4 things to know before getting into handloading

Posted May 4, 2014 by muzzlevelocity in Ammunition

At some point, almost every firearms enthusiast has contemplated taking the plunge and investing in a handloading setup. While the art of ammo craft can be enjoyable and rewarding, there are a few key things to consider before breaking out the credit card and ordering an expensive array of tools and components.

1. Firing handloads probably voids all manufacturer warrantees on your firearms

This is a policy that almost all firearms manufacturers practice. While you may be a safe and diligent handloader who always sticks to pressure tested load data that is published in established manuals, there are enough reckless people out there assembling wildly unsafe handloads that manufacturers simply can’t afford to assume the liability of damage and injury resulting from such negligence. If you fire a handloaded round through a gun, you’re on your own with any damage or injury that might result.

2. Safety requires incredible attention to detail

The process of handloading is fairly simple, but dangerous critical errors can and will occur if you don’t stay focused. Common errors include forgetting a that a case is already charged with powder and adding an additional charge (a recipe for a dangerously overpressure round) and forgetting to charge a case altogether before seating the bullet, resulting in that bullet becoming lodged in the bore upon firing (aka. a squib).

It’s also possible, if one is careless, to use the wrong powder or primer, misread a scale or caliper, buckle a case, or seat a primer upside down. All of these errors could, if not caught immediately, result in a poorly performing round (best case scenario) or injury or death (worst case scenario).

To avoid potentially dangerous mistakes, handloading should be done in a completely distraction free environment. Turn off the phone, TV, and radio, and for God’s sake, don’t drink and handload.

3. You (probably) won’t save any money

The most common excuse firearms enthusiasts use to justify the purchase of handloading gear and components is that handloading will cut down on ammo costs. Unless you’re an ultra high volume shooter, it won’t.

The reason for this is the relatively high investment cost of handloading tools and supplies. Presses, dies, scales, calipers, a good workbench, powder, brass, bullets, and primers are collectively very expensive. Also, even if you only consider your time to be worth minimum wage, the “labor cost” of handloading will add up in a hurry.

A high volume competition shooter might save a noticeable amount of mney over the course of a year by handloading, but for the average, casual shooter and hunter, it could take years of handloading before the cost of the handloaded ammo equals the cost of the initial equipment purchase.

4. The best reason to handload is the process itself

So if handloading won’t save money, why do it at all? The best reason to handload is the satisfaction derived from carefully assembling high quality, custom ammo that is perfectly tuned to your own personal firearm and/or tailored to a specific purpose. There is something gratifying about firing a group with ammo you made yourself in your own workshop and finding that it outshoots factory ammo by a wide margin. That alone is worth the time, money, and effort of handloading.

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