Sharpshooter USA Buckshot Moulds
Sharpshooter USA Buckshot Moulds
Casting your own buckshot is one of the simplest and most economical ways to save money as a reloader, particularly if you’re a big shotgun fan. That being the case, why don’t more people do it? There are a number of reasons, but the biggest factor is probably that there just aren’t that many buckshot moulds available, and even fewer good ones.
In this article we’ll be taking a look at my favorite buckshot mould manufacturer, Sharpshooter USA (who has tragically ceased operations as of the publication date of this article), and discuss how their products can be used to mass-produce high-quality shot.
Sharpshooter USA was a small, custom manufacturer owned by Richard Plank, in the United States. Relative to much of what’s out there, Richard’s moulds are a real breath of fresh air, being a completely new and innovative design from the ground up, rather than a simple retooling of an existing system. Starting with the blocks, these are made from a high-quality aluminum; much stronger and much harder than that used by a lot of other manufacturers. This helps keep the weight down, while maintaining the strength needed to avoid warping. It also has the added benefit of making them virtually maintenance-free, as they won’t corrode or rust.
In terms of capacity, Sharpshooter USA’s moulds are second to none. Not only are most of Richard’s moulds designed with ten shot-cavities per row, they’re actually double-sided as well, meaning you can crank out an incredible 20 pellets per casting. That’s ten times the production volume of Lee Precision’s double-cavity roundball moulds, and still beats even their newest, 18-cavity buckshot designs by 10%.
Another really nice feature of these moulds is the hinge joint. Instead of placing it in the centre of the handles like traditional moulds, Richard’s design has it at the very end, allowing you to make the most of mechanical advantage. That helps a lot with the first few pours where the mould is still cold, and opening it requires more force. The hinges and hinge-pin are also extremely thick, meaning they can take a lot of force without breaking, or bending. Likewise, instead of a steel hinge-pin that needs to be lubricated, Sharpshooter USA uses one made from thick brass, so it swings smoothly, and won’t rust or warp. The handles are made from high-quality walnut, and affixed directly to the blocks. They do a reasonable job of mitigating heat, but as with any mould, you’ll want to handle these using a good, thick pair of leather gloves.
Lastly, no review of Sharpshooter USA’s moulds would be complete without at least mentioning the incredible selection they produced. As of October 2018, Lee Precision is the only major manufacturer offering buckshot moulds, and even then they only do so in #00, #000 and #4 buck. By contrast, Sharpshooter USA offered sizes ranging from the tiniest #B, all the way to massive #0000, plus popular roundballs like .49, .50, .68 and .69.
As you can probably imagine, these are some very thirsty moulds. While it is technically possible to ladle-cast with them, the sheer volume of lead required to fill both sides makes it pretty impractical. For this reason, I use a standard, bottom-pour Lee production pot to keep the alloy flowing.
The casting process is pretty straight-forward; we begin by filling each cavity in a row on both sides, then removing an entire strip at a time using needle-nose pliers, and tossing them in a quenching bucket (optional) to harden up. Once you hit your stride, it’s pretty easy to crank out a large volume of shot with very little effort. After several dozen hours casting with these moulds, I’ve also found that leaving a thick trail of lead along the way to connect each cavity makes a world of difference when it comes time to extract the castings. Instead of plucking them out a pair at a time, you can simply grab an entire strip of ten shot. This also makes cutting the shot free from the sprues easier, but more on that later.
When casting buckshot, temperature is even more critical than with standard bullet casting. There’s a lot of surface area here for comparatively little volume, so keeping things hot is essential to getting good fill. I try work to as quickly as I can to help maintain my mould temperature, as I find this yields far better results in terms of ensuring every cavity is producing. If I’m seeing less than perfect fills, it generally means that either the lead or the mould isn’t hot enough, and I’ll adjust accordingly.
Once you’ve got enough shot cast, you’ll need to cut them from the sprues. As mentioned above, casting your shot in continuous strips will really speed this process up. Instead of fishing around in the pile for individual sprues only to snip two at a time, you can grab an entire strip, and cut ten free in one go. I do this using a pair of flush-cutters, which ensure a nice, flat cut. If you don’t have a set of your own, you can purchase them for about $5 at your local craft store.
When all is said and done, the final product looks fantastic. Although it’s perfectly shootable as is, as with most of my castings, I like to employ an additional, optional step, which is to the tumble it. I find an hour or so in crushed corn cob media helps to smooth out the sprue cuts, and ensure the shot is as spherical as I can get it. I also really like the classic, flat-grey lead color, which is more in keeping with traditional offerings from manufacturers like Hornady.
In my opinion, Sharpshooter USA’s buckshot moulds currently represent the best value on the market for large volume casting. It’s a real shame the company closed down as they produced an extremely high-quality product at an affordable price– not something you see very often. With super materials, build quality and production volume, I just can’t imagine why anybody would use anything else. Although no longer available from the manufacturer, these can still be found on eBay, at many reloading forums as well as gun shows. If you’re ever lucky enough to come across one at a reasonable price, do yourself a favor and buy it before someone else does.
Tactical Advantage TV is focused on delivering short, to-the-point content on a host of subjects related to firearms, casting, reloading, optics and accessories. In addition to theoretical discussion, I will be performing a number of practical demonstrations on processes and products, including my own designs.