“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A trickle of ammunition is on the shelves, but it costs much more. So I am reloading .

I'm not sure what's happening in the rest of the country, but in the Blue Ridge Mountains the ammunition situation is improving.

At our local Walmart, you can usually find Winchester, Federal and Privi Partisan in the common cartridges for hand guns.

The cost is about 30% above what it was before all this started. That means commercial ammunition is well past the threshold where it's cheaper to load your own. The problem is finding components. I really only have one source of reloading supplies like powder and primers, about three hours away in Tennessee. I haven't been up there in awhile so I don't know what the situation is on that.  I have enough components and ancillary supplies to keep me reloading for quite awhile even without buying any more. Winter is traditionally when I do my reloading, because it's something you can do inside at a time when going outside may not be an option.

Bullets aren't a problem. They don't seem to be in short supply and you can order them from Midway, Graf or any number of other suppliers. There's no hazmat (hazardous materials) problems with bullets.  I don't pay hazmat charges, so if I need powder or primers I have to drive to get them.

In a way, that's fortunate. To make the trip cost effective, I have to buy a significant amount of reloading supplies when I make the trip. That means that for some time after I drive over there, I have a large amount of reloading components on hand.  It's just as well, because I have a pretty lengthy list of chamberings to reload for.

I keep a load book.  Essentially,  I choose a load out of a reloading manual, and make up a batch. I record all the information about it, including the bullet type, manufacturer, powder charge and type.  Then I fire that batch through different weapons of the same chambering.  What works fine in a Walther P-38 might not cycle a Luger. I record the results of the shooting for each pistol, by serial number. That's because I've found that even with the same type of pistol, results vary. What fires just fine out of a 1950's version of the Browning High Power might not function quite so well in a 1980's commercial version of the same hand gun.

When I load for rifles, I tend to choose mild charges. That's because the full powered battle rifles of the 1896- 1945 era will really beat you up with a full load. During the Irish Easter Rebellion, the British found the rebels on the street after the fighting was over, by the simple expedient of having all men take off their shirts. Anyone who had been firing a rifle was clearly marked by bruising on the right shoulder. Full power military loads are pretty tough in the recoil department. While bolt guns aren't that finicky about powder charges, semi-autos tend to be much more difficult to find the right loads for. I have a French MAS 49-56 that won't fire Privi Partisan 7.54 Mas, for instance, but fires French surplus 7.54 Mas with no problem. All that has to be taken into account when you are reloading.

Because I can't be entirely certain that circumstances will always allow me to match up a box of ammo with a serial number on a rifle, I size my entire cartridge case when I reload. That means that I should be able to use, for instance, a .303 British cartridge I reloaded in any of my Enfields. People who actually can load for a specific rifle all the time don't resize the whole cartridge case, so their brass lasts longer.

The most expensive component of a loaded round of ammunition is the case. A case can be reused many times, depending on a number of factors. Just leaving it laying on the ground is wasteful.  Being able to reload also provides ammunition for some of my more unique weapons. A lot of these old guns either have no commercial ammo available at all, or it is so expensive you can't afford to shoot it.

Being able to reload means as long as I have brass and bullets, I'll be able to put rounds together.  A good example is the Hungarian M95 carbine. It's chambered in 8X56R.  To fire the weapon, you have to have the appropriate Mannlicher clip.  You have to have the right brass, and hardest of all, you have to find the right sized bullets. Hornaday makes the loaded round, so you can buy brass from them. But the bullets are a different matter. Graf and Sons offers the bullets periodically but doesn't stock them all the time. When the flyer comes and they have that bullet, I buy a lot of them.  You can never tell when that source will dry up and then all you will have is what is in your reloading room.

Reloading isn't hard and you don't have to have a lot of money for equipment. The fewer weapons you own, the easier it is to get the gear you need. A manual press, appropriate die kits, a priming tool, a scale, and a few odds and ends will let you get going. I started with one RCB set of 9mm Luger dies, and a cheap kit from Lee that cost about sixty dollars. Now my reloading room contains considerably more than that, but I've been reloading for twenty years.

I think one day,  Obama or someone like him will issue a fuhrer diktat,  (executive order) and buying commercial ammo without signing your life away will end.  In the PDR of Kalifornia that's already the case. Then you will have what's in your storeroom. If you reload, you can probably keep yourself going for a long time because powder, bullets, cases, primers et al don't take up a lot of room.  If you don't, when the last box of cartridges has been used it's time to get out your sword.


  1. Do you or have you ever melted and cast your own lead bullets?

  2. No. I never saw any need and dealing with lead fouling is not my idea of a good time. I know a lot of people do it, but bullets have always been cheap in the past. Also, if I need lead bullets, like for .38 special or .45 Long Colt, I just buy them. I know a guy who buys old window weights and melts them down, but he's reloading for a Sharps and a Trapdoor Springfield. Most of my collection is smokeless powder post 1891.