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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I just finished swaging 50, 44 cal., 250 gr. bullets and thought it might make an interesting read. I have to ask for your indulgence for the lack of pictures. I started to take some but by the time I got started I realized it was going to take enough pictures to illustrate the Sunday paper comics. So, I decided to forego the pictures.

I bought all this stuff from one of our members I believe late last summer or early fall. It took a month to figure out all the dies, presses and jackets because Corbin in their wisdom did not see fit to mark anything....and all I understood was the process, not the details. I finally got everything figured out and in the process learned I needed "cores", the lead that goes inside the jacket. Before ordering the lead wire I thought I better see what else I was gong to need. I needed a "core cutter". A tool which allows you to cut the lead wire consistently to the length you need for the weight bullet you want to swage. Oh, this tool also needs dies of the correct size for the wire. I tried cutting the lead wire with side cutters...that was amusing at best. Off goes an order to Corbin for the core cutter and two sets of dies, one for 44 caliber and another for 38/357 caliber. In about a week everything arrived and I was ready to swage bullets, I thought.

The 44 cal. jackets that Quinn sent are .550 in length. I cut a core long enough to give me a SWC bullet nose and thought this is a heavyweight 44 cal. bullet. It was, about 340 grs. Hmmm. This jacket needs to be a LOT shorter so how do I get there? I have a little mill and knew I could use it to shorten the jackets but had to figure out a way to make it work. I stacked up enough square, steel stock to raise the jacket above the vise on the mill far enough I could mill off enough to make the jackets work. I ended up lining the jaws of the vise with sheet lead so the vise wouldn't crush the jacket yet would hold it firmly enough to mill off the excess length. How much excess length? Back to cut and try. I finally figured out that if I cut the jackets to .450 they would make a 250 gr. bullet when used with the correct length and weight core. Then it was just a matter of setting the stop on the head to that length, clamp jacket in vise and mill off excess, repeat....and repeat....and repeat.

The first step then became to mill 50 jackets to the correct length. It doesn't take long to do one but I am terrible at piece work. No way I could do 50 at a time without being driven to distraction so, I'd mill off 10 or so when the urge struck me until I had 50. I got the 50 jackets made and cut off 50 cores of lead wire. I have the components, now I have to adjust these swaging presses to squash everything the right amount....but how much is that? Cut and try again.

The first swaging process is to swage the cores into a properly sized cylinder. Once the swage and die are set up that's sort of a mindless process and didn't take long. There is 2 bleeder holes in the die that allow excess lead to be bled off thus your cores become very close in weight. It's kinda interesting to watch lead wire come squirting out of those holes as you operate the swage handle. It's also a bit of a waste and the next set of cores I cut were a lot closer and the lead that is bled off is minimal. As 3 swage presses were part of the package deal I grabbed another press and proceeded to figure out how to set up the die that swages the core into the jacket and forms the SWC nose. That didn't take too long and now I'm ready to really make the bullets. I ran the 50 through the swage and had 50 bullets., nearly all of different weights. Ok....what's up with this, what am I doing wrong? I figured out that the amount of pressure you apply will determine how much lead bleeds off into the nose of the die, thus the weight of the bullet. Great, now I need to develop a scale in my arms. I did finally learn to consistently apply pressure and get the bullets to within one grain....and that's as close as I'm going to try to get. There is a lot of "feel" involved in this....and more than a little head scratching.

Here I am with 50, jacketed, bullets of close weight and ready to load them....almost. There is no cannelure. I LIKE a cannelure...I WANT a cannelure. I can crimp them over the shoulder of the bullet but I don't like that, I WANT A CANNELURE!!! Another $100+ later and a CH-4D cannelure tool is on its way to Missouri. It arrives in about a week and I have to figure out how to set it up, where I want the cannelure so the bullet doesn't protrude out of the case too far for the cylinder length and then how to actually apply the cannelure in regards to pressure against the little lever that holds the bullet against two rollers as I spin the knurled wheel that presses in the cannelure. A couple hours later I have 50, 249 gr., + or -, 44 cal. bullets with a cannelure in the correct location. Now I can load them....except. The cores are loose in the jacket...what the? How do I remedy this? Run the darn things through the nose forming swaging die again I guess. And, that worked. It also bled off another gr. of bullet weight....which was fine. They're actually more consistent now and those cores will not come loose!! I loaded up 5 real quick and went to the bench and tried them, taking as much care as possible in firing them from my S&W 696. They are quit accurate. As much as I hate to admit it they will barely out shoot my cast bullets.....just barely. but, the difference is there.

