New Book! The Insanely Practical Guide to Reloading Ammunition

Learn how to reload ammunition the easy way with the Insanely Practical Guide To Reloading Ammunition!

Learn how to reload ammunition the easy way with the Insanely Practical Guide To Reloading Ammunition!

When I started reloading, I made lots of mistakes. I learned the hard way by screwing things up on occasion. Yes, I had fun, but my learning process might have been more fun if someone had taken the time to explain the procedures and equipment to me. In plain non-engineering oriented English.

Fortunately, that’s what we do here at Insanely Practical Guides. Nothing would make us happier than to have a million or so folks start reloading their own ammunition.

This book is not a reloading manual. Great companies like Hornady, Sierra, Lyman and others publish those. They invest millions of dollars in fancy equipment like ballistic test barrels, strain gauges, piezo transducers and plenty of Cheezy Poofs and Red Bull for the lab staff — all to develop safe and tested load recipes.

The Insanely Practical Guide to Reloading Ammunition is an instructional guide that will walk you through the steps of reloading your own ammunition in a fun, and more importantly, easy to understand way. Reloading manuals are great resources for understanding safe and tested load recipes. While most include an introductory section that talks about the reloading process and equipment, none that I’ve found show you, step by step, exactly how to do it in an easy to understand way.

Think of reloading manuals as sheet music. And this book as Mrs. Clutterbuck’s piano lessons you took in third grade. If you develop a sudden urge to play Carnegie Hall, or even Bodean’s Wet Whistle Bar and Bait Shop, you could just order sheet music from the internet. But it probably wouldn’t be the most direct path to ivory key success. Take some lessons first, then order the sheet music. We’ll all thank you!

Although we think reading this book will be a far more pleasant experience than weekly lessons in Mrs. Clutterbuck’s den, the idea is the same. We’ll teach you how to do the steps. Then you’re off to fame, fortune and custom ammunition.

Loaded with pictures and simple and useful illustrations, this book will get you started reloading your own ammunition in no time!

Topics include: 

  • Why take up reloading?
  • Is reloading right for you?
  • What equipment do you need?
  • Cleaning and processing brass.
  • The reloading process: step by step.
  • Pistol caliber reloading.
  • Rifle caliber reloading.
  • Buying reloading components.
  • Advanced equipment options.
  • Introduction to advanced topics.

You can get the Kindle version on Amazon right now! The print version will be available April 14th!

Talking Brass: How To Lose Your Frustrations At The Range

Someone figured out how to exercise their demons - with a .30-06.

Someone figured out how to exercise their demons – with a .30-06.

I’m a reloading freak. Because what’s better than tactical cooking? (Tweet This)

Anyway, I shoot at an outdoor range where lot’s of folks bring boxes of shiny, new, factory ammunition to shoot – and then they leave the brass lying all over the place.

Is there a “clean up after yourself” rant forthcoming? Not on your life. I love these folks. New, once-fired, name brand brass?

I’ll pick up new range brass faster than Alec Baldwin complains about his fame and fortune.(Tweet This)

After testing a new scope the other day, a Weaver Tactical 1-5×24, I cleaned up. Big time. First rate rifle brass sells for about 50 cents apiece. Heck, I’ll spend hours picking up someone else’s brass. And thank them for it.

Anyway, I was tired, and jazzed about the new scope, so I wasn’t paying much attention. When I got home to clean and sort my new treasure trove, I noticed handwriting on some of the .30-06 cases. Hmmm.

On closer examination, someone found a safe and fun way to vent their frustrations. At 2,700 feet per second.

And just what was this anonymous individual concerned about? From the ones I could still read, here’s the list of aggravations:

  • F— You _____.” Sorry, the last word was illegible. But this person sent some serious anger down range.
  • New slang” But no mention of Justin Bieber, which I found strange.
  • Something about “evil money.” Perhaps this person found the recent government stimulus programs lacking?
  • People who treat vets like shit
  • Kids that drive $60,000 cars
  • Dad’s B.S. – Not my problem!
  • Who I was
  • England

I kid you not. England.

If you’re a board-certified psychiatrist, we’d love a preliminary analysis. Sorry, but we can only pay for your services in used range brass.

