Updated: Nov 10
Antelope and deer seasons have come and gone. Pheasant, quail, ducks, and geese are all safe for another year. Fur buying is trickling to a halt and competitions are still a couple months away. This is a great opportunity to get some winter projects done.
One of those projects is coating bullets. Coating bullets is a process in which a top coat is applied to the outside of a bullet. The theory is to reduce fouling (mainly copper) which will make the precision window wider. There is also some evidence that shooting coated bullets will make cleaning the barrel easier. This process would be beneficial to high volume and precision shooters.
It is important to understand; shooting coated bullets does not make the rifle more precise. Meaning; if the rifle is shooting one inch groups and you switch to coated bullets, the rifle will not magically start shooting quarter inch groups. Coated bullets will only allow that rifle to shoot one inch groups longer and might make clean up easier at the end of the shooting session.
Experience Tip: Coated bullets are said to reduce the friction in the bore. Depending on the level of precision desired, this may mean a slight adjustment in powder charge is needed to compensate for the change in velocity.
There are three main top coats that shooters can apply; Moly (Molybdenum disulfide), Boron (hexagonal Boron nitride, HBN) and Danzac (Tungsten disulfide, WS2). For the remainder of this blog, I will refer to Danzac as the top coat being applied.
The containers that are being used need to be thoroughly cleaned and dried before starting the coating process. Dawn dish soap and hot water will do. I use three six inch pill bottles. Three is the magical number for me because I can fit three bottles inside the vibratory case tumbler. If I could fit more, I would use more.
Next, clean some steel BBs. To make it simple, use one tube of BBs in every six inch pill bottle. I use Brakleen degreaser for this cleaning. It is important that the degreaser does not leave an oily film. It should say this on the can. In the future, these same bottles and BBs can be used every time bullets are coated.
Step 1: Clean Bullets
When bullets are made, the bullet maker has to seat a lead core inside a copper jacket. To make this process easier, the jackets are lubed. Lube left on the bullets will not allow the coating to adhere to the jacket. The bullet maker will remove some of this lube, but it is imperative that all of the lube is cleaned off. I cannot emphasize enough how important this step is.
To remove leftover lube, place a handful of bullets into a small wire strainer. Spray the bullets with a degreaser, (the same degreaser that was used to clean the BBs) swirling as you spray.
Experience Tip: Do this step in the garage or outside. The degreaser can ruin the finish on your kitchen sink. Yep...learned that one the hard way
It is important not to touch the bullets after this stage with bare hands. The oils from fingers can impede the coating process in the same way the lube from the jackets would. For the remainder of the coating steps; wear disposable surgical gloves when the bullets need to be touched,
Dump the bullets, from the strainer, onto a clean dry towel. Fold half of the towel over the bullets and roll the towel over the bullets with your hands. Lift up the edges of the towel to let all the bullets roll to the center and transfer those bullets to another clean dry towel. Repeat the shining/drying process and let the bullets air dry for a couple minutes just to make sure all the degreaser has been removed or evaporated. If using a light colored towel, you will be able to see how dirty your bullets were.
I once tried to coat bullets without cleaning. The oil left on the bullets got into my pill bottles and coated the BBs. Due to this, I had to start completely over with new bottles and BBs.
Step 2: Place Bullets into Coating Containers
Wearing gloves, evenly divide the bullets into the same number of piles as number of bottles. Place each pile into a separate container with BBs. Make sure each bottle is filled to roughly the same height. The bottles should be in the ballpark of 80-90% full. For reference; this would be roughly 125 thirty caliber bullets.
Step 3: Add Danzac and Secure Lids
Safety Tip: The Safety Data Sheet on Danzac reads "May cause respiratory irritation." I do step 5 in a well ventilated area and I wear a mask for remainder of the steps.
Experience Tip: A little bit of Danzac goes a long way. An 1/8 of a pound will coat roughly 14,000 bullets.