The first batch of 50 I made took an eternity. The second batch...not quite as bad and the third batch? Well, I'm not going to set any land speed records for bullet swaging. It's an interesting process and as with anything you learn something every time you undertake the process. I had read about adjustable core molds and considered one but they are expensive I'll not be purchasing one. Then the thought occurred to me, it's just a full wadcutter mold. Why not any bullet of the approximate weight that will fit into the core swaging die" Yesterday when I was swaging cores I looked through my bullets and picked an RCBS, 35-200 bullet to try. Ha...worked like a champ!! I ended up with a core that was within 2 grains of the cores I cut from lead wire. That won't matter because as you swage the cores the excess lead is bled off and when seating the core in the jacket the remainder is bled and the bullet will weigh the same. No more expensive lead wire to purchase!!!

Conclusion? I think it is much as a friend told me years ago about putting up hay. He told me, "Vic, the ONLY reason to own the equipment and invest the time to put up your own hay is to control the quality." Well, your cows and calves are what they eat and good hay is a good investment. The bullets one can make are as good, if not better than what can be bought. For the paltry sum of about $800.00 a complete set of dies can be had for any caliber bullet. The weight is controlled by you by juggling the jacket length and core length and weight. With conditions the way they are right now it can certainly be a worthwhile endeavor. However, for most of my purposes, a cast bullet of proper alloy and the correct size more than meets my needs and requirements....and its a LOT quicker with a LOT less investment. I'm glad I know how to swage them, glad I have the stuff and never have to worry about jacketed bullets if I choose to invest in more calibers than came with the gear I bought. It's sure been an interesting ride!!!!
 

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GUNZILLA
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At any time in this process did you ever like just melting lead and pour it in mold of your caliber and be done with it for your musket? This is pretty interesting Vic. With some editing and writing it in sequential order with the steps taken along with the process you could publish an article or make it into a sticky.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Not during the process Manny, I had to pay attention to what I was doing. When I finished the first batch some time ago and was reflecting on what it took to make 50 bullets I came to the conclusion in the post, cast bullets make more sense for me.

If I didn't have to mill the cases shorter that would save a lot of time but, you still have to go through all the process of cutting or casting cores, swaging the cores to size then swaging them into the jackets, then the cannelure and re-swage. I just do not see any way to expedite the process. If you cast your cores you might as well be casting bullets. Cast them, size, lube and load. Comparatively speaking, cast bullets are "one and done."
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Ahhh, there he is!!! Dragstrip Trash is who I bought the stuff from. Thanks again Quinn!
 
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Discussion Starter #6
howlin', I mentioned I bought the stuff from a member, Dragstrip trash. I had forgotten his handle until he posted a "like" in the first post. You didn't miss anything, what I said made absolutely no sense unless you knew "the rest of the story."
 

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howlin', I mentioned I bought the stuff from a member, Dragstrip trash. I had forgotten his handle until he posted a "like" in the first post. You didn't miss anything, what I said made absolutely no sense unless you knew "the rest of the story."
Thanks for clearing that up vic. Thought for a minute there some posts had got deleted.
 

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Thanks for the write up. I have looked into swaging and hope to do it someday just for the fun and satisfaction of making my own bullet. The investment is to much right now so I am venturing into shot shell reloading.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Ike, a fella can get into swaging 22 cal. bullets from 22 LR cases fairly economically, if you're looking for that caliber. It's done on a sturdy loading press.
 
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