Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Bullet Factory ~ Because I'm Cheap

Almost every weekend we were visiting the Tiger family on the Miccosukee Indian Reservation on the Tamiami Trail and Spencer and I were putting a lot of bullets through Pepsi cans. That quickly starts to run into some serious money, even when you stock up just before hunting season to take advantage of the sales. Time to start reloading my own ammo!

For perhaps $25 you could pick up a Lee Loader for about any size round you wanted to reload, a pound of powder, and a package or two of primers. The hardware would last you forever and a few pennies worth of powder and a primer and you were almost in business. You still needed the bullet itself, the projectile that would put the hole in the Pepsi can.

One of my other old buddies, Norm Nilsen, reminded me that his wife Jill worked in her family's print shop, The House of Jones, and that linotype metal would turn out some great bullets if you had the bullet mold. Another order to Lee Precision and I had a mold, lead pot, and ladle. I also got a supply of bullet lubricant and a sizing tool so my bullets would be exactly .309 inches in diameter.

The top scan shows the mold's box and the wooden handled mold. The second picture shows part of the leaflet that came inside the box with the mold. There were the expected warnings about the danger of working with hot molten lead, and that it wasn't a really great idea to be breathing the vapors. I'd heard stories about old time linotypers at newspapers being a bit daft after forty years breathing those lead vapors, but hell! I knew daft brick masons and postmen and about anything else you could imagine. Maybe it was just their age? The boredom?

I started casting my own bullets. The Jones's retired and Jill didn't keep the shop going. Printing was rapidly going from letterpress, "hot type", to offset lithography, "cold type". Norm and I split up the treasure trove of brand new ingots of linotype metal as well as all of the pieces of already molded stuff that would have been remelted and reused anyway. We'd remelt it and reuse it.

In addition to making bullets I still use it for casting jig heads for fishing lures. It's really kind of a shame to use an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony for fishing lures when cheaper plain lead would suffice but I have the stuff already. I haven't cast a bullet in years. I probably have a few thousand around here someplace, and I've cast lots of jig heads in the past few years. Now that Flo gave me Spencer's Winchester 94 I'm thinking about doing some shooting again. It's been over thirty years.

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