Alternative Methods to the NECO Process
by Russell E. Taylor
© Sniper's Paradise 1999
A lot of people are handloading ammunition these days, for a variety of reasons, the two biggest being cost-savings and accuracy. With respect to handloading for accuracy, many shooters are trying moly-coated bullets and having what they perceive as positive results at the range and in the field. Quickly, handloaders become frustrated with paying the extra charges involved for already-coated bullets and want to save a few bucks by doing the coating themselves. Often, I'm asked how to go about the process of doing this.
I've been coating bullets with molybdenum disulfide for quite some time now. Besides my own personal experience, i've also gained a lot of useful information about the procedure by talking to others who also coat their bullets. I've read virtually every article, letter, or "study" on the subject, so I think I'm qualified to share a few thoughts along these lines. If you're truly interested in "rolling your own," then read on.
As most handloaders know, NECO (Nostalgia Enterprises Company) sells complete kits with everything you need to get the job done. Their process is patented. Please read that again... "their PROCESS is patented." This is questionable. How one can patent "knowledge" is beyond me -- but they claim to have the rights, and there IS a patent for them and their process.
Fine. In the interest of keeping Sniper's Paradise out of the courts, I won't describe their process (but God knows, if you ask virtually ANY person who is coating their own bullets, you'll get the information). You can, however, get this "special knowledge" by doing any number of searches on the Internet, most especially by searching through postings to the rec.guns newsgroup by using Deja News. So, what I'll cover are some of the down-and-dirty techniques used by the rest of us who refuse to pay the kind of money that NECO demands for its molycoating kit.
A Clean Bullet is a Plated Bullet
Moly coating bullets works best if you've cleaned your bullets first. A clean surface allows the moly to adhere better. I now degrease my bullets before coating them and wish I had all along. I used to just figure the guys who are degreasing proponents were nuts, and went ahead and dumped my Sierras into the moly tumbler "straight up." Over time, doing it this way, I noticed that the moly wouldn't last as long as I thought it should. So, having played the game for a while now, having tried a few things, and having read a few things along the way, here's what I'm doing now, which works for me.
I bought a strainer at Wal-Mart. I dump my bullets into this, rinse them with hot water from the faucet, then squirt some dish soap over them. I just swirl them around in the strainer and then run them under the hot water again -- still swirling, occasionally, until the soap is gone. Then I dump them on a paper towel to dry. Being heated by the hot water helps the bullets dry
just a bit faster than using cold water to clean them.
Degreasing takes just a minute or two, it's not that big of a deal, and I have definitely noticed that the moly job "lasts" longer with degreased bullets when compared to those I just molyed without degreasing. And if you don't think your "clean, shiney, out-of-the-box" bullets are dirty... spray a
few with some brake cleaner and wipe them down with a paper towel -- you'll see. Come on guys, it doesn't take long to clean them. If you have a "Type A" personality, just lay them all out, spray the heck out of them with brake or carbureator cleaner, wipe them down with a towel, and you're ready to go. Hey, whatever works for you, just make sure you get them clean.
Impact Plating With BBs
If you choose to use shot to molycoat your bullets, there are a couple of methods available to you for which NECO does not have a patent.
A. Place your bullets into a plastic peanut butter jar in which you've dumped in some Daisy BBs. It does NOT matter what type of BBs you use. Don't get fancy ones from a tool and die supply house. Just get a few bags of BB-gun BBs and use those. By the way, clean the BBs. Spray them down with brake or carbureator cleaner. (By the way, do I have to tell you that the peanut butter jar should have NO peanut butter in it and have been washed first? I don't? Okay.)
B. Dump in a teaspoon or two of moly. A little goes a long way and after a while you'll get a feel for how much to use to "freshen" the jar prior to a coating job. Initially, for the VERY FIRST TIME, you'll probably want to use a tablespoon's worth.
C. Tighten the lid onto the jar. Get some masking tape and tape across the lid, starting from one side of the jar, over the the lid, to the other side of the jar. This is so the lid won't vibrate loose during the next step. (Besides tape, you could also use one of those big rubber bands, the thick type you use to hold things onto ATVs and camping vehicles. The idea is to do whatever it takes to keep the lid from unscrewing itself during the plating process.)
