Why Reload Ammo
The cardinal rule of prepping is frugality. By being frugal in your life you have the opportunity to get further faster in your prep. It means conserving all your resources. Reloading you ammo is an extension of that. First you are able to manufacture the ammo cheaper than you can buy it. With the ammo scarcity that is happening right now you can’t buy it at all. Not to mention if SHTF happens you want to be able to make bullets as needed, or convert ammo parts from some captured ammo into the caliber you use. Now the idea of making bullets and working with gunpowder as a whole may scare many people. I assure you reloading is really simple and safe. You can watch some youtube videos and see for yourself.
The process of reloading
When reloading ammunition you take spent brass casings, clean them, and remove the used primer put a new primer, gunpowder, and a bullet projectile. Afterwards you have fire-able ammo. The first step is to us a tumbler to clean the casings. Throw the spent shells in, and let them run for a few hours. The tumbler uses media like crushed walnut, corn husks, tufnut and some polish to help remove the grime from the gunpowder and make them look brand new. This extends the life of your dies and the cases. After the tumbler has run for a while you will need to separate the media and the case. Then go through and sort the cases by caliber. Some people like to go an extra step and sort by head stamp.
After that it’s on to your reloading press. There are a lot of different reloading presses out there. You can get something like a lee 1000 pro that is a 3 stage progressive press or something more like a single stage press. I have both and find them equally valuable. The progressive allows you to turn out more rounds in less time, as we it conserves your energy as you will be working on 3 rounds at a time and both the pull of the lever and the upstroke are used to handle one of many steps. So you will pull the lever 1/4 the number of times you would with a single stage. The steps for the round at this point are as follows. Stage 1: remove the old primer and resize the casing. Stage 2: add the new primer and add gun powder. Stage 3: seat the bullet and crimple the neck around it.
The correct amount of Gunpowder for reloading
For the most part reloading is simple and purely mechanical. You can listen to audiobooks or music while you do it. The one piece that is a little heady is determining the right amount of powder. There are books and web sites available that will give you load data. The key thing is not to over or under load the round. If you overload it the pressure in the chamber can destroy the gun. If you under load it or forget to add powder your bullet when fired will lodge itself in the barrel. This tends to mean range time is over. When this happened to me, I had to disassemble the gun, and used a cleaning rod to force the bullet from the top of the barrel back through the chamber. Not only did I do this to myself with 9mm ammo, I had a tula 308 win round do it to me as well. I think of each round in my prep as being used to save a loved one’s life, this happening would cost someone their life.
When you are determining the right amount of powder there is a minimum and a maximum in most books and sites based off the type of powder and type of bullet. The reloading community will tell you to start low and work your way up. I like to start in the middle personally. For me I don’t want to recalibrate the press million times to find the right load or have multiple range visits before I mass produce the round. If you decide to start at the minimum my recommendation is to reload multiple sizes and take the group to the range to test. Make sure you are aware of which is whice. Make a round then add .1 grain ( for pistol ammo) or 1 grain ( for rifle ammo) of powder to your next round and so on. The key determining factor is what is the minimum powder charge to work the action. So if the shell casing stove pipes or doesn’t eject correctly then you need more powder. Each gun is different on this which is why guns can be finicky with the type of ammo they like. After that requirement is met it’s about preference. More powder = more velocity and force = more penetration. Less Powder = More Frugal, less powder per round more rounds as a whole.
What items do you need to reload ammunition
The Reloading Station
- Reloading Press – Single stage or Progressive press. The best of the best are the Dillon commercial reloaders. But they are expensive. So a good place to start is with a lee pro 1000. The dies that are used for this can be used on the Dillon. RCBS products are also really good and the dies will work in the Dillon as well.
- 3-4 Die Sets – For each caliber you look to reload you will need a set of dies these are what do the actions at each stage such as de-priming, case sizing, crimpling, etc
- Shell holder/Carrier – Since each shell size is different you will need a shell holder or carrier for each size. Some holders and carriers work with multiple calibers. For instance a 45ACP and 308 win holder tend to be the same.
- Tumbler – Used to clean the casing
- Media and Case Separator – a way to quickly sift the cases from the media. Yeah you can do it by hand but do you want to?
- Powder Scale – To weight the resulting powder charge to verify you have the right setting. Also you can weight your finished bullet to look for ones that are grossly under spec and might not have gotten a powder charge.
- Bullet puller – To disassemble bullets that have a problem or reclaim parts to make a different caliber. The impact bullet pullers are great for handgun rounds.
- Reloading Trays – Something to put the bullets in
- Tumbler Media – Walnut, corn husk, and tufnut media – Case polish optional.
- Used brass casings — not steel, must be boxer primed not berdan. Berdan will have 2 small flash holes at the bottom of the casing, boxer will have only 1. You cannot reload berdan with most reloaders. As for steel most are berdan primed, and the case material will hurt your dies. Keep in mind some silver looking cases like the ones on defensive rounds are nickel plated Brass and still reloadable.
