Author Topic: Casting for .223/5.56  (Read 25753 times)

Offline CountryRootsCityJob

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Casting for .223/5.56
« on: February 28, 2013, 07:29:40 PM »
As many of us have experienced lately, it's hard to find ammo.  Yes, I am aware that the shortages will go away, but nobody knows how soon.  That leads one to think it would be a great idea to reload, and it is!  However, at the moment it is equally impossible to find reloading components.  While I am not a chemist, which prevents me from making primers and powder, there is always the option of casting bullets.  It is a rather simple process for pistols, although I am still learning about it after 3 years... but casting for a semi-auto rifle scares me a little. 

I know I would need gas checks... those are out of stock till next November, so we'll see.  In the mean while, lets talk about the rest of the process. 

Lube: For pistols I've currently used tumble lube.  I'm thinking that's not the best way to go for a rifle.  I know there is the pan lube process, but for a 55gr .22 bullet, that sounds tedious at best.  I could also drop $200 for a bullet sizer/lube machine.  What other options are there and what are the benefits/shortcomings?

Sizing: Lee makes a nice sizing system for pistols that are tumble lubed.  I also know that the gas checks are installed when sizing the bullet.  Can I use the Lee sizer for this application?  Does the Lee sizer also work for pan lubed bullets?  Can somebody tell me about the other options? 

I know I'm not the only one thinking about this, so please chime in if you have any experience!

Offline trekker111

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2013, 04:16:52 AM »
Velocity is an issue with cast bullets, and 1600 fps is around the limit before leading becomes a problem. I have pushed bullets up to around 2400 fps with hard alloys without leading problems, however, this was in a lever action rifle.

Next, lead, even hard alloys, are softer than copper jacketed ones, and semiautomatics are rougher on bullets than bolt or lever guns, generally speaking. Feeding issues may arise. Also, the AR platform has the added obstacle here of the barrel extension and locking lugs.

A gas operated rifle has a gas port which is much more suceptable to leading than the bore is. Platforms like the garand based actions (m1, m14/m1a, and mini 14/30), and AK based actions are easier to remove this leading in than the AR platform, which would require the removal of the gas block, and occassional replacement of the gas tube.

Problem number 3, would be finding a load that has a low enough velocity to control leading and be accurate, while still being able to reliably cycle the action.

I don't think it's worth it. The performance lost due to the required lower velocity would fundamentally change the weapons efficiency. In the long run, buying the dies to swage bullet jackets out of 22lr cases would be the better solution, but requires a large strong single stage press. A lee press wont cut it. Something like a lyman orange crusher would be recommended.

Offline res45

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2013, 05:21:12 AM »
I don't cast for .223/5/56 don't own anything in the caliber but if I did I would be casting for it since I do for ever other handgun and rifle I own in all action types.

If your having issues getting the standard copper check made by Hornady who makes the Lyman checks as well check with Blammer over at Cast Boolits who sails the Gator checks in the Vendors section.   If that as fail there are always the Aluminum check which work just as well http://www.sagesoutdoors.com/index.php

Lube:  Tumble lube,pan lube and ranch dipping are just a couple of ways to lube your cast bullets  without a lubesizer,I do all three but the majority of my pistol and rifle bullets are tumble lubed gas check or not.

Sizing:  I use Lee sizers for all my gas checking and sizing needs for both pistol and rifle bullets,I haven't found a situation yet where they don't serve my needs I even use them to size my paper patched bullet cores as well as the final sizing after applying the patch.

On Velocity I'll have to come back to this tonight as I have to head to work,needless to say I shoot cast lead bullets in all my semi-auto rifle,they are as accurate as any factory or J bullet handloads and 1600 fps. is not a threshold by any means 2K is fairly easy and about the average velocity I normally run in my SKS rifles.

Offline cohutt

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2013, 05:29:46 AM »


a lot on using checks at cast boolits. http://castboolits.gunloads.com/forumdisplay.php?60-Gas-Checks

Yes 223 can be successfully loaded with checked cast bullets and is, although as noted above i'd prefer using the narrow nosed 223 cast rounds in a bolt gun vs semiauto.  Would also have some concerns long term on gas port fouling too.  Some are more serviceable than others, so who knows

all this being said, i'd probably sell my 223 guns and move to a larger heavier slower caliber if I had to make my own projectiles.

 if it can be done someone there is doing it and sharing   

the lee push through dies can be used with traditional bullets for sizing only (pan lubed as you mentioned) but i have never considered for installing checks.  maybe, but not my choice (edit:submitted as res45was posting, the lee sizer check is answered there thank you res45)

Offline Kilroy

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2013, 07:35:22 AM »
http://www.corbins.com/prrfjm.htm

" A special kit to make FREE 22 caliber centerfire bullets using recycled materials (fired 22 cases and range lead or soft lead wheel weights) is available from Corbin Manufacturing."

