…On Re-loading

The following is another entry into the ModernSurvivalOnline Preparedness Guest Post Contest.


…On Re-loading

….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:

  1. 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)
  2. Set up the measurements on your dies for proper sizing, priming, seating, OAL and crimping.
  3. Size, de-cap and re-prime your brass.
  4. Set up your powder throw for the proper grain weight.
  5. Throw your powder loads. (try to use a powder that will overflow with a double load for safety’s sake)
  6. Seat your bullet.
  7. Add a factory crimp if you wish (some seaters will do this in the same operation)
  8. Inspect for overall length and split necks.
  9. Pack into strippers and bandoleers.
  10.  Go shoot your cheap ammo with a smile!


Keep your powder dry and load it up, D.

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13 thoughts on “…On Re-loading”

  1. Outstanding. In 1978 a large warehouse had an accident in Los Angeles when the sprinkler system went off. My insurance agent told me about it and arranged for me to purchase some items that had been declared a write off and sold for salvage. I acquired ten model 995 Marlin watersoaked rifles for ten bucks each, as much cci minimag ammunition as I could carry out in two five gallon buckets, magazines and slings and a bunch of powder of various types that had gotten wet. I also bought two buckets of cci assorted primers for the same price of ten bucks for two buckets. They gave me a statement that all items purchased were insurance salvage and all serial numbers were removed from the records. They would not sell me any of the marlins in 22 magnum because a deal had already been made for them. I disassembled the firearms and dried the stocks slowly in a cool oven, swabbed the metal with vinegar and follow3d up with molykote. Years later I found one tiny rust fleck under the front sight of one of the rifles. Following instructions from the powder company, after drying for a month, I gently agitated each can for some time and then opened it and poured it through a sifter to remove any clumps (very few). Mashing them with a piece of smooth wooden paint stick, I again agitated them. Hercules said their powders were very stable and just the normal open flame and electrostatic precautions were necessary. I was able to salvage one hundred percent of the munitions with the integrity of the shellac on the primers not breached and only had to rewax the ammo. This carried me until 1995 when I ceased centerfire shooting and traded the balance off for a little 4wd truck, I still have one of the marlins left today after passing them out to male and one family member. Wish I could run into that luck today, Imagine ten AR’s undocumented and written off the books.

  2. In our neck of the woods (deep South) you can not scoop up the brass anymore; our ranges are state owned and operated, and they keep the brass! They are run by volunteers, so, it could be the volunteers harvesting, I don’t know; I only know we’re not allowed to gather them! Bummer.

  3. The only thing I would add to new reloaders; do this in an area where there are NO DISTRACTIONS! No TV, radio, telephone, kids, wife and leave your cell phone OFF!

    One little distraction can leave you with a double charge, bad crimp, etc.

    Once you have been doing it for 6 months or so, you can add some music e, or TV in the background.

    But keep what you are doing in the forefront at all times!


  4. Before anything you should get a reloading manual. Hornady, the ABC’s of reloading or many others available. Read it all the way through and then read it again. Maybe get one of the many DVD’s on reloading although they won’t replace a manual! Find other Reloaders to talk to BEFORE starting. It’s a great hobby but you can hurt yourself (useing the wrong powder or wrong loads etc.) it takes quite the financial commitment to do it right so do your homework. There are many setups for sale now that the ammo shortage is slowing. People who overreacted are now selling at a loss so deals are out there. The NRA also holds class’s in reloading. Finally, you’ll save on the cost of ammo but you’ll shoot more often so its mainly a wash on savings.

  5. 7H, that was happening to the ranges I used to go to also in California, they also wouldn’t allow head shots on the targets unless I attached my badge on the back of my cap. I moved to Texas DFW area, havn’t checked there ranges out yet. One thing I do TexasScout (TS) is after I drop my charge i drop a plastic coffee stir stick in, it tells me I already dropped a charge in that cartridge. My wifes seems to want my attention when ever I find my with something to do with out her, lol. it also helps if I have to stop, I know where I left off. Just sharing.

  6. Excellent posting. My recommendations to add to that would be start with a load data manual and look for any place you can streamline components. It is amazing how many rifle and pistol loads use RED DOT powder. Streamlining where you can will save you additional dollars. Myself I have a rifle and pistol that shoot the same cartridge and allows me to build one round to feed two guns. Something to think about in a long term SHTF scenario. By all means load, but mind the manual!

  7. Great article. I bet in the last 20-25 years of reloading I have picked up over 20,000 empty brass cases that people left laying or could not find. One time I was looking for 357 sig brass. Could not find any. Well I went to a place where a lot of shooting was done and low and behold 100 brand new empty and still shines 357 sig brass laying on the ground. Go ahead and leave them lay. This brass rat will be around to pick them up. The current ammo crisis will be over when gun powder, primers and other components come back on the shelf. Until then I will keep picking up, reloading and shooting for pennies what others have paid several quarters for.

  8. Harold: great deal, I love fire sales.
    Servantheart: buy a brass catcher. I would tell any range that felt they were entitled to my property to kiss my…..just because the bullet has left my case doesn’t make it thiers. I am not about to walk away from Weatherby .270 mag brass that cost me $70 a box.
    Texascout: If you pick your powder well you can make double loads impossible. Use a powder that almost fills the case.
    Monty; Yeah, I went for years on Red Dot in 12Ga,.40&.45 smokey but versital, and IMR4198 in my rifles.
    Thanks all for the comments, D.

  9. When you first start a new load load up two or three rounds and then check that they feed and function in the handgun/rifle. Next load up 10-20 rounds and take them to the range. Launch a couple down range and check for signs of pressure. Let the gun cool and then put 5 on paper to check accuracy. Repeat the last step a couple of times. This will save you a lot of grief. I have seen guys load up 100’s of rounds and half of them won’t feed.

    ps. It is a lot more fun to put them together than take them apart.

  10. To Capt Turbo & the others that Can’t aford to buy all various Differant Components to Re-Load in all of their NEEDED Calibers, there is an ALTERNATIVE way to go about the reloading Process as I’ve been looking into this very Problem recently myself. & I have found these differant clubs via a Bing Search
    & have been reading up on them 1 at a time to find the best that fits my needs, LINK to follow :

    I haven’t found my club yet but I’m really Picky about those things, Besides as a Former Armed Security Enforcement Officer I have alot of Hydra-Shock 9mm FJHP Rounds allready ! Which I got from a Friend for Wholesale & I have been saving my Nickel Plated Brass this whole time.

    Rouke & D keep up the Great work of keeping us Informed !

  11. CaptT:
    Yeah its still slim pickins out there. Some russian SR primers, lots of .30 bullets (still too high) and some powders are starting to show up. I’ve been lucky to find the components to work on my newly acquired .300 Blackout loads (love this round)and also load some .308 for the HK. I am dreading putting together the Weatherby .270s 1/4 can of powder per round, LOL. When I get roadblocked on something I just change direction to an area that doesn’t give me resistance. Keeps me sane and solvent.

    Yes Yahoo groups has some good forums. I have had three race and collector car forums that I set up over 10 years ago. You can usually get the right answer to your question in minutes. “Many hands make light work.”
    Regards, D.


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