- Primers – There are a wide variety of primers out there. Pistols for example you have small and large, magnum and non-magnum. Smalls are generally used on calibers like 9mm, and large on bigger stuff like 40sw and 45acp. However with 45 ACP you get a majority of the makers using large primers and some using small primers. Blazer or Federal are one who tend to use small primers. Be aware of this and separate your brass accordingly. Look that the diameter of the circle primer on the bottom of you brass to see the difference.
- Gunpowder – There are a lot of gunpowders on the market. Each designed with a different intended use. Key things to look for is load data for the cartridge you are looking to load and the gunpowder you are looking to buy. Rifle powder will not work in Pistols. The powder burns too slow and requires a bottle neck. However some shotgun powders will work for pistols, like RedDot. Black powder is not meant for modern handguns, but will work for muzzleloaders, and some older black powder pistols.
- Bullet Projectiles – There are so many bullet type out there you can be easily confused. Full Metal Jacket (FMJ), Hallow Point (HP), Copper Plated (CP), Lead, Boat tail, etc. Key things to keep in mind. A lead only projectile will foul your barrel with leading and can’t move at as high of a speed as a FMJ. It will deform in flight significantly and reduce your accuracy some. Copper plated is a pretty and cleaner lead round, they can handle higher speeds but not the maximum velocities of a FMJ, when loading these you are best off using load data and ballistics for Lead Only Projectile. Your FMJ has a substantial hard outer jacket that reduces the lead deforming and can travel at high speeds. Unlike Lead and Copper Plated rounds these are created by swaging a bullet. You press a lead core into a copper tube and through pressure the bullet takes is shape. The others are done through melting lead and using molds. If you are buying projectiles you are best to focus on FMJ, and CP. Lead Hard Cast bullets are cheap and more available right now but they are rough on the barrel and something you can make. Glocks for instance can’t fire lead rounds due to the rifling they use.
The Components and consumables
Few ways to save money on Ammo Reloading People don’t think about
There is a lot of stuff to buy and stock up on when it comes to Ammo Reloading. Once you have your setup you won’t have to rebuy much of it. I was luckily and got a full setup for $150 from a guy moving to another state. While some items I replaced and upgraded it got me started cheaply. Here are a few items and tips to save you money on this venture.
Media and Case Separator – I went to the dollar store bought a little trash can and a wire basket that could fit inside. For $2 I picked up what some people spend $30-60 on.
Tumbler Media – Go to a pet store and buy crushed walnut from the lizard department. Apparently when you want to buy crushed walnut for reloading purposes from amazon or a gun store it’s $30 for 5 lbs but if you go to a pet store it’s $10-11 for 5 lbs. Same stuff different market and cheaper cost.
Used Brass – When you go to an indoor range, depending on the policies you can go on a brass hunting run. Take a revolver for some target practice, in the middle of the day after people have been shooting for a while. Save your spent rounds and do some shooting. Then clean up any of the rounds in and around your booth from the people before you. This way you come out ahead. When you take a semi-automatic pistol most of the time you lose 10% or more of the brass you fired by it going into other booths or outside of reach. Also consider talking to the owners and seeing if you can buy the brass on the cheap if you can’t just clean it up.
Reloading Trays – Save your ammo boxes. Any ammo box that has trays inside you should save to hold reloads at a later time. This will save you the $3-5 per tray.
Bullet Projectiles – You can cast your own bullets out of lead and even copper plate them yourself, to do this cheaply You can scavenge wheel weights from junk years, and tire places and melt them down to use for bullets. Make sure to remove the Zinc that is sometimes mixed in to modern wheel weights. Other places scavenge lead from are; lead pipes, lead fishing sinkers, old lead roof flashing, x-ray Film lead foil Covers, etc.
The Economics of Reloading Ammunition: How much do you save Reloading Ammo and why should you?
When you factor in components you can get the cost of your ammo down to around $6-8 per box of 50 rounds, assuming the casings where free. You get better more accurate bullets in that you made them yourself. So overall it makes shooting cheaper. This however doesn’t factor in your time and depending on the value and availability of your time may increase the costs. I find the activity relaxing and listen to audiobooks to learn new skills while I do it.
Now here is the key fact for a prepper. When the ammo market scarcity began, the last things to disappear from the shelves were the reloading components. So when initially you couldn’t find ammo, you could still find components and buy those up. I remember in December 2012 I went to a gun show, ammo was already hard to get or price inflated by 25-50%. Everyone was buying everything they could find. While everyone else focused on the ammo, I went around and bought the primers, powder and bullets. The prices hadn’t changed so I was getting more ammo for less than others at the show and not having to fight people for them. So I was able to find components easier and cheaper than ammo. Now you can’t find either.
However when the market begins to recover the ammo will be first to reappear and be easier to find then the primers and powder. Because right now all the ammo makers are buying up all the components to meet the demand before those components are available to the public. Once the ammo becomes more available the components will follow. Your components are your lagging indicator of the ammo shortage being over. If you weren’t fortunate enough to stockpile than the way reduce the effects od such a shortage is when the scarcity is setting in stock up on components while people go for the ammo, and then when the ammo starts to return start going after the ammo. Reloading is an important skill in a preppers book of skills. It can save you money on your target ammo, and allow you more use of the supplies you might scavenge in a world of scarcity.