Reloading Ammunition in 10 Easy Steps

Birth of a reloaded cartridge, from left to right: dirty, nasty, stinky range brass; shiny cleaned brass; spent primer ready for decapping; decapped brass; resized brass; re-primed brass; ready for powder charge; bullet seating (it's not fully seated here); the finished product!

Birth of a reloaded cartridge, from left to right: dirty, nasty, stinky range brass; shiny cleaned brass; spent primer ready for decapping; decapped brass; resized brass; re-primed brass; ready for powder charge; bullet seating (it’s not fully seated here); the finished product!

Now that the infinite gun-gasm known as SHOT Show is over, it’s time to get back to reloading! If you read the first article in this reloading series, “To Reload or Not to Reload: 12 Important Considerations,” and decided reloading might be for you, read on! Today we’ll talk about the basic steps of reloading brass ammunition, like common rifle and handgun cartridges. Shotgun reloading is fun and rewarding, too, but we’ll handle that as a separate topic as the steps and equipment are different.

First, the safety warning! I don’t have a lawyer, but if I did, he would tell me to tell you to exercise extreme caution when reloading ammunition. Always, and I mean always, follow printed loading recipes from major bullet, propellant, or reloading equipment manufacturers. They have lots of expensive testing equipment that ensures their published loading data is within safe pressure limits.

Okay, I feel less legally exposed now, so let’s get back to the fun stuff.

When you boil all the complexity down, reloading is simply recycling of fired cartridges—like plastic milk containers, but a lot less smelly. For most modern ammunition, a cartridge is made up of several components, some of which are expendable and others reusable. The only “directly” reusable component in a cartridge is the brass casing. Fortunately, that’s generally the most expensive component. Let’s take an insanely practical look at the steps involved in reloading rifle and handgun ammunition. We’ll walk through the process today and discuss the equipment needs next week.

Save the brass!

If there is the slightest chance you might take up reloading in the future, the very first step is to hoard brass. Yes, like that show on A&E. Hoard brass until your living room is knee-deep with the stuff and the dog can’t make its way to the kitchen. Why? You’ll need it. And it’s expensive. Every time you bend over to pick up a casing, think $0.10 to $0.75! You’d pick up a quarter or two every time you saw one on the ground, right?

Clean the brass.

Technically, you don’t have to clean brass cartridge casings to reload them, but I always do. Cleaning the brass helps you make nice, pretty ammunition that is sure to impress your friends. More importantly, it reduces the risk of your reloading dies getting all gunked up. Clean ammunition also feeds into your gun more reliably.

Deprime the brass.

The primer is one of the expendable items. Once it’s blown up, it’s no good anymore. Either a dedicated decapping die is used to punch the old primer out of the bottom of the casing, or more commonly, the die that resizes your brass will also knock the old primer out.

Resize the brass exterior.

When you fire a rifle or handgun cartridge, the whole brass casing actually expands in the chamber of the gun. As the pressure goes down when the bullet leaves the barrel, the brass shrinks back a bit, thereby allowing extraction from the chamber and ejection towards the person next to you. While it shrinks, it doesn’t shrink all the way back to original size. A resizing die is used to “encourage by brute force” the brass back into the correct exterior dimensions. This step ensures that your reloaded ammunition will fit back into the chamber of your gun and fire properly. If you reload bottleneck rifle ammo, you will also need to trim the case back to the proper length. All this mashing tends to make it stretch.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub.com!

 

Be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition. It’s available in print and Kindle format at Amazon:

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

To Reload Or Not To Reload… 12 Important Considerations

Once you decide to start reloading, you'll want all the cool gear...

Once you decide to start reloading, you’ll want all the cool gear…

The first step towards healing is to admit you have a problem. I’ve got an ammunition reloading addiction. I can spend hours fantasizing about all the cool gadgets like case concentricity gauges in the Sinclair Reloading catalog. There. I’ve said it.

Since part of my problem is uncontrollable reloading evangelism, I’m going to allocate a couple of these weekly columns to reloading your own ammunition. This week, we’ll look at factors you should consider when deciding whether to reload or not. After our SHOT Show coverage next week. We’ll come back and talk about how to get started.

So how do you decide if reloading is for you? Consider the following.

Are you, or can you be, detail oriented?