I have not used this kit myself, but it is food for thought.  Probably should not spend a lot of time thinking about it though...

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2013, 09:17:45 AM »
This line of thinking makes a sturdy lever gun appeal to me.  What I can't decide is if I should go with a pistol caliber that I already own and hand load for, are step up to a proper hunting round.  I'm leaning towards a shorter, handier size to fill the "fighting carbine" role.

Offline CountryRootsCityJob

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2013, 11:18:03 AM »
http://www.corbins.com/prrfjm.htm

" A special kit to make FREE 22 caliber centerfire bullets using recycled materials (fired 22 cases and range lead or soft lead wheel weights) is available from Corbin Manufacturing."

I have not used this kit myself, but it is food for thought.  Probably should not spend a lot of time thinking about it though...

Ah blast, my wish list is long enough already!  I really ought to think twice before I start asking questions  ;D

Thanks for the replies... I suppose for now I'll have to just hold out and buy my projectiles.

Offline cohutt

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2013, 05:25:01 PM »
You'll have the opportunity again, and when you do, shame on you if you don't pick up more for a rainy day ;)

Offline trekker111

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2013, 11:01:14 PM »
This line of thinking makes a sturdy lever gun appeal to me.  What I can't decide is if I should go with a pistol caliber that I already own and hand load for, are step up to a proper hunting round.  I'm leaning towards a shorter, handier size to fill the "fighting carbine" role.

It just depends on what rounds you already reload for. Your leveraction pistol caliber carbines are going to be 38/357, 44 mag, 45 colt, and you may be able to find a rossi 92 in 454 casull. There are several pros and cons. They have a larger capacity than most rifle cartridge carbines, and there is a performance increase of the round when being fired from a rifle, but it is still a pistol caliber.

Your main lever rifles are going to be 30-30, 35 remington, 444 marlin, 45-70, 450 marlin. 30-30 is very similar ballistically to 7.62x39, and i will never be without a 30-30. 35 remington is ballistically superior to 30-30, but the ammo components are a bit more expensive. For your purposes, the 444, and 45-70 are a bit much, but don't lack power. If you reload, there is no benefit in the 450 over a 45-70. 444 is basically a 44 mag with an extra inch of case.

A 44 mag, or 45 colt rossi 92, with a 16" or 18" barrel, and a small red dot sight, mounted forward of the receiver would fit your idea nicely out to 100 yards or so. You'll actually find that it would be.lighter and shorter than a 16" barreled AR.

If you havent already, the leveractions for home defense thread should have some useful info in it.   I apologize if i posted things you already knew, i just love my lever guns.

Offline cohutt

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2013, 07:33:26 AM »
Per post above, my velocities through a rugger 77/44 carbine (bolt not lever but the point is the same) are much higher for the same magnum loads vs through a 6.5 in 629 barrel. 

Add to the formula that the pistol magnums cartridges all have rifle load data published for more powerful loads and you can  extend performance out a little further.

I added a Burris 2x7 scope to my 77/44 which had their ballistic reticule (i think that's what they call it) where they provide scales for most calibers that correspond with the additional "sub cross hairs" below the main zero in the reticule.   This actually seems to be effective in my testing, as long as one has the scope @ 7x when the shot and estimation is taken.  bottom line is more reach with accuracy for loopty-loop trajectory heavy pistol projectiles.

Offline Jailer

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2013, 05:46:20 PM »
Casting for an AR is feasible but a very tedious venture. Leading is not as issue as long as your bullets are sized correctly and you run a decent lube. Velocity is also not an issue but accuracy is.

The biggest limiting factor in casting for an AR is the fast twist that most rifles are built with. This fast twist is what limits your velocity due to accuracy issues. I've had my 62gr bullets over 2700 FPS with zero leading but the accuracy was abysmal in my 8 twist gun. Things start going south for me once I get over 2100 FPS.

If you want to try it go for it. Slow powders and slow twists are your friend but you can get acceptable accuracy with cast bullets in an AR.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2013, 11:28:11 AM »
Casting for an AR is feasible but a very tedious venture. Leading is not as issue as long as your bullets are sized correctly and you run a decent lube. Velocity is also not an issue but accuracy is.

