridge cases can be recycled but you need special equipment and the primer must be replaced with a new Berdan primer. This process is not as simple as replacing a Boxer primer. Therefore, unless you have a really good reason for reloading Berdan primed cases then you should not consider reusing them.)
    Primer Beside a Penny
  2. Boxer Primers: Originally invented in the mid-1800s by Edward M. Boxer, a British ordinance officer. It contains a cup, an anvil, some detonation compound, and a single flash hole. A used Boxer primer is easy to extract from an empty cartridge shell case using a simple punch tool that is a little smaller in diameter than the primer itself. The primer is pushed out of its pocket from inside the cartridge so the primer exits the bottom of the case in the same direction from which it was activated by the firing pin of the firearm. Boxer primers were adopted for use in the United States. Boxer primed ammunition is reloadable if the shell casing is made of brass.
Boxer primers are not interchangeable with Berdan primers. You will occasionally read internet stories about someone who did this, but you will also read that the process was extremely complicated, and it resulted in lots of failures, and the end result was not a consistently safe cartridge that could be used in a handgun or rifle. Therefore, for safety's sake, do not try to substitute a Boxer primer for a Berdan primer. You do not want to create a cartridge that could explode inside a firearm being held in your hand and which will be in close proximity to your face.

There are four basic types of Boxer primers as follows:

0.175 inchesSmall PistolSmall Rifle
0.210 inchesLarge PistolLarge Rifle

Each company that makes primers uses their own numbering system to designate the different size primers. However, in addition to printing their unique primer number of the box, each company also clearly labels the box of primers for its specific application, such as Small Pistol Primers or Large Rifle Primers.

For reference purposes the following table shows the primer number used by each primer company for each type of primer:

Primer SizeCCI NumberFederalMagtechRemingtonWinchester
Small Pistol5001001 1/21 1/21 1/2
Large Pistol3001502 1/22 1/27
Small Rifle4002057 1/26 1/26 1/2
Large Rifle2002109 1/29 1/28 1/2

The above primers are used in the following firearm calibers:

Primer SizeFirearm Calibers
Small Pistol25 Auto, 32 Auto, 380 Auto, 9 mm Luger, 38 Special, 357 Sig, 357 Magnum, 40 S&W, 45 GAP
Large Pistol10 mm Auto, 41 Remington Magnum, 44 Magnum, 45 Auto
Small Rifle222, 223 (NATO 5.56x45), 25-20, 30 M1, 32-20
Large Rifle243, 250, 25-06, 270, 284, 30-30, 300, 303, 307, 308 (NATO 7.62x51), 30-06, 356, 358, 375, 444, 45-70, 450, 6 mm, 7 mm, 7.62x39 mm, 8 mm, 9.3x62 mm

Box of Pistol Primers If you look at the above list it becomes obvious that the two most widely used primers are Small Pistol primers and Large Rifle primers. If you can find these primers for sale then you should consider making an investment in them.

However, if you need the Large Pistol primers or the Small Rifle primers then you should also buy some of them (if you can find them).

Rifle primers should not be interchanged with pistol primers. Rifle primers are designed to receive a more powerful hit from the firing pin and they contain more detonation compound because they are designed to ignite more gunpowder inside the rifle cartridge.

Magnum primers are also available but they are primarily for slow burning powders or for use in extremely cold shooting environments (sub-zero temperatures).

Magnum primers should not be interchanged with non-magnum primers because they will raise the detonation pressure inside the cartridge. A serious accident could result if you try to use a magnum primer in an application for which it was not designed. The best strategy is to not interchange magnum and non-magnum primers.

Whenever possible it is advisable to seat primers just a tiny bit below the flush level of the cartridge bottom (but no more than 0.005 inches). Feel the bottom of the empty case immediately after the new primer has been seated and if you can feel the primer extending up from the bottom of the case then you have not seated the primer far enough into its pocket. Adjust your reloading equipment just a little bit and try again. If you are using a Reloading Press then you will probably not be able to withdraw the empty brass case from its shell holder if the primer is not adequately seated in the brass case.

Static electricity may ignite a primer. Therefore, take the appropriate safety precautions to eliminate any source of static electricity from the area where you store or use your primers.

At the current time primers (and smokeless powder) are becoming extremely difficult to find. However, without a primer you cannot reload your used ammunition cases.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution to this primer (and powder) shortage. It is possible to transfer the primer and the powder from a new factory-loaded cartridge to one of your used brass shell cases. Obviously you would not want to make this exchange for a caliber you currently need. However, if you can find factory-loaded ammunition in a caliber that you personally do not need, and if it contains the size primer that you do need, then you could purchase that ammunition and salvage the primer and the powder inside the new factory-loaded cartridge.

For example, if you needed 380 pistol ammunition and you could find some 9 mm Luger ammunition but you did not need the 9 mm ammunition then you could purchase the 9 mm ammo and disassemble it and transfer the primers and powder to your empty 380 shell casings. This is just one example.

Generally if you are buying cartridges so you can salvage their component parts then the following issues should be considered:
  1. The cartridge must use a Boxer primer of the same exact size as the one in your existing used shell cases. If you need a small pistol primer, then the ammunition must contain a small pistol primer. If you need a large rifle primer, then the ammunition must contain a large rifle primer. And so forth.

  2. If possible, try to purchase new factory-loaded ammunition that is a little larger than the shell casing you need to reload. For example, if you need to reload 380 ammunition then you could buy 9 mm or 38 Special or 40 S&W, if you can find them available. This would provide a little extra powder over and above what you would need to reload your 380 ammunition. However, if the only ammo you can find is a box of 50 cartridges for a 32 Auto, then you could buy it. Although you would now have 50 new primers of the correct size you would not have enough powder to reload 50 of your 380 shell cases because the 32 Auto cartridges are smaller than your 380 cartridges.

  3. If possible, purchase new factory-loaded ammunition that has the same size bullet that you need. For example, some 357 magnum bullets may be used in some 38 Special shell cases (and vice-versa).
Information on how to remove a primer from a factory-loaded cartridge is at the end of this article.

For the past ten-years a "primer myth" has been circulating around the internet. The "myth" is that primer companies are now adding something to their primers so those primers will have a "much shorter shelf life." This is not true. The companies that make primers do not add anything to their primers that will cause their primers to expire after a certain period of time, such as two years. If new primers are stored in a cool dry environment then they will still be okay to use many decades from now.


Smokeless Pistol Powder There are two basic types of gunpowder:
  1. Black powder is a combination of 75% saltpeter (or potassium nitrate), 15% charcoal, and 10% sulfur by weight (which is a 15:3:2 ratio). When ignited it produces a lot of smoke. It is relatively inefficient since it only converts about half of its original mass into a gas that can be used as the projectile propellant. Black powder can also explode even when it is not restricted inside a confined space. Black powder is used in black powder rifles, which are also known as muzzle loaders.

  2. Smokeless powder is a nitrated cellulose (or nitrocellulose) based propellant. Smokeless powders are non-corrosive and they produce almost no smoke when used. All smokeless powders provide their own oxygen for combustion and they will quickly burn up. Therefore they leave almost no residue. And they generate less recoil. Smokeless powders will not explode if they are not confined but they will burn very rapidly. Smokeless powder is used inside centerfire ammunition cartridges.
Black powder and smokeless powder cannot be substituted for one another. Each powder has its own special characteristics and each firearm manufacturer designs its firearms for either black powder or for smokeless powder.

Although there are instructions for making black powder and smokeless powder on the internet, none of these powders are easy to make and they all require the use of a variety of commercial quality chemicals. If you have access to those commercial quality chemicals then you would probably also have access to gunpowder. Therefore, why would you want to make gunpowder? In my opinion, trying to make homemade gunpowder isn't practical for a self-sufficient individual who wishes to avoid potentially devastating accidents. Therefore, after carefully studying a wide assortment of gunpowder recipes I decided it was impractical to believe that I could make gunpowder at home in a safe and relatively easy cost-effective way. Therefore, the only logical alternative was to acquire commercially available gunpowder.

Prior to 2009, canisters of smokeless powder were widely available for sale at any gun shop that also sold reloading supplies. Most gun shops still have a very small quantity of smokeless powder for sale (June 2009).

Canisters of smokeless powder are already packaged for safe handling and for long-term storage by the manufacturer. Do not open the container until you are ready to use the powder. Store the powder in its original container in a cool dry area. Write the date you purchased the powder on the powder container before you put it into storage.

Never store gunpowder in a glass container.

Check your local fire codes for any special regulations for storing gunpowder. In most areas you must exceed a specific quantity of gunpowder before these codes take effect.

At the current time canisters of smokeless powder are becoming more difficult to find and their price has increased substantially. If smokeless powder disappears from the marketplace then a reasonable second source would be the smokeless powder that is inside new factory-loaded ammunition (in a caliber you don't need).

