This is a guest blog by Joe Plakis
Well the Spring Nationals is only a few weeks away, finally most of the snow has melted, we can finally look forward to the best part of our sport, CASTING! I know it might not be your favorite, you might be leaning more towards loading or cleaning a dirty musket. Some of you might be in the small minority that just likes shooting, but for me it has to be casting! Shooting just doesn’t seem to do it for me anymore; I prefer the laborious hours of sitting at a bench slaving over a molten pot of hot lead.
All joking aside, I think we all know that casting has to be our least favorite part of our sport. It is probably the most labor intensive and boring part of our sport, be it a necessary one, that doesn’t mean we all have to love it. When I first joined in 1997 it was my father’s task to cast, after awhile he introduced me to casting. I still have nightmares of that old 20lb pot and that iron dipper. For most of us this is still the method, the good old tried and true “lead pot and dipper.”
For two people that setup really worked, and was efficient but as the amount of events that we shot started to pile up it just stunk. So I took the next reasonable step, the “bottom pour pot.” I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread, and with the addition of a second, I didn’t have to stop to wait for the lead to re-melt. For the past several years that is the way I operated and it was still labor intensive.
Then a few years back I saw an article on a machine called the Master-Caster. The first thing that turned me off was the price; $1,000 seemed like a lot of money to pay out for a machine that could not cast hollow based bullets. But then I had heard that some skirmishers had success with converting it over to a hollow base bullet mold. I was sold, so I purchased the machine at the end of the last skirmishing season.
After reading the directions and building a bench that was worthy of the machine I began the task of converting my brand new RCBS Mold. Sadly the company will not convert a mold if it is a hollow-base mold, so I had to convert it myself. Luckily at my father’s house I have a milling machine in the basement so converting it was a breeze. Although it was kind of scary to see how soft that iron mold was. You need to drill five holes in the mold. Four of them are for the ears that mount the mold into the machine. The fifth hole was to add the specific sprue-plate that you must use.
Then after all of that I found that I needed to trim down the width of the floating plate that carries the base-plug. After all of that work I could finally mount the mold. After allowing the base-plug plate to bend into a small arch the machine was finally ready to roll. So I plugged the machine in and filled it with 40lbs of soft lead and set the machine to 750 degrees.
Like usual the first dozen or two bullets came out with the expected wrinkles. After that I was finally used to the mechanics of the machine. After all of that hard work the first hour proved that all of the hard work and time was defiantly worth every second and drop of sweat. I opened up the drawer and took the bullets off and set them on a table for my father to count.
325 bullets in an hour! With less than 1% of that being rejected bullets! In the next hour the amount of bullets increased to 375, with the same rejection rate! After reading watch the video you might notice that in two minutes I was able to cast 18 bullets, in that hour if at the same pace as shown it amounts to 540 bullets in an hour! All of this from a machine that was not capable of using a bullet mold that included a base-plug!
In closing I cannot say that this machine is for everyone. After purchasing the machine and mounting a new mold plus the conversion kits that you have to use, I have close to $1200 in the machine and it is set up for one bullet. Although it is just as simple to convert another mold with an additional kit and just swap it out. Since buying the machine in less than two days I have cast enough rounds for not only myself but the other four people that I load for. The payoff for me is the fact that I got it all done in one weekend rather than multiple weekends.