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I can’t claim to have come up with any of these ideas or practices so thanks goes out to the guys on CastBoolits, the Corbin website, and other tidbits I may have stumbled over in the last few years.
No matter what the avenue of approach, swaging will take a lot of time and/or money to get started. I’m fortunate to own or have access to machine tools sufficient to have made my own press and tooling. Even then, I have over $400 in raw materials and hundreds of machining hours just to get started. FWIW, the quickest and cheapest homemade bullet I know of is the paper patched cast bullet.
For further information on home swaging, please refer to:
First thing a scrounger swager has to do is come up with a spent case that’s “close enough” dimensionally to work as a jacket, such as drawing down .223 cases for .375 bullets or bumping .40S&W brass upwards for .44Mag bullets.
Rifle cases usually need to be trimmed to a length that takes into account changes that occur with diameter reductions.
The brass will need to be fully annealed after trimming and before drawing down in diameter. A torch is fine for a few pieces. I use a cheap LEE lead pot as a simple kiln. Some guys use heavy cast iron cookware over a fire, some even do it on a propane stovetop.
HIGH QUALITY lubricant is needed for most drawing and swaging operations such as Corbin’s lube or a 3:1 mix of lanolin and castor oil.
For .411 bullets, the 7.62x39 works with drawning down but also needs expanding and trimming. ’06 based cases also work but need trimming and more than one anneal and draw down step because of the significant size change. The 10mm Auto is ~.424” at the base and long enough to hold sufficient core material for a 300 grain bullet so it’s a simple matter of fully annealing the case and drawing it to .409” (more on that later) for a jacket. Because .223s are so common, I came up with a punch and die that expands the body and mashes the base outward to .409”. It hasn’t proven to produce full diameter bases – yet. I think it’s just a matter of increasing pressures.
After the brass is cut to proper length, fully annealed, and formed to proper diameter, it needs to be cleaned. Wet media tumblers work best.
Cores can be produced with segments of cut wire in a “bleed” or core swage die but I have a lot of bullet casting equipment so I typically step drill cheap LEE molds to the roughly the right size and cast my cores. The cores should fit the prepared jackets loosely but closely. One problem with spent cases for jackets is the internal taper and radius at the web. The cores will be swaged to fit in the core seating die but can hang up and leave voids between the jacket and core base.
The next step is to swage the core into the jacket in the core seating die. This die is bored through cylindrically and has a full diameter punch inside that is opposed by a full diameter punch on the outside. The distance between the two punches is set to force the core fully into the jacket. A core swaging die is constructed in a similar fashion but has bleed holes drilled in the active portion to allow excess lead to extrude from the cavity. The core seating die is solid walled with the idea of confining the jacket and then the core within the jacket.
Typically, the jackets are formed .001” or so smaller than the bore of the core seating die. This allows the jacket to enter the die with a full layer of lubricant on the exterior and since the soft lead core has very little spring back when it is swaged into the jacket, the jacket is forced outward to the diameter of the die then collapses a minute amount onto the expanded core within. This “bumping up” of diameter goes a long way to ensuring bullet integrity and, just as importantly, allows one to eject the seated core assembly.
The seated core now looks like a jacketed wadcutter and is ready for the final shaping. This is done in a point forming “PF” die. The orientation of parts is similar to the core seating die except this time, the internal punch is a small pin and the die interior is tapered to form the point and is ejected from the die by the pin pushing against the bullet point. Again, the seated core should be smaller than the ID of the PF die to allow the same bump up and spring back. Because the internal punch is really an ejection PIN, ejection from the PF die can be troublesome. Quality lubricant, proper die finish, very consistent seated core dimensions and hardness, and proper punch settings are all important.
Bullet tips are usually deformed and inconsistent from the process of ejection so tip forming dies are commonly used to clean up the bullets. I typically try to balance the core size with the jacket so that a very small soft point or hollow point is formed so that the jacket closes and reinforces the point. Another simple method of cleaning up the tips is a short tumble in the wet tumbler with BBs instead of pins. This peens and uniforms the noses.
I would NOT recommend swaging to anyone without an abundance of time, money and patience. It’s slow, expensive and fraught with so many difficulties that the cost of factory bullets really is an incredible value.
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This is some of the equipment needed. Starting at the left:
Two punch holders, one threads into the top of the ram, the other into the top plate of the press. The punches have a smaller section with a groove used to retain via a set screw. The punches "float" in the holders, allowing self alignment.
Next is the expander punch and die to increase .223 brass to .409" outside diameter. Shows case cut at shoulder (results in a jacket just long enough for a 400 grain bullet), then expanded cases.
Next is a cut .308 then the body drawn to .409 with the .409 die and punch next to it. The punch has a small tit on the end to fit in the flash hole of the case. This centering really helps in keeping the case square in the drawing down process.
Next is a core and a core in a jacket ready for seating. The core seating die with full diameter internal punch and two punches that fit inside both the die AND the jacket are shown. Ideally, the punch fits the jacket so closely that the core cannot swage past it. With the variance and taper of case bodies, it's hard to get a tight seal.
Last is the point forming die. You can't see it but the inside is shaped like the bullet with only a small pin hole for the ejection pin. This die is BITCH to make. Not only are the dimensions critical but also finish. It takes me 60? hours to make a simple die set like this. Swaging equipment is expensive and I can see why.
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Impressive talent in design, construction and use of the dies!
Whether the economic side is wholly viable or not, one has to appreciate the beauty of the whole process.
NRA Life Member
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I agree, just knowing where there's a will, there's a way, is nice to know! A thumbs up to you.
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