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Reloads vs. Factory Ammo

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Shawnee, Sep 5, 2008.

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  1. Shawnee

    Shawnee member

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    Since Forever the gunners' "conventional Wisdom" has been that the reloader can produce ammo that leaves the "factory stuff" in the dirt. That bit of "Wisdom" has sold an insanely HUGE amount of reloading equipment, powder, primers and "special" bullets - to me - and I shudder to think how much to the rest of the nation.

    It's true that - for almost any given caliber - the person who reloads often has more bullet choices than the person who doesn't reload.

    It's also true that if the bulletmakers put out 47 "different" 100-grain .243 bullets - die-hard reloaders will immediately buy at least one box of each (wave at the cash register now) to determine "which one shoots best in my rifle" - nevermind that all, or most of, them shoot 3 times more accurately than a hunter needs.

    It's also true that - for any given caliber - the reputable ammo makers usually produce a choice of bullets in their ammo that will serve the entire range of what a person would be likely to do with that caliber.

    It's also true that the reputable companies have figured out how to make very, very good ammo - ammo that is usually more accurate than a hunter needs it to be.

    Like a great many reloaders gorged with gun-zine "conventional Wisdom", I used to feel a bit smug toward people who depended on factory ammo for their hunting. I thought of them as some type of woefully under-informed peasants who did not realize that one cannot fire a rifle unless one has developed eleven different armadillo (or deer or Elk) loads.... all specialized based on relative humidity, hemispheric variables and the Zodiac.

    But I got my attitude corrected when I worked Saturdays and Sundays, for 12 weeks, doing nothing but sitting at a bench sighting in peoples' rifles with factory ammo, daylight to dark. I'd guess it was about 20 rifles a day - any caliber and any model and any factory ammo (often Walmart "on-sale" stuff) handed to me. I came to realize three really valuable facts about ammo.


    * The quality of factory ammo from reputable ammo makers - at least for the more common calibers - is usually top-notch - and is so in many makes and models of rifles.

    * Good factory ammo for many calibers can be bought in many small stores in most rural (hunting) areas - but my special reloads canNOT.

    * The % of hunters/shooters who depend on factory ammo is HUGE.


    One of my neighbors has a .223, two .22/250s, a .243, a .25/06, and a 7mm Rem. Mag. He has common factory ammo that will shoot sub-MOA for each of them, and except for the .25/06, he has at least two factory loads that will do so in each. For the .22/250, the .243 and the 7mag. - he has at least two factory loads for each that will shoot close enough to the same P.O.I. that they are virtually interchangeable in the hunting fields. As he puts it: "How much more accuracy and so-called "versatility" do I need - and how much reloading money and time would I have to spend before I could duplicate what I already have?"

    A most Excellent point.

    Another very good point he makes is that; if he shoots a deer DRT with a 100gr. Hornady bullet today - why should he use a different bullet/load tomorrow?

    Though my neighbor has shot about 25-30 deer a year for a decade or so on agricultural damage permits, he obviously hasn't read enough gun-zines.

    :cool:
     
  2. Jason M

    Jason M Member

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    Despite the fact that Winchester white box soft points will take a miriad of game just as well as many of the "special" off-the-shelf ammo you can buy (like Federal match-grade stuff), the fact remains that you can load "specialty" match-grade loads at home for roughly the cost of cheap Winchester white box ammo. High end Remington, Winchester, Federal and Hornady factory ammunition starts at about $30 or $35 and goes up from there. It is laughable to buy .308 for $45 a box--plain laughable.

    Also, with factory ammunition, you have no velocity choices, but with reloads/handloads, you do. If a .30cal bullet at 2400fps will kill a deer as well as one at 2800fps inside of 300 yards, then why punish yourself with more recoil? Load it down to 2400fps.

    On the other hand, I am about to see just what factory ammunition can really do. My FN PBR will hopefully get to the range this weekend and I will be shooting factory ammo to begin with. This rifle is suppose to be a tack driver, even with factory rounds. We'll see. But don't get me wrong, I will still reload ammo for it.

    Jason
     
  3. Bwana John

    Bwana John Member

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    You forgot about the part where I can shoot reloads for less than 1/3 the cost of factory ammo.

