Confessions Of A Bullet Mold Junkie.
Here is my heartfelt confession: I am addicted to bullet molds! A month ago I told a friend I have enough bullet molds. I’d never buy another. Since then I’ve bought two more. I couldn’t help it, I needed them.
This affliction didn’t come on gradually. As with some mind-altering drugs, only one dose hooked me forever. That was in 1966, in December to be exact, for I remember it well. You see, in July of that year I had bought a used but beautiful condition Smith & Wesson K38. It came with a single box of .38 Special 148-grain wadcutters. After they were gone I priced another box and nearly choked at the cost.
But I still had the empty cases, so an older gent at the gun club where I shot said, “Son, you’re just going to have to take up reloading.” At that, time and especially in such an out-of-the-way place as southern West Virginia, taking up reloading also meant taking up bullet casting. There simply was no supply of commercially cast bullets around there. Even powder and primers weren’t too plentiful.
My folks weren’t exactly rolling in money but they said, “If you want to take up reloading we’ll buy you the equipment for Christmas, but we think this is just a fad you’re going through like that electric train set we got you one year.” (Ha! I’ve gotten the last word on that, haven’t I?)
A full set of reloading equipment was ordered but sans a bullet mold or some manner of melting lead. We simply didn’t know enough about the matter to order casting equipment. Another fellow at the gun club told me I didn’t need to order casting equipment—he had a mold for sale along with a cast iron lead pot. I paid him $5 for a single cavity Lyman mold 358432 (160-grain full wadcutter) and another $2.50 for a set of handles. The lead pot was like no other I’ve seen before or since. It was meant for use on a gas stove but had a spigot for dropping the alloy into the mold. That was worth another $10.
The first night I got set up to cast my first bullets, several of my high school buddies took their girlfriends home early and came by to see how things were going. Personally, I was so excited about starting bullet casting that I forgot about and stood up my girlfriend—losing her in the process.
By the time several of my buddies crowded into my mother’s kitchen, I was already a bullet mold junkie. When that first shiny .38 bullet fell upon opening the mold blocks I felt a sense of freedom not equaled until graduating from college some years later. It was wonderful! By the time my reloading equipment came and was set up, I had well over 1,000 new bullets sitting in cigar boxes. Never, not once, in the ensuing 47 years have I been without bullets for handguns, rifles and now even a small assortment of WWII vintage submachine guns.
The most commonly encountered bullet molds in regards to cavities include one,
two, three and four. Duke has come to prefer single cavity for target shooting
and three-cavity molds for handguns.
With the single RCBS bullet mold 45-230CM, Duke has reloaded ammunition for this amazing
variety of firearms. At top is the Rossi Model 1892 .45 Colt and (from left) the handguns
are a British Mk VI .455 Webley, S&W Model 22 .45 Auto-Rim, Colt Model 1911 .45 ACP and
a Colt SAA .45 Colt. The submachine guns at bottom are (left) a US M3 “grease gun” and
US M1 “Tommy-gun.” Both of those are .45 ACP also.
It takes a lot to keep a bullet mold junkie satiated. About 500 bullet molds have come and only about one in three have stuck. As an example of my casting interests, my array of cast bullet lube/sizing dies amounts to over 50, ranging in size from 0.225 inches to 0.580 inches. Along the way, enough bullet lube has been needed that I co-founded a bullet lubricant business but sold my half to my partner some years later with his promise to forever keep me supplied with it. How many bullets have I cast? Honestly I have no idea. At about 100,000—I quit counting and that was during my first decade of addiction. Tons of wheelweights were scrounged, rendered down and shot away through hundreds of different rifles and handguns. More recently I have purchased pre-alloyed foundry lead by the ton.
But it’s not the actual casting that hooked me so much as the idea of having lots of bullet molds. I do actually enjoy the casting process—turning it into a time of relaxation—but that’s another story. Simply stated my attitude has been, “If one bullet mold per caliber is good, two must be better and more than two gives un-measureable pleasure.” For instance, I now have over two dozen bullet molds just for .45-caliber rifles. As regards to weights, they will drop bullets from 292 grains (Lyman 457191) to 565 grains (Buffalo Arms 458565).
Those first few steps up the bullet mold junkie ladder were haltingly slow. My lead melting pot wouldn’t accommodate a mold with more than one cavity. The idea of a double cavity mold seemed wildly adventurous so my second and third molds were likewise single cavity. They were also Lyman: 311375 for a 175-grain .30-caliber spitzer and 452374 for a 225-grain .45-caliber roundnose. I used the latter mold to feed both .45 ACP (US Model 1911A1) and .45 Colt (Colt SAA). My early experiences with rifle cast bullets were dismal failures—because someone pawned off on me one of those old-fashioned size/lube dies that cut the bullet instead of swaging it.
By 1969 I was away at college and, to my almost unbearable pleasure, a gun store there in Huntington, West Virginia, actually stocked bullet molds. In the late ’60’s and early ’70’s my contemporaries at college wasted their spare coin on real drugs or booze. Instead, my experimentation began with a double-cavity Lyman mold 454190 (250-grain RN/FP), so my Colt Peacemaker .45 would have its own dedicated bullet mold. The increase in bullet production afforded by a double-cavity mold astounded me! As soon as finances allowed, a double-cavity Lyman mold 358477 (150-grain .38/.357 SWC) was added as was a Lyman 429421 (250-grain .44 SWC).
