Swaging .223 Bullets from .22LR Brass with a Blackmon Swaging System – Chapter 1 – Making Jackets

Swaging .223 Bullets from .22LR Brass with a Blackmon Swaging System – Chapter 1 – Making Jackets

Melting lead alloys in moulds may be the most common way to make your own bullets, but it’s not the only option.  A small, but equally dedicated number of reloaders also make their own ammunition using modified or purpose-built swaging machines.

What is swaging?

In it’s simplest terms, bullet swaging is the process of compressing and shaping lead into a slug or bullet using pure mechanical force.  As you can imagine, this is no simple feat, but the rewards are impressive.  A skilled bullet swager can produce all manner of projectiles in various sizes, weights, and styles that simply can’t be achieved through casting alone.

In this series of articles, I’m going to show you how I use a Blackmon swaging system to produce jacketed .223 rounds from discarded 22LR brass and lead.  In this first chapter, we’ll begin by making some brass jackets.

Let’s get started.

Brass Preparation

The first thing we need to do is clean some 22LR brass.  This is an important step as dirty casings won’t bond properly with the lead cores we’ll be making later.  For this step we’ll use a rotary tumbler with stainless steel pins to really give these things a good scrubbing.  An hour or so should do the trick.

With our brass cleaned up it’s now time to anneal it.  Annealing is process whereby metal is heated to a high temperature, and then allowed to slowly cool.  This softens it, making it more malleable, so that it can be shaped and swaged without cracking.  Though not as effective as a brass annealer or pottery kiln, a toaster oven will do a passable job without breaking the bank.  45 minutes at the highest temperature should suffice.  Once the brass is annealed, you’ll notice it takes on a sort of silver color.  I’m not an expert on metals, but presumably this is caused by oxidation brought on from the high temperature.


Now it’s time to break out the Blackmon jacket swaging die set. As you can see, it consists of two components, a die and a punch. Similar to the Lee lube and sizing system, this jacket swaging die works by pushing a spent 22LR casing up through a steel cylinder which unfolds the rim, straightening and lengthening the case.

Installation is a snap; both components are designed to fit in any standard Lee or RCBS single stage press. You’ll note I’ve reinforced mine with a pair of steel plates on the base to increase the presses footprint as this process takes a lot of force.


With the jacket swaging die in place, we’ll apply some swage lube to the punch, place a case on top and apply a bit to it as well.  With that done, it’s a simple process of running as many or as few casings through the derimming die as you deem necessary for your session.  Swaging metal uses an incredible amount of force, so remember to keep an eye on things, adding additional lubricant to keep the casings from becoming stuck or deformed.

Eventually fully-derimmed casings will begin exiting the top of the die, ready for use as jackets.  It’s not difficult to crank out a couple hundred of these in an hour, depending on how well annealed the brass is.  While certainly not as fast as casting, bullet swaging isn’t about speed, it’s about precision.  Now that we’ve got some jackets to work with, we’re ready to move on to the next step in the process

In the next article in this series we’ll take a look at how the lead cores used with these jackets are produced.

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