As seen in our July issue, Gun World’s James E. House takes the readers through “Reloading 101.” To read the step to step reloading guide, Click Here!
As ammunition availability decreases and prices increase, the already popular practice of reloading is becoming even more attractive.
Loading a cartridge by hand may seem like a complex and arcane activity to a beginner, but it is neither. Weekend enthusiasts and serious shooters alike have created their own ammunition for decades, making reloading—also known as hand loading (the terms are nearly interchangeable in modern usage)—an old and established craft. Indeed, from the earliest 14th century, paper casings up to the continued development of today’s integrated cartridges, hand loaders have been there for every step of the journey.
But all history aside, modern reloaders have a variety of reasons to pursue their craft in an era of high quality mass-produced ammunition, including economics, versatility, performance and personal pleasure.
The brass case is by far the most expensive component of a metallic cartridge, so reusing it saves money, a vital consideration in this, or any economy. Assuming you have cases on hand, if you add up the cost of one hundred bullets, primers and the powder necessary to load 100 cases, you’ll quickly discover that the cost is lower than that of 100 factory loaded rounds. In fact, industry experts estimate that the cost of reloading is about half the cost of purchasing factory ammunition. In addition, the required tools (which we cover in this guide) last a long time after your initial investment, bringing further savings.
As a specific example, let us consider the 257 Roberts; a very versatile cartridge, but only if loaded with a range of bullets. Factory ammunition for this cartridge is available from Federal, Hornady, Remington, and Winchester, but only in a single load that utilizes a 117-grain bullet intended for medium game. A hand loader can easily produce cartridges that utilize bullets weighing from 60 to 120 grains in a variety of styles, making the 257 Roberts suitable for many uses. And this is just one example. Better still, a hand loader can produce a batch of favorite loads when needed, create loads for specific firearms, or reload ammunition in calibers for which virtually no factory ammunition is available in stores.
Suppose you shoot a 243 Winchester, for which there are numerous factory loads from all major ammo makers. However, if you consult the load charts (each manufacturer provides specific information on powders and bullets used in every load), you may find that although many are available that utilize 80-grain bullets, they all have rather standard ballistics. When you load your own, you can vary the power level over a wide range with a very large selection of bullets in that weight. And, after some experimentation, you may find a load that gives improved accuracy in your rifle. One of my own successes came when I was experimenting with 185-grain loads in my 45 Auto. Factory loads gave acceptable accuracy, but by selecting two types of bullets and varying the powder charge, I found two that gave the best accuracy I’d ever obtained with that gun. You can often improve on the “one size fits all” approach of factory ammunition by hand loading. Competitive shooters—especially benchrest competitors—have been doing this for years to great success.
Like many others drawn to this fun and fruitful practice, I like working with tools to make things, and this certainly applies to my passion for reloading. In fact, going to the range to test velocity and accuracy of what I produce, is often just frosting on the cake. For me, it is always fun to test a new bullet or a new type of powder. Reloading is a craft.