As with any shooting related activity, safety comes first. Like shooting, reloading is perfectly safe, as long as you pay attention and follow the rules – every time without fail. With reloading, you have to pay close attention to all aspects of the task. Undercharging (not enough powder) and overcharging (too much powder) are equally dangerous and can harm the shooter and the gun. Seating bullets at the proper depth consistently prevents dangerous over pressure situations. Using the right components, per professionally published recipes is mandatory. While it sounds scary, as long as you are careful and attentive, you can manufacture safe and reliable ammunition.

It’s a gateway drug.

You know, like Crystal Meth. Once you start on that stuff, you’ll quickly move to something really serious. Likewise, if you start reloading something simple, like pistol cartridges, you’ll soon move to rifle cartridges. Before you know it, you’ll be melting lead in your kitchen and casting your own bullets. And we all know how much other family members enjoy lead fumes in the kitchen.

You’ll save money.

If you reload for fun and/or don’t place a dollar value on your reloading time, your cost per cartridge will almost certainly be lower than the price of factory ammunition. Of course, you have to reload often enough to cover the startup equipment costs. We’ll cover that in the next article.

Let’s look at a simple example. Right now, .223 practice ammo costs somewhere around $.45 to $.50 per round. If you reload it yourself, plan on spending about $.09 per bullet, $.03 per primer and $.08 for each powder charge. If you have to buy brass, you can use each casing about 10 times, so your per use cost is about $.04. That brings us to about $.24 per round, not counting your time. Yeah, I know. You know a guy who can get all this stuff cheaper. Keep in mind, this is just a rough estimate example for those uninitiated.

You’ll spend more money.

Once you start reloading, you’ll want to get all the gear. Like digital scales, electronic powder dispensers, power case trimmers, progressive reloading presses, and custom reloading benches. You’ll also shoot a lot more, so even though your cost per round might be lower, you can easily end up spending more money overall.

What’s your time worth?

In our .223 Remington example, we might save $.25 per round, not counting the value of your time. So on a per round basis, your time needs to be worth less than $.25 for the time it takes to assemble one round, else you’re unprofitable. The time value calculations are tricky because they depend on the equipment you have and the pace at which you work safely. Progressive reloading press manufactures claim numbers like 500 rounds per hour, but that doesn’t count other chores like case preparation. Read this to get an idea of the steps involved in reloading .223 Remington ammunition. It’s a little tongue in cheek, but will give you an idea.

If you spend most of your waking hours hanging out at Occupy Something Evil Protests, you’re probably in good shape. If you have a paying job, chances are you’re not beating the ammunition manufacturers in the hourly wage efficiency game. You might be better off working more to cover your ammo bills.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition. It’s available in print and Kindle format at Amazon:

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

New “Bolo” Connected Projectiles From Advanced Ballistic Concepts

The new Advanced Ballistic Concepts 12 gauge load

The new Advanced Ballistic Concepts 12 gauge load

On the more radical news front, I was able to see the new connected projectiles cartridge from Advanced Ballistic Concepts. Think of these as bullet bolos. You know, those primitive weapons where you connect three rocks or other heavy objects with string. As you spin and throw the bolo, the rocks on the end spread out to help ensure a hit on target. With real bolos, there is also the ensnarement factor as the whole mess wraps around whatever it hits.

Like a bolo, these projectiles leave the barrel as three distinct projectiles. BUT, they’re attached to each other with thin cord strong enough to hold the projectiles in a 24 inch pattern. With a rifled shotgun barrel, the whole bolo-contraption actually spins as it flies.

The intended use is interior home defense as effective range is dramatically reduced by wind resistance of the corded projectiles. The manufacturer claims this is a design feature to limit over-penetration risk in home defense scenarios.

One of the key selling points, as stated by the manufacturer, is the ability to hit your target with less than perfect shots. The other benefit claimed by Advanced Ballistic Concepts is multiple hits per shot. The center .45 caliber slug hits center to point of aim while one or more bolo “stones” hit elsewhere.

Before separating into a flying windmill of doom, the 12 gauge projectiles look like this.

Before separating into a flying windmill of doom, the 12 gauge projectiles look like this.

