Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Best All Around Mould to Cast for your 357 Magnum Revolver

What makes a particular mould the best?  Good question.  In my opinion there are a few criteria:
  1. The bullets must be capable of less-than one inch groups.  Shot at 25 yards off a sandbag
  2. To raise the bar, a magnum load must group less than one inch with iron sights, and
  3. A light target load must group less than one inch, with iron sights
  4. It doesn't lead the barrel
  5. The mould must cast consistently from cavity to cavity
  6. The mould shouldn't cost more than a car payment
Those are the criteria, from the most important down to the very important.  Bullet design is critical for each of these, mould design beyond the cavity is an important secondary factor.  The results on target, measured by calipers are the deciding factor.  It's all about the groups.

After casting, loading, testing, shooting, measuring and recording the results of over 30,000 357 magnum cast bullets:  The Keith 358-429 design is the clear winner.  That sounds like good news, and it pretty much is.  The problem is, there a many flavors of this old design, and they aren't all equally effective, either on target or on the wallet.

Three of the best and my favorites, in no particular order, are:
  1. NOE 358-429 - a semi-custom mould, available as a group buy, so if a buy is going on you can get one.  Available is two cavity aluminum, five cavity alumunum, and I think four cavity brass.
  2. Lyman 358-429 - a standard mould, made of a soft steel and lead alloy, in two or four cavity versions.  In the past several years they have been cut to drop small undersize bullets.  This is a big frustration as the design is superb.
  3. Mountain Molds Custom - you create the design using the website, the three cavity mould is first rate and one of the finest I've ever cast with.  So you can't just order one of these, it takes work to figure it out.  But they make great bullets.  I've posted the specs I used in a prior post if you are interested.
If you read my older posts, then you know that the Lee TL 358-158 SWC is also an excellent shooter, but it leads in many guns.  If it shoots in your revolver without leading and loosing accuracy after 50 - 100 rounds, it's a great deal.  The leading is the only reason it isn't at the top of the list.

There are other 358-429 moulds that are excellent, they all range in price from $84 for a four cavity Lyman to $120 - $170 for a three or four cavity custom or semi-custom mould. 
However, I wanted a great casting six cavity mould that met all of the criteria above.  I now have one.  Based heavily on the Lyman design, with some changes, I sent my design to Lee Precision as a custom order.  Not cheap, it cost $205 when everything is all said and done.  But the bullets are the best of the best.

A Lee custom mould looks just like their standard mould, from the outside.



The bullets from the 358-429 Lee custom mould all drop larger than .360.   As I've written about before, these fatter bullets have consistenly outperformed thinner bullets.

Using my favorite soft alloy of 98% lead and 2% solder (lead free), the Lee custom bullets drop at 178-179 grains, so I round up and call them 180's.  Wheel weights are about three grains less.  They took some load development for my revolver, just as it would for your revolver.

Here are a few from my first casting run:


I'm loving these, here's one more look:



Load development and results using my new-to- me used Taurus 669 are outstanding.  I'm lovin' shooting this gun:



It does have large throats, so your revolver may shoot best after you refine my recipes (coming after load development is complete).  For a light target load, 3.5 grains of Bulleye is a top perfomer.  For now, this is what is possible at 25 yards, rested, iron sights:




I can't shoot six rounds, with iron sights, without pulling one.  I think you get the idea, the five round group measures .8 inches, center to center, so far.

The load development and refinement is going so well that I'm thinking of offering it as a group buy on eBay or other online marketplace.  To get a custom mould from Lee is $205.  At $150 it would be a great value, a custom six cavity 358-429 that if full size, and shoot light and heavy loads.  But that wouldn't meet the criteria...  I believe it can be done for less than $100.

Stay tuned for load development results!  I'm loving this bullet!

Shoot safely, and shoot tight groups.

10 comments:

  1. I found your blog about 6 months ago and have been enjoying it tremendously! Thank you for your excellent work with one of my favorite ctgs. I have a 2 cavity H&G #43 mold which I believe is a clone of the 358429 - 173 gr. nominally. It's an excellent mold but I would be very interested in a 6-gang Lee if you have get a group buy going. Could I trouble you for some contact info?

