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  #1  
Old 01-20-2012, 4:17 PM
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Default Gas Checks and Cast Bullets loading for 44 magnum.

I am still a very new reloader. I've been loading plated bullets for my 44 mag (just because I can't shoot lead at the indoor ranges) over Winchester 231 powder. I've been thinking about doing some more outdoor range shooting, and rather than waste money on shooting plated, I'd like to load some cast bullets.

So I ordered 500 240grain RNFP Missouri Bullet Company .44 smashers. These bullets specifically say "for magnum loads" and I purchased them with the intent of trying out some Winchester 296 powder that I purchased.

I'm all ready to give it a go, but all the data I have in my books for 240 grain cast call for gas checks. My big question is if a cast bullet says "for magnum loads" does that mean its ok to load without a gc? or do my load books (some of which are old) assume that "cast" means soft lead (as apposed to lead alloy mix).

I'd also like to know if anyone can advise me on using 296 - I see load data saying 22.5 grain is max for what I'm trying to do - start 10% below and work up. 10% is only 2.5 grains - that's a pretty small margin. Is that normal with these kinds of powders?
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Old 01-20-2012, 4:47 PM
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I'd rather see you using 2400 with a 44mag cast bullet

I run 21.0gr 2400 with a 240SWC Laser Cast bullet (the LC bullet IS 24bn hardness) out of a 4" 44mag Anaconda
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Old 01-20-2012, 4:56 PM
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My experience with W296 is you have to load it pretty much to where the book load says and that is it. I doubt you will run into much trouble at -10% as a start load but I think you will be disappointed with the results if you go much below this amount. H110/W296 need the pressure for complete combustion.

On the those MBC bullets, I think you will be pushing them beyond what MBC meant with their "Magnum Velocity" claim. BHN 18 bullets are still pretty soft for pushing along at H110/W296 velocities. You are liable to get some pretty bad leading without gas checks. Maybe load the lead with the W231 and save the W296 for some jacketed "wow factor" loads.

I think Whiterabbit did a fair amount of loading lead in big time magnum loads a while back, I can't remember what he experienced, maybe he will be along soon to give you some specific real world advice.

FWIW, I think AA#9 or 2400 are better powders for this application. They download better and yet will give you serious wow factor when you want to step on the gas peddle.
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Old 01-20-2012, 6:02 PM
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I'm really glad for all the advice that can be found here for reloading. As I said I'm still REALLY new to it - and I can't tell you all how much I appreciate the help and advice.

I think I'll stick with the 231 for the lead - the great thing is I can just start running them through without making any changes to my powder measure (since the Berry's plated say to load for lead data).

I guess I'm going to have to go shopping for some jacketed bullets now if I want to use the 296. Next question is where is a good resource for jacketed bullets?
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Old 01-20-2012, 6:50 PM
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I second the Powder Valley suggestion. You can usually get Hornaday XTP's in .429/.430 for about $.20/ea. If you sign up for their email flyers, Hornaday bullets come on sale occasionally, they get down in the $.17-.18/ea range quite frequently in .44's.

Another couple of places to sign up for their online flyers, specifically for bullet sales is Cabelas and Graf and Sons. Both have specials on Hornaday bullets from time to time, usually in the $17-$18 a bix for XTP's.

Have fun, good luck.
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Old 01-21-2012, 7:22 PM
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Just an FYI.....the Firing Line in Huntington Beach allows both lead and jacketed. No semi-jacketed (HP's and SP's)
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Old 01-23-2012, 10:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thomashoward View Post
Check Powder Valley for supplies.
http://www.powdervalleyinc.com/
You can use 21 grains of Unique with a 240 grain Keith type Lyman 429244GC bullet (my load) I have an 8lb of 231 for mild cast loads but have not used it yet
biggest thing is apply a high pull (tight grip) and heavy roll crimp
I use Sierra 240 gr JHC for jacketed loads over 23 GR WW296 w/Fed 155 primers
Remember to use magnum primers for these harder to ignite powders
I would not recommend using this load. Most sources say 11.7 grains of Unique is the absolute maximum charge one should use with 240 grain lead. I don't even think 21 grains of Unique would fit in a 44 mag case, would it?
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Old 01-24-2012, 1:32 PM
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21.0 grains of Unique will blow up your gun due to overpressure, even if you could get it to fit.

