In some previous articles, I covered the Basics of metallic cartridge reloading and casting your own bullets. I briefly touched on the uses for greasing during case resizing, and for your cast bullets. As I had mentioned, it could be an article all by itself. This article will be a basic introduction to the uses of greasing in reloading.
First, the safety talk. You will be using materials that are flammable, can and will produce smoke, and that will need to be heated to be mixed prior to use. So take the necessary precautions for eye safety from pops and spatters, wear gloves and aprons and be mindful of burns. Be careful when heating materials that can and will burn if exposed to open flames or other sources of ignition, and also make sure you are in an area with adequate ventilation as you may produce some smoke or other vapors from combining and heating materials.
Brass case Resizing:The first grease I’ll touch on is for resizing brass cases. There are many commercial dab on, roll on, spritz and spray on greases. This one is easy to make and cheap. The components you purchase will make a fairly large quantity of it as well. Locate some liquid lanolin. Places to look would be health food stores, occasionally I have seen it at Wal-Mart too. I ended up ordering mine from Amazon. It was very inexpensive. Next you will need isopropyl / isopropanol alcohol. Aim for the 99.9% or 100% pure versions. Drug stores, in some cases, paint suppliers, Wal-Mart, as well as online sources. Also pick up a spritz / spray bottle. The bottle can be a re purposed pump hair spray bottle or similar, etc. I have played with different mix ratios, and have found a decent range to work in. 1 part lanolin to 4 parts alcohol. This mix is heavy and I use it for hard resizes, long cases, etc. On the low end, I have tried it as thin as 1 part lanolin to 10 parts alcohol. I like to use this on pistol brass that is going thru a carbide die. And yes, I know you don’t NEED a lube for brass in a carbide die, however I have noticed that a very light lube makes the resize virtually effortless. Always observe good lube and size practices. IE, spritz the lube on, avoid getting it into the case mouth, and avoid resizing ‘wet’ cases. Wait till the alcohol flashes off, otherwise you can make a few pressure dents, especially in shoulder areas. If you do happen to get minor dents, when you fire the case, they will fire form out. Just check your cases for stress and damage like normal. Also, when you change from one case resize grease to another, it is always good to clean out your dies. Disassemble, and wash out with hot water if using water based greases, then rinse with alcohol, and then naptha, taking careful attention to clean out any vent holes if your die has them, using super fine , stiff wire, then dry your dies, and re-assemble. You will likely have to play with your mix ratio a bit till you find what works for you. Always give your spray bottle a shake before using in case the lanolin settles out. Remember that your spray lube is flammable, and so are the cleaning solvents for your dies.
Muzzle Loading Greases:
Whether it is for patched round balls in a long gun, or for a thin smear over the mouth of a revolver cyl, it’s an important step. ( A good grease will show up at clean up time, making your gun easier to clean and with less or softer fouling.
For black powder shooting, you don’t want any petroleum based greases. My favorite grease is a mixture of a few common ingredients. The base is beeswax and unsalted vegetable shortening. From that base, you can add a small amount of olive oil ( other vegetable oils can be added or substituted ). If you need to stiffen the mix up, just proportion the beeswax as a higher percentage, and the shortening as a lower percentage. For a stiff start, go with 60% beeswax, 35% shortening, and 5% olive oil. You can play with the % to get a mix that is the correct consistency for you. I use the 60/35/5 in sunny and warm Florida. It is still soft enough to smear on a patch or into a revolver cyl, but doesn’t melt away or drip off easily. In colder areas, you will likely have to adjust down the beeswax.
Pan Grease for Cast Lead Bullets:
Many cast reloaders like to dabble and make their own bullet lube vs buying pre made greases. Also, unless they are using a combination lubricator/sizer that uses a grease stick, you will have to pan lube, or tumble lube. ( or use some other form of coating for the bullet, such as powder coating ).
As lubes go, many of the commercial suppliers sell cast bullets with fairly hard waxy greases. A hard lube survives heat and handling more than a soft grease.
