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!