Handgun powders, rifle powders, and shotgun powders are usually not interchangeable (although in some special cases they may be).

Therefore, for safety's sake:
  1. Do not use a rifle powder to load a handgun cartridge.
  2. Do not use a handgun powder to load a rifle cartridge.
  3. Do not use a shotgun powder to reload either a handgun or a rifle cartridge.
It is not possible to identify the type of powder used in factory-loaded ammo. Ammunition factories use powders that are not available to the reloader. There is no data on these powders available to reloaders.

However, even though it is not possible to identify the type of powder used in a factory-loaded cartridge, it is still possible to safely use that powder in another cartridge that uses the same type of primer and is of the same generic class of firearms (either handguns or rifles). The following example shows how this can be safely accomplished.

One Example of Reloading a 380 Brass Case with Smokeless Powder
(Starting Minimum Safe Load Data from the Speer Reloading Handbook #14, 2007 Edition)

Caliber =380 Auto9 mm Luger38 Special357 Magnum40 S&W
Bullet Type =95 Gr. RN115 Gr. RN158 Gr. LRN125 Gr. TMJFN155 Gr. TMJFN
AA No. 5 Powder =4.6 Gr.6.0 Gr. (4.6/6.0 = 77%)5.6 Gr. (4.6/5.6 = 82%)No Data7.9 Gr. (4.6/ 7.9 = 58%)
AA No. 7 Powder =5.9 Gr.8.6 Gr. (5.9/8.6 = 69%)No Data12.0 Gr. (5.9/12.0 = 49%)10.0 Gr. (5.9/10.0 = 59%)
Bullseye Powder =3.0 Gr.4.2 Gr. (3.0/4.2 = 71%)3.1 Gr. (3.0/3.1 = 97%)No Data5.4 Gr. (3.0/5.4 = 56%)
H. Universal Powder =3.6 Gr.4.7 Gr. (3.6/4.7 = 77%)4.2 Gr. (3.6/4.2 = 86%)7.5 Gr. (3.6/7.5 = 48%)6.2 Gr. (3.6/6.2 = 58%)
Unique Powder =3.8 Gr.5.6 Gr. (3.8/5.6 = 68%)4.0 Gr. (3.8/4.0 = 95%)8.6 Gr. (3.8/8.6 = 44%)7.2 Gr. (3.8/7.2 = 53%)
Average % =-(72%)(90%)(47%)(57%)

Explanation of the above data:

Example 1: Assume that you wish to reload an empty 380 Auto brass case with a 95 Grain Round Nose (RN) 380 Auto Bullet, and you have a factory-loaded 9 mm Luger cartridge that contains a 115 Grain 9 mm Round Nose (RN) Bullet. But you do not know what type of smokeless powder is in the 9 mm cartridge. However, if you remove the powder from several 9 mm cartridges, and weigh and record the amount of powder inside each 9 mm cartridge, and then calculate the average powder grain weight in all the 9 mm cartridges, then you will know the average grain weight of the powder used in your factory-loaded 9 mm cartridges. If you use the average percentage from the bottom of the above table, then you could use approximately 72% of that average powder weight in each of your 380 brass shells that will contain a 95 Grain Round Nose 380 Auto bullet.

Example 2: We will use the same empty 380 Auto brass case but now we have a factory-loaded 38 Special cartridge with a 158 Grain LRN Bullet. Once again we do not know what type of powder is in the 38 Special cartridge. But we can still empty the powder from several cartridges and compute the average grain weight of powder in each cartridge. Then we consult the bottom of the above table and use approximately 90% of that average powder weight in each of our 380 brass shells.

Example 3: Use 47% of the average powder weight from the 357 Magnum factory-loaded cartridge to load a 380 brass case.

Example 4: Use 57% of the average powder weight from the 40 S&W factory-loaded cartridge to load a 380 brass case.

Note: In each of the above examples you will have some smokeless powder left over after you have transferred the proper amount of smokeless powder from a factory-loaded cartridge to an empty 380 brass case. However, if you have a supply of small pistol primers, then you would only need to unload enough of the factory-loaded cartridges until you had the right amount of powder to fill your empty 380 cases. For example, if you had fifty empty 380 brass shell cases then you would only need to disassemble thirty-six 9 mm factory-loaded cartridges (50 times 0.72 = 36). This would provide enough smokeless powder for fifty 380 brass cases and it would provide 36 small pistol primers. You would need to supply the other 14 small pistol primers from your inventory of small pistol primers. However, if you do not have any small pistol primers then you will need to disassemble fifty 9 mm cartridges in order to have enough primers for your fifty 380 shell cases. But you would now have the extra powder from fourteen 9 mm cartridges that you could add to your smokeless powder inventory.

Why will this work?

A factory-loaded cartridge is filled with the correct amount of smokeless powder for the bullet it shoots. The amount of powder used in that cartridge will provide for safe, consistent, and accurate shooting performance with that cartridge. The above table shows the percentage of that powder grain weight that will be needed for the exact type of bullet you wish to load in your empty brass shell case. Since we are working with percentages it does not matter what type of smokeless powder is used in the original factory-loaded cartridge as long as we are careful and use just the right amount of it in our hand-loaded cartridge. The percentage will be correct regardless of the actual grain weight of the powder used in the factory-loaded ammunition.

The reason we use the average percent at the bottom of the table is to help avoid using too much powder or too little powder. That is the reason we don't select the lowest percent in each column or the highest percent in each column. Either the lowest percent or the highest percent may result in a powder load that is a little too low or a little too high. By using the average we get closer to the middle of the values and we will have a powder load that should provide good average shooting accuracy and reliability.

Caution: The primers must be of the same exact type. In other words, if you wish to reload an empty brass case from a handgun that has a small pistol primer then you must select a factory-loaded handgun cartridge that contains a small pistol primer. If you wish to reload an empty brass case from a rifle that has a large rifle primer then you must select a factory-loaded rifle cartridge that contains a large rifle primer. The powder is custom matched to the type of primer used in the factory-loaded cartridge and it will not perform in a predictable manner with a different size primer.

Caution: Do not use the powder from a +P or other high performance cartridge. These cartridges may be loaded with a special powder and/or maximum amounts of powder and you should not use them to reload your normal ammunition cartridges.

Caution: Do not use the powder from a rifle cartridge to reload a handgun cartridge.

Caution: Do not use the powder from a handgun cartridge to reload a rifle cartridge.

Caution: The above table is only one example. You must do the math yourself for whatever caliber and grain weight bullet you need to reload and compare it to the caliber and grain weight of the cartridge you have available for salvaging its powder. The actual percentages will change based on those factors.

Caution: If you do not understand the above math then do not attempt to reload your ammunition using the smokeless powder that you salvage from a factory-loaded cartridge.

Caution: The smokeless powder you purchase in canisters at a gun shop is 100% powder and it does not contain any filler material. If you use this type of powder in your handgun or rifle brass shell cases then there will almost always be a little extra unused space between the bottom of the shell case and the base of the bullet after the bullet has been seated to its proper depth in the case. If you shake a hand-loaded cartridge you can hear the powder moving about on the inside of the cartridge in this empty space. However, a factory-loaded cartridge typically fills the entire space inside the cartridge. The factory accomplishes this by mixing a compatible type of filler material with the smokeless powder. Therefore, when you try to transfer the powder from a larger caliber factory-loaded cartridge to one of your smaller caliber hand-loaded brass shells, you may discover that the factory smokeless powder will not fit in the available space inside your smaller shell. If you encounter this problem then you will not be able to use that particular type of factory-loaded ammunition in your particular reloading application and you will need to experiment with a different caliber of factory-loaded ammunition that uses less filler material.

Caution: If you need to salvage the smokeless powder from a rifle cartridge then you should select a rifle cartridge in a caliber as close as possible to the one you need to reload. For example, if you need to reload a 243 then you may use the powder from a 250, or 25-06, or 270 cartridge. However, you should not use the powder from a 444 or 450. The reason is that all rifle powders are not the same. Even though the cartridge may use the same exact size primer, the powder used in larger caliber rifle ammunition is usually different from the powder used in smaller caliber rifle ammunition. This fact will become obvious to you when you look up both calibers in a reloading manual and you discover that the same brands of powder are not listed for both rifle calibers.

