You Don't Need to Be Rich to Reload Ammunition for Cowboy Action Shooting
Reverend Sayer Prayers
(a.k.a. Ransey Stimson)
Being the Deputy Sheriff in Hill Creek doesn't have many perks and watching the bank on Sunday morning while the Sheriff, the Mayor and the rest of the Town Council are rubbing elbows with the wealthy town folks down at the church certainly ain't one of them. Sitting at your desk in the window with a full view of the front of the bank, you have your trusty rifle loaded with 10 rounds, hammer down on an empty chamber, staged in the corner next to the door. Your favorite shotgun is open and empty on top of the desk. You are wearing both of your revolvers, loaded with 5 rounds each, hammers down on an empty chamber, snuggly in their holsters.
At the sound of the alarm, you stand up and open the window to see 5 bad guys in front of the bank. You draw your first revolver and put 2 rounds into the first bad guy, 2 rounds into the second bad guy and 1 round into the third bad guy. You holster your first revolver and draw your second, putting 1 more round into the third bad guy, 2 rounds into the fourth bad guy and your last 2 rounds into the fifth bad guy. You holster your second revolver and proceed to the door.
Grabbing your rifle, you open the door and step out onto the porch. Spying four more gang members in the alley next to the bank, you put 1 round into the first bad guy, 2 rounds into the second bad guy, 3 rounds into the third bad guy and 4 rounds into the 4th bad guy. But it ain't over yet 'cause they got two more bad guys, one stationed at each end of the street. Backing into the office, you put your rifle on the desk and pick up your shotgun. Loading 2 rounds, you lean out the window and put 2 rounds into the bad guy on the left and then reload. Then you put 2 rounds into the bad guy on the right.
The Timer shouts, "Is the Shooter ready?" That's you, adrenalin rush in progress, waiting for the sound of the buzzer. The first stage of the match is about to start and you have less than one second left to think about it. Before the day is over, you will send some 120 bullets and 20 or more shotshell loads down range. If you are really into Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS), you will likely shoot 4 or more matches a month, and that doesn't even consider what you will shoot in practice. That's a lot of bullets and shotshells. Most Cowboy Action Shooters use the same caliber ammunition in their revolvers as they do in their rifle. It makes it simpler at the loading table and for loading during a stage since there is no opportunity to put the wrong ammunition in the wrong firearm. But, unless you have your own personal bank, chances are you are going to want to reload your own ammunition.
If you have priced cowboy ammunition lately, you already know that it can go for $30 per 50 round box, or more. The good Shotshells can go for $8 per 25 round box, or more. I tend to shoot more in practice than I do at a match simply because I am pushing myself through drill after drill without taking much of a break. Even if you only shoot 2 matches a month and practice twice a month, your cost in ammunition alone can be nearly $400 per month. Now consider the fact that you can reload your own ammunition for as little as 1/3 the price. With the basic single stage shotshell press and a simple turret press for your metallic cartridge loads, you can crank out enough ammunition for a match in about 2 1/2 hours.
So, you have a decision to make. You can spend a couple of hours of your time each week making your own ammunition, and save yourself a whole bunch of money. Or, you can go through the hassle of driving around and spending a lot of money and time buying your ammunition, if you can even find what you need. It's not a tough call. Buying the equipment and getting it set up is easier and less expensive than you might think. You can find most of what you need in a single weekend, ammunition components included. If you have a work bench already, you can be set up and running in a single evening. You can reload 120 rounds of pistol/rifle ammunition and 25 rounds of shotshell ammunition for $20 to $30, depending on the caliber you shoot. Your up front expenses are between $500 and $700. You can get the basics for under $500. The $700 investment gets you better equipment, which will pay off in the long run. Depending on how much you shoot, you can recoup your equipment costs in as little as 3 months.
Here are some examples to consider when selecting your equipment:
Single Stage Shotshell Press
Turret Press Kit (Includes Electronic Scale, Powder Drop System, Primer Feed System, Case Preparation Tools and Reloading Manual)
1 Set of Reloading Dies
There are a number of accessories that you may want to add to your bench later, but the list above is all you really need to get started. Save your brass and hulls from the ammunition you already shoot, and the boxes too. They are all reusable and can last you quite a while. Cowboy loads are generally loaded at the lower pressure levels. That means the cases and hulls don't split or crack nearly as often. You will find that you can reload metallic pistol/rifle cases 10 or more times. Unless you are shooting black powder in your shotshells, you can reload your hulls at least 4 or 5 times. That said, there is a certain amount of loss experienced on the range. You lose some and you step on some. Then there are "Lost Brass" matches where there are so many shooters and so little time that you are not allowed pick up your brass or hulls. Often times, "Lost Brass" matches have Boy Scout troops in attendance that rake up, clean and sort the brass and hulls, selling it back to interested shooters for a small fee. This enables the Host Club to get all the shooters through the course, the Scouts to make a little money and shooters to recoup their brass for a small fee. It really is a Win - Win for everyone.
Interested? Well, if saving money hasn't grabbed your interest, then here are some other advantages. There are a lot of different bullet designs and weights available for the most popular CAS calibers. If you reload your own, you can tailor your ammunition to your firearm and your shooting style. If you are buying off the shelf ammunition, you are limited to whatever is offered by the manufacturer. Worse still, you are limited to the availability of that ammunition. If you can't find it on the shelf, you don't get to shoot. If you reload your own ammunition, you determine the availability. For me, there is something therapeutic about reloading. It is relaxing and enjoyable. The satisfaction I get from reloading my own ammunition is surprising. The satisfaction I get from shooting ammunition I load myself is another added bonus.
Tune in again soon and I'll fill you in on the details of loading your own cowboy ammunition. Until then, keep the sun at your back and your powder dry my friend. You never know when you might need to take out some bad guys.