    So I get to shoot more.

    I put 2-5 round downrange for big-game per year depending on my luck at the drawings.

    We dont even want to talk about the rounds downrange per year "just to shoot" (wifey might be looking on, I claim the right of no self-incrimination).

    Thats why I reload.
     
  4. Bear2000

    Bear2000 Member

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    I think, with all due respect, your friend misses one point about reloading - it's a hobby. Sure, a lot of time and money goes into it (although you do end up saving pretty quickly, particularly on rifle ammunition), but I think most people reload because they enjoy it.
     
  5. ny32182

    ny32182 Member

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    I don't know about the hunting, but as far as plinking ammo for my AR15s, the cheap factory stuff doesn't even come close to the accuracy of my handloaded plinking rounds that cost about the same. To get factory ammo that shoots as well as my handloads, I'd need to be spending ~75cents a pop or more... Fine if you are shooting a couple boxes a year hunting, but adds up fast of you are shooting more.

    So... depends on the application I guess. Since I started handloading I've found the reverse to be true: I can barely find a reason to ever buy factory rifle ammo in large bulk again. The exception to that would be closer range 3-gun type shooting where good accuracy isn't needed or noticeable.
     
  6. ilbob

    ilbob Member

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    Many firearms exhibit far better accuracy if you tune the load to the rifle. if accuracy is important to you, reloading is a big deal. Shooting reloads is also much cheaper than the equivalent factory ammo.

    But for most hunters neither is an important issue as factory ammo gives them adequate accuracy and they typically don't shoot enough that cost is an issue.

    I know a fair number of deer hunters around here that only let off maybe half a dozen rounds a year.
     
  7. db_tanker

    db_tanker Member

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    I have to agree with the previous posters responses...


    I like to reload ammo simply as it gives me quiet time (I don't run my tumbler while I do other things...I turn it on and then leave the house...) with my Lab. She likes to watch me from her bed. Sometimes she comes and keeps my feet warm.

    The accuracy issue is important as well. I have a pair of old enfields that shoot like a dream when I load up cast and seat 'em out a bit with a light load of powder. My 45-70 would be a bit pricey...and my 416 Taylor? Forget it...I can load it up at about 1.25 per round...instead of paying 60-100 dollars for a box of 20...eh, no.

    Everyone has their reason...I like to tinker with stuff like that.

    MTCW
    D
     
  8. stubbicatt

    stubbicatt Member

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    Plus when all goes right, reloading is a lot of fun in its own right.
     
  9. Shawnee

    Shawnee member

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    Yep - reloading and centerfire paper-punching are hobbies - mucho fun ones - but the lesson I learned is they aren't everyone's hobbies or even a very large % of everyone's hobbies.

    Yep - reloading centerfire rifle cartridges can enable a shooter to shoot more often for the same (or less) cost than using factory ammo. But as my neighbor is quick to point out - paper-punching and plinking with a .22 rimfire can be done at a cost-per-cartridge that no reloader of any centerfire can hope to get even close to.

    Reloading is a fun hobby and can produce good ammo and good cost savings. But I gotta say - there is also most definitely a rightfully huge demand for good factory ammo.... and much of today's factory ammo is easily up to snuff.

    :cool:
     
  10. freakshow10mm

    freakshow10mm member

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    There is a stark difference between hunters and shooters. Shooters don't buy factory ammo. They roll their own. It's a subculture within the gun community.

    Most hunters buy a box of ammo every 2-3 years, put 2-3 rounds down range the day before opening day to see if they can even hit the target. If they can, they are sighted in and call it good. They shoot a deer at 30y with one shot and their season is over. Gun goes in the safe until the same time next year when they do it all over again.
     
  11. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    Shawnee's points in his opening post are indeed well-put.

    The thing is, that's to a great extent a recent phenomenon. Back some sixty-ish years ago, the situation was quite different.

    Many of today's bullet makers didn't exist. Or powder manufacturers. Factory choices were limited.

