Casting Minie' bullets

TeachTeach Senior MemberPosts: 18,429 Senior Member
Just before the war of northern aggression, a Frenchman revolutionized the practice of warfare with a new bullet design. Instead of using round balls in smoothbore muskets, or pounding bore-sized balls down a rifled tube with a metal rod and a mallet, this gentleman designed a hollow-based pointed bullet that was heavy in the front and tended to fly like a badminton shuttlecock. The bullet was a loose sliding fit in the bore, even one fouled with powder residue from repeated shots. Originally, the bullet was fitted with a wooden plug to expand the base into the rifling, but it became obvious pretty quickly that this was not necessary- - - -the expanding powder gases swelled the base just fine without the plug.

Even a relatively unskilled foot soldier could manage 5-6 aimed shots a minute, using the new bullet, at effective ranges of 3 to 4 times that of a smoothbore musket. However- - - -there's a catch- - - -if a heavy powder charge is used, part of the bullet skirt can be blown away as the bullet leaves the muzzle, turning the remaining part of the base into a very effective rudder. The bullet becomes wildly inaccurate, and can actually fly in a wide circle and come back to the shooter under ideal circumstances!

My 1860-vintage Pattern 53 Enfield rifle will be available this weekend for anyone who would like to shoot it. I just spent a couple of hours at the casting pot, making some very nice .575" diameter Minie' bullets- - - -pure lead, no alloys, at approximately 520 grains each. They work very well over 60 grains of 3-F black powder, and I've been able to hit a man-sized silhouette target pretty consistently with that load at 100 yards. With maximum muzzle elevation, these bullets will travel several times that far, with a rainbow trajectory and mediocre accuracy at best. When a 9/16" diameter chunk of lead is strolling along at approximately .45 ACP velocity- - - - -I'd rather not be anywhere downrange in case a lucky shot has my name on it! Here's a pic:

DSCF8668.JPG

There's about a 20% reject rate when casting these things- - - - -absolutely no defects can be tolerated in the hollow base!
Jerry
Hide and wail in terror, Eloi- - - -We Morlocks are on the hunt!
ASK-HOLE Someone who asks for advice and always does something opposite

Replies

  • Farm Boy DeuceFarm Boy Deuce Senior Member Posts: 6,083 Senior Member
    Those are a thing of beauty.
    I am afraid we forget sometime that the basic and simple things brings us the most pleasure.
    Dad 5-31-13
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 7,045 Senior Member
    I hear ya on hollow bases being a PITA to cast - the learning curve on my Webley was steep but a good (heat-holding) brass mold and a high pot temperature has 'em popping pretty.

    Sticking with a binary lead/tin alloy will keep the needed malleability in your bases, and the tin will help your mold fillout A LOT. TECH TIP: I've done some minor science in testing carefully segregated range scrap and found that jacketed pistol bullets consistently yield something in the ballpark of 25-1 lead/tin and shotgun slugs are 40-1. Might help.
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • earlyearly Senior Member Posts: 4,950 Senior Member
    I read a book titled Jack Hinsons One Man War. The author said he used similar bullets from a custom mold over 100 grains of powder to make long shots from a custom made rifle. I've often suspected them bullets must have had a much thicker skirt, because I recall you saying how the menie ball skirts would blow off with too big a charge. Darn good book though.
    My thoughts are generally clear. My typing, not so much.
  • TeachTeach Senior Member Posts: 18,429 Senior Member
    I use a 20:1 lead:tin ratio for centerfire rifle and pistol bullets, but smokepole stuff needs to be pure lead. The balls and Minie' bullets won't obdurate well enough to engage the rifling if they're alloyed.
    Jerry
    Hide and wail in terror, Eloi- - - -We Morlocks are on the hunt!
    ASK-HOLE Someone who asks for advice and always does something opposite
  • woodsrunnerwoodsrunner Senior Member Posts: 2,725 Senior Member
    I've got 50 or so old Minnie's from the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain that I picked up years ago. Some were fired, some were simply dropped! That would be "classic", wouldn't it....to bust a Whitetail with a Minnie' that a yankee soldier dropped over 150 years ago!
  • TeachTeach Senior Member Posts: 18,429 Senior Member
    I heard some of the yankee rifles suffered the same fate- - - - -"Never fired- - - - -only dropped once!" BTW, the Brits were equal-opportunity war profiteers- - - -they sold my P-53 to both sides!
    :guns:
    Jerry
    Hide and wail in terror, Eloi- - - -We Morlocks are on the hunt!
    ASK-HOLE Someone who asks for advice and always does something opposite
  • woodsrunnerwoodsrunner Senior Member Posts: 2,725 Senior Member
    Fairly common, especially early in the War, to pick up battlefield dropped Springfields with 3-5-15+ rounds rammed home but a cap never put on the nipple and never fired!

    The Brits sold to both sides.....that's the Market Place! Remember what retired Marine Corps General Smedley Butler said about war and the market!
  • Farm Boy DeuceFarm Boy Deuce Senior Member Posts: 6,083 Senior Member
    I want to shoot that rifle.
    I am afraid we forget sometime that the basic and simple things brings us the most pleasure.
    Dad 5-31-13
  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 19,607 Senior Member
    Teach wrote: »
    There's about a 20% reject rate when casting these things- - - - -absolutely no defects can be tolerated in the hollow base!
    Jerry
    Do you have a picture of your casting setup? I'm particularly interested in the mold as I'm toying with the idea of casting .50s.
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
  • woodsrunnerwoodsrunner Senior Member Posts: 2,725 Senior Member
    I have several hundred pounds of pure lead in sheets of 20-30 pounds each. A friend got it for me from a technician who went around to hospitals and medical facilities servicing X-Ray machines. I was told that the lead sheets in the equipment had to be changed out and replaced with new lead on a schedule. Doesn't make sense to me. I don't see how X-Rays could affect lead, but maybe it can. Anyone here in the medical profession who knows anything about this? Dan? Wonder if this could be a source that could be tapped?
  • TeachTeach Senior Member Posts: 18,429 Senior Member
    Rich, I would be happy to do a little horsetrading with you for a sheet or two of that lead. I can get a pretty good supply of wheel weights for casting alloyed bullets, but they have too much tin and antimony in them for smokepole fodder. Pure lead is a little hard to come by. My dentist used to donate hundreds of the little lead envelopes his X-ray film came in, but he's gone to digital pics now that don't use film!

    Zorba, my casting setup consists of a Lee Production Pot IV, a cast iron pot for melting and alloying wheel weights about 15 pounds at a time, and a 4-cavity Lee ingot mold to make 1-lb. and 1/2-lb. ingots to feed the casting pot. I also have a small 5-lb. electric pot with a handle like a saucepan on it for melting pure lead for my muzzleloader ammo. That avoids cross-contaminating the alloy with the 100% lead. Of course, there are bunches of other accessories like a lubersizer or three for sizing and lubing the cast bullets, and a double boiler (2 coffee cans) for making my home-brewed bullet lube that's made of toilet bowl wax rings, paraffin, and automotive chassis grease!

    ENABLE-ENABLE-ENABLE!
    :devil:
    Jerry
    Hide and wail in terror, Eloi- - - -We Morlocks are on the hunt!
    ASK-HOLE Someone who asks for advice and always does something opposite
  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 19,607 Senior Member
    Yea, that's my intention! I have indeed seen the price of bullets! Besides, it looks like it would be fun.
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
  • TeachTeach Senior Member Posts: 18,429 Senior Member
    Here's some pics:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-HOT-POT-II-FOR-DO-IT-MOLDS-LEAD-MELTER-HOT-POT2-/252400002837?hash=item3ac4366715:g:IJAAAOSwR5dXQyjM

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Lee-Production-Pot-IV-Lead-Melter-LEE-90009-/291722746797?hash=item43ec07dbad:g:lWoAAOSw3mpXMSP3

