Reloading Room

Starting Out My Reloading Journey

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Handloading ammunition is a daunting experience. For those who have not yet done it, there are so many horror stories about people blowing up their rifles and getting injured. In reality, it is much more simple and less stressful than some people would have you believe. Another factor that often puts people off, is the initial cost of the equipment; It seems like you have to spend a small fortune to get in to it. This article will set your mind at ease; I am a beginner reloader and I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have done my research and loaded up and shot a few batches and things are starting to look good.


So I went to Cheshire Gun Room a few weeks ago to pick up a .243 Tikka T3 Lite and a Wildcat Evolution moderator from UK Custom Shop, I already had a Hawke Varmint SF 3-12x44 handy to start me off and a Harris Bipod. Whilst I was there I picked up a Lee 50th Anniversary Reloading Kit, some 87 grain V-Max bullets, Federal primers and H4895 powder along with 100 cheap PPU 90 grain soft-point cartridges to plink with and supply me with cases to reload. I also picked up some RCBS dies, a bullet-seating die and a neck-sizing die as well as a Lee case-holder for the press in the correct size. I already had calipers, I later ordered a Lee .243 case-trimming die to go with the Lee Quick Trim tool, I also bought an ultrasonic cleaner for cases on Amazon for cleaning the brass, and I may one day invest in a tumbler to polish the cases.

Reasons for Handloading

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Credit to Wikipedia

Economy, increased accuracy, performance, commercial ammunition shortages, and hobby interests are all common motivations for handloading both cartridges and shotshells. Reloading fired cartridge cases can save the shooter money, or provides the shooter with more, and higher quality, ammunition within a given budget. Reloading may not be cost effective for occasional shooters, as it takes time to recoup the cost of the required equipment, but those who shoot on a regular basis will see benefit as the brass cartridge case or shotgun shell hull (the most expensive components) can be reused many times (with proper maintenance). Besides economy, the ability to customize the performance of ammunition is a common goal. Hunters may desire cartridges with specialized bullets or specific performance as regards bullet and velocity. Target shooters seek the best achievable accuracy, as well as the best shot-to-shot consistency. Shotgunning enthusiasts can make specialty rounds not available in commercial inventories at any price. Many handloaders also customize their cartridges and shells to their specific firearms, usually in pursuit of accuracy: they can assemble precision ammunition using cartridge cases that have been fire formed in the chamber of a specific firearm.[1][2]

Handloaders also have the flexibility to make reduced-power rounds for hunting rifles, such as handloading to an equivalent of a milder-recoiling round to encourage recoil-averse hunters to become proficient with a full-power one. Rather than purchasing a special purpose rifle, which many novice hunters would outgrow within a few hunting seasons, a single rifle can be used with special handloaded rounds until such time more powerful rounds are desired and become appropriate. This use of specialized handloading techniques often provides significant cost savings, especially when a hunter in a family already has a full-power rifle and a new hunter in the family wishes to learn the sport. This technique also enables hunters to use the same rifle and caliber to hunt a wider variety of game.

Collectors of obsolete firearms who want to shoot those guns often must handload because appropriate cartridges or shotshells are no longer commercially produced. Handloaders can also create cartridges for which no commercial equivalent exists - wildcat cartridges.[3] As with any hobby, the pure enjoyment of the reloading process may be the most important benefit.

Recurring shortages of commercial ammunition are also reasons to reload cartridges and shotshells. When commercial supplies dry up, and store-bought ammunition is not available at any price, having the ability to reload one's own cartridges and shotshells economically provides an ability to continue shooting despite shortages.

There are three aspects to ballistics: internal ballistics, external ballistics, and terminal ballistics. Internal ballistics refers to things that happen inside the firearm during and after firing but before the bullet leaves the muzzle. The handloading process can realize increased accuracy and precision through improved consistency of manufacture, by selecting the optimal bullet weight and design, and tailoring bullet velocity to the purpose. Each cartridge reloaded can have each component carefully matched to the rest of the cartridges in the batch. Brass cases can be matched by volume, weight, and concentricity, bullets by weight and design, powder charges by weight, type, case filling (amount of total usable case capacity filled by charge), and packing scheme (characteristics of granule packing).

In addition to these critical items, the equipment used to assemble the cartridge also has an effect on its uniformity/consistency and optimal shape/size; dies used to size the cartridges can be matched to the chamber of a given gun. Modern handloading equipment enables a firearm owner to tailor fresh ammunition to a specific firearm, and to precisely measured tolerances far improving the comparatively wide tolerances within which commercial ammunition manufacturers must operate. Where the most extreme accuracy is demanded, such as in rifle benchrest shooting, handloading is a fundamental prerequisite for success.[1]

Insurgency and resistance groups, as well as military partisans, might also have need to handload cartridges and shotshells due to unavailability or scarcity of factory-produced commercial ammunition within particular jurisdictions, or under certain circumstances. Low quality of available factory ammunition, even without scarcity of ammunition, can also lead to the need for widespread fabrication of handloaded ammunition.

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