Sunday, April 3, 2011

Reloading as a prepper skill (and more on Safety, and Brass)

A quote from the web...

"Reloading is a fun hobby and will be an invaluable skill if/when TSHTF."

For me .308/7.62x51 is my favorite for just shooting and one of my standard choices in my preparedness collection.

But recently the price of over the counter or surplus ammunition for recreational shooting is making lots of my friends and acquaintances start contacting me about getting into reloading.

The changes in politics, the economy, and the "quagmire sandbox" is starting to take a deep cut into the general "joe six pack" shooters.

I am making more and more purchases of reloading supplies to "fill in" where there is a need. I just have this strange feeling, "the hair on the back of the neck" thing in the last few weeks, something more than just what the politics would lead me to worry about. I'm not sure why I get the feeling that reloading supplies are higher priority than loaded ammo.

When silver hit over 13 bucks I switched to the new collectable metals, lead, brass, and copper best if assembled. I started buying the .22lr 550 packs at Wally World again, money I had set over for silver is now all allocated to reloading supplies and .22lr.

BE CAREFUL reloading is not to be taken lightly you hold in your hands tools that if used incorrectly or make a mistake is could be the destruction of your favorite rifle or pistol, and cause injury or death.

Three years ago at a range my father is a member of an incident happened I should recount as a warning. Improperly loaded ammo caused a catastrophic failure with a Remington 700 rifle in .270. When fired the load caused an over-pressure explosion, the scope and mount were peeled off and the bolt was pushed past the action and into the shooters shoulder. This was a disturbing event, and would be at any shooting range. Lucky for this shooter there were several other shooters there able to call in an ambulance and help him. Later we were to find out that he had been "testing" hot "compressed" loads and had mistaken a load max from a powder of a similar but slower type, he had looked at the wrong part of the chart on a page with several different caliber choices.

Regardless, you will find it a fun hobby and the increase in accuracy will be notable with all but the sloppiest rifles.

There are "pet" loads, most often they are matched to a particular rifle and they may not always work with your firearm. Please, always double check that the load is within safe margins for YOUR rifle, and if you are loading for an old rifle or surplus military that could be much lower than the published maximum loads.

Keep to the books! remember to start low in charge and work UP do not start at maximum, the warnings about the m1a rifle heavy bullet weight and op rod damage is a good example. The M1, M1a or M14 rifle was designed and manufactured for specific weight bullet and particular powder pressure curves they do not work well outside of a small range of powder charges and bullets. I have heard about many bent parts and gas system damage caused by loads that would be no problem in an HK91 or a bolt gun.

I early on got into the habit of double and triple checking my charts and loading procedures and checking the load depth in the cases to prevent mistakes and double charges, I have not had a single accident in all of my 20+ years of reloading and I count that not to luck but to careful procedures. Please keep your loads safe by developing good procedures.

Choosing brass.

IMI brass is notorious for its inconsistent quality and poor quality control, it is used in some cases as "throw down" or "blaster grade" reloads. A much better general product would be US military brass for general use.

Many shooters spend many hours shaving or turning rims, reaming and turning necks and even "prep fires" or "case forming" to get 100-200 cases out of 1000 that match for contest-ready rounds.

I sort by date and manufacturer by the headstamp I keep what I like and trade the headstamps I do not use. I try and buy .308 in bulk, I often buy the brass that is partly processed where the primer pocket crimps are removed.

Lapua then Norma branded brass cases are considered the two best for consistency, Winchester and Federal commercial new brass is often coveted by long range shooters. High quality offerings often labeled with a "match" or match name moniker have a cult like following in the long range shooting world, but bench rest shooters will most often go for Laupa and Norma.

If you are looking for just good quality brass that will shoot well and will hold up to multiple reloading cycles you would be best served with a purchase of processed US military brass. The internal capacity of the military cases is smaller than civilian market brass because the lower half to third are much thicker in the wall for strength.

Here is an example of a company that sells processed brass...

For self loading rifles like the M1a, HK91, FN FAL and others it is often worth the money to buy the processed brass for your first loading to save time. Your purpose for reloading is for supply and general shooting so finding the best of brass and loads is not as important as securing a consistent supply, at least at first.

One of the nice things about processed brass for this type of application is that any serious culls are dropped from the shipment. The machines that ream the pockets and trim the brass also kick out splits and odd brass so you buy less possible "file 13" cases. And in the end, what is your time worth?

Check the sizing so that they fit in your rifle's chamber, I find that often I have to size again because chambers are not all the same from rifle to rifle, a full length SB die will bring a case down to the minimum dimensions needed for auto-loading rifles.

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