In the late 1970′s Lyman introduced several ‘composite’ bullets. These bullets were of two-piece construction. The idea was that the front half of the bullet would be cast from softer metal to promote expansion and the rear half of the bullet would be cast from a harder metal to allow top speed. This idea was not new, Ideal had made composite moulds about a hundred years earlier.
The new composite moulds were:
- #358624 – 170 gr.
- #429635 – 232 Gr.
- #452636 – 245 gr.
In addition to the usual 6-digit mould numbers, each mould was designated ‘A’ or’B’. For example, the complete #452636 set would include mould #452626A and #452636B.
The main drawback of these designs was that, unlike earlier composite designs that had one bullet formed by filling the mould with two different metals resulting in a fairly homogenous bullet, the newer composit bullet had the user epoxy the two halves together. The front half would nest into a hollowpoint-like portion of the rear half of the bullet.
In practice, it was very easy to epoxy the front half into a less-than-perfect-alignment and accuracy could be degraded.
The moulds were discontinued after a few years and are somewhat collectible. Unfortunately they do not always come as a matched set….a complete two-mould set is far more valuable than one set of blocks that is missing its mate.
Example of a .22 caliber combination mould for the .22 caliber bullets. Like virtually all combination moulds, this one was probably a special order. At various points in Ideal/Lyman’s history a customer could have moulds ordered with different cavities or with hollowpoints for a small extra charge. The moulds often, but not always, were shipped in the ‘special’ box.
Ideal offered adjustable weight moulds under the ‘Perfection’ name. The design was simple - a plug, which fit into the base of the mould like a hollowbase plug, was threaded to allow an increase or decrease in the length of the bullet, thereby changing it’s weight. To give as wide a range of weights as possible, the Perfection moulds favored bullet designs that had many narrow grooves. Popular weights of a particular Perfection bullet could be had in normal non-adjustable mould blocks as well.
Ideal Perfection mould for #37584
Ideal #37584 is a flat-nosed bullet for the .38-caliber rifles, and looks very similar to a Loverin bullet except for the lack of gas check. While the Perfection moulds were discontinued early in the twentieth century, Lyman offered the #37584 in a non-adjustable block all the way up until 1977 when it was last seen on the Special C list.
Hollowbase version of the classic #429421 Keith bullet. Note that the pin is matched to the block with the assembly number “10″.
Lyman #410662 exclusively for Dixie Gun Works
In 1996 and 1997, Lyman introduced the #410660 and #410663 bullets for the .40 caliber rifles, which had seen a revival of interest. In addition to the cataloged moulds, a non-cataloged proprietary mould was introduced that was exclusive for Dixie Gun Works. Lyman has a previous history of making moulds specially for other companies and having those moulds only be available through those companies (Freedom Arms, Wildey, Lakeville Arms, etc.) so this was not a new idea. #410662 was a 400~ grain bullet of similar design to many of Lymans ‘blackpowder cartridge rifle’ moulds (BPCR). Since this mould was available exclusively through Dixie Gun Works, it is difficult to tell just how long it was offered.
Faces of the Lyman #410662
Since Lyman introduces new bullet sequentially, it is likely that at about this time another mould was introduced using the “661″ designation. However, if it was a proprietary product, like the #410662, it would be difficult to tell where it went without, essentially, just stumbling across it. It’s possible that #661 was another exclusive for Dixie Gun Works but without a catalog from that time period it is difficult to get a definitive answer.
Originally, Ideal stated in their catalogs that any non-hollowbase bullet mould couldbe had as a hollowpoint for an additional fee. This means that for most mould numbers, there are two possible bullets – the standard version that is non-hollowpoint, or a hollowpoint version on a custom basis. Several bullets, however, were offered with a triad of options and each option had its own number despite the bullet being, broadly, the same.
#358439 w/ pin. Note the number 8 in the corner…a matching stamp will be found on the shank of the pin.
An excellent example of this is #358439. This bullet is simply a hollowpoint version of #358429, #358431 was a hollowbase version. Other than the base/point option, they are basically all the same Keith bullet.
In addition to the assembly numbers, which appear on both halves of the mould block, an assitional number is usually present on the mould and on the pin of the hollowpoint. This number, usually a single digit, is present for the same reason as assembly numbers – to keep the fitted pin from getting separated and mixed up with other blocks. Since pins were fitted to each particular moulds, they were not really interchangeable. Mixing up a handful of pins could be a problem.
#358439 cavity w/ pin
Like most of the interesting hollowpoint and hollowbase bullets, it was most likely discontinued by the time the 1978 catalog came out. #358429 is still being made, and the #358431 was discontinued in 1978 after being relegated to the Special list, but the #358439 doesn’t actually appear in very many catalogs at all.
Although bullet casting is Lyman’s claim to fame, they have also produced moulds for bullet swaging. The process of swaging involves putting a lead core into a copper jacket and swaging them to form a jacketed bullet. Cores are often made from lengths of extruded lead wire cut to the proper length. However, Lyman used to offer core moulds made on the adjustable-weight design used in their old Ideal Perfection moulds.
