Introduction: Making Big Game or Armor-Piercing Ammunition

Picture of Making Big Game or Armor-Piercing Ammunition

I have been a hand loader from the first rifle I purchased, an M44 carbine in 7.62x54 for $30.oo and I could not buy hunting ammunition for it. Big game and armor-piercing ammunition are relatively easy to make, nonferrous alloy (no iron) big game bullets are heaver and more versatile than steel bullets, making them better suited for hunting and not damaging the rifling of your firearm. They are made of solid copper, brass or bronze. Harder than a lead core bullet, they penetrate thick hides and bones deeper and remain intact when lead bullets mushroom and break up, making them ideal for hunting Elephant or other big game. Above in order from left to right is a stainless steel 30-06 Springfield armor piercing round from WWII, a 308 Winchester, and a British 303, the metallic confetti from a British 303 fired into a water bullet trap, a spent case from the round used to make the metallic confetti and a round fired into the bullet trap I designed. Other than the armor piercing 30-06 Springfield, the 308 Winchester and the 303 British lead core bullets would be reduced to the metallic confetti in the center if they were to strike bone in big game animal.

Step 1: Kinetic Energy Bullets

Picture of Kinetic Energy Bullets

Kinetic energy bullets are made from steel, tool steel and depleted uranium and need a sabot to protect a firearms rifling. Above are four .22 caliber steel bullets in sabots and loaded into 30 caliber cartridges and one .30 caliber steel bullet in a sabot and loaded into a 357 Magnum. The ideal weight for a .224 inch steel bullet core is 55 gr. and the ideal weight for a .308 to a .312 inch steel bullet core is 110-gr. and up. The length of the bullet is dependent on the sabot 2/3 of the bullet should be in the sabot, if the bullet core is under that depth it can yaw (spin erratically). The reloading data for the 22/30 caliber is available on the Internet or with the sabots when you purchase them. The reloading data for the 30/36 caliber (9 mm, 38 special and 357 magnum) or larger is available in reloading data manuals by weight of bullet. Sabots come in a range of American standard calibers from 22/30 to 50/54 and are available in stores all over North America.

Step 2: Nonferrous Big Game Bullets

Picture of Nonferrous Big Game Bullets

Nonferrous big game bullets are loaded the same as lead core jacketed bullets. They are loaded by weight of bullet, with a reloading manual to guide you a 110-gr. or a 150-gr. big game bullet is loaded the same as a 110-gr. or a 150-gr. round nose lead core-jacketed bullet. Above there are two British 303 rounds, the one on the left is a 165 gr. solid brass big game bullet the one on the right is a 180-gr. full metal jacket lead core, although different weights visibly the bullets are the same size. Nonferrous big game bullets are more versatile than the steel core and better suited for hunting big game. Harder and faster than a lead core bullet, they don’t breakup as easily as a lead core bullet, Slower and heavier than a steel core bullet, they penetrate tougher materials deeper and remain intact. This makes them ideal for hunting big game.

Step 3: Making the Bullet

Picture of Making the Bullet

Here is how I make Big game and Armor-piercing ammunition, a lath is best for making bullets, however I don’t have one so I make mine on a drill press, whether on a lath or a drill press you shape the entire bullet in one seating in the chuck and shape from point to base or boat-tail. Three jaw chucks do not center perfectly as shown in the red in this diagram. The blue shows the part that is centered. This makes doing the sides and the tip all at one time important so that they are centered. If they are not centered the bullet can yaw (spin erratically). The tools I used to make the bullets were a drill press a course file a fine file a wedged file a hacksaw blade 120 grit sandpaper 600 grit sandpaper and a dial vinier caliper (you can use an outside Micrometer).

Step 4: Size and Seating Reasons

Picture of Size and Seating Reasons

Use a piece of brass, copper or bronze at least twice as long as the bullet you are making, the off center of a three jaw chuck is why you cannot do one half of the bullet and flip it over to do the other half. One half will be off center with the other as in this diagram. This can cause the bullet to jam in the action or the barrel. If the bullet manages to make its way through the barrel without blowing up the gun probability of the bullet yawing is certain.

Step 5: Cooling and Measuring

Picture of Cooling and Measuring

From beginning to end at every step of the bullet you are making you should be cooling and measuring the bullet to be sure you will not cut or polished the bullet too large or too small for use. Wetting the piece with coolant, to cool the piece between every cut and polish this is very important. Other than heating the metal to the point of changing the temper there is a second reason for cooling. When metal is heated the metal expands for every degree the metals temperature increases the metal is larger. This can cause your vinier caliper or micrometer to read one size when the metal is actually much smaller. With bullets the tolerances are usually one one-thousandth of an inch, when the bullets are going into sabots the tolerances is not as strict.

