Reloading / hand loading & bullet casting makes more sense now than ever!

This is a guest post by Sam K and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.

I must confess, I am a consummate ammo loading fanatic, an addiction that started with saving money, to allow me to shoot more in my cash strapped teenage years and continues into my 50′s. That has allowed me to chase accuracy and improve my shooting skills over the decades tenfold. I look at the prices of ammo in stores today, and can not believe how much it has increased.

Some recent articles on this blog and others, dealt with loading ammo to make a living after SHTF, the realities involved, and a lot of the articles were spot on, I must say. I am talking about loading for yourself, select friends and family members who are of the same mindset. When I first got into loading, it was with a Lee Hand loader, that did not even use a press. As I progressed and got a large O frame press, friends and I split the cost of dies, and other necessary tools, not that many needed, and used my press to load their own ammo.

As people moved on in life, most donated their half of the dies, or I bought them out, leaving me with a large assortment of different caliber loading dies. As I bought and traded firearms, I could load up some ammo, see how the gun shot, and good groups meant a quick sale. I eventually went into gunsmith/gun shop business full time for several years, and was successful, eventually selling out to a younger man, but keeping all my gunsmith tools, lathes, milling machine and all my loading equipment.

I would also recommend, for loading for hunting rifles, that you buy Jacketed flat base, spire point bullets. I have found that these shoot as good or better in most hunting rifles and kill game just as dead as the boat tail or ballistic tip versions, that cost 20-30% more. You will only realize a gain from boat-tail bullets after you pass the 300yd mark. For rifle cartridges, I look the load manuals, for a powder that will nearly fill the case or the bullet will even compress some, at one grain or half a grain under the maximum load.

This will usually shoot great in a modern rifle and no way you can double load a round, it will spill over if you are careless. There are only 2 dies for most bottleneck cartridges such as .243, 30/30, 30/06,or 270. Most handgun rounds use a 3 die set, one extra step in the process but will be covered in any load manual.

I also progressed into casting center fire handgun and rifle bullets, lubing and sizing to reload for my own use, making the effort even more of an economical asset. I found with listening to people that knew what they were doing in various articles and reloading manuals, I quickly came up with very accurate cast bullet loads for 9mm, .38 an .357 mag, .44 mag, .45acp and .45 long colt loads with bullets I had made during evenings, instead of watching TV. I also worked cast bullets and worked up loads for 30/30,30/06, 6.5×55 swede, 8×57 Mauser and 45/70 with cast bullets and some with gas checks, some without. Most loads hovered around MOA( Minute of Angle) meaning they would keep a 3 or 5 shot group close to an inch at 100yds, out of rifles I had customized or built.

These bullets would go through a 4 inch cedar post at 125yards, which was good penetration, from bullets made with wheel weights! The key to using cast bullets to hunt with, is hitting large bones that make secondary fragment’s, as the wheel weight lead is harder and does not mushroom as easily as soft lead in conventional copper jacketed ammo. I also obtained and used pure soft lead for all my muzzle-loading projectiles, round ball and maxi-ball.

For the round balls I shot in competition, or hunting, I weighed them for consistency, when I found one light, with an air pocket, I simply remelted and cast again, and did the same with my wheel weights. With these round balls, shooting traditional muzzle loading rifles, I have medal’ed 31 times in various National Muzzleloading Rifle Association events, and won the state championship at the Bluegrass games here in KY.

Using soft lead maxi type slugs in .50 and .54 caliber, has accounted for nearly 50 deer over the last 30+ years, and short blood trails is the norm. All this can still be done today, as lead is still available, for now anyway. Don’t hesitate or you will miss the boat on this, as more and more tree huggers are lining up to ban lead, a element that occurs in nature throughout the world.

An hour before I started this article, I found everything needed to reload quality ammo, at close to wholesale prices online, from 10 different websites. I would definitely go with a single stage, cast Iron O frame type press. Single stage press are slow, but worry free. I use a Lee hand primer,

that can hold 100 primers at a time, makes priming your cases easy, and you can feel each primer seat, a definite plus or accuracy that bench rest shooters swear by.

You can get set up ready to load, with one caliber set of dies, for around $275-$300, and this is equipment that is simple, time proven and will last you a lifetime. Each additional caliber dies cost between $25-35 or more, but lightly used equipment can usually be bought for half price or less. I recently bought 3 complete sets of dies at a local flea market, in nearly new condition, for$30 total. I sold the one I did not need for $25, and kept the other two, leaving me with $2.50 in each set of dies, as close as you can get to free and they work great! I recently loaded up 100 rounds of .357 magnum with 158grain semiwadcutters, that I cast, with equipment that paid for itself over 30 years ago. Cost of 100 rounds was $8, maximum, compared to $40 at Wal-Mart!