The company indicates penetration in the 5 inch territory when fired into ballistic gel. What’s less clear is performance after passing through heavy clothing. We’ll need to test that out more thoroughly to see what really happens when this load hits things.

Whatever the outcome, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of one of these. That would be messy for sure.

We’ll get it into our testing schedule and see what happens.

New Self Defense Ammunition From Winchester – Train and Defend

Winchester Train and Defend is a no-brainer for new and experienced shooters alike.

Winchester Train and Defend is a no-brainer for new and experienced shooters alike.

So one of the neatest things at SHOT Show Media Day at the range was not even a gun! What???

High on my to-do list for the day was to actually shoot the new Winchester Ammunition Train & Defend ammunition. The idea is simple. Create matching loads where the bullet weight and recoil are virtually the same. Practice with the less expensive full metal jacket stuff, then load your gun with the hollow point version when carrying or using your gun for home defense.

Look similar? These two .38 Special Train and Defend loads should!

Look similar? These two .38 Special Train and Defend loads should!

The neatest thing about this ammo is that it’s designed to be low recoil for controllability. The hollow point projectile is designed to penetrate and expand at lower velocity, so it still works.

Dr. Rob Pincus extracts some .38 Special rounds from the gelatinous pig juice.

Dr. Rob Pincus extracts some .38 Special rounds from the gelatinous pig juice.

Unlike most ammo tests in front of large audiences, Rob Pincus and the Winchester Ammunition folks did it right. They used 4 layers of clothing per FBI testing protocol. It makes a big difference. Any bullet will expand in pure gelatin, but adding the clothing layers helps separate the men from the boys. As you can see by the photos, penetration was excellent and expansion perfect.

Gooey mushroomed bullets.

Gooey mushroomed bullets.

I’m thinking this will be excellent ammunition for short barrel guns where velocity is a bit lower than standard. I’m anxious to try this out. More to follow.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Concealed Carry: Using the Wrong Ammo

I had a lot of fun with the “Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting” series a couple of months ago, and hope you did too. I got to thinking about other sins—yeah, I know, thinking can hurt your brain—and it occurred to me that there are plenty of deadly sins when it comes to concealed carry. There are way more than seven, but as “Seven Deadly Sins” is kind of a thing, I’ll pick out seven interesting, and relevant, ones.

Ready? Let’s get started.

If you’ve ever seen a Wallace and Gromit movie, then you know that The Wrong Trousers can get you in a lot of trouble. So can the wrong ammunition. Using inappropriate ammo can ruin not only your life, but someone else’s too.

Good self-defense ammunition comes in all shapes and sizes. The fourth round standing from the left is a 9mm full metal jacket practice round. The one on the far right is a Federal Guard Dog expanding full metal jacket round.

Good self-defense ammunition comes in all shapes and sizes. The fourth round standing from the left is a 9mm full metal jacket practice round. The one on the far right is a Federal Guard Dog expanding full metal jacket round.

Don’t use practice ammo

Good self-defense ammunition is designed to expand, deform, or otherwise slow down when it hits things.

Good self-defense ammunition is designed to expand, deform, or otherwise slow down when it hits things.

I would classify “practice ammo” as anything designed to be frangible (for indoor or steel target shooting) or with a full metal jacket. Don’t get me wrong, practice ammo is not sub-par—it’s just designed for a different purpose than self-defense ammo. You can buy excellent and accurate practice ammo from all the reputable ammo companies. Some of it is designed especially for matches and is exceedingly accurate—with a corresponding price tag.

Good self-defense ammunition is designed to expand, deform, or otherwise slow down when it hits things.

As good as it might be, practice ammo is designed to follow a straightforward sequence of events: go bang. Fly straight. Punch a hole in a piece of paper. Plow into a big dirt, rubber, or steel backstop. Practice ammo is not designed to deform, fragment, or expand when it hits an organic target. While it may still have fatal results, it’s less effective at stopping a determined attacker rapidly.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Buy Bullets! It’s National Ammo Day

I’m not quite sure who decides that November 19th is National Ammo Day, but hey, I don’t need much of an excuse to buy 100 rounds of ammo.

Buy 100 rounds of ammo - it's National Ammo Day!

Buy 100 rounds of ammo – it’s National Ammo Day!

Yeah, I know, you can’t find it. Well, it’s out there.

