Coated Bullets


Duke fired Missouri Bullet Company’s coated bullets in these
autoloader cartridges. From left, 9mm 115-grain RN, 9mm 124-grain
RN, .38 Super 135-grain RN, .38 Super 147-grain TC, .40 S&W 200-grain
TC, .45 Auto 230-grain RN and .45 Auto 200-grain TC.

Throughout my handloading career, the vast majority of handgun bullets I’ve sent downrange have been cast — mostly by me but a significant minority by commercial casters. My shooting results from revolvers have been superb, but my shooting results from semi-autos have ranged from very good down to problematic. Until recently, every one of those cast bullets has carried lubricant in grooves — hard types from commercial casters and softer lubes on my own cast production.

A few years back, an acquaintance asked me what I thought of coated bullets. My amazingly fast response was, “Huh?” Never one to keep up with the modern world, I’d never heard of lead alloy bullets that didn’t need lubricant because they had a baked-on “powder coat.” Eventually, curiosity caused me to give them a try. I’m glad I did, for they worked well. I contacted Missouri Bullet Company and they generously supplied me with a variety of samples.

Duke used these four pistols from his collection for testing
coated bullets. Clockwise from top left: Colt ELCEN 1911 .38
Super, Les Baer .45 Auto Thunder Ranch Special, Kimber .45
Auto 1911 and World War II vintage P38 9mm Luger.

Missouri Coating Options

Before continuing, however, I’ll quote this paragraph from MBC’s website as it refers to their powder coating named Hi-Tek.

“The coating itself consists of a catalyst which binds a polymeric colorant agent with acetone which is then applied in bulk to raw bullets and baked onto the bullets’ surface at nearly 400 degrees. The coating is a polymer (bonded with metal) and forms an extremely tough new surface for the bullet. The application of the coating is repeated for an additional coat. The bullets are then sized normally but not lubricated, as the coating itself acts as bullet lube. Nominal bullet diameter is not affected.”

MBC catalogs a large range of bullet shapes: roundnose, roundnose/flatpoint, truncated cone, wadcutter and semi-wadcutter. Furthermore, they offer bullets of different BHNs (Brinnel Hardness Number) of 18 and 12. They recommend hardness 18 for bullets traveling over about 850 fps and 12 for faster ones. Also, it should be mentioned many of their bullet designs are the same as offered with traditional lubes, meaning that although they have lube grooves, they are still coated. Some grooveless (smooth-sided) bullets are available, and I expect as coated bullets become more common, so will smooth bullet designs.

These are the best and worst groups Duke fired with
the semi-auto pistols with MBC’s coated bullets.

Shooting ... Coated

Aware of how my handgun groups on paper tend to grow as my hands and eyes tire, I used a Ransom Pistol Machine Rest for accuracy testing. Then I divided the shooting into two sections — semi-autos and revolvers. This is the semi-auto part. All the handguns used came from my own personal collection. They were: Les Baer .45 Thunder Ranch Special, Kimber 1911 .40 S&W, Colt 1911 ELCEN (stainless steel) .38 Super and German 1943 vintage P38 9mm (made in the Mauser factory).

Most of MBC’s coated bullets come in a variety of weights per caliber. I used two each in all the pistols except the .40 S&W. I meant to use two weights there, but when getting set up at my machine rest I discovered I’d only loaded 200-grain TCs. (I’m old! Don’t laugh, or I’ll report you for senior citizen abuse.) All handloading was done normally using taper crimps as the final step. The chart shows the details.

Now here’s the best part. The smallest five-shot group at 25 yards came with the 200-grain SWCs from Les Baer .45. It was a mere 11/8″. The largest group of all came with the wartime P38 9mm with 115-grain RNs, and it was still just 3″. The Colt ELCEN .38 Super was the last pistol fired that day, so on a whim, I shot a 10-shot group with the 147-grain TCs. It was still just 2¼”. Since the machine rest testing day, I’ve shot up the rest of my semi-auto MBC bullet handloads at my favorite pastime — plinking at steel. I still haven’t discovered a reason not to like them and that’s saying something from an old dinosaur like me.

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