When my father was very young he played Cowboys and Indians (or whatever a young kid played in the early 50's) with an M1917 Smith & Wesson revolver - unloaded of course. It was my grandfather's pisol but the barrel had been cut short from the normal 5.5" to around 3". I've heard two stories on why the barrel was cut off. The first had to do with my grandfather's need to conceal the pistol (he was a big poker player and used the pistol for protection). The second story was that he wanted to use it during bow hunting season. He tried to fire an arrow from it and damaged the barrel which then had to be cut off. Either is a great story and puts him in the same class as someone else who carried a cut-off M1917:



Decades later my father replaced the barrel and gave me the pistol. I had the pistol for a couple of years and when I heard my father was coming up for a visit I figured I would surprise him with a fun project. I would collect used 45 ACP brass and fired bullets from my shooting range for a couple of weeks and when he arrived we would clean the brass, melt down the bullets, reload some 45 caliber rounds for the old pistol and take it to the range. Here are some muddy bullets from my first scavenger hunt at the range:



I bought a bucket from the dollar store and drilled holes in the bottom to help clean the lead and brass:



It worked great. Here is a pic of a day's haul after cleaning:



I did not know how much range lead I could actually find so I also collected some used wheel weights from a couple of the local tire shops in town. The Zinc and Steel wheel weights would be discarded. The remaining lead wheel weights would be sorted in to two categories. The first would be stick on wheel weights (we will call those SOWW) which are too soft to be used by themselves in bullets. The second is clip on wheel weights (COWW) which have Tin and Antimony added for extra hardness. This is my first collection of 120 pounds of wheel weights before they had been sorted:



After the wheel weights were sorted it was time to melt them down into ingots. I put them in an old cast iron skillet and heated it up on a propane burner:



As the lead melts, the steel clips and dross (impurities) float to the surface. I scooped this junk off my lead and discarded it:



I fabricated a couple of ingot molds out of some old angle iron and used a ladle to transfer the clean lead into the molds as well as a muffin tin my wife gave me:



After all the wheel weights were melted down I ended up with around 120 pounds of clean lead from the 180 pounds of wheel weights that I had collected. This would net me around 4200 bullets (45 caliber 200 grain SWC) if I were to cast all of it:



Once my father arrived in town we started melting down the bullets I had picked up at the range. We used the same method of melting them and discarded the empty copper hulls from jacketed bullets:



Out of 27 pounds of reclaimed bullets we ended up with 20 pounds of usable lead (enough for 700 new bullets). The 20 pounds of ingots were melted down in a one quart stainless sauce pan:



A Lyman dipper was used to pour the lead into a two cavity bullet mold:



We ended up making around 175 bullets before we called it a day:



The next day we started lubricating the bullets. For lube we used a mixture of some old toilet bowl wax rings and Vasoline:



The DIY lube did not work as well as we had hoped so we started powder coating the rounds instead. To do this we put the rounds into ziplock bags and placed the bags in my brass tumbler:



After tumbling for 20 minutes the rounds were removed and placed onto a tray we fabricated from some expanded metal screen. The screen was put into a toaster oven we purchased for $19 at Walmart. The cheap oven didn't have great temperature control but it held a steady 400 degrees when the dial was set for 350 (after a 10 minute warmup). We let the bullets sit in the oven for 20 minutes then pulled them out and quenched them in water:



After running the coated bullets through a .452" sizing die we started reloading the new rounds:



We ended up making around 175 finished rounds using W231 powder in three different charges (4.7 grains, 5.1 grains, and 5.7 grains). You can see that since we were primarily using 45ACP brass we had to use moon clips. We also used some 45 Auto Rim brass that I had been saving for years:



In addition to the rounds made with powder coated bullets I also made a few with nickle coated brass and no powder coating. These were dummy rounds and did not come out as nice as the ones that had been coated. I'll keep a few of these as display models and give a few of them as presents to the tire stores that gave me the wheel weights:



So, how did the rounds shoot? They shot as well as store bought rounds did in the M1917. Horrible! I'm not sure what is wrong with the pistol but with both factory ammo and cast bullets I am only getting around a 6" group at 10 yards. Definitely not sub MOA. My guess was that the barrel wasn't really 0.450" but was instead a little larger. I slugged the barrel and found that it was spot on. I have no idea why it is shooting so poorly.

Just for the record, here is a list of expenses for the project ($200 total):

Lyman Dipper - $22
Lee 200 grain SWC .452 double cavity mold - $21
Lee 45 ACP 3 die set - $35
Lee .452 lube and size kit - $ 30
Toaster Oven - $20
Red Powder Coat - $6
Stainless sauce pan - $10
Spoons, spatulas, ladles, etc - $15
Range brass, range lead, wheel weights - $8
Gas bottle for propane burner - $20
Large pistol primers - $8
W231 powder - $5

So, $200 (actually much more since none of my existing reloading equipment as well as other supplies were included) and hours and hours of time for 175 rounds or $1.15 per round for something that normally costs $0.30 shipped to your house. Still, it was a fantastic project.