I am looking for some information on the ins and outs of casting lead bullets in volume with the end in view of going into business and selling them. Up front I will say that I have very little experience with casting bullets. I have been shooting and handloading for many years but have never been serious about casting bullets for myself. I am not planning or even thinking of reloading, manufacturing or remanufacturing ammo for sale, only casting lead bullets in bulk for sale. This idea has been in the back of my mind for a while now and the current state of affairs with ammo and reloading components, etc., has made me think about it seriously. Anyone who has relevant experience to share or knows of good sources of information, I would love to hear from you. I'm not interested in getting feed back from anyone who only has an opinion with nothing to back it up. Not trying to offend anyone, but I would rather have one or two helpful and relevant responses as opposed to a bunch of opinions. Thanks in advance!
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I hand cast bullets for my own use in practice ammo. I am a piker compared to a commercial operation.
I cast outside on dry days with temperatures ranging between 40-80 degrees. I usually cast between 150-300 bullets per session before my time, interest or hands fatigue. I water quench my bullets. I am particular about the appearance of my bullets and inspect each one with a 5-15% rejection rate. These rates, methodologies and production strategies serve me fine but won’t really work for a commercial caster.
If you are serious about producing enough volume for retail sales you are going to skip right over the hand casting and go directly to automated casting machines. I have no idea what they cost but probably over $10K per machine. Look at the www.magmaengineering.com website to get an idea.
You will buy specific moulds designed to be run on casting machines. I think multi-cavity gang moulds made of ductile iron are probably going to be the order of the day. Aluminum and Brass moulds can warp if overheated. Aluminum moulds have a narrow sweet spot for casting wrinkle free, void free bullets. Iron is the type with a wider temperature sweet spot.
You will need a large garage type space that is temperature controlled. Also humidity controlled since iron moulds rust easily if neglected. You will need to find out how many air exchanges per hour from a competent hvac tech are needed to keep lead levels in the safe exposure range.
What calibers are you going to cast? Which moulds are you going to utilize? Are you going to offer more than 1 type of casting alloy? Whom are you going to get this alloy from (Rotometals)? Different alloys will produce bullets of different weights and diameters from the same mould.
Are you going to offer different sizing options for the same caliber (ex. .356, .357 or .358 9mm bullets)? You will need to understand why some buyers may want this. Are you using any special moulds that will produce unique bullets or are you using moulds that will yield bullets that most other commercial casters already utilize? Or some combination of both.
Are you going to conventionally lube and size the bullets or coat them or offer both types? Lube sizing machines and or industrial ovens are going to be needed. What bullet lubes are you going to use ? They are certainly not all created equal. The opinions casters have of hard vs. soft lubes are a tastes great less filling kind of affair. I certainly have opinions of which I prefer to work with but my needs and preferences may not translate to macro production.
If you are coating bullets are you using powdered paint from Chicom friends at harbor freight which was never designed as a bullet coating but is probably easier to use ? Or hi tek coating which was designed by our Australian friends as a bullet coating but has a more particular protocol to follow that will require more time?
These are just a few things you are going to need to have definitive answers for before investing time and capitol. This doesn’t even cover packaging, shipping, distribution, advertising and how many employees are you looking to have.
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about too much
My FFL and his son starting lead bullet production with an idea to sell. They quickly ended it. It a lot of work to get to quantity.
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I used to cast bullets on a grand scale for pistol shooting and to never run out of bullets. I also have known some casters who do this for a living. There are those whose end product ends up in local Gun Shops for resale and dedicated casters box and lable their product like pros. The Customers will buy quality. If you live near a few Clubs who shoot USPSA or IDPA, you can gain Customer orders right there. These shooters are always in need of loading componants. My friend Doug ran several Magma casting machines. Give the Customer a clean bullet with hard lube to load. Noone like sticky, messy lube all over their hands, bench equipments or full covered nasty bees wax. Hunting down at affordable prices, alloy materials and lead scrap can be interesting. If you have a good ventilated out building to work from, tis better than your home becoming a haz mat site. Make a good product and the Customers will come.
Purchase a cheap LEE mold for a caliber/bullet weight that you shoot on a regular basis.
Purchase some alloy & flux/stir it well.
Ladle pour a hundred projectiles.
Size/Lube/Gas check the above.
The only task that requires more handling of a product is mining Gold &/or processing firewood.
I cast multiple pistol/rifle/mzloader molds for friends & family & have for 30 years...for enjoyment...not profit!!
To do volume you will need commercial casting equipment such as those produced by Magma Engineering. And you will need a commercial source of lead alloy.
For commercial sales, coating bullets is the future.
I am a retired commercial caster, if you would like specific details shoot me a PM.
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No rail wear will be painless.
Most folks think there are just two groups of people that cast bullets.
1. Hobby bullet manufacturing.
2. Commercial bullet manufacturing.
I think there is a third variant. Exactly in the middle. A hobby commercial manufacturer. I 've known several of them over the years.
I know one guy that casts commercially. He uses manual equipment. He's always out of stock and bitching & moaning about the time he spends making bullets.
If he wanted to be successful at making bullets, he would need to buy commercial machines. But he continues in his basement as he has done for many years. Why?
(Likely the basement is a severely polluted place as well)
I also knew a guy who had several of the fully automated machines. He made bullets for 2 or 3 years and then abandoned the commercial operation. Why?
It's a tough way to make a living, especially for one person.
It also takes a massive amount of money and time to be a commercial manufacturer.
The people I get my cast bullets from now does it family style. Dad, Mom, and Son. They make great product, it's priced fairly.
They actually opened their store on Labor Day so we could do a pickup. They are committed fully to the business.
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I have all first class equipment; commercial 30 pound electric pot, 4-10cavity molds, star sizer.
casting and sizing still my least favorite loading chore.
Over the years nearly every Mom and Pop casting operation goes down for various personal or health reasons. Most almost never make it decade, having given up a portion of their life and not a bit wealthier. A friend always said buy all you can afford from the small quality producers, time and supply goes quickly.
FWIW, probably a bad time to get into the business.
I have a friend who owns a mid-size gun shop. He also has his own bullet casting business and has been around for over 30 years. He is not currently making/selling his own cast bullets. The unavailability of his primary raw material, lead, is the reason.
I have also checked on-line regarding lead bullet vendors. Most, if not all, of the products are not in stock and can't even be backordered. If the established biggies can't get lead, you won't either. Also, given the shortage, lead prices are probably through the ceiling nowadays. In addition, primers and powder have major shortages now. Can't load a round without them.
Given the current political climate, expect shortages on everything to get worse over the next year or two.
An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing. --Nicholas Murray Butler
I think the way FN in MT thinks ,Star with bullet feeder makes fast work .You need air adapter for auto lubing and melt heater
Pro mold pot is great.Lead is the problem for new casters,I should have not sold the 1/2 ton some years back.
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