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Survival Reloading

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Survival Reloading

Reloading, now and in the future, is the best way to ensure your ammunition independence instead of relying on supply chains and retailers to provide a secure supply of ammunition. Reloading affords you the freedom to create your own ammo outside of the ups and downs of the global economy. By Mr. Smashy of SurvivalCache.com This article also appears in this months Complete Survivalist Magazine

Preparing for the Future


While its still a good idea to secure a good supply of surplus or bulk ammunition when prices dip,

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its also a good idea to get proficient at reloading. The key to proficiency at reloading is getting the tools and skills you need now and knowledge through practice and practical application. The more you reload, the more you will understand what forces are at play and why you need to do what youre doing. This will be vital when the time comes when supplies become scarce, and you need to make substitutions. One thing you need to keep in your inventory and continue to replenish so that youre at

maximum levels is primers and powder. These components require complex chemistry to produce and are difficult to homebrew; the good news is you can purchase powder and primers in mass quantities for lower prices than ammo and store them in much smaller space. It would be a good idea to keep at least 10,000 primers on hand, for example. There may be limits to the amount of powder and primer you can keep on premise based on your home owners insurance or local fire regulations, but you should be able to store at least 20 pounds of powder and 10,000 primers. This will make a lot of ammunition for a long time.

Bullets
For high-power rifles, youre going to need to fire copper jacketed rifle bullets. It doesnt make

sense to go through the work of reloading if youre going to load lower velocity lead bullets for rifles. With special presses and dies, you can actually make jacketed rifle bullets out of raw materials, but this is advanced reloading. You need to secure a supply of jacketed rifle bullets for reloading, they are as vital as primers and powder. For pistols and pistol caliber rifles, you have the choice of shooting copper jacked and plain lead bullets. Lead bullets are cheaper and easier to keep stocked up. You also have the ability to make lead bullets with a bullet mould. The downside is, again, you cannot push lead to the higher velocity that a jacketed bullet can handle. Also, lead will also foul barrels more readily than a jacketed bullet.

Reloading Basics
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The basics of reloading is taking a spent case, clean it, and use a press and dies to remove the spent

primer and re-size the brass, load a fresh primer, powder, and bullet and make it into a fresh round. The best firearms to reload for are ones in common calibers that take brass cased rounds that are boxer primed. You can reload steel cases, but most are berdan primed and not worth the effort to reload. Steel pistol cases can usually be reloaded, so dont discard these without checking the primer type. If you are going to reload military surplus brass, be aware that the primers are crimped in and you will need a tool to remove the crimp to allow the brass to be reloaded. The most basic tool for reloading is the reloading manual. Get a good one, both from the bullet manufacturer you plan to use and for the caliber you plan to reload. Getting the knowledge to use your reloading tools in a safe and reliable manner is probably the best way ensure your immediate survival when reloading; reloading can be dangerous and you need to be able to make the right choices when purchasing powder and working up loads. Keeping good notes is also vital; you need to keep records of how you run your reloading process what your final recipe is. All these records should be stored both on paper and electronically. The core reloading tool is your reloading press. What press you decide to purchase is going to

affect your reloading process greatly. On the cheaper end of the spectrum is the single stage press. They are simple, rugged, and reliable, but slow to load. Because the single stage press can hold one die, each reloading operation must be run in batches. Another type of press is a turret press. This press has a turret head that holds each die and allows each step of the reloading process to be performed on the round, then the next round is loaded into the press. Finally, there is the progressive reloading press, which holds all the dies and allows for a reloading operation to be performed on a round each time the press handle is pulled. That way, as long as there are fresh components being loaded into it, a continuous stream of loaded ammunition will feed out of the press. Dies are next big component in your reloading kit. Id recommend getting the best quality dies you can afford, with titanium carbide or carbide dies. Carbide coatings reduce the possibility of a case getting stuck and destroying the die, which would be the worst case scenario. Getting the best quality dies will also help you make the best quality ammunition. Even if you plan on running a progressive press, you can still make match grade ammunition using high quality dies and careful reloading. A stuck case remover kit would be a wise investment to protect yourself from a mistake that could jeopardize
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your entire reloading operation. A stuck case remover taps into the base of a stuck case and removes the stuck case from a die with mechanical force. With any luck, the case will separate from the die and you can continue reloading. You will need a means to clean your brass. Popular methods are vibratory tumblers with a corn cob or walnut based media. In a lights-out situation, a hand-cranked tumbler with corn cob media will do the trick. Youll also need a media separator to remove the brass from the media, some types which can also be used as a hand cranked tumbler. Some other tools youll need are case gauges (to be sure you re-sized brass properly), primer

pocket swagger and reamers to clean up the primer pockets, case trimmers to remove excessive length on bottleneck rifle rounds, and case lube to ensure that cases feed into the reloading dies smoothly and re-size without issues.