    One aspect of "perception": It was conventional wisdom that one's handloads, in and of themselves, could readily be more accurate than factory loads. Generalizing somewhat, given that I bought into that idea in those early years, most of us hadn't considered the issue of "tuning" ammo to a particular rifle. "Sorta", maybe, but mostly we were snobbish. :)

    Given stock bedding and quality of machining, comparing then and now, my guess is that there has been a world of improvement in both knowledge and technology. We understand more about bedding and barrel harmonics, and we have more precise equipment for making barrels.

    FWIW, if a "Rifleman's Rifle", the pre-'64 Model 70, gave groups under two MOA, folks were content. Under 1.5 MOA, very happy. Under one MOA? Go to bragging all around the gunshop.

    Nowadays? If a rifle WON'T get down around one MOA or better, folks go to complaining.

    Times change. It's just a crying shame to lose names like DuPont & Neymours, retailing IMR 3031 for $1.25 a pound. :D

    Art
     
  12. FLORIDA KEVIN

    FLORIDA KEVIN Member

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    I dont have a centerfire rifle , however I handload for my .357 magnum revolver and my .454 casull revolver . In the last year I shot about 800 rounds through the .357 and 1100 rounds through the .454 Most of the .454 was using cheaper cast and coated bullets and in bullet weights that are not available from any factory that I know of . The premium hunting ammo that I produce would cost nearly $1.80 per shot if I bought them from a factory ! i have saved a bunch of money and got to shoot a whole lot more for my money !
     
  13. Shawnee

    Shawnee member

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    Good point about ammo for handguns, "FloridaKevin"!

    Even the common hunting calibers like .357, 44 mag., and the 454 are real good candidates for handloaders. And if ever there was someone who can benefit from reloading it has to be the hunter using a centerfire Contender handgun.

    :cool:
     
  14. JustsayMo

    JustsayMo Member

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    Reloading isn't for everyone but there are benefits beyond the obvious accuracy and economy. As others have stated it is fun to reload and it also makes shooting more fun. The rewards of developing accurate loads and harvesting game with ammo you have created ups the grin factory exponentially . Personal involvement with the process greatly enriches the experience.

    In a way its sort of like buying meat at the store compared to hunting. Hunting is WAY more fun.
     
  15. Crow1108

    Crow1108 Member

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    Here's how I see it:

    1000 small rifle primers for my .223=30 bucks
    1000 55 grain FMJ BT bullets=80 bucks
    4 lbs of varget= $85
    Brass=Free

    That equates out to be $195, for rounds that are just as accurate as the M193 everyone buys in cases of a thousand for anywhere between 300 and 400 bucks. I like to shoot my AR alot, but my budget of play money is limited, so reloading helps alot. It also gives me another hobby. You'd be surprised how many of the little things affect accuracy. It really gives more of an appreciation of shooting.
     
  16. ny32182

    ny32182 Member

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    That is almost exactly what I pay for componets, and my loads with that same bullet shoot much more accurately in my guns than factory M193.
     
  17. HM2PAC

    HM2PAC Member

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    I reload because I can get premium ammo results for less than bulk ammo cost.

    That, and I'm a bit of a control freak.:what:
     
  18. frankd4

    frankd4 Member

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    5000 Wolf Primers 89$
    5000 LC 55GR bullets 389$
    8LB of WCC844 98$
    thats 5000 rounds for 576$
    Ammo that chronos at 3,040FPS that isway better then wolf .223 thats why.
     
  19. strat81

    strat81 Member

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    Wait, is the OP complaining about the glut of choices shooters have?

    You can reload to maximize accuracy, economy, or terminal effects. Some folks really do have a lot of time and their hands. Some calibers are not readily available or are prohibitively expensive. Some calibers are not even available. Good luck finding M1-safe hunting ammo.

    Sometimes reloading enables a hunter to feel more ethical about the shot. Some calibers are just satisfactory for certain animals. By reloading, better accuracy might be achieved which could mean the difference between a clean kill and a suffering animal.
     
  20. aka108

    aka108 Member

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    All depends. Some hunters may fire less than 100 rds a year. No need to reload. Some shooters will do more than that in a week. Reloading is economical. There are times when good surplus ammo is available for nearly as inexpensive as you can reload (in some calibers). If the cost difference is just a few cents, I'll buy as opposed to reloading.
     
