by Timothy P. Banse
Should you fire lead balls or a conical bullet in your cap and ball revolver? Opinions vary. Some say conical bullets are less accurate than a lead ball because the fired bullet enters the forcing cone off-angle. Personally, I prefer conical bullets over balls even though doing so sacrifices powder capacity in favor of knock down power. And with the pair of Lee Precision bullet moulds I am about to introduce you to, you'll find accuracy does not suffer.
The Lee Precision Mold DC 375-130-1R is a intended for .36 Navy Colt and Remington cap and ball revolvers. The double cavity mould drops two .375-inch diameter 130 grain round nose bullets with each pour from the lead pot.Unlike some brands, this mould includes handles.
Similarly, if your Army Revolver likes .451-.457 round balls then the choice would be the Lee 450-200-1R. Also a Double Cavity Mold, this one drops two .450 diameter 200 grain, round nose bullets. Notice from the accompanying image how the bullet tapers, with the larger forward diameter measuring about .451 of an inch.
According to the manufacturer, just like the Navy .36 caliber mold, the .451 is a super accurate bullet that loads straight and true. Two lube grooves prevent flash ignition and lead fouling. With its greater mass it delivers more energy and far greater accuracy than round balls. For lube, both sizes of bullet like Liquid Alox for lubricant.
No matter whether you shoot balls or bullets, casting is kind of fun! Be sure to use pure lead. Avoid wheelweights because their tin content makes them hard (Pure Lead BHN 5 - Wheelweights BHN 12). Hard lead is no good for relatively low-pressure, low-velocity, cap and ball revolvers, that require the malleability of pure lead in order to obdurate bullets, to seal the bore on firing. Pure lead better engages the rifling and it's also significantly easier to load lead balls and bullets into the cylinder.
In the interests of due diligence I cast a couple of hundred .44 caliber bullets for this story. Note, before beginning I read the instructions that advised among other things: 1. Smoke the cavities with a match, beeswax, candle or butane lighter in order to aid releasing each freshly cast bullet. 2. Lubricate the mold-alignment pins and sprue pivot point screw with beeswax, or in the alternative, Permatex anti-seize lubricant.
During casting, I liked the clean cut made by the sprue cutter at the base of the bullet. I also like the way the mould blocks are machined from an aluminum alloy as opposed to steel that can rust, albeit only when subject to neglect.
I lubed the conical bullets with Lee Liquid Alox for the simple reason that it gives better accuracy and it eliminates leading. Lee Alox liquid lube coats the entire bullet in a thin jacket that dries to a soft, varnish-like that finish clings like stink on a monkey. Dried, the coating does not degrade gunpowder. No need to size these bullets, simply cast, cool, then tumble lube.