The following minimum safety precautions should be observed whenever you are working with any type of gunpowder:
  1. Do not smoke when working with gunpowder.
  2. Do not work with gunpowder near a wood-burning fireplace where a stray ember might accidentally float over to your workbench.
  3. Do not work with gunpowder in the direct sun or in a very hot environment.
  4. Store gunpowder in a cool, dry place.
  5. Store powder in the same container in which it was purchased. Those containers are designed to come apart if the powder accidentally ignites. The powder will burn up very rapidly and not explode. Do not store powder inside containers where the pressure can build up or you will be creating the conditions for a potential explosion.
  6. Never store or work with large volumes of gunpowder in one area. Always store and work with small volumes of gunpowder to limit the potential damage that might be done by an accident.
  7. Do not work with more than one type of gunpowder at a time. This will help to prevent the accidental use of the wrong powder. When you have finished the current job, and it is time to start another job that uses a different powder, then put the current powder back in its normal storage location away from your work area, and then bring the new powder container to your work area.
  8. Never mix gunpowders or primers from different ammunition or from different ammo companies even if the ammunition itself appears to be exactly the same. The internal components can be significantly different.
  9. If you have several boxes of factory-loaded ammunition of the same caliber and bullet grain weight from the same ammunition manufacturer, then look for the production lot number on the ammunition box. The lot number will either be on the outside of the flap, or on the inside of the flap, or somewhere else on the outside of the box. Verify the production lot numbers are the same. If they are the same then the smokeless powder will be the same. If the lot numbers do not match then the powders may be different and you should keep those lots separate and not mix the powders together for any reason.

Lead Safety Hazards

Some substances are absorbed into your body and they are not gradually eliminated over time. Some examples are sun poisoning, radiation poisoning, and lead poisoning.

The potential hazards of working with lead are real and they are not exaggerated.

Lead has the same impact on the human body whether it is inhaled or swallowed. It may cause cancer. Lead can damage brain cells, kidney cells, and the reproductive glands. It can cause birth defects. It can cause a miscarriage in a pregnant woman.

Lead fumes can be created when melting lead, stirring lead, or pouring lead.

The Minimum Safety Precautions When Working With Lead:
  1. Always melt your lead in an outdoor location. If you melt lead indoors, regardless of what type of ventilation system you use, some of the lead fumes will settle on your ceilings, walls, floors, cabinets, and furniture. These tiny lead dust particles will eventually make their way back into your breathing air and gradually and systematically poison you. Therefore, for safety's sake, melt your lead outdoors in a naturally well-ventilated area.
  2. When melting lead always wear the proper safety equipment including safety glasses (or a full face shield would be even better), fire-resistant gloves, long heavy pants, a thick long-sleeve shirt, and shoes. A welder's apron would also be appropriate.
  3. Wear a breathing mask to prevent the inhalation of tiny microscopic lead particles that may be floating in the air.
  4. Do not allow any liquids (water, soda, sweat, etc.) to make contact with the molten lead or you will have a splatter explosion that will spew hot load a long ways in many directions simultaneously. When you are working with molten lead you will have your attention focused primarily on the hot lead while melting, stirring, and pouring the lead. You will not notice the small drop of sweat that gradually forms on your face and which may eventually drop into the melting pot. If this happens then a dangerous splatter will result. Therefore, always wear the appropriate safety equipment when working with molten lead.
  5. Never add a freshly cast bullet directly back into the molten lead. Set any defective bullets aside and allow them to cool. You may melt them and reuse them on another day when you make your next batch of bullets.
  6. The dross spooned off the top of the molten lead contains lead oxide which can be harmful if inhaled. Therefore dispose of it promptly and in a safe manner. Do not save it and allow it to accumulate in a container.
  7. Do not smoke, eat, or drink while working with lead.
  8. Carefully wash your hands after working with lead or with any type of ammunition.


Bullet The bullet is the projectile in the top of the ammunition cartridge. Although all four components in the cartridge are necessary and each makes its own contribution to reliability and accuracy, it is the bullet that actually does the work. The bullet leaves the cartridge shell casing behind and travels towards its target to accomplish its objective.

Some bullets are used in more than one caliber firearm. In other words, the same exact bullet may be used in two or more different firearms. Although the bullet may be the same the brass cases will be of a different size. Therefore the only cartridge you can load into your firearm will be the one specifically designed for your firearm. However, when you are buying bulk bullets, or when you are salvaging factory-loaded ammunition, it is helpful to know which caliber bullets may be used in more than one type of brass shell case.

The following list of handgun calibers may be useful in this regards:
Although the above bullets will have the same diameter they may not work in your firearm. In addition to the proper diameter, the bullets must also be of a proper grain weight and shape as the bullets used in your firearm. If all three of these variables match then you could salvage the primer, the gunpowder, and the bullet from the factory-loaded cartridges and transfer them to your empty brass shell cases.

Bullets are single use items. Once fired, the bullet cannot be reused. It must be replaced. At the current time some gun shops have a very small supply of a very limited selection of some bullet calibers. However, this selection is decreasing all the time and the price is increasing. Therefore, now would be a good time to consider homemade cast bullets.

There are a variety of different ways to classify bullets but for the purposes of this article we will use two categories: jacketed and non-jacketed.

A jacketed bullet has a soft lead core that is surrounded by a thin hard covering material such as copper alloy, cupronickel, or steel. Jacketed bullets are known by a variety of different names such as Full Metal Jacket (FMJ), Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP), and Ball. Jacketed bullets are very nice and they do have some advantages over non-jacketed bullets. For example, they are harder and therefore they more easily penetrate metal targets.

However, non-jacketed lead bullets do have some advantages over jacketed bullets as follows:
  1. They cost less.
  2. They expand more easily after making contact with a game animal.
  3. They are not as hard as a jacketed bullet and therefore they can help to extend the life of a firearm barrel.
Homemade cast lead bullets can be made inside bullet molds.

Bullet molds may be classified based on the following variables:
  1. The metal from which the mold is made: The bullet mold itself may be made from cast iron, steel, or aluminum. Aluminum will heat up more quickly and it will not rust. Other metals require more time to heat up and if not properly cared for they will gradually begin to rust.
  2. The number of mold cavities: Bullet molds may have one, two, or six individual bullet cavities. My personal preference is the two cavity mold. It heats up more evenly and it allows you to make two bullets at the same time. (Note: The Lee Brand 2-Cavity Aluminum Molds come with their own wooden mold handles.)
  3. The caliber of bullet: Each bullet mold is designed to produce a bullet of a specific caliber (diameter).
  4. The shape of the bullet: For a particular caliber the shape of the nose of the bullet should be matched to the purpose of the bullet.
  5. The grain weight of the bullet: In most situations, a heavier grain bullet is preferred to a lighter grain bullet. Heavier grain bullets require a smaller powder charge, and they produce less recoil. Therefore, if you have the option to purchase different grain weights for the same caliber and design of bullet then the heavier bullet is usually a better choice.
  6. Gas Check
  7. Whether or not a gas check is required: A gas check is a small metal disc that is placed on the bottom of a soft lead bullet to keep the powder gases from leaking around the outside of the bullet as it moves through the inside of the firearm barrel. It also helps to protect the base of the bullet from the hot gases. Gas checks are not required on most handgun bullets. Gas checks are required on some magnum handgun bullets and most rifle bullets. The diameter of the metal gas check is the same as the diameter of the bottom of the cast bullet. If you make rifle bullets (or some magnum handgun bullets) then a box of gas checks must be purchased separately and one gas check installed on the base of each cast bullet. (Note: Gas checks are not needed on jacketed bullets because of the metal jacket that covers the lead portion of the bullet.) One internet website where you can purchase gas checks is at MidwayUSA.com:
If the same caliber bullet could be used in two different firearms, such as 38 Special and 357 Magnum, and you intend to use both firearms then you have two options. If you can afford it then you should consider a separate bullet mold for each caliber. But if funds are limited then you may need to select one bullet mold that would make bullets that will function reasonably well in both firearms.

Note on Micro-Bands: Some bullet designs have micro-bands. Micro-band bullets require a special lubricating compound (Liquid Alox) that may not be available during a long-term hard times event. Therefore, unless you have a valid application for the micro-band bullets and you can afford to purchase a reasonable inventory of the micro-band lubricant, then a different design of bullet should be selected for a long-term hard times event.

How to Make Lead Bullets

The art of casting lead bullets has a history that is over 200-years old. Several good books have been written on bullet casting. And a number of good articles have been published in a variety of reputable firearm magazines over the past fifty-years. These books and articles contained state-of-the-art information when they were originally published. But the technology used in bullet casting has changed over the years. Therefore, if you decide to cast your own bullets then I strongly suggest that you study the most recent literature on this topic and not rely on books and articles that were published ten, twenty, or thirty years ago.

This same caution applies to following the advice of an "experienced bullet caster" who has been casting bullets for twenty or thirty years using the same equipment and technique. The mold casting equipment that is available today has been improved. Therefore what works reasonably well for an "old-timer" may not be appropriate for you and your new equipment.

Of all the topics I have had the opportunity to study during my lifetime, the art of bullet casting probably has the highest number of different opinions about each step in the bullet casting process. The problem is that each of these different opinions is "true" when it is applied to the exact parameters on which it is based. But if you change any one of the basic parameters then the outcome also changes. You need to be aware of this if you decide to delve deeper into the topic of bullet casting.

The information presented below is current and it is based on what will actually work today with the equipment and materials you can purchase today.

