Take a shot at saving money by loading your own ammo


January 25, 1998|By Lonny Weaver | Lonny Weaver,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The next couple of weeks are sort of a nothing period for local sportsmen.

Hunting is just about over, and it's still too cold for most types of fishing. That's why I always reserve this time of the year for re-loading my rifle and shotgun ammo in preparation for warm weather woodchuck hunting, target shooting, trap, skeet and sporting clays shooting, and early fall's doves.

I have been an active shooter practically all of my life and the only way that I have been able to shoot as often as possible is by loading my own ammo. In fact, all of my center-fire ammo, except for that used for waterfowl hunting is a product of my re-loading presses. The only ammo that cannot be loaded is rim-fire ammo (.22-caliber short and long, long rifle and magnum), because the priming compound is a mixture contained within the rim of the cartridge.

Center-fire ammo, which covers virtually all other modern ammunition, uses a replaceable primer located in the center of the brass or plastic case.

Like most re-loaders, I began hand-loading my own ammo to save money. My first try used a simple single-caliber hand-held hand-loading my own ammo to save money. My first try used a simple single-caliber hand-held tool that cost around $10 in the early 1970s. This was the famous Lee Loader and it paid for itself thousands of times. In 1976, I sold a magazine article for $150 and invested the money in an RCBS Jr. bench-mounted press for rifle and pistol ammo that cost me about $50 and a MEC 600 Jr. bench press for 12-gauge shot shell loading. The rest of the check was spent on components -- bullets, shot, powder, primers and shotgun wads.

I have no idea how many thousands of dollars those two machines have saved me, but at the time I was shooting four to 12 rounds of skeet per week and a round of skeet consists of lTC one box of shotgun shells. The last time I ran some numbers, I was loading a box of skeet loads a few pennies under $4 and a box of .223 varmint loads for just under $6 a box. Current average retail of each is $7 and $14, respectively.

In addition to saving lots of money, hand-loaders routinely develop loads for individual guns that are noticeably more accurate and efficient. For example, I have a .224 Weatherby Varmintmaster rifle that gave me fits in the accuracy department. The rifle is intended for long-range chuck shooting, but it's average accuracy level for five-shots was way below requirements. It shot factory ammo very well, with averages running around three-quarters inch, but that stuff costs nearly $35 for a box of 20, which is out of my financial range.

Last winter I went to work, and using an assortment of re-loading manuals, developed 10 different loads. The best uses a 50-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet, H335 powder, and a CCI large-rifle primer. The load stays under half-inch all day long and is saving me about $28 per box.

A MEC 600 Jr. Mark V shotgun re-loader set up for a single gauge is going for $89.99. To that add $9.98 for 1000 Winchester WAA wads, a carton of 1000 Winchester No. 209 primers and a bag of No. 9 shot and a pound of powder. The total comes to $134, or the cost of 19 boxes of Winchester AA skeet loads.

A metallic cartridge re-loading setup for a single cartridge could consist of an RCBS kit containing all the basic stuff for $99.99 plus a shell holder and dies costing $26.78.

These are middle-of-the-road prices and you can certainly set up operations for a lot less and a lot more.


Looking for a great fishing trip on the lower bay this summer? Contact Capt. Pete Ide at 301-994-9219. I spent quite a bit of time with Ide at the recent Bass Expo and came away very impressed. He specializes in the Solomons and Point Lookout areas.

Also at the Expo, I ran into bass guide Bill Kramer (301-840-9521), who I fished with the past couple of summers. He told me that last summer the very best top-water lure for Susquehanna bass above Harrisburg was a big Chug Bug, "except when the water was dirty. Then my best was a 3/8-ounce tandem blade spinner." Ken Penrod (301-937-0010) of Life Outdoors bass guides agrees with Kramer that the Susquehanna is the current No. 1 bass water on the East Coast. Richie Gaines (410-827-7210), another pro bass angler who I regularly fish with, tells me that the Chester River is turning into a real sleeper bass water, especially in the fall.

Pub Date: 1/25/98

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