Letter Re: Ammunition Handloading Basics

I just got an order I sent for a couple days ago. 240gr. .44 cast bullets. It is my first time dealing there, but they look great, everything they are supposed to be. I got them from http://www.prettygoodbullets.com/ They also have .38, .40, and .45. I have been reloading for years, mostly pistol calibers. A good way for a newbie to start would be with a [hand held] Lee Loader. It is low-tech, and slow, but quality ammo can be made this way. All that is required besides the components, (primers, powder, and projectiles) is a soft mallet, and a sturdy workbench, and maybe some case-lube. The directions that comes with the loader set includes information on powder selection for specific bullet type/weight. No scale required, they include a small dipper that is calibrated to the caliber and powder required for the bullet selected. it really is an ingenious little set-up. All that for just under $22.00! Like the ad says, this pays for itself in a couple hours.
If one wants to get into other loads, then it is wise to invest in a good scale. I is not a bad idea to do so anyway, if you want precision ammo. For general plinking, the lee loader is adequate. Probably good for man-sized targets out to 200 yards for rifles, YMMV, depending on ability. As with anything, consistency is the key. The more uniform you can repeat the process, the more accurate your final product will be.
So, a pound of powder, about $20.00 or less, (I haven’t bought any for a while), a brick of primers, also around $20.00, I think, and your selected bullets, of which the cast bullet is the most economical, and will make just as big a hole as the more expensive copper jacket type, especially at pistol velocities. I got a beautiful 185 lb 11 point whitetail that scored 172 6/8 with my .44 mag, using a Keith style wadcutter, at about 75 yards. I can hit clay pigeons off a fence pretty consistently at that distance, with that bullet.
A word about primer selection; I know of a few who say they use magnum primers for all loads. Not a good thing. If you are loading a magnum round, then OK, but it is best to stick with what is called for. A good reloading manual can be very valuable if you want to start experimenting.
It is NOT wise to think you can do things like add a ‘bit’ more powder to a load, as a ‘bit’ more can increase pressures by several times the original load.
It is also wise to avoid drinking or smoking while reloading, for obvious reasons. A double charge in a case will make your favorite weapon into a hand grenade!
I have a block with 50 holes in it, and I charge the cases in it, and then visually look into each before I start seating bullets, just to be sure they all look the same. Safety first is very important. Another rule to keep in mind, is never have more than one type powder open at a time, and always use the original container, so it doesn’t get confusing.
Reloading is a very rewarding past-time, and it could extend your ammo supply as long as your components hold out. Cases can last pretty good if you follow reasonable levels of pressure.
One little trick I have learned, it is wise to clean the primer pockets of residue, after ‘decapping’ the cases. I use my cordless drill with a short piece of multi-strand electrical wire that just fits the pocket. It cleans it out, and doesn’t hurt the brass case. If you skip that step, you could end up with a ‘high primer’, which could possibly cause a ‘slam fire’ in a semi-automatic, or maybe drag on the face of the frame on a revolver.
I have reloaded thousands of rounds so far, and have yet to have a ‘dud’.
There are many out there who have developed a favorite load for each firearm they own that will out-shoot (in terms of accuracy) factory ammo. Each firearm is an individual, and what is a perfect load for one will not work quite as well in another. Now we are talking 1/2″ groups @ 100 yards and like that. That takes a good bit of experimenting, but can be fun, and will keep you in practice.
While talking about each firearm being an individual, as an example, I have a .22 pistol that will shoot any ammo I put in it, except Federal. It will jam several times with each magazine. A friend has one just like it, and those are his favorite ammo. It is always wise to try each of whatever is available to see what works best in your particular firearm. They can be particular.
There is much more to reloading, like cases stretching over several uses, but that comes from ‘hot’ loads’, but can become a factor over time even from reasonable loads. Come to think of it, I have never needed to trim any of my .44 brass, and I do not load them light. I do find a split one, once in a while. It is good to have a quality firearm, my Ruger Super Blackhawk takes that okay, and I don’t even know when one splits, till I am reloading and notice it while inspecting cases before I start. You can’t be too careful. – Sid, near Niagara Falls