It’s been a while since a “Why I…” post, and given the amount of reloading I’ve been doing in the past few weeks, it’s about time to tackle this subject. Now, I’ll go on record right now saying it’s not imperative to reload if you are to be a bonafide gun guy or gal. It’s just not. A lot of people are perfectly happy shooting factory ammo, buying what they need and shooting it. I’m totally fine with that. Especially if I can have your brass!
Like a lot of things gun-related, I have been wanting to reload for a long time. I remember talking with my brother years ago about our dream to live on a big “compound” with a shared barn/workshop that would be kitted out with some totally rad reloading set up. As we currently reside in different states, that dream is on hold. But I didn’t see a reason to let that keep me from learning the process.
Before we go much farther, I want to issue the following caveat: Regardless of what I say in this post that you may interpret in a way unindented by me, always start out with published load data from a reputable source. A reputable source is either a powder/bullet manufacturer’s website or a loading manual. Take all other recipes you find on the web with a giant chunk of salt. I want to be clear on this because what I’m about to say may lead someone to believe that you can just make this stuff up. Don’t. Follow published load data. Always. OK? Ok.
The Artist and The Engineer
I’m a bit of a weirdo. Anyone who knows me knows that. I have a strong engineering streak running through me, which explains my current career path. However, I also have an artistic side. I love audio system design, but I also love to mix the music on that well-designed system. I’m pretty good at engineering a video system, but I’ve also won more than a dozen awards for creating videos. For me, it’s both/and.
And that’s what appeals to me about the reloading process. I love the precision that goes into it. I love the science of tracking the data, studying it and figuring out what to try next. I love all the tools and pieces parts that fit together. But I also love the art of component selection; trying to decide which powder to try with which bullet for which gun (keeping in mind the above caveat—always stick with published load data). It’s fun for me to study my data, read the loading manuals, watch a bunch of Youtube videos and figure out what is the next step in the quest for accuracy and consistency. It’s engineering and it’s art.
I also enjoy the mystery of it, which I think appeals to my artist side. Art is mysterious; what makes one painting take your breath away while another one is just meh? In reloading, it would seem there should be a correlation between standard deviation in velocity and accuracy. But there doesn’t. Usually. Not always. Sometimes…
Yesterday, I watched a video on Johnny’s Reloading Bench—one of my favorite Youtube channels—and he was testing crimp strength. He thought, as did I, that a heavier crimp would raise velocities and have some impact on accuracy. Spoiler alert—he found no such thing. That’s a mystery.
It’s been fun trying to figure out a load that each of my various guns likes. I dialed in on a load for my IDPA gun pretty quickly. However, the ones I worked up for my 1911 Commander in .45 ACP were a disaster. That challenge is what keeps me coming back. And even when I find a load that works, like my 122 grain Acme Bullet over some N320 for IDPA, I’m pretty sure there is another one out there that’s better. So it’s off to the store to buy another pound of another powder to see what happens.
There are times when it doesn’t work out, but there are also times when it does. When you put 5 rounds into a single hole at 100 yards, it feels pretty good. When you were the one that loaded that ammo, painstakingly selecting the components from the vast wilderness of pieces available, assembling them consistently perfectly, that feels really good.
I remember the first time I rung steel at 300 yards with rounds I loaded myself. I’m pretty sure I was grinning all the way home. When I measured that .391” group at 100 yards, well, I was pretty pleased with that.
On top of all that, there’s something very relaxing to loading ammo. It’s a very mechanical process in a highly digital world. As I spend most of my days staring at two giant 27” displays, I find it soothing to actually handle some brass, weigh out charges, seat bullets and measure the finished product. I actually even enjoy preparing the brass. In a world that is going crazy, it’s really nice to take a bunch of precision components and assemble them into a precision cartridge.
So, there you go. That’s why I reload. When I started, I thought I was going to save money. But as one of the guys at IDPA says, “Saving money is what we tell our wives we’re doing.” I suppose someday after I’ve covered all the costs for the equipment with per round savings I will be. But for now, it’s just plain fun. One of the range officers at the range said to me—after giving me two sweepers full of brass he collected from other shooters—“That will keep you out of trouble for a while!” For a while, indeed.