.22’s Catch .22

Think back to the first gun you ever shot. What was it? Dad’s first rifle? Or perhaps your great-uncle’s squirrel gun? Well more than likely it was a .22 of some kind. There are several variations of .22 which includes Short, Long, Long Rifle and Magnum. It is the most commonly owned caliber in the world. This is usually the first firearm one shoots as it is a step above from a BB gun but not nearly as powerful as a center fire rifle cartridge. They use this caliber in the Boy Scouts and for Hunter’s Education purposes.

That is not to say that .22’s are kids play. Far from it. I have heard from several retired officers that it is the most common cartridge used in crimes. There are also countless stories/rumors of it being the “assassin’s choice” for handgun. Which may or may not be true but let’s not put any faith into that. You can put faith though into the fact that .22’s are lethal out to far ranges and should be treated with all the seriousness as any other firearm. It may not kick as much but it can still cause serious damage.

A few years ago you could walk into almost any sporting goods store and pick up a box of .22. It was no harder to find .22 ammo at a sporting goods store than it was to find bread at a grocery store. Nowadays though, good luck. Finding .22 ammo on the shelf is like successfully hunting a unicorn. OK, maybe not that bad but it is a rare sight. At our store, the most common phone call from a customer is about the status of .22 ammo. I am sure this is the same for other Bass Pro Shops and other sporting goods stores nationwide.

It all started with the usual fear of gun-bans. There had been some prolific mass-shootings that took place and even some legislation proposed though our government. This caused a rush on the market and people began buying up everything. Handguns, long guns (especially AR-15 style platforms), high-capacity magazines, accessories and ammo were being bought up by the truckload. Certain calibers like 9mm, 45ACP, 223Rem, 308Win and of course .22’s of all kinds were the most sought after.

For months after the initial scare you could come to our store and see a line of people waiting to get in as soon as we opened to see what we had on our shelves. Talking to people at other stores, this was the same state-wide and more than likely nationwide.

But so what’s the deal? As people will say “it’s only .22” and you begin to wonder why you can’t find it. It’s not like they aren’t producing it anymore. On the contrary! Ammunition manufacturers saw what calibers consumers most wanted and started just focusing on those. More obscure rounds have stopped being produced commercially as those machines are now needed for your common calibers. So where are they all going?

I have heard some people say it’s the government, that they are buying it all up so the youth can’t get into shooting. Like we said earlier, it is the most common caliber for kids to learn to shoot. Really the next step up is .223Rem which honestly has enough kick to be reserved for kids ten years of age or older. Remember if kids don’t enjoy shooting when they are young and get bruised up by too large of calibers, they probably won’t be lifetime shooters or gun owners.

Others point towards the “preppers” as they are stockpiling food, water, supplies and ammo. These certain types of people are misunderstood by many who do not know what they do. It is understandable though. Most people who are preparing for some kind of catastrophe are considered “weird” or “crazy” by others. That is until a disaster strikes and your family doesn’t have any can-goods because you didn’t even think about what may happen in this crazy thing called life. TV shows that document preppers and their lifestyles point out how they store products like alcohol, ammo or medical supplies to be used as a bartering system after money has no value.

Then you also have the people who purposely buy it all up just to sell on the internet for a profit. Don’t think people would actually do that? Think again. People were paying for magazines and firearms at way above decent mark-up on products. An AR-15 magazine for $60? Yea and people paid it. So if you haven’t been able to buy any .22 in-stores for a year or two but find some online at a higher price, you know you probably would pay it.

And outside of government conspiracies, people profiting like pirates and those crazy preppers you had your normal gun enthusiasts who want to get their hands on .22 ammo. People who own several firearms in their home and more than likely a .22 or two. You yourself may be such a person, and until recently you never thought about stockpiling up thousands of rounds of ammo. But now with how scarce it is, you buy up as much as you can when you get the chance. You’re not trying to gouge people online or are concerned with zombie-tornadoes, but you don’t want to not have any .22 either.

