For most applications there
is a cataloged bullet mold that will produce bullets with adequate
accuracy in your gun. Most of the time a Lyman or Lee or RCBS mold will
make bullets that shoot fine in your guns.
For some guns and situations
in which better accuracy is desired, it may be necessary to select or
design a bullet mold for a particular gun.
The bullet and the gun must
Rifle bullets must be large
enough so that no gas can blow by the bullet, melt the sides of the bullet
and lead the bore. Today's wisdom is that the optimum bullet diameter is
about 0.0005” less than the throat diameter. For non-match use, 0.001"
under- the diameter of the throat of the rifle is often serviceable too.
Revolver bullets must be as
large as the cylinder throat, the forward-most part of the cylinder.
To match the bullet to the
gun, we must measure certain dimensions of the gun, and then, using these
dimensions, decide on the dimensions of the mold.
The throat dimensions, rate
of twist, bore, and groove dimensions are the important gun dimensions.
The length and the diameters
of the various parts of the bullet are the important bullet dimensions.
Matching the gun dimensions
and the bullet dimensions will generally improve accuracy. We are
concerned with the rate of twist because a bullet that is too long for the
rate of twist cannot be stabilized and thus will group poorly and may
strike the target sideways.
The following explains how
to measure these dimensions and how they are inter-related.
Cast bullets have some or
all of these parts: “Grease grooves” for the lubricant, “bands” or larger
diameter sections before and after the grease grooves, a “base band” on
the bottom or a “gas check shank” on the bottom to accept a gas check, a
“nose” on the front of the bullet and a “meplat” that is the flat, however
small, on a bullet's nose.
Many of the rifle bullet
molds available today will produce bullets that will shoot accurately;
some combinations yield exceptional accuracy. Standard molds will produce
bullets with acceptable accuracy for most of your shooting. In the 30
calibers, the Lyman 311041, 311291 or 311299 shoot very well. While the
311041 and 311291 are not "bore rider" or "tapered" bullets, or any other
trick shape, they shoot well and sometimes wonderfully in 30 caliber
rifles, and have done so for about a hundred years.
Rifle bullets come in a
myriad of styles, suited for various applications. Some are unsuited to
any application. Most successful rifle bullets are of one of these four
Single-diameter bullets are
the same diameter on all bands. Examples are the H. Guy Loverin-style
bullets such as the Lyman 311465 or 311466 and many Lyman designs such as
the 319247 that has been popular for many years.
Tapered bullets have bands
that are about bore diameter at the front, and gradually get larger as
they approach the rearmost band, which is several thousandths of an inch
larger than groove diameter. Lyman made molds for tapered bullets in the
past and other custom mold makers make them now.
Two-diameter or Pope style
bullets have front bands of bore diameter or slightly larger, and a rear
band or bands which are a couple of thousandths of an inch over the
groove diameter. This design is not as popular
as it once was. Single shot shooters sometimes find that a Pope style
bullet can be dropped in the rifle chamber, then the loaded cartridge case
with perhaps a cork wad can be chambered, and that the rifle will shoot
with great accuracy. There is a happy coincidence of dimensions that
allows the case to seat the bullet.
Bore-ride bullets have a
nose that is at or slightly over bore diameter, and a base that is
slightly over groove diameter.
This design is quite popular
today, and examples include Lyman’s 311299 and 311284. Some shooters have
written that the bore-ride bullet must be a press fit in the barrel (at
the muzzle) of the rifle for good accuracy. A helpful shooter at the range
will sometimes take one of your loaded cartridges and try the fit of the
nose of the bullet in the muzzle of the rifle. The shooter will then shake
his head, and make a clucking noise. He will explain that your bullet is
either: a. too loose, or b. too tight. Don't listen to the clucking, and
don't worry about the fit. Good fit is nice, but poorly fitting bore-ride
bullets may shoot well in light loads, sometimes with target accuracy.
The difference between a
sloppy fit and not being able to push the bullet into the barrel of the
gun with your thumb is about one thousandths of an inch.
The chamber-end groove and
bore diameters become larger than the muzzle-end diameters after not too
many shots are fired in the rifle. The fit of any given bullet will vary
with the rifle checked; it doesn't take much rifle bore and/or groove
variation to make the bullet tight or loose.
The largest diameter of the
30 caliber bullet should be at least .002" and preferably .004" larger (my
experience, others differ) than the groove diameter of the barrel at the
Thirty caliber barrels (for
the sake of argument) have bore diameter of .300” and groove diameter of
The ideal 30 caliber bore
ride bullet would then have a nose about .301” diameter to snugly fit the
bore, and base bands about .310” diameter. If the breech end of the barrel
is worn, the nose and body should be larger. Some barrels will accept
bullets with noses of .303"- .304".