Cast lead bullets may contain a mixture of the following elements:
  1. Lead (Pb): Lead is the primary component of cast bullets. The lead content of a cast bullet may vary from approximately 84% to 96%.

  2. Antimony (Sb): Antimony increases the hardness of the bullet. Approximately 3% to 4% antimony is optimal. This will result in a bullet of sufficient hardness but the bullet will also not be too brittle or prone to fragmentation.

  3. Arsenic (As): Arsenic significantly enhances the heat treating process. A very small amount of arsenic (0.2%) will act as a catalyst and it will help to significantly increase the final hardness of a cast bullet.

  4. Tin (Sn): Although the maximum amount of tin can be 4%, a tin ratio of between 2% to 3% is optimal in a finished bullet for the following reasons:
    • Tin improves the fluidity of the metal by decreasing its surface tension. This helps the molten lead to more easily and completely fill all the groves inside the bullet mold cavity. Therefore, the addition of tin significantly increases the percentage of good quality bullets and it results in fewer bullets being rejected due to groove or surface imperfections.
    • Tin improves the solubility of antimony by creating a compound of SnSb.
    • Tin improves the performance of the bullet by helping it to expand more easily when the bullet makes target contact.
    • Tin helps to minimize the chance of bullet fragmentation.
    • If the tin ratio is kept below 4% then it will not adversely impact the bullet's response to heat treatment.
    • Tin can also be used to modify the diameter and the weight of the final bullet. Using the same exact bullet mold cavity the addition of tin will result in the following impact:
      • 1/2 percent tin will yield the smallest diameter bullet with the highest weight (wheel weights with no extra tin added).
      • 2 percent tin will increase the final bullet diameter by approximately 0.001-inches and decrease the total bullet weight by about 3%.
      • 4 percent tin will increase the final bullet diameter by approximately 0.0015-inches and decrease the total bullet weight by about 6%.
    Adding more tin quickly reaches a point of diminishing returns. In quantities greater than 4% tin will create more problems than it will solve. Therefore, 4% tin is considered to be the maximum tin ratio for cast bullets. (Note: Some references quote a maximum tin ratio of 5% but the majority of the current literature recommends a tin ratio no higher than 4% when using ordinary lead clip-on wheel weights.)

    If you do not have any tin then that is okay. A bullet made from nothing but clip-on wheel weights will still be a very good bullet. However, if you can acquire some tin then the tin will improve the casting process and give you a little more quality control over your final results.

    Bullet Hardness

    Hardness: The hardness of lead and lead alloys is most commonly measured using the Brinell Hardness Number (BHN). A higher number means a harder alloy.

    A harder bullet is less prone to gas cutting. When smokeless powder ignites it is converted into a gas that pushes the bullet through the firearm barrel. This gas can force its way around the outside edge of a soft bullet. This is called a gas cut. Gas cutting results in a less accurate shot and it can leave lead deposits inside the firearm barrel. However, a hard bullet will not be prone to gas cutting. Therefore a harder bullet is superior to a softer bullet.

    Hardness and Heat Treatment: Hardness depends on how the molecules in an alloy bond together.
    1. When an alloy is in a molten state most of the molecules are dissolved and they move about freely.
    2. After the molten alloy is cast into the shape of a bullet and the bullet begins to cool then the molecules have a chance to separate.
    3. The slower the cooling process, the more the molecules can separate.
    4. However, if a hot bullet is immediately quenched in a cool water bath, then the molecules do not have a chance to separate and a harder bullet is the result.
    5. Cool water quenching helps to trap the molecules together before they can separate.
    6. After removing the heat treated bullet from the cool water bath the hardness of the final bullet will continue to increase for a period of between one to three-days. At that time the bullet will have reached its maximum hardness.
    7. Ice cubes added to the quenching water will keep the water cooler. After you remove the bullets from the water the bullets will fully harden in about one-day.
    8. If you use room temperature water it will take between 2 to 3-days for the bullets to fully harden.
    Cool water heat treating immediately after casting can increase the "approximate" BHN of different alloys as shown in the following table:

    Approximate "Average" Characteristics of Some Common Lead Alloys Used to Make Cast Lead Bullets
    (Note: For reference purposes Pure Lead has a BHN=5 and the average Jacketed Bullet has a BHN=100.)
    (BHN = Brinell Hardness Number)

    MetalLeadAntimonyTinArsenicNo Heat TreatmentAfter Heat Treatment
    Linotype84%12%4%0%22 BHN24 to 25 BHN
    Wheel Weights (Clip-On Type)95.3%4%0.5%0.2%7 to 9 BHN18 to 30 BHN
    Wheel Weights Plus Extra Tin93.8%4%2%0.2%7 to 9 BHN18 to 30 BHN

    Lead Wheel Weights Wheel weights are the small pieces of metal that are attached to the rim of your wheels when you have your tires balanced.

    The exact metal composition of wheel weights varies from one manufacturer to another. The composition has also gradually changed over the years. Therefore it is not possible to precisely predict the exact ratios of the different metals in a used clip-on wheel weight. Because of this variation there will be some differences in the actual BHN of bullets made from wheel weights before and after heat treating. However, the averages shown in the above table are a reasonable approximation for the average clip-on wheel weight.

    Recycled Lead Wheel Weights:

    There are two basic types of lead wheel weights as follows:
    1. Stick-on wheel weights are almost pure lead. Therefore they are not a good choice for casting lead bullets.
    2. Clip-on wheel weights are excellent for casting bullets. They contain lead, antimony, tin, and a trace amount of arsenic.
    Used wheel weights can be found at almost any automobile junk yard or tire store.
    A simple common magnet may be used to separate iron, steel, and lead wheel weights. Iron and steel are magnetic. Lead is not magnetic. A lead wheel weight will not stick to the magnet (but the metal clip at the top of the lead wheel weight will adhere to the magnet).
    Clean the old wheel weights before you melt them. If necessary scrub them with hot soapy water and a wire bristle brush to remove dirt and other materials from the surface of the wheel weights. Carefully and thoroughly rinse the wheel weights and then thoroughly dry the wheel weights in the sun. The wheel weights must be completely dry before adding them to the melting pot.
    Do not be concerned about the metal clips attached to the top of the wheel weights. They have a significantly higher melting point and they will float to the top of the melting pot where they can be removed with a slotted spoon.

    One-pound is equivalent to 7,000 grains. Therefore one-pound of used wheel weights could be used to produce the following number of bullets based on the grain weight of the bullet:

    Number of Bullets per One-Pound of Used Clip-On Wheel Weights

    Bullet Grain WeightNumber of Bullets Made
    110 Grain Bullet63 Bullets per Pound
    170 Grain Bullet41 Bullets per Pound
    230 Grain Bullet30 Bullets per Pound

    Sources of Tin:

    50/50 Solid Wire Solder The most common source of tin is from commercial solder.
    There are three basic types of solder as follows:
    1. Resin Core Solder is primarily for electrical applications.
    2. Acid Core Solder is primarily for plumbing applications.
    3. Solid Wire Solder is for a variety of applications. Solid Wire Solder may be used to make lead bullets.
    Solder can be made from a variety of different materials. The solder package will usually specify what the solder is made of. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes the package will direct you to an 800 number or a website for a list of the materials used in the solder. If the materials are not clearly stated on the package then that solder is not appropriate for the production of lead bullets.

    The two types of solder that are useful in the bullet casting process are as follows:
    1. 95/5 Solid Wire Solder which contains 95% tin and 5% antimony.
    2. 60/40 (or 50/50) Solid Wire Solder which contains 60% Tin and 40% lead (or 50% tin and 50% lead).
    The 95/5 Solid Wire Solder is the best choice for casting lead bullets. The 60/40 (or 50/50) Solid Wire Solder is the next best choice. Each type of solder contains an adequate ratio of tin plus at least one other metal used in the casting process. None of these solders contains any extra metals or any type of additional compounds in its core.

    However, these solders are not as easy to find as they once were (June 2009). One store that usually sells at least one of these solders will be your local Ace Hardware Store (or the Ace Internet Store). If you can't find one of these solders locally then you can always do an internet search and locate a plumbing supply store that sells these solders over the internet.

    How to Add Tin:
    1. If you are using a 95/5 solder then multiply the weight of the lead wheel weights by 0.017 (1.7%) and add approximately that much solder to your melting pot.
    2. If you are using a 60/40 solder then multiply the weight of the lead wheel weights by 0.026 (2.6%) and add approximately that much solder to your melting pot.
    3. If you are using a 50/50 solder then multiply the weight of the lead wheel weights by 0.033 (3.3%) and add approximately that much solder to your melting pot.
    4. Remember that the wheel weights already contain approximately 1/2% tin.
    5. The tin (solder) should be added to your melting pot at the same time you add the wheel weights.
    Mathematical explanation of why the above percentages are correct:
    Let's assume you have five-pounds of used clip-on wheel weights.
    Five-pounds of wheel weights is equal to 80-ounces (5 pounds x 16 ounces per pound).
    The wheel weights are assorted sizes but each one contains a metal clip that will be discarded.
    Assume that the average weight of the metal clip is approximately 4% of the total weight of the wheel weight.
    After removing the metal clip (4%) the net weight of the wheel weights (96%) is therefore 76.8 ounces (80 ounces x 0.96).
    Assume that the 76.8-ounces of wheel weights contain about 1/2 percent tin or 0.38 ounces of tin (76.8 ounces x 0.005).