Here would be my best advice if this interests you.

  1. Don’t wait, get supplies while you can, they are on the Internet, plenty of websites for this type info on all aspects of reloading and casting that are free. I will list some of them later.
  2. If funds are scarce, partner up with someone you know and trust, to split the price of equipment.
  3. Stock up on powder and primers first, got to have them, make or purchase bullets as you go.
  4. Get a dependable reloading manual, i.e., Hornady or Sierra, Speer will do, go by them, do not try to hot rod anything, keep it simple, follow the rules. Hornady has a DVD that shows step by step reloading, and usually can be had for free, from them , or gun shops.
  5. Go to local shooting ranges and pick up all brass cartridges that are center fire. Clean them all,sort and count them, keep what you need, barter the rest for what you do need on casting/reloading websites out there. I have gotten hundreds of dollars worth of brass and bullets I need by doing this, for free!
  6. Store primers and loaded ammo in military type ammo cans with a rubber seal, in a constant environment if possible.
  7. If you know someone who is an experienced loader, trustworthy, and does this locally, don’t be afraid to ask for help in loading, answering questions or in setting up your equipment.
  8. Check on You tube, hundreds of quality videos there for any type of reloading, most are spot on.
  9. Reloading is safe and fun, my kids helped me when they were 10 years old under close supervision. Whatever you do, follow all safety precautions, use load data in the manuals and follow them closely. Don’t listen to strangers at the gun shop when they start spouting about hot loads, ignore them. Wear safety glasses. Keep your reloading area clean and neat.
  10. Always use a small fan to blow across your bullet casting area, to minimize lead fumes.

Good loading and shooting, keep your powder dry!

Prizes for this round in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive – Two (2) Just In Case… Classic Assortment Survival Food Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival, a $150 gift certificate for Remington ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner, aWonder Junior Deluxe grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Neads, a one year subscription to the Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and a Survival Puck courtesy of Innovation Industries, LLC.
  2. Second place winner will receive – One case of Future Essentials Canned Organic Green Costa Rican Monte Crisol Coffee courtesy of Campingsurvival.com and Solo Stove and Solo Pot Courtesy of EmergencyFoodWarehouse.com.
  3. Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ courtesy of TheSurvivalistBlog.net, a copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of www.doomandbloom.net and a Wolf Pack Coffee Mug Jumbo Mug courtesy of Horton Design.

Be sure to read the rules before entering… This contest will end on January 15 2014

Comments

  1. This is something I am just getting into.. I bought the Lyman book on casting bullets, just getting started reading it.

    As I age, extreme range shots are not something I do a lot of, so using cast bullets is making more and more sense, at least to me.

  2. Western_Reservist says:

    Yes–a very good article.

    If you do ANY type of center fire shooting, then strongly consider metallic reloading. It really pays off.

    Reloading pays off in dollars and cents as well as self-sufficiency, pride, craftsmanship, and you can even get the family involved in processing reloading steps.

    But–and I implore you–do NOT USE Momma’s dishwasher or fancy-pants clothes washer or dryer to process dirty brass, as this once neophyte has done. Keep peace in the wigwam!

    Like any good skill, to be a good shootist, you have to practice, practice. And that means shooting up a lot of cartridges. Police up your brass after each practice and you’ve got half the battle licked for reloading.

    My MO for acquiring new reloading tools has been pretty simple: a lot of the “heavy-duty” indestructible stuff like cast presses, trays, lube, lead, brass and boolits and such can be gathered for a song at flea markets, Craigslist, and other on line markets.

    You’d be surprised how many folks “give up” after one season of reloading. Again–their loss–your gain. I easily pick up stuff 50-75% OFF retail prices this way. Or, better still, swap out stuff you have for reloading items.

    Primers and propellant I never buy “second hand” for obvious reasons–potential powder degradation, not being what it’s “supposed to” be, (mislabelled), and a host of other reasons. Buy these first-class top-shelf.

    Ponder this: if you had known about this ammo crunch we’re experiencing now, say ten years ago, exactly what would you have done to alleviate it for yourself? Yep–you would have “stocked up’ on reloading items, just like we prep on all other items.

    So–even if today’s prices for powder and primer seem “just too much,” just imagine what they’ll be in ten years!

    Moral of story–buy now, store them well, and you’ll never be out of powder and boolits come what may.

