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Reloading Restart (Part One) [Radio Interview]

Posted on 26 August 2010 by Cork Graham

Introduced to reloading by my father as a young teen in the late 1970s, wanting to best improve the accuracy of my first bolt-action biggame rifle, a 7mm Remington Magnum Model 700 BDL, I created my first hunting loads customized to that rifle. Aside from years overseas, I returned to reload again in the early 1990s. Then, in 1994, I became an outdoor writer, writing a weekly column for the pre-ANG buy out The Times of San Mateo County, and all my reloading experience basically went out the window.

As you might imagine, when you become a gun writer or hunting writer, you get a lot of ammo to test, and I mean A LOT. It gets pretty crazy with all the bullet grains, powder charges…one who follows the belief that you pick a good load and bullet and really learn how to shoot it well, my shooting success plummeted…though on many more hunts than I’d ever gone as an average hunter, game was getting scarce in my freezer.

Now it was definitely not from want of accuracy from the ammunition I was getting to shoot. For one who was trained and deployed as a sniper, it was just all the variations in cartridges within a week. One of the reasons snipers can seem almost magical in the types of shots that can be pulled off is because of a deep relationship you form with your rifle, understanding how your body acts and reacts to the process of shooting and the deep knowledge gained from shooting a certain load: over, over, and over again.

With all the improvements in factory-loaded ammunition over the years, except for the very fine-tuning of taking a rifle from under 1MOA to half or quarter MOA, factory ammo was shooting nearly as well as my reloads. I just started making shorter shots, keeping them less than 350 yards. But, now that I’m writing more and more to show the efficacy of ethical long-range shooting as a tool of wildlife management and conservation, custom reloading is mandatory for long shots.

You can get match ammo, such as that made for the military and law enforcement, but they come with bullet types inappropriate for anything other then puncturing a military/law enforcement target’s armor or exploding the back end of said target’s melon.

If you want to get better than 1/2 MOA accuracy to ethically and confidently take long shots, or just be sure that you rifle is shooting the absolute best load for that specific rifle in your gun safe, and have a bullet designed for taking down game, reloading is the way to go!

Forgotten Fears

Like getting on a bike after way too many years, all those parental warnings about reloading (rightfully taught so that you don’t get lazy and do something really stupid, like loading a double charge of powder) came rushing back. But, like all warnings, these are just to make sure that you pay attention when you’re reloading.

That’s means no smoking or drinking. It means that when you’re reloading, no TV in the background or for some, not even any music that might put you into a too relaxed state of trance remembering you’re girlfriend or boyfriend that you were dating when you first heard the song—when you should be paying full attention to what you’re doing at the reloading bench…

No Distractions!

Do that, and read the latest reloading manual to refresh your memory, or get you started, and you’ll do all right…

Nothing worse for fine powders than a greasy, unkempt platform…

Keep It Clean

Remember that your reloading success is based on non-variations within load groups. This means not only making sure you keep a consistency within a group of loads, bullets sizes, shapes and age of brass. It also means keeping your work area clean. Nothing throws off continuity and consistency than a dirty work place.

This means keeping clutter down. When you setup your area, make sure everything is going to be in the same neat place. I have my workstation set up to work from right to left.

Measuring devices and powder are on the left side of the surface area, in the middle are the cartridge trays and primers, and the bullets are on the right, near the reloading press.

Most all make sure that all grease and particle-collecting material is removed from the equipment. For example, Robin Sharpless, Exec. VP at Redding-Reloading, advises to take some Hoppe’s to the metal inside area of the powder throw that will come in contact with your gunpowder. Wipe it down with a clean paper towel again.

For the plastic tube run a dryer sheet, yes, the same one for your laundry, through it. This will keep the static down, and keep powder form sticking to the insides of the tube.

Keep your whole working area, neat and clean.

With all the dies available, it’s time to bring out the old rifle you didn’t think you could get ammo for!

Money Savings

Many become reloaders because they want to reduce costs. This is especially true now as litigation by anti-gun and anti-hunting organizations add to the pricing of ammunition, either through outright increased taxation and legal defense fees. Or, as in the Condor Range of California, by requiring non-lead ammunition, much more expensive to produce when production costs are kept down by product conformity: changing between copper jacketed projectiles and non-lead production, and even coming up with new non-lead alternatives is costly just in itself.

It all comes down to money in this society, and it’s good when reloading can lead to savings. According to RCBS Product Line Manager Kent Sakamoto and Chris Hodgdon, Public Relations Manager at Hodgdon Powders, the savings can run up as much as 40 percent.

As Sakamoto says, there are savings to be made, but what happens is that you end up spending the same amount, it’s just that you get much more for your money. Instead of 100 rounds, you get to shoot 140 rounds.

Personally, I’m in it for the accuracy and it helps that the savings are definitely there!


What About My Old Stuff?

My start began with a classic Lee Handloader, then we graduated to a mishmash of RCBS and Lyman presses and accessories. The greatest trepidation in getting back into reloading often is that much of the equipment would be so outdated that it won’t fit or work with any of the new releases.

As long as you stay with the same manufacturer, this isn’t the case. You should be able to use the new accessories or major purchases with the older equipment. Not only that, but you might even be able to use equipment across brand lines.

This hit home when I realized that I didn’t have a Redding shell holder, but the RCBS shell holder served the purpose in a heartbeat.

Now many in the manufacturing business might think this is nuts—how are you going to make any money if some products are interchangeable with another? As one who has been furious with a number of printer manufacturers over the years, because they always want to corner the printer ink market (what are you going to do when you can find the specific ink cartridge for your specific printer is no longer available, as often has happened?)  I’m a loyal customer of companies who simply rely on turning out a great product and just leave it to the customer to respect a customer/provider relationship based on longevity nurtured by reliability.

It’s an old relationship started with RCBS years ago, and now being nurtured through Redding-Reloading, whose great line of products of also speak for themselves. They build products that work efficiently and you can trust not to fall apart after only a few years of use. Most importantly, they understand and respect the idea of product compatibility….wouldn’t it be cool if every shotgun had the same thread and fit, so that canyou  focus on the best choke for your shotgun and duty, instead of what’s available to fit your specific brand of firearm?

STARS AND STRIPE FOUNDATION SIDE NOTE: As you may recall from last week’s post, I was on my way to the Stars and Stripes Foundation Celebrity Shoot. The Chuck Mawhinney-signed sniper’s rifle kit is still being raffled HERE.

Vietnam and Hollywood Veteran Steve Kanaly and CSM Mark Christianson checking out the Chuck Mawhinney-signed longrange tactical kit with matching serials numbers.

More Worthwhile Information

Below you’ll find two strings of interviews with representatives of RCBS and Hodgdon Powders. There is another great interview in part two of this article with Redding-Reloading. It’s worthwhile information for getting back into reloading after a long hiatus. And if you’re just thinking of getting into reloading, I’m sure you’ll gain a lot more from listening to these specialists.

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy RCBS Kent Sakamoto and Hodgdon Powders Chris Hodgdon’s interviews on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:


 Continue to Part Two to listen to Redding-Reloading’s Robin Sharpless, after listening to the informative interviews below on this page: view Part Two

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