Why Reload your own Rifle Cartridges?

If you shoot more than 20 rounds every other week of big game Rifle calibers and you want to maximize your accuracy and tailor the cartridge to the game or target you are shooting, then you are a great candidate to consider reloading your own ammunition, shotgun too. Pistol shooters often reload and save money too. Even better if you own the casing, powder, bullet and primer  in your shooting closet then you will always have ammo that you can shoot and when the store shelves are bare, you can still reload. You just have to invest in the components ahead of time.

If you don’t enjoy tinkering, don’t have the time,  or perhaps you are not mechanically inclined, then this article may not be for you.

For those who are inclined to tinker and like the hands on approach and have some time to reload…read on. Below is my Reloading Bench with an RCBS Rock Chucker single stage press. I have this one and love it still after 30 years.

reloading table

A hand-loaded metallic rifle round when fitted to near or at the rifling in your rifle, and where several powders and loads are tested with different bullet heads and manufacturers does increase accuracy to tighten groups. Sometimes dramatically.  Sometimes not. Even changing the primer brand or even shooting primers made just for bench rest shooting can improve accuracy particularly when you have a good barrel that is bedded correctly.

But for general purpose hunting within 300 yards a 2 inch three shot benchrest group at 100 yards will suffice for cleanly killing game at distances out to three hundred yards with a 6 inch core kill zone.  So grandfather’s rifle that shoots the 2 inch groups at 100 yards is terrific for hunting. Heirlooms are great because they connect you to a family member like the article on Ovide’s Buck a while back.

For many, we have just purchased a new or used rifle and we want to shoot great groups. Commercial ammo is great but sometimes your rifle may not like this diet and shoot groups poorly. Changing brands will often help. Reloading is likely to help a lot more.

So why do I go to great pains to shoot Minute of Angle groups of one inch or better at 100 yards off the bench with 20 or 30 caliber rifle and ammo like the .270 Winchester or the 30-06 Springfield? I am just a stickler for shooting tight groups and won’t accept less.

Manufacturing processes that create rifles today allow a rifle to shoot a three shot, one inch group at minimum for deer size game with one or two loads at least at 100 yards.  We call this One Minute of Angle or MOA accurate. A new rifle needs breaking in, in many cases where there was no upfront guarantee of accuracy. Shoot 5 rounds and clean the barrel and repeat for 20 rounds. You may need to shoot an additional 20 rounds in this manner to see tightening. I use this process on occasion when initial groups are regularly more than 1 inch. Twist rate can greatly affect spread of heavier rounds and there isn’t a thing you can do about it. Some rifles shoot lighter bullets very well and heavier bullets not so well. In my Ruger M77 .375 Ruger all my bullets are heavy but they also shoot amazingly well for a Safari Rifle. Hand-loaded I can load down for small game or up for Cape Buffalo and with sub-MOA accuracy.

Commercial cartridge must fit all the rifles on the market, thus they adopt a standard so it fits all rifles. But your rifle is almost like a fingerprint, each rifle even of the same make and caliber can shoot differently in seemingly minor ways but if you are shooting long-range or for extremely tight groups then reloading is way to accurize your rifle once you have, like I said, a good barrel and bedded properly.

The combinations of load and bullets are so numerous that I would have to write a book to explain it. There are several reloading manuals and accuracy book already on the market and say pretty much what I have said in great detail. But for those like me who like to tinker with loads and bedding, powders and such, get energized and challenged to take a rifle that shoots ok, and make it shoot outstanding. It is just in my nature and gives me great joy.

The components of a metallic cartridge are simple. The brass case, primer, powder and bullet are the basic components but you need a reloading press to put them together. The Rockchucker Master Reloading kit from RCBS is a perfect starter kit shown on this utube video. This kit is so good that you may never need another kit or press unless you shoot high volume say 100 rounds a week or more.  I used it for loads on all my African game animals and my sons African Game animals, a 900 pound Bison and 800 pound Moose and every deer except my very first deer at the age of 16. The satisfaction for me is ultra personal like building your own cedar arrows with feathers from the Turkey you harvested in a previous year. Done that! It is the same feeling with creating your very own Cartridge.

The rifle reloading process using RCBS? Go here.

You need the press first. You do not need the mechanical deburring gee whiz   mechanized stuff. I like the manual process with hand-held tools. There are many manuals besides the Speer manual, such as Nosler, Hornady, Sierra and more. Another utube video for .45 ACP pistol Go here.

I hope this is helpful to you. You can go my header at the beginning and click on Reloading and now click on a manufacturer such as RCBS for prices of equipment to get you started. I recommend both the Nosler or Hornady reloading manuals. The new Hornady manual is terrific. © 2013 Ed





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About Ed Hale

I am an avid hunter with rifle and Bow and have been hunting for more than 50 years. I have taken big game such as whitetail deer, red deer, elk, Moose and African Plains game such as Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, and Impala and wrote an ebook entitled African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow on how to prepare for a first safari. Ed is a serious cartridge reloader and ballistics student. He has earned two degrees in science and has written hundreds of outdoor article on hunting with both bow and rifle.