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Published in The IHMSA News, the Official Publication of The International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association
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Volume 16, Issue 9 October
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti
Well the weather is cooling down finally,
 and with the falling leaves oneís thoughts naturally turn to hunting, football, comfortable sweaters, pumpkin pie, and bullet casting. Itís no secret casting is a lot more fun when the temps are cool and crisp than when itís hot and humid and the sweat is running off you like a miniature version of Niagara Falls.
     Some time ago, I had picked a beautiful four cavity SAECO mold ďchamberedĒ for a 6mm (.243) eighty-five grain bullet. I thought it would be fun to work up some easy recoiling loads for my 6 TCU Contender. I figured I could use it for half scale. Unfortunately, one pressing thing or another got in the way of putting the new mold to work, but now I finally had a bit of time to put the metal to the mold. 
     Producing quality cast bullets takes a bit of care even in the best of circumstances. You just canít slop through the process if you want an accurate bullet. It also seems to be one of those universal laws of nature that larger diameter bullets are easier to cast than small diameter bullets. Consequently, producing cast 6mmís would be no walk in the park. To successfully do so, you need three things.

"It's hard to beat the quality of SAECO molds."

     One - use the best mold that you can buy. There are a number of people out there that make good molds. However, SAECO makes a great mold. So what makes them better?  Itís simply because theyíre made bigger and heavier than any other mold in the general marketplace. Bigger and heavier means that once up to the proper temperature, theyíre not going to cool off as quickly the way other molds often do when you have to stop casting in order to add more lead to the pot, or when fluxing. In other words, with a heavy mold, you can get right back to work without having to heat it up again.
     SAECO molds also have a heavier than normal sprue plate. This is especially important when working with four cavity molds or with larger diameter bullets. Heavy sprue plates wonít warp from heating and they simply do a better job of cutting the sprue.

"It's also hard to beat the selection of 1 - 2 - 4 cavity SAECO molds"

     The other thing that I like about SAECO molds is the quality. Iíve had to send other molds back because of defects, or more often, for repairs after extensive use. However, Iíve never, ever had to send a SAECO mold back for whatever reason. Iíve got a couple that Iíve been using for over twenty years, and they keep on producing beautiful bullets time after time.
     Two - you need good, clean metal to cast good bullets - especially small diameter bullets like 6mmís. This may be one of those times where you might want to invest in linotype. Lino typically contains 4% tin. Now thereís a myth that says that tin is added to lead to give cast bullets strength, and like all good myths, thereís an element of truth to it. Actually, while a trace of tin will strengthen a cast bullet somewhat, itís main advantage is that it reduces the surface tension of the lead mixture and will cause it to flow more freely. This is necessary to fill all the tiny nooks and crannies of the mold far more completely. The main disadvantage of lino is that itís expensive and often hard to find. A good source of lino, tin, and other casting metals is the Art Green Co. (310-274-1283) which has been in the metals business for many, many years.
     However, if you have an inexpensive source of wheel-weights, it may be more economical to just add additional tin to regular wheel-weights in order to get the necessary reduction of surface tension for a exceptional mold fill. Actually, itís not even necessary to use the same amount of tin as found in lino. 2.5% tin works very well to produce very shiny, crisply defined cast bullets. Wheel-weights will already have about a half percent of tin, so all you have to do is add 2% more. Tin can be obtained from sources such as Art Green or in the form of bar solder which is available at welding shops. Additionally, if you know someone who likes to prowl the garage sales or flea markets, ask them to keep an eye out for you, as bar solder some times can be found there for ridiculously low prices.
     When using wheel-weights, itís absolutely necessary that they be fluxed (cleaned) thoroughly. There are a number of home found materials out there that have been traditionally used for this purpose. They range from Crisco vegetable shortening to candle wax, or even bullet lube. However, they all have a problem in that they produce a lot of greasy, flammable smoke. Most folks will throw a match in the pot to ignite the fumes in order to eliminate the oily smoke. However, the neighbors often get nervous when they see flames inside my garage. For me, I consider those materials just too messy to fool with.
     One of the very best fluxing materials around is Marvelux from Brownells. This is a dry, white powder and thereís no smoke or fuss. After melting the wheel-weights, remove the steel clips with a kitchen type slotted spoon (bought mine in a flea market for 25 cents), and add about a half teaspoon of Marvelux. Stir for about 30 seconds. Youíll see that the powder converts to a black frothy liquid which will eventually become crusty. However, the Marvelux will release the dirt and other junk trapped in the melt and it will allow it to rise to the surface of the lead. Spoon off the dross and the used Marvelux and repeat if your wheel-weights were particularly dirty. Works good.
     One last bit of advice about your melt when casting small diameter bullets. Turn the thermostat of your pot all the way up. Even when using a tin rich mix, bullets sometimes wonít fill out properly at lower temps. Turning up the juice really helps. 
     Third - you need good a good lubrisizer. Fortunately, thereís a decent selection of lubrisizers out there. Currently, Iíve been using the relatively new Lyman Model 4500 with the insertable heating element. I have to say that it is a very, very capable machine. Choosing the 4500 was a natural thing for me as my very first lubrisizer was the venerable Lyman Model 45. I must have sized and lubed at least a million or two bullets with that thing, it gave me excellent service for at least 20 years. Even, now, itís still doing its thing putting in yeoman service for my good friend ďMooseĒ Edwards.

