Four things determine the kind of tools you need:
- Bullet Diameter (caliber)
- Bullet Length
- Bullet Hardness
- Bullet Shape/Design
First, let's decide what press and die size is required:
- Do you want to make any calibers larger than .458 diameter?
Bullet diameters larger than .458 require the -H dies. These dies fit the CSP-2 Mega Mite Hand press, or the CHP-1 Hydro Press. If your answer is "YES", select -H dies and presses.
If your answer is "NO", continue to see whether type -S dies can be used...
- Is your bullet going to be over 1.3 inches long?
Bullets longer than 1.3 inches require the -H dies, and the CSP-2, or CHP-1 Hydro Press to operate them.
If your answer is "YES", select -H dies and presses.
If your answer is "NO", continue to see whether type -S dies can be used...
- Is your bullet made from core material harder than Bhn 6 lead (soft lead)?
Hard lead or core materials harder than Bhn 6 should use the larger -H dies to reduce the odds of breakage. These dies fit the CSP-2 Mega Mite Hand press, or the CHP-1 Hydro Press. If your answer is "YES", select -H dies and presses.
If your answer is "NO", then you can use the CSP-1 S-Press or the CSP-1H Hydro-Mite press.
Now you can select the kind of dies within the -H or -S family to make a specific bullet style and shape:
- Do you want to make a lead or a jacketed bullet?
- Lead bullets can be formed in one or two dies, depending on the style. For semi-wadcutter styles (SWC nose shapes), you can use the LSWC-1 die (type -S or type -H). For lead bullets without a SWC shoulder, you can use the CSW-1 Core Swage and the PF-1 point former in sequence.
In addition to your press and die set, complete the lead bullet package (for pellets, shotgun slugs, paper patched bullets, pistol bullets, and any other lead bullet), with these items:
If you have a good supply of soft lead, you can use the CM-4a core mold instead of the lead wire and core cutter.
- Lead Wire (LW-10)
- Core Cutter (PCS-1 or PCS-2)
- CSL-2 Swage Lube
- Semi-wadcutter jacketed bullets use at least two dies, the CSW-1 core swage and CS-1 core seater. This is packaged as the JSWC-2 2-die set for jacketed SWC bullets.
- Full jacket, open tip, flat base bullets can be made with a FJFB-3 3-die set. This simply adds the PF-1 point forming die to the JSWC-2 2-die set.
To complete the package, add the following to your press and die set:
- Lead Wire (LW-10)
- Core cutter (PCS-1 or PCS-2)
- CSL-2 Swage Lube
- Appropriate size jackets if available...see jacket section below.
- For lead tip bullets, add the LT-1 lead tip die, with internal punch having the same shape as your point form die (for more than one ogive shape, simply add another shape of PF-1 point form die).
- For Rebated Boattail Bases, add the RBT-2 Rebated Boattail set. Any die set with "R" in the first four characters of the catalog number includes the RBT-2 die package. Examples are the RBTO-4 die set (4 dies, open tip RBT), the FRBO-5 (5 dies, flat or RBT base open tip), the RBTL-5 (5 dies, RBT with lead or open tip, and the all-style FRBL-6 (6 dies, flat or RBT base, open or lead tip).
Style and Design
Bullet Design Page
Click the above to select tools by looking at a list of bullet styles and clicking the nearest to what you want to make.
Nearly any soft lead bullet can be swaged in LSWC-1-S or LSWC-1-H lead semi-wadcutter die, if you don't mind having a little .015 shoulder between the nose and the bullet shank. The actual cavity shape isn't critical, as long as it does not exceed about one caliber in length and has a releasing taper (a parallel sided cylindrical nose would tend to stick in such a punch cavity.
The base shape is formed against a punch also. You can make cup, hollow, dish, flat, even heel base bullets by changing the base punch. A bevel base could not be made this way, as the punch edge would have to be at least .015 thick to survive the pressures involved.
If you want to use a gas check, just drop it into the die first. If you want a BG (Base Guard) base with copper disk to scrape out the fouling, just order the BG base punch.
