Offset Your Ammo Cost: Part 2

     Throughout my last blog I explained the items that you would need to start loading your own ammunition for rifles and pistols.  In the next couple of weeks we will take an in depth look at how you get from empty brass to ammunition ready for the range and field.  The topic of today’s discussion will be brass preparation.  If you plan on starting out with new brass, this information will not come into play until you have shot some ammo and collected some empty casings.  If you have ever done any reloading before, then you know that brass preparation is an essential part of the loading process that demands more of your time than any other aspect of loading, especially if you are loading for rifles.  However, having brass readily available is one of the biggest cost saving aspects of loading your own ammo.

                                                                                            Here are a couple of essential tools for brass preperation: a case trimmer and tumbler.

Step 1: Tumbling Brass

    Add Turbo Charger to your media to get a high luster finish even after you've cleaned thousands of cases with your media. The first thing that I do when I get back from the range is load my tumbler up with media and throw my empty brass from the day in it.  I usually use the Lyman Corncob Case Cleaning Media, but there are plenty of options out Lyman corn cob media works great for cleaning cases.there.  The great thing about this media is it seems to last forever especially if you use the Lyman® Turbo Charger Media Reactivator periodically.  This will add luster back to your brass and it does not take as long to clean.  One trick that I always use when tumbling brass is cut up a used dryer sheet into four squares.  Drop the squares in with your media and brass and all of the dirt will stick to the dryer sheets instead of your tumbler and media.  Tumbling time will be about 2-5 hours depending on how much brass you have and the freshness of your media.  The brass should look shiny and clean when you get it out.  When you are satisfied with the brass, turn the tumbler off and sift the media into a small bucket or container and make sure that none is left inside of your casings.  I usually tumble all like brass together and try to avoid mixing brass because cases become entwined together and do not get fully cleaned when mixed.


Step 2: Sizing and Decapping

            Here is a sizing die for a .223.  Notice the decapping sticking out the bottom of the die.  This die sizes and decaps your cartridge all at once.Now that you have clean brass, you can begin sizing and decapping.  Both of these steps are achieved with one stroke of the press.  Refer to the picture on the left to locate your sizing die.  Read the instructions included with your die for setting it up into your press and install the appropriate shell holder onto your press. 

     For rifles, lay your brass out on a lube pad as shown in the picture and spray a light coating of case lube on them.  Roll them around a little bit and they are ready to be sized.  Also spray just a little bit of lubricant inside of your die.  ***DO NOT over lube your casings because bad things can happen.  A very light coating is all that you need.  Any more and your brass will dimple on the shoulders and could get stuck in your die***.  Place the brass into the shell holder and steadily pull the lever down until it reaches the bottom.  Steadily raise the arm of your press again.  You will feel some resistance as your brass comes out of die when the collate holding the decapping pin exits the neck of the case.  Inspect your case to ensure that the spent primer has been punched from the case.  If not, screw the decapping pin farther into your die and run the brass through again.  Also check your case for dimples or abnormalities.  If anything looks split, dimpled or incorrect, dispose the case and go to the next.  Shooters that use a bolt action gun may prefer to use a neck sizing die.  This type of die will extend the life of your brass but cannot be used in a semi automatic gun or a gun that is clip fed.  If you shoot the same cartridge out of multiple guns, you will need to keep that brass specific to each gun if you are neck sizing.Lay your brass on a lube pad to keep your area neat and clean.  I recommend a spray lube because it is easier to deal with.

     If you read the last article, I recommended buying a carbide die for pistols.  If you followed this advice, skip the case lubing for sizing your pistol cases, put them in the press and start punching primers.  If you bought a steel die for your pistol, be sure to lube your cases before running them through your die or you could end up with trouble.  As far as case lubricant goes, I prefer some type of spray lube.  It seems to be less messy and easier to use than the liquid form.  In addition, it is easy to control how much is getting onto your cases so you don’t over-lube them. 