Overview of the Reloading Process


Dirty brass, either fired or bought in bulk, is cleaned, usually in a tumbler. Brass is then inspected for cracks and split necks. The clean brass is then lubed. Lube can be water based, oil based, or even animal fat based. Lubed cases are pressed into the resizing die where the used primer is knocked out. If this is military brass and is being reloaded for the first time, now is when the primer pocket crimping is swagged off, using either a primer pocket swagger that presses out the crimp, or a tool that cuts off the crimp. The re-sized case is then filled with powder. Depending on your die, the brass may be belled slightly in order to accept a bullet more readily. A bullet is then seated to a set seating depth. Next, depending on the round being loaded, a crimp may be applied to remove the bell and crimp in the bullet. Electricity has brought some of the modern convinces into the reloading room; vibratory tumblers, electric brass trimmers, etc. There are hand tools available to perform this work. Reloading will take more time, but these tools will allow you to continue without disruption. They are cheap and Id recommend purchasing a backup set of tools, in case the first wear out.

Summary for the Survivalist


The key points a survivalist needs to take away from this are to stock up on supplies that cant be

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created easily, collect all the knowledge you can and keep good records, procure hand tools to replace electric tools when possible, and practice reloading as often as possible. The more experience you have with reloading, the more prepared you will be when you need to work with less resources. All Photos by Mr. Smashy (click here for photostream)

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Comments (72)
beasley1 9p +4

Login

I do not have too much experience with reloading spent shells, but I think that it is going to be really helpful in the near future( the price of ammo is ridiculous and is only getting worse). Even when TSHTF it will be important to make reloads no matter how much ammo you have stocked away. For these reasons, I am going to start to practice to reload spent shells and hopefully I will get good quickly.
Reply

Minarchist_1776 64p

+7

In general an excellent article. Bear in mind that if you're going to be casting and molding your own lead bullets that there are certain precautions that should be observed. Make sure there is adequate ventilation in the area where you're heating the lead. Try to avoid handling the lead with your bare hands as much as possible. Most definitely wash your hands thoroughly after you've finished working with the lead. No eating or drinking in the area where you're working with the lead. As Mr. Smashy pointed out, lead bullets in general are only for relatively low velocity applications (as such things are considered these days). Nevertheless, if you are using a pistol round such as .44 Special, .45 Long Colt, or other round that doesn't go that fast then lead bullets are definitely a viable option. You can push lead bullets somewhat faster if you get "gas checks" to use on the bullets that you produce. However, while gas checks perform a useful function in protecting the base of the bullet, the faster you push the bullet through the bore the more lead it will leave behind.
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Michael

+1

I'll stick to food, basic medicine, and fixing bicycles and let someone else do the reloading. I'd probably blow my house up!
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3 replies

Chefbear58 72p

+1

Mr. Smashy, as usual an excellent article! I have been wanting to start reloading for a while now, and almost bought a "starter set" before Christmas but something stopped me. I am looking to reload rifle rounds (7.62x54R, .223, .204, .308, 30-30, 30-06), handgun ammo (9mm, .40, .45) and possibly shotgun slugs.. because the ones I use (Winchester Supreme Platinum) run about $18 for a pack of 5 IF you can find them! So here is a question for anyone who can help... What is a good starter set? OR What is a good brand to get started with? I found a "starter set" from Midway USA, but again I wasn't sure if it was a decent brand. I am not sure if particular brands are better than others, but I know that when I bought a "starter set" of Chef knives (many years ago), they were garbage! I want to get a set that will last, hopefully longer than I do and won't "break the bank". Does anyone know of a reasonably
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priced brand that will last? Anyone have good results with a particular "starter set"? I would also like to teach a few friends and family members how to do the reloading, so an easy to use set would also be helpful. Thanks guys!
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18 replies

CaptBart 87p

+5

Excellent article and I second the comment about the 'O-Frame' press. I also have a 'hand press' for my black powder center fire guns. It is kind of fun to reload a 45-70 the way the buffalo hunters did. That said, there was one thing I thought was missing from an otherwise excellent article. Many of our rounds were designed originally for either black powder or a weaker powder. Most of the space in a .44 or .45 case is either empty or filled with wadding. While it MAY be possible (I don't recommend it) to simply fill a .45 case with black powder and shoot it, it would be disastrous with modern powder. A 44-40 was designed for 40 grains of black powder. If you tried to double fill that case you'd be putting in 80 grains and it would be obvious you'd made a mistake. To load that case with an equivalent modern powder might only take 5 to 7 grains of powder (depending on the powder used). Since I can't eyeball the difference between 5 and 10 grains the risk of a double charge is high and the result is at best a ruined gun. The moral is that when you are reloading, that is ALL you are doing. No phone, no food, no TV, nothing. If you must leave the bench, that session is over and any unfinished rounds should be redone. If there is any doubt, start over. If there is any interruption, start over. A double load is a life threatening event so do not risk it. I have both an electronic and a mechanical scale. I weight my rounds before and after charging them with powder. If any round in a session is outside of normal I either don't load it or I assume it was improperly charged. If it was improperly charged, every round in that set is suspect and redone. If that seems extreme, remember you are playing with a potential bomb going off in your weapon. I still have all my initially issued parts attached to the appropriate places because I am a complete paranoid when it comes to things that can go BOOM! Murphy was, after all, a bloody optimist.
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2 replies

