Of course not! Is reloading something you should get involved in? I hope you will, but that is a question only you can answer. Hopefully, some of my experiences and perspective will help you decide in a way that will enhance both your shooting and reloading experiences.
There is a diverse cross section of people involved or wanting to be involved in the shooting sports. I have a friend who goes deer hunting once a year. He has a beautiful scoped rifle shooting magnum .30 caliber bullets. He really isn't interested in shooting much. In normal years he shoots less than one box (20 rounds) of ammunition. Before hunting season he reluctantly shoots a few rounds to verify the zero of his rifle and ammunition. He is pretty conservative on the hunt and rarely shoots more than a couple of rounds to get his deer. He enjoys the hunt because of the social interactions more than the shooting. Does reloading make sense for him? No.
I have another acquaintance who shoots frequently. He is an officer for the local United States Practical Shooting Associations (USPSA) chapter. He shoots regularly as a competitor at their matches. He practices for those competitions and does some target and pleasure shooting as well. He could certainly purchase new ammunition for the shooting he does. He chooses to reload for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, cost. Reloading makes good sense for him.
My own experience may be of interest to some of you. In the 1960s, I bought a used military surplus Springfield 1903A3. I think I paid $39 for the rifle. I sporterized the rifle. It was common and not a cardinal sin in those days. Surplus rifles were readily available. I restocked and glass bedded the rifle myself. I had a gunsmith install a Williams peep sight. I had shot with peep sights competitively on the high school rifle team. A peep sight was what I had been trained to use and was comfortable with. Today, it seems almost unimaginable that we had rifle ranges in our high schools. Marksmanship was taught and fostered in the public schools.
My interest in this 1903A3 was to extract the best accuracy it was capable of, with me shooting it. I was able to afford and thus shot military surplus ammunition. My limited experience with commercial hunting ammunition gave me only slightly better groups. The range where I shot was a joint civilian/police range. The mentors I met there gave me great insight into shooting more accurately and improving my abilities. They also introduced me to reloading and the potential benefits I could achieve if I manufactured my own ammunition. The first obvious benefit I became aware of was how much I could save by reloading my own ammunition.
Please don't quote these numbers but they are what I remember. Commercial 30-06 ammunition was $5 per box of 20 rounds. My initial equipment was a single stage reloading press that I own and use to this day. I bought 30-06 dies, shell holder, a powder measure, a reloading scale, some case lube, and a reloading manual. When I could afford it I bought a caliper and a simple case trimmer. The expendables seem cheap by today's prices. I paid less than a penny apiece for primers by the thousand. Powder was slightly more. Depending on the bullets I chose to load, I could pay from 2 to 6 cents apiece. Target and high end hunting bullets were more expensive. Plinking bullets cost the least. I had some once-fired brass from the commercial and military ammunition I had shot. Most shooters did not reload so I was able to pick up for free more brass at the range than I will ever be able to load.
Reloading gave me the opportunity to begin my quest to find the load that my rifle “liked to shoot.” By that I mean the most accurate or the smallest groups at 100 yards. My range mentors gave me good advice about how to proceed in an organized manner. The theory was to change primer brand, case brand, powder brand, bullet type and brand, and adjust powder quantity, until you found the most accurate load for your rifle. There are other variables like seating depth that I had no knowledge of at the time. The number of possible combinations is very high, even with big jumps in powder weights. With small changes in powder weight, the number of combinations is astronomical. I wasn't smart enough to segregate cases. I could only afford the primers I had and I only had one can of powder to begin with. I picked the best target bullets that I could afford and started reloading for accuracy. In my case, the only variable I was controlling for was the powder charge so the number of variables was manageable.
I searched the reloading manual for my bullet type, bullet weight, and powder type. That gave me a range of powder charges with expected velocities. Reloading manuals routinely recommend that you reduce maximum powder charge by 10% when beginning load development. Then, gradually increase powder until you reach maximum powder load or see signs of over-pressure in fired cases (we will talk about that another time). If cases showed signs of over pressure, I would back off to below where no signs of over-pressure occurred. That would then become my personal maximum powder load. That kept me conservative and safe. Incidentally, I seldom had signs of case problems and over-pressure at the book maximum loads or below. My procedure was to load five rounds each at 12%, 9%, 6%, and 3% below maximum. I would shoot my groups with about 1 minute between shots. Usually groups would grow or shrink slightly with the different loads. I would then go home and start the reloading process over again, this time beginning with the tightest group. I probably should have shot three to five groups with each load, but I didn't have the finances or the time to do that much shooting. Assuming the smallest group was obtained at 3% below maximum, I would load 5 rounds each at 5%, 4%, 3%, 2% and 1% below maximum, bracketing my best group at the previous session. I would repeat this process again, bracketing the load from the best group. My normal experience was that my worst groups would be 4” or 5” at 100 yards. My best groups would be between 1” and 2” at that distance. That might not seem too impressive by today's rifle standards. Remember, I was using a peep sight off a homemade front rest and my shoulder for a back rest. I didn't get smarter for a lot of years. I was pleased with the results and was out shooting many of the fancy, expensive, scoped rifles at the range. I ran the process again and again for different bullets, all the while getting smarter and learning the tricks and nuances of the trade, both for reloading and shooting.
You might be saying to yourself, “that took a lot of time and effort for a small improvement”. Yes, it did. Two things you need to keep in mind. First, I was frequently able to get a better group with one of my first group of hand loads than with my military or factory ammunition. That involved only one reloading session and one trip to the range. Second, I loved to shoot and was beginning to really enjoy reloading, as I saw the improvements it was giving me. I felt like I was in control and to some degree I was. Hand reloading lowered my costs and I was able to shoot more. More shooting improved my shooting skills.
I can't say enough good things about the mentors that have helped and encouraged me along the way. Their only pay was the satisfaction of watching a young person get better at something we both loved doing. This blog is my attempt to share what I have learned and be a mentor on some small level for others.
You may be like my first mentioned friend. If you are, I hope some of my experiences will get you more interested in both shooting and reloading. I hope you will read some more and catch the reloading bug.
You are likely somewhere between my first and second mentioned friends. You probably like to shoot and do so as frequently as you can. The frequently part is probably not as often as you would like. You probably cringe at how ammunition prices have gone up recently, if you could find any at all. Your reading of this blog is likely evidence of concern about the cost of ammunition or the prospect of not being able to find ammunition for your firearms at all. I hope my blog will help you decide that reloading is fun, rewarding, and worth the time and effort. I hope you will join me on this adventure. On the other hand, you may read the information and experiences I present and decide that reloading isn't for you. If that is truly the case and your reasons are sound, I wish you well and hope to see you at the shooting range.
If you are shooting more than my second friend, then I suspect you probably know more about reloading than I do. In that case, I hope my experiences and comments will bring some new technique, idea or procedure to your reloading bench. At a minimum, I hope you will return to this blog occasionally and enjoy some of my experiences while reminiscing about your own. In the spirit of mentoring, I hope you will share with me so I can improve and pass your ideas and experience on to others.
If your interest is piqued, but you are still not sure, read my post titled “Why Should I Consider Reloading?”