Hand-loading ammo can be a cost-saving hobby: Mark Becker

Mark Becker
South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks
Mark Becker, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Equipment Mechanic

There are a few reasons to reload your own shells: save money, improve accuracy, or lack of factory options for a particular cartridge. If you don’t shoot a lot and don’t have any equipment it’s probably cheaper to keep buying factory ammunition. However, if you shoot frequently and tend to buy premium ammunition, it won’t take long to save money after buying a starter kit!

For those that want to start reloading, it’s easier than ever. There are a multitude of sources online and most reloading manuals give a step by step introduction on the entire process. Hand-loaders, for the most part, are very willing to share their knowledge. If you know someone that reloads ask them for help. Many are willing to mentor and give advice; often it’s more difficult to get them to stop talking because they are so passionate about it.

Hand-loading your own ammunition can not only save you money, but be an enjoyable way to pass the time when the winter weather is cold. I was introduced to reloading at an early age by my father and have been fascinated with it ever since. Despite it being relatively simple, there always seems to be something new to learn. There are only four parts to a rifle or pistol case: primer, powder, bullet and the brass case.

Even with today’s advances in the accuracy of factory ammunition, reloading can still greatly improve your rifle’s accuracy. No two rifles are the same and might not shoot the same. But, with hand-loading, you can tweak everything from brand of primer to bullet seating depth to improve accuracy.

It’s easy to find all different types of ammunition for your 7mm Winchester Magnum and your .223 Remington. What about a .264 Winchester Magnum and a .222 Remington? The latter two cartridges have very few factory options and often don’t reach the potential of either cartridge. Some reloading companies have the tooling for over 3,100 custom reloading dies so it doesn’t matter the cartridge, you can find the equipment to reload it.

Hand-loading can be a great hobby and for some like me. It’s addicting! I am always tweaking and testing new loads that I think might work for my rifles. After purchasing a new rifle, especially something in a new cartridge, I research everything to narrow down the combinations I want to start developing a load. Some rifles like anything that you load and it’s just a matter of dialing it in. Other times, it takes several different recipes before you find what your rifle likes. I think there’s something a little extra special about harvesting an animal with a load you developed!

Mark Becker is an equipment mechanic with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.