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….Or, how to set up a prepper industry to survive through SHTF
The great ammo panic of 2013 didn’t really affect me. Why not? Metallic reloading: making your own ammunition from components.
Decades ago when I was a competitive shooter, I jumped into reloading with both feet. The quantity of ammo that I needed to shoot to be competitive demanded it. I was not born to money so I have learned how to take advantage of many money saving opportunities over the years. I really liked to shoot, competing in rifle, pistol and shotgun matches required many many rounds. Many competitive shooters reload precisely because of this. My fellow shooters planted the idea in my head.
I visited my local downtown gun store and discovered a complete Lyman Orange Crusher reloading package. It contained absolutely everything (Turret Press, primer feed tubes, case trimmer, case lube pad, lube and prep tools, primer pocket and case neck cleaner, powder feeder and die wrenches) required to set up and reload one caliber of ammo, except the dies. I dug out my plastic and purchased it along with a set of .223 dies (full length sizer, bullet seater, shell holder and bullet crimper) and went home to read the Lyman manual cover to cover and learn how to become a metallic re-loader.
Over the next couple of months when I went to the range I was the ultimate brass rat, scooping up all the brass, in my calibers, which I could get my hands on. I bought a brass tumbler and some polishing media and started to clean up my collected brass. I hit all the gun shops in the county to buy up a 50-100 rounds of assorted weights and configurations of projectiles. (Everyone eventually settles on a favorite, mine were Sierra and Speer in 55-62 grain FMJHP and FMJSP)
After some testing, I came to develop my favorite combination of components and powder load, I got a routine going and banged them out by the hundreds in a couple of hours. Fellow shooters told me about Phelps cast bullets and I started cranking out my .45s by the hundreds using their AFFP cast lead bullets. My shooting was getting much better.
During one of my gun store runs I found a Lee Load-All a ridiculously simple and cheap ($24) 12 gauge shot shell re-loader. I bought a can of Red Dot powder (that I later learned would also load my .45s), some wads and a bag of #6 shot, picked up high brass hulls from the range…. and my shotgun shooting improved.
This was working out great. I was loading my own custom ammo, tailored specifically to me and my needs and I was doing it at less than a third of the cost of store bought ammo. How could things get any better?
Dillon Precision! A genius shooter out West somewhere who liked to shoot machine guns invented a progressive re-loader for a reasonable price. It had removable heads (each holding all the dies and a powder measure for one caliber, which could be changed in seconds by the removal of two pins) it was built like a tank and guaranteed for life. Not your life, its life. They would even guarantee resold presses. (Dillon went on to develop and sell an improved version of the GE mini-gun and feed system to the US Navy)
A couple of years into my shooting I was offered a Dillon RL550 and a large box of dies and tools for a very good price. The owner was moving up to a faster Dillon RL1000 set-up. Grabbed it up and added additional dies and heads over the years. (I am now set to load: 9mm, .380, .38, .357, 40, .45, .223, .300 blackout, .308, 7.62×39, .270 Weatherby and 12 gauge.) The Dillon is a fantastic press that once you get the dies adjusted and set up, it will give you a perfect complete bullet for every stoke of the handle, just feed it a bullet and a case. Many loaders will sit and watch TV while cranking that handle. An episode of Walking Dead will give you more than enough ammo to eliminate all of those zombies.
Reloading is much easier than most think, requiring about as much attention to detail as pressure canning. If you are meticulous in your set up and develop a safe common sense routine, and a favorite loading, and stick to it, you cannot go wrong with even the cheapest press (Lee makes very useful hand loading kits for just about every caliber at very cheap prices. They are slow, but will get the job done on a budget, and get you quickly into re-loading).
With the crazy prices that the recent buying panics have given us, I cannot recommend reloading enough. For what a thousand rounds of your battle rifle caliber costs you, you can keep on hand the components to load up, in a short amount of time, three to four thousand rounds. Don’t misunderstand, the panic also created a shortage of components, but I had thousands of bullets, primers, and scrounged brass on hand to make my own ammo and ride out the famine without freaking out and succumbing to those insane prices. I was even able to load up .300 blackout that was nowhere to be found.
I did still buy some .22LR during this time as well as set up my cast bullet factory by purchasing a lead melting pot, ladles, bullet molds and sizing dies (these were still readily available) in all of the calibers that I am able to load. I also got a few bags of #4 shot for my shotguns that could also be melted down to cast bullets with in a pinch.
If you are a prepper, reloading and bullet casting are skills that you would be absolutely stupid to pass up. It will get you through lean times, allow you to stock way more quantity than you normally could for the same price and also give you an unimaginably useful and lucrative cottage industry during the hard times. I cannot think of an easier to learn and useful skill to have under your belt. It is also relatively cheap for the immediate return you will gain from your investment.
If you decide to get into this aspect of shooting, I suggest that you peruse MidwayUSA and Natchez Shooters Supplies, EBay, Amazon (be sure and go via MSO) and other web sites to get a feel for what is available as well as getting a subscription to an online loading data site or a good load manual. You can also buy a bullet puller and disassemble your favorite factory loads to weigh the powder, and bullet to duplicate the round. Many manuals list military and factory duplication reload data. Once you are set up for that you can really crank out some quantity.
A quick walk though of re-loading basics:
- Clean your brass in a tumbler, inspect and sort and trim to length and lube.(I usually do all of my brass prep and re-priming in a separate operation and then re-load in the second operation)
- Set up the measurements on your dies for proper sizing, priming, seating, OAL and crimping.
- Size, de-cap and re-prime your brass.
- Set up your powder throw for the proper grain weight.
- Throw your powder loads. (try to use a powder that will overflow with a double load for safety’s sake)
- Seat your bullet.
- Add a factory crimp if you wish (some seaters will do this in the same operation)
- Inspect for overall length and split necks.
- Pack into strippers and bandoleers.
- Go shoot your cheap ammo with a smile!
Keep your powder dry and load it up, D.
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