The Pickering Chronicles #6 – Tiptoe Into Reloading
“I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.”
― Carl Sandburg
As I mentioned earlier, I got into reloading to save money. I had no clue as to the breadth and depth of the world I was entering. Learning to reload and practicing the art and science of reloading was at once challenging and fascinating. The history of cartridge development and all that it has required over the past 150 years is worth studying and appreciating. Imagine the amount of brainpower that has gone into the subject over the past century and a half; imagine the intellect required to make the mental leaps that bring a new cartridge design into existence.
None of that occurred to me before I started. What struck home to me was a comment someone made to me.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to offend you,” he apologized ahead of his next few words, “but at your age if you get a hundred pieces of once-fired brass for each calibre you shoot, that amount will last you the rest of your life! You’ll never have to buy another box of commercial ammo.” Even though I was pissed at his reference to my age, the idea struck a chord. I looked at all the evidence presented by people who justify reloading for the cost savings only, and it sold me (“CHEEP, CHEEP,” I read).
Later, I learned the other side of the coin which is that, if you do reload you will undoubtedly shoot more — why not? How else can you test the results of your efforts? — and ultimately you will probably (with some exceptions for certain calibres) spend the same amount of money whether you reload or not.
KFW had it right in his article. I would encourage every budding or wannabe reloader to read it. I don’t think anyone could successfully master the art of reloading without taking advantage of all the material available — especially the near-direct tutoring we can get from YouTube and increasingly from The Reloaders Network.
The best source of hands-on education I found is The Beginner’s Guide to Reloading. It is a 25-part (thorough!!!) tutorial put together by Johnny’s Reloading Bench. This is a resource that I return to often; it is unbeatable, not least because Johnny is not afraid to share his mistakes with us viewers, and to point out a lot of common pitfalls. He is also not shy about expressing his opinions about specific loading components (brass, bullets, powder, primers) and/or tools and equipment.
On his advice I bought the Lee Breech Lock Challenger Kit, (following his recommendation that this is the CHEAPEST way to begin). I re-watched his video and, along with him, went through the box of goodies item by item. I got everything sorted out, then followed KFW’s advice and went back to reading manuals and watching videos. I set out space for reloading, (more about that later), but didn’t get into it at all for a long time. Without someone looking over my shoulder I was reluctant to dive into the enterprise.
Cheating, I bought a Lee Loader for .38sp/.357. I tried that out on a very tentative basis. I took some baby steps. I loaded a set of 10 rounds of 38sp. It took me awhile to push myself to find the nerves to go out and shoot the darned things. When I did, I used a revolver for my first tests. Not surprising, I got two out of ten that wouldn’t work in the revolver. Frustrating! With some patience and thought I found that one round didn’t have the primer seated in all the way. Another round didn’t have the bullet seated properly; the overall length in both cases were too long. Both were examples of carelessness.
The first thing you learn when starting to reload is that you have to apply discipline and patience. You need to hone your skills and abilities in organization, focus, and concentration. Some people have temperaments that prevent them from mastering these disciplines. Those people should not attempt reloading.
Other things you need to master are scientific principles and scientific methodology. You cannot hope to improve your finished product unless you are able to develop methods that allow you to consistently reproduce results, and you cannot do that unless you maintain good notes and good recordkeeping.
A surprising finding for me was the range of subjects and fields of study that I learned whether I wanted to or not. Bits of chemistry (powder burn rates, for example), physics, metallurgy, mathematics, ballistics, mechanical engineering, and (if you cast) forging. There’s more, I’m sure, that I’ve left out. But the long and the short of it is that a good reloader over time will have nearly given himself a college degree in STEM as well as liberal arts. That’s my take, anyway.
In a future Chronicle I’ll share the development of my loading space.
In the meantime, my bags are almost packed and I’m ready to go. . .
Find the entire series here: The Pickering Chronicles
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, The Reloaders Network will receive an affiliate commission. This is being disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
If Uncle Jim were a few years younger, he’d be old enough to be Thomas’s son! Nevertheless, Thomas enjoys hunting, freehand shooting, and reloading. He’s looked for challenges all his life and continues to seek them out. He agrees that everything goes better with Loads of Bacon!