Hand cast vs. swaged round balls

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Semper_Smokey

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Hi all,

Very new to all of this and wanted to ask advice on buying round balls. I see options for 'pure lead, hand cast' and 'swaged' balls on www.thetrackofthewolf.com and have no idea how to decide between the two!

I've just purchased a used T/C Hawken, .50cal / percussion, on auction and am eagerly awaiting it to arrive in the post. I was hoping to get some of the basics on hand so that I can get it out to the range ASAP when it arrives.

I've only ever shot a modern inline before with a mix of sabots and conicals - so, again, no idea how to decide between the types of ball!
 

Carbon 6

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Either will work. Swaged balls are made by essentially squeezing the ball into shape. Cast balls are made by melting and pouring into a mold.

The primary difference between the two is that cast balls will have a sprue on them, a small flat spot or protrusion where the lead was poured into the mold.
If using a ball with a sprue you load it with the sprue facing up or down. most people choose up.
 

Semper_Smokey

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Either will work. Swaged balls are made by essentially squeezing the ball into shape. Cast balls are made by melting and pouring into a mold.

The primary difference between the two is that cast balls will have a sprue on them, a small flat spot or protrusion where the lead was poured into the mold.
If using a ball with a sprue you load it with the sprue facing up or down. most people choose up.

Great - thanks, Carbon, for clearing that up!
 

Kansas Jake

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If I was new to the game or bought a muzzleloader in a new caliber, I would start with swaged balls. There is limited initial cash, storage is easy as opposed to casting equipment unless you can buy cast easily. You can buy a yard or two of pillow ticking or thicker mattress ticking for patches at a local fabric store such as JoAnns or Walmart. Then with powder, caps and your own spit you are in the game.
 

Bassdog1

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Either will work go with what is readily available and cost effective. Your 50 will most likely shoot a .490 or .495 very well. Just my experience but I generally opt for the larger ball with a fairly tight patch in the .015 to .018 range but each gun is different so a little testing is required. Once you get into it many on here prefer to cast their own to add to the enjoyment and save cash if shooting a large quantity of ball ammo. Play around with everything ask lots of questions and enjoy learning about your new gun.
 

Semper_Smokey

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Great stuff - thanks all. Figured I'd pick up 0.490 and 0.495 balls with some 0.018 and 0.015 pathes, respectively, to play around with til I found I load I like, then I might see if the wife would tolerate casting in the garage:)

Yet another question - lube for the patches? Anything I should know about oil vs. something like Wonderlube?
 

QuinnTheEskimo

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It’s not difficult or expensive to cast your own round balls if you can get your hands on the lead. I use a small cast iron pot on a Coleman stove, a casting ladle and a mold w/handles. Some of it you can pick up at garage sales. Pick up the stuff, watch a few YouTube videos and have at it.
 

Woodnbow

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Great stuff - thanks all. Figured I'd pick up 0.490 and 0.495 balls with some 0.018 and 0.015 pathes, respectively, to play around with til I found I load I like, then I might see if the wife would tolerate casting in the garage:)

Yet another question - lube for the patches? Anything I should know about oil vs. something like Wonderlube?
I use spit for lube most of the time. Hunting I use patches that I’ve sprayed with Eezox and allowed to air dry. Too much lube or too slick, in a ball shooter isn’t really conducive to best accuracy imo.
 

Carbon 6

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Yet another question - lube for the patches? Anything I should know about oil vs. something like Wonderlube?
The lube topic will get you a 1000 opinions, but there are a few things most people will agree on.
1. Spit works great for plinking and on the range, costs nothing and applies easily.

2. Generally speaking it is best to avoid petroleum based products.

3. Many people use a combination of beeswax and oil or some other fat.

4. Many people are followers of Dutch's system of lubing patches.

5. It is important to properly lube your patch regardless of what lubricant you use. Over-lubing and under-lubing will both cause problems.

6. Store bought pre-lubed patches are generally junk.

7. Patches can be round or square, many guys cut at the muzzle. (I don't)
 

Otter

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I cast all my ammo. But when a friend gave me a box of swaged .54 ball I happily fired them along side my cast ones. There was absolutely no difference that I could detect in loading or accuracy.
I cast all my BP bullets and balls now. Started out using swaged balls but I already had the pots and dippers and a life time dead soft lead supply, so why not? Besides, I enjoy the casting process . . .
 

Semper_Smokey

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The lube topic will get you a 1000 opinions, but there are a few things most people will agree on.
1. Spit works great for plinking and on the range, costs nothing and applies easily.

2. Generally speaking it is best to avoid petroleum based products.

3. Many people use a combination of beeswax and oil or some other fat.

4. Many people are followers of Dutch's system of lubing patches.

5. It is important to properly lube your patch regardless of what lubricant you use. Over-lubing and under-lubing will both cause problems.

6. Store bought pre-lubed patches are generally junk.

7. Patches can be round or square, many guys cut at the muzzle. (I don't)

Thanks for the warning on the store bought pre-lubed bit - that was the tempting short cut. Actually just bought Dutch's system, so I'll give that a good read before ordering some supplies!
 

Loyalist Dave

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The swaged ball...once in a blue moon..., will have one or two that are not "round". It's a rare thing. Cast can, sometimes, have a small air pocket, and it can under the right circumstances, cause an inaccurate shot. By and large swaging avoids the possibility of a void, and for a manufacturer saves on energy costs as the heat needed to cast thousands of round ball adds up, while for DIY like us, you can build a fire with some charcoal and get a lot of ball "run" without worries and for pennies.

LD
 

lokiprime

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Either will work. Swaged balls are made by essentially squeezing the ball into shape. Cast balls are made by melting and pouring into a mold.

The primary difference between the two is that cast balls will have a sprue on them, a small flat spot or protrusion where the lead was poured into the mold.
If using a ball with a sprue you load it with the sprue facing up or down. most people choose up.

I usually load mine with the sprue facing up, that way I have a land area where the bullet starter can rest on.
 

Spikebuck

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I have found that the quality of swaged round balls is going down hill. From other comments I've seen posted on this forum over the last couple years, I don't think I'm alone. I've purchased my last swaged balls. I have all my own casting equipment and can and do mold my own, but once in a while the last few years, with a gift card in hand for ToTW, I bought Hornady swaged RB and IMO they are getting horrible. If you're shopping ToTW, I think the price is now the same (cast used to be more), so personally, I'd get the hand cast ball from them. I've purchased both from ToTW and the hand cast were superior in weight consistency and in actually being round.
 

ADK Bigfoot

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In an earlier time, I shot national competition with .457 round balls in a Lyman Remington 1858 .44 Revolver. Our team was issued free swaged round balls (nationally known supplier, no need to name them.) I cast my own and found that, after weighing and sorting to eliminate possible air pockets in the cast bullets) my home made round balls were truer in weight, diameter, and consistency than the swaged bullets. When the fifty yard target made the difference between first and third place, I always shot my own cast round balls.

Lyman-mould round balls have a sprue: place them sprue-up and the loading rammer of the pistol or the ramrod of the rifle will swage them nearly round. No issues. Lee round balls have a flat spot (tangential cut off) that also should be loaded "flat up". Never saw an issue.

I happen to like casting nearly as much as shooting, so casting/sorting/weighing is just part of the game. I have an older Lyman .490 four-cavity round ball mould that I cast 99% of my competition rifle balls with. Deviation is +-.5 grains and all are within .005 in roundness. Bigger/smaller or not that round, they go back in the pot. My culls are less than ten in a hundred, often my first ten in a casting session.

I shoot them in competition all year and have never had an issue with "flyers" that were not due to the loose nut behind the trigger. When I cast my own bullets/round balls, I am in 100% control of my raw materials, temperature, mold, handling, and sorting. No mass-produced product can match them.

Good shooting.

ADK Bigfoot
 
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