Because of all of this, you have .22’s very own Catch 22. People who weren’t stockpiling it before are now. Preppers hear about these government buy-outs and are now more determined to acquire as much .22 as possible. And shoppers/shooters like me and you who now pick up an extra box or two of the ammo when we don’t need it are making it scarcer. No one wins. And to boot, unlike 9mm or 308Win that you can reload .22 is almost impossible to. There are ways to do it, but none of them are very practical or safe so it is best to avoid that altogether.

Will this Catch 22 ever end? I honestly don’t know. All I do know is that if you ever have the chance to teach a kid how to shoot that it is not the time to be stingy with your stockpile.

-Giddy-Up!!

Other Caliber Related Blogs:

7mm-08 Remington - 357 Sig 16 Gauge

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Check it Out List: Reloading

This month’s Check it Out List is about a topic that I find fascinating, as do many others. I am also interested in getting into it now more-than-ever, as are many others. With the ammo shortages, the slow but steadily rise in prices and ever-changing policies over the past few years one can never know if or when they might be able to acquire rounds. Now the ammo-craze that we were in a couple years ago definitely has calmed down, but it is harder to get certain calibers. 22 ammo will probably never be something you can just grab off the shelves “because it is always there” ever again, but other calibers are not always completely wiped out. But with the possibility of that craze coming back and people looking to be more self-sufficient, the amount of people reloading has definitely increased!

Basically reloading is the act of making your own ammunition. There are different levels of reloading and all sorts of ways to do it. Some people collect spent cases from their own/others use at a gun range and others purchase them factory new. Some people make their own bullets for fun and others to save money. Some calibers are so uncommon that you may have to learn to reload in order to actually shoot it. (Ever seen .280 Ackley commercially made?) Others try to figure out how to get the most performance out of their firearm by loading their ammo to certain specifications. Some people learn because to them it is an essential skill. No matter what though, you’ll need some supplies to get started. Shall we?

Reloading

Press

Dies

Shell Holder/Plate

Powder Measuring/Dispensing Device

Scale

Case Trimmer

Case Tumbler

Dial Caliper

Bullet Puller

Loading Block

Data/Information

 

Now to get started all you really need are the first three items and the last one. Probably more so than any other item you need to have Data/Information. This is something that you cannot start on just a whim. Safety needs to be your primary focus all the time with reloading. You’ll want to have a safe place to load and store your materials. You’ll definitely want to know how to load safely. And you’ll want to keep your loads to the data out there first. You can experiment with different loads later, stick to the basics at the beginning. Get yourself books on the subject and join an online club. Do everything at your disposal to have a safe and solid understanding of reloading before you start.

The press is going to be the main workhorse of your operation. You can start off with a simple single-press or go all the way to a multi-stage set. Both kinds have their own advantages, but I always suggest starting with the basics. (It is also cheaper.) Your dies will be specific to whatever caliber you are loading. You can’t use a .30 caliber die for reloading .45ACP and so on. The shell plate will be what holds the casing as you load. Also caliber specific. This would be where consolidating calibers that you own can be a big help.

Things like a tumbler, bullet puller, case trimmer, dial caliper or a scale are extras, which over time can prove to be extremely important.  A loading block is a device that holds numerous cases in to help with reloading. These can be purchased or made at home. Just as a heads up, you probably won’t find any cute ideas for them on Pintrest.

The little history I had with reloading was back in high school. My buddy’s grandfather owned an auto shop. He is also a vendor for the huge machine gun shoots we hold in Arizona every year. He has anything and everything, ranging from G36K’s to .50cals. With the amount they shoot up there, reloading is the only option to afford the ammo. I needed some brake work done, so we swapped labor for labor. I paid for the parts and built ammo belts for M249s for the work on my truck. Solid trade.

Now please note that this blog is more about what you will need to get into reloading as opposed to how to reload. For that, you need to do your research. Like I said earlier, having a safe and solid understanding of the process is extremely important.

-Giddy-Up!!

Checked-Lists

Picnics Gun Cleaning Game Care First Aid Kayaking Day Pack Trip Prep Range Time

Fishing Pack Boating Day Trip Camp Cooking  Dove Hunting Upland Hunting Tactical Clothing

Winter Camping

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Are You Ready for Hunting Season?

