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Old 06-04-2017, 02:42 PM
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Swaged vs Cast lead bullets

Originally Posted by ntsqd View Post
The oft unmentioned or unsaid corollary to that is that nothing we humans experience is truly solid (I'll leave Black Hole discussions for some other thread). I used to work in ultra high vacuum. Using a Mass Spectrometer tuned to detect helium I have seen helium go directly through a .750" thick piece of 316 Stainless Steel. It doesn't happen fast and it doesn't happen a lot, but it does happen.

That is esoteric to this discussion. What is pertinent is to realize that metals can be fluid with enough force. They don't have to be heated to their liquid state for them to flow in a fluid-like fashion. Forging is based on this. These re-shaping tools are essentially forging to bullets to the new shape. In steels and aluminum alloys this leads to a more refined gain structure that flows smoothly thru the new shape. In lead I've no idea. I do know that in centerfire lead bullet shooting that there is a contingent who favor swaged (forged) lead bullets over cast lead bullets, but I am not familiar with their reasons.
If you are buying them skip to the end when you see that note in blue. If you are making them yourself then read on.

Cast all my bullets and have done so since 1967 and I shot benchrest, IHMSA and black powder long range, 600M since then with a variety of weapons. Even have done a tad at 1,000 yards at Perry. Not that means anything.

The "belief" of the folks that favor swaged lead bullets is that they are more consistent and leave no voids. True if you are using a bullet alloy "wire" and have the tools to cut it off to the same dimensions time after time after time and then swage those "bullet blanks".

Also swaged bullets don't introduce any heat when forming so there is no chance for the disparate metals to separate.....unless you let the dies heat up, which they will so you have to keep them cool, like less then 125F.

The base of the bullets, which is a critical factor, not the nose, will be nice and "sharp" using a swaging process....but (see below)

Both are easy to do with precision equipment though and once the wire is checked you can zoom right along.

Tough for a DIY guy/gal to do. With some of the alloys you need a "Paul Bunyon" press to do it. Mucho dinero for that alone.

If you are buying them then skip the next part highlighted in blue.

If you are using say ingots, whether or not you cast short lengths of wire or bullet blanks you still stand the chance of introducing voids or uneven density areas in them so swaging gets you nothing unless you are really good at casting in which case there is no practical difference quality wise between casting the bullet then sizing it vs just making it via the swaging process.

The base "sharpness" only applies to "base" pour molds. If you use a nose pour mold, which experienced bullet castors use, then you can, again if you are careful, easily duplicate the "sharpness".

In many designs there is a gas check required which makes the bases just as perfect as if the bullet were swaged. Does take an extra step though.

In both cases, since you are the quality control you inspect the bullets and if the base is not filled out completely then you reject the bullet. If that happens with a swaged bullet, you either throw it away or melt it down. If that happens with a cast bullet you simply return it to the pot and continue casting.

Another factor is that with cast bullets you can alter the final hardness in a variety of ways because of the high heat. Cannot do that with swaged bullets cause they are cast cold.

There are folks out there that can cast bullets that will run with any swaged ones though. Takes experience and more to the point patience and dedication to quality control.

Much easier to buy swaged bullets then get the equipment and gain the experience to cast bullets that will equal them from an accuracy performance standpoint. IMO and IME that is a major factor. Many folks will simply spend the money on the bullets.

The differences are basically esoteric, just like you mention in your helium reference.

In my opinion and experience, and again I repeat in my opinion and experience, anything that increases the confidence level of the load is worth a whole bunch.

Using a swaged lead alloy bullet generates a mental image that they are more accurate, even though in a particular weapon they might not be, and that mental image creates confidence.

I submit that you would be hard pressed to determine from the results which bullets were cast and which bullets were swaged assuming you were using high quality cast ones.


PS: Many of the long range records using cast bullets are still around, and some cases are close to 100 years old.

Last edited by noremf; 06-04-2017 at 07:03 PM.
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