Lighting The Fire: From Matches To Handloading

| Think Tank |


By Tank Hoover

The thin willow switch I pick out for my grandma stings like the blazes on my tiny-hiney. I am no more than 5 years old at the time. My crime? Playing with Strike-Anywhere (SA) matches while burning the trash in the burn barrel in her backyard. It isn’t so much the fire that fascinated me, but the “What the heck makes those matches work? Why can you strike them anywhere?” This question sparks my curiosity and imagination. Fortunately, the sting of the switch doesn’t deter my young, scientific mind.

It isn’t too much longer that I figure out SA matches make dandy “reactionary targets.” Just make the BB hit the white match tip, and the complex chemical reaction makes a caveman-pleasing fire, while my target burns. Granted, this isn’t a common occurrence, but it does work when I hit my target just right. Low shots snap the matchsticks, while high and wide leave my matches safe. Aim small, miss small…aim right, fire bright!

In case YOUR curiosity is piqued, I have the scientific chemical reaction written below, from a YouTube video. If not, jump to the next paragraph.

“SA matches are made of slow burning white aspen sticks dipped in mono ammonium phosphate, a fire retardant, so you don’t burn your fingers. The magical white tip is powdered glass, which creates friction when ‘struck’ on practically anything. This friction ignites potassium chlorate, which in turn releases oxygen and ignites phosphorus sequisulfide, which burns hot enough to catch the white aspen stick on fire. The secret sauce is potassium dichromate, a highly combustible oxidizer that accelerates burn rate.”

Light The Fire

Guess I never fully got over the fascination of chemical reactions. I liked things that created energy, that burned or went bang. I’m no pyro, mind you, I just enjoy a nice fire and things that have a controlled burn rate. An interest in guns and handloading was the natural progression from BB guns and the chemical chain reaction of Diamond brand SA matches. I’ll bet that smokeless powder and primers share some of the same chemicals as the SA matchsticks.

Handloading gives one freedom from store bought ammo. After the initial investment of basic equipment, you are home free for some cheaply made, accurate ammo. Many won’t save a dime handloading, they merely shoot a helluva lot more, with a smug smile on their face, feeling proud of actually shooting ammo they make themselves. It is a great feeling indeed!

Ammo is nothing more than a smokeless powder contained in a case that is ignited by a primer. The ensuing burn rate of the powder releases gases, which creates pressure. This pressure builds up until the projectile (bullet) is forced out of the case and down the barrel — pretty basic stuff. Reloading manuals are nothing more than cookbooks with different recipes for different calibers.

Wanna make a cake of the caliber you have? Look it up and check out all your options. Check the ingredients. What powder and primers do you have? What bullets do want to shoot? Look it up in the book! If you want a nutty fruitcake, look up the recipe for the proper components listed. Remember, any change in components can spike pressure. While a cake may not taste as good with substitutions, spiked pressures can lead to a blown-up gun. Just follow the load book and you will be fine.

All About You

Besides saving money or shooting more, handloading will allow you to fine-tune your loads for your guns. I can’t tell you how many times I have “saved” guns with handloads. Some guns just don’t like being fed factory ammo, but once handfed with handloads, they can become top performers, accuracy wise. Feeding long-discontinued cartridges in Grandpap’s favorite pistol or deer rifle may lead you down the path as the only way to make it go bang. Handloading is definitely a handy skill or option to have for a serious shooter.

Think it over. Get yourself a single stage press, dies, a scale, some powder, primers, save your brass, think about the type of bullets you like, and become your own ammo factory. You’ll learn a lot, get some great self satisfaction, fine tune loads for your guns, as you either shoot more, or save money. What else are you gonna do during those long, cold winter nights when it’s too nasty to shoot?

Check Back Each Wednesday For More Think Tank Articles

Make sure you get Think Tank every week. Click here to sign up now.

We think you'd be interested in this, too

Hunting For Used...

Isn’t it funny how the older we get the more we like guns that are like us? You know, older, slightly used, maybe having a few interesting dings, scars...
Read Full Article
cz ts2 tactical sport
From The Rental...

Today on From the Rental Wall, Nic Lenze takes you to The Shootist in Denver, Colorado. While there, he samples the CZ TS 2, a competition-ready 9mm with a...
Read Full Article
CCW Phenomenon

While next weekend will see me attending the annual Gun Rights Policy Conference in Dallas (well, actually Irving), Texas, a live face-to-face event for the...
Read Full Article