Hello Bass Pro Shops Customers! Are you doing last minute shopping for this year’s hunting season? Listed below are some checklists you need to be looking over to make sure have everything you need this cold hunting season.

 

Preseason Checklist

Purchase hunting licenses

Secure landowners permission

Take hunter safety courses

Preseason scouting

Get physically fit

Sight-in rifle

Schedule vacation time

Vehicle maintenance

Camp repair

Purchase or reload ammunition

 

Clothing Checklist

Check weather report for proper dress

Hat (Be sure it has the required amount  of fluorescent orange)

Coat 

Jacket

Vest

Pants

Shirts 

Sweater

Boots

Extra socks

Rain Gear 

Face Mask

Field Gear and Accessories

Knife sharpened

Flashlight and batteries

Drag rope

License and holder

Pencil string or plastic tie down for tagging

Field dressing kit

Compass

Masking scents

Deer/Turkey calls

Water bottle

Thermos

   

First-Aid kit

Whistle

Hunter's seat cushion

Tree stand (with safety belt)

Hand warmers

Daypack with lunch and snacks

 

Personal Checkpoints

Prescription medicine

Wallet with ID money and credit cards

Keys to camp, gun cabinet, and extra vehicle keys

Leave details of your hunting itinerary with your family

Cellular phone if possible

 

After the Hunt

Mail in harvest report card (if you got lucky!)

Process deer, turkey, etc.

Taxidermy arrangements (hope you saved some money!)

Clean and store all your gear

If you hunted on private property share you harvest with the landowner and send the landowner a thank-you note.

 

A few Other Things to Check....

Don’t wait until the night before the season opens to start gathering all your hunting gear. Here’s a look at how to avoid first-day glitches that could cost you a shot.

We’ve all done it at one time or another: It’s the day before deer season and you’ve waited until the last minute to round up all the gear you’ll need for tomorrow’s hunt. You’re nearly in a panic as you go through a mental checklist while you rummage through closets, attics and the garage.

You fill the pockets of your hunting coat and your daypack with everything you think you’ll need for the next day, dust off your favorite tack-driver, and pile everything by the back door. The next morning, you’re halfway to your stand before you realize you’ve forgotten some essential item – a facemask, gloves or even ammunition!

Forgetfulness and haste have probably saved the lives of more game animals than just about any other hunter’s gaffe you can think of. Perhaps the most frustrating part is that most of these glitches are preventable. What follows is a rundown of essential and non-essential items to help you avoid the pitfalls of poor preparation this opening day.

Batteries

Its opening morning and you head off down that long trail through the woods to your stand. Halfway there you notice your flashlight beam seems to be growing dimmer. At first you think it’s just your imagination, but before long the light fizzles, and though you’re only a few hundred yards from your stand, you might as well be a mile away. You won’t find it now until the sun comes up.

Dead batteries top the list of common opening-day glitches. Deer hunters have come to rely on a number of battery-operated devices, including flashlights, range finders, hand-held GPS units and two-way radios, to name a few. We love them when they work, but curse them when they don’t, even though it’s usually our own fault.

A little preventive maintenance can save a lot of frustration. Always check every battery-operated tool before the season opens. Test each device to see if it works. If you have a battery tester, use it. If you don’t, get one. One alternative is to buy batteries with built-in strength indicators. And remember this simple rule: When in doubt, throw them out. Batteries are cheap. It also doesn’t hurt to keep spare batteries in your pack, just in case.

Guns and Bows

“It shot fine last year when I put it away” is a common lament heard at deer camps all around the country, usually after opening day misses. This is one of the most common blunders hunters make. There are hundreds of reasons why your gun or bow’s point of aim could change between seasons. Maybe you, or someone else, bumped it unknowingly. A different bullet weight, a different brand, even a different batch of ammunition could make a difference. Maybe you left too much oil in the barrel when you cleaned it. Or maybe you didn’t clean it and a drop of water turned the fine grooves inside your barrel into a spot of rust.

Leave nothing to chance. Make sure all the moving parts are in working order. Clean off the heavy coat of oil you applied for storage and replace it with a fine coating of synthetic lube that won’t freeze or gum up. Next, check all screws for tightness, especially on scope mounts and rings. Finally, take it to the range and fire it, using whatever ammunition you’ll be hunting with. Shoot enough to make sure your point of impact is correct and consistent.

