Survival Reloading

Reloading, now and in the future, is the best way to ensure your ammunition independence instead of relying on supply chains and retailers to provide a secure supply of ammunition.  Reloading affords you the freedom to create your own ammo outside of the ups and downs of the global economy.

This article also appears in this month’s Complete Survivalist Magazine

Preparing for the Future

While it’s still a good idea to secure a good supply of surplus or bulk ammunition when prices dip, gun reload, reloading supplies, reloading, rcbs, bullet reloading
it’s also a good idea to get proficient at reloading.  The key to proficiency at reloading is getting the tools and skills you need now and knowledge through practice and practical application.  The more you reload, the more you will understand what forces are at play and why you need to do what you’re doing.  This will be vital when the time comes when supplies become scarce, and you need to make substitutions.

One thing you need to keep in your inventory and continue to replenish so that you’re at gun reload, reloading supplies, reloading, rcbs, bullet reloadingmaximum levels is primers and powder.  These components require complex chemistry to produce and are difficult to homebrew; the good news is you can purchase powder and primers in mass quantities for lower prices than ammo and store them in much smaller space.  It would be a good idea to keep at least 10,000 primers on hand, for example.  There may be limits to the amount of powder and primer you can keep on premise based on your home owners insurance or local fire regulations, but you should be able to store at least 20 pounds of powder and 10,000 primers.  This will make a lot of ammunition for a long time.


For high-power rifles, you’re going to need to fire copper jacketed rifle bullets.  It doesn’t make reloading supplies, gun reloading, bullet reloadingsense to go through the work of reloading if you’re going to load lower velocity lead bullets for rifles.  With special presses and dies, you can actually make jacketed rifle bullets out of raw materials, but this is advanced reloading.  You need to secure a supply of jacketed rifle bullets for reloading, they are as vital as primers and powder.  For pistols and pistol caliber rifles, you have the choice of shooting copper jacked and plain lead bullets.  Lead bullets are cheaper and easier to keep stocked up.  You also have the ability to make lead bullets with a bullet mould.  The downside is, again, you cannot push lead to the higher velocity that a jacketed bullet can handle.  Also, lead will also foul barrels more readily than a jacketed bullet.

Reloading Basics

The basics of reloading is taking a spent case, clean it, and use a press and dies to remove the spent gun reload, reloading supplies, reloading, rcbs, bullet reloading, spent brassprimer and re-size the brass, load a fresh primer, powder, and bullet and make it into a fresh round.

The best firearms to reload for are ones in common calibers that take brass cased rounds that are boxer primed.  You can reload steel cases, but most are berdan primed and not worth the effort to reload.  Steel pistol cases can usually be reloaded, so don’t discard these without checking the primer type.  If you are going to reload military surplus brass, be aware that the primers are crimped in and you will need a tool to remove the crimp to allow the brass to be reloaded.

The most basic tool for reloading is the reloading manual.  Get a good one, both from the bullet manufacturer you plan to use and for the caliber you plan to reload.  Getting the knowledge to use your reloading tools in a safe and reliable manner is probably the best way ensure your immediate survival when reloading; reloading can be dangerous and you need to be able to make the right choices when purchasing powder and working up loads.  Keeping good notes is also vital; you need to keep records of how you run your reloading process what your final recipe is.  All these records should be stored both on paper and electronically.

The core reloading tool is your reloading press.  What press you decide to purchase is going to gun reloading workshop, gunsmithing workshop, bullet reloadingaffect your reloading process greatly.  On the cheaper end of the spectrum is the single stage press.  They are simple, rugged, and reliable, but slow to load.  Because the single stage press can hold one die, each reloading operation must be run in batches.  Another type of press is a turret press.  This press has a turret head that holds each die and allows each step of the reloading process to be performed on the round, then the next round is loaded into the press.  Finally, there is the progressive reloading press, which holds all the dies and allows for a reloading operation to be performed on a round each time the press handle is pulled.  That way, as long as there are fresh components being loaded into it, a continuous stream of loaded ammunition will feed out of the press.

Dies are next big component in your reloading kit.  I’d recommend getting the best quality dies you can afford, with titanium carbide or carbide dies.  Carbide coatings reduce the possibility of a case getting stuck and destroying the die, which would be the worst case scenario.  Getting the best quality dies will also help you make the best quality ammunition.  Even if you plan on running a progressive press, you can still make match grade ammunition using high quality dies and careful reloading.