    For 95/5 Solder add 1.7% solder:
    The amount of 95/5 solder to add will be approximately 1.3 ounces (76.8 ounces x 0.017).
    1.3 ounces of 95/5 solder will contain approximately 1.24 ounces of tin (1.3 ounces x 0.95).
    The total weight of tin will therefore be approximately 1.62 ounces of tin (0.38 ounces + 1.24 ounces).
    The total weight of all the metal (wheel weights and solder) will be 78.1 ounces (76.8 ounces wheel weights + 1.3 ounces solder).
    The percent of total tin in the alloy will now be approximately 2 percent (1.62 ounces divided by 78.1 ounces).

    For 60/40 Solder add 2.6% solder:
    The amount of 60/40 solder to add will be approximately 2.0 ounces (76.8 ounces x 0.026).
    2.0 ounces of 60/40 solder will contain approximately 1.2 ounces of tin (2.0 ounces x 0.6).
    The total weight of tin will therefore be approximately 1.58 ounces of tin (0.38 ounces + 1.2 ounces).
    The total weight of all the metal (wheel weights and solder) will be 78.8 ounces (76.8 ounces wheel weights + 2.0 ounces solder).
    The percent of total tin in the alloy will now be approximately 2 percent (1.58 ounces divided by 78.8 ounces).

    For 50/50 Solder add 3.3% solder:
    The amount of 50/50 solder to add will be approximately 2.5 ounces (76.8 ounces x 0.033).
    2.5 ounces of 50/50 solder will contain approximately 1.25 ounces of tin (2.5 ounces x 0.5).
    The total weight of tin will therefore be approximately 1.63 ounces of tin (0.38 ounces + 1.25 ounces).
    The total weight of all the metal (wheel weights and solder) will be 79.3 ounces (76.8 ounces wheel weights + 2.5 ounces solder).
    The percent of total tin in the alloy will now be approximately 2 percent (1.63 ounces divided by 79.3 ounces).

    A postal weight scale or a kitchen weight scale may be used to weigh the metals that will be added to the melting pot. This scale should be reserved for use only in the bullet casting process and this scale should not be used for any other application due to the danger of lead poisoning.

    Bullet Casting Equipment:

    Cast Iron Melting Pot Cast Iron Ladle Two-Cavity Lee Die
    Cast Iron Melting Pot ($14) Cast Iron Ladle ($8) Lee 2-Cavity Bullet Mold with Handles ($19)

    In order to make good bullets using lead wheel weights you will need a few pieces of equipment and a few other materials as follows:

      Lee Pot IV
    1. Melting Pot: Picture above left. A basic 4.5-inch diameter cast iron melting pot can be used to melt the lead wheel weights. (Note: This item is still manufactured today by Lodge and it is already factory seasoned so it can be used immediately.) This is the way our ancestors made bullets. They would start a small fire, wait for it to burn down to red hot coals, and then put the small cast iron pot over the red hot coals. Then they would immediately add their lead to the pot and wait for it to melt. The pot has pouring spouts on both sides at the top so the molten lead could be poured directly into the bullet molds. Or a cast iron ladle (picture top center) could be used to transfer the molten lead from the pot to the bullet molds. The small cast iron pot was only used to melt lead. It was never used for anything else. That same rule applies today. If you purchase a cast iron melting pot then you should never use it for anything except to melt lead to avoid the dangers of lead poisoning.

      Or, if you wish, you can spend a little more money and purchase an electric melting pot. There are a variety of these electric melting pots for sale from bullet casting companies, such as the one made by Lee called the Production Pot IV (picture on right). The Lee pot has a variable heat control, a ten-pound melting capacity, a twenty-minute melting time, and a bottom pour spout that is under the front edge of the pot so the molten lead can be easily distributed directly into a bullet mold without having to use a cast iron ladle.

      When the wheel weights (and solder) have completely melted you will see a gray layer of molten residue on top of the molten lead. This is the tin and it should not be skimmed off the top. Now is the time for fluxing.

    2. Fluxing the molten lead: The best time to add flux is immediately after the metal has reached its liquid molten stage and before the molten metal has a chance to heat up another 100 degrees or so. Our ancestors used paraffin, or beeswax, or candle wax, or beef tallow as flux. If you wish you may still use any one of these materials today. Or you can purchase a special bullet casting flux from any company that sells bullet molds. Immediately after the metal has reached its liquid molten stage, add a small amount of the flux to the pot. About a teaspoon of flux will do but the amount of flux depends on the amount of metal in the pot and the amount of impurities in the metal. If you are melting more lead and it has a higher percentage of impurities then you will need to add more flux. The flux will smoke and it may even catch fire. However, continue to stir the flux into the molten metal until the solution is well mixed. Fluxing helps to keep the tin and the antimony mixed with the molten lead but it causes any other impurities to separate out and float to the top surface where they can be scooped off with an old tablespoon with a wood handle (or a cast iron ladle). These impurities will look like a dark gray powder. If you are using wheel weights the metal clips will also be floating on top of the molten lead at this time. Use a slotted spoon with a wood handle to skim the metal clips off the top of the molten metal. You may need to flux the molten metal more than once if it contains a lot of impurities.

      The impurities and foreign matter on top of the molten metal is called "dross." The dross needs to be scooped off the top of the molten lead and set aside. Later, after the dross cools down, it should be safely discarded because it contains lead particle residue.

    3. Bullet molds: Picture above right. Now is the time to fill the cavity (or cavities) in your bullet mold. Complete detailed instructions on how to prepare and use your bullet molds will be contained inside the box with your new molds. Follow those instructions carefully.

    4. Pouring the lead: The molten metal should be carefully poured into the small opening in the sprue plate on the top of your bullet mold. This can be accomplished using a cast iron ladle (picture above center). Or, if you have an electric melting pot with a bottom pour spout, then you can distribute the molten lead out the bottom of the pot through the special front spout. If you have a new electric melting pot then it will come with detailed instructions on how to use and care for your new equipment.

    5. Allow the lead to harden into a "soft" bullet: After a little practice with your new mold you will learn how long to wait before you knock the sprue plate open, and then how much longer to wait before you open the mold and gently "knock-out" the new lead bullet(s) onto a dry clean soft towel (folded at least two layers thick). If you are wearing heat resistant gloves (such as welder's gloves) then immediately pick up the hot bullet from the dry folded towel and transfer it onto a wet towel in a cool water bath. The cool water quenching bath should be at least four-feet away from your lead melting pot. You should then immediately fill the bullet mold cavity with fresh molten metal. The bullet mold needs to be kept hot and the easiest way to do this is to not pause and inspect your bullets as you make them but to keep the bullet casting process going continuously. This is especially true if you are casting hollow-point bullets because the hollow-point tip "or pin" needs to be kept very hot for it to form a proper cavity in the top of the hollow-point bullet.

    6. Cool Water Quenching Tray: The cool water quenching tray should have been prepared before you cast your first bullet.

      Cool Water Quencing Tray A shallow plastic pan or metal pan about two-inches deep may be used for quenching. (This pan should never be used for anything except bullet quenching to avoid lead poisoning.) Fold a towel and place the folded towel in the bottom of the quenching pan (or use two smaller hand towels). Then fill the quenching pan with cool water and a few ice cubes. The folded towel (or two small hand towels) should be at least one-inch below the top surface of the cool water. Cool water quenching needs to be started as soon as possible after you remove the hot bullet from the bullet mold. However, you should never drop a hot bullet from the mold directly into the quenching water. If any water splashes onto your hot mold it could damage the mold. Or the water may later drop off the wood mold handle into the molten metal inside the melting pot and this would be dangerous. Therefore, if you are wearing heat resistant gloves, or if you have an assistant, then transfer the hot bullets from the dry towel onto the wet towel inside the cool water bath as soon as possible after removing them from the bullet mold to maximize the heat treating process. Be careful to not let any water splash onto your gloves or you will be transferring the water to your melting pot area and this would be dangerous.

      After your bullets have cooled down inside the cool water bath for about ten-minutes (or at the end of your bullet casting session), you may remove the bullets from the cool water bath, dry them off completely with a clean dry towel, and then set them aside at room temperature. The bullets will gradually continue to get harder for a period of between one to three-days. At that time the bullets will have reached their maximum hardness and the next step in the bullet making process may be followed.

      Do not wash the above towels with your ordinary laundry. The above towels may contain tiny particles of lead. Keep these towels separate from your other towels and only use these towels in the bullet casting process.