Try your local gun store. If they don’t have what you need, check out Brownells. Or Cabelas.

If you want to get really adventurous, check out Gun Bot. It’s a free ammo search service that scans all sorts of online retailers to see who’s got what. You can even filter the search results for in stock only.

So go buy 100 rounds of ammo. You’ll save the economy, so it’s your patriotic duty!

A Government Shutdown Pop Quiz

Today’s pop quiz is a little complicated. It’s a combination of reading comprehension and true / false answers. Ready?

Government shutdown shooting range

OK, now they’ve done it. I’m really mad.

Reading Comprehension

Dick and Jane like to go shooting at a public range in the ‘Murrican National Forest. This range is completely unattended. It’s open 7 days a week from sunrise to sunset and there are no employees of any kind at the facility. It’s a nice facility and Dick and Jane have fun shooting and meeting other people who like to shoot. Today, Dick brought 3 boxes of American Eagle .223 Remington Ammunition. Jane brought 3 boxes of 300 AAC Blackout ammunition. One was 110 grain, one was 135 grain and the last was 220 grain subsonic loads. When Dick and Jane arrived at the shooting range, they found a padlocked gate with a sign saying that Bert and Ernie couldn’t seem to agree on a budget, so due to lack of Federal funding, the range was closed until further notice.

Questions – Circle the correct true / false answer:

1. (True / False) Since the range is unattended, no one actually reports to work there.

2. (True / False) Since the range is unattended, some Federal employee had to violate the government shutdown order to go lock the gate to the shooting range and place signs saying that the range was closed, even though no one works there.

3. (True / False) Federal government decision-making mimics the thought processes of cement.

4. (True / False) Dick and Jane’s conspiracy theorist friend, Vladimir, is convinced that a call was placed from the White House to the folks who look after the ‘Murrican Forest Shooting Range telling them to shut the range down just to poke gun owners in the eye.

5. (True / False) The United States Senate is full of complete idiots who are an obscene embarrassment to the American way of life.

6. (True / False) Dick and Jane left the range with 6 total boxes of ammunition.

7. (True / False) Harry Reid looks an awfully lot like the fairy in Dick and Jane’s reading books.

Answer Key

1. True.

2. True.

3. False. Cement is demonstrably more intelligent.

4. False. No call was placed. Air Force 1 was dispatched late last night so the matter could be handled personally.

5. True.

6. False. Dick and Jane snuck in anyway. And collected a pile of sweet, like new, once-fired .30-06 brass to boot.

7. False. Harry Reid resembles a Garden Gnome suffering from advanced stage Mad Cow disease.

 

Primers Exist! Here’s The Proof…

Blackhawk! is making primer trays for ammo component manufacturers 24x7. Here's some fresh out of the molding machine.

Blackhawk! is making primer trays for ammo component manufacturers 24×7. Here’s some fresh out of the molding machine.

If you reload, or have been looking for ammunition anytime during 2013, you know that supplies of primers are scarce. In case you don’t know, primers are those little metal “caps” that go in the base of a cartridge to make it go bang. They’re sort of like those newer style caps for toy guns except they’re made of metal, not plastic, and have a lot more juice.

Last week I had the great pleasure of touring the Blackhawk! factory in Manhattan, Montana where all sorts of polymer things are made: holsters, gun stocks, magazine carriers and primer packaging trays. Since primers have a tendency to go bang, they’re packed very, very carefully. They come in boxes filled with plastic trays so each individual primer is isolated from everything else. Kind of like a heavy-duty egg carton.

Boxes like this one are filled every couple of minutes. Yes, we're using that many primers!

Boxes like this one are filled every couple of minutes. Yes, we’re using that many primers!

A couple of the 30-ish very expensive molding machines at the Manhattan facility have been 100% dedicated to the manufacture of primer trays seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for just about as long as folks there can remember. While molds in other machines are frequently changed out to make different products, these machines continue pumping out primer trays day after day after day. Blackhawk ships them to ammunition companies as fast as they can make them.

So, primers are manufactured in record numbers. It’s just that panicky people like us are continuing to stockpile them in even greater numbers.

I’m starting to see light as the end of the tunnel, as at least some primers are now available at local suppliers. What are you seeing out there?

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