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Learn What You Need To Swage Bullets

To determine the tools you need:

First, determine bullet style.
Dies are selected for a style of bullet, rather then being listed by caliber. We can make ANY caliber within the range of the press and die type (-S, -H, -R) for any given design of bullet, so choose the dies based on bullet design, then specify caliber. Different die sets make semi-wadcutter, flat-base open tip or FMJ. You can add dies to include lead tips or rebated boattail bases, for ANY caliber.

Next, select -R, -S, or -H type dies/press.
The -R means reloading press type dies, the -S means the S-press and -S type dies, and the -H means Hydro or Mega-Mite. Each die and press type will handle a given range of calibers. The -S type works with .102 to .458 diameter bullets. The -H type works with all calibers up to about 25mm. Reloading press swages are made in a more limited range of calibers styles. All die sets end with -R, -S, or -H, which describes the kind of press each set uses.

Determine bullet length to further pin down die/press type.
Bullets up to 1.3 inches can be made in the -S dies and press. Bullets longer than 1.3 inches will require the -H dies. Reloading press swage dies typically make shorter length bullets, with some exceptions for the lead semi-wadcutter paper-patch styles.

Do you want to make bullets larger than .458 diameter?YES, use -H type dies.NO, use -H OR -S type dies.
Do you want to make bullets LONGER than 1.3 inches?YES, use -H type dies.NO, use -H OR -S type dies.
Does your bullet use a jacket?YES, jump to JACKETED swage dies.NO, jump to LEAD swage dies.

See Basic Packages

This is a very popular package for making LEAD pistol or paper patched rifle bullets:

  • CSP-1 S-Press
  • LSWC-1-S die set (specify caliber, and nose shapes)
    • .366 for .38-55 cal. pp CB 1-E ogive
    • .448 for .47-70 cal. pp CB 1-E ogive
    • .392 for .40 cal. pp CB 1-E ogive
  • CSL-2 swage lube (required)
  • LW-10 lead wire
  • PCS-2 core cutter (wire over .365-in)
  • Optional for full-bore: HCT-2 knurling tool or HCT-3 grooving tool
Please note that you can make airgun pellets, shotgun slugs, paper-patched rifle bullets, lead pistol bullets, hollow or flat bases, even heel-based bullets, and more, with the proper LSWC-1 die in either -S (.458 and smaller) or -H (any size). Just specify the diameter, base, and nose shape.

Jacketed bullets are designed around the jacket.

  • Check the JACKETS page to see...
    1. If a commercial jacket is available in your caliber, or...
    2. If not, whether a larger caliber jacket can be drawn/trimmed to make your caliber, or...
    3. Whether you wish to make the jacket yourself, using...
      • COPPER TUBING and the CTJM-1 tubing jacket maker kit, or...
      • COPPER STRIP and one of the JMK-1 or JMK-2 strip jacket drawing kits.

Popular Packages

This is the most commonly used package for jacketed rifle or pistol bullets:

  • CSP-1 S-Press
  • FJFB-3-S die set (specify caliber, base, and nose shapes)
    • .224 cal. FB 6-S ogive
    • .243 cal. FB ULD ogive
    • .308 cal. FB 6-S ogive
    • .357 cal. CB TC ogive
    • .452 cal. CB 3/4-E ogive
    • .458 cal. CB 1-E ogive
  • CSL-2 swage lube (required)
  • LW-10 lead wire
  • PCS-1 core cutter
  • Bullet jackets (250 or 500, typical)
  • HCT-1 hand cannelure tool

Click for Prices

Here is the second most commonly purchased package, for long range rifle bullets:

  • CSP-1 S-Press
  • RBTL-5-S die set (specify caliber, and nose shapes)
    • .224 cal. RBT 6-S ogive
    • .243 cal. RBT 6-S ogive
    • .284 cal. RBT ULD ogive
    • .308 cal. RBT ULD ogive
  • CSL-2 swage lube (required)
  • LW-10 lead wire
  • PCS-1 core cutter
  • Bullet jackets (250-500 typical)

Click for Prices

Jacketed SWC-style bullets are made in two steps with this package:

  • CSP-1 S-Press
  • JSWC-2-S die set (specify caliber, and nose shapes)
    • .355 for 9mm, .380, or 38 Super FB AL ogive
    • .429 for .44 Mag, .44 Spl. FB Keith ogive
    • .452 for .454 Casull, .45 ACP FB 3/4-E ogive
  • CSL-2 swage lube (required)
  • LW-10 lead wire
  • PCS-2 core cutter (wire over .365-in)
  • Bullet Jackets (250 or 500 typical)


  • Soft lead cores or bullets
    Type -R, -S, or -H dies can all be used for soft lead cores (Bhn 5-6)

  • Solid core (lead) hardness under Bhn 8
    Type S dies and the CSP-1 press generally can be used with Bhn 5 to Bhn 8 hardness, depending on the shape and caliber.

  • Powdered metals
    Any Corbin press and dies can be used with powdered metal cores and appropriate powder metal funnel kit.

  • Solid core (lead) hardness of Bhn 8 to Bhn 10
    Type H dies and the CSP-2, or CHP-1 press can generally be used, depending on the shape and caliber.

  • Solid cores harder than Bhn 10
    Special techniques and dies are generally required for very hard materials such as silver or hard lead alloys. These should be discussed prior to placing an order, to make sure the caliber, shape, and design are suitable for the material. Extra-large dies, special die metals, or a combination of these may be required.

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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.

Jacketed Semi-Wadcutter Bullets
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.

Full Jacket Styles (Open Tip, Lead Tip, or Open Base styles)
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).

Lead Tips and Rebated Boattails
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 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 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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