  21. benzy2

    benzy2 Member

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    The .22 point is valid to certain people. The most accurate loads I have shot from a .223 cost 24 cents a shot. The most accurate .22lr loads I have shot cost $15/50 or 30 cents a shot. If you are truly trying to punch paper with the .22lr it gets a bit pricey, relatively. I will say there is a lot to say about a days worth of fun in bulk pack for under $20. It has taken the bulk of my shooting time. When I shoot paper though things go a bit the other way and both 100 yard accuracy and cost are better with a .223.

    The real difference I see here is between shooters and hunters. For hunters reloading doesn't pay off. They don't shoot enough each year to ever cover their cost in reloading equipment and even if they do they rarely enjoy the time spent making ammo. A shooter will spend time searching for the "perfect load" and find it a good use of time. The cost savings to a shooter adds up very quickly and factory ammo rarely matches either cost or performance. I certainly see the beauty in buying factory ammo if you don't shoot that much. Reloading to me is time consuming and something I would skip, or at least do faster, if I could afford to. As is the only way I can shoot as much of what I want is to reload with cheap relatively cheap equipment. I can get accurate ammo or quickly made ammo but not both. I like accurate ammo so reloading takes a lot of my time up.

    While I may see no other way than to reload I know quite a few others that reloading would be a waste for and I can respect the fact they have no interest in reloading.
     
  22. CRITGIT

    CRITGIT member

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    Yeah that............ and it's a very rewarding and enjoyable pursuit.

    CRITGIT
     
  23. Shawnee

    Shawnee member

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    The OP (me) isn't "complaining" about either reloads or factory ammo - just pointing out that advice about calibers ought to recognize and respect that the majority of hunters are not going to reload. For example...

    ... if someone said to me: "I want to get a rifle in 7mm caliber for deer and maybe Elk but I don't want to bother with reloading - what should I get? My advice would be to get a 7mm/08 - simply because I know there is factory ammo for that caliber that is very, very good.

    ...but if someone asked me the same question indicating that they also love to reload, I would suggest they look at the 7x57 Mauser because factory stuff for it is often underloaded and reloading can enable users of that cartridge to take good advantage of all the excellent 7mm bullets available. They would have a great hunting rifle and also a whale of a lot of fun playing with the load development.

    To me, it's Major Dumb to recommend a cartridge like the 7x57 or .284 Winchester or 6.5 Remington to someone who doesn't want to get into reloading even though those are all good cartridges.

    :cool:
     
  24. KBintheSLC

    KBintheSLC Member

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    Good post. For some folks, reloading is a good way to save money and shoot more. For me, it is not worth the time it takes to reload based on my hourly wage vs. the amount of money I save. The math just does not add up.

    I believe that the other main reason for reloading is that it gives you better, and more consistent control over ballistic performance out of your particular gun. You could spend endless piles of cash and time trying to find the perfect factory load for your particular rifle, or you can create the perfect load for your rifle.

    Me on the other hand, I am not a sniper in the military, and my rifles are plenty good with factory ammo for hunting with. Also, as mentioned before, it does not make financial sense to reload... I'd be better served by spending those hours at work and buying ammo. Thats why I don't reload.

    I know a lot of folks that swear by it though.
     
  25. benzy2

    benzy2 Member

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    The only problem with reloading savings vs your hourly rate is that your free time isn't paid. If you look at reloading as work then yes it isn't often worth what you would be paid at your current position. If you look at it the same as watching TV or going shooting then you wouldn't be paid for that time anyways. Free time has its value and to everyone it is different. For someone working 70 hours a week making big bucks the monetary value of free time may be very high making reloading not worth it. To someone with a lot of free time or who enjoys the process it certainly is a different ball game. I do like the fact that I am experimenting a bit trying to find a better load. To me it is as good of a way to spend time as sitting here surfing the net is.

    If that isn't you and reloading isn't for you I understand totally. I can see not wanting to reload and wanting to buy factory ammo. It certainly isn't something I can call a bad move if its what you want. I at least somewhat enjoy reloading and as such don't see it as something to value like work would be. If you do again I fully understand and have no issues at all. As long as you are doing the shooting you are happy with its fine with me.
     
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