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Custom Made Rifle Bullets

Hand Crafted in Liverpool, England

  Building a Bullet

Cariboo Bonded, Ball Tip

Out of all the bullets I make the Cariboo Bonded, Ball Tip is the most complex and time consuming of them all, there are no short-cuts, no work arounds, just stick to the procedures. Hopefully this will give you a better understanding of what goes into these bullets.


An essential element in bonding the lead core to the jacket is that all metal parts are clean and free from any form of grease. I use a specialist surface active agent containing anions and cations at about 60oC to remove all traces of grease, the elevated temperature speeds up the process. The detergent then needs to be removed, using copious quantities of clean fresh water, several small washes are far more effective than a single large wash, then they need to be dried. I use a hot air blower to dry everything.

This is my standard method of cleaning. For bonded core bullets, once everything is clean and dry, the components should only be handled when wearing nitrile rubber gloves, even the natural oils from your skin can prevent the bonding process from being successful.


Weighing components should only be carried out in a draft free room at constant temperature, and the components you are weighing should also be at ambient temperature. Hot or cold items being weighed will cause thermals around the balance causing variations in weight readings. This applies equally to when you are reloading your ammunition!

Note: I am an analytical chemist, I’m used to using balances (that is the correct term!) that cost thousands of pounds, not a couple of hundred. The reloading scales we use to make ammunition, and I use to make bullets, are adequate for what we need, but that is all!


I’m going to use the .458 450 grain Cariboo Bonded BT as an example here, because it encompasses just about all potential elements in its manufacture.

  • I use .50 calibre bullet jackets to make these bullets, for their heavy wall and strength. These are drawn down to slightly less than .458”
  • The second stage is to trim them to the right length
  • Clean, as outlined above
  • Weigh, in groups of five, to get an average weight for the trimmed jackets. The exact number weighed will vary with the size of that batch of bullets being made
  • Cast slightly overweight pure lead cores, and;
  • Adjust the weight of the lead cores in the Core Swaging die
  • Clean and dry
  • Weigh the cores individually to obtain the best possible weight agreement, there is always a natural weight variance. So producing more cores than actually need is important.

The jackets and cores are now ready to be bonded together and should only be handled when wearing nitrile rubber gloves.



The flux used to bond the lead core to the jacket consists of some highly corrosive and toxic chemicals and should only be handled when wearing suitable PPE, and in a place with adequate extraction. This is not nice stuff!

  • Coat the lead cores with a small amount of flux. I use a shallow plastic container with a small amount of flux in it, and roll several cores at a time in the flux, then stand them on end to allow excess flux to run off, it only take a very small amount.
  • Place a coated core into a jacket and place it into a holder, I've just switched to using fire bricks, instead of scrap 4 x 2" wood, with shallow holes bored into it to hold the bullets
  • Flash heat the jacket/core until the core just melts, then remove the heat. The lead must be melted rapidly so that the flux has not all evaporated by the time it is liquid – no flux, no bond!
  • Remove the excess flux. The flux is highly corrosive and needs to be destroyed before the bullets go anywhere near those very precise swaging dies again! To do this I use sodium bicarbonate in boiling water to destroy the excess flux. In turn, the bicarb needs to be removed. Any bicarb left on the outside of the bullets will damage the inside of the swaging dies. Several washes with clean, fresh water does this.
  • Clean and dry
  • Polish. Even after all the cleaning and washing there will still be stains left on the jackets from the bonding process, these must be removed. I use a vibratory case cleaner to polish the bullets, it usually take two to three hours to remove the staining, but in extreme cases it can take eight hours plus…!

So, now the core is bonded to the jacket, and we can make bullets…!

Flash melting the lead core using a propane torch
Bonded Cores
  • Core seating. Even though the lead core is bonded to the jacket, it still needs to be pressed into the jacket to expand the slightly under size bullet up to the correct diameter.
  • The next step is to partially form the ogive, so the polymer ball has to be pressed in, using light pressure
  • Fitting the polymer ball. The ball should be very slightly too big for the opening in the ogive, and need to be pressed in gently, so it doesn’t fall out.
  • Next step is to crimp the polymer ball in place, this is done by pushing it slightly further into the ogive forming die – carefully.
  • Clean and dry
  • Polish
  • Weigh, individually and package

So, there you have it, how to make a bullet! It’s a lot of hard work and attention to detail but you get out what you put in, the terminal performance of these bullets is outstanding.

This is what they look like after the bonding process, now the cleaning process begins...!
Clean & Bonded
Ball Tip      

Fitting the Ball

I use a magnifying glass on a stand, with built in LED lighting when I'm fitting the ball to the ogive. The polymer balls have a seam that must be below the top of the jacket, so they require careful positioning.

The polymer ball should be very slightly too large for the opening in the ogive, and just sit there. I use the swaging press to gently press the ball home. It's effortless and very contolled.

The ogive is then closed so that it grips the polymer ball. And the bullet is done, apart from cleaning.

Neutralised, washed, cleaned & washed, now they spend some time in the polisher, until the remaining stains are removed.
©MME Custom Rifle Bullets 2020