Rolling Your Own Ammo

Given the dearth of stuntman (or any other movie) work in Los Angeles, Edward has been executing a number of escapes to family units in Colorado and here in Central Washington – Paradise. With all the unknowns with which we are all surrounded, he has settled on a bit of fishing and (for the first time in years) September deer hunting in Wyoming with his brother James and brother-in-law Chris. This hunting means brushing up his shooting with Bowser – his little custom .270. Brushing up on shooting means we need more ammo.

Thus, we are up to our elbows in brass, primers, powder and bullets. We are sorting through new and used brass, and a variety of powders and bullet weights, types and calibers, for three different rifles. It seems that we have shot up enough ammo that it is time to roll some more. We have also been spending relaxing hours with a best friend loading handgun ammo, so that we will be on our games when it is time again to return to Front Sight, near Lost Wages, Nevada, and enjoy another handgun class with some of the older grand-Hucklings. Looking around, it seems there is a groundswell of interest in reloading from the local to national level.

Each of us, and our rifles, has a preferred bullet weight and shape, and type and amount of powder it takes to get the bullet out of the barrel and to the point of aim downrange. The barrel of the rifle itself will have a lot to do with all of this, as well. Each barrel has a “twist” in its rifling (the rifling spins the bullet so that it flies straight – like a football). Twist varies from one turn in nine inches to 1:20 or whatever, and will control the consistency and accuracy with which a given bullet flies.

This “preference” is based on other things, as well. First, after a hundred or more rounds are fired at paper, it becomes obvious that certain bullet shapes and weights more consistently strike the same spot on a target than others. Somewhere in that conversation will be the amount and type of gunpowder which burns in the brass case, forming the gases which push the bullet down the barrel at some velocity (there are fast- and slow-burning powders designed for case size, bullet weight and so on). Second, field experience over the years, in hunting deer, elk, antelope and other game, informs the preference for a particular cartridge combination. The ongoing quest for more accuracy and maximum effectiveness on game is quite fascinating, really.

Then, of course, one company or another is always coming out with a more accurate or efficient bullet design or a more consistent powder. Add to this various studies about the effects of lead in the environment or in meat, and the rising cost of certain key metals used in bullets, and a given rifle’s preference can be – so to speak – a moving target.

All of the organized chaos above – along with significant savings on the cost of our shooting – makes hand loading ammo as relaxing, rewarding and fun today as it was when I started. There is just something about the sheer pleasure of being responsible for everything that happens when you pull the trigger – and watching bullet after bullet hit the target where you want it to hit.

I got the reloading bug in 1964, after I finally bailed my shiny new Savage 110 Premiere Grade 7mm Remington magnum out of layaway jail and went target shooting. Somewhere in the middle of my second box of factory ammo, it dawned on me that, at my pay as a young airman at Lowry AFB, I’d never be able to shoot as much as I wanted.

I picked up a press and dies and powder and bullets and instruction manuals. Over a couple years of squeezing off thousands of rounds of handloads, I learned about accuracy – and what my rifle needed to shoot the way I intended. When bullets didn’t go exactly where I wanted, I knew why, and made adjustments.

Over time, reloading helps in developing a strong relationship with the tools we take afield. I came to understand both my part and the rifle’s part of our hunting and shooting agreement. The rifle became, as The Old Man used to say, “An extension of yourself and a guarantee of meat in the pot. And there’s that other thing, too, boy. If some critter gives itself to you and will feed your family, you and that rifle owe it fair chase, straight shooting and a clean death – and a prayer of thanks every time you eat it.”

So, these days, I load for my 7mm and .270 and a couple rifles my boys use. Each of them has had time with me rolling their own, and each pays a lot of attention to his own rifle’s preferences.

If I had my way, all hunters would be trained in the process of learning to roll their own ammo. It ain’t gonna happen soon, I’m sure, but there are quite a few handloaders in the valley, and plenty of all the supplies and tools you will ever need. For plenty of YouTube videos and instruction, just Google “how to hand load (whatever ammo you wish).” For an excellent one-day class with NRA Certified Reloading Instructor David Sherman (just east of Moxee, WA), call him at 509-969-6414. He now has classes set for Aug.9, Sep. 13 and Nov. 8. Three Forks Ammo & Reloading in Cle Elum is not offering classes for the time being, but has every tool and supply you need. If you drop in, Chris or John will help with questions. If you run into a coaching need, Ellensburg, WA, locals like NRA Certified Reloader Bill Essman, Wes Clogston, or I will gladly share what we know.

It’s simple, wise and moral; the more you know about your firearms, the more skill you will develop in their use. Rolling and shooting your own ammo will help you master hunting and ensure the future of our enterprise.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized