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If I Only Knew…To Those Considering Getting Into Reloading

Most shooters as they become more serious and want to take their shooting to the next level, maybe looking into shooting competitively or simply curious to find higher performance from their ammunition or that their shooting habits are outpacing their budgets will find themselves at a crossroads where they seriously consider loading their own ammunition. After all, the brass cartridge cases are usually the most expensive component in ammunition manufacturing and if not reloaded often find their way into the trash can or all over the ground at just about every shooting range. Reusing our spent brass cases can be a great socially responsible way to shoot more for our money and to mitigate rising ammo costs. Reloading can also give us as shooters a better understanding of how ammunition works and what it takes to for our ammunition to perform to our exacting performance standards. It can also give us a great sense of pride to know that we created our own ammunition that harvested that trophy bull or buck, won that match, etc. Loading our own ammo can also be a relaxing and enjoyable hobby and afford us the opportunity to create a more consistent ammunition that is also tailored to our firearm which from my perspective is the only way to squeeze every last bit of performance and accuracy out of our firearms.

Some of the benefits of loading your own ammunition is the flexibility it gives shooters by being able to choose what components we use. By having the ability to load our own ammunition we can turn traditional “hunting” rifle cartridges such as 30-06, or .270 Winchester into potentially competitive match, or load a soft recoiling “bunny fart” load for our pistols for match use, or for possibly taking kids out to the range with a simple tweak of our components. We are also able to change our ammunition to achieve higher velocities and flatter trajectories than we can in commercially loaded offerings by experimenting with different gun powders and different weights of powder. Changing the brand of brass we use will have an effect on case volume and also can have varying thickness of brass in the case neck where the bullet is held which can influence the grip on the bullet and pressure required to release the bullet which can influence the consistency of our muzzle velocities. We are also able to control which primers are used which are held in the case head of the cartridge and ignite the gunpowder and further control muzzle velocities and experiment in order to increase ammo consistency. Want to load a bunny fart .40 S&W pistol load in order to compete with 9mm or play with subsonic loadings in different weight bullets in 300 Blackout? Load it up and try it for yourself! Just make sure to do your homework and research what is safe beforehand. Loading our own ammo allows us incredible flexibility and to be imaginative. It also allows us to be assured of what is feeding through your firearm and its quality since you’re in control the entirety of the way.

Having complete control of our ammunition though can be potentially dangerous and life threatening if not handled correctly. I cannot stress enough that the most important thing we must focus on when loading your own ammunition is our safety. For the most of us we are essentially orchestrating small explosions that will be going off in very close proximity to our face, eyes, hands, and body on secondhand information! If you are just getting started in reloading or even if you are lucky enough to have a mentor teaching you, I still would recommend buying at least 2-3 reloading manuals and most importantly READ AND USE THEM!! Reloading manuals are a treasure trove of information and give basic steps of creating safe ammunition and reloading practices such as recommended minimum and maximum powder charges, brass handling and preparation, and also for case inspection. It only takes a split second of broken focus while reloading to create a potentially hazardous round (and it only takes one) which could hurt, blind, or even kill you. Another drawback to reloading your own ammo is that it can require a significant monetary investment in equipment and time. At minimum, you will need to invest in a press, shellholders, dies, priming tools, powder handling tools, brass case preparation tools, and a few reloading manuals. All of these tools can add up to some serious cash and if you are factoring in your time spent at the range developing a good load for your firearm adds up very quick and depending on your shooting habits and cartridges you are loading you may not see any savings by reloading for quite some time, if at all.

For those of you that are on the fence and thinking about getting into reloading or handloading your own ammunition. I have to share a confession…I have quit trying to justify reloading as a means to save money. I have been in denial, but it feels good to say it out loud and get it off my chest. For me, the investment of time was just too much to not try shoot the highest performance ammunition I could create for my firearms. I have continually upgraded most of my equipment from my original basic reloading kit in order to save time and increase consistency and performance of my ammunition and at this point I will probably start to see the savings about the same time I pay off my mortgage with the amount of ammunition I’m currently loading. Do a little bit of homework and pick up a reloading manual which will have steps required for making your own ammunition. This will give you a good idea and a good baseline of what equipment is required and price it out for what equipment would work for you. I would also take a serious look into what reloading means to you and be honest with yourself about what your end goal actually is. Are you simply looking for cheaper ammunition but are short on time that can be utilized for focused loading of ammunition or load development at the range, or do you shoot an expensive cartridge a couple weekends a year and are looking to save a few bucks on a box of ammunition a couple times a year? In all honesty, reloading most likely will not be the right choice for you. On the other hand if you are a serious shooter, competitive shooter, or just a curious shooter looking to obtain the highest degree of performance from your firearm and are willing to put in the work it takes to eliminate variables that can be come from factory loaded ammunition, rolling your own ammunition is a great option!

Lance Olsen