Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reload! Reload!

It had to come to this.  I'm 30 years old, and after 25 years of shooting, I'm finally going to do what used to be scary for me to think about: reloading.  I've been stewing over it for the last year or so and have been doing my homework.  From what I've read about, watched, and talked about, it really isn't hard at all, as long as you make sure you are doing it correctly.  Load too much charge, and you might blow your gun to pieces.  Load too little and you might get a round hung in the barrel, which is a quick way to ruin your afternoon.  Like any other hobby, job, or past time, you need to make sure you do it right.  If you follow the simple rules, everything should be fine.

These days, ammo is as expensive as it's ever been.  I remember some years ago, you could go in a buy Winchester SXT (now Ranger) ammunition for $13 for 50 rounds.  Nowadays, you can't touch a 20 round box for less than $25.  The price has effectively more than doubled.  Not only do you pay in excess of $10 more per box, but you get less than half of what you used to get.  I still have over 300 Black Talon (SXT) rounds with the black coating on the bullets.  I bought them almost a decade ago.  Nowadays, I could sell them all and make a small fortune (hmm, not a bad idea).  The fact of the matter is that when all things are considered, reloading makes economic sense.  In this economy, I can't afford to through money away on expensive range ammo.  It is time to start loading my own for a fraction of the price.

Reloading used brass has always been less expensive than buying new rounds.  Unfortunately, for me, I've always been a little hesitant to get into reloading because the "good" brands (like RCBS and Redding) are just so expensive.  I couldn't justify tripping over dollars to save cents.  There are less expensive sets on the market, but I've always had this myopic vision that less expensive = less quality.  This might still be the case, but in my old age, I've come to understand that just because you don't have the best does not automatically mean you have the worst.  In fact, I've spoken with people who use the bargain reloading presses and supplies and they are nothing but satisfied with them.  Of course, there are a few quirks to these tools, but I've read reports about quirky expensive tools ad nauseum.

For the beginning reloader, the most expensive is not really the best idea.  Say, for instance, I suck at it or lose interest in a month?  Well then what?  Sure, I'd have the best of the best, but it'd all be collecting dust.  What an investment!  No, for me, starting out with something good, but at a really good price is what I want to do.  For that, I've turned to Lee Precision.  Their Breech Lock Challenger Press kit has almost all the components I will need to get into Reloading.  Of course, I still need dies, case resizer, other small tools, and the stuff to make cartridges, but the kit will get me most of everything for just over $100.  That's a value to me.  I've read a lot of good things about the Challenger press.  It's not just for beginners like me, but some really experienced guys use it for their really special range loads, where accuracy and precision are paramount.  Of course, as I grow in the hobby, I can always upgrade.  I just want to get my feet wet for now and see how it goes.

Regarding price, this won't be some instant pay off thing.  The equipment investment is considerable and so are some of the things I need to do to make ready.  The area in my basement needs to have wiring run to it as well as a bench installed (no, I don't have an old desk or counter top lying around).  The payoff is long term.  But there will be some short term savings.  I have 100+ spent 45/70 cases sitting in my house.  Reloading just those will pay for the kit.  I also have a small cache of spent 357 and 38 special rounds and my dad has interest in getting some 30-30 stuff done.  This is not a bad way to go with these expensive cartridges.  If I make my weight loss goal and get a 454 casull handgun, reloading will really start to show the savings.  Over time, it could save me hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.  Consider that I've probably got about 40 or so useful years left in my life, this could be a big thing for me.

-James 

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