If you’re bow hunting, sight pins can come out of alignment. Check all cams to make sure they’re turning freely and lubricate any moving parts that might make noise with a scent-free lube. When you’re done sighting in with field points, shoot a few broad heads to make sure your bow is still on. (Broad heads will often shoot differently than field tips, and this is a common source of “pilot error.”)

A Miscellany of Other Items

Whether you stuff them in your pockets, hang them off your belt or put them in a daypack, there’s an endless list of miscellaneous items you can take into the woods. Some are necessary; others merely make your endeavor more comfortable or efficient. First, let’s take a look at the essentials.

If I had to pick one item from my daypack that I would never be without, it would have to be a compass. You may be very familiar with the area you hunt and only headed out for an hour or two, but what if you decide to pick up a hot track on your way in, or end up following a long blood trail? Good outdoorsmen never get “lost,” but they sometimes get turned around. A compass will help you find the shortest route to get in and out of the woods. You can also use it to take a bearing on an animal’s direction after the shot and while tracking to help in recovery.

Obviously, you’ll need field-dressing supplies that are in good condition, particularly a sharp knife. I recall one opening morning when I was not so well prepared. I made a good shot and found the fallen buck easily, but my elation quickly turned to frustration when I realized I’d forgotten my knife.

I only made that mistake once, but I’d need all of my scarred fingers to count the number of times I’ve field dressed a deer with a dull knife. I now carry two knives, and I sharpen them before the season and after every use.

Other field-dressing supplies you may want to include are rubber gloves, a small length of cord to tie-off innards or attach your tag, and a small sealable plastic bag with some moist wipes for cleaning up your hands.

The list of what could be considered non-essential gear is limited only by your own needs or desires. Binoculars and range finders are particularly helpful in locating and judging game and accurately estimating distances.

Many hunters now use scents and calls to help draw game closer. You may need a saw for limbing or boning. If you’re a tree-stand hunter, you’ll need a rope to haul your bow or gun up with and something to hang them on.

You may want to include some sort of wind-checking device, such as a bottle of fine powder or tufts of silk.

Two items that could arguably be considered essential are a water bottle and a survival kit. Under moderate conditions water will help quench your thirst and in hot weather it will keep you hydrated. A survival kit is an insurance policy you hope you’ll never need. But if you do have a need for one at some point, it’s nice to have it.

LICENSES

A hunting license is one of those things you should take care of well before the season begins, particularly if you’re traveling out of state. Every state has different license sales procedures. Some may require you to purchase your hunting license from your local town office, which may only be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4 p.m. Others require that you apply by mail, which could take several weeks, provided nothing gets lost in transit. Even if the local license vendor is just around the corner and open 24 hours a day, leave nothing to chance. He could run out of licenses, particularly as it gets closer to opening day.

CHECK THE REGULATIONS

As I sat in my tree stand watching the forest slowly come to life, I waited anxiously for the first distant shots that would announce the opening of another deer season.

Thirty minutes after first light I still hadn’t heard a shot. I suddenly began to get a very uneasy feeling that maybe I’d somehow jumped the gun. I fumbled through my pack searching in vain for the rulebook that wasn’t there. It was another half hour before I finally heard the first shots that put me at ease, but that first hour was one of the least enjoyable opening mornings I’ve ever spent.

Since that day I’ve learned to take nothing for granted. Regulations often change from year to year, and though state fish and game agencies do their best to keep us informed, it is ultimately up to the hunter to know the current laws and seasons.

MAKE A CHECKLIST

Even though I always go over a mental checklist, I still manage to forget something. I finally remedied that by making a written list. That way it’s all there in black and white and I don’t have to rely on memories of last year’s hunt

 

-Rebecca

Hunting Department

Leeds Alabama

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Reloading - Projectile, Powder & Primer

ReloadingSince moving to the Hunting Department, I have had the opportunity to share my hobby of reloading ammo with our customers.  I have found, while talking with other reloaders, that opinions on supplies vary greatly.  Opinions of projectile, powder and primers are wide indeed.  I find that what works best is what you are comfortable with.  Some people swear by CCI primers, others like Remington.  I have been using Winchester Primers for more that 20 years, and have never had a failure. 