"The Lyman 4500 is an seriously upgraded version of the old model 45 with the ability to heat hard lubes".

     The new 4500 is basically a substantially improved version of the Model 45. For one, the base of the machine is much thicker for superior strength and rigidity. The handle is also longer for better leverage, and has a easy grip large plastic ball on the end versus the old bicycle handlebar type grip found on the Model 45. The handle also appears to be made of stainless, while the Model 45 used a fairly mild steel which was somewhat prone to surface rust after a couple of seasons out in the garage. Additionally, the handle linkage on the 4500 is also of substantially heavier construction. Additionally, rather than being painted orange like the Model 45, the 4500 has a very impressive powder coat finish in non-traditional grey. If the 45 was a strong, reliable machine, the 4500 should provide at least four times the service.
     However, my very favorite feature of the 4500 is the optional heating element that allows the use of ďhardĒ bullet lubricants like Lymanís Orange Magic. I have to admit that of the various hard lubes that Iíve used, Orange Magic has given me the most consistent results. Additionally, you never have to worry about your bulletís lube getting soft and runny after being seated in the case and possibly contaminating the powder when your ammo is left in the trunk of your car on a hot summer day. So, if youíre using heavy, high velocity loads (Aren't we all?), this is the stuff you want to use.
     The heating element itself is a small metal tube a little larger than the diameter of a pencil and around 3 inches long. The element is inserted into the rear of the lubrisizers base and fixed in place with a set screw. Plug in the electric cord and wait about 20 minutes for it to warm the lubrisizer and the lube inside.

     A quick word of warning - donít touch the heating element when itís hot. When I say it gets hot, I mean hot, but thereís no visible way to tell how hot it is at any given moment. When you unplug it, give it plenty of time to cool off before you handle it.

     Next month Iíll discuss loads and shooting results of the 6 TCU with cast bullets.

Streamlight TL-2 LED
     If you recall, in last monthís column I outlined a short list of basic gear that an outdoors type person should have on hand. Included in that list was a good flashlight. When I say ďgood flashlightĒ I mean a GOOD flashlight, not that $4.95 Wal-Mart special that you have in the junk drawer in the kitchen. Iím talking about a flashlight that will be as reliable and as worry free as a first quality reloading press.
OK, so what are the qualities of a good flashlight?
  • 1.  Obviously, it should be able to produce a lot of light.
  • 2.  It should also be able to produce a lot of light for a long time.
  • 3.  It should be lightweight to carry, so hauling it around isnít a problem.
  • 4.  It should be compact in size so it doesnít take up a lot of space.
  • 5.  It should have a spring clip to give you some carry options.
  • 6.  It should have some means of preventing the light from rolling on an inclined surface.
  • 7.  The light source should last a long time.
  • 8.  Lastly, it should be rugged and be able to take the knocks and wet of the outdoors.

"The bulb in the Steamlight TL2 LED (right) will last a lifetime"