The biggest limiting factor in casting for an AR is the fast twist that most rifles are built with. This fast twist is what limits your velocity due to accuracy issues. I've had my 62gr bullets over 2700 FPS with zero leading but the accuracy was abysmal in my 8 twist gun. Things start going south for me once I get over 2100 FPS.

If you want to try it go for it. Slow powders and slow twists are your friend but you can get acceptable accuracy with cast bullets in an AR.

I'd forgot about this thread...

Let's suppose accuracy isn't the primary factor, and casting .223 would be for defensive training or plinking.

I heard some urban legends:

1) if you shoot lead at FMJ velocities (2500fps+) the lead will basically fragment at the muzzle, almost like shot
2) if you lower the velocity enough for accuracy, it likely won't cycle most AR bolt carriers

Right now I'm all out of suitable rifle powder, but have a wide range of pistol powders include stuff that works well for cast lead.  While I doubt it'd cycle, I'm inclined to try out IMR trailboss, mainly because I have a large quantity of it.

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2013, 12:38:23 PM »
http://www.midwayusa.com/product/127791/hornady-gas-checks-22-caliber-box-of-1000?cm_vc=wishList

midwayusa.com is showing 22 gas checks in stock

I just bought a mold for .22 but haven't used it yet.  My thoughts are the same.  my 1885 low wall in .223 should be able to replicate .22lr.

It will be a fun adventure.
z

Offline Jailer

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2013, 01:48:51 PM »
I'd forgot about this thread...

Let's suppose accuracy isn't the primary factor, and casting .223 would be for defensive training or plinking.

I heard some urban legends:

1) if you shoot lead at FMJ velocities (2500fps+) the lead will basically fragment at the muzzle, almost like shot
2) if you lower the velocity enough for accuracy, it likely won't cycle most AR bolt carriers

Right now I'm all out of suitable rifle powder, but have a wide range of pistol powders include stuff that works well for cast lead.  While I doubt it'd cycle, I'm inclined to try out IMR trailboss, mainly because I have a large quantity of it.

#1 Myth. Not a bit of truth to it and likely spread by someone who has never shot cast bulelts.
#2 Not entirely true. If you lower the charge of a fast powder to lower velocity then you will likely run into cycling problems. Proper powder choice is the key with this one.

Cast bullets generally like a slow push from slower powders. Slower powders also ensure enough gas pressure is available at the gas port to cycle the action. Ive gone as slow as Reloder 22 and got great functioning and accuracy from my 20 inch 8 twist rifle but had too much unburnt powder to call it a reliable load. Varget is another one that has shown some promise but I'm picky about accuracy so I'm currently testing some 4895 to see how that pans out.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2013, 02:23:50 PM »
#1 Myth. Not a bit of truth to it and likely spread by someone who has never shot cast bulelts.
#2 Not entirely true. If you lower the charge of a fast powder to lower velocity then you will likely run into cycling problems. Proper powder choice is the key with this one.

Cast bullets generally like a slow push from slower powders. Slower powders also ensure enough gas pressure is available at the gas port to cycle the action. Ive gone as slow as Reloder 22 and got great functioning and accuracy from my 20 inch 8 twist rifle but had too much unburnt powder to call it a reliable load. Varget is another one that has shown some promise but I'm picky about accuracy so I'm currently testing some 4895 to see how that pans out.

I've also got a H110 and other magnum style handgun powders, but I'm paranoid about using those in this application.

Offline Jailer

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #15 on: September 21, 2013, 04:57:38 PM »
I've also got a H110 and other magnum style handgun powders, but I'm paranoid about using those in this application.

Those are way too fast for a semi automatic 223. 4198 is about as fast as you can go and get "some" form of reliable cycling.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #16 on: September 21, 2013, 10:10:07 PM »
Those are way too fast for a semi automatic 223. 4198 is about as fast as you can go and get "some" form of reliable cycling.

Got it.  This is helpful:

http://www.hodgdon.com/burn-rate.html

Offline Superman

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #17 on: September 28, 2013, 02:34:48 PM »
You might look into powder coating. I have been powder coating my 9mm and 7.62x39 bullets, it has been working very well. I am loading 7.62x39 130gr bullets to 2200 fps no gas checks and no leading at all.

Offline Jailer

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #18 on: September 28, 2013, 05:54:50 PM »
I've run some powder coated bullets through my 300 blk and they do work great but it's just too time consuming for me.