    Tally up exactly how much you shoot of each caliber, then add, say a 10% fudge-factor, and buy enough to last you 5-10 years.

    Plus–it’s an awful smug feeling to emerge in the Spring time with hundreds (or more) of the finest hand-loaded ammo available made by yourself. Spend some relaxing time each Winter day reloading instead of watching the “idiot tube” and getting fed distortions, outright lies, and evil thoughts and images.

  3. Good commentary on how to start. I think it ineresting that many of us get started the same way. I used Lee handloaders in the 60′s, passed them down to Li’l brother when I got the O press and dies, which in turn he passed them to his son when he started using my press and found how much fun it was- as opposed to me reloading his stash.

    One point to ponder in your hints, however: range acquired brass. Our range has a 50 gallon oil drum into which brass is dumped after picking up. Usually, it’s the poorest brass to be scrounged since it’s been walked on, unknown number of firings/reloadings, etc. So I’d recommend being observant at the range: watch who shoots with new factory ammo, observe if they’re saving the brass or letting it lay- don’t be afraid to ask ‘cuz you might find a new friend as well as new brass. But pass up that stuff laying on the ground.
    Also, on storing powders- keep them in the original containers and in as constant a temperature as possible inside a ‘flammables’ locker- not an air-tight safe.

    Oh, one more point- have heard this, don’t know it to be fact but it bears being mentioned- about cast bullets. Be caustious when shooting them in your semi auto or revolver handguns that also shoot metal jacketed bullets. (Glock actually makes a barrel for shooting cast bullets as opposed to their ‘stock’ barrel- you’ll know it by the wolf head enbossing on the reciever.) Something about lead deposits in the barrel that a metal jacket scrapes up to become a blockage. Check with mfr and be sure to clean-clean-clean the lead out of your barrels if you shoot lead.

    • JSW:

      You are right about the Glock, the factory barrel is not suitable for lead bullets according to Glock. However, this is the only one I am aware of. Leading can be an issue, but one that is easily cleared by proper cleaning, as you stated.

      All manufacturers say not to use reloaded ammo. This is a legal issue more than anything else. If you want to see a real “nasty” message about ammo usage, check out PTR’s website on using certain types of ammo in their rifles!

    • JSW,

      That wolf’s head is a barrel from Lone Wolf Distributers. Their barrels for the Glock have traditional rifling which can handle lead bullets. Glock’s barrels have polygonal rifling which choke on lead. FWIW.

  4. wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a better new year.

  5. great advise . have to look into reloading to learn more.
    thanks

  6. Well I used to do the leeloader route to keep my 06 fed. It was slow but it sure made good ammo.I was puching a 165 grain boattail at approx 2700 fps according to the loading table.I now have 2 single stage presses and plan on loading for 06 and 45 acp.I am thinking about doing the cast bullets with the 06 since I do business with a couple of tire shops. Handloading is a very good idea.

  7. Sam, I’m located in Southern Ohio – on the river.
    Have so e time to show someone how to cast or share some knowledge with? Possibly do some trading too!

  8. Jersey Drifter says:

    Real good article.
    I have reloaded shot shells on and off for about 40 yrs.
    Guess I have to bite the bullet ( pun intended ) and make an investment to get started in reloading brass. Makes all the sense in the world, what with shortages in the stores and high prices, and from a prep stand point.

  9. Tomthetinker says:

    Thank You Sam K. My DW and I ‘sat’ the last gun show in Maumee, Ohio. .. last week end. The ‘stock’ of reloading supplies seems to have returned to normal… if not more expensive.. but normal.

    Mommasan advises me that it would be a good idea to reload my own 9mm and 12 gauge….. (what I burn through the most).

    I’ll take the Pack’s advise and start… simple… single stage… but I gotta have a brass polisher……

  10. Using a Dillon RL-550B here. As for saving money, that always starts out as the goal, but for most ends up failing because with less expensive ammunition you simply shoot a lot more.
    Primers and powder should be stored in a plastic ammunition can when possible, since in a metal Mil Surp can they can become a bomb if you ever have a fire.

  11. Great article!

    Im a big fan or reloading, I reload 357, and 9mm primarily.. ( love my gold dots ).Santa came this year and brought me BOTH a 270 and a 308 rifles, so it looks like ill be expanding into rifle loads.. I cant wait!

  12. Check this site for lead bullets. I use their 125 gr. 9mm and they perform well. 500 qty. comes to 11 cents each. Free shipping too! slashk.org

  13. I am not exactly impressed with my new ultrasonic polisher. Since I only have batch of brass through it I think I will wait till I try it again and see how it works before I pass judgement.