Step 3: Case Trimming

     Adjust your caliper to the maximum case length and check each case to see if they are under that length or need to be trimmed.Now that you have your cases cleaned, sized, and decapped it is time to trim them back to their original factory length.  This step is usually not necessary when loading a straight walled cartridge.  So for pistols, this step can usually be skipped unless you are shooting a high pressure load.  Measure a few until you are comfortable that they will fall under the maximum case length shown in your reloading book.  If you are loading rifle ammunition, set your calipers at the maximum case length and lock them into place.  Measure each brass case that you have resized to make sure they are under this length.  For example, .223 has a maximum case length of 1.760” with a trim to length of 1.750”.  Ideally you want your cases to fall in this range, but you definitely do not want them to exceed the maximum case length.  Sort them between cases that exceed the maximum case length and cases that are under the maximum case length.  Each trimmer will be set up a little different so set yours up as instructed in the manual with the product.   Always remember to start out cutting a little long and make fine adjustments until you can consistently reach the length that you are targeting.Set your trimmer to with a case that you know the length of and make fine adjustments from there. For example, I will always use a case that is about 1.759” to set my initial trim to length and adjust my trimmer from there. After you trim a case use a deburring tool to deburr and dechamfer the inside and outside of the case mouth.  It only takes about a half a turn on each side to properly smooth the case mouth out.  After you get your trimmer set to trim to the right length, always check cases periodically to make sure that you’re trimming consistently.     Whenever I get through trimming cases I always like to send the brass through the tumbler again to get rid of any brass shavings or case lubricant left on my cases.  You do not have to leave them tumble for as long, a half hour or hour should suffice.  Once that is finished, sift the media from the cases and inspect the flash hole of each case to make sure that no media got caught in it.  If your flash hole is obstructed, use a tack or pin to punch out the object before continuing. 

     Once you have done these three steps, you have completed all case preparation needed to load your brass.  Always inspect your brass carefully for any major dimples, splits, or bulges.  Check the rim of your cartridge to make sure that it is intact and don’t take any chances on brass.  If it looks bad, pitch it!  Brass is usually somewhat easy to come by and a trip to the local range can get you restocked quickly.  If you pick up unknown brass or are given brass by someone, always run a magnet over it before putting it in your dies.  If it sticks to the magnet, DO NOT attempt to reload it because it is a steel casing that will damage your dies.  If you have more brass than you plan on reloading immediately, put them in a cool dry place for storage.  I prefer to vacuum seal my brass that will not be loaded promptly.  Plastic sealable bags and ammo cans work great too.  Add some silica packets to the bags or cans to insure a dry climate for your brass.  Hopefully these tips will help you on your way to loading your own ammo.  Next time we will add primers, powder, and bullets to your shiny clean brass.

-Brian Eickholtz          


Offset Your Ammo Cost: Part 1

     If you are a hunter or shooter then you have probably seen an increase in the cost of keeping your guns loaded.  Ammunition prices have basically tripled over the last ten years. There are several reasons for this including high demand throughout the world for metals found in ammunition like brass, copper, and lead.  Ammunition is also an item that stays in high demand and, if you've been shopping in the last few weeks, you may be having a hard time finding exactly what you need or like to shoot with your gun.  Like with most industries, ammo is produced in batches based on what is forecasted to sell.  If more ammo is sold than anticipated and the stock runs out, it may be gone for weeks or months.  If you like to hunt or shoot waiting months for ammo to arrive is not an option.  Luckily, there is another option that will make your shooting and hunting more rewarding and cost efficient than ever: loading your own ammo.  

     Reloading is a great process to have knowledge of.  Understanding how your ammunition is loaded can be critical in making your gun shoot to its full capabilities.  In fact, a skilled loader can load bullets that will shoot much better than standard factory loads.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to learn how to do either just a little attention to detail.  The only downfall of loading your own ammo is that there is some start up expense, but this will be offset by what you save in no time.  Getting started loading your own ammo is as simple as stopping by your local Bass Pro Shops and speaking with the experts in the Hunting department.  I will provide you with a starting point and tell you what works best for me to help get you pointed in the right direction.