     There are other characteristics of course, but these are the ones that I consider to be the most important to an outdoors person.
     For a hunter, camper, etc., a compact flash light is one of the most important safety items you can carry. When coming back from a session in a tree stand after dusk, seeing conditions can be pretty dim under the trees or perhaps darkness may have already fallen before you can get all the way back to camp or your car. A good flash light will show the way and keep you from tripping over something in the dark and falling - possibly injuring yourself. By the way, clip the flashlight to the bill of your hat to free up both hands while youíre climbing out of the tree stand, and use it to illuminate your hand and foot holds. People get injured all the time climbing down from a stand because they couldnít see properly. If youíre in an unfamiliar area and you get lost in the darkness, (Hey, it happens to even forest rangers.) a flashlight makes an excellent emergency signal. Thereís a ton of uses for a good flashlight outdoors. Itís kind of like having a good pocket knife like the Gerber Freeman Folder I wrote about last month. Once you have one, you wonder how you ever got along without it.
     Letís talk about the Streamlight TL-2 LED. First, to avoid any confusion, I have to point out that there are two TL-2s models made by Streamlight. One (TL-2) uses a high pressure Xenon bulb. The one covered here (TL-2 LED) uses a light emitting diode instead. Both have unique advantages, but my preference is the LED model.
     Streamlight has been making high quality flashlights for over 30 years. In other words, it is not a no name, fly by night type outfit. Quite the contrary, it has established an excellent reputation over that time, and supplies police, fire, and other emergency departments all over the world. It also has a ďNo ExcusesĒ warrantee on all of its products. If you break it, theyíll fix it or replace it. Itís that simple. However, abuse, (Like using your flashlight for a hammer - donít snicker. Iíve seen it.) is not covered. 
     Letís talk about how well the TL-2 LED meets the criteria that an outdoors flashlight should meet.
     1.  Lots of Light. I was amazed how much light is being pumped out of this compact package. Thanks to its super hi-flux Luxeon LED, thereís 42 lumens there for you to command - and it is impressive. Thereís a central, very bright ďhotĒ spot in the center of the beam with a circle of more diffuse light around it. The hot spot easily goes out 100 feet. The color of the light also appears to have very pale blue tint, which seemed to make things stand out in the darkness even better. I found that this light pattern (due to Streamlightís advanced reflector design) to be very useful as it gave me the benefit of a long range spot light, and wide angle illumination simultaneously. Very nice. 
     By the way, the Luxeon Star LED is THE most advanced on the market and is rated at one full Watt. It is approximately 10 times brighter than a standard high intensity LED. Additionally, the Luxeon Star LED will last for 100,000 hours and is also fully covered by the lifetime warrantee. You may have noticed that many other warrantees always exempt a flashlightís bulb which can be expensive to replace when they burn out.  Just as a quick note - 100,000 hours equals over 11.4 years of operation. This is why I prefer the LED model. Iím never, ever going to have to replace the light source in this flashlight.
     2.  Lasts a long time. With a regular flashlight, as soon as you turn it on, two things start to happen. The power in the batteries decline and consequently, the light output starts to diminish immediately as well. You donít see it right away, but itís definitely happening. On the other hand, the TL-2 LED uses electronic circuitry to regulate the power and light output so that youíll get 1.75 hours of the full 42 lumens that the unit is capable of producing. Think of it. Even though battery power has declined during that period, light output hasnít. Nifty. After the initial hour and three quarters, youíll still get another two full two hours of useable light. Thinking of buying a cheap, promotional LED flashlight? I guarantee it wonít have power regulation. 
     3.  Lightweight and Compact. The TL-2 weighs 4.7 ounces and is 5.25Ē long. At the reflector head, itís 1.25Ē wide. Very easy to carry.
     4.  Spring Clip. The spring clip is handy for attaching the light to a belt, jacket breast pocket, or the brim of your baseball hat. The clip is detachable by taking out a Phillip's head screw. When you remove the clip you could attach the TL-2 LED to a firearm if youíre in need of a tactical flashlight. There are lots of aftermarket mounting rings available to do so. Additionally, thereís also available a very nice optional pouch made of ballistic nylon to put on your belt if you so choose.
     5.  Anti Roll. This is handy because it allows you to put the light down on an uneven or inclined surface when you need both hands to do a job like changing a tire at night. The outside rim of the reflector head has three flat spots machined into its diameter which effectively prevents the light from rolling around. 
     6.  Rugged. The TL-2 has a machined, aluminum body, and is NOT made from flimsy stamped aluminum as found on promotional lights. The interior as well as the exterior is also hard coat anodized to provide protection from battery leakage. ďOĒ rings also insure that the unit is highly water resistant. The exterior of the body also sports several rows of very prominent, raised ridges to insure a good grip. The light is activated for continuous illumination by screwing down the rear cap, or for intermittent use, by pressing a rubber covered pressure switch on the rear. The reflector cover is tough polycarbonate. A lanyard is also provided. This is a handy feature to insure you donít drop the light out of a tree stand.
     A safety note - this little flashlight is so powerful that besides putting out a tremendous amount of illumination, the light emitting diode is also putting out a lot of heat. Consequently, while itís switched on, donít put the flashlight face down on a flammable surface. You donít want to start a camp fire inside your tent. 
     Needless to say, I really like this light. Itís very powerful and long lasting, compact enough to easily carry in a jacket pocket, and tough enough to get really beat up outdoors and still work every time. Thatís a heck of a combination that will serve you very, very well. Streamlight products are available from a wide variety of sources on the internet and from local retailers.
Good luck and good shooting. Todd

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Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading and bullet casting, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which IHMSA, The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned. Always consult recognized reloading manuals.