Cross-Country Cast Bullet Cross-Off


Without question, the humble cast bullet is my obsession in the shooting world. Molten lead alloy, poured into a particular mold, forming the shape we desire, giving us all the control we could possibly want. Cast bullets have been very good to me. Besides allowing me to hunt with a bullet of my own making, they’ve allowed me to participate in hunts I didn’t know about. Huh? How’s that Tank?

The handgun hunt I’m going to share was a year in the making, unbeknownst to me — but involves everything I love involving guns, leather, bullets and a good hunt. 

Here’s Jim’s 200AW rig he made himself, cradling his S&W 1917.

An Introduction

Jim Wall is the VP of an outfit called Milt Sparks Holsters, Inc. If you know anything about Elmer Keith, you know who and what Milt Sparks Holsters is and what they meant to our favorite cowpuncher.

Right away I knew I liked Jim. While talking about a Bruce Nelson holster for an upcoming article, naturally we started talking about shooting, guns and eventually cast bullets.

Whenever someone knows the significance of the numbers, 358429, 429421, 454423 and 454424, I know we have an instant bond. Jim did, and to me, proved his legitimacy of knowing the roots of revolver-dom (by the way, those are bullet mold numbers for bullets designed by Elmer.)

Patina perfection of a 97-year old gun, shown with Jim’s actual moon-clipped
.45 ACP rounds using Tank’s Powder Coated bullets.

Sore Throats 

Jim told me he had a S&W 1917 with large cylinder throats. I mentioned I have a 454423 mold made by, offering to send a couple hundred his way, powder coated and sized .454″. They seem to be the ticket and Jim reports they shoot well in his ol’ Smith’.

Proxy Hunt?

Fast-forward a year later and Jim tells me he was successful taking a cow elk with the old gun, using some of my bullets I sent him. I’m happy for anyone taking a cow elk with a handgun, especially a vintage iron-sighted classic, but when it’s with some of your bullets, well — I was ecstatic for Jim! How cool is that? Participating in a hunt you had no idea of?

Here’s Tank’s MP-Molds’ 454423 4-cavity mold. What a beauty.

Jim Tells The Tale…

“As I watched the front sight tremble on the elk, I told myself what pistol shooters constantly remind themselves …. let the shot come as a surprise.   

“Leaving the steep timber and moving into flatter area of the mountain, I paused to catch my breath,” Jim said. “Moving several yards slowly and stopping to watch was how the morning’s hunt had been going. Tired and ready for more coffee and ibuprofen, the pickup was just a few hundred yards downhill from me.

“Glancing right I saw nothing, but as I looked to the left I saw a cow elk bedded down slightly below me. This was a late season, antlerless, short-range weapon hunt in the Salmon River drainages of central Idaho. And this was the animal I was looking for.

Here’s the bullets, as cast, Powder Coated and loaded.

The Shot

“Drawing my revolver, I cocked the hammer single action,” Jim continued. “The handgun is a Smith and Wesson Model 1917 made shortly after WW1 in 1921. It has always seemed right to me to carry this classic sixgun in the same style of holster that Elmer Keith recommended for large revolvers, a Milt Sparks 200AW, with the protective hammer shroud.

“This revolver has the looser cylinder (throats) and barrel specs of a military handgun so I was using a handloaded .454 SWC loaded in mixed .45 auto cases and held in the gun with full moon clips. My friend Tank had sent me some of these bullets to try last year and they seemed to be the perfect choice for the task at hand. Weighing 246.5 on my scale and pushed by a stiff charge of Winchester 231, the load made it out of the muzzle at around 900 fps.  

“ At the shot, the elk moved away a few yards off. The sights looked good as the second shot went and the elk broke into a run. One more single action shot behind the shoulder and the cow disappeared into the brush downhill.”

The man, the gun, the elk — here’s our happy handgun hunter, Jim.

That Feeling We All Know…And Hate

“Doubt sets in, as there had not been any reaction to the shots, except to run off, out of sight,” Jim worried. “A few seconds passed and suddenly, there was a loud crash about 75 yards away. At this point I believed the elk was down and after a short distance I saw the elk, down in the brush below me,” he said, relieved.

“The big slug had hit the back of both lungs and passed out the other side, but more importantly had struck the liver and the large meplat and cutting shoulders of the Keith-style bullets caused rapid blood loss. I was very pleased I had taken an elk with my nearly 100 year old Smith and Wesson and loads assembled by hand.

“The gun and the bullets worked just as they were supposed to. I guess I can mark one off the bucket- list!”

A simple, humble shape capable of fatal results, as Jim has shown us.

Tying It All Together

So there we have it! A classic hunt using vintage-styled bullets and holster with an original classic vintage gun by a man who builds holsters from the same company Elmer preferred. I think that’s as poetic an experience as it gets. I feel privileged to be able to have participated, be it ever so meager, as providing the bullets, but hey, I’ll take that.

Thank you Jim for sharing your hunt! I’m sure a lot of like-minded guys will enjoy it as much as I did!

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