The general hunting season is over, Thanksgiving has passed, and Christmas and New Year’s will come and go in a couple of weeks. After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the calm of the New Year is a welcome change. It is also a good time to clean, organize, and for me reload lots of ammunition for the upcoming year.
I’ve been handloading ammunition for a very long time. I don’t know how many 12 gauge shotgun shells I’ve reloaded, but it numbers in the hundreds of thousands. I’ve loaded tens of thousands of pistol cartridges and my reloaded rifle ammo numbers in the thousands. Over the years I gone through tons of lead. After loading all that ammunition I’ve learned a few ways to improve my ammunition and also save a few bucks along the way.
First, shotgun shells. I haven’t competed in trap and skeet tourneys much in the last couple of years as I had a couple of orthopedic reconstructive surgeries. Fortunately both were successful and I will be back on Montana’s trap circuit this coming season. Years ago, between practice and competitions, I fired between 30 and 40 thousand 12 gauge rounds a year. Reloading was the only way I could afford that hobby, especially when lead shot prices increased by four or five times. I first went from loading 1 1/8 ounce loads to 1 ounce, then to 7/8 ounce. With the lighter loads I increased velocity and I used tighter chokes with 7/8 ounce. I got great patterns and I found that I broke just as many clay targets with the lighter load as I did with the heavier ones, even from the 27 yard line. Recoil was much less, making long practice sessions even more enjoyable. A 25 pound bag of shot will give you approximately 350 1 1/8 ounce loads, but go to 7/8 ounce loads and you will get about 450 rounds. It’s like finding 4 free boxes of shotshells. If you are loading lots of shells, I suggest buying your powder in 8 or 12 pound kegs, the savings is substantial. Finally, shop for primers; I started using an Italian product that was $ 65.00 less for 5000 primers than the product I had been using. I noticed no difference in performance.
Next, rifle rounds. When it comes to rifle cartridges I’m a bit of a speed freak; in other words, I try to get as much velocity as I can without losing accuracy. That’s often easier said than done. I suggest that you check the powder manufacturers’ websites, there you will find tables showing expected velocity and pressure values for their products. Look for the lowest pressures and most velocity, e.g. I use Hodgdon Hybrid 100V in my .300 WSM. I get 3000 fps at lower pressure than nearly all their other powders and I also consistently get MOA groups. Usually, lower pressures equal better and consistent accuracy, as well as less perceived recoil.
Finally pistol ammunition. I hate cleaning lead from my guns and therefore I don’t have much love for lead bullets. I much prefer copper or gilded projectiles, but jacketed and bonded bullets can be quite expensive if used in any quantity. My solution is plated bullets; the .45 caliber ones I use cost about 2 cents more per bullet than hard cast lead bullets and the .38s I use are only .006 cents more than lead ones. If like me most of your pistol shooting is at paper or steel targets, try using lighter bullets. I use 185 grain .45s and 125 grain .38 bullets. There is another little trick to improve accuracy with these lighter projectiles, buy either hollow base or hollow point bullets. They are longer than solids giving more bearing surface when traveling through the barrel. Berry’s MTG makes both hollow base and hollow point bullets and you can buy directly from them (http://www.berrysmfg.com/). Another source I use is X-treme bullets (www.xtremebullets.com). I love their 125 grain hollow point .38s. They are double struck and have a cannelure making bullet seating simple.
I hope these few tips might help you when you’re at the reloading bench.
Be safe and good shooting.