After researching many of the commercially available greases, and looking at what other casters are using, one type / recipe tends to stand out, and is commonly passed around. I don’t know the full name of who to credit this lube recipe too, however on the internet it is commonly referred to as “ Ben’s Red “. Many people use it straight or modify it slightly as needed. I’ll show the recipe as I found it, and also note the changes I made to it for my own personal use.
50% beeswax, 30% red, tacky, #2 Lucas high temp grease, 10% Johnson’s paste wax, 5% dexron transmission fluid, 5% STP oil treatment.
In Alternate Units:
24 oz / 3 cups melted beeswax. 14 oz / 1 ¾ cups red n tacky grease, 4.6 oz / 2/3 cup Johnson’s paste wax, 2.3 oz / 1/3 cup dexron transmission fluid, 2.3 oz / 1/3 cup STP oil treatment.
Notes: At the original writing of this info, apparently the current dexron version was II, but internet notes say the currently available version will work. Also, apparently Johnson’s paste wax is sometimes nonexistent without ordering online, so Lundmarks paste wax can be substituted.
Melt half the beeswax, then add the ingredients, stirring. The red grease never really melts, it just softens, which is why you need to pre-melt the beeswax. Stir in all the rest of the ingredients, including the last of the heated beeswax. Once it is uniform in consistency, you can pour it out into disposable plastic food containers or pie pans. Once it has solidified, pop it out on some newspaper and section it into smaller pieces to be used as needed. The smaller pieces melt easier.
That’s the straight recipe as I found it many places on the internet. I modify it by adding in some paraffin wax (gulf canning wax ), and also I reduce the stp and add in some Vaseline. Again, it is more of a try and modify, vs a straight by the book procedure.
Once you have your lube, you can place your cast bullets in a shallow pan that is tall enough so that the melted lube will cover the top grease groove. Melt your grease and pour in and allow to set. Once set, you can then remove the cake of lube with projectiles in it and pop them out using a dowel rod. The coloring from the grease makes the lube red, and easier to see in the lube grooves.
This is about the easiest to use lube for cast bullets. Generally, you will want to buy molds that are specifically designed to be used with a tumble lube. These projectiles will have a group of small shallow lube grooves instead of deep grease grooves. Place your cast bullets in a small container and add in some Lee Alox and then swirl them around till fully coated. Dump them out on a sheet of wax paper to cure. ( After sizing, you should re-tumble lube these projectiles. ) Tip: Alox sometimes gets very thick if not used up fast enough. According to the MSDS, naptha is the solvent in this liquid grease, so you can add a small amount back to the bottle and then gently heat the bottle in hot ( not boiling ) water to soften it and allow it to be mixed back in to thin the product.
Using What You Have Learned:
As you can see, the hobby of reloading your own ammunition, and making your own bullets can be fun and rewarding, especially when you can custom make ammunition specifically to fit your firearm and then see the fruits of your efforts on the targets. Many people like to say that reloading doesn’t save you money, but that you get to shoot more. For the most part that is true, however as you have seen here, there are a few things you can do to control costs, like making your own lubricants. Those spray on case greases can cost $5-$10 each for about 8-10 ounces, and you can make a gallon batch for about $17 using a cheap spray bottle, and bulk alcohol and a container of lanolin. The hard lube for your cast bullets will offer similar savings. Once you make a batch, you can use and keep re-melting it as needed. You only loose the small amount in the bullets grease grooves on each use. Your Alox tumble lube, if it gets thick, don’t toss it and buy another, save money and re-thin it with some naphtha. Every dollar you save buying supplies is a dollar you can stretch and use to make more supplies. The lube for your black powder guns exemplifies this. Commercial greases that are commonly sold in ‘toothpaste style’ tubes can cost $10 each. You can make about a gallon and a half of good working lube for that same price.
Grease : Cast Bullets, Muzzle Loading, Brass Case Resizing
In some previous articles, I covered the Basics of metallic cartridge reloading and casting your own bullets. I briefly touched on the uses for...