I've got a good lube recipe so I'll stick with traditional lube and a lube sizer.

Offline Superman

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2013, 01:22:16 PM »
How have you been doing it? I do it like tumble lubing. Mix a little lacquer thinner and powder coat in a bowl, swirl the bullets around in the bowl, dump on a screen, separate bullets on the screen and throw them in an oven.

Offline res45

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #20 on: September 29, 2013, 04:45:39 PM »
Some of these video's might be useful for those interested in shooting cast in AR's in .223/5.56.

https://www.youtube.com/user/TRprepper/search?query=cast+223

Offline DrJohn

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #21 on: September 30, 2013, 09:36:55 AM »
http://www.corbins.com/kit-224.htm

you can make jackets for .223 from spent .22 casings with this die set.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #22 on: September 30, 2013, 11:59:23 AM »
http://www.corbins.com/kit-224.htm

you can make jackets for .223 from spent .22 casings with this die set.

That is intriguing, but the costs are not trivial:
Quote
Complete bullet making kits for reloading press:

*  KIT-224R ------ Make free .224 bullets from fired .22 cases --- 833.00
*  KIT-243R ------ Same as above but with 6mm dies --------------- 833.00
*  PRO-KIT ------- Pro-Swage Kit: die, lead, cutter, lube -------- 449.00

*  KO-ROD -------- Type-R swage die spare Knock-Out Rod ------------ 8.00
 
*  BGK-1-R ------- Base Guard Kit. (make your own BGs)  ---------- 249.00

*  RFJM-22R ------ Rimfire Jacket-Maker, FREE .224 jackets. ------ 179.00
*  RFJM-6MR ------ Rimfire jacket-Maker for 243 caliber ---------- 179.00
*  RFJM-ROD ------ Replacement screw-in rod for 224 jacket maker --- 6.00
*  PUNCH-R ------- Specify .224 or 6mm RFJM (spare) --------------- 50.00
*  SPJM-25R ------ Shotgun Primer Jacket-Maker ------------------- 179.00
*  JRD-1-R ------- Jacket Reducing Die (.035" max) --------------- 179.00
*  BRD-1-R ------- Bullet Reducing Die (.006" max) --------------- 179.00
*  BRD-1-RC ------ Bullet Reducing Die w/RBT Punch --------------- 219.00
*  ET-2-R -------- Jacket trimming die, specify caliber ---------- 249.00

The only other negative I can find for that process is the velocity is limited due to the rimfire jacket. 

Quote
Do rimfire jackets foul the bore?
Any bullet fouls the bore to some degree. The rimfire jacket generally causes less fouling than commercial jackets, for a couple of reasons. First, it usually has lower surface friction, being thinner and slightly less "gummy" than the softer copper alloy. But it also can't be fired with as high a velocity due to the thinness of the jacket, so it forces the handloader to use less powder, less speed, and therefore causes less fouling than a bullet fired at higher speed.

If such an investment resulted in the capability to make high end grade jacketed bullets (think Sierra MatchKing), the break even point would be much lower.
But if the tools and effort result in a jacketed bullet that has the same velocity range as cast lead (or only marginally faster), I'm not sure what the functional benefit is.

At the time of this post, you can still find 100 packs of 55gr .224 FMJ boat tails for ~$12.00.  That's $0.12 each for commercial grade bullets.
If you cast 55gr bullets, using lead costing $1.50/lbs.  that divides out to just over 1 cent each.

1lbs = 7000grains
1lbs yield 7000/55gr = qty 127 55gr bullets
$1.50/127 = $0.011

Of course add gas checks and lube, but you can see a ton of cost is saved from casting.

Offline blackdawg

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #23 on: October 16, 2013, 09:18:50 PM »
shooting cast rounds in an ar-15 platform is a bad idea if yours is gas run.  the gas tube will plug.  some of the people i know are experimenting with powder coating cast rounds.   recovered rounds  have shown tht the coating hasn't even been  broken and their running them in ar's.   

your other option is something called swaging  using wheel weight cores and reclaimed 22 long rifle cases.   a guy called BTSNIPER  is building us a set. our cost was $1300. for dies and a few specialized tools. making a 55 grn open tip.

Offline Jailer

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #24 on: October 17, 2013, 04:43:28 PM »
shooting cast rounds in an ar-15 platform is a bad idea if yours is gas run.  the gas tube will plug.  some of the people i know are experimenting with powder coating cast rounds.   recovered rounds  have shown tht the coating hasn't even been  broken and their running them in ar's. 

