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Reloading your own ammunition is a time consuming and delicate business. Some shooters just cannot be bothered. They are happy with the factory ammo they use. They are pleased with the performance of their rifle and ammunition. They are happy with the cost. That is fine, I am not a reloading elitist. I reload for two reasons.
1. I was not happy with the performance from factory ammunition currently available to me (limited brand choice)
2. Because it is cheaper and I have more spare time than I have spare money…
This is the accuracy I required. I was not getting it with factory ammo.
I must also confess I have a love for what most regard as tedious. From a young age I had a passion for making small models, painting them, making bows and arrows ect. I used to sit for hours producing items with production line efficiency. I found it therapeutic, because you can zone everything else out and devote all thought to perfecting the minutiae. I was experiencing what I would later in life know as meditation. Calming the chaos of ones mind with an orderly thought. If you desire a calm mind then reloading could be an ideal hobby for you… Think of it as two birds with one round.. Zen and highly accurate ammunition 😉
Be sure that you fit the personality type that will enjoy or at least endure the long hours of reloading. I will not lie to you. Making accurate, CONSISTENT, ammunition takes time and concentration. Some people will just despise every second of it. Were you the kid who never assembled that Airfix model kit? If so you may not enjoy reloading. On the plus side those unboxed kits will be worth a fortune so you can sell them and buy a lifetime supply of factory ammo..
So what sort of improvements can we expect? Why does home loading improve accuracy? We will deal with why first. Factory ammunition is mass produced by huge production lines of machines. It is an amazing thing to watch. However you can only achieve a certain amount of precision in an automated process. If they stopped the production sequence every time a load was a 100th of a grain out then they would never make a profit. The same goes for the brass, primers, bullets. They may all have the odd mild imperfection. These things can easily be accounted for when loading your own – IF you are careful and dilligent!
Some .308 ready to go..
Reloading also allows you to vary powder loads in cartridges. You can then “load test” to find which works best. We will cover load testing in full later in this series. In essence you vary your powder load within strict/safe parameters in order to change the harmonics of the rifle. Barrels and actions are generally made of metal. When you fire your rifle the metal rings a bit like a bell. The energy moves along the barrel like waves (all this happens in the blink of an eye). As the bullet leaves the barrel we want 1. As little movement as possible 2. Any movement that is present to be consistent for every shot fired. Altering load will enable you to find a point of accuracy because the harmonics will be the most suitable at a specific charge. All this is completely dependant on your care and consistency when reloading.
In terms of real time boosts in accuracy I would say this, a proficient shooter who has experience will reap more benefit than a novice. The new shooter who is happy just to get on paper at 100yds is not going to notice any benefit at all. However if you are competent with your rifle and you are shooting 1-5″ groups at 100yds then you can expect to halve your group size. Not always as sometimes a particular rifle will just happen to run well with factory ammo. Buy chance that ammo generated good harmonics. My .308 runs about 2″ with PPU brand, about 1.5″ with Lapua 155 factory loads, about 1″ with GGG 7.62MM and 0.3″ with reloads (lapua b476 170g).
Quite a difference right?
My AR15 Is even more picky. It runs Norma factory about 3″, Hornady Tap 2″, GGG 5.56MM 1″ and handloads give about .5″. Again a significant improvement.
The difference between 2″ groups and .5″ groups.. Worthwhile for you?
This is a difficult subject to deal with in detail. There are so many variables. I could write a list of every cost involved and give you a figure per round. I have seen guys do that before. The problem is where do you draw the line? Do you include petrol, wear and tear on vehicle as you have to travel for powders ect? Do you include your time? If so how much do you value your time at? Do you include the reloading bench and shelving you erected in the garage? Do you include the dinner and perfume you bought your wife after she complained “your always in the garage!!”.
If you are looking to save ” lots” of money and that is the only influential factor in your choice to begin reloading then again I would say do not bother. The time you will spend will outweigh the savings you make, even if you value your time at minimum wage. To make 50 rounds takes about 3 hours of my time. When you add that time to the price of reloading kit, powder, brass, bullets (which can be ridiculously expensive) it doesn’t seem cheap at all! Let us put that into context though. GGG Milsurp in .308 costs about £40 per 50 rounds. If I do not factor my time into the equation then my home loads cost about £30 per 50. BUT they are far more accurate. If you have some spare hours which you spend watching TV then use those hours to reload. That way you use up “dead time” and get a small cost saving over factory ammo.
I hope that answers some of the basic questions concerning why you may choose to reload cartridges yourself. Next article in the series will look at the kit you will need and the workspace requirements.