Old School Lead Bullets

posted on April 12, 2011
lessons_ah2015_fs.jpg (3)

One of the hot topics and products now is lead-free bullets. I use them and like them for many applications. If you need a tough bullet for large, heavy game a Barnes TSX or MRX will take care of business handily. Perhaps you’d like your .223 varmint rifle to perform more like a .22-250; then Winchester’s lead-free, 37-grain hollow point at 3,700-plus fps will dispatch vermin spectacularly at distances that will surprise you.

However, political correctness and self-styled, neo-environmentalism aside, we have been tossing chunks of lead out of iron and steel tubes for a bit more than seven-and-one-half centuries. And for the vast majority of our shooting chores lead is a completely satisfactory projectile.

Unless you are training for ultra-long-range shooting with large, heavy bullets in the 3,000-plus fps range, cast bullets will serve very well for practice and general recreational shooting—and for a lot less money than their modern jacketed or lead-free brethren. Granted, there are some semi-auto pistols that are not recommended to be fed cast bullets—Glocks come to mind—and they probably should not be used in AR-type rifles, but I have put thousands of cast bullets through my 1911s. Even for day-to-day carry I use hard-cast semi-wadcutter bullets in my .44- and .45-caliber revolvers. I have shot several feral pigs with .44 Special and .44 Magnum revolvers, using both my cast SWCs and jacketed bullets. Some were stationary, but at least a half dozen have been on the fly, and I can see no measurable difference in terminal performance between the two, given similar bullet placement.

Back in the 1970s when I got heavily into pistol shooting, I started casting my practice bullets in an iron pot on a Coleman stove with a hand dipper. It was a time-consuming task to turn out 500 bullets—about what I was shooting each week at the time—but a whole lot cheaper than buying bullets. Out of necessity, I became a fairly successful scrounger of lead.

Eventually the grill on the Coleman sagged from all the heat, weight and general abuse it took from casting, and I drifted away from casting my own bullets. However, my renewed interest in cowboy action shooting precipitated a renaissance interest in bullet casting. During this past winter I assembled a new set of casting tools including a couple of electric, temperature-controlled furnaces with bottom-pour spouts. Using four-cavity moulds, I can crank out 500 bullets in less than a couple of hours.

Cast bullets will not take the place of modern jacketed bullets. But given today’s outrageous commodity prices, pouring your own is a good way to stretch your shooting dollar.


How To Turkey Hunt Safely Lead
How To Turkey Hunt Safely Lead

How to Turkey Hunt Safely

FACT: Coming home is more important than coming home with a gobbler.

Turkey Calling by Subspecies

Ever wonder whether the difference between turkey subspecies extends to calling as well? We take a look at the different strategies used to hunt different birds.

Brownells 350 Legend BRN-180 Hunting Rifle Build

B. Gil Horman builds himself a new hunting rig right from the studs, exploring the ways in which an AR-pattern rifle can meet the various needs of most any American hunter.

Knives for Big-Game Hunters

Fixed blade or folder? Drop point or clip point? What kind of steel would you like, and what kind of handle material would you like to grip when using your knife? Answers to these questions make a hunter’s knife just as personal as his firearm.

Recipe: Curried Elk

Have some elk still left from the season? Try this fun recipe to take a bit of the chill off the last cool days of the year.

Review: TriStar Matrix

The Matrix—TriStar’s first inertia-driven semi-automatic shotgun—features a fiber-optic front sight post to naturally draw the eye when pointing at birds and an oversized trigger guard for the comfortable use of cold-weather gear when shooting. 


Get the best of American Hunter delivered to your inbox.