A stuck case remover kit would be a wise investment to protect yourself from a mistake that could jeopardize your entire reloading operation.  A stuck case remover taps into the base of a stuck case and removes the stuck case from a die with mechanical force.  With any luck, the case will separate from the die and you can continue reloading.

You will need a means to clean your brass.  Popular methods are vibratory tumblers with a corn cob or walnut based media.  In a lights-out situation, a hand-cranked tumbler with corn cob media will do the trick.  You’ll also need a media separator to remove the brass from the media, some types which can also be used as a hand cranked tumbler.

Some other tools you’ll need are case gauges (to be sure you re-sized brass properly), primer gun reload, reloading supplies, reloading, rcbs, bullet reloading, caliber gaugepocket swagger and reamers to clean up the primer pockets, case trimmers to remove excessive length on bottleneck rifle rounds, and case lube to ensure that cases feed into the reloading dies smoothly and re-size without issues.

Overview of the Reloading Process

Dirty brass, either fired or bought in bulk, is cleaned, usually in a tumbler.  Brass is then inspected for cracks and split necks.  The clean brass is then lubed.  Lube can be water based, oil based, or even animal fat based.  Lubed cases are pressed into the resizing die where the used primer is knocked out.  If this is military brass and is being reloaded for the first time, now is when the primer pocket crimping is swagged off, using either a primer pocket swagger that presses out the crimp, or a tool that cuts off the crimp.  The re-sized case is then filled with powder.  Depending on your die, the brass may be “belled” slightly in order to accept a bullet more readily.  A bullet is then seated to a set seating depth.  Next, depending on the round being loaded, a crimp may be applied to remove the bell and crimp in the bullet.

Electricity has brought some of the modern convinces into the reloading room; vibratory tumblers, electric brass trimmers, etc.  There are hand tools available to perform this work.  Reloading will take more time, but these tools will allow you to continue without disruption.  They are cheap and I’d recommend purchasing a backup set of tools, in case the first wear out.

Summary for the Survivalist

The key points a survivalist needs to take away from this are to stock up on supplies that can’t be gun reload, reloading supplies, reloading, rcbs, bullet reloading, pistol roundscreated easily, collect all the knowledge you can and keep good records, procure hand tools to replace electric tools when possible, and practice reloading as often as possible.  The more experience you have with reloading, the more prepared you will be when you need to work with less resources.

All Photos by Mr. Smashy (click here for photostream)

Written by Mr. Smashy

Mr. Smashy has been shooting competitively for more than 15 years. Scouted from a junior club rifle team for the state team, he has won state championships in several events over his years. Mr. Smashy currently competes in NRA Highpower, USPSC, Action Pistol, among others. Mr. Smashy has excellent knowledge of US service rifles, reloading, and marksmanship. Read his full interview here. Read more of Mr. Smashy's articles.

78 thoughts on “Survival Reloading”

  1. I do not have too much experience with reloading spent shells, but I think that it is going to be really helpful in the near future( the price of ammo is ridiculous and is only getting worse). Even when TSHTF it will be important to make reloads no matter how much ammo you have stocked away. For these reasons, I am going to start to practice to reload spent shells and hopefully I will get good quickly.

  2. In general an excellent article. Bear in mind that if you're going to be casting and molding your own lead bullets that there are certain precautions that should be observed. Make sure there is adequate ventilation in the area where you're heating the lead. Try to avoid handling the lead with your bare hands as much as possible. Most definitely wash your hands thoroughly after you've finished working with the lead. No eating or drinking in the area where you're working with the lead.

    As Mr. Smashy pointed out, lead bullets in general are only for relatively low velocity applications (as such things are considered these days). Nevertheless, if you are using a pistol round such as .44 Special, .45 Long Colt, or other round that doesn't go that fast then lead bullets are definitely a viable option. You can push lead bullets somewhat faster if you get "gas checks" to use on the bullets that you produce. However, while gas checks perform a useful function in protecting the base of the bullet, the faster you push the bullet through the bore the more lead it will leave behind.

  3. I'll stick to food, basic medicine, and fixing bicycles and let someone else do the reloading. I'd probably blow my house up!