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  2. Hi, thanks for the very nice words! I'll be doing a group buy, most likely in February. I'm checking for interest now, but will post here when the buy starts.

    My email address is prgallo@yahoo.com

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  3. MaxCactus,

    That H&G is a Keith, should be a great mould. Any chance you can let me know the overall bullet length and the length of the nose (meplat to the crimp groove)?

    Thanks

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  4. Excellent website - just what I've been looking for.

    Two questions:

    1. Have you tried the Lee TL358-158-2R? I'm shooting that through my Security Six, unsized, and the gun loves it. But I'm thinking about trying the TL in SWC based on your experience.

    2. Moderate loads with Unique, 4.5-5.5 gr, seem to lead like crazy with this bullet in this gun. If I size it either 358 or 359, accuracy drops off and leading really doesn't get any better. This is another thing holding me back from picking up the other Lee TL mold.

    Thanks, and keep up the great work!
    +HRC

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  5. Hi,

    Thanks for the great feedback.

    It's been awhile since I tried the 2R. My gun liked the SWC just a little bit better, buy YMMV. Give it a try and post back your results. A couple of 357's liked the SWC with fast powder (700X, Bullseye, HP-38) or H110 for magnum loads. They didn't like any loads with Unique.

    On the other hand a Ruger Blackhawk shot more accurately with Unique than any other powder.

    What are the throat sizes in your Security Six? Seems that slow powders like bullets to be throat size, the faster powders like to be over throat size. I'm assuming the throats are bigger than the groove diameter too...

    It's worth messing with crimp too. Add 1/4 turn and see if it helps. It's an easy test to try, sometimes it helps.

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  6. Another question, this time on your Rossi lever action carbine, which I also shoot.

    I've searched your site here for specifics, but it looks like the best grouping bullet you have for that carbine is a 125 grain bullet. That mirrors my experience as well. Is the rate of twist too slow to stabilize a 158 gr bullet? Have you shot any in between? I'm trying to work up a load with Lee's 140 gr SWC right now. No luck yet, but I need to try my new sizing die as I think that is the first problem to fix. . .

    Thanks again,
    +HRC

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  7. Hi,

    No doubt the slow twist rate Rossi's (1 in 30) shoot the short & light bullets the best, at least with light and midrange loads. The Lee 125-RF likes 3.5 grains of 700X and 5.4 grains of Unique.

    A few of the heavier bullets that work in the Rossi are the Lee TL-358-158-SWC. It shoots almost as well with 3.5 grains of 700X, the Lyman 358-477 is a great shooter over 5.4 grains of Unique.

    The Lee 140 you are working with might like one of those loads. They can a least get you started to work up your load.

    In a heavy bullet, the 180 grain 358-429 style bullet over 13.5 grains of H110, crimped in the groove, is also very accurate. It doesn't shoot at all in my Rossi with any lighter loads.

    Again, I believe that's a factor of the slow twist rate.

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  8. Shooter,

    The throats on my Security Six are .357. I would not have guessed they were so tight! I assume that .359 is the absolute max I should shoot. It does seem to like the fatter bullets. I shot some .359 sized bullets (they actually come out closer to .3585) and they shot well with 5.4 gr Unique. These were Lee's 140gr SWC and 158gr TL2R.

    The 125 RF mold for the Rossi came in the mail today. . . just waiting for some warmer weather!

    +HRC

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    Replies
    1. Pr. H. R.
      It's worth shooting some unsized bullets, assuming they are dropping bigger than the .359 sizer on hand. See how they do, it might surprise you and shoot even better.

      Guys shoot +.004-.005 without having any problems or concerns, FYI. The bullets have to chamber or you are outa luck though.

      That 5.4 load of Unique seems to work for just about any bullet. It just doesn't work in every gun.

      The 140, 145 and 150 grain bullets never shot well in my guns, except the Lyman 358-477. That's a great bullet design, it looks completely different than the Lyman website picture of it.

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  9. 5.4 of Unique was indeed a winner in the Security Six with the TL358-158 bullets sized to .359: ten shots and one ragged hole.

    Next up, testing the 140gr SWC in the Rossi levergun. . .

    Thanks for all the great information!

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