I shoot my cast bullets *without* a gas check all the time in Magnum rounds from .357M to what I call ".45 Colt Magnum". The "boolits" are lubed with liquid Alox/Xlox, and there is no lead-fouling. The loads are about 30,000 PSI, and the BHN is between 10 and 12.

Either W296/H110 or 2400 will work great in the .44 Magnum. W296/H110 needs to be close to a max load and typically requires magnum primers. 2400 is more versatile and doesn't need magnum primers, but you may lose 50 ft/sec or so over W296/H110.
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Old 03-03-2012, 3:45 PM
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Yeah need to careful both in giving and using reload info.

I am a big fan of lead bullets for both target and hunting. The Keith style bullet has been "the" go to bullet for the 44 special/mag since its inception and does not have a gas ck. I wouldn't worry too much about not having one on full power loads. I don't know if their still made but a Lewis lead remover is a neat device that makes barrel cleaning easy.
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Old 03-03-2012, 4:16 PM
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I think a GC bumps pressures up about 3-5,000 PSI, but that, too, is off the top of my head, which has seen many suns and is not always reliable.
Modern manuals say 296 should be used exactly as shown with NO reduction. But I don't remember seeing that advice on H-110, and it's the same stuff! H-110 is a great powder, but it's not for indoor use (unless you enjoy pissing off every other shooter in the house) and I don't think I have seen too many cast bullet loads with it (except in the Hodgdon listings)
Have you tried the Hodgdon website? They might have a load in there to try...
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Old 03-03-2012, 5:58 PM
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I'd like to follow up on my test loads.

I had a few XTPs and loaded them over the 296 (around 25) - there is defiantly a noticeable difference between 296 and 231. I also ran a few test loads of 296 with the lead bullets. Didn't seem to have any severe lead left in the barrels of any of my guns - I might try another batch next week of 50 or 100 (I only loaded 12 rounds of lead over 296 for the first batch).

Appreciate the concern with the incorrect load data. I don't think its such an issue of saying one should never use any load data given as much as one should be careful when suggesting AND when applying any load data not published in a book.

Thanks again for all the help and advice.
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Old 03-03-2012, 6:42 PM
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i don't use gas checks cause they add 3 cents to each bullet i make

that extra $3 per 100 can buy me a cleaning brush
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Old 03-03-2012, 8:00 PM
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I'm new here--but not to cast bullet reloading, which I started getting serious about in 19-ought-81 or thereabouts.

BY FAR the most important element to bore leading prevention is the size relationship of the bullet to the bore it is being fired within. Since our thread involves the 44 Magnum and gas check bullets, I'll assume 'revolver' and go forth.

The bullet MUST closely fit the cylinder throats--or leading will occur. Further, the throats should match the barrel's groove diameter, or be perhaps .0005"-.0015" larger than the groove diameter.

Gas checks attached to an undersized bullet will not prevent leading--they will only remove leading after it is laid down after each shot.

A well-fit gas check bullet can perform to the full potential of any Magnum revolver caliber, and beyond. I routinely launch gas-check bullets from 22 to 45 caliber centerfire rifles from 1700-2200 FPS, with accuracy in some cases that surpasses that of jacketed bullets. But fit remains paramount--all the metallurgy on earth or the best lube in existence don't matter a bit if the bullet doesn't fit.

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Old 03-05-2012, 3:59 PM
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I hate GCs, myself, and I use plain base bullets when I load cast. But if they truly do remove leading as it builds, I might rethink that position. I HATE HATE HATE scrubbing lead out of a barrel. It is the one thing that has kept me from touching, much less pushing, the envelope of performance.
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Old 03-05-2012, 4:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CZ93x62 View Post
I'm new here--but not to cast bullet reloading, which I started getting serious about in 19-ought-81 or thereabouts.

