Top 5 Reasons to Handload or Reload Ammo

We’ve all seen the pictures on social media — a gun with a barrel peeled like a banana or a pistol with the slide sheared off. In those instances, the cause is most likely poorly reloaded ammo. Thanks to the way we tend to see worst-case scenarios online, many gun owners avoid handloading of any kind. After all, you wouldn’t want to risk damaging your gun — or yourself, right? Handloads and reloads are actually a good thing, though, and we’re going to explain our top five reasons to handload or reload ammo. By the time we’re through, we think you’ll be shopping for a reloading press.

dillon handload and reloading press
Handloading and reloading are well worth it. (Photo credit: Dillon Precision)

Handloading Allows for Greater Precision

One reason precision and long-range shooters often handload is the ability to dial in loads for superior precision on target. When you’re handloading, you can make the necessary changes to create the ideal round for a specific gun. While this might seem like it only applies to participants in PRS (Precision Rifle Series), super-accurate shots should be everyone’s goal. After all, the best results possible are important for everyone from hunters to long-range shooters. You might be surprised what your rifle — and you — can really do with hand-loaded ammunition.

How great a difference in precision are we talking about? While some might only see minor improvements in an already-precise rifle, others see an occasional sub-MOA rifle become sub-half-MOA. Sometimes it’s even more dramatic.

Handloads Let You Use Unique Cartridges

When handloading, you can utilize some of the boutique and otherwise hard-to-locate cartridges out there. This includes hard-to-find factory ammunition and some loads that flat-out can’t be bought from the factory. While this might not seem like a big deal if you prefer commonly available cartridges, there are still instances in which it might end up applying to you.

Ammo shortages are real and happen periodically. Sometimes it’s a common rimfire like 22 LR with others being the basics such as 9mm and 223 Remington. Those aren’t boutique cartridges, but they sometimes vanish from shelves or become hard to stock up on. That’s why reloading isn’t only for the unique cartridges; it’s really for all of them. You never know when your currently popular cartridge will become obsolete or sold out for unknown lengths of time. There are also plenty of instances where the exact combination of case and bullet isn’t available, so handloading is the only way you’re going to get it. More options to keep your gun fed is always a good thing.

spent brass
When reloading ammo, spent brass becomes something you can use again instead of trash. (Photo credit: Smith Werder)

Reloading Lets You Use Spent Brass

The phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” was never truer than when reloading. All that spent brass people toss into the trash or leave littering the ground is valuable to a reloader. Someone who reloads and knows how to inspect, clean, and size brass has a practically endless supply of potential ammo. Doesn’t that sound fantastic?

Here’s the thing about reloads. They get a bad rap due to occasionally annihilated guns finding their way onto social media. However, if you know what you’re doing, there’s nothing wrong with reloading. Ignoring the load data entirely or using cases that should never have been reused are common reasons for reload-related failures. Of course, there is one warning worth giving for reloads.

While I will forever champion the proper use of reloaded ammo, I generally won’t touch anyone else’s reloads (or handloads). Unless the person in question is someone you’re confident takes care of their loads and knows what they’re doing, it’s not worth the risk. This might seem counter to the advice that reloads can be great, but it’s really not. This point emphasizes reloading must be done correctly. A pile of reloads from some random dude at the range or your buddy with his first Lee reloading press is a lot higher risk than reloads or handloads made by a close friend who’s made a career of it. So, reloads? Yes! Reloads passed over by someone of unknown skill or attention to detail? No.

Handloads Teach You About Ammo

There’s a lot to be said for having a more in-depth knowledge of ammunition. Although there might not seem to be much to it, understanding the components and how they work — and why certain changes can benefit you — is important. In fact, you might be surprised by how many gun owners don’t truly understand the different bullet types and their pros and cons.

Beyond the basics, it’s useful and interesting to learn about different powders and how a properly seated bullet should look. It’s also easy to go down the rabbit hole of load data and start figuring out how nuances change things up. Fine-tuning can also help you choose better factory ammo (yes, really) because you’ll understand it better. Load development is important, and the time invested turns you into a better shooter. Guns are purpose-driven and so is ammunition, so it’s helpful to know — and get — exactly what you need.

reloading kit
You can get started reloading with just the basics. (Photo credit: Task and Purpose)

Handloads are More Consistent

Factory ammunition generally has greater deviations in velocity and energy than handloads. Those deviations mean less precision and more difficulty getting excellent results through no fault of your own. Sure, your skills come into play, but factory loads just aren’t made for hand load-level consistency. Remember, we’re not talking about consistent cycling, we’re talking about ballistics and the resulting accuracy and precision of consistent ballistics.

Should You Handload or Reload?

There’s a definite investment in getting set up to handload or reload ammunition. You need all manner of machines and tools — and the components themselves — to get started. That means no, you can’t really claim it’s a money-saving practice; at least not at first. Eventually, it might lead to saved money, or at least an equal amount. However, the setup period can get pricey. Even so, handloading is a great thing to add to your gun-related repertoire.

Aside from getting a greater understanding of how your ammunition works and the chance to dial in a load specifically for your favorite gun, handloading is fun. It’s an enjoyable indoor activity that lets you focus on some basic details in a way that can be relaxing. Of course, you also get the pride of loading your own ammo.

Do you do your own handloads or reloads? Share your reason why in the comments.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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