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To reload or not to reload

October 27, 2012

Hi, folks.

Among the many, many ‘hot topics’ of survivalist discussions is the topic of ammunition. Vital indeed, for surviving hordes of slavering zombies and to put some meat on the table occasionally. I would say the majority of survival aware people choose just to buy their ammo, in mass quantity, or a box of 50 or so at a time from Wal-Mart or which ever your handy local discount big box store may be. This does guarantee top quality stuff, at least as far as the reputable manufacturers of ammo can make it. Buying ‘cheap stuff’ for practice and ‘good stuff’ for the serious times is common, and a good practice to save a buck or two while staying proficient with your weapons. Proficiency with your gear is absolutely essential, because as the SHTF and things come crashing down, your life and your loved ones will depend on how good you are.

So, you’ve taken this advice to be good with your shootin’ iron to heart and now you go thru a box of ammo pretty regularly, right? You leave all those empty cases out in the field or at the shooting range? That’s an expensive waste of material, in the opinion of those who can reload their ammo. If you’re shooting ANY kind of common ammo, there are reloading components that will allow you to ‘rebuild’ that empty cartridge, like new, yourself. For pistols, your .40 cal or 9mm Glock, your .38 or .357 magnum and whatever else, nothing to it. For most rifle ammo, your .223, your .308, your 7.62 x 39 (AK 47 ammo for you newbies), if it’s brass casings, same for all that. Back in my ‘Cowboy Action Shooting‘ competition days, I reloaded several thousands of .38 & .357 magnum with very few failures. All you need is some space in a dry, climate controlled area, the equipment and supplies and the required reloading information books and you’re all set.

First you need the know how, there are many books and some videos out there that get you started, like this one The ABCs Of Reloading:

Let me throw a qualifier out here concerning the hobby of reloading. This is to be done when you are free of distraction. NO phones, NO TV, NO kids fussing. It is a simple, progressive procedure, no high tech skills or genius cognitive powers, but you are dealing with ‘explosives’ here, and missing a step or thinking you didn’t miss a step and for instance, doubling your powder charge because you had to holler ‘Stop that, Bobby!’ may have hazardous consequences! Like I mentioned above, during my competition days, I had failures because distractions had me failing to put ‘any’ gunpowder in some cases. Embarrassing, to have your gun go ‘putt’ and your bullet land about 3 feet away. Doubling your powder on the other hand can make a bad day. Slightly overloading will lead to ‘hot loads’ which will leave your primers (the bit that starts the firing reaction) flattened like the one on the left shown here. The overcharge pressures when the round fired caused the primer to bulge outwards. Taken to extreme, overcharging can shatter your gun. This is NOT to put you off of the idea to reload, just a heads up you’re dealing with serious stuff.

The next items for your reloading hobby will of course be the equipment you’ll need to get started. Lee manufacturing has a basic starter kit that has launched millions of hobbyists into their reloading venture. This kit has all you’ll need to get you going, other than the ‘dies’ for your particular caliber weapons. Once purchased, these dies should last for a million rounds re-manufactured in your corner of the basement. Lee Precision II Anniversary Challenger Kit

There are loads of suppliers in the sporting goods line on the web that can supply the reloading dies for whatever your weapon is. They are pretty much universal and most will readily interchange with brand names of the loading machinery. They can also supply you with all the components you’ll need….once fired brass or new brass, virtually any bullet type that fits your caliber and primers. You may have to buy your gunpowder from a local gun supply store because of shipping problems. Gun powders are heavily discussed and minutely detailed in your typical ‘cookbook’ for reloading ammo which typically discusses every conceivable combination of powder brand and bullet combination. These are the crucial instructions you MUST follow to the letter, such as in this one  Lyman 49Th Edition Reloading Handbook

As far as finding once fired brass to reload, maybe asking at your local shooting range if they would consider selling you a few pounds of ‘as is’ brass casings from sweeping up in their firing range. It is worth it to me to get it this way, even if I have to sort the brass by caliber, picking out brass for my stuff and saving the other empties to possibly barter with in the future

There is a distinct sense of satisfaction when you’re done with several hundred rounds of your ‘own brand’ and see them all neatly into their boxes sitting on your loading bench. It’s an “I built that” kind of feeling!

One last string of thought concerning our ammo supplies we need to accumulate for the ‘big one’. Consider if you will the idea of maximum versatility for every caliber bullet your weapons need. If you have multiple weapons that fire the same round, you build in a backup system, and only have to worry about accumulating ‘one’ type of ammo. Such as the ever popular .223. You have your AR brand, your Mini 14, you have a load of bolt action ‘hunting rifles’, all that share the ammo. Same for your AK-47 ammo, you have it and your SKS rifle, cheap but very serviceable, you have a Ruger 77 bolt action that uses the same ammo, the 7.62×39 cartridge. That series by Ruger also seems to come in every caliber bullet ever invented. In .357 magnum, you have us ‘old school revolver’ guys and the Winchester 94 lever action rifle using the same ammo, which with ‘hot loaded’ 180 grain slugs will take down deer. With some research, you’ll also find ammo sharing pistols and carbines in 9mm and .45 caliber.

Be safe and go bang!

EDIT 11/8/12

After posting this article, I’ve discovered a guy who’s posted some very useful video about the Lee 1000 progressive reloading machine (which I use). Check him out: (Yeah, crazy guy but useful info!) San Francisco Liberal With a Gun

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