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Myth Busting

Myth Busting
Part 1.

Myth 1: Reloaders save money. Articles always compare the cost of a box of factory cartridges with the cost of components once we have the fired cases to reload. At this level we do save money, but we need to factor in the cost of the equipment and how long it takes us to recoup our investment. For someone who is only going to load a box or two a year, it’s a lot cheaper to stay with factory ammo.

Will someone who loads hundreds of rounds a year save money? Probably not, but he will certainly shoot more for the money. I’ve never saved any money by reloading, but have been able to shoot thousands upon thousands of rounds as well as tailor ammunition to particular sixguns, especially odd or old calibers.

Myth 2: With the arrival of the Internet we no longer need loading manuals. The Internet is a wealth of information, however it’s also a mountain of misinformation. Some of that comes from anonymous posters, and goes way beyond bad information, into dangerous perhaps even evil information. Never accept reloading information of any kind from anonymous sources. There are a few reliable sources on the Internet which are maintained by bullet and powder companies as well as handloading publications. These can be trusted. All others are suspect, and the answer is stay with loading manuals.

Myth 3: One good reloading manual is all that’s necessary. Actually, one manual is just a good start. Hornady, Sierra and Speer are my most used jacketed bullets for reloading, and whichever bullet I’m using I want that manufacturer’s recommendations. This was brought home again this week as I used the same weight bullet for each of the three companies. When I checked out their recommendations for starting and stopping loads they were not the same.

Why? Simply because there are so many variables when it comes to reloading. Each of these three bullets have different bearing surfaces, sometimes slightly different diameters, are tested in different guns, under different conditions and with different equipment. By having all three manuals we are better able to make an informed choice.

Powder companies also produce manuals, with one being the Hodgdon’s Annual Manual. This very inexpensive reloading manual comes out every year and is constantly updated. I have a large collection of classic loading manuals going back to the 1930’s. They’re full of interesting information, however the loading data is definitely outdated and not to be used. Powder and primers have changed, as well as methods of measuring pressure and its affect on handguns. The first step in staying out of trouble when reloading is to always use current reloading manuals and information.

Myth 4: With the arrival of carbide sizing dies case lube is no longer necessary. This myth is correct as far as it goes, but using spray lube on cartridges which are going to be sized with a carbide sizing die helps to reduce the effort. Sizing 50-100 cartridges may not be noticeable, but when we get up around 500 or more the extra help the lube affords becomes noticeable.

Myth 5: Overall Cartridge Length, usually designated O.A.L., is virtual gospel and must be adhered to. This needs to be approached in separate ways for semi-autos and sixguns. I learned never to reload a batch of cartridges without first making up a couple of dummies for testing. Bullet manufacturers offer overall cartridge lengths for using each of their bullets. This is not the most important measurement, but rather that of finding whether or not that particular cartridge will fit in the magazine. Sometimes the stated O.A.L. will not let cartridges enter the magazine, so check them first.

With sixgun cartridges, normally the length is determined by the placement of the crimping groove. However, once in a while a cartridge crimped properly turns out to be too long for the cylinder. A prime example is the use of the Elmer Keith #358429 .38 Special/.357 Magnum bullet in .357 Magnum cases. When properly crimped in the crimping groove they are too long for Smith & Wesson Model 27 cylinders as well as some Ruger Flat-Top Blackhawk and Colt SAA cylinders. Once again check first.
We’ll be busting more myths in the next column.
By John Taffin

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  1. Cliff Daly says:

    I agree with all the myths that are busted with exception with number one. I have reloaded for many years and my primary reason is to save money. (Obviously that is not the only reason) My best example is reloading for the Remington .221 Fireball. For a long time the ammo was no longer being made. Then Remington introduced a commemorative rifle in said caliber and reintroduced the ammo. A box of 20 cost around $40.00. I decided to reload this after the shock of a couple boxes of factory stuff and found (I am sure I was using once fired brass) I could make that same box of 20 for $2.15. No kidding. As components and ammo have increased in price, I still am able to save money over the factory stuff.
    Thanks for great articles

  2. Gary Crispens says:

    I have reloaded 1,000′s of pistol and rifle rounds and you can save $$ doing so. That was my primary reason however getting a rifle load where it shoots half inch groups at 100 years is also a good reason to reload. I have a pet load for all of my rifles that gives you added confidence when shooting.

    I do agree however that you need a variety of reloading manuals as they all cover different powders and bullet weights.

  3. Myth #1 … depends on what you are reloading!

    When I started reloading metalics a few years ago I started with 45 Colt. “Store bought”, they were close to $1/round, IF you could find them. With Starline brass, assuming I could get 5 reloads out of one, I could reload 45Colt for about 25 Cents. That was a little more than $35 per box of 50 savings. After 5 boxes I had recovered all my “equipment costs”, and the rest was gravy.

  4. I reload handgun ammo for 5 cents a round.

    I collect the brass at the range for free, or might pay 2-4 cents apiece fot them on occasion, and resuse them several times. I cast my own bullets with lead that I mostly get for free. I get primers for 2-3 cents apiece and the powder is approx 1 cent per load.

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