BY FAR the most important element to bore leading prevention is the size relationship of the bullet to the bore it is being fired within. Since our thread involves the 44 Magnum and gas check bullets, I'll assume 'revolver' and go forth.

The bullet MUST closely fit the cylinder throats--or leading will occur. Further, the throats should match the barrel's groove diameter, or be perhaps .0005"-.0015" larger than the groove diameter.

Gas checks attached to an undersized bullet will not prevent leading--they will only remove leading after it is laid down after each shot.

A well-fit gas check bullet can perform to the full potential of any Magnum revolver caliber, and beyond. I routinely launch gas-check bullets from 22 to 45 caliber centerfire rifles from 1700-2200 FPS, with accuracy in some cases that surpasses that of jacketed bullets. But fit remains paramount--all the metallurgy on earth or the best lube in existence don't matter a bit if the bullet doesn't fit.
^^ This!

First order of business is proper sizing for your gun. Then we can be concerned with bullet hardness and other such things. There's a dude I know of that shoots BHN 8 at full-house loads of .357M and gets no lead-fouling. These boolits are the plain-base SWC variety. The mould drops 'em a bit big, about 0.3600", and that's perfect for his gun.

Ran into a situation with undersized boolits and .45 Colt in a Super Redhawk 454. The boolits were dropping at 0.4505" to 0.4515". Leaded my bore somethin' fierce. Lee-mented the mould to drop them at 0.454", and the lead-fouling went bye-bye.
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Old 03-05-2012, 7:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wtkaiser View Post
I hate GCs, myself, and I use plain base bullets when I load cast. But if they truly do remove leading as it builds, I might rethink that position. I HATE HATE HATE scrubbing lead out of a barrel. It is the one thing that has kept me from touching, much less pushing, the envelope of performance.
To clarify......well-fit bullets operating within the bullet alloy's plastic limits won't cause leading in the first place. The general guideline for this "limit" is the Brinnell Hardness number (BHn) x 1,422 PSI or LUP. In my experience, there is a lot of "cheat" in this formula, when a bullet fits well.

A gas check can "remove" leading, but the better idea is to have the bullet fit and not lay the deposits down in the first place. The net effect of the gas check is to greatly raise the possible operating pressure of a cast bullet load, therefore increasing velocity and preserving accuracy.

Yes, gas check usage adds to component cost. But few of my handgun calibers make extensive use of gas checks--mostly just magnum revolvers running 1200 FPS+. Most of my rifle castings use gas checks, but not all--the 45-70 at 1873 performance levels needs no gas check. Same story with most pre-1900 calibers at blackpowder velocities (25-20, 32-20, 44-40). The proviso that the bullets fit the firearms' throats is a MUST, however.
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Old 03-05-2012, 9:13 PM
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i can't remember the powder i used, but as nra HPshooter said, i have used oregon trail laser cast, for my 44 mag, (when i had one), now i use them for my 45 LC, (vaquero), to load magnum like velocities, haven't experienced leading issues
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Old 03-06-2012, 7:29 PM
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I just assume (I hear you hollering already, don't spout the old saying) that my .44s are .429 down the barrel and the throats are only a bit looser. So I've tried the swaged SWC's from Speer and Hornady and the barrels of my .44 looked, and were, dreadful. I've slowed the bullets way down, and pushed them as fast as suggested, MAYBE 1000 fps. Made no difference. So if you are telling me that their size alone dictates whether or not they lead the barrels, I am willing to try it. I just thought they did it because Rugers lead barrels!
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Old 03-06-2012, 8:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wtkaiser View Post
I just thought they did it because Rugers lead barrels!
No, sir. E.G., my current 44 Mag revolver (Ruger Redhawk x 5.5") has .430" throats and .429"-.4295" grooves. It came this way from the factory, thankfully. I size bullets to .431", and nary a trace of leading appears, even running plain-base #429421s to 1200 FPS. One fly in the ointment that could appear--but doesn't with this revolver--is a constriction where the barrel and receiver threads compress that juncture. A bit of fire-lapping will remedy that.

Same maker, same vintage--Bisley Blackhawk in 45 Colt. Built backwards, with throats at .448"-.449" and grooves at .452". This was typical practice in mid-1990s Ruger 45 Colts, and a cottage industry emerged to treat the ailment (Cylindersmith, etc.). Ruger called this abomination "a product characteristic", and wouldn't do JACK to correct it. I located a piloted .4525" throat reamer, ran it through the throats and polished them out to .453". I size bullets to .454", and the barrel leading and inaccuracy came to an abrupt halt.

This is a round-about way of saying that you can't rely on makers to get things right dimensionally. They often do--but sometimes not. One last example--a Blackhawk in 30 Carbine bought last year......3085" throats, .308" grooves, .300" lands. Perfect, right outta the box, and it shoots .309" plain-base bullets to 1250 FPS+ without a trace of leading.

To be continued.
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Old 03-06-2012, 8:34 PM
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Awright, we have the gun and its dimensional quirks accounted for--now for the OTHER hurdle to vault--tooling anomalies.

Most modern loading die sets are not very lead-friendly. Lyman dies and RCBS Cowboy Die Sets are exceptions to this general rule, but again we must get our micrometers or calipers out and do a "tale of the tape".

The usual suspect here is the expander spud, which in many die sets (again, using the 44 Magnum as the example) is greatly undersized, owing to current diemakers' "prejudice" toward jacketed bullets. An expander spud diameter of .425"-.426" is about the largest you'll see in most die sets.

This works well with jacketed bullets of .429", which are MUCH tougher than cast or swaged lead bullets. The fact is.....these undersized case mouths will reduce lead bullet diameter of plain-based bullets enough to promote lead deposits--even after all that work to get the bullets sized to fit well.

What to do? LARGER EXPANDER SPUDS, which are sometimes available from die makers, or from that "cottage industry" that has emerged to service the cast bullet hobbyists that mainstream reloading companies are ignoring with enthusiasm. How much larger? Most of my expander spuds are .0015"-.002" smaller than the bullets they are prepping the case for--rifle or handgun.

Lyman "M" dies are GREAT for prepping cases for cast bullets. Again, measure the critters, and if even these run too small, there are folks making spuds to order "out there". No, I'm not one of those folks. I just appreciate what they do, and can direct others to them as needed. Many of them are found at "Cast Boolits", a bulletin board focused on that venue.
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Old 03-07-2012, 12:28 PM
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Lee dies are also very good for expanding the case mouths (flaring). I have loaded tens of thousands of my cast boolits using several such sets, and they handle the boolits with aplomb. Since I tumble-lube, I may occasionally need to clean my seating/crimping die (I do both operations in one step), but that's about it.
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Old 03-07-2012, 7:32 PM
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"Expanding" and "case mouth flaring" are two seperate issues, but are done with the same die part (the expander spud) in most die sets. "Flaring" is the angled start at the case mouth end that gives the bullet a good start--"expansion" is the straight portion of the spud that slightly opens a significant internal length of the case past the mouth edge to hold the bullet in place. It is when this portion of a processed case is too narrow that an otherwise well-dimensioned bullet can be reduced in diameter, even with a good flare set at the case mouth edge.

