In the large ammunition factories the pistol bullets are made by the swaging process, with heavy machinery. They are, in consequence, very uniform in density and size. They are packed in boxes of twenty-five and fifty and are lubricated ready for use. While very few persons are able to mould bullets as good as those factory-made, when bullets of a particular shape, weight, or temper are desired, they must be moulded.
The Ideal Manufacturing Company's dipper and melting pot are useful for this purpose. The best quality of lead in bars or pigs should be used. If the pistol bullets are to be hardened, " block tin," which may be had at any hardware store is alloyed with the lead. Weigh the proper quantity of each metal to give the desired proportions. Melt the lead in the pot over a steady fire and then add the tin. At this stage add a small quantity of tallow or beeswax to the molten metal (about the size of a .45-caliber round bullet) and stir briskly with the dipper. This will flux the mixture and make it flow better. After both are melted immerse the dipper and allow it to acquire the temperature of the melted lead. Then fill the dipper and, with the nozzle horizontal, raise it two or three inches above the surface of the lead in the pot. With the mould in the other band, turn it sidewise and bring the pouring hole of the mould to the nozzle of the dipper. Then, with the mould and dipper in contact, tilt or turn both in this position until the dipper is over the mould and the nozzle vertical as shown.
The weight or pressure of the lead in the dipper is thus utilized to force the lead into and completely fill the corners of the mould. It will be necessary to mould forty or fifty bullets before the mould acquires the proper temperature and casts first-class bullets. All imperfect bullets should be thrown back into the melting-pot. Experience has shown that the best results are obtained when the lead and mould are at such temperature that two or three seconds elapse before the lead solidifies in the pouring hole after the nozzle has beenremoved from it. Do not allow the lead to get red-hot, as it oxidizes very rapidly and more dross forms on its surface at that temperature. The dross should be skimmed off frequently and not allowed to collect in the dipper. A new mould will not cast perfect bullets until the surfaces in contact with the lead are free from oil and have become oxidized, assuming a deep blue color.
Provide a soft surface for the bullets to fall upon after releasing them from the mould, as they are easily deformed while hot. The sliding top or " cut-off " should be operated by pressing down the lever end on a board or table, or striking the lever with a small wooden mallet. The mould is then opened, and the bullet drops out. If the bullet sticks in the mould, strike the empty half of the mould on the outside, directing the blow toward the bullet. This will jar the bullet out of the mould without difficulty. Never strike the mould with a hammer or any hard substance, and never attempt to pry a bullet out of the mould or touch the interior surface with an iron implement, tool, or anything that will mar it. The least indentation of the sharp edges of the mould will cause the bullets to stick and make them imperfect. After using the mould, oil the exterior and the surfaces of the joint while warm, wrap in a dry cloth, and keep in a dry place where it will not rust. It is .1 good plan to leave the last bullet (with the neck cut off) in the mould until used again.
The fit of the bullets is very important. Nearly all the bullets for revolver cartridges were originally designed to be used with black powder. Many of them were slightly under size and have concave bases which upset sufficiently, on the ignition of the regulation powder charge, to fill the grooves of the barrel. Reduced charges of black powder, and smokeless powders, even in full charges, seldom upset the bases of these bullets, and the powder gas escapes around the sides of the bullet, which is known as " gas cutting." This is fatal to accuracy. For smokeless powders and reduced loads the concave cavity at the base of the bullet must be large enough to reduce the thickness of the outer rim of the bullet and weaken it so it will be expanded sufficiently by the powder to fill the grooves of the barrel; or the diameter of the bullet should be increased so as to produce the same effect.
A simple test to determine the fit of the bullet is to force it into a clean barrel, and then hold the barrel in the direction of a window or bright light. If light can be seen in any of the grooves around the bullet, it is too small for smokeless powder. The remedy is to have the bullet mould reamed out and enlarged so the bullets will be the proper size.
To determine the actual diameter of the bore of a pistol or revolver, oil the inside of the barrel liberally and then force a bullet into it a couple of inches. With a short wooden cleaning rod, hold the bullet in that position while you drive against it with another rod from the opposite direction, swaging it so as to fill the barrel. This must be done gently and carefully so as not to strain or injure the barrel. The bullet is then driven out and carefully measured with a micrometer gauge.
Many who mould their own bullets prefer to order the mould to cast the bullets the exact size to fit the barrel; while others prefer to have the mould cast the bullet one or two thousandths of an inch too large, and then pass them through a sizing tool, reducing them to the correct size. The latter method insures absolute uniformity.
For smokeless powders the bullets are generally cast a little harder than for black powder, the proportions being from 30 to 1, to 20 to 1, of lead and tin, respectively. To secure good results, the bullets should not vary more than 1/200 in weight.
The next operation after moulding the bullets is to lubricate them. A good lubricant may be prepared by melting together 1 1/2 Ibs. of Japan wax, 1 Ib. of mutton tallow, and 1 Ib. of vaseline. The bullets should be set in a
shallow pan, bases down, and with a small space separating them. The lubricant can then be poured around them until it rises high enough to fill the top cannelure. After cooling, the bullets are cut out of the lubricant by forcing them into the mouth of a specially prepared shell with the top or head cut off. Each bullet is picked up in this way and then pushed out with a round rod. Any lubricant on the base of the bullet should be removed with a cloth before loading. An excellent machine for lubricating bullets is made by the Ideal Manufacturing Company. The machine sizes and lubricates the bullet at one operation. It is rapid, clean, and performs the work perfectly.
Himmelwright, A.L.A.. Pistol and Revolver Shooting. New York: MacMillan, 1922.
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