The rounds had been assembled in 1998. They fired without any type of problem and with good accuracy. I realize that there have been advances in bullets and powder, but for what I am doing these loads remain ideal.
No improvement will appreciably alter the utility of my handload. My to go 9mm and .45 handloads are a different story—I suppose few are more than six months old. They get turned around quickly!
Like many enthusiastic handgunners, I own firearms I fire often and a few I seldom fire. Among the latter is a .44 Magnum revolver. While I appreciate the capability of the .44 Magnum, and at times, the piece is carried when hiking, I do not fire it often. I recently fired a 20-round box of handloads to keep my hand in with the hard-kicking beast.
I considered my needs and the ammunition situation. I have planned for the inevitable ammunition shortages as supply and demand take their effect on the market. While panic buying and hoarding are important factors, the reality is we are using more ammunition than ever before. IDPA, IPSC, PPC, steel silhouette competition and handgun training courses take a lot of ammunition.
The best means of ensuring a good supply of ammunition is to handload. Ammunition loaded by a competent individual is safe, reliable, accurate economical, and useful. As for your needs, like a good doctor, prescribe a realistic amount for your use. Practice loads are loaded in greater quantity and service loads in a smaller amount.
Loading manuals cover the mechanics of reloading. Get two or three manuals and study. Take an NRA handloading course. Brass cartridge cases are the heart of reloading and the renewable resource. Save your brass or purchase a quantity of once fired brass from a commercial source. Or, get off to a good start with Starline Brass.
I do not sort brass for high volume practice loads in 9mm, .38 Special, and .45 ACP. I seldom sort brass in .45 Colt and .44 Special because every single case is Starline! Revolver brass may be simply stuck back in the box after firing. With the self loaders we get plenty of practice bending the knees and flexing the back. Sorting brass isn’t that difficult if you prefer but offers little real advantage in personal defense practice.
I do not sort .223 burner loads, I do sort .308 brass for the precision rifle. As for reliability, get with the program. Handloads should be at least as reliable as factory ammunition, and if you are a careful loader, the ammunition will be more accurate than most factory loads.
Tips for Long Term Use
Use standard velocity 9mm and .45 loads. Standard velocity is ideal with hard cast lead bullets. With factory FMJ bullets, standard velocity is what practice loads are set at. If you can produce practice ammunition that functions well at slightly below factory pressure levels, that’s all the better they will be for comfortable practice and economical shooting. Wear and tear on the handgun is decreased with standard pressure loads. +P loads produce more flash and muzzle blast as well as recoil.
When loading service loads with expanding bullets, good velocity is fine but not at the expense of reliability and function. 1200 fps with the Hornady 124-grain XTP is a good standard for service loads, 930 fps with the 200-grain XTP in .45 ACP and 830 fps with the 230-grain XTP. The target will never know the difference if you put the bullet in the right place. If you do not, high velocity will not help.
Powder selection is based on economy and a clean powder burn. AutoComp, Titegroup, Clays, and Universal give excellent results. I moved to Titegroup as soon as it was introduced. I still use WW 231 as well, but if I had to live with a single handgun powder, Titegroup would be the one. Old standards, such as Unique and Bullseye, will still do what they have done for 100 years. Pay attention to load practice and particularly the crimp. A self loader demands a taper crimp for good function while a revolver must have a solid roll crimp. Use a headspace gauge, or a barrel removed from the handgun, to check proper chambering.
Bullet selection is easy. Hard cast bullets have given good results for decades. Hard cast isn’t the same as lead. Lead is soft, hard cast is an alloy. Leading is limited and accuracy excellent.
Standard weight bullets are best for loading for the bunker, for storage, and to be certain that these loads function in every handgun. As an example, it is fine to experiment with lightweight bullets such as the 90-grain 9mm. The 152-grain .45 is very interesting. However, if you have a safe full of 9mm handguns and wish the load to be reliable and accurate in every handgun, 124-grains at 1100 fps for a practice load is ideal.
By the same token, the .45 ACP should be 230-grains at 800-820 fps. With revolvers you have more leeway. For use in a number of calibers straight across the board nothing beats the Hornady XTP. I use the 124-grain 9mm in both 9mm and .38 Super loads. The 230-grain XTP is ideal for .45 ACP loads.
In the .38 Special, the 125-grain XTP is useful and offers sterling performance in the .357 Magnum. These service grade loads will serve well in a worst case scenario. When loading for critical use, I perform extra procedures. This includes applying case mouth to the bullet just before crimping.
I also add a dot of finger nail polish across the primer of handloads that are intended for long-term storage and possible critical use. Simply achieving a seal when the primer is seated is sufficient for most use, but this is simply an extra step that ensures reliability. Be certain to properly mark each loading. Factory ammo boxes are fine, but MTM plastic boxes better. I have many that have been in use for decades.
Shortages are real. Hoarding and panic buying cause them. When an ammunition drought is on the horizon careful load practice and storage will lessen the hardship.
Do you reload? What is your bunker strategy? Share your responses in the comment section.
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