I have very little experience with Lee reloading dies. I'm glad they work well for your cast bullet reloading! Of course, like Lyman--Lee is deeply involved in producing bullet moulds and other casting accessories, so it makes sense that their die line would do good work with castings.
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Old 03-07-2012, 7:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NRAhighpowershooter View Post
I'd rather see you using 2400 with a 44mag cast bullet

I run 21.0gr 2400 with a 240SWC Laser Cast bullet (the LC bullet IS 24bn hardness) out of a 4" 44mag Anaconda
Do you gc your bullets ?
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Old 03-08-2012, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by biogenic View Post
Do you gc your bullets ?
I'm another who likes Alliant 2400 for top-end Magnum revolver loads using cast bullets. Atop 21.0 grains of the stuff, I would use a gas check design like Lyman #429244 @ .431" in my Redhawk. My "default" alloy (92/6/2) is about 14 BHn, which might or might not work with a plain-base bullet at those pressures. Did I mention that I HATE cleaning a leaded barrel?
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Old 03-10-2012, 9:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bill_k_lopez View Post
I'd like to follow up on my test loads.

I had a few XTPs and loaded them over the 296 (around 25) - there is defiantly a noticeable difference between 296 and 231. I also ran a few test loads of 296 with the lead bullets. Didn't seem to have any severe lead left in the barrels of any of my guns - I might try another batch next week of 50 or 100 (I only loaded 12 rounds of lead over 296 for the first batch).

Appreciate the concern with the incorrect load data. I don't think its such an issue of saying one should never use any load data given as much as one should be careful when suggesting AND when applying any load data not published in a book.

Thanks again for all the help and advice.
Easiest insurance against trouble with H110 (296), as my research indicates, is to use magnum primers and carefully watch the empty space inside the case.

Actually, best insurance is common sense!

-So if you want to flip to mag primers are are near max loads, of course back off a little at first.
-If you are feeling large variation in your shots, and notice lots of empty space inside the case, push the bullet in a little deeper.
-If you push the bullet in deeper, watch the crimp groove. You can get a sense of how far out of whack things are getting by how far you'd have to go to get the "air" out of the case.
-You can crimp over the ogive if needed.
-If you have the time and the rounds to test, you can test how much crimp you need. In MY GUN, I need ZERO crimp. case neck tension holds the bullets in for 4 firings (5 shot cylinder). Other people say they need heavy crimp to prevent bullet jump. So maybe you won't be sensitive to crimp. Maybe you will.

all this? just common sense. based on the idea of keeping freespace to a minimum. Personally, I always use mag primers anyways (not 44 mag). Works well enough to interpolate my own loads for bullets when load data doesn't exist. Just takes some caution and thinking about it a few times over.

It's not rocket science, and lots of powders are REALLY REALLY tolerant to going wild with. I'm just a bit more careful with H110(296) and everything goes well.
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Old 03-12-2012, 12:32 PM
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To emphasize to the OP, since he asked about it:

Gas checks are *not necessary* to keep lead-fouling at bay. I know, a lot of people promote them, but they're not needed. As CZ93x62 pointed out, proper sizing (and lubing) will keep you from leading. Remember that Elmer Keith and many others used plain-base boolits in .357M and .44M revolvers for decades w/o problems. Sizing has already been talked about, so let's talk about the other major contributor to lead-fouling, namely, lack of proper lubing.

What "proper" lubing is, doesn't mean "the hardest wax lube known to Mankind." It means something softer, like the traditional NRA 50/50 formula, or tumble-lubing with liquid Alox or Johnson's Paste Wax. I tumble-lube using liquid Alox. You want that lube soft so that it will actually melt properly and lubricate. That hard blue wax you see on some "hard cast" bullets? I used to buy those. I've recovered some of those bullets after firing and found most of the wax still in the lube groove. Whoops...not optimal. I hit the remaining ones with a coat of liquid Alox, and I got better results.
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  #27  
Old 03-12-2012, 6:18 PM
CZ93x62 CZ93x62 is offline
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There ya go. I'm another huge fan of NRA 50/50 Alox/beeswax for most cast bullet applications. It might have a speed and/or pressure limit, but holds up for me in rifles with gas check bullets to 2100 FPS--so I haven't found its stop-point yet.

I haven't used tumble-lubing at all, though I have used Lee Liquid Alox to coat paper-patched bullets.
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