     There are several basic items that you will need to begin loading ammo:  a press, scale, caliper, case trimmer, case tumbler, dies, powder dispenser, and most importantly a reloading manual.  You can purchase these items separately or in one of the great kits that we offer in our stores.  Generally, I recommend people start out with a kit.  You will get most of the basic hardware you need to get started, but you will usually have to buy additional items along the way.  For example, if you are loading new brass then a case trimmer and tumbler will not be necessary because you have no case prep work to do.  However, you will want to add this to your setup down the line because having the brass is going to save you quite a bit of money as opposed to buying new brass each time.   Loading dies, which resize your case and seat bullets, are specific to each cartridge and you need a different one for each caliber you plan to load for.  If you  decide that you only want to load for .223, that will be the only die that you need.  You can purchase additional dies as necessary and the dies are universal to be accepted into any standard press.  The last and cheapest component you will need to load is a shell holder which even comes with some dies that you buy.  Finally you will need the parts for your round:  bullets, brass, powder, and primers. 

     Before buying a setup for reloading, analyze what you are loading for.  Generally you will save the most money on large or uncommon calibers.  If you are loading for an AR-15 or a semi automatic pistol that you put a lot of rounds through, you may consider a progressive press.  You will be able to load much faster but you may lose that custom accuracy that comes with loading on a single stage press.  Personally, I load my .223 and 9mm with a single stage press and I still save quite a bit of money plus I always have ammo available.  For loading straight walled pistol calibers, make sure that you buy "carbide" die sets!  This is extremely important and will save you time and money because you do not have lubricate your cases before sizing them.  I will speak more about that in the next blog, which I will walk you through the loading steps for both rifle and pistols.  I will be specifically talking about .223 and 9mm, but you can apply the information I will give you to anything that you need to load. 

     For a beginner I would check out a couple of different kits and pick the one that suits your needs.  The most cost effective way to go is the Lee Breech Lock Challenger kit for $149.99.  Another Great choice is the Hornady Lock N' Load Classic Reloading Kit for $319.99.  My favorite kit, though, is the RCBS® Rock Chucker™ Supreme Master Reloading Kit sold at Bass Pro Shops for $359.99.  It combines a great press with excellent accessories that you will need to start your loading.  All of these kits come with a press, scale, hand priming tool, and several other extras.  Now go pick you out a kit and get the proper bullets, brass, primers and powder so you will be ready to load when I post my next article showing you how to put everything together.  Refer to the all important reloading manual as to what you will need if you have questions about what powder, primer, or bullets you need!


-Brian Eickholtz


Turkey Ammo- Which one??

Ok, you have found the perfect spot for your Spring Turkey hunt. Your mouth call practice has paid off since you have a nice Tom strutting towards your decoys. All that is left here is to pull Mr 12 gauge up and claim your trophy. But the hunt is not finished, this is where your gear can really make or breat your outing. Your choice of choke and ammunition can be the difference between going home happy or going home hungry.

   Today we have several very good choices in 12 gauge ammunition made just for Turkey hunting. What will matter here is how to match up our barrel and choke tube with the right ammunition to get the best results. Let us start with a true Turkey shotgun.

    Most devoted Turkey shotguns have a shorter barrel length that allows better swing in tight quarters such as a hub blind or other available cover. With that short barrel it is recommended that you use an “extra full choke tube”. This will allow tighter patterns at longer shooting ranges. For this type of shotgun the best choices in ammunition are Winchester, Remington, HeavyShot and Kent. These shot shells use a conventional plastic wad that spreads at the front soon after leaving the barrel. Patterns will be very good from 30 yards out to 50 yards. You will even be able to make kills farther out then 50 yards!

    So you want to hunt Turkey, you have a shotgun, but it is not a true Turkey gun. No problem, look at both ammo and chokes to get started. Install that improved cylinder choke tube and look at two other brands of ammunition. Hornady and Federal use a different wad in their shot shells. This wad does not open at all, but rather has a cone that expands when it leaves the barrel; this cone is at the base of the wad. This allows the wad to stay with the shot load longer yielding a tighter pattern. So you need not purchase a choke tube, only correct ammunition to work with your gun. If you have a Turkey gun and want to use the Federal or Hornady loads you should buy a different choke tube, improved cylinder is best.

    Now that you have matched your gun and ammunition it’s off to the range! This part is most important; always check your patterning at your expected shooting distance. This will confirm all is ready for your hunt. Now pull the trigger on that nice Tom Turkey and start warming up the oven!