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Book Review: Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook 4th Edition, Data Rifle Handgun Calibers Molds

My apologies up front to the authors, but this is a disappointing book, sorry to say. The good news is there is an obvious need for a fifth edition that addresses the deficiencies.

Despite its title, this is not a handbook about cast bullets.

It is first and foremost a handbook about Lyman reloading products.

Second, it is a long listing of popular pistol and rifle round dimensions, as cast in an undefined lead alloy (probably linotype alloy, judging by that alloy’s popularity in the book).

Beyond that this book is a random assortment of poorly structured and brief, incomplete descriptions of elements of lead bullet casting. I hate to do this, but here are some specific criticisms:

1) It has few European cartridges and no (British, German, Swedish, Austrian, French) Black Powder Express calibers. This is a gaping hole in any case, but especially in light of the tremendous upsurge in interest in BPE rifles.

2) Nothing about paper patching, which has seen a resurgence because it works very well, and a lot of, if not most 1870s-1890s black powder guns in America and Europe shot paper patch cast lead bullets.

3) Unbelievably lame and incomplete lead alloy list, missing critical and most practical field-use characteristics for each alloy. When I purchased this book new, I was expecting some discussion of the relative merits of pure lead, 50:1, 40:1, 30:1, 20:1, 16:1, and 12:1 lead alloys, and perhaps a discussion of their different purposes i.e. thin skinned or thick skinned game, at what ranges, their hardness and weight out of the same mould relative to one another, plain base vs. gas check, etc. There are some lead alloys that are predominant or most popular (40:1, 20:1, 16:1) among reloaders, because they are very practical, cheap, easy to make, easy to cast. There is zero recognition of this simple fact here. Instead the authors treat us to their own narrow interest in very hard Linotype alloy, which of course has its use on the toughest big game, but my gosh, gentlemen, there is a whole world out there of LEAD.

4) Lots of wasted pages and space on scientific nonsense about melting lead. I have a graduate degree in statistics and economics, which indicates I can think hard and well when I have to, and I have a lot of interest in the subject of casting lead bullets (and sinkers, and jigs). And yet, I still fell asleep after the first paragraph about the physics of melting lead. This section is unreadable, as well as pointless and useless for practical lead casters.

5) Very little is written about mould types or materials i.e. relative merits of bronze vs. brass vs. iron vs. steel, or should we use the antique moulds or have new ones made, or how to care for moulds, single block vs. split block, etc. This is a huge subject as more and more mould makers have come on line all over America and Canada to meet the strong demand for custom bullet moulds, each offering their own preference of mould material.

6) Nothing about the Ideal tool, which is also becoming popular again, i.e. how do you properly store and travel with your paper patched bullets, so you can load them on-site?

7) It is pre-Internet, although an Appendix is roughly tacked on promoting certain Lyman wares and suppliers available on the Web.

8) Finally, adding insult to injury, the cover contradicts the text. The primary author describes how he ladle Рpours with the spout right in the mould pour-hole. Yet the cover shows a dramatic looking stream of molten lead leaving the ladle and landing in the mould some distance below. And that right there summed it up for me: The cover shows one thing, the text describes another. I am frustrated and disappointed by this book, and so I rank it at the very bottom of reloading books.  And yes, I have been shooting black powder since I was a kid, so I know of which I speak. Frankly, you can get much better, more useful, more accurate, more up-to-date information from the guys at various web pages (castboolits, nitro etc.) than you will get from this book.

How sad this is. But as noted, if the authors address these concerns, the next edition should be truly a bible on cast bullets.

 

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