Another rumor. Don't believe everything you read on the internet. I've shot hundreds of rounds so far in my testing and there is zero lead buildup in my BCG or gas system.

your other option is something called swaging  using wheel weight cores and reclaimed 22 long rifle cases.   a guy called BTSNIPER  is building us a set. our cost was $1300. for dies and a few specialized tools. making a 55 grn open tip.

The 22lr swaging is something I'd like to do but the cost of entry keeps me away from it.

BT makes some nice dies. I've got a set of his 2 step .40 to 45 dies and they make some nice projectiles.



Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #25 on: October 18, 2013, 01:54:59 PM »
shooting cast rounds in an ar-15 platform is a bad idea if yours is gas run.  the gas tube will plug.  some of the people i know are experimenting with powder coating cast rounds.   recovered rounds  have shown tht the coating hasn't even been  broken and their running them in ar's.   

your other option is something called swaging  using wheel weight cores and reclaimed 22 long rifle cases.   a guy called BTSNIPER  is building us a set. our cost was $1300. for dies and a few specialized tools. making a 55 grn open tip.

Assuming this is true, why would a piston AR be exempt?

In either case you have a gas port in the barrel.  I figure if you had severe leading, either because it failed to obturate, or whatever, there'd be build up near that port.  Whether that port connects to a gas tube, or immediately drives a piston - seems like either would be problematic.

Offline blackdawg

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #26 on: January 01, 2014, 04:47:42 PM »
Assuming this is true, why would a piston AR be exempt?

In either case you have a gas port in the barrel.  I figure if you had severe leading, either because it failed to obturate, or whatever, there'd be build up near that port.  Whether that port connects to a gas tube, or immediately drives a piston - seems like either would be problematic.

on the piston driven bolts , you have direct access to clean the tube. .

Offline Jailer

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #27 on: January 01, 2014, 05:50:08 PM »
Obviously if you are leading the barrel you're going to be leading your gas system as well.  If you are not getting leading shooting cast through your AR you are not going to plug your gas tube. I've run about 300 or so rounds through mine so far with not a single sign or leading or other problems. I don't plan to clean for a while either so we will see how many rounds I can go before it has to be cleaned.

Also just to update I had some really good luck with between 19gr and 19.5gr of H4895. Accuracy is decent, functioning is perfect and velocity is just a bit above 2100 FPS. This is with a 20 inch LW barrel, rifle gas system, 8 twist, wylde chamber. A slower twist would produce better results but hey I gotta work with what I have.

Offline Urban Knight

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(Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #28 on: January 05, 2014, 12:12:45 AM »
I use Saeco bullet mould #221, 60 gr spitzer tumble lubed and sized .224 using Lee sizer. No gaschecks.  Using 20 grains (recommended 22 grs) of Vitovhourri N120 powder and dried laundry lint as filler have shot 100 rounds for plinking in an Elisco M16A1 rifle, full auto sometimes with no jamming and no feeding problems.  But I had to spray the chamber and gas port with WD 40 after firing as a precautionary measure to clean the gun .  It was an experiment to try to do so if it will work.  It did, but am now considering powder coating my cast bullets.

Offline Antman

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Re: Casting for .223/5.56
« Reply #29 on: February 26, 2014, 04:44:31 PM »
Okay, first off. Go over to CASTBOOLITS forum and do some reading. A wealth of knowledge and great people there.

Now, from experience I will tell you it can be done very well. I am using h4198 in a 16 inch dpms upper, 223 chamber- 1-9 twist- free float tube- with a mid length gas port, and have no problem with reliability issues. It will lock the bolt back every time. I run about 17.5 with a 59 (as cast, checked, and lubed) grain flat point RCBS boolit. It will shoot nice 1 inch groups at 50 yards, and while not running at 2700 fps, it is cheap to load and I never have to look for bullets. I can load them for less than .09 per round. And I get 400 per pound of powder. H335 was real nice too, but I ran out. I may try 3031 as well.

The bore is clean and shiny , and no it's not the lead I see, after each use. The gas system is not full of lead either. I understand the port pressure in an AR is approx. 15,000 psi. How much do you think stays in there? The bolt is no dirtier than with regular rounds. And I think your barrel life is a bit longer running mid range lead boolits as apposed to full house copper condoms.

So I say try it. Read about it first, but it can be done. Even if the internet tells you otherwise. I never saw the internet firing lead boolits anyway!