    • It has been known to happen. I know of a case where the reloader worked in proximity to his gas how water heater! He spilled some powder and the dust cloud go too close to the gas burner while it was on. He was fortunate in that he only lost all the hair on his head and face. It could have been much worse.

      • Yikes! I concur with Michael whole heartedly. How about I spend my reloader and reloading materials money, on more bulk ammunition, and learn do distil my own alchol. Then i can just trade reloading services for jugs of moon shine.

  4. Mr. Smashy, as usual an excellent article!
    I have been wanting to start reloading for a while now, and almost bought a "starter set" before Christmas but something stopped me. I am looking to reload rifle rounds (7.62x54R, .223, .204, .308, 30-30, 30-06), handgun ammo (9mm, .40, .45) and possibly shotgun slugs.. because the ones I use (Winchester Supreme Platinum) run about $18 for a pack of 5 IF you can find them!
    So here is a question for anyone who can help…
    What is a good starter set? OR What is a good brand to get started with?
    I found a "starter set" from Midway USA, but again I wasn't sure if it was a decent brand. I am not sure if particular brands are better than others, but I know that when I bought a "starter set" of Chef knives (many years ago), they were garbage! I want to get a set that will last, hopefully longer than I do and won't "break the bank". Does anyone know of a reasonably priced brand that will last? Anyone have good results with a particular "starter set"?
    I would also like to teach a few friends and family members how to do the reloading, so an easy to use set would also be helpful.

    Thanks guys!

    • I second this thought. I am interested in reloading, I want to reload rifle rounds for my .303. these rounds are hard to find and expensive. Reloading seems like a good way to stock up and be cost effective. Thanks

        • Sorry, put it under the wrong one! Thanks again mr_smashy… I know I have said it before, but you are a welcome and appreciated wealth of knowledge on the subject of firearms!

      • Thanks Tidermike14, is that an old Enfield you are shootin'? I have seen a few at gun shows, but have never had any experience with them. One note for anybody interested in WWII firearms, I have seen a few Enfields at similar (a bit more expensive, but close) prices to old German K98's… An important note which MOST firearms dealers will not tell you is that many of these and other German contemparies were built by folks who were imprisioned by the facist Nazi regime. Some of these folks actually saved allied soldiers lives by making the sights IMPOSSIBLE to use as they were manufactured, and even made minor "mistakes" in the critical components so they would fail! Still a piece of history, and possibly a POS!

    • The "RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Single Stage Press Master Kit" is a good basic kit for getting started in reloading with a good, solid single stage press (the RCBS Rock Chucker) as it's core. Using this kit will get your familiarized with the fundamentals of reloading and allow you to upgrade as you go along without feeling like you wasted your initial investment. The press will last you a lifetime and will be useful even if you upgrade to a progressive press. Making ammo with a single stage is a safe way to learn reloading, and not everyone can afford a Dillion progressive out of the box.

      There isn't any particular brand I'd stay away from. For a single stage press, look for a solid "O-Frame" design with solid linkage for the ram. The more play in the linkage, the more slop in the ram and the less accuracy and quality you will get from your reloads. You'll also run the risk of having that linkage break down over time. This is also why you want a solid "O-Frame" press, the ram is going to be pushing a lot of force into the dies. A large ram diameter is a plus too. If you're going to be loading tall cartridges like the 7.62x54R and 30-'06, a long ram stroke is a must a well. You need to be able to seat the brass in the ram, place a bullet on the case mouth, and then seat the bullet by ramming it into the die. From experience loading 30-'06, that is a long stroke.

      For shotgun shells you can't beat MEC presses. I have one that is almost 20 years old and is still making quality ammo, and the only PM I've performed is to lube and grease it. Shotgun shell reloading is maybe the easiest and safest way to get into reloading, and possibly the cheapest too. The hard part is finding a local supply of lead shot or slugs; prices can vary wildly locally, from dusty bags on a shelf at a gun shop to a seller at a show who is just barely beating an internet price.

