back in ’84…

Ages ago, I did a little handloading…

I had always been interested in firearms, particularly pistols. I eventually purchased a S&W Model 28 with an 8-3/8″ barrel. It was a tack driver. My wife acquired a Model 19 and we became the Magnum couple hehehe

I loved the Model 28, but I wanted a 1911, too. I eventually saved and purchased a Llama IX-A, a workalike clone of the 1911. It was not a bad pistol, thought it could have used some work that I wouldn’t learn how to do until after it was traded off.

I vividly remember the day my buddy Buddy and I went out to shoot the Llama the first time. We lined up a few plastic jugs filled with water. I shot one of them, a half gallon size laundry detergent bottle and was disappointed to the point of dismay. The magic all-powerful 45 knocked the jug over without penetrating and to add injury to insult, a piece of the copper jacket hit my left shin. It was with the force of a thrown saltine, so there was no actual injury except to my soul. Other shots fared better, but none actually had the effect I was looking for. That moment made it clear that I needed to handload.

Being young and only a notch or two above broke, I got a very basic Lee single stage press and dies for 38/357 and 45 ACP, and those yellow scoop powder measures. I had the Hornady reloading manual, which I could every nearly quote after a few weeks. I worked up a couple of  45ACP loads using Unique (which was then “Hercules Unique”), though what I really did was make 10 rounds with an entry charge, 10 rounds of the next higher charge, etc, until I had about 100 rounds of 230gr hardball and 50 rounds of 185gr hollow points, each ramping up in power. It was time to go shoot.

I took it pretty seriously, recording the feel and examining the brass for each of the 15 loads. I did not have a chronograph. Luckily, that first round of handloading worked up to a decently hot load that I would later verify was just almost as hot as I could go before I started getting some signs of over pressure. Even then, slightly flattened primers was the only sign. However, the same essentially undamaged detergent bottle suffered the appropriate degree of damage for an estimated 1000 fps 185gr hollowpoint. My faith in the 45 was restored.

Handloading with a single stage press is an exercise in repeating details in groups of 50. Set out 50 ready-to-load cases on a reloading tray. Prime each case, placing it back in the tray. Throw a powder charge into each case. Press and crimp a bullet in each case. Box’em up. Shoot.

Handloading/reloading allowed me to shoot much more than I would otherwise have been able to afford, even then. Unfortunately, various influences took more of my time and eventually, the reloading equipment was scattered or damaged and discarded.

Today, ammo is more expensive, and frequently, the shelves are empty, particularly of popular types. Handloading components are also higher and frequently out of stock. For the casual shooter, it’s hard to beat some of the bulk ammo prices. As I write this, Cabela’s has PMC 40S&W for about $21 a box. I can’t buy the new components and handload them for much less. Some types are cheaper than that.


My favorite round these days is the 10MM Auto. At $32 a box for commercial ammo, I can start to make a difference handloading, especially with once fired brass.

I found a seller on Gunbroker that had a couple thousand once fired 10mm cases for about 15 cents each. I gathered the other components and a Lee Pro 1000 press from various sources. At the time, primers and powder was the thing everyone was out of, but having a local Cabela’s that is not very far out of the way home meant I could essentially stop there every day and eventually, they had the stuff.

I’m not quite as broke as my younger self was, so I have a few other non-critical but very nice tools and resources such as a digital powder scale, a vibratory tumbler for cleaning brass and a chronograph for tracking my results and a home on 12 acres in the country for shooting

I deprimed and cleaned the 10mm brass shortly after receiving it. Various things delayed the actual commencement of handloading, but in the last couple of weeks, it is finally underway.

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