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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ammunition Reloading a Necessary Survival Skill?

 Justin wrote to us to ask" "I have a nine millimeter handgun, a 38 special revolver and a 30-06 deer rifle with a scope as my SHTF weapons. I realize that this is not really adequate but I can't afford anything else right now. My questions are - How much ammunition for each would you consider a adequate ammo stockpile? I have a hard time finding ammunition and in the crunch I think it will be harder to find so should I learn to reload? Looking around it appears that I can start reloading my own ammunition for the guns I have for about a $100. Sincerely Justin."  

UrbanMan's reply: Justin, I know where you are coming from. I visited Wal-Mart a couple days ago and the only center fire ammunition they had on hand was 4 boxes of 6.8mm SPC and several boxes of .270. Knowing how to reload ammunition is a good skill. It requires tools, material and above all knowledge. I'll address these things first, then talk about where this skill fits in the survivalist's preparation for the collapse arsenal.

The basic reloading process is using a series of dies to re-move the spent primer and re-size the case; bell or expand the case mouth (to accept a bullet); seat a new primer; place a powder charge in the case; then seat and crimp a new bullet.

Reloading tools: These range from Lyman 310 hand tools and dies (around $120) - think of a pair of pliers with a die that will do one of the reloading functions a single case at a time. Another hand tool would be the Lee Loader (around $50) - this is what I first learned on. You will need a plastic mallet for the Lee Loader.

Both of these hand tools are compact and very useable. There are many videos on You Tube showing the basic process. A handy tool to have with any of these hand tools is an auto-primer tool where you can prime around 20 empty cases a minute.  The picture at left is the Lyman 310 hand tool and a set of dies. 

Buffalo Arms has Lyman 310 tools, visit them here.

You can step up to a single stage press that also does one case at a time albeit faster for around $225 counting a set of dies. The Daddy of re-loading is the progressive press with a turret that moves around with each pull of the lever and does all the functions - you just insert an empty case, pull the lever, ensure you have powder, primers and bullets filled up in their respective hoppers.

I don't think anyone makes them better than Dillon Precision. I own two of their smaller presses. You can pay anywhere from $300 to $2,000 for their re-loading presses. The picture at right is the basic Dillon Press.  Agfain all good equipment and Dillon offers much more on their website, including a subscription to their monthly catalog/newsletter.

Visit their website here - Dillon Precision.

There are a host of "make life easier" accessories for reloading. You could spend several hundred dollars on these if you were so inclined - things like powder scales, case trimmers, primer pocket cleaners, tumblers to clean brass, lube pads, etc.

Reloading Material: You need primers, powder and bullets to reload ammunition. This makes you dependent upon some manufacturer, distribution network and vendor. I have not reloaded any ammunition for years now, but my friends that still do tell me that reloading supplies are hard to come by. Storage of re-loading components is a little bit stricter than manufactured ammunition. Reloading components will be much harder to come by after a collapse and then you may not be bartering for material that has been stored correctly. It make be rotten like the jar of mayo in your Grandma's frig.

Sure you can learn how to make your own primer mix, powder mix and cast your own bullets, but I'd rather sit on a pungi stick than do this. And the results, meaning the ammunition - not the pungi stick,.... are probably going to be less than adequate.

Knowledge. The reloading learning curve is straight up. The more you reload the more problems you'll be exposed to and the more you will learn.  I think it is easy to teach someone how to reload on a basic tool and make them safe about. One of the biggest risks is the wrong measurement of powder. This is where scales come in and you would need a reloading book that lists the caliber, bullet weight and powder you are going to be using. Again, YouTube publishes many re-loading videos for your understanding and training. I would begin here to see the process.  

How Much Ammunition to Stockpile? Short answer is as much as you need and as much as you can afford. Sorry I can't give you answer based on numbers, but I will say that for my "obsolete or non-main rifles", such as .30-40 Krag, .30-30's, .30 carbine, and several others, I have between 300 to 1,200 rounds put away.  If you can buy one box, 20 rounds, of .30-06 each paycheck, then you may minimize the pain and soon have a good stockpile.

For your main "battle rifle or carbine" I would start at well over a thousand rounds. However, your .30-06 deer rifle, while a great caliber is not a battle rifle. I would highly consider a magazine fed rifle or carbine,....AR-15/M-16/M-4 family, AK or SKS series - something like this. 

Bottom Line. Yes, I think reloading is worth learning and having some hand tools to do so. But it would be behind other priorities of having adequate SHTF firearms, stocked ammunition, food, water, necessary survival gear and a host of other things.

Thanks for your question Justin - it was a good one. Be safe and prepare well.


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