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Introduction to Reloading Ammunition
Anyone who has purchased ammunition lately knows that it is much more costly than it used to be. With rising political threats, more buyers in the marketplace, and manufacturers who have hedged against building new factories, ammunition prices don't seem to be going down anytime soon. But what if I told you that you could save upwards of 60% on your ammunition costs? While savings varies depending on the caliber you're shooting and whether or not you are using cheap or premium ammunition, reloading can easily take the strain off your wallet. For many, reloading and shooting are two hobbies that literally feed on one another.
For you, the reader, it's important to know there is a difference between "reloading" and "handloading". Many times these terms are thrown around in conversation as synonyms. They are not. For those who enjoy the hobby, reloaders are those who are primarily trying to save money by reloading spent cases with new primer, powder, and projectiles. Handloaders, on the other hand, are attempting to squeeze every bit of efficiency and accuracy out of their ammunition. While these are two different things, there are those like myself that embody both ideas. I load my own custom loads for a variety of reasons:
- Target practice/plinking
- Competition shooting
Getting into the Hobby
For many would-be reloaders, a major barrier into the hobby is the cost of the equipment necessary to start reloading. Along with that, many don't really know what they really need to get into the hobby. Here is a list of the essential equipment you must have to reload or handload effectively:
- Press (single-stage is best for beginners)
- Dies in the caliber(s) you plan to load
- Powder measure
- Scale (digital is preferable)
- Chamfer/deburring tool
- Funnel (to avoid spilling powder)
- Reloading manual
There is no sugar coating it, the equipment to start loading your own ammunition is not cheap. However, this should not deter from it's appeal, as these costs are upfront costs. The proper equipment pays for itself. The time frame for this depends on how much you load. For me, reloading match rounds and hunting rounds that would be expensive to buy as loaded ammo have paid for the upfront costs many times over.
Don't buy the least expensive things you can find, in this hobby, you absolutely get what you pay for. Researching brands and individual products can save you a lot of time and headache in the long run. I have learned this a few times through various mishaps (none dangerous, just in ease of processing components). You may be wondering at this point, what are the best products? Well, that's a horrible broad question that only you can decide. What doesn't work well for one person may be the answer for the next. Personally, I tend to buy higher end dies as I've found they work better, and issues are few and far between. However, this isn't a universal truth.
Another factor in whether or not a shooter makes the leap into reloading is safety. Factory ammunition has been tested by manufacturers to ensure safety in use. Reloaded and handloaded ammunition doesn't go through any tests that you don't put it through. For this reason, there are tales of people injuring themselves and destroying firearms. However, if you respect the importance of researching the hobby and pay close attention to what you're doing, it is actually a very safe hobby. Many times, these stories stem from careless assembly of components into loaded ammunition. Checking your components carefully for imperfections, and carefully measuring powder alone eliminate 90% of any issues you may potentially have while loading your own ammunition.
Handloading Over Reloading
For those folks who intend to load ammunition for the purpose of getting all the performance out of each round possible, your research goes much farther than this hub does. It is especially important for you to read your reloading manuals, publications, and manufacturer specs and information. Handloading can be incredibly rewarding for those with patience to hone your skills and work up what many of us call "pet loads" that get the very best out of your firearms. On many occasions, my trips to the range using ammunition I have loaded have instigated conversations with fellow shooters like "Where did you learn to shoot like that?" or "I wish I could shoot like that". Often I receive passing compliments on the accuracy and consistency I reach with my handloaded ammunition.
- Know some of the terminology used in describing and categorizing bullets