Concerning powders, Hogdon has some very good pistol powders and I have tried them.  For me I like Alliant powders, mainly for the cost.  I have used, with great results, 2400, Unique, Bullseye, powders, projectiles or bullets, I like 38 special +P, in a 158 GRN FMJ. For home defense I like, the 357 MAG, in 125 GRN JHP. The 125 GRN JHP also works great with the 38 special +P.

What I find the most fun is when I get someone just starting or interested in reloading.  I try to answer all their questions and guide them to make their first reloading experience as much fun and interesting as my first time.

 Mark Doiron

Hunting

Denham Springs

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Equipment and Data for Handloading Shotshells

By: Ransey Stimson

Shotshell Press

OK, so you have decided to start handloading shotshells. You will have to do your homework on what tools and supplies you will require. You will need to determine what load recipes you want to try out. First and foremost, you need a good handloading handbook. The handloading handbook will have the instructions, advice, recipes and other data you need to get started safely. There will be some tried and true information in the handbook that has been developed over may years. This will be virtually indispensable to you from the very beginning. My favorite shotshell handloading handbook is the Lyman Shotshell Handbook.. You will want to have this book on your bench, even when you have become an expert. In addition to the handbook, here are some other tools you will want to consider:

Electronic Powder Scale

MTM Powder Scale

 Shell Stacker

Shell Stacker

Shotshell Checker

Shell Checker

 

Powder/Shot Funnel

Powder/Shot Funnel

 

 

Reusable Shell Boxes

Shell Box

 

Dust Pan and BroomDust Pan and Broom

 

 

The dust pan and broom is a must for me.  I can sweep up spilled powder and shot easily and since they fit together, there is little space lost on my bench.  Reusable boxes will save you money and aggravation in the long run.  The factory boxes are simply not meant to last for multiple uses.  Checking your powder weight when setting up is one of the basic fundamentals you must stick with in order to be safe.  The funnel, shell checker and shell stacker are those remarkable, yet simple little tools that make the work easier, faster and more enjoyable.

When you set up your press, you may want to consider whether you want to mount it to a fixed bench or keep it portable. If you are always going to be loading shells in the same place, a sturdy bench is the way to go. If you find that you do not have space for a bench, or may need to load shells in more than one location, then mounting the press to a good solid base plate or board will do nicely. I use a large bamboo cutting board with channel cut around the edge works very nicely. You can attach some felt pads on the bottom to protect any surface you might be loading on.

There is some setup required when you buy your press. My MEC press only took a few minutes to put together. The MEC press came factory set for the wad pressure and crimp settings that work well with the Winchester AA hulls. I had to make a small adjustment to the crimp setting for the Remington STS hulls that I load the most. I eventually added a primer feed system to my MEC. Some models come with a primer feed system. If you load more than a box or two at a time, you will find the ability to have a primer feed system a huge plus.

Before you actually start loading, you will need to pick a recipe, or specific combination of hull, powder, primer, wad and lead shot load. Your handbook should have several recipes that will work for your specific needs. One excellent resource I have found is on Hodgdon's website. Their Reloading Data Center contains the recommended load data for both shotshell loads and cartridge loads. Hodgdon's reloading data site is one of the most complete and easiest sites to use.

To simplify things and make it more usable, I performed two selects using Hodgdon's shotshell load data generator. I selected 12 gauge loads, lead shot, all load sizes and then I chose 2 3/4" WINCHESTER COMPRESSION - FORMED AA & HS TYPE PLASTIC SHELLS and 2 3/4" REMINGTON STS, NITRO 27, OR GUN CLUB PLASTIC SHELLS as the hulls I wanted to use. I did this in two selects, changing the hull type from Winchester to Remington. Once I selected the hull I wanted, I then clicked "Get Data". When the data was produced, I used my cursor to select the data table and then I pasted the data into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. With the data saved into a spread sheet, I can now filter the data on each field of data, displaying only the data for recipes that fit my exact description, from hull to primer and wad type. This enables me to duplicate numerous loads with the click of my mouse.

