There comes a time when most serious reloaders, and particularly
handgunners, find the need or desire to start casting their own bullets. There
are several good reasons to do this.
One good reason is the economy of casting your own. Bullets can be a
major expense for the reloader who shoots large quantities of ammunition,
but lead, the base material used for cast bullets, is relatively inexpensive,
and sometimes can be found at no cost.
Another good reason for a shooter to cast his own
bullets is the ability to have total control over the composition and quality of one's bullets. Bullets can
be cast from pure lead for softness when used in muzzleloaders or light
target loads, or from very hard alloys for deep penetration on dangerous game.
One more good reason to get into bullet
casting is the ability to be even more involved in the process of creating
your own ammunition.
The basic piece of equipment for the bullet caster, aside from a bullet
mould, is a lead furnace. Whether you melt the metal in a cast iron pot on the stove, or
use the most advanced casting furnace available, the need to melt the alloy and
keep it at a constant temperature is important.
The best method is to use a high quality, purpose built lead furnace. This
article will deal with one of the best lead furnaces on the market: the Lyman
Lyman Products Corporation is one
of the oldest and most respected in the reloading industry. They manufacture
and market a complete line of products for the shooter to load his own
ammunition, including bullet moulds, reloading presses, powder scales, dies,
tumblers, and a seemingly endless list of products.
The Mag 20 furnace tested here is their
top-of-the-line lead furnace, and is equipped with features designed to make the
casting of bullets fast and easy. There are differing opinions as to the best method
of filling the bullet mould with lead. Some casters prefer to dip the alloy from the furnace with a
ladle, while others like a bottom-pour furnace. With the Mag 20, either method is possible. The Mag 20 is a
very well-designed bottom pour furnace, that also has ample room to
dip a ladle into the top. Many other furnaces are not designed to allow for
this, with their operating rods hindering access from the top.
Another fine feature of this furnace is
the ability to accept large ingots that some others will not. I was able to
easily place five pound ingots into the top of the Lyman with room to spare.
This is very important, as much of the lead available to bullet casters is sold
in five pound sizes. I have another bottom-pour furnace that will not accept
ingots this large, even though it has a ten pound capacity.
The Lyman, due to its high quality thermostat, was able to cycle on and
off during the casting session, holding the bullet alloy at a near constant
temperature. This is a necessity when striving for consistent bullet weights
The Mag 20 has easily-read reference numbers on the thermostat control for
reliable repeatability, and did a fine job of returning to the desired temperature.
The Lyman also is equipped with an adjustable mould guide, which proved to
be very handy for aligning the mould with perfect repeatability while
minimizing fatigue. On top of the furnace is a shelf for preheating bullet
To say that I was impressed with the Lyman Mag 20 would be an
understatement. It made the job of melting, fluxing, and pouring bullet alloy
much easier than with any other furnace with which I have experience.
The Mag 20 can be found at any quality
reloading supply store, or mail-ordered through such outlets as Midway
or Midsouth Shooters Supply. You can reach Lyman at 1-800-22-LYMAN
or on the web at: www.lymanproducts.com.
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