Letter Re: Some Thoughts on Cartridge Handloading

Mr. Rawles,
Kent C.’s article about handloading is a very informative piece.  However, I’d like to provide a little supplemental information.  First off is the matter of cost.  Kent makes the point, with good mathematical support, that reloading doesn’t really save much money when reloading common calibers (your primary guns are in common caliber, aren’t they?), but there are a couple elements he did not mention.  I have a friend who, in conjunction with a couple other guys, put in a large freight order of reloading components for several different common calibers.  We’re talking five-digit bullet counts here, with equal numbers of primers and pounds upon pounds of powder.  After all the math was done, the cost per round was dropped substantially.  While this is a prohibitively expensive approach for all but the independently wealthy, organizing such a group buy could be a good move for members of a group to consider.

Another aspect of the cost factor is the effect on odd calibers.  Common caliber ammo may be cheap enough to offset financial gains of handloading, but the more obscure the caliber, the fewer sources there are for ammo.  Against my advice, another friend (read: spotter) got himself a .308 Norma Magnum.  Its long range potential is excellent, but most of his casings are resized .300 Win Mag casings due to the rarity of proper .308 Norma brass.  When we do find factory ammo or brass for it, he grabs it, but it’s pricey.

The time factor he mentions is also valid, but a lot of us younger folks have more time than money, making it a worthwhile tradeoff, not even counting the skills and knowledge developed by experimenting with handloads.
Another factor to consider is the ability to make customized ammo.  For the group sniper, reloading is almost a must.  A rifle does not develop its best possible accuracy unless the ammo is tuned to the barrel.  Without getting too technical, gun barrels vibrate when the gun is shot.  The frequency depends on many factors, including type and amount of powder.  When a cartridge is loaded in such a way as to make the barrel vibrate at its characteristic frequency, the muzzle remains effectively stationary and a tighter group results.  This can be accomplished either by a barrel tuner, which is an extra attachment that most barrels cannot accommodate, or by tuning the ammo to the rifle.  I have a Savage Model 10 in .308 Winchester that a gunsmith friend built up for me.  With various factory loads, it was at or slightly below 1 MOA.  After fiddling with some handloads, I consistently put up sub-1/2 MOA groups.  This kind of accuracy is hard to buy factory.  You might get lucky, and find a particular factory round that optimizes your rifle’s accuracy.  However, factory match ammo tends to be a lot more expensive than basic range ammo.  If you really want the most accurate ammo you can get, you’ll want to handload it. – John in Spokane