      Optional Oven Heat Treating Method: If you feel that you may not be able to follow the above quenching procedure without having some type of accident, then you could heat treat your bullets on another day using the "oven method" and a baking pan that will fit inside that oven. However, since you are working with lead bullets whatever oven and baking pan you use for heat treating lead bullets must never be used for anything else to avoid lead poisoning. A small portable electric oven with an accurate reliable thermostat will do the job. Preheat the oven to 450F (232C). Line the bottom of the baking pan with a piece of aluminum foil. Stand the bullets upright on the aluminum foil so there is a small space between each of the bullets. Place the pan of bullets inside the 450F (232C) oven. Wait one-hour. Remove the pan of bullets and immediately transfer the bullets into a cool water quenching bath. Then follow the above cool water quenching tray instructions. (Note: Do not exceed an oven temperature of 450F (232C). The average bullet made from clip-on wheel weights will begin to deform at a temperature of about 465F (240C). If deformation begins then you will have to completely remelt the bullets and recast them a second time.)

      Liquid Alox
    7. Lube: There are a variety of ways to lubricate a cast bullet. Most websites and most of the older literature recommends the old way which is to simply lube the bottom grooves of a cast lead bullet. However, if you follow the above bullet casting procedure then you should lube your newly made bullets the new way as follows:

      Place your hardened bullets in a bowl (only used for bullet casting) and then add a little Liquid Alox bullet lube (picture on right, cost about $5.00). Shake the bullets around inside the bowl until they are covered with the lube. Pour the bullets onto wax paper and let them dry for at least 12 hours. (Note: If you size your bullets then lubing will probably need to be done before and after sizing.)
    Sizing was once necessary because the original bullet molds were made of cast iron. Most of the older bullet casting literature discusses sizing in great depth. Today's modern aluminum bullet molds and steel bullets molds will generally produce high quality bullets that do not need sizing. If you have a micrometer then you can determine this yourself. It should be noted that different alloys will yield slightly different finished bullet diameters and bullet weights using the same exact bullet mold.

    Sizing Decision: To determine if your bullets need to be sized, seat one lubed bullet the proper depth into a brass case. Then insert that cartridge into your firearm chamber. If the bullet does not freely enter the chamber then this batch of bullets needs to be sized (or the bullets need to be remelted and some of the tin scooped off the top of the molten lead before fluxing so the finished bullet diameter will be smaller after casting). Sizing must be done before seating the bullets into brass cases. Lubing must be done again after sizing. There are a variety of websites that describe how to size a bullet using a special sizing die that exactly matches the caliber of bullet you are making. You will need a special sizing die for each caliber bullet that you make.

    How to Size Before Casting: It is possible to adjust the diameter of a bullet prior to casting by changing the tin percentage. If you use clip-on wheel weights without any extra tin added to the melting pot, then the final hardened bullet will have its minimum possible diameter. If you increase the percentage of tin you can increase the diameter of the bullet as follows:
    The older cast iron bullet dies also took more time to heat up and therefore the first five, ten, or fifty bullets were of poor quality and they had to be set aside so they could be remelted at a later date and reused in the casting process. Today's modern aluminum bullet molds and steel bullet molds will usually produce good quality bullets immediately, or after only one or two poor quality bullets have been cast and set aside.

    Online Sellers of New Bullet Molds:

    Bullet molds may be purchased online from any one of the following companies:

    Lee Aluminum Bullet Molds:
    My personal preference is the Lee Two-Cavity Aluminum Bullet Mold because it comes with its own wood handles already attached.

    Lyman Hollow Point Mold Lyman Steel Bullet Molds (picture on right):
    My personal choice for hollow-point bullets. Each bullet mold has a single bullet cavity that includes the hollow-point "pin" or plug. However, you must purchase the wood mold handles for these molds separately. Each bullet mold cost about $77. The wood handles cost about $42. Shipping is currently being quoted at 10 to 15 business days (June 2009). These steel molds must be coated with machine oil after each use and before putting them into storage. When removed from storage the machine oil must be completely removed before the mold is used to cast bullets. The oil coating helps to prevent rust on the steel mold while it is in storage.

    Lee, Lyman, and RCBS Bullet Molds (MidwayUSA.com):
    This company sells the Lyman Steel Bullet Molds at a lower price than the above website. However, their selection of bullet molds is not as extensive and some of the more popular bullet molds are frequently on backorder. However, this site is worth looking at first to see if want you want is currently in stock for immediate shipment.

    Smokeless Powder Footnote for Cast Lead Bullets: For many years most references recommended a fast-burning powder for jacketed bullets and a slow-burning powder for cast lead bullets. However, at the current time the Speer Reloading Manual # 14 (2007 edition) recommends a medium-burning powder for cast lead bullets. This is important because it means that a fast-burning powder inside a factory-loaded cartridge is now much closer in performance to the medium-burning powder currently recommended for cast lead bullets.

    Historical Criticisms of Cast Lead Bullets:

    The fact that cast lead bullets are not jacketed has resulted in a lot of bad publicity for these bullets. The reason is because of "lead fouling" inside the firearm barrel.

    When lead fouls the inside of the firearm bore it gets deep down into the rifling grooves. And as it gradually builds up it interferes with the accuracy of the shot. And lead fouling can be difficult and time consuming to remove.

    There are several things that can be done to minimize the problem of lead fouling:
    1. Clean the Bore Before Using Lead Bullets: Thoroughly clean your firearm barrel before you start using lead bullets. Make sure you remove all traces of your "jacketed bullets." If necessary, use a gun cleaning solvent to remove all the residue inside the barrel. Then push a few clean dry patches through the barrel to make sure it is both clean and dry. If you start with a truly clean barrel that contains no traces of your previous "jacketed bullets" then you will have significantly reduced the possibility of a future lead fouling problem.
    2. Bullet Size (Diameter): The diameter of the cast lead bullet should be between 0.001-inch to 0.003-inch larger than the diameter of the inside bore of the firearm. This keeps the powder gases behind the bullet so the gases can push the bullet forward out the front end of the barrel. You can increase the diameter of a bullet from an existing bullet mold by adding between 1% to 4% tin to the metal mixture prior to casting.
    3. Bullet Softness: If the lead bullet is too soft it will not pick up the rifling inside the barrel and it will exit the barrel without having any spin imparted to it. Without spin the bullet quickly looses its accuracy. This problem can be resolved by heat treating the cast lead bullets.
    4. Heat Treating: Heat treating must be done before you lube the bullet and before you seat the bullet into a brass shell case. Heat treating ordinary lead wheel weight cast bullets will significantly increase their hardness. A harder bullet will shoot more accurately and it will leave significantly less lead behind in the firearm barrel.
    5. Bullet Lubrication; Most of the old literature only recommends lubing the bottom grooves of a cast lead bullet. This meant that the nose of the bullet was bare lead and therefore it could easily deposit lead particles inside the firearm barrel as it made its way through the barrel. However, the current literature recommends lubing the entire surface of the bullet. This puts a hard finish over the entire lead surface of the bullet and therefore it helps to minimize potential lead deposits inside the firearm barrel.
    6. Clean the Bore After Shooting Lead Bullets: There is no solvent that will dissolve and remove lead deposits. If you try to use a chemical strong enough to dissolve lead it will also attack the inside of the firearm barrel. To remove any tiny lead deposits inside the firearm barrel you will need to use the stiff bristle cleaning brush that came with your cleaning rods. This stiff bristle brush will loosen the lead and break it free from the inside of the barrel. Then you can remove the tiny lead particles with a clean patch that has been very lightly moistened with solvent or gun oil. After all the lead has been removed you should finish cleaning the barrel using whatever cleaning procedure you normally follow.

    How to Reload Ammunition

    You now have all four ammunition components: the brass case, a Boxer primer, some smokeless powder, and a bullet. You now need to be able to safely and correctly assemble these four items together into an ammunition cartridge. To accomplish this task you will need the following minimum reloading equipment.

    RCBS Reloading Press Reloading Die Set
    RCBS Reloading Press 3 Piece Die Set for Handgun Ammo

    1. A Single Stage Reloading Press: A reloading press holds the reloading dies (one at a time). The reloading process includes removing the used primer (decapping), resizing the brass case to its original dimensions, expanding the case mouth slightly to facilitate the installation of a new bullet, installing a new primer, and seating a new bullet at the proper depth in the cartridge (and sometimes crimping the case mouth around the new bullet). A good press provides the mechanical leverage so these tasks may be easily accomplished manually. The sequence of activities is usually done in batches. For example, if you are reloading 20 cases, then you would perform the first operation on all 20 cases. You would then change dies and perform the second operation on all 20 cases. And so on.
      Note: A new reloading press will come with an instruction manual and it will contain all the information you will need to properly and safely use and take care of your new equipment. Therefore I am not going to include that information in this article.
      Note: The RCBS Reloading Press in the above left picture was purchased new in 1974 and it is still in excellent condition and it still functions flawlessly.

