The reloading bug got hold of me in 1978! Initially, I only reloaded ammunition for my handgun but since 1986, I started reloading ammunition for my hunting rifles. Because I enjoy this activity, which also saves me money, I have not bought commercial centre fire ammunition in the past thirty years. I reloaded tens of thousands of rounds that I have used at the shooting range during this period. Rimfire ammunition, of which the shells are not reloadable, is relatively inexpensive.
Any increase in the price of ammunition is unwelcome to those who shoot frequently. It forces shottists to consider all possible cost saving avenues. Those who have not yet started reloading their own ammunition should think about this option. A warning though: once you start reloading, you cannot stop! It is quite addictive.
People who are unfamiliar with the process of reloading are always concerned about the safety of this practice. Yes, there are risks in reloading your own ammunition, but so is driving a motor vehicle. When you drive a car you need certain skills, you must follow the rules and be very alert. There are often other factors that impact on your safety and over which you have little or no control, such as reckless road users or the often poor condition of the road.
When reloading ammunition you are in control. As the end-user you can mitigate risks as follows:
- Always use well-known, proven processes when reloading ammunition, without exception;
- Ensure that you use reliable data (use a proper reloading guide) and be careful with hearsay advice from other reloaders whose ‘recipes’ could be dangerous;
- Keep proper record of data and results;
- Ensure that you only use ammunition that you have reloaded yourself;
- Ensure that you only use reloaded ammunition for the rifle that it has been intended for;
- The safety of your reloaded ammunition rests in your hands.
The secret to successful reloading and satisfying results are:
- follow the above guidelines;
- pay attention to detail;
- ensure that you know what you are doing;
- do not try to be smart by taking shortcuts.
If you stick to these rules, you will learn a lot about the modern firearm bullet and ballistics, and you will take pride in your handiwork.
The easiest way to learn the basic rules of reloading ammunition is to watch a person who is an old hand at this process. Ask questions, pay attention and you will soon learn that it is not as complicated as you would have thought.
Have a close look at the type and quality of equipment before purchasing your own. Depending on your budget, buy the basics first, but buy quality. My basic reloading equipment has been in use for more than 30 years, and I have probably reloaded 35 000 rounds for my rifles, and 20 000 for my handguns. It still delivers excellent quality ammunition after all these years.
Start your reloading hobby with basic equipment; fire your ammunition; check your results; and make adjustments to correct or improve your results until you are completely satisfied. In this process you will become familiar with the various elements in the reloading process. You will learn about internal ballistics (what happens inside the weapon from the moment the firing pin hits the bullet until the projectile leaves the barrel) and the external ballistics (the behaviour of the projectile in flight).
A fascinating part of the reloading process is the fact that you keep on learning, adding to your knowledge and experience while you obtain better results time after time. There is a wide range of specialist reloading equipment available. Only buy it if you are convinced that it would contribute to the quality of your ammunition or simplifies the process.
Many SAHGCA members reload ammunition for their own use. In 2008, the East Rand Branch established a reloading interest group that remains active and meets once a month, over and above the regular monthly branch member meetings. This group offers a valuable source of advice to other members or newcomers. Enquire from your branch chairman about establishing a similar group for the branch. The Reloading Association South Africa (RASA) is a rich source of information as well.
Saving on the cost of purchased ammunition is not the only reason why I reload my own. Over the years, I have enjoyed reloading and using my own special ‘brand’. I believe my own ammunition is more reliable than purchased ammunition and provides consistent results. Having trust in your own ammunition contributes immensely to your own performance and self-confidence with every shot that you shoot. You know what result to expect because you and you alone were responsible for the final product and its application.