Step 6: Shaping the Bullet

Picture of Shaping the Bullet

Using a coarse file, file the full length of the bullets being made including the tip, then using a fine file, file the full length of the bullet including the tip. With the sides and tip done use a wedge shaped file and file the taper of the base. When the piece is within .005 of an inch of the desired diameter it is time to use sandpaper.

Step 7: Final Sizeing the Bullet

Picture of Final Sizeing the Bullet

First use 220 grit sandpaper and sand the spinning bullet until it is within .002 of an inch of the desired diameter, then use 600 grit sandpaper and sand until it is within .001 of an inch of the desired diameter all the time cooling the bullet so it won’t expand from heat. This makes the bullet polished, smooth and it should be the desired diameter, if it is to large polish the bullet more until it is the correct diameter.

Step 8: Cut Off or Cannelure

Picture of Cut Off or Cannelure

At this point I can part off (cut off) the bullet with a hacksaw blade or I can cannelure the bullet, with the steel cores cannelures are not necessity, as the sabot does not need a cannelure to grip the bullet or bullet lube or the rifling.

Step 9: Cannelures

Picture of Cannelures

A Cannelure is a groove (or grooves) cut around the circumference of a bullet. They can be used to secure the bullet to the mouth of the case or on the big game bullets they can reduce the pressure on the rifling of the firearm, as well cannelures can be used to adhere bullet lube to the bullet.

Step 10: Cannelureing a .357 Bullet

Picture of Cannelureing a .357 Bullet

To make the cannelures in this .357 inch bullet I used a wedge shaped file, I could have used a template to make every bullet identical, but I just wanted to prove I could make one and a template was a bit much. On a lath the placement of the cannelures can be accurately reproduced with a template-cutting tool, and then every bullet will be identical. .357 inch bullets are used in 357 Magnum, 38 short, 38 long, 380 bullets, and more.

Step 11: Cannelured .357 Before Parting

Picture of Cannelured .357 Before Parting

This is a cannelured .357 inch. This is how it should look before you part off the finished bullet. Once the bullet is parted off you can file and polish the base. To make minor adjustments to the weight and the length of the bullet file and polished the base of the bullet. Filing and polishing the base of the bullet can be done with little effect to the bullet accuracy.

Step 12: Three Compleated .357 Bullets

Picture of Three Compleated .357 Bullets

These are 357-inch bullets after parting off; the three-.357 inch brass bullets are the same lengths however the cannelures have reduced the weight of the two on the right. The one on the left is 130-gr. the two on the right are 110-gr.

Step 13: The Difference Between the Brass Big Game Bullet and the Lead Core Bullets

Picture of The Difference Between the Brass Big Game Bullet and the Lead Core Bullets

Hear the difference between the brass big game bullet and the lead core bullets can be seen. The bullet on the left is 110-gr. lead core bullet, the big game bullet next to it is 110-gr. next to that is a 150-gr. lead core bullet and last is a 180-gr. lead core bullet. The big game bullet is almost the same size as the 150-gr. lead core bullet and it is the same weight as the smaller 110-gr. bullet.

Step 14: Bullet Varity

Picture of Bullet Varity

Solid bullets generally are not available in all calibers, most solid bullets are in .400 calibre and up, you can see how varied big game bullets can be if you make your own. Here from the left there are two 357, two 30, one 7 mm. and one 22- caliber big game bullets.

I don’t know everywhere these bullets are legal in North America as well as where they are illegal. Before making them, be sure they can be used and possessed. Many states and provinces have different laws that deal with bullets and firearms. It’s up to the individual to ensure that they are not ignorant of the law. If you live in a state or province where it is illegal to use or possess these bullets don.t make them. In the province of Ontario Canada where I live, I cannot hunt with them however I can target shoot with them. And since there are no Elephants to hunt in Ontario, I’m not worried about having a use for them. Remember weather making or using ammunition always make and use them safety.


Josehf Murchison (author)2013-03-24

There in right it is just a cheap drill press I got it new for less than 50 bucks.
It’s not like a lath that is tuned to 1/10 of 1/1000 of an inch.

AJMansfield (author)2013-03-24

Do you have the jaws on your chuck installed properly? It sounds to me like either one of them is bent, or you have them installed in the wrong order (each of the three is actually threaded differently, so, for example, swapping the #1 and #3 jaws will put the chuck pretty heavily off-center)

beatmakers (author)2012-08-29


If you think this is awesome read my paper on the Sabot Assissan.

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Bio: I am a photographer, a tinker, an electronics technology engineer, and author; I write short stories and poetry for the love of writing. I started ... More »
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