    2. Reloading Dies for each caliber:
      2 Piece Die Set for Rifle Ammo: Contains a decapping/resizing/expanding die, and a bullet seating die. (Note: Some rifle sets include 3 dies.)
      3 Piece Die Set for Handgun Ammo: Contains a decapping/resizing die, and an expanding die, and a bullet seating die. (Note: Some handgun sets include 4 dies.)
      Note: All reloading dies must be adjusted to work properly with the caliber and case you are using. However, all new die sets come with a very detailed set of instructions for using and adjusting the dies in that set. Therefore I am not going to include that information in this article.
      Note: Pistol Carbide Die Sets do not require case lube. This is a significant advantage during a long-term hard times event when case lube may not be available. The Lee Brand Carbide Die Sets also come with the Shell Holder and a powder measure as part of the die set. Therefore, if you are purchasing new dies, then pay the small extra premium for the carbide pistol dies. If the die set does not specifically say "carbide" then it is not a carbide die set.
      Note: Rifle dies do require case lube. Therefore if you will be reloading rifle ammunition you will still need a Lube Pad.

      Shell Holder Deburring Tool
      Shell Holder Deburring Tool

    3. Shell Holder: The shell holder keeps the empty brass case in the exact center position of the reloading press. Since different calibers have different shell case diameters, there is no universal one-size shell holder that works for all calibers. However, some shell holders will accommodate more than one caliber. For example, the 38 Special and the 357 magnum both use the same size shell holder. Some die sets include the shell holder but some do not. If the die set you purchase does not specifically say that it includes the shell holder then you will need to purchase this small item for the caliber you need. Each company that makes reloading dies also makes shell holders and the part numbers they assign to their shell holders are different than the part numbers a competitor will assign to their shell holders. Therefore, do not rely on a shell holder part number unless you are buying the same exact brand shell holder as your reloading dies. Instead read the back of the shell holder package and select the correct size shell holder for the caliber you are reloading.

    4. Deburring Tool (or case trimmer): This small tool has two cutting ends. It allows you to remove any tiny burrs on the mouth of the case. The pointed end of the tool fits inside the case mouth and when you rotate it you will trim off any tiny burrs on the inside mouth of the shell case. The opposite end of the tool fits around the outside of the case mouth and when you rotate it you will trim off any tiny burrs on the outside of the shell case.

      Block for Cases Case Lube Pad Primer Tray
      Plastic Block for Holding Brass Cases Case Lube Pad Primer Holding Tray

    5. Plastic Block for Holding Brass Shell Cases: This plastic block holds the empty cases upright while you are working on them. It holds the empty case primer side down. This allows you to fill each individual case with gunpowder. Since the case is upright the powder will stay inside the shell case. The trays are designed so the shell case extends a reasonable distance above the top of the plastic block so you can pick up each shell case. The above illustrated block is a universal block and it may be used with pistol and rifle cases because it has both shallow and deeper holes. Make sure the block you purchase is designed for the caliber of ammo you will be reloading. (Note: The plastic case that comes with some brands of new factory-loaded ammo holds the ammunition with the bullet side down and the primer side up. This will not hold the empty shell case in the correct position for reloading that caliber of ammunition.)

    6. Case Lube Pad: Lubricate the pad with some special case lube (not bullet lube) and then roll your clean empty brass cases back and forth on top of the lube pad to lube the outside of the brass cases. After you have lubed the cases they will enter and withdraw more easily from the reloading dies without damaging the brass cases or the dies. The case lube pad in the above illustration is an old pad and it has seen a lot of use.

    7. Primer Tray: This relatively flat tray will hold several primers in a loose random manner. This makes it easier to pick up and use the primers one-at-a-time.

      Powder Scale Powder Measure Measurement Gages
      Powder Weight Scale Powder Measure Two Measurement Gages

    8. Powder Weight Scale and Powder Measure: A Powder Weight Scale will allow you to precisely measure the exact weight of powder required. A Powder Measure dispenses the same exact amount of powder into each empty brass shell. You could purchase both pieces of equipment. But if your finances are limited then you really only need the Powder Weight Scale. It allows you to measure the weight of the powder in the small metal tray and then you can pour the powder from that tray directly into an empty brass shell case.

    9. Measurement Gage: You may need a measurement gage (caliper or micrometer) to verify specific critical dimensions of your cast iron bullets and your hand-loaded ammunition. You have two options. A simple dial gage is manually operated and it does not use any batteries. A digital gage will also do the job but it will not work unless you have a battery. If you are anticipating the use of this gage during a hard times tragedy event when replacement batteries may not be available, then the manual dial gage would be the better choice even though it relies on the "old technology."

      Case Expanding Die Speer Reloading Manual Lyman Reloading Handbook
      Universal Case Expanding Die ($12) Speer Reloading Manual ($39) Lyman Reloading Handbook ($23)

    10. Universal Case Expanding Die: If you will be casting your own lead bullets and loading them into your brass shell cases then you will also need to flare the case mouth slightly to accept your new lead bullets. Lee makes a Universal Case Expanding Die (Lee part number 90798) that will work with all calibers from 22 to 45 caliber. It cost about $12.00 and since it can be used with almost any caliber bullet it is a great value, in my opinion. One of the places where this item can be purchased on the internet is from MidwayUSA.com (Midway part number 140461). It might also be available at your local gun store.

    11. Reloading Manual: You will need a relatively recent edition of a reloading manual. It will list the exact powder weight to use with each grain weight bullet for each caliber. At the current time the industry standard is the Speer Reloading Manual, Number 14, 2007 Edition (picture above center).

      Frequently you will see older reloading manuals for sale at a deep discount. I suggest that you not buy a really old manual for two reasons: (1) the powder brand names change over time, and (2) new caliber bullets are designed and introduced into the marketplace. Old reloading manuals will not contain information on these new calibers (such as the Glock 45 GAP), and they may not have any data on the powders currently being sold at gun shops.

      If you can afford it you should purchase reloading manuals from two different publishers. For example, the 49th Edition of the Lyman Reloading Handbook (picture above right) was published in the year 2008. Although both the Lyman and the Speer manuals will have some data on the same exact grain weights of bullets in a specific caliber, each manual will also have some grain weights listed that are not included in the other manual. In most cases the Lyman manual has more data on more different grain weight bullets in each caliber than the Speer manual. The Lyman manual also has a six-page article on cast bullets. Therefore, although the Lyman manual is not the most recommended one in the reloading industry, it is the manual I personally prefer. Even though the Lyman manual has fewer pages, each of those pages is almost twice the size as one page in the Speer manual. Finally, neither manual has color pictures, if that is important to you.
    If you are looking for a reliable good quality reloading press that will last at least one lifetime then you should seriously consider the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Single Stage Master Reloading Set. This set contains all the basic reloading components you will need, except for the appropriate reloading dies and shell holder (which are unique for each caliber bullet).

    Your local gun shop may have this Reloading Press Set in stock. They may not sell the Entire Set as a single item but they may have each of its components for sale on an individual basis. Therefore you should visit your local dealers first. Or look in your local yellow page phone book and call your local gun shops on the telephone. If you can't find the reloading equipment you want locally then the following three internet sellers may have this item in stock:

    The following prices (June 2009) are for the complete RCBS Reloading set which includes: Rock Chucker Supreme press, 505 Scale, Uniflow Powder Measure, Speer Reloading Manual (#14 is the 2007 edition), Hand Priming Tool, Hex Key Set, Universal Case Loading Block, Case Lube Kit and Case Lube, Powder Funnel, and a Chamfer/Deburring Tool.

    MidwayUSA: Price = $289.99

    Gamaliel: Price = $337.96

    Cabelas: Price = $699.99
    Note: The price includes a high quality electronic powder scale. If electricity becomes intermittent or unreliable, then a less-expensive manual powder scale would be a much better long-term hard times investment.

    How to Remove a Bullet and a Primer from a Live Cartridge

    Always wear safety glasses when using any type of bullet puller.

    Bullet pullers are only designed for centerfire cartridges.

    Never insert a rimfire cartridge or a black powder cartridge into a bullet puller. You may accidentally fire these cartridge using a bullet puller.

    Kinetic Bullet Puller Kinetic Inertial Bullet Puller: To safely remove a bullet from a live cartridge you will need a kinetic inertial bullet puller. A bullet puller looks like a hammer. The bullet puller illustrated in the picture on the right is a universal puller and it will work with most handgun and rifle calibers.

    To use a kinetic bullet puller, a new factory-loaded centerfire cartridge is inserted bullet end first into the large top end of the puller. The cap is then tightened around the base of the cartridge case. The opposite plastic end of the puller is manually hit against a hard solid surface. The cap holds the shell case in position but the bullet still contains downward kinetic energy and it will try to pull free from its case. Several short medium strength blows are preferred to one or two heavy blows. After several medium blows the bullet will separate from its case and the bullet and the gunpowder will fall into the hollow cavity end of the puller. You can see through the green plastic and you will be able to see the bullet and the powder mixed together in the bottom of the bullet puller. You can then pour the powder and the bullet out the small hole in the side of the puller. You can then remove the cap and salvage the brass shell case with its primer intact.

