I’m a bit surprised at how little discussion there is of ammunition reloading. While the .223 Remington (5.56×45 NATO) is an imperfect military round, its very easy to reload and the cases last pretty well if you are precise and careful about your loads. Midsized calibers like .308 loads even better, and is less fussy than small calibers are. I realize than an autoloader doesn’t take well to reloads, nor is it reasonable collecting spent brass ejected from one on a battlefield. In addition, most milsurp brass is Berdan primed which is almost impossible (very difficult) to reload. Same with steel or aluminum cases. In a bolt action rifle that’s another story. Reloading lets you do something that large quantities of money won’t. It gains you accuracy at a modest price for a modest firearm. It is reasonably easy to learn how to tune a load to a specific rifle so that it shoots its best. Sometimes that means 3 rounds in the X ring at 100 yards. Sometimes that means 5 in an even smaller hole. I know from experience that even cheap bolt action milsurp rifles can be tuned to the level of small overlapping holes with even modest barrels. If that’s all you can afford, you need it to hit what you aim at. There’s little point investing your whole budget on arms when you also need food and water and hopefully a small solar panel for a radio so you can find out what is going on. Information is worth gold in a Post Peak scenario. You have to make do with what you can afford.
Yes, stocking up on reloading supplies is another expense, but its a satisfying one if you’re already bunkered in place, and it gives your shooting training a purpose: testing loads and bullets on paper and steel at various ranges. Isn’t it expensive to get into reloading ammunition? (you ask) Not really. About $150 for a single stage press and dies for one caliber, plus brass, primers, and powder as much as you care to fiddle with (another $20-$100). There’s lots of information online, but reloadingbench.com is a useful resource, as well as a means to help you choose a caliber. Not everyone can take the recoil of the .308 Winchester (7.62×51 NATO), and most want more power downrange than the 7.62×39 can deliver. Finding the right cartridge for your area’s terrain, game, and conditions can be an enjoyable bit of research. While the .308 is often the right caliber for most grown men, .243 Winchester is dandy for many applications (with a 24″ barrel), and .270 Winchester has a nice bit of range capability. Target shooters love the .308, western hunters like the .270, and those who do both like the .260 Remington (duplicates the 6.5mm Swede but in a .308 case) and the 7mm Magnum (though it is tough on cases). When you reload, the caliber doesn’t matter very much (same amount of work to load .308 as it is to load 6.5×284, 8x57JS Mauser, or 6mm PPC) so choose the one with recoil, range, and punch that suits you best. Its also useful to note that some calibers which can be abusive in a light carry rifle (like the Mosin Nagant M44 or M39) with 170 or 200 grain bullets can turn into pussycats with real range shooting 125 grain .311 bullets and the appropriate powder (3200 fps and 10 ft-lbs recoil instead of 2700 fps and 32 ft-lbs with a 200 grain). Cuts down on muzzle flash and recoil. Tune your load to your barrel and you can turn a wincing rifle into a marksman’s rifle. I have done it, so I know.
If you’d like a link describing what it is like to load your own ammo, a gent of the shooting persuasion writes articles at Realguns.com. Here’s the link to his articles, which has three parts. Be sure to read these. He’s a great old guy and moved to Maine from California to enjoy better gun laws and lower taxes. I encourage all survivalists to learn and practice reloading with their bolt or break action rifles. It is great practice and will give you good appreciation of what an accurate rifle can do. Sincerely, – Inyokern
JWR Replies: Sorry that I’ve been remiss in covering reloading topics. Some of our readers in Europe and Canada might disagree with your assertion that it is difficult to reload Berdan-primed brass. It can be done, but it takes a special two-pronged Berdan de-capping tool. The real bugaboo here in the States is finding a source for Berdan primers. My favorite source is The Old Western Scrounger. OBTW, for our readers down in Oz, I’ve heard that Berdan primers are also available from NIOA Trading in Australia.