Bullet Casting - Apartment Style

Last year, I wrote about moving into town and having to leave my reloading bench in storage. In Reloading on the Kitchen Table, I detailed how I built a small portable reloading set up that would let me reload ammo while maintaining an apartment lifestyle. Not too many months ago, I began using a portable set up for casting bullets.

The Lady, for all her understanding of my hobbies, just wouldn't allow me to melt lead indoors. I have to agree with her. Casting should be done in a well-ventilated area. One day, passing through the back door of the apartment I realized that the apartment has outdoors, just like my place in the country. The in-town outdoors is a whole lot more civilized, but it is there nevertheless. With just a little time and effort, I put together a kit that lets me cast bullets near the back door.

Anyone can do this. Apartment dwellers in New York City could cast bullets on their fire escape, or their balcony, or anywhere that fresh air is available. The centerpiece of this outfit is the Lee Production Pot. It is small, lightweight, and electric. RCBS and Lyman make small electric pots and either of them would work just as well.

Click for full size popup photo
Look at this picture. First of all, you will notice an ice chest. Everything I need to cast bullets fits on top of the ice chest, and fits inside it. From left to right, notice a piece of wooden molding I use to whack the sprue plate, On top of the molding is a set of tongs I use to pick up hot metal. Next is a lead ladle used to stir the pot, then a bullet mold, then the Production Pot. If you look closely on the base of the pot, you will see a stub of white candle I use as flux and as mold lubricant. Continuing to the right, you will see an old towel I use to catch bullets, sprues and dross. On the ground beside the ice chest is an old vegetable can I fill with water when I want to water-quench hot bullets.

The top of my icechest hasn't melted yet from the heat of the pot. I usually only cast a couple of hundred bullets at a time, and the base of the pot doesn't get hot enough to melt the ice chest. However, your pot might conduct heat better than mine, so play it safe and put a piece of plywood between the pot and the ice chest.

Paco Kelly talks about water-quenching bullets and I have begun to use this method of quickly cooling bullets cast from wheelweights. If you drop the bullet into the water straight from the mold, the water cools the bullet quickly imparting additional hardness to the new bullet. Hard bullets are good if you are casting for smokeless powder.

So, if I am casting for my pistols and want hard bullets, I fill the mold and let the sprue harden. As soon as the sprue hardens I whack the sprue plate and drop the sprue on the towel. I then hold the mold over the water-filled can and drop the bullets directly into the can. When the bullets are hot, you can hear them sizzle as they hit the water. If you look closely at the picture you will see that there is lead splatter on top of the ice chest. However, the heat of the pot does not melt the chest. The base of the lead pot stays cool enough to touch. Heck, the pot was hot when I took the picture, and the candle stub on the base is still firm. I've thought about buying a small wooden box to hold the kit, but I have the old ice chest.

Click for full size popup photo
These bullets were cast outside my apartment. They are Lee 452-230-2R for my .45 ACP.
After I have cast enough bullets for my needs, I sort the keepers from the rejects and lube the good bullets with Lee Liquid Alox. I am a fan of Liquid Alox for handgun bullets. In partnership with my water-quenched bullets, the Liquid Alox lets me drive bullets to 1300 fps without leading my pistols. My technique is simple. I put my bullets in a zipper sandwich bag, squirt in a little Liquid Alox and squish them around until they are coated. Then I put them on a piece of waxed paper to dry. This batch of 123 bullets was coated with about a teaspoon of lubricant.

When the lead pot is cool to the touch, I can store everything in the ice chest. If you do not want to abuse an ice chest with your casting set-up, any box will do as long as it is sturdy enough to hold the pot. My chest is 16" tall, 24" wide and 15" deep. Something that size is easily stored anywhere. Suitable boxes can be found at lumberyards, craft stores or discount centers. I can imagine that the box could be decorated and used inside the home as décor. Use your imagination.

Finally, casting bullets in an apartment complex lets other folks see us at our hobby. While I was casting the bullets pictured here a teenager walked by and asked what I was doing. I took a minute and explained it to him. He had never seen anyone cast bullets and has an appointment with me next week to learn more about the hobby. He and his dad hunt, but he didn't know that a person could make their own ammo. As hunters, gun owners and citizens, we need to spread the word to our neighbors. If the person next door knows that you are a non-threatening gunner, he or she might be moved to take up the hobby, and we will have won another convert.

Copyright 2004 by Dennis Dezendorf

Home     Back to the Reloading section