    • Check out Dillon Precision for their reloading equipment and accessories.
      You can start with the basic progressive reloader the Square Deal B for handgun rounds or the 550 or 650 model progressives that can handle handgun and rifle cartridges. With mine I can produce around 500 to 600 rounds an hour. Go on line and request the catalog, it is the Blue Press and it is free. They have most any product you might need. Their products are guaranteed for life and the customer service is excellent. I have called them a few times when I broke something and had a new one in the mail within a few days. My dog even chewed up the powder reservoir (empty) and they replaced it at no charge.

      Couple of items that are must have's; a good powder scale, digital or balance, a set of calipers, digital or vernier, and a good wall micrometer.

      As a side note, Dillon is the company that redesigned the original GE mini gatlin gun for the military designated the Dillon Aero M134 Mini Gun. Their engineering is impeccable.

      It may not count for much but I can highly recommend them. 25 years ago when I started reloading i was going to purchase a competitors brand from the gun store. The owner of the store told me to buy a Dillon. They were factory direct only back then. I have not regretted yet.

      • Wolfie, I have been wondering if they were the same company that produced the infamous "Mini-gun", but never thought to investigate. Thanks also for the reminder… the most important thing I am gonna need for the kit I am gonna buy soon (mentioned down-the-line in this series of posts, I am working backwards!) is a new digital scale! I thought my old baking scale would cut-it, but was told that unless I was loading a Howlitzer it would be MUCH to innacurate!

    • I have been using Lee equipment for metallic and shotshell reloading for years. It is reasonably priced and has been durable. They make a good starter set and additions (you will want to add as you gain experience) are available. I'm reloading 45 ACP for $7.50 a box using cast lead bullets. Fine tuning loads for accuracy is a challenge and gets me out to the range often.

      • WOW!!! $7.50 A BOX!!! I am definately wasting money by not reloading! I have heard that it was cheaper… but havent actually had a number to use as contrast. Currently in my neck of the woods, IF you can find them, a box of 25 standard FMJ .45ACP Agula (which is extremely dirty! My "ROCK" needs cleaned after about 100rds) is about $20! Thanks!

    • RCBS makes some good basic models and affordable. As for the slugs. I pick up the 5 packs at Walmart for just over $5 and the 15 packs for $15. I have a Dillon 650 and as far as shot gun reloading for slugs or 00 buck you can buy casts for both online and I use old sinkers and fishing weights as well as tire balance weights for my shot gun loads and in a pinch you can melt down bird shot. I also make my own lead sinkers for fishing from the tire balance weights.

      • My buddies dad swears that the cheapest way to reload is to go to the junkyard a few miles from his house and buying a bucket full of balance weights! He told me he pays about $25-30 for a 5gal bcket full of them if he pulls 'em off the wrecks. It's also pretty interesting to think that the family car might be a source of ammo in the right (or wrong depending on your perspective) situation! Thanks for the confirmation. Also I have TONS of old fishing weights that will likely be melted down in the future, and sent down the barrel at somethin'! A side-note, the right knowledge of knots can turn almost anything with a little heft into a fishin' weight.

    • I use Lee myself, but there are a number of excellent companies. I lke Dillon, but they are not inexpensive. Your first step is to buy a good reloading manual and read it. That will be your most important purchase….

      • Thanks VetJim, any reccomendations about manuals? Judging by the screen-name… Thanks for your service! Some of us still apreciate it!

    • I would definitely give a big ++ to the RCBS master kit for metallic Cartridge reloading. I own this particular Kit (along with some vibratory polishing equipment) and it has been fantastic for reloading all comers (including odd calibers like .30-40 Krag). I highly recommend getting the carbide dies for straight wall cases, they are built to last!

      For Shot-shell reloading, there are many choices but few stars. I would reach for MEC or RCBS shot-shell presses before anything else, and I'd stay away from the load-it-all system… its thin plastic and while functional would not stand up to a lifetime/TEOTWAWKI situation.

      Further thoughts: The Box-O-Truth and are both great sites! Something to think about… look at the damage done by a .45-70 Govt. round vs. your common assault rifle rounds. The old Lever gun round (at intended ranges of 300 yards or less) makes a .308 look like a rimfire. That old workhorse can now be had at energies exceeding 4000 ft/lb.