D. Place the jar into your Midway, Lyman, or other vibratory tumbler. If you are handloader, you have one of these I'm sure. You can have media in the tumbler or not, it doesn't matter. Personally, I wouldn't bother with the media. Fire up the tumbler and let it run for TWO AND ONE-HALF HOURS!!! Anything less doesn't seem to work very well, and anything over this amount time can result in hard, crust-like deposits being left on your bullets. Note, different bullets (Nosler, Hornady, Sierra, et cetera) may require a slightly longer or (not likely) shorter time in the tumbler to do a good job, but you'll discover this on your own. To begin with, two and one-half hours seems to work pretty well for everyone. If you're concerned about accidentally the tumbler running too long, which is a very valid concern, get an electric timer while you're at Wal-Mart shopping for a strainer. Plug your tumbler into the timer, set the length of time you want, and worry no more.
E. Remove the jar, take off the lid, and dump the bullets into the wire strainer that you were smart enough to buy, before hand, in the kitchen supplies section at Wal-Mart. (When shopping for strainers, take a few of your BBs with you. The holes in the strainer should be big enough to allow the shot to fall through but not the bullets.) Shake the strainer long enough to get rid of the BBs. Then, place the bullets onto an old towel that you will NEVER again use for anything else, fold the towel over them, buff them up (which removes the loose moly dust from the bullets), and you're done. You'll have blackish-gray, shiney, ready-to-load bullets.
Impact Plating Without BBs
Actually, this is the method I've gone to. All the moly goes to the bullets and isn't used (wasted) to coat the BBs. The bullets will impact plate themselves. Simply do EVERYTHING in steps 'A' through 'E' above, except don't use BBs. That's it. Same nice results. I recommend using around 200 bullets, give or take (depending on the size of your vibratory tumbler), to do a good job. For this method you can also do as I do, which is to use a rotary tumbler such as a Thumbler's Tumbler.
Questions and Answers
"What about hollow points -- is it going to 'hurt' anything by having them clogged with moly?"
The short answer is... "no."
"My fingers get moly all over them when I load my coated bullets during my handloading sessions -- what do I do?"
Wash your hands. The stuff comes right off with soap and water. Use one of those goopy cleaners that auto mechanics use, if you want to. If you're interested in reducing the amount of wash time, I just came across something that I find very useful. I suppose you could avoid the
whole matter by using those flimsy rubber gloves you can get at the hardware store, but try this instead. With the colder weather, my hands tend to dry out a bit. Normally, I just get some hand creme and that takes care of the problem. A lady at work who sells Avon products on the side showed me a sample of this stuff called "Silicone Glove." In addition to being pretty mildly scented, I also discovered that it's just like it's name... a "glove" of sorts. The stuff is not slick, but you can feel a "coating" -- sort of -- on your hands. It's nothing distracting, mind you, but you just know it's there. Besides helping with my dry hands, I found that, when I load moly-coated bullets, my fingers seem to clean up much faster if I've used this stuff first. I suppose it's because the moly can't get into the pores of your skin -- but again, let me say that your fingers don't get slick when you use this stuff and I haven't had any problems picking up bullets to set them into the mouths of the cases before seating them. I later found out that such a product is called a "barrier creme" and using such cremes is standard procedure in certain industrial settings where people work with harsh chemicals. And no, I'm not an Avon representative, I'm not married to an Avon representative, and I'm not getting any money from them in any way for telling you about their product. I'm just telling you about this stuff because it works.
"Where do I get molybdenum disulfide?"
The best source I have found is a tool and die supplier or a place that specializes in ball bearings for industrial machinery. I called a local bearing place and they had exactly what I wanted. Look in your phone book's yellow pages under "Bearings." The stuff I use is called "Z" Moly-Powder, and is one of several lubricants made by Dow Corning. Neely Industries, which sells Dow products, advertises "Z" Moly-Powder as a "dry powder lubricant for metal working."
"Help! I can't find a peanut butter jar! What do I do?!!!"
No problem. Midway sells separate tumblers that they intend for handloaders to use STRICTLY for the molycoating process. You can use them with BBs or without. If without, it's best to use a couple of hundred bullets, give or take, so you can get sufficient impact plating during the process.
The Fear Factor
The number one problem with getting started in all this is, well... getting started. For some reason, handloaders seem to look at this molycoating business as some sort of black-magic voodoo. They're reluctant to start. They ask 25,000 questions about how/why/where/when to do it. Seemingly, it's as if they just NEVER want to get started. I think it's because, until you've seen someone else do it, you're afraid to try new things. Psychologically, people always fear the unknown. Look, I just told you everything you need to know to get started. (I also managed to avoid any patent-infringement lawsuits.) There ARE "no more questions." Get a tumbler, moly powder, and a clean peanut butter jar, and your victim bullets. If you're going to moly, then by all means, do it.