Are you thinking about getting into reloading your own ammo? Here are some places to start.
As shooters, whether you go to the range or shoot in competitions, before we know it we can go through a lot of ammo.
While the costs for manufactured ammunition have come down since the "Great Gun Scare of 2013," it is still quite pricey and in some places still scarce (I still can't find the elusive .22 LR, though I know it exists).
Since I have not yet perfected the technique of getting money to grow on trees, I needed a way to save some scratch and still have access to ammunition for matches and training. Enter the reloading hobby.
Reloading, or handloading, is a hobby all unto itself. It's a hobby within a hobby. When I first started to look into reloading, my shooting friends who already reloaded warned me it would turn out that way. They were right.
There are so many pieces of equipment you need, not to mention time to actually sit down and make ammunition. It can be tedious, but it's very rewarding. There is a thrill you get the first time you go to shoot rounds that you made yourself.
When you think about it, the amount of information can and will be a bit overwhelming. Where should you start?
Soak It Up
First, read anything and everything you can get your hands on. Research online, get books, and read articles. Do your research on how to reload, on prices, on equipment. This is important. Read, read, read.
I recommend the book The ABC's of Reloading by Rodney James. This is a great book that tells you what you need to get started.
During your research, you may discover this aspect of the shooting hobby is not for you. There are so many factors that could deter you: start up costs, component costs, component availability, or overall risk. You may not want to start because you are worried about hurting yourself.
I want to be frank and upfront. This is not a hobby for everyone and not one to take lightly. You must be able to pay attention to detail and follow directions. Too much powder or a bullet seated too deep could end a good day at the range.
It is dangerous (you are working with things that explode after all) but if you pay attention, it is very rewarding and safe.
Next, as you research and read, ask questions. Remember, there really is no such thing as a dumb question. Find one of your shooting buddies that reloads and talk to them.
Ask if you can sit with them the next time they are going to make up some rounds, and bring a notepad and pen to take notes.
Some local gun shops offer classes in reloading. The NRA has a reloading class you can take as well.
The Bottom Line
Finally, compare costs. I reload to try to save money and shoot more at the same time. When we started, my wife wanted to know how much the initial investment for the equipment was, and how much we would need to spend on components.Then she wanted to know how long it would take to break even and we would start saving money.
With everything I looked at, I figured it would take roughly 6-8 months after buying everything until we would break even.
When you're getting started, look at equipment costs, component costs and then compare per round cost to actual retail costs. There are spreadsheets online that can help put all that data into a workable formula, and it will break down your costs so you can figure out when you'll break even.
Time to Gear Up
After all that research, if you still think reloading is for you, great. You are taking on a rewarding and fulfilling hobby right along side your passion for shooting.
Now you need to look at getting your equipment together. There are so many things you need, it's going to be hard to choose. Here are my starting recommendations.
- Set a budget. You can invest so much money into this hobby on the initial layout you may not be able to afford it. Start small and build up from there over time.
- Start out with a single stage press. This will allow you to take each step one at a time and make sure that you are following everything exactly. This will also give you a chance to see what things should look like at each stage.
- Get two or three reloading manuals. These are invaluable as to the amount of data they contain when working up a new load recipe for a round. They will list bullet types and powder type and how much you should charge each case. These are a must have.
- Find some cheap storage buckets with lids. Plastic coffee cans, butter containers, or gallon jugs work fine. You will have a lot of brass to store and prep for loading, so the more buckets you have for each step in the prep process, the more organized you will be.
- Instead of trying to piece all your equipment together (press, scale, powder measure, loading block, etc.), look at getting a kit. A kit contains all the basic tools you will need to get started. There will be a few other pieces you need to add, but 90% of what you need should be in the kit. All the major companies make one. Find one that has what you feel you need in it.
Hope this helps in getting you started in a rewarding and fun hobby!
If you have questions or would like to learn more about reloading, put it in the comments below!