The LSWC-1 die comes with one nose, and one base, of standard design (those we stock). If you want a punch made to your specifications, there is a custom tooling fee, but it is quite reasonable. Just remember that any punch that forms part of the bullet in a cavity must have about .015 inches of square end on the edge, or else it will crumble and break under the extreme pressures.
All the dies make a wide range of weights simply by adjustment of the punch holder. It is good to let us know the range of weights you want to make, or the weight you are most interested in, because we can test and optimize the punch dimensions for it. And we can also determine if the die will hold that much material, and if not, suggest a larger system that will work.
Note that there is no major difference in the basic design of the tools whether you want to make an airgun pellet or a shotgun slug, or any kind of lead handgun bullet or paper patch rifle bullet, in this general category of style. We just make the hole a different size in the die, and use a die body that is appropriate for the length and diameter of that hole, fit the right punches to it, and provide it with a press that is large enough to handle the required stroke and pressure. Other than that, the same exact technique and ideas and drawings would apply. You just change the nose and base shape to suit your desire.
For our purposes, there are two broad categories of jacketed bullets. There is the semi-wadcutter style and the full jacket style. These are not specific shapes, but only general categories that help us determine whether you can make the bullet in a two-die set or a three-die set.
A two-die set first swages a lead core or cylinder, of a size that slips easily into a jacket. Then the second die pushes the lead down into the jacket and forms the nose, all at once. The nose must be entirely lead, and it must be long enough so that the end of the nose punch does not hit the end of the jacket (or else it would wrinkle and crush the jacket).
Whether the nose itself is round, Keith, full wadcutter, a big hollow cavity, or some other special form like our Saber Tooth design, does not matter. That is just the selection of a different nose punch. Likewise, you can use this two-die set to make a lead, gas check, half jacket, 3/4-jacket or Base Guard bullet. (You cannot use it to bring the jacket past the full diameter and into the nose area.)
This kind of bullet is typically a jacketed wadcutter or semi-wadcutter. We refer to the general style as a SWC because we have to call it something.
The base can be flat, cupped, dished, hollow, or almost anything else so long as you take into consideration that it is formed by pressing against a punch, and the punch cannot have a cavity with zero thickness edge.
A full jacket set doesn't necessarily mean you have to make a FMJ bullet in it. Whenever you want to curve any part of the bullet, or bevel it smoothly without a step, you need the FJFB-3 3-die set. The first die, called a core swage, forms the lead core and extrudes away any surplus weight (gets rid of variations). The second die, called a core seater, seats the lead into the jacket (if you use a jacket). The third die is a semi-blind cavity die called the point former. The PF die has the curvature that you want formed in its cavity. At the tip is an ejection pin to push the bullet back out by the nose.
If you push a lead slug into this die, it comes out looking just like the cavity: a lead bullet without a step or shoulder. You can skip the second die (CS or core seater) if you want smooth ogive lead bullets for handgun or rifle. If you want a jacketed bullet with a soft point, hollow point, or open tip, you would use the first two dies to prepare a cylindrical jacketed slug. Depending on the amount of lead you want exposed, or the amount of open tip area or kind of hollow cavity you want, you would use an appropriate shape and diameter of punch to just fit inside the jacket mouth and push the lead down, or to shape a conical cavity into the lead as you seat it. If you want to make a large lead tip, the punch used to seat the lead core into the jacket would be made to fit the CS die diameter, instead of fitting down into the jacket.
Pushing the jacketed cylindrical slug into the point form die shapes the nose curve on the bullet. You can push it a little way in, and make a large tip, or push it all the way and close the tip to the maximum possible amount. The smallest tip opening is the size of the ejection pin in the die. Special techniques or a follow-up LT-1 lead tip die can help close this tip down all the way.
To make purchasing easier, we package the two and three die sets in matching kits called the JSWC-2 and the FJFB-3. There is a -M, -S, or -H following the catalog number, which indicates the size and thread type of the die. -M is for the discontinued Silver Press or the S-Press, and has a 3/4-inch body die with 5/8-24 shank. The -S is for the S-Press and has a 1-inch body die with 5/8-24 shank. The -H dies fit the CSP-2 Mega Mite press or the large hydraulic presses, and have a 1.5-inch body with 1-20 threads. The punches for the -H dies are nearly as large as the rams on the S-Press. You cannot interchange dies in the presses except as indicated (-M fits the Series II, as does the -S).
