My usual quota is 300 rounds in an evening but, starting about 2:00PM today and with two television breaks and another for dinner, I finished 1,000 rounds about 7:00PM. That includes setting the OAL (1.240″), crimp (0.469″) and throw (3.8 gr. Hodgdon’s Clays) for the 200 gr. LSWC X-Caliber 0.452″ bullets, pulling the crank to load them, and then boxing and labelling the result, and finally putting everything away and covering the machine. [Phew!]
Doing the math, I produced 200 rounds per hour. That’s not very fast.
But there are reasons for this, and they are very good reasons.
First of all, you don’t just start pulling the crank and turning out ammunition. Indeed, the first 30 minutes or so is setting everything up and checking the specifications. Today, for example, I had to increase the powder throw even though it was the same as when I last used the machine. Today was considerably warmer and, I assume, parts change size with the temperature. The throw had to be adjusted back up to the 3.8 grains I wanted.
And, in checking everything over, I found that the lock nut on the crimp die had worked loose. That had to be not only tightened, but then a test round made and measured and then the die adjusted, another test round made and then re-measured as well. And when all that was done, there were test rounds to be disassembled. Sure I could do that later but, nonetheless, it’s part of the time required to reload. It counts.
And at the end of the run. the leftover powder had to be removed and locked up. We have two grandchildren that run around here from time to time. The dangerous stuff has to be locked up every time. No excuses.
Normally the same “lock it up” would also be true of the primers but, with this run, I used them all up. [I just emailed Don, one of the club’s shooters who buys in bulk for club members, and asked if he had a sleeve of WLPs to sell and whether or not he could bring it to the 2700 on Sunday.]
Then, of course, the reloaded ammunition then has to be boxed, 50 per, and labelled with the date and load specifications so that, if something is later found to be wrong with the batch, it can all be identified.
Without the breaks and dinner, and subtracting the setup and cleanup, I was probably pulling the crank for two or three hours. That puts my production rate at 300 to 500 an hour, still below Dillon’s published rate for the 650.
But, you see, I’m not trying to beat the clock. This isn’t a race.
Instead, I’m trying to produce a very high quality round and in a very consistent manner. Bullseye shooters need good technique, yes, but they also need to do it in a highly repeatable manner. The ammunition needs to have those same qualities, accuracy and repeatability.
So when my production for five hours work is 1,000 rounds, that’s 1,000 rounds with a quality very close to if not better than what the major manufacturers achieve. More importantly, it’s the precise load that my wad gun shoots very accurately. The commercial manufacturers don’t make “my load.”
Crimp = 0.4695″
Reloading, if it weren’t for all the details that need to be monitored, could be very boring. But because a shell with too little powder is just as dangerous as one with too much — the former can leave a bullet stuck in the barrel which is then struck by the next bullet if you don’t catch it and wrecks the barrel, and the latter pretty much destroys the barrel too and possibly hurts the shooter — so there’s a lot to be watched on each and every round. I have all the Dillon bells and whistles for the available safety checks but I also look into each shell and eyeball the amount of powder before setting the bullet on top.
But it’s only fair to add that I enjoy shooting more than reloading.
Bullseye shooters reload for one reason — they can make the ammunition that’s absolutely the best for each of their guns and for each of the distances they need to shoot. Many have one load for the short line, 25 yards, and a different one for the long line, 50 yards. My shooting isn’t good enough to require that fine a tuning so I “get by” with the same load for both.
Shooters often start reloading thinking they will save money. And it is true that reloaded ammunition is significantly less expensive than what can be purchased in the store. My wad loads cost me about a dime each, mostly for the bullet. The brass gets used over and over so it becomes essentially free, and the cost of the powder and the primer are only a couple of cents. Commercially manufactured ammunition will, depending on brand and quality, cost 35 to 50 cents per bang, 3-5 times as much as my cost. Of course, I’m doing the labor and that “cost” should be factored in except I enjoy it so it’s more a labor of love than a chore.
And there’s the initial investment, too. Quality reloading equipment is, well, you get what you pay for. I have the best equipment for hobby reloaders, and I’ve added almost all of the optional features especially those for safety, and I’m very pleased with what I’ve got.
I initially rationalized that the savings would pay for the equipment. I estimated it would take about a year for that to happen.
But I forgot the human element because, while it is cheaper to reload, shooters soon find that with the availability of more economical ammunition, they shoot more.
In the final analysis, most shooters shoot as much as they can afford. They have X dollars per month that can be spent on shooting and if they reload, those dollars make more rounds of ammunition available during the month.
And that’s certainly been true for me.
So, do I save money by reloading?
That depends on how you measure it.
If it’s dollars per month, then the answer is “No” because I’m spending, over the year, just about the same as when I used to purchase pre-made ammunition at the store. I just didn’t shoot as much.
On the other hand, if you measure potential savings in “cents per round” and amortize the cost of the equipment over a year or so, then “Yes”, reloading does save money.
But again, the “human element” has to be factored in.
You see, my reloaded ammunition seems even cheaper because I buy the raw parts in bulk, and most significantly, rarely.
OAL = 1.240″
For example, when I buy 5,000 bullets for nearly $400, you can bet I feel the draft as that money flies out of my wallet but when I then put those ten boxes in the storage cabinet and wait a month, the pain of that expense is soon forgotten. Indeed after a month or so, those bullets are still just sitting in my storage cabinet along with all the other “stuff” that’s been there, some of it for years. And I don’t have to spend a cent to use any of that stuff. It’s all just sitting there waiting for me.
The same thing happens with primers purchased a sleeve at a time (I don’t remember if that’s 5,000 or 10,000) and powder bought eight pounds at a time. By the time I get around to using those supplies, I will have forgotten the expense.
I don’t shoot nearly as much as I would like. Indeed, if I could shoot more often, I’d progress up the ranks of the NRA rating system much faster. But, alas, my work simply doesn’t allow me to do that.
Today’s 1,000 rounds will last me anywhere from two to four months depending on whether I’m able to work in some practice and competitions with my business travels. And because most of my travel is to the northeast part of the US where shooters move to indoor ranges for the winter, most of those ranges permit only 22 caliber ammunition so today’s 45 ACP wad reloads may last even longer (because I won’t be able to shoot it).
Regardless, I’d like to work in another day of reloading before work resumes on the 5th when I fly to Houston for the week, back for a week, then round out the month with Houston again followed by Long Island. (I haven’t found any Bullseye in either location so, other than the one week here, I may do very little shooting in January.)
But by the time February rolls around, all this ammunition will be “free”.
Hooray, free ammo!