By Tank Hoover
It’s Sorta’ Easy — Especially If You Can Bug A Buddy Who Has A Milling Machine!
“I met this man on the Internet…” is a common, although somewhat suspicious way I’ve started many stories when talking with friends — many of whom I actually met the very same way! I’ve made many friends, both real and imaginary, went on hunts, bought molds, shooting supplies, guns (thru an FFL), you name it, all through the Internet. The Internet has been berry-berry good to me, as the old Saturday Night Live skit would say.
Now to the meat of the matter of modifying LEE molds. I met a fellow die-hard, lead-headed, casting maniac who may actually exceed my obsession of pouring my own bullets. His name is Scotty Boggs, and he hails from the great state of Arkansas.
While perusing a popular social media site, buried deep within the bowels of this Internet meeting place, lurk a few people who like to talk about cast bullets. While scrolling through the many posts, one caught my eye. Scotty wrote it.
In the thread, he talked about how he modified his LEE 2-cavity .44 310-grain radiused flat-nosed gas checked mold (RFNGC). The modification dropped the bullet weight from 310 grains to 265 grains. It converted the GC design to a plain base (PB), eliminating the need for expensive GC’s. LEE did a great job when they designed this bullet! The nose of the bullet, or meplat, is between a wide flat nose (WFN) and long flat nose (LFN) design and has proved very accurate in both handguns and Marlin .444 rifles for me in the past.
All Scotty did was remove the sprue plate of the mold and mill the top of the mold down, removing the GC shank. It only takes approximately .100″ to do this. If one is handy with a file, they could do it that way. Much easier to “Tom Sawyer” a friend with a milling machine into doing it, and that is exactly what I did. I sent my mold to Scotty for “a little off the top” and to shorten the sprue plate bolt a smidge, and I was ready to go.
Unmodified LEE .44 310-gr. RFNGC mold.
Modified LEE .44 310-gr. RFNGC mold with approximately .100″ milled off the top.
Bullets from both before and after modification of LEE .44 310-gr. RFNGC mold and powder coated.
This method isn’t new by any means, the buffalo hunters and other frontiersmen modified their molds the same way to lighten a particular bullet. As time passes, good ideas are forgotten, only to resurface by those diehards afflicted with Bullet Brain Obsession (BBO). Scotty is definitely afflicted with it. Turns out we have a mutual friend and this friend had hunted with Scotty before. Scotty was successful and his critters were recovered, but no one could find him that night after dinner. The BBO Scotty was out in the dark, by his kill site, flashlight in hand, digging for his bullets that killed his critters, to see how they expanded! That is borderline crazy! And I love that kind of dedication and curiosity to never pass up an opportunity to learn about our homebrewed cast bullets. The crazy coot found them too! I’m on hands and knees bowing to the obsessed cast bullet brain king! Way to go Scotty!
After a very quick turn-around, I had my modified mold in hand and was anxious to christen it with a silver stream of molten alloy. The mold worked like a dream, dropping perfect projectiles effortlessly. I then powder coated (PC) these newborn babies and loaded them over the tried and true Skeeter load of 7.5 grs. of Unique in .44 spc. brass. I shot the experimental bullets in both a Colt 7.5″ New Frontier and a Ruger 5.5″ Bisley. Accuracy was as good, if not better than the .44 Keith bullet, but the modified LEE will get the nod due to the larger meplat causing a larger permanent wound channel. Sorry Elmer, I feel dirty for saying that but the truth is the truth!
Other modifications can include removing the GC shank by drilling or use of a lathe to remove the protrusion making the shank from the mold. This modification will obviously add weight to your chosen projectile. Lord knows LEE does a great job with their molds for the money, but a tweak here and there can modify them to more to our liking, depending on what you’re looking for.
Tank “Bugged A Buddy” and got “His Editorship” to cut down one of Tanks molds, since he’d over-extended his
bugging with Scotty, his on-line buddy. Here’s Tank’s mold is about to go into surgery in Roy’s modest mill.
Set up to take the first cut. You can see the shank if you peer closely.
First two passes taking .050″ off at first. Roy followed up with another .050″ pass to get it to Tank’s specs.
Cleaned up for the third of the first passes. WD40 worked great as a cutting fluid and left a smooth final finish.
Bug A Buddy
Some guys customize their guns, others are more inclined to customize their molds. Just throwing some fodder at you to consider to make your 6-shooter shoot better or design a bullet more to your liking the DIY way, or the “bug a buddy way.” With Powder Coating (PC) here to stay, gas checks are becoming obsolete for the majority of handgun loads, and saves you the cost of the copper GC which add between 4-5 cents a shot now.
LEE molds are inexpensive and made of aluminum, perfect candidates for modification. Think about customizing your bullets instead of your gun. The results may surprise you and save you some money along the way. But be careful! Before long, you too may come down with a serious case of BBO! I hope so!
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index
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