    A good activated charcoal respirator is a definite plus, as lead vapors are toxic, and they accumulate in our tissues over time. At least have a fan blowing the fumes away while you're casting bullets and/or smelting lead.
    Jerry
    Hide and wail in terror, Eloi- - - -We Morlocks are on the hunt!
    ASK-HOLE Someone who asks for advice and always does something opposite
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 21,857 Senior Member
    cpj wrote: »
    That would be OK if You didn't still have to buy Powder, Caps, and still make patches.
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 21,857 Senior Member
    I have several hundred pounds of pure lead in sheets of 20-30 pounds each. A friend got it for me from a technician who went around to hospitals and medical facilities servicing X-Ray machines. I was told that the lead sheets in the equipment had to be changed out and replaced with new lead on a schedule. Doesn't make sense to me. I don't see how X-Rays could affect lead, but maybe it can. Anyone here in the medical profession who knows anything about this? Dan? Wonder if this could be a source that could be tapped?

    Maybe it get radio active after awhile. Do your bullets ever glow in the dark?.....:roll2:

    Sorry, never miss an opportunity at a good joke. I hope it's a joke!
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 19,607 Senior Member
    Teach wrote: »
    Here's some pics:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-HOT-POT-II-FOR-DO-IT-MOLDS-LEAD-MELTER-HOT-POT2-/252400002837?hash=item3ac4366715:g:IJAAAOSwR5dXQyjM

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Lee-Production-Pot-IV-Lead-Melter-LEE-90009-/291722746797?hash=item43ec07dbad:g:lWoAAOSw3mpXMSP3

    A good activated charcoal respirator is a definite plus, as lead vapors are toxic, and they accumulate in our tissues over time. At least have a fan blowing the fumes away while you're casting bullets and/or smelting lead.
    Jerry

    The Lee was what I have my eye on. I'll do this outside - there's always at least a 5 kt wind blowing.
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 10,255 Senior Member
    How do you put in the hollow base?
    Not too many problems you can't fix
    With a 1911 and a 30-06
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 21,857 Senior Member
    cpj wrote: »
    60 some odd cents a piece? No. That's still not ok. It's a chunk of lead.

    A very important chunk of lead.
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 10,255 Senior Member
    cpj wrote: »
    There's a piece in the mold that creates the hollow spot. It stays in the middle as you open the two mold halves.

    This is for a 45-70, but it's the same principle.

    http://m.ebay.com/itm/221577778384?_mwBanner=1

    Yeah, a light went on right after I posted. Duh...
    Not too many problems you can't fix
    With a 1911 and a 30-06
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 26,106 Senior Member
    Rich, I might be able to shed a little 'light' on that X-ray room lead sheeting. Lead can, and does, become radioactive after continued exposure to X-rays. It's darned mild as radioactivity goes, though. And old CRT TV screen gives off more radiation in the form of X-rays than the lead sheeting ever could. Shoot lead with X-rays long enough and it gets all excited and starts spitting out low power gamma rays.

    They're just keeping the chronic exposure to X-rays/gamma rays at a minimum by replacing the lead sheeting.

    Another thing; that lead sheeting isn't pure lead. It has other small quantities of other 'stuff' in it that can be activated by X-rays over time. Even measured in parts per billion, that's a lot of other 'stuff'.
    If the U.S. Congress was put in charge of the Sahara Desert, there would be a shortage of sand in under six months.



  • woodsrunnerwoodsrunner Senior Member Posts: 2,725 Senior Member
    Mike, Just went down to take a close look at the lead. It may not be 100% pure, but its gotta be very, very close. You can deeply scratch it with your fingernail with very light pressure.

    Jerry, I'll bring up a hundred pounds or so as partial payment on sorting out the sifter. Mike, you need to be thinking about this sifter thing also. Between the three of us, plus anyone else who can come forward with ideas, we can get it done I'm sure.
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