Using a flat screwdriver, place a tip full of Danzac into each bottle. Do not worry about using too much. One of the properties of Danzac is that it resists sticking to itself. Meaning, once you have a thin layer on something, that layer will not get any thicker. Any “unused” Danzac will keep freely moving around inside the bottle. This excess can be reused the next time you coat bullets. Experience will teach you how much to use.
Experience Tip: The first time you do this step it will take extra Danzac. The inside of the bottle, BBs, and bullets will all need to get coated.
After securing the lids, wrap each lid to the bottle with electrical tape. The vibratory action of the tumbler will loosen the lids and allow media to get into the bottle. No bueno! Take the extra time and wrap the lids with tape.
Step 4: Vibrate/Tumble
Let the bullets, BBs, and Danzac vibrate anywhere from one and a half to four hours. Predicting the exact amount of time needed to vibrate is very difficult. There are too many factors such as; how clean the bullets are, size of bullets, number of bullets, amount of coating used, and the number of BBs.
Experience Tip: the first time performing this procedure will take longer because everything will need to be coated, not just the bullets.
Step 5: Separate Bullets from BBs and Extra Danzac
Always check one bottle before removing the tape from the others. If the bullets look done (no copper color showing) then remove the tape from the other bottles. If the bullets still show signs of copper then re-tape the one bottle and let all bottles vibrate for another half hour and repeat the checking process.
I made a device that will separate the bullets, BBs and extra Danzac. Using three similar sized plastic beakers, cut the bottom three inches off of one beaker. Drill several holes in this bottom big enough for the BBs to fall through but not so big as to let the bullets pass. Cut the last inch off the bottom of the second beaker. The bottom with the holes is then placed inside the second beaker with no bottom. This item then fits inside the third (complete) beaker. The idea is to let the BBs and unused Danzac fall through the holes into the whole container leaving the coated bullets.
Slowly pour all the contents of one pill bottle into the top container and hand vibrate until most of the BBs have fallen through. Separate the two containers and dump the bullets onto a clean towel (not the ones used in the cleaning process). The BBs can be poured back into the pill bottle they came from and any extra Danzac can be poured back into the Danzac container. Do not worry if some of the unused Danzac goes in with the BBs. Repeat this step for the other bottles.
Experience Tip: You will be able to reuse these towels, without washing, for several coatings. After that, throw the towels away.
Step 6: Clean Bullets
With all of the coated bullets now on one clean towel, fold the ends of the towel to create a “bowl” and gently roll the bullets back and forth to remove any excess Danzac. Still wearing gloves, place these bullets into a thick cotton sock and gently roll the bullets back and forth. This second “tumbling” will ensure that the only Danzac left is the Danzac that is coated to the bullets. Place these now coated bullets into the appropriate container. They are ready to load and shoot.
CTD is about sharing PROVEN accuracy and precision guidelines. Other than shooting coated bullets over a decade in competition, here are two proofs coated bullets extend the precision window.
My last target (match 5) at 200 yards at the Wisconsin State Tournament in 2022 was a 50-3X Without cleaning, I had already fired over fifty rounds before beginning match #5. Good bullets, good barrel, tuning, and a good read on the conditions are all keys to firing a target like that. However, being able to have this precision after 50 rounds, is also due to shooting coated bullets.
The most convincing experience came early in my competitive career. During competition, I typically clean after each yardage. In 2011, I forgot my cleaning rod during the NBRSA Iowa State Championship. The rifle was shooting really well during the 100 yard portion, so I decided to "run with it". I finished in first place shooting a 500-?X. That was well over 100 rounds without cleaning. Please do not misunderstand me. I do not want to go that long between cleanings. The point is; shooting coated bullets allowed the barrel to stay in the precision window for over one hundred rounds.
As with most advanced loading techniques, coating bullets is not for everyone. Competition shooters, precision marksmen, and/or riflemen who fire lots of rounds will most benefit from this process. If you are one of those shooters, and need a winter project, give coating bullets a try. Until next time, enjoy the experience.