Saturday, August 02, 2008

Guns: The Minimalist Handloader, Part 1


I've always wanted to get into reloading ammunition, mostly because of the supposed cost savings. With .223 and .38 Special prices getting scandalously high (the former is up to $400 a case, while the latter is hovering at about $300 a case), it makes more sense than ever to make your own ammunition if you plan to shoot a lot.

In the next few months, I'll chronicle my journey into the world of reloading, all with an emphasis on portability and simplicity. I was inspired by this post on THR, this article, and this one, too, and my goal will be to get most of the tools necessary for making safe, reliable ammunition to fit into a garden variety .30-cal ammo can. I don't have space for a reloading bench (or even a suitable countertop), and I don't have the budget for anything fancy.

Your first purchase - information

Handloading your own ammunition requires much more information than shooting does. I learned how to shoot and maintain firearms via the Errornet (THR and TFL, along with a smattering of marksmanship sites). That will not work with reloading. You cannot trust some strange recipe or process you read on a web forum; if you want to roll your own ammo without losing any of your precious fingers, you'll need reloading manuals with proven, tested load data from bullet and powder manufacturers.

I picked up the latest editions of the Speer and Hornady reloading manuals to start with; many dedicated reloaders eventually acquire a whole bookshelf full of manuals. Old editions of reloading handbooks from the '80s and '90s are perfectly safe to use, and often provide different loading data that may be useful if you have an oddball powder or bullet. I also ordered a copy of "The ABCs of Reloading," a good overview of the reloading process that recommends caution at every turn and provides some helpful advice for a novice.

I think the best way to get started is to buy the books first, and read them carefully. If you decide the whole affair seems like too much effort, just sell or give away the books and you haven't lost much. Once you do decide to take the plunge, read web articles like the ones I linked to in the opening paragraph (or this series of articles) to get a handle on what sort of equipment will be necessary. Then, head over to a place like MidwayUSA and get all your stuff!

Next week: A look at the essential tools needed to reload rifle and pistol ammo


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