Letter Re: Progressive Presses

Sir,

I’m fairly new to prepping for TEOTWAWKI. I am currently attempting to secure as much ammo and OD green tactical clothing as my budget will allow. I am also a fan of your books; I am currently reading Founders.

You mention many times in your books that ammo, silver/gold coins, and gasoline will become a kind of currency. That being said, do you recommend those who are properly trained buy progressive presses to make their own ammo?

What caliber of pistol rounds would you feel will be more valuable after WTSHTF?

HJL Responds: Most people get into reloading their own ammunition for one of two reasons:

  1. With a few exceptions, you can generally reload for much less financial outlay than purchasing ammo over-the-counter.
  2. You can reload with more consistency, resulting in better accuracy than most commercial ammunition.

If you fall into the second category, you will generally (but not always) get better results with a single stage press and lots of care. If you fall into the first category, and you burn a lot of ammunition practicing, then a progressive most definitely is your friend. When I made the move from a single stage RCBS Rock-Chucker to a Dillon RL550B press, I was suddenly spending far less time reloading than I was shooting– an almost polar opposite of what had existed before. Of course, there are caveats that go with that. If you reload your own ammunition, you must be capable of committing to detail and following through. Errors resulting in empty shells or double powder charges can be catastrophic, and you must be able to manage the process without allowing ANY of these problems to occur.

From a WTSHTF perspective, the value of being able to reload is probably not so much in reloading your own but in being able to reload for others as part of a barter deal. A progressive press is certainly worth its weight in gold at that point. Your time has value, and the progressive press allows you to compress much more productive labor into less time. For your own ammunition needs, it depends on the calibers that you are using. If you are shooting standard military calibers where surplus ammunition can be bought in bulk, you would be hard pressed to reload as inexpensively as you can purchase. If you are reloading non-military or generally less common calibers, then you can easily save a few dollars by reloading. The question then becomes: “Do you trust your reloads when your life is on the line?”

I tend to classify my reload into defensive and non-defensive groups. For non-defensive reloads (meaning practice rounds), I will often reuse the brass to just before the point of failure. This means, however, that there will be occasional jams, brass separations, chamber misfits, and other assorted failures. In training, I tend to look at these failures as just another opportunity to train for the worst possible situation. Can you clear your weapon of one of these failures and resume fire? Can you identify a failure that cannot be easily cleared necessitating moving to a backup weapon? Defensive loads, on the other hand, are made with the utmost care and attention to detail. These are loads that I do not want to ever experience a failure. These are the loads that I hunt with, load my protection weapons with, and plan to use in defense of my family and home. I will not ever use brass that has been shot more than two or three times in these loads and the brass must pass a visual inspection of every round.

So how do you keep from mixing them up? Make sure you have procedures in place so that you do not grab practice ammo when you need self-defense ammo.

As to the calibers, common military/police calibers will obviously have the most appeal in a barter situation. .38special/.357magnum, 9mm, .40S&W, .45ACP for handguns; 5.56 nato, 7.62×39, and 7.62 nato for rifle will always be in demand just because there are so many firearms for them. Other calibers, standard for hunting or common in civilian use in countries that ban military ammo can also be useful, though probably not in as much demand. You would need to research as to what is popular in the area you are located. Just be aware that if you plan on reloading for barter, that means you need to stock up on certain items that have safety issues associated with storage (like smokeless powder and primers). You also have the issue of dealing with the BATF if you stock enough of the components to attract attention or attempt to sell your services without the proper licensing.

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