Friday, March 2, 2007


I have decided to get into metallic cartridge reloading ASAP. This is the science and art of manufacturing one's own ammunition from purchased and/or collected components. There are many reasons one may want to do this. Here are a few of them.

  • Ammunition Cost - Ammunition has gotten fairly expensive over the last several years. This is do to a few factors. The raw materials (copper, lead, nickel, etc.) have shot up in price due to increased energy costs and global industrialization. Copper for example has more than doubled in cost in the last couple of years. It is used to gild jacketed bullets, and is a primary component in brass, which is used to manufacture ammunition cases. We have all heard of the dregs that go around stealing copper out of new houses so they can buy crack. They aren't doing it because the stuff is cheap.

    The GWOT(Global War on Terror) has caused ammo to skyrocket as well. I see two causes for this. Military ammo demand, and people's fear over the state of the world. The military, thanks to forward thinkers like President Bush I and Bill Clinton, can not make enough bullets on their own for Iraq and Afghanistan. As shocking as this may be to some, there is now only one federal armory that makes regular bullets. They are and have been at full production for some time. Companies like Federal are taking up the slack. They are making ammo for our fighting men to use. There have also been rumors that we have had to purchase ammo from Israel. That is a whole other topic!

    At any rate the war production takes away from civilian production. There are shortages of affordable military caliber ammunition as a result. Additionally cheap mil-surp ammo from all over the world is drying up at the same time. This results in newer production ammo being all that is available to the civilian market. The costs of materials, energy, war, and no surplus ammo has resulted in the cost doubling in many cases.

    Reloading your own ammunition can save you money. Especially when you are looking at buying commercial grade ammunition. Let's look at how prices have changed. A few years ago you could get 1,000 rounds of surplus .223, .308, 7.62x39, and other common military calibers for $80-100. Now all that is really available cheaply is ammo like steel cased, Russian made Wolf. It is dirty ammo, is not reloadable due to the steel case, and is not nearly as high in quality as some of the various old surplus rounds. It also costs about $180 for 1,000 rounds. Lake City modern .223 surplus on the other hand is going for upwards of $300 per 1,000. That is very expensive. Regular civillian production ammo is in the same price range. As you can see, ammunition price is a big factor. If you can reduce that cost by say 50% you can shoot twice as much!

    Reloading may not be worth the effort if all you are looking for is cost savings. After all, you can just shoot cheapo Wolf to save some money. Cost is not nearly the only benefit to handloading.

  • Customization - There are many different types of ammo on the market for most popular calibers. Most have several different kinds of bullets and bullet weights to choose from when they go down the ammo isle at their local sporting goods store. This is a good thing. The varied bullet types and weights allow people to decide which one is appropriate for their purpose. The target shooter is not going to go with the same bullet type as the big game hunter. Most people don't use practice ammo in their handguns for self defense purposes. Hunters can choose a different type of bullet based on the toughness of the hide of their quarry for example.

    This, as I said is a good thing. Reloading makes it much, much better. You can manufacture ammo that is not only cheaper in some cases, but much more accurate than factory loads. Sure there are some great 'match' factory loads out there, but they are not cheap at all. Reloading allows the individual to customize his load for not only his purpose, but his specific gun. That is, the reloader can custom tune his load for his individual firearm.

    This brings up cost again sort of. You can spend a little more on your bullets, and other components and get a very superior piece of ammunition to any factory load for the same price. Sometimes in reloading you may not 'save' any money, but you will get more for the money you spend.

  • Sense of Accomplishment - I don't have first hand knowledge of this. At least not in the handloading arena. I have however crafted things with my hands before, and was pleased with the results. The thought of perfecting a round for one of my rifles, learning the rifle, and putting it together for accuracy appeals to me.

  • Stockpiling - I plan to stockpile several 1,000 rounds of a few different calibers, and I believe a lot of these rounds will be handloads. I don't want to trust Wolf crap for SHTF/This is my ammo supply forever duty. I also don't want to go broke buying inferior civilian ammo.

  • Practice / Plinking Ammo - Back to saving money. Actually saving the wrist as well. It is possible to load .45 ACP(and other rounds) very cheaply using cast lead bullets. These bullets are cheap and you can use less powder too. You basically can make your own cowboy action loads. They have hardly any recoil, are more accurate than factory ammo, and are cheap as hell to boot.

I am sure there are other reasons to reload I have not gotten into. The fun of it as a hobby is a big one for lots of guys. It is relatively cheap to get into as well. I plan to start with an inexpensive single stage press. Once I get the process down I may invest in more production oriented equipment.