      What's more, they penetrate heavy cover like an oncoming train, shatter masonry and wooden cover like matchsticks (Box o truth shows some awesome shots), lead dies are easy to find, and the bullets are truly monstrous 400-550 Grain slugs that will get it done. A 'light recoil' .45-70 round is still nearly 2000 ft-lb but the slug is only moving 1500 fps, making wheel-weight melt lead reloading entirely possible without gas checking in an emergency (Leading of a barrel is easily corrected with brass cloth or brass/copper 'steel wool', just FYI)

      • Thanks icerazor_h_plus, I responded to groffeaston first, but I am gonna go and check out Box o truth when I am done here. I have always had a love of the old lever-guns… Nothing screams American more than an old Winchester in my opinion, and a 45LC reproduction was one of the rifles my uncle first taught me to shoot when I was a kid. I am currently looking at a S&W 500 lever-gun, and a "Python" to go with it (a bit much I know, but it's a bit more in my reach than the Harley "Boss Haus" of my dreams! Call me crazy). Though after reading your post, I am gonna look a bit closer at the 45-70. Thanks!

    • Hello,
      I have been wanting to get into reloading too. From what I have been reading and hearing the 2 least expensive brands to get started with are: Lee and RCBS. Lee is the least expensive. Some people have had great experiences with their equipment and others have not. RCBS is the next least expensive. Some people have great experiences and others not.

      Generally I have found the prices for Lee single stage press kits to be between $89 and 129 depending if it is on sale and who is selling it. (Cabelas, Midawayusa, Groff&sons, etc..)

      As for RCBS their prices have been between: $159 and $229 for a starter single stage press kit, Again depending on it it is on sale and who is selling it.

      But don't forget you would still have to get your dies for each caliber you want to reload, shell holders for each caliber you want to reload, and a few other odds and ends.

      What I have been told by others who reload and is also my advice to those thinking about reloading, Start with what you can afford. If what you can afford is the Lee brand then start with that brand. Then later if and when you have more $$$$ you can get one of the other more expensive brands if you desire. By starting out with least expensive brand, if at some point you decide "this is not for me" you are not out a whole boat load of $$$ in the more expensive reloading equipment. There will always be people looking to get started in reloading.

      • Hey groffeaston, thanks for the input and judging by the number of posts behind your screen-name, welcome to the site! I have been looking around, and have found a friend of a friend that is a gunsmith of roughly 5yrs; He is upgrading his reloading gear so he is gonna sell it to me for $250… AND show me the right way to use everything. It's a hell of a deal, and if it keeps me from doing somethin' stupid and having to pay a hospital bill OR my family having to pick out a casket it's definately a steal! I am sure I will need to get a few more of the odds-and-ends you mention, and appreciate your input.

  5. Excellent article and I second the comment about the 'O-Frame' press. I also have a 'hand press' for my black powder center fire guns. It is kind of fun to reload a 45-70 the way the buffalo hunters did. That said, there was one thing I thought was missing from an otherwise excellent article. Many of our rounds were designed originally for either black powder or a weaker powder. Most of the space in a .44 or .45 case is either empty or filled with wadding. While it MAY be possible (I don't recommend it) to simply fill a .45 case with black powder and shoot it, it would be disastrous with modern powder. A 44-40 was designed for 40 grains of black powder. If you tried to double fill that case you'd be putting in 80 grains and it would be obvious you'd made a mistake. To load that case with an equivalent modern powder might only take 5 to 7 grains of powder (depending on the powder used). Since I can't eyeball the difference between 5 and 10 grains the risk of a double charge is high and the result is at best a ruined gun.
    The moral is that when you are reloading, that is ALL you are doing. No phone, no food, no TV, nothing. If you must leave the bench, that session is over and any unfinished rounds should be redone. If there is any doubt, start over. If there is any interruption, start over. A double load is a life threatening event so do not risk it. I have both an electronic and a mechanical scale. I weight my rounds before and after charging them with powder. If any round in a session is outside of normal I either don't load it or I assume it was improperly charged. If it was improperly charged, every round in that set is suspect and redone. If that seems extreme, remember you are playing with a potential bomb going off in your weapon. I still have all my initially issued parts attached to the appropriate places because I am a complete paranoid when it comes to things that can go BOOM! Murphy was, after all, a bloody optimist.

