Sager: It’s a good time for reloading ammo

Photo by Roger Sager

These large, empty gunpowder cans represent many thousands of cartridges reloaded by the author and rainy days well spent.

I started reloading my own ammunition when I was about 16 years old. It’s fair to say there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then.

In spite of all the intervening years, reloading has not only remained a great hobby, but long ago became an evolving interest that I still enjoy and allows my brain to focus on something useful, other than constant TV commercials, or reading, which I love, but puts me to sleep. If you’re a reloader, you get it; if you’ve thought of getting involved, I would encourage you to look into it.

As much as I’ve always liked being outdoors, there are times when I really appreciate the advantages of a rewarding indoor activity. The obvious example would be the past few months, with our virus emergency. There have also been several periods of time over the years when I had to limit physical activity due to an injury or illness. Add to those times the days of nasty weather events, and I’m glad to have a good hobby to keep me occupied.

In addition to keeping my hands and brain busy, there are some other advantages to “rolling your own” ammo. The often quoted reason is a substantial cost savings for folks who want to shoot more than occasionally. This is especially true, I believe, for people shooting a lot of larger caliber rifle and handgun cartridges.

After the original purchase of some basic equipment (keep it simple), you can lay in supplies of the components (powder, primers, bullets and brass) as finances and interests allow. Save it all for rainy days and you’ll always have something productive to do. I’ve always had the mindset that rather than saving money, I get to shoot more for the same cost (or is that the same thing?).

At one time, we were sure that custom loading ammo for our particular weapons would result in significant increases in accuracy. The past few years have shown good improvements in the accuracy of a lot of commercially loaded ammo, although often at an increased expense. In any event, careful experimentation will usually result in some increased accuracy with our hand loads over mass-produced factory rounds.

One aspect of reloading that is important to me is having a good supply of ammo on hand for various weapons, so when I have the good weather, time and desire to shoot, I’m ready to go. Along with this concept, I like the feeling of satisfaction I get with each reloading job I complete. This, to me, is a positive experience that allows me to look forward to enjoyable shooting times to come.

So, I’ve listed a few reasons to be involved in reloading; I won’t make any attempt to make this into a how-to lesson. There are plenty of sources available for anyone interested in learning how to get started safely or to further your knowledge of ammunition in general. I will, however, make a few suggestions based on decades of experience and many thousands of shells reloaded. If you can find a mentor, like I was lucky enough to do many years ago, I’ve always thought the process is easier to understand by doing, rather than reading or even watching a video of it.

This should be in conjunction with a good reloading manual.

Today’s manuals are generally excellent and are full of useful information, even for folks who are not reloaders. They not only include such critical data as powder charges, bullet selection, etc.; but also trajectory tables, newest developments in bullet designs and lots more. Information is of course available on the internet (ugh!) but I prefer a permanent library of real books.

Don’t just go out and buy a reloading manual; buy two to start. You will find that different companies may show quite different data for the same cartridge and list several alternate powders for each caliber, which gives you a lot of choices and versatility. Companies such as Hornady, Sierra, Nosler, Hodgdon and Lyman (in business since 1878) are examples. Cross reference at least two different manuals before deciding on any powder/bullet combination you want to try.

Next, have a space dedicated for as much as possible to your reloading equipment and supplies. A workbench need not be huge, but it must be sturdy. Obviously, powder and primers must be stored properly. As a teenager, I started reloading .222 ammo in a spare room upstairs in my parent’s house. Dad was interested and supportive; Mom not so much. It seems she was somehow concerned about the mixture of gunpowder and a teenage boy in the same room in her tidy home. It all worked out well; I think it was probably beneficial to my young mind to concentrate on something other than girls, cars and college prep homework.

By the time I later moved into a place of my own, I was not only reloading my .222 woodchuck ammo, but 30.06 shells for my deer hunting and 30.30s for Dad, which we both put to good use. Then followed many years of experience, reloading several dozen different calibers. I also started early with a related hobby; casting my own bullets, but that’s a story for another day.

(Roger Sager, an Era Outdoor columnist, can be reached at: