I began to load ammo more than 40 years ago. The issue was simple, economy.
I had a finite budget and wished to practice as often as possible on that budget.
There were side benefits I discovered, such as consistency, accuracy and versatility.
I have hunted with my handloads, fired the majority of practice sessions with handloads, and even carried these loads in my personal-defense firearms.
Some say handloads are second-class to factory ammunition, but mine are not — they are clearly superior to most.
Federal Match and Hornady Hunter are superb loadings and maybe I don’t always equal them when I load ammo, but sometimes I do.
I would not give houseroom to some of the poorly-crafted loads I have tested, but then, if you don’t load your own, this may be all you have at present.
In many cases, it is a good idea to grab a box of factory ammunition if you need a few rounds of a certain type.
Factory Ammo vs. Handloads
I cannot knock factory ammunition. In 1916, Winchester landed a military contract that specified the ammunition be limited to one misfire per 100,000 cartridges.
The standard is higher today, but there are issues with some ammunition.
When you control every step of the loading process and you know what you are doing, you may produce exceptionally reliable ammunition.
I may inspect each cartridge case and discard the ones that are worn.
When the cartridges are fired, they stretch and eventually they must be trimmed with a case trimmer.
When you load ammo, be certain to inspect, discard or trim cases to a uniform length as necessary.
As long as you do not allow the primer or powder to be contaminated, your ammunition will be faultless as far as reliability goes.
After loading, if the cartridge is intended for serious use, such as hunting in inclement weather, a tiny dab of fingernail polish may be used to seal the primer.
Some factory ammunition is primer-sealed, some isn’t. You may seal yours on demand.
Factory ammunition is remarkably consistent in the best examples. Just the same, manufacture demands certain tolerance for mass quantities.
A loading may have a plus or minus velocity of 30 to 50 fps. I think the single lowest standard deviation I have experienced with any loading is with Hornady 444 Marlin 265-grain loads.
The standard deviation was seven feet per second among five shots. That is not the usual, but a high recommendation for Hornady Custom ammunition.
A handloader may engage in fairly high-volume loading and get very good results.
If you want the ultimate accuracy, you may actually weigh each powder charge.
I do this sometimes with rifle cartridges and enjoy excellent results.
Sure, it is time consuming and modern equipment is very precise, but weighing each charge often pays off big dividends at longer rifle range.
Even with handguns it is sometimes worthwhile to weigh each charge.
My son and I once spent a pleasant evening carefully loading a box of .38 Special ammunition, weighing each charge by hand.
The load was a fairly stiff charge of #2400 under a hard-cast Keith-style SWC.
The 1912 Smith and Wesson Military and Police with six-inch barrel put five of these loads into 11/16 inch at 20 yards — the best factory load was a good 2.5 inches.
This was quite an experiment, with little practical value, sure, but my son and I learned a lot about loading that night and day in 1990.
Loading for Accuracy
Those that chase after benchrest accuracy like to use the same lot of powder and buy in large quantities.
In this time of shortage, I’m sure those that have purchased in quantity are sitting pretty compared to some of us, but then some of us like to experiment, trade guns and calibers, and such things.
For the most part, canister-grade powders we use in handloading are very consistent.
Over the years, burning rates of some powders have changed, other have not.
Bullseye, as an example, has been remarkably consistent for decades.
Handloaders may change the powder charge and bullet, and experiment to come up with sweet spots in accuracy.
Some rifles, as an example, may have a tight chamber and exhibit higher velocity with a given load, but may also produce more pressure.
You may carefully load a modest-pressure load that delivers excellent overall velocity in some rifles.
Velocity may be varied. Some firearms actually perform better with loads near the top end.
Others like middle of the road loadings.
Loading for Consistency
While firearms are generally accurate, they may be maximized when you load ammo that is specific to them.
Controlling every detail from primer, powder and cartridge case to the bullet makes for excellent accuracy potential.
You may maximize performance or reduce felt recoil. Consistency is very important.
As an example, there have been times when factory loads I relied on were discontinued.
Relying on loads from specialty makers hurts when ammunition is in short supply.
When issued the 9mm, I once obtained the GECO Bat and later Cor-Bon ammunition. Both are out of production.
There have been times when a loading specified for a certain velocity would meet that criteria, but then later lots were more pedestrian.
When you load your own ammunition you will have consistency.
Conclusion: Load Ammo Reliably
Handloading is a good education concerning how ammunition works, ammunition pressure curves, bullet selection and accuracy.
Handloads may use Nosler bullets in Remington cases with Winchester powder.
Handloading isn’t a chore or a necessary evil, but an enjoyable pastime.
Handloading produces excellent results when done properly.
Have you ever tried to load ammo? Tell us how it went in the comments below!