Cavities of a Lyman .45 core mould
Core moulds are usually in pistol calibers, although one rifle caliber, .30, is often found as well. The moulds were usually adjustable single cavity or four cavity. They were never given unique mould numbers and are usually identified by their caliber (“44″, “45″, etc) and a letter “S”. (Perhaps for swaging.)
The core moulds are still useful for bullet swaging, although Lyman has not offered them in years. Their collectibility and pricing reflects that, unless you swage bullets, these moulds cast a slug that isn’t useful for much else. A good machinist could probably replace the flat plugs with rounded ones and turn the core mould into an adjustable-weight paper-patch mould if the calibers were close to what was needed. But, really, these are mostly just curious reminders of some of Lyman’s more interesting special order moulds.
An excellent example of a combination mould featuring two bullets of the same caliber but different weights. Most combination moulds had the two (or more) bullets it cast be somewhat related…same caliber but different weights, same caliber but different nose styles, same caliber but a slight difference in sizing (much rarer)….but usually the bullets were ‘related’ somehow. This isnt to say that combination moulds with completely different bullets weren’t made but rather that usually the bullets had something in common.
Lyman’s selection of 8mm rifle bullets was never very broad, and these two designs were probably the most popular of those limited offerings.
In the 1990′s Lyman introduced many new designs…some stuck around, others didn’t. One of the shortest lived of the new designs was #410639. As Lyman introduced several .40 caliber designs to capitalize on the swift acceptance of the .40/10mm cartridges, #410639 was introduced to fill the need for the forgotten and overshadowed .41 Action Express.
Prior to the advent of the .40 S&W, the closest thing to a compact .40-caliber auto cartridge was the .41 Action Express. Introduced in 1986,the .41 AE used .410″ diameter bullets in a case with a rebated rim that used the same rim diameter as a 9mm. This clever design allowed most 9mm guns to be converted to the more powerful .41 AE with nothing more than a mag, barrel and spring change. The .41 AE might have been a great cartridge had the .40 S&W not come along and eaten it’s lunch. The .41 AE has since faded into cartridge history although brass and bullets were manufactured by Speer for a while. (Why Lyman waited until five years after the cartridge’s introduction to bring out a mould is a bit of a mystery…)
The very short lived #410639
The 1991 Lyman catalog introduced the #410639 as “#410639 – This new 170 grain 41 caliber bullet is ideal for the .41 Action Express Automatic Pistol Cartridge”". It was similar in design to the other .40 caliber bullets being introduced at the time by Lyman (#401638 and #356637, for example). The #410639 was only in the catalog for two years and even though it was cataloged for those years I have yet to come across one in the wild.
Because the .41 AE headspaced on the case mouth, like many auto cartridges, a crimping groove was not desired for the bullet. Although most .41 Magnum bullet designs would have worked in terms of diameter and weight, the cases could not have the kind of crimp normally used on revolver bullets. Like most of the .40/10mm bullets, the #410639 was a truncated cone design featuring one grease groove and a bevel base. This bullet could be used in a .41 Magnum but care would have to be taken to crimp the bullet securely to keep it from riding forward out of the case and binding up the cylinder.
The #410639 was Lyman’s only bullet design dedicated to the .41 Action Express. It first appeared in the 1991 catalog and was last seen in the 1992 catalog. To date, I have never seen this mould anywhere except in catalogs.
The .357 Maximum cartridge was a lengthened version of the .357 Magnum (which itself was a lengthened version of the .38 Special.) Introduced in the early 1980′s, the .357 Max. was originally chambered in a special Ruger single-action revolver, the Thompson Contender and the Dan Wesson revolvers. Problems with gas-cutting of the topstrap of the revolvers took the shine off the Max. As a revolver cartridge, the Max. died quickly although it lingers still in the metallic silhouette realm. The Max has always, however, had a following in the single-shot and rifle community.
Lyman #358627 215 gr. SWC-GC
Lyman introduced the #358627 in 1984. The bullet design was extremely similar to the #358429 except for having a gas check, a heavier weight, and a second crimping groove. In an unusual move, Lyman had two different crimping grooves designed into the #358627. The logic behind this was that some guns would not allow the bullet to be seated too far out of the case without binding up the cylinder, hence the frontmost crimping groove which gave a cartridge OAL similar to a ‘normal’ weight ..357 bullet. However, people shooting certain revolvers and single-shot guns could seat the bullet further out of the case, increasing powder capacity, without concern about tying up the cylinder of a revolver. Thus, the rearmost crimping groove. This study in multi-functionality appeared again in the #452651 bullet for the .454 Casull, which also featured two crimping grooves.
Bullet weight of the #358627 was listed as 215 grains. This made it one of the heaviest gas-checked .35 caliber bullets offered by Lyman. Only the #358009, #358097 and #358318 were heavier (with a gas check).
#358627 has two distinct crimping grooves to provide alternate cartridge OAL
Like the #313631, the cartridge that the bullet was designed for never really took off as planned. Most #358627 bullets are probably shot out of .357 Magnum guns and other .35 caliber rifles. However, for the man with a Contender or Dan Wesson in this caliber, it’s an excellent choice for a heavy bullet.
#358627 made it’s final appearance in the 1997 catalog.