All the other die sets, such as the LTFB-4 or RBTO-4 four and FRBO-5 or RBTL-5 five and FRBL-6 six die packages, just add either a lead tip forming die or a rebated boattail forming die/punch package to the 3-die set. The 3-die set is the basis for nearly any bullet you want to make that has a jacket or a smooth curved ogive or beveled base.
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Reloading Press Swaging
Can you use a reloading press to swage bullets?
The answer is yes, certain bullets. Even the toughest reloading presses are not designed so the die goes into the ram with self ejection on the down stroke. None of them have bearings or hardened tool steel rams. A Corbin press has a floating alignment system, like a CNC lathe, which puts the punch directly and positively into perfect alignment with the axis of the bullet, another feature missing on reloading presses. And finally, reloading presses do not let you drop the components easily into the die, since the loading press uses a die that fits the press head and is "upside down" for swaging.
Combine all these factors with the 200% increased power and 500% increased strength of Corbin's presses, with their hardened and ground alloy steel rams, and you can see that a reloading press is not as good a choice for swaging as an actual press designed around the process, with dies that do not have to compromise their design to work around a reloading function.
If you don't need fast production, or ability to continue adding features and making the more exotic designs, you can make bullets with soft lead (with or without jackets) using your sturdy RCBS-type slotted shellholder ram reloading press with 7/8-14 threaded press head.
See the price list under "reloading press dies" for a complete listing of Pro-Swage and BSD-xxx-R dies. Any Corbin product ending with -R will work in a reloading press. For a complete package for making 224 or 243 rifle bullets using fired .22 LR cases, see the page 22 RF jacket making kit.
To go into production, use hard lead, make calibers larger than .458 or longer than about 1.3 inches OAL, or do certain other somewhat exotic things that might take longer stroke or more pressure than the hand press dies can sustain, get one of the larger presses (CSP-2, CSP-2H, or CHP-1) and a set of -H dies. Over 90% of the custom bullet making firms in the world (22 countries) use the CHP-1 press because it is so versatile and cost effective compared to any alternative system.
To make bullet jackets from copper tubing (excellent hunting bullets, good target bullets), get a CTJM-1 tubing jacket maker kit for the appropriate caliber, a SAW-1 tubing cutter saw and a supply of the appropriate size tubing. We need to know what jacket you plan to use, because the size of the core seating punch and the core swage die diameter as well as diameter of lead wire you use all depend on jacket wall thickness.
To draw copper strip into jackets, this can be done on a hand press for most handgun jackets and the shorter rifle jackets (224 and 243 caliber under .7 inches, for example). If the length exceeds about .5 to .7 inches, then a hydraulic power press is a necessity. The JMK-1 basic system uses separate hand fed blanking and cupping dies, and the more automated JMK-2 system uses an automatic strip feed with lubricator in a special head that blanks and cups in one stroke. This would be the method for virtually any caliber, length, wall thickness, or taper of jacket wall from .17 to .458. Larger caliber jacketed bullets generally use tubing. Also, very thick walls (.040 and more) are more economically made using thick wall tubing than strip.
Rather than figure all this out yourself, let us know where you plan to go with your swaging, and what you already have now (if anything). We can help you plan so that there is no unnecessary purchase. Sometimes, you may want a spare die or punch, if you plan a business in custom bullet making. It is wise to have spares when your income would depend on getting the products out even if you broke or lost one of the parts. Some items (mostly punches) can be quickly replaced; others such as point forming dies are time consuming to make and require so much production machinery and manpower that they have to be scheduled around the existing backlogs. I am glad to advise customers on what I would want for spares and what really isn't necessary as long as we have over-night delivery services.
The best way to get exactly the right tools is to write down what you want to make, and see if you can tell from the publications and web pages exactly what you need. If not, send us a list of the bullets you want to make, along with any extra features like cannelures, bonded cores, tungsten or plastic fillings, Saber Tooth noses or whatever else you desire to add to the basic bullet design. We can get back to you by e-mail, fax, or printed quote with the exact list of items to do the job right.
-- Dave Corbin,
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