Once you have your press set up and selected your load, it is a matter of inserting the proper charge bar and powder bushing combination, then checking the powder charge dispensed on your scale. Your wad pressure should be just fine. You may find that your crimp may need to be adjusted, but that only takes a minute. Once you are satisfied with your settings, you are ready to start loading. Be sure to label your shell boxes with your load data and date. This will be handy when you get to the range. In no time at all, you will be cranking out shells that shoot as well or better than anything you can buy off the shelf.

 Take a look at all of what Bass Pro Shops has to offer in Reloading Equipment and Supplies.  Next you will want to consider the powders, primers, lead shot and hull designs that will meet your needs.  There are a number of combinations that will change your shot pattern and velocities.  Both pattern and velocity factor into the performance of your loads.  What you want the load to do for you will dictate the components you choose.

 

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Introduction to Handloading

By Jason Baird

Reloading Manuals
If you want to handload, your first purchase should be at least one, if not several, reloading manual(s).

"Nah, we don't carry much reloading stuff anymore, what with the price of metals nowadays, not many people want to reload." So said an employee of a sporting goods store in response to my query about where to find the rest of the handloading gear.

I nodded my head, and then I wandered to another part of the store to browse while my wife was boot shopping. Then it struck me -- wait a minute! The price of metals has raised the cost of ammunition, too, not just bullets, brass and shot!

If you've paid attention to the cost of ammunition in the past year, you know the truth in what I was thinking. Nearly all ammo has increased in price, for whatever reason. Since factory ammo has increased in price, too, cost-savings is still one of the reasons to handload.

As I've mentioned in previous articles, you can still produce better ammunition at a lower cost by handloading that you can obtain by purchasing the "white box" stuff at your local sporting goods store.

Also, if you've read my previous articles, you've seen my admonition: If you want to handload, your first purchase at this point should be at least one, if not several, reloading manual(s). There's no better introduction to handloading than these manuals. Once you have selected a manual, grab a beverage, sit down and read the manual.

Reloading Materials
Powder, primers, bullets and cases are the ingredients you'll need to create your handloads.

There is a wealth of great information in the manuals, and if you purchase more than one, you'll notice that each includes details that are common (safety, etc.), but each also includes tidbits that you won't normally find elsewhere.

For example, the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading, Sixth Edition has an excellent introductory section that explains how reloading reverses the process of firing a cartridge. Until I read this section, I had not thought of reloading in that way. Richard Lee's Modern Reloading, Second Edition has a wonderful section on bullet casting that I think is the most comprehensive look at casting I have ever seen in a reloading manual.

Okay, time to get down to business. I'm not recommending any particular brand of equipment, unless there are only one or two companies in a niche area, because I make my purchases based on my judgment of the individual merits of each. Nothing wrong with brand loyalty, but my engineering profession and my Scots heritage gets the best of me when it comes to how I spend my cash on equipment.

To begin with, there are some basics needed to reload rifle or handgun ammunition (shotshell reloading requires different gear, and I may get the opportunity to cover that topic in a later article).

The essential equipment: a reloading press (a handheld press, such as the Lee Loader, will do), shellholder(s) to fit the press and the cartridge caliber(s) you select, reloading dies to fit the cartridge caliber(s), a priming system to insert fresh primers into resized and de-capped cartridge cases, and a powder scale or powder dipper to measure the powder for each cartridge case. A rudimentary priming system is included with most presses, but you may want to upgrade to a better system later. Bottlenecked rifle cases must be lubricated to be resized; straight-wall pistol cases must be lubricated, too, unless you are using a carbide resizing die. There are many different lubrication techniques, none of which uses motor oil. Some lubricants spray-on, and some are rolled-on by the handloader using what is basically a souped-up ink pad.

Reloading
Powder scales are used to measure the powder for each cartridge case.

In addition, if you reload many cartridges you will want some sort of powder measure to speed-up the powder loading process. You must also have a place to reload that is free of distractions, and, if you are using a bench-mounted press, you must have a sturdy bench or platform on which to install the press. Have containers in which to store your completed handloads -- re-use old ammunition boxes, or new specially-made ammo boxes, or whatever, but make sure you can label the containers with information about the loads you create.