Sean

+3

Lead bullets from my .357 6" bbl are some of the most accurate. I've never chronographed for speed, but the reload data says 1300fps. A 20" lever gun shooting the same bullet should push that to 2000fps on paper. I've yet to cast my own, and am just now getting into details about BHN and bullet diameter (.360 diameter is better in some configurations) - but don't discount the utility of lead rounds for most any application. Also, for the very desperate, you can crudely convert berdan primed cases to boxer. See: http://users.ameritech.net/mchandler/primer.html
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Josh 65p

+1

Thanks for another excellent article Mr. Smashy. A friend of mine is going to show me how to reload .44 special and .44 magnum rounds sometime soon and this is an excellent primer for me. Thanks a lot.
Reply

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Rescue7

+3

Great article. The first step for anyone who has never reloaded is to buy and read from cover to cover a reloading manual. Important not to confuse powder Pistol powder can be really hot and if confused with a standard gun powder can cause serious overpressure issues. Read up on powder types, bullets and applications for your particular shooting needs. You dont need 168 grain hollow point boat tails to shoot targets. A new Hornady Lock-n-Load reloading press is $124 Not bad in the long run. For survival this model is simple, easy to use and relatively light. An entire reloading kit can fit into a 5 gal. bucket or a plastic bin (minus the bench of course). If youre looking at a couple of dies (rifle and pistol) bullets, powders, primers, lube and a reloading manual your initial investment could be well over $300. Kind of pricy to start and for some it may be more cost effective to buy ammo. How many rounds can you buy for $300?
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6 replies

Rescue7

+1

For those who save their brass and shoot a bit it is a lot more cost efficient to invest in reloading. Inspecting your brass for cracks is important You dont have to tumble your brass you can just dust it off if its not too bad or you can always wash it. Just dry it well. Best time savers: measured plastic powder scoops and a plastic funnel.
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3 replies

PBJ1 23p

+2

Good Article! Question. Has anyone thought of what might happen if the fed orders/imposes a stoppage of production in modern powders and primers? Or perhaps they just go out of business because of SHTF or TEOTWAWKI? How do you make bullets for the modern weapon (M-4/AR-15) then. Sure, we can stockpile untill we are blue in the face and the primers are piled up to the refters in the garage, but what happens when those run out? Has anyone tired to load black powder into the shell case of a .308 for poops and giggles to see what happens? Does anyone even know how to make black powder anymore? What about percussion caps or primers to ignite the stuff? We are about survival but what happens when our modern weapon technology fails or runs out.
Reply

13 replies

Bill Dundee

+2

Great Article mate!! Not to forget when reloading a good set of scales make things easy when working out loads!, and powder measure, rcbs and lee reloading make good gear!, also graphite is a great case lube!.
Reply

hoppy I don't consider homebrewing black powder viable for survival purposes. You need specialized guns to use it that are at a disadvantage against modern weapons, and loud. It's also messy, unstable, and corrosive. Go to a rendezvous and watch them shoot before you mess with it.
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3 replies

Randy Great Read!!! Thanks Mister Smashy!


Reply

bob

i have decided to use my black powder weapons. primitive, yes, but just as effective for taking game animals or protection . black powder lasts forever and a day if stored properly, and i make my own bullets for pistol rifles and shotguns..primers i only use for my rifles and a 11 or 12 fits shtgun shells and my rifle...
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1 reply

deweycapt

In reloading try to pick powders that are multicaliber such as varget or 4895 by hodgdons these powders are interchangable with 308 and 223 and are very accurate,try to standardize as much as possible,It will make things a lot less complicated.Another one is using small rifle primers in pistols. IF YOU DO THIS REDUCE POWDER BY 25%TO START.I have done this to get hottter loads to make major.ALSO MAKE SURE YOU ARE USING A MODERN FIREARM. NOT PRE 80s. You cannot have enough loading manuals in my honest opinion.
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T.Rapier

+2

well sense we are on the subject of the availability of large amounts of powder for reloading to stockpile , .......I will bring up another reason to do it .......this is a very Taboo subject ....and illegal to do it now , but if the situation was a long term law and order breakdown . Some of that powder that a person wisely stockpiled with some ball bearings , could be used in booby traps and impoverished hand grenades ...... Not advocating .... just sayin it could .
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1 reply

