by Chuck (Onehorse) Tarinelli
With all the excellent bullets being sold by the commercial ammunition producers, it may seem that handloading doesn’t have much to offer the modern hunter, but handloading for hunting purposes has many rewards and even some advantages over commercial ammunition.
Perhaps the most appealing feature of using handloads is the cost. Using conservative estimates, handloaded ammunition can cost less than half as much as buying commercial ammunition, making it more affordable to spend a lot more time at the range. This results in improved shooting skills and increased confidence in the field. Even if a hunter preferred to use premium commercial ammunition for hunting, he or she could use the much less expensive handloads for practice and save a bundle. The price of some premium commercial bullets is approaching $40 for a box of twenty bullets, so one hundred of those bullets would cost about $200. I recently calculated that the cost of reloading one hundred bullets using the best components available was under $90. This amount would actually decrease as the hunter continues to reload the fired cases. As can be seen, the savings are dramatic!
Handloaded ammunition can show enhanced performance over factory loads. Not because it is actually better, but because it can be fine-tuned for a specific rifle. There may have been a time when hunters could produce handloaded bullets that were actually better than the commercial bullets. That just isn’t the case today, but commercial bullets have to be made to work in all rifles. This “one size fits all” has drawbacks. The barrels, chambers and all the other factors that contribute to a rifle’s accuracy are not completely identical, even in the same models of the same calibers from the same manufacturers, so all rifles do not shoot the same. The handloading hunter does not have to produce bullets that will work well in every rifle, just his or her own. By trying different loads, the handloader can find the bullet that works as well as any premium bullet in his or her rifle. To be clear, commercial premium bullets are fantastic. They are consistent, uniform and super accurate, but they just can’t be the best bullet for every rifle. With a little work, your handloads can be the best for your rifle.
Because of the many bullet designs and weights that are available, the handloading hunter can expand the variety of cartridges beyond those that may be offered by the commercial manufacturers for his or her particular rifle. Using heavy well-constructed bullets for elk, moose and bear, and lighter faster-expanding bullets for game such as antelope or deer. All this is especially helpful to the one-rifle-hunter, who performance-wise, could just about make that one gun do the work of a safe full of rifles.
A wide variety of bullet designs are available to handloading hunters
Hunters who handload always feel extra satisfaction after taking a game animal with a bullet that they have loaded. It just adds to the job-well-done feeling that comes with the knowledge that all the preparations (including the handloads) have contributed to the successful hunt.
Finally, handloading can evolve into a pleasurable and rewarding activity of its own, separate from hunting. You’ll know exactly what I mean the first time, and every time you walk up to your target and find a three shot group that measures under one inch!
Next, we’ll take a look at the basics of handloading for hunting.