    If you use a solid wood block as your striking surface, then the bullet should pull free from its case after about 5 or 10 medium strength blows. If you exceed twenty blows and the bullet is still inside its original shell case then you are not using enough downward force. Increase the amount of pressure a little bit and keep striking the solid wood block. After you have successfully removed two or three bullets from their cartridges, you will get a pretty good feel for how much strength to use to loosen the bullet in somewhere between 5 to 10 blows.

    After you remove the bullet from its case, you will have some gunpowder and a live primer (the primer will still be in the bottom of the brass case). The bullet might also be of use to you. After you remove the primer you will also have the empty brass case that might be of value to someone else. Therefore, save the empty cases and the bullets in addition to the gunpowder and the primers.

    Bullet Puller and Collet RCBS Bullet Puller with Collet Purchased Separately: Bullets can also be removed using a standard reloading press and a special collet die holder and a collet die of the correct diameter that matches the diameter of the jacketed bullet you wish to remove. RCBS makes this special collet die holder (Midway part number 680804, price $21.49) and the individual collet dies for each bullet caliber (price $12.49 each). Using your reloading press to remove a jacketed bullet is easier than using the above kinetic inertial bullet puller.

    However, the kinetic inertial hammer-like bullet puller will work with almost all caliber bullets whereas the RCBS bullet puller die requires a special collet die for each individual caliber.

    In the picture the bullet puller is on the left side of the green box. The collet which was purchased separately is shown in the middle of the green box.

    There are also some other special tools that could be used to remove a bullet from a brass shell case. However, to keep this article to a reasonable length I will not discuss those other special tools.

    There are also a variety of dangerous unsafe ways to remove a bullet from a live cartridge. Do not attempt to remove a bullet from a live cartridge using a pair of vise-grip pliers, or a bench vise. If you crimp, dent, or crush the rim of a live cartridge you could ignite the primer and the bullet will fire out the end of the case, or the case may rupture and explode. Therefore, do not attempt to remove a bullet from a live cartridge using pliers or a bench vise, even if you read somewhere on the internet that a person claims to have done this safely. This is not a safe way to remove a bullet from a live cartridge.

    Primer Removal: The live primer may be removed using a standard reloading press by inserting the brass shell into the correct size shell holder and then slowly and gently pushing out the primer using the correct size die punch. Almost everyone who has any experience with reloading has had to occasionally remove a live primer that didn't fit into the empty shell case correctly. Since we work with these tiny primers all the time we don't give it much thought. However, removing a live primer may ignite the primer. Therefore, if you are going to remove a live primer you should take all the appropriate safety precautions, such as wearing safety eyeglasses, a long-sleeve shirt, and leather gloves. If the primer is accidentally ignited then it will fire its small denotation charge up and out the open top end of the empty shell case. However, since the brass case is empty there will be no gunpowder to explode (or bullet to be fired).

    Lee Decapping Die Lee makes a Universal Depriming and Decapping Die (Lee part number 90292) that can be used on all caliber brass shell cases (price about $10.00). The inside of the die is larger than the outside of the biggest brass shell case. And the decapping pin is in the exact center of the die. Therefore, if you have a shell holder of the correct size, this die can be used to remove the primer from any size brass case. One of the places on the internet where this item can be purchased is MidwayUSA.com (Midway part number 136543). Or you may be able to find this special die at your local gun shop.

    Note: If a live primer is accidentally ignited, then the detonation compound inside the primer will flare up through the top of the empty brass shell case and enter the inside of the oversized decapping die and then be forced back down around the outside edges of the die towards the bottom of the press. This has not yet happened to me so I can't describe what damage might be done to the decapping die. It is possible that the die decapping pin may become bent or damaged.

    Note: Primers are factory matched to the exact powder used inside the cartridge. Do not try to use a different primer with a different powder. A potential disaster may result. Therefore, carefully label your primers and your powder so you will know which ones may be safely used together. The powders used at ammo factories can vary from one production lot to the next. Even in the same exact bullet the powder may be different from one box of bullets to the next box. The factory is able to precisely determine exactly how much powder is required to produce the required accuracy for that type of bullet. If the production quality of the powder varies, the factory can easily adjust the powder charge so the cartridge still delivers the required accuracy by the final consumer. Therefore treat each individual box of factory loaded bullets as being unique, unless the box has a stamped production lot number on it and all the lot numbers match.

    Summary and Conclusion

    For many years I have recommended that an individual would be better advised to invest in factory-loaded ammunition instead of reloading equipment. I still believe that if you can find enough factory-loaded ammunition for each of your firearms then you should invest in that factory-loaded ammunition instead of reloading equipment.

    In my opinion the minimum investment in factory-loaded ammunition would be the following:
    However, if you are not able to obtain a reasonable inventory of factory-loaded ammunition for your firearms, then now would be a good time to seriously consider reloading your existing centerfire brass shells yourself. That is the reason I wrote the above article.

    Following is a very brief summary of some of the more important topics that were discussed in the above article:
    1. You should always save your empty brass shell cases because you may be able to reload and reuse them in the future. It is relatively easy to save the empty brass shell cases from a revolver or bolt-action rifle or lever-action rifle. However, you may discover that it is more challenging to recover all the empty shell cases from a semi-automatic weapon, especially if you are shooting in an outdoor area where the normal ground vegetation can hide the empty brass shell case.
    2. Trying to make smokeless powder at home is not practical for a number of good reasons. Therefore some other source of smokeless powder needs to be found, such as the canisters of smokeless powder for sale at some gun shops or some gun shows.
    3. The primers and the smokeless powder from factory-loaded ammunition in a caliber you do not need may be safely removed and then transferred to your empty brass shell cases that you do need to reload. The bullet may also be used if the bullet diameter, grain weight, and shape matches your requirements.
    4. Factory-loaded ammunition may be safely disassembled using a kinetic inertial bullet puller. This type of bullet puller will work on most calibers of centerfire handgun and rifle ammunition.
    5. A live primer may be removed from its brass shell case using the Lee Universal Depriming and Decapping Die (Lee part number 90292) and a universal reloading press, such as the RCBS Rock Chucker.
    6. Ordinary clip-on lead wheel weights can be converted into good quality bullets if you have the proper knowledge and some basic minimum equipment.
    7. Modern bullet dies will generally produce bullets that do not need to be sized. However, if your firearm requires a slightly different diameter bullet than the one currently produced by the die, then the bullet diameter can be changed by adding or subtracting tin (solder) from the wheel weight alloy.
    8. Heat treating your lead bullets immediately after casting in a cool water quenching bath will significantly increase their hardness. This will significantly reduce the potential problems of gas cutting and lead fouling inside the firearm barrel. It will also improve the accuracy of your new bullets.
    9. Lubricating the entire surface of the bullet with Liquid Alox will put a hard smooth coating around the entire exterior surface of the bullet. This will also help to significantly reduce the potential problems of gas cutting and lead fouling inside the firearm barrel. It will also improve the accuracy of your new bullets.
    10. Slightly expanding the mouth of an empty brass shell case before you seat your new cast bullet will help to achieve a better fit of the bullet inside the brass case (Lee Universal Case Expanding Die, Lee part number 90798).
    The above article does not discuss everything you will need to know to make your own bullets and to reload your empty brass shell cases. The above article also does not discuss every possible safety precaution in the bullet casting and ammunition reloading process. The above article is only a brief summary of some of the more important topics in those areas.

    However, if you purchase a new Reloading Press, and new Reloading Dies, and new Bullet Casting Molds, then those items will contain instruction manuals and detailed instruction pages that will more fully educate you in the reloading and bullet casting process. In addition, the Speer Reloading Manual (or the Lyman Reloading Handbook) contains almost everything else you might need to know.

    If the above article has increased your interest in the reloading process, then one very good website where you can increase your knowledge about ammunition and the reloading process is the following website:


    Target Practice: In closing please allow me to suggest that you carefully ration whatever ammunition you may currently have in your possession. Although practice is important it is not as critical as having ammunition available when you really truly desperately need it, such as for emergency self-defense or for hunting to put some meat into the cook pot. For example, if you consume a box of 50 cartridges each month shooting at paper targets then in just one-year you will have consumed 600 rounds of your ammunition (50x12=600). On the other hand, if you limit your target practice each month to 5 rounds of ammunition, then after one-year you will have only consumed 60 rounds of ammunition. If you only practice once every three months, then you will only consume 20 rounds per year but you will still be able to maintain your current marksmanship skill level (5 rounds of ammunition multiplied by four times per year = 20 rounds).

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