Is Reloading Your Own Worth the Effort?

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

I go to a tactical shoot every Monday night. It’s a competitive type event, where individual shooters take turns running the course against the clock. A number of the guys and gals I shoot against are extremely good, with years of this sort of competition under their belts. A couple have even competed at a national level.

One thing I find in common amongst the better shooters is that they load their own ammunition. This led me into looking at reloading my own as well, something I remember my dad doing when I was a boy. The owners of the range, who are friends of mine, warned me off from it, pointing to the high rate of misfires and jams those top shooters have.

That seemed odd to me. Why would a top drawer shooter even bother shooting ammunition that’s going to be less reliable than factory load? It seems to me, that if they are reloading their own, they would be striving to have better ammo than what is available commercially, not something worse.

There are two basic reasons why people reload. The first is to save money. You can reload your own considerably cheaper than you can buy factory loads, assuming you don’t pay yourself for the time. The second reason to reload is to create custom loads. This can be very important for some sorts of competitive shooting. As a subset of this second reason, it is possible to create more accurate and consistent loads, if you are willing to take the time to do so.

My dad reloaded because he and his buddies liked shooting trap. Reloading his own shells allowed him to save money, once he had paid off the investment in equipment. That was his motivation.

But it’s not the same for those tactical shooters; their reason for reloading was to make custom loads. Granted, they saved money at the same time; but what they were after was a low-velocity round, so that they would have less recoil. Less recoil works out to less time to get back on target, once you’ve made a shot. This is especially important when shooting calibers with a high powder load, like the 9mm Luger or .45ACP.

What they were doing was trying to find the lowest possible powder load, which would still allow their pistol to cycle. They weren’t worried about muzzle velocity, as the shooting distance for these tactical shooting matches was 10 yards or less. The high rate of jams and misfires they had was because their rounds literally didn’t produce enough force to overcome the recoil spring and cycle the slide all the way back to the stop.

I didn’t end up reloading my own ammo for that competition, once I understood the reason they were having their own problems. I did reload some for practice and plinking, but I never got serious about it. I just don’t have the time to devote to reloading.

However, there are some types of shooting where I can definitely see the advantage of reloading, specifically long-range shooting. When you’re shooting at 500 to 1,000 yards, you need the best ammo you can produce. Those who take the time, reloading their own, can load ammo that is superior to the best “match grade” ammo on the market.

The reason why reloading is so critical to winning in this long-range shooting is that typical match grade ammo is made to provide a variance of one minute of angle (MOA). A minute of angle is 1/60th of a degree. That works out to 1 inch of deviation at 100 yards. At 1,000 yards, that equals 10 inches of deviation, enough to totally miss the target with some shots. Serious long-range shooters are looking to have rounds that will provide them with 1/2 or even 1/4 of a MOA. The only way they can get that is by producing extremely consistent ammunition.

Another factor for this group of shooters is that each gun is different. So they have to find the exact load that works best for their gun; not for that type of gun, but for their individual gun. Once they do, they will reload with that exact powder load, so as to get the greatest accuracy out of their rifle.

So, the question about whether or not to reload really boils down to why you are even thinking about it. If you’re looking to save money and you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, then by all means, set up a television behind your reloading bench and have at it. If you are looking to create extremely accurate ammunition for competitive shooting, then by all means, reload. But I can’t see any other reason why you might want to reload regularly. It’s just not worth the effort.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to build up your stockpile of ammunition for survival, then reloading might be something you want to consider. You can buy powder and bullets cheap enough, that it will be possible to build a stockpile of materials to reload many thousands of rounds for a lot less than buying those rounds. So it all depends on you and what your needs are. But no matter what, be sure to keep your powder dry and in a safe place. Don’t forget to keep your survival gear close at hand either.

Dr. Rich

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