T.Rapier

+1

One thing that people may find useful to do if they have multiple magazines of the same caliber and plan to use different loads in some , is to color code . I paint the bottom of the magazine so I can know at a glance what type of round the magazine contains . Red for hollow points and self defense rounds , Green for all other non - FMJ rounds . No paint for standard FMJ . It works pretty good , doesn't matter what color you use as long as it makes sense to you .
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Mysterion@q.com

I have followed the conventional wisdom of reloading common bullet calibers and brass for years. Lately, I have to begun to wonder if whether having a last ditch wildcat round would assure you of the higher probably of obtaining not only bullets,
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but brass that can be necked down or resized for an obsolete caliber such as 7.65 argentine, 6.5 swedish, .38 s&w, or .257 Roberts. Another consideration is a handgun that can shoot multiple calibers, such as .357 magnum, .38 special, or even 9mm. Swapping out cylinders would be the best way of maximizing the utility of a revolver, but autoloaders can also swap out parts like 9mm/ .45acp/.22LR, 7.62X25 (.30 Tokarev)
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1 reply

Mike

Reloading is not only a good way to save money, but great when you cannot get ammo. I have been reloading for nearly 30 years for my .22 hornet, .308, 7.62 x 54, 7.62 x 39, 7.62 x 25, .380. 9mm, .30 cal M1 carbine, .357 and .45. I have used RCBS dies, as well as Lee dies with good results. I have an old RCBS JR press that I have used since I began to reload; and it still works like new. Be sure to get carbide sizing dies for any straight wall cased cartridgtes-that is a must. They last much longer and you do not have to lube the cases if you don't want to. I have bullet molds for every caliber I reload. For the rifles, I have both gas check type molds as well as non-gas checked for very low velocity. You can load a 180 grain .308 to around 1400 fps with 14 grains of pistol power. Good enough for defense or in a survival mode-deer size game. If you shoot a lot of reduced cast bullets, keep a good supply of Unique powder. The Lyman cast reloading manual has Unique load data for nearly everything from .32 ACP to the mighty .460 Weatherby. You can probably find a good used press for reasonable. Good ones rarely wear out. I would probably opt for new dies-they can be damaged from neglect easily. Whenever I go to any shooting range, I always scrounge for empties. Many people just throw them away. Well that's my input.
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icerazor_h_plus 69p To all those who are commenting about the availability of components:

+2

-> 20k primers easily fits (in their own storage containers!) in a single CF of space. -> at 7000 Grains per lb of smokeless, storing 20k rounds of powder would fit in a large freezer. -> Junk lead casting (no hardening elements) works fine below ~1200 fps without gas checks. -> Straight-wall cases are easier to inspect, generally stronger, and often operate at lower pressure than bottlenecks. Additionally, after the world 'came back' somewhat, straight wall cases would be (Most likely) the first type reproduced. In the end, a true LIFETIME Supply of pistol, rifle, and shotgun supplies would fit quite easily into a van or suburban, and set up quite handily in a relatively small room. This is true whether talking about loaded Ammunition, or reloading. For Reloading though, building a suitable, outward blasting powder magazine, and separating powders out so that a fire or accident didn't level the building or ruin all your supplies would be much harder than selecting, purchasing, and using such a collection. Getting enough reloading supplies for a whole life lived after the collapse, is not as difficult as some are making it out to be. Much more serious than this, is the human condition of what if?! The idea that we should research alternative powders (IE Black Powder again) is a cool one, but ultimately not (IMO) practical except perhaps experimentally. The route that I am taking is to store up dead-tree books (as well as Gold Archive CD Media) on how both smokeless and black powder are made, how they are purified, and how they are graded. Still, if you are considering a situation where the world as we know it REALLY, TRULY, *IS* Ending, having adequate powder and primers are the least of our worries. (Yellowstone Eruption, Big-Space-Rock, or TGTNW mean that preserving the INFORMATION about how such things were / are done, measured, etc.... is much more important) Preparing for a 'Evil Fed wants my Rifle' Demi-Twawki scenarios is fairly easy, even if one only kept .22 LR & 12 Gauge Shot... Such a thing is temporary, if one is being realistic. Win or Lose.
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Reply

MethanP

+1

While reloading saves money, is fun, and permits custom ammo to take advantage of "your" firearms, it is not the best way to store components. Quality factory ammo is loaded under controlled conditions. Under ideal circumstances it can last 50+ years. Did you get body oil on your primers? What was the humidity when you loaded? Were you tired? I have never had any failure of any kind in any type of firearm with quality US, Canadian, or European ammo. I can not say that of other source military, Russian or Chinese ammo. I have also experienced failures with handloads (however rare) in semi-autos. Handloading is also time consuming. We are not talking of casting 50-100 lead bullets. In an emergency you may be rather busy.
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