By 1971 I was an adult, able to walk into gun stores and buy any sort of rifle, shotgun or handgun desired. Spring break of that year was also when I embarked on my very first binge. Many other West Virginia college students headed to places like Florida or South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach. None of that for me: I went back to my folks’ house and during the 10 days or so of that time away from school I cast over 12,000 bullets from the molds mentioned above. (Excluding the single rifle mold.)
That was another banner year for my bullet mold addiction. Passing through Clinton, Iowa, on my way to summer employment in Yellowstone National Park, I happened upon an unusual gun store. It not only stocked bullet molds, but it had every single design manufactured by Lyman and those were the days when that company still cataloged hundreds of designs. I almost overdosed! It was hard to make up my mind, but at the end of that day I left with Lyman molds 35875, 41032, 42798, 429432, 453424, 454424 and perhaps more that I’m not remembering. They were all single-cavity molds because only those were kept in stock.
The excessive stimulation of that occurrence led to more adventure. From Yellowstone I placed a mail order for a triple-cavity bullet mold! Back in those days, there was a small reloading equipment manufacturer named Lachmiller. I had never even seen a sample of their tools but took a great chance and bought their 358150 SWC bullet mold, having it shipped back to West Virginia so as to be waiting for me upon my return in September. That mold was a fortuitous experience in more ways than one.
All the bullet molds mentioned in this story to this point are gone except the Lachmiller one. They were either ruined by my youthful enthusiasm (a.k.a. inexperience) or just traded or sold when something new was wanted. Not so with the Lachmiller mold. It is still here and still drops perfect SWC bullets even after forming scores of thousands for me. To this day I will purchase triple-cavity molds whenever possible, although alas among the major bullet mold manufacturers, only Redding/SAECO offers them nowadays. Here’s my attitude on the matter: Most times when using a 4-cavity mold, there is at least one flawed bullet. (Mostly they have improperly filled bases.) Conversely it is rare that a flawed bullet falls from the triple-cavity molds I own.
When factory-made bullet molds don’t offer a particular design, Duke turns to custom mold makers such as molds (above, from left) from Colorado Shooter’s Supply (via Midway), Steve Brooks Custom Molds and Paul Jones Custom Molds (Paul is now retired). The bullets in front are all extra-heavy .45’s and include (left to right) a 550-grain from CSS mold, 555- and 560-grain bullets from Brooks Custom and a 555-grain bullet from Paul Jones. Duke (below) is one of the rare fellows who actually enjoys sitting at a lead furnace making bullets. A huge fan is in the window to vent the air outdoors.
Whereas being a junkie for most substances is decidedly harmful to both one’s physical and mental health, I feel being addicted to bullet molds saved my mind. Here’s how. My last semester at college (January to May of 1972) was extremely stressful for me. I needed decent grades in every single class to graduate because I had not been the most sterling of students. And I wanted nothing worse than graduating and being done with all manner of schools!
What kept me balanced was a Lyman single-cavity mold for bullet 311291, a 170-grain roundnose. Right about the first of the year I had acquired a US M1903A3 Springfield .30-06 and every weekend I took it to the range with an array of handloads with bullets cast in that mold and experimented on making them shoot well. Hardly a thought of what had passed in the last week or what was coming in the next week troubled my brain. That May I got the diploma and headed to Montana to spend the rest of my life.
Being on my own—and finally having an income—there was no holding me back. I bought bullet molds for hollowpoints, hollowbases, semi-wadcutters, wadcutters, roundnoses, spitzers and roundnose/flatpoints for rifles and/or handguns. Molds made of brass, aluminum and iron were tried. I learned to cast bullets for .22 centerfires and for .58-caliber Civil War rifle-muskets. I shot varmints and big game with them and eventually became one of the most avid of competitors in the Black Powder Cartridge Rifle Silhouette game in which only lead alloy bullets are allowed.
Now I’m a senior citizen and I’m slowing down a bit. A while back a friend told me on some website or other a poster had criticized me “for not experimenting anymore.” I don’t need to; I know what works well in my guns so I want to enjoy just shooting them for my own recreation.
Here are my basic feelings about bullet designs. For revolvers, roundnose/flatpoints can’t be beat. For semi-autos, those or roundnose are the ticket. For long-range shooting with BPCR’s, roundnose or Creedmoor-style roundnoses are perfect. For modern bolt-action rifles, roundnoses are best and for lever guns we’re back to the roundnose/flatpoints.
Admittedly, I do have a couple of rifles for which there is not a bullet mold in the shelves above my casting table. One such is the 6.5mm Carcano Model 1941 with its odd-size 0.268-inch bullet diameter. But, I’m still a bullet mold junkie—there is no cure for it—someday I will have that Carcano mold!
By Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos By Yvonne Venturino
Buffalo Arms Co.
660 Vermeer Court
Ponderay, ID 83852
475 Smith Street
Middletown, CT 06457
605 Oro Dam Blvd
Oroville, CA 95965
Redding Reloading Equipment
1089 Starr Road
Cortland, NY 13045
1610 Dunn Ave.
Walkerville, MT 59701
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