Shooting a bullet that is
too small in diameter for the barrel causes a lot of trouble. The bullet
must be big enough! Leading of barrels at lower velocities, 1400-1600 feet
per second or below, is almost always caused by bullets that are too
Today the conventional
wisdom is that the bullet must fit the throat of the rifle. Harry Pope
wrote that the bullet must fit the throat over 75 years ago. The throat is
that part of the chamber between the end of the cartridge case and the
rifling. The bullet should be as large as the throat.
The more advanced cast
bullet shooters have molds and bumping/swaging dies made to form the
bullet to the shape and size of the throat, and chamber rifles for this
tapered fit of the bullet to the throat. The rest of us can get good
accuracy without leading by shooting big bullets.
THE LYMAN-POPE 308403
This bullet was originally
the Lyman 308403, and later the number was changed to 311403. According to
Rudi Prusok, the ASSRA archivist, this bullet was first listed in the
Ideal/Lyman handbook in 1927, and was listed until 1957-when the number
was changed to 311403.
From the 1927 Ideal Hand Book:
“308403. Bullet designed by Mr. Harry Pope for
extreme accuracy in competitive shooting in the .30 Springfield rifle.
Should be used as cast and not resized. Diameter of first four bands from
point .301”, fifth band .303, sixth band .305”, last band .315”. Bullet
seated in case with fingers so mouth of case extends only half way up base
band. Powder charge 12 to 15 grains Dupont No. 80 powder. This bullet
gives better accuracy up to 200 yards than any combination we know of in
the Springfield, but owing to the bullet being seated so lightly in the
case, it is not suitable for handling except on the target range.”
Loring Hall has shot these
bullets offhand very effectively in the Winter League matches at the Old
Colony Sportsman’s Association in Pembroke MA for many years, in one of
his 30/06 Hammerli Team Rifles.
I’ve borrowed a mold for
this bullet several times from Pete Ziko, a member at Old Colony, and cast
a thousand or so bullets each time. Pete absolutely refused to part with
the mold. These bullets, at lower velocities, have shot accurately in a
number of 30 caliber rifles that I’ve owned.
Recently I’ve borrowed molds
from John Greene, to cast some additional bullets. John made the mold I
borrowed from him, a very nice piece of work. He has the cherry and can
The trick to this bullet is
that the base band is tapered smaller at the rear-larger at the front; and
the dimensions are made so that the bullet slips into a fired 30 caliber
case and wedges itself to a stop about half way up the base band. To
reload: deprime and reprime, throw a charge of powder and seat the bullet
with your fingers. No sizing of the cartridge case or bullet is required.
that chamfering the inside of the case mouth helps in seating the bullet.
Here are some typical 100
yard groups with the 308403 with Darr lube, Winchester M54 30 WCF, 30X
STS, 6.8/Unique, Dacron wad, WLP primer.
The accepted wisdom on
revolver bullets is that the diameter of the bullet must be equal to or
.001" greater than the diameter of the cylinder throat. The cylinder
throat is the most forward part of the cylinder, where the chamber
narrows. Tapping oversize slugs through the cylinder throats of the
revolver and measuring them will give you the throat diameter. Oversize
slugs can be made by tapping a proper sized (= 44 bullet for 44 gun)
bullet nose with a hammer or squeezing it in a vise. Either method will
expand the bullet.
If the bullet is much less
than the cylinder throat diameter, the barrel will lead and accuracy will
fall off. With any reasonable middle velocity load, a good lube, and a
correctly sized bullet; the revolver won't lead. Higher velocities can be
attained by fiddling with the powder charge, lube and bullet hardness.
Most often a revolver bullet
doesn't have to be too hard.
Some revolver bullets are
made for gas checks. I agree with Elmer Keith on this, we never, (almost
never), need a gas check on a revolver bullet.
Revolver bullets come in
many styles. Here are examples of the most popular.
This is a round nose bullet,
found in some factory loaded ammunition. This style of
bullet has nothing much to recommend it, it is
not very accurate and is not particularly suited for hunting.
Here is a wadcutter with a
hollow base. This is the most accurate bullet for short range = up to 50
yard shooting with a revolver. This style bullet is factory loaded and
reloaded quite commonly.
These are the hollow base
and standard versions of the Elmer Keith designed 44 Special and 44 Magnum
revolver bullet. There is also a version with hollow point. This bullet,
the Lyman 429421,(429422 in hollow base), has proven to be quite accurate
and quite a good hunting bullet in the 44s. This is called a
semi-wadcutter style bullet. I'm not much of a pistol shooter, but I've
had very good luck with this bullet in 44 Magnum pistols over the past 40
years or so.