You'll also need a supply of brass cartridge cases, bullets, smokeless gun powder and primers. Consult your reloading manual(s) to decide which bullet types, gunpowder and primers to use to build your load. Closely examine the cases, and clean, put aside, or discard any that are dirty, full of stuff, or are not correctly made. In a new batch of unfired bottlenecked rifle cases I have found cases that had malformed extractor grooves. Others had bits of foreign material (brass, cardboard, foam packaging) inside them. Some did not have a primer hole, or the hole was not cleanly punched. Cases you pick-up at the range may have small rocks inside them.

Make sure you are using the correct gunpowder for the load, and never have more than one powder container open on your loading bench.

At this point, I'll repeat the reloading basic safety rules since seeing information repeatedly is one of the keys to learning. (Another key is experience, but learning safety the hard way is ill-advised.)

Never:

  • mix or substitute components 
  • eat or smoke while reloading
  • reload while under the influence of  alcohol or other drugs that affect motor skills and brain functions 
  • guess; stop and find-out for sure that what you are doing is correct

Always: 

  • wear eye protection
  • work where you are free of distractions
  • keep your workbench free of clutter
  • keep reloading components in their intended containers, and stored properly
  • keep good records
  • keep ammunition and ammunition components out of the reach of unsupervised children
  • establish a good loading routine, and follow it exactly
  • check for over- or under-pressure signs in ammunition while shooting
  • use common sense and good judgment
  • enjoy reloading


When you begin a loading session, take a few minutes to think about what you are loading, what components you need and what equipment you will be using. Clear the extraneous stuff away from your work area (be it a bench or the kitchen table), and get set-up in an organized fashion. Taking a few minutes to get organized pays dividends during the reloading process, saving you time and effort later in prevented mistakes, spills and searches for things you need to finish the loading session.

Presses
Three single-stage presses made by RCBS: (from left to right) .50 BMG Ammomaster (for loading the larger .50 BMG caliber rifle cartridges), an older Rock Chucker, and a newer Rock Chucker Supreme (or Rock Chucker IV).

Otherwise, guess what will happen. You clear the kitchen table a half hour before supper so that you can set-up your reloading gear on the table (your usual reloading "bench"), and in about 20 minutes you've sized, primed and dropped the powder into the 50 rifle cartridges you want to shoot the next day. Murphy strikes! You can't find your bullet seating die because you didn't put it back into the die case after you last used it. Your spouse wants your stuff off the table so that it can be cleaned for supper, and you know that if you move any of those 50 powder-laden, but open-mouthed cases you'll spill some of them. Not a good start to a reloading session.

After you've organized your gear, take the cases that you've checked and cleaned and get them ready to be resized. Since a brass case expands when fired to seal the gun's chamber against expanding gases from burning gunpowder, the case must be squeezed back into a semblance of its original shape when you reload it. Run each of your cases through the sizing operation. Even if you are using brand new, unfired cases, run them through the sizing operation. You'll be surprised how many new cases need to be sized. If you are loading bottlenecked rifle cases, or pistol cases using a non-carbide-type resizing die, lubricate the cases.

Using your reloading press on the cases, resize and deprime them, bell the case mouths for easier bullet insertion and prime the cases. Load the correct amount of powder into each case using your scale or powder measure, and then use your press to seat the bullets and crimp them into place. Make sure you label the loads by identifying the cartridge and caliber, date, components, bullet weight and powder weight. It's a good idea to keep a log of what you load, so that two years from now you can go back and see what was in that special deer load, the one that your son shot using the last cartridge you had.

Finally, clean-up your loading area. Put your equipment away, empty your powder measure back into the original gunpowder container, and put primers back into their original container.

In this article, I briefly covered the basics of handloading. As you look through your reloading manuals, in addition to the basics you'll see sections on how to wring the best accuracy out of your rifle, how to create pistol loads that you can shoot all day and not go home with a sore hand, and interesting historical information about the hobby of handloading. In future articles, I'll describe some of those techniques.

Take a look, and I'll bet you'll get fired-up about what you can create with some fairly simple tools and a bit of your time.

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