Live Hunt: Three Reasons You Should Hand Load Your Hunting Rifle

Even with a virtually unlimited variety of available factory loads, hand loading is becoming more popular than ever, and with good reason. I have been shooting hand loads almost exclusively in my hunting and match rifles for years now and I don’t know how I could ever go back. Here are three major benefits to crunching your own brass and some tips to help you get started.

Cost: Getting started can seem pretty daunting, but in the long run you will save quite a bit of money. You can pick up a reloading kit like RCBS's rock chucker supreme kit for around $320, and that leaves dies, brass, bullets, primers, and powder for each individual cartridge. This seems like a lot, but many common factory loads are running over $30 or $40 per box. If you shoot a lot, or want to load for multiple calibers, the equipment quickly pays for itself.

Accuracy: Although the precision of modern factory ammo is improving all the time, it is almost always possible to get better accuracy out of a rifle by using customized hand loads. Rifle accuracy is subject to quite a few variables including bullet type, powder type and charge, brass and seating depth.

Because of this, factory ammunition is often lacking in its accuracy in some rifles, and it can take a small fortune finding a load that does shoot well. Reloading allows you to test different loads, bullets, and other variables relatively inexpensively. Most of my hunting rifles will only shoot about 1 to 1 ½ inch groups at 100 yards, but I have been able to work loads that narrow them down to ¾-inch groups or better.

Practice: Another benefit to reloading is simply getting more time behind the trigger. Rather than putting the 5 or 10 rounds through your rifle once a year to get sighted in for hunting season, you will be shooting much more while working up loads. In my experience, the best thing a hunter can do to improve his or her shooting is to put rounds down range. Also, I recommend getting a chronograph.

RCBS makes an affordable, self contained chrono called the Ammomaster. I use this once I find loads that I consider accurate enough. This chrono will record your shot data and give average and standard deviation velocities, among others. Not only does this allow you to use a ballistics calculator to show your trajectory, it gives you an idea of how consistent your velocities which is a big factor in accuracy at longer ranges.

Whether it’s fresh out of the box, or a cherished old hunting rifle, hand loading can bring your preparation to a whole new level. It gives a certain cool feeling of accomplishment when you harvest an animal with ammunition that you crunched out with your own hard work.

If you have any comments or questions about reloading, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.