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From Reloads To Handloads- First Steps In Improving Reloading Performance

When it comes to reloading, making the gun go bang is a very simple process. You resize the brass to like new dimensions, knock out the old primer, insert a new primer, load it with powder and a bullet and it like new again, right? WRONG! While it is true that making ammo that goes off and actually exits the muzzle is relatively easy. Personally, this is not enough for me. I have found that my time and monetary investment has been too great to not be loading ammunition that doesn’t blow factory ammo out of the water every time. Loading performance ammunition that consistently beats the pants off factory ammo every time I go to the range can be a tough, and tedious feat since it is basically a balancing act of how we influence our components. We want to have just enough influence over our reloading components to create high performance and nothing more and to repeat this process every time you’re at the bench. The “garbage in, garbage out” rule definitely applies here and consistency at the bench most often times equals consistent and high performance out. Here are a few tips that I have found that have changed my reloading for the better and keep me loading good ammo day in and day out.

First and foremost, find a good network of similar minded shooters whether at your local range, online forums, competition circles, or through social media and ask a lot of questions of like-minded shooters who have similar shooting goals. There are many parts to loading ammo from bullet construction, shape, and manufacturer’s tolerances to different powders and primers where burn rates all play a role and chances are most likely someone has already stood in your shoes and can help. Most of the time when I am choosing bullets, powders, or primers I am doing so based off from others experiences finding good loads with given components. If people are using a lot of common components it’s pretty hard to argue that what works for others won’t work for you. Handloading is a game of statistics and probability, high frequencies are hard to ignore. Leaning on other’s experiences also allows me to save my own time, barrel life, and components chasing something with no guarantees of performance. Having a good starting point increases your chances for success and to have a basis of great performing ammunition and gets you pointed in the right direction and keeps your load development limited to smaller tweaks here and there. Don’t get me wrong and think that experimentation is bad, it’s just good to remember there are no free lunches in reloading and no guarantees. I know that for one my time can be better utilized on the range getting as much practice actually shooting.

Invest in a good chronograph and preferably something that doesn’t rely on light diffusion to get accurate readings. I know that is probably the last thing a new reloader who just dropped some serious coin on their reloading tools wants to hear and looking at a chronograph such as a Magnetospeed or Lab Radar, but honestly it just helps so much. Being the self-taught reloader I am, I had the most difficult time trying to decipher what my loads were trying to tell me. Load development is a constantly trying to decipher patterns which may or may not be there. I use a chronograph to look at not only bullet velocity, but to also average velocity, and look at extreme spreads over shot strings and also to set the benchmark for how a load performs over time. Was that group that just got blown up with that errant flier me? The wind? Or was the load trying to tell me something was up and my good grouping was a fluke? It is so much easier to just have scientific hard numbers rather than trying to read my fortune in bullet holes. Another big part of loading consistent ammo is to keep a good notes that are organized and keep them in a safe place that’s easy to review later. Especially on brass to bullet interface preparation such as crimping or neck tension. I cannot count how many times I have been in the stages of heavy load development and life has interrupted and I have come back to the reloading bench weeks, sometimes months later to try and continue on from where I left off and find out once I hit the range that I skipped a step and my ammo is not performing like it should. I don’t know about you but remembering this morning’s breakfast can sometimes bog down my memory, let alone what I had done to a batch of empty brass weeks later. Having these notes often come in handy especially when you eventually make it out to the range to actually shoot and review performance. If you happen to stumble upon just a fantastic load right off the bat, you’re definitely going to want every scrap of detail to try and replicate what you did.

When it comes to trying to load performance ammo it is good to also keep in mind that this is where you will see why people start to conveniently lose track of their cost per round and how many rounds they need to load before they recoup their costs on tool investment. Eliminating variables and ammunition consistency either costs time or money, spend the time first and then make investments as you see fit. This is coming from a confessed reloading gadget junkie (I would rather spend the money, than time). It is a slippery slope loading performance ammo and you can definitely find yourself lost down the rabbit hole where a couple hundred bucks doesn’t get you far. I mean I have seen $600 dollar primer seaters that I’m afraid to even look into why it costs as much as it does! I hope these tips can help get you pointed in the right direction from the very beginning in loading the best ammo possible!