    • I load a lot of rifle cartridges with pistol powder-Red Dot, Unique etc. I have a light/magnify glass on a jointed arm attached to my reloading bench. I pull it over the loading block and look at each and every charged case. With the light and magnifying glass, I can easily see if there is a double charge (haven't found one yet). I load the 7.62 x 54R and .308 with 180gr GC cast bullets and 14 grains of Unique. The old Unique used to be pretty dirty, but they really cleaned it up. I regularly get 2" groups with the .308 (I have an old 788 Remington left hand with the 24" barrel). I'm still working on the old Nagant. I size the .308 buillets to .309 and leave the 54R bullets as cast ~.310.

  6. Lead bullets from my .357 6" bbl are some of the most accurate. I've never chronographed for speed, but the reload data says 1300fps.

    A 20" lever gun shooting the same bullet should push that to 2000fps on paper.

    I've yet to cast my own, and am just now getting into details about BHN and bullet diameter (.360 diameter is better in some configurations) – but don't discount the utility of lead rounds for most any application.

    Also, for the very desperate, you can crudely convert berdan primed cases to boxer.

  7. Thanks for another excellent article Mr. Smashy. A friend of mine is going to show me how to reload .44 special and .44 magnum rounds sometime soon and this is an excellent primer for me. Thanks a lot.

  8. Great article. The first step for anyone who has never reloaded is to buy and read from cover to cover a reloading manual. Important not to confuse powder… Pistol powder can be really hot and if confused with a standard gun powder can cause serious overpressure issues. Read up on powder types, bullets and applications for your particular shooting needs. You don’t need 168 grain hollow point boat tails to shoot targets.
    A new Hornady Lock-n-Load reloading press is $124… Not bad in the long run. For survival this model is simple, easy to use and relatively light. An entire reloading kit can fit into a 5 gal. bucket or a plastic bin (minus the bench of course). If you’re looking at a couple of dies (rifle and pistol) bullets, powders, primers, lube and a reloading manual your initial investment could be well over $300. Kind of pricy to start and for some it may be more cost effective to buy ammo. How many rounds can you buy for $300?

    • I agree – the first step is to learn by reading. Second, if possible get someone who has been doing it a while to help you out. Third thing is to be careful about 'working up' your own loads. If you are an accomplished re-loader with the right equipment this is safe and fun. I am not and I don't. I stick to the book loads for any number of reasons. Even a 'hot' load that is safe in my brand new magnum revolver might not be safe in your older lever gun that shoots the same caliber. I am told that the M1 Garand will not handle the newer 30-06 hot loads. I haven't verified that as of yet but it is worth finding out if you are reloading for one. Hot loads may be macho but they can also be stupid. I will stick with loads powerful enough to get the job done but no hotter than necessary. I think that is good for the cartridge case, the gun and my shoulder. Just my not so humble opinion.
      I didn't know Hornady was doing reloading presses. Do they do dies as well? I've been impressed with everything I've ever used of theirs. Have you, or anyone, tried it? I have heard that Dillion and RCBS are good; I have Lee and that works OK for me. Some folks have "blue" benches or "red" benches. I've not seen the value in only using the dies, presses, measures etc. from only one vendor. Maybe I've missed something but I've had no problems using mixed brands. That said NEVER MIX POWDERS! If you don't have enough for a full lot, do a partial but mixing brands (and some folks say lot numbers within a brand/type) or type powders is flirting with major problems.

      • >> I am told that the M1 Garand will not handle the newer 30-06 hot loads.

        It can't. The operating rod and gas cylinder are calibrated for M1 Ball. The rifle can be damaged firing a modern 30-'06 round or hot load. Keep this in mind when working up load and use Hodgdon or IMR 4895 powder or IMR 4064. This is also true for the M1A. Read this article for further info, and info about service rifle reloading in general:

        Hornady makes good dies, and will custom make dies as well. As a competition shooter I find that Redding makes the best dies for my use. I use a Dillon press and Redding dies to produce match ammo for an AR-15 and M1 Garand. I explain my 5.56 loading process in more detail here:

        I've never had good luck with Dillon dies, and the only Lee die that I have that is worth a darn is a decapping die, and it works great. I've sold all my other Lee and Dillon dies and run Redding exclusively for both rifle and pistol.

        • Thank you, sir, for the links. They are very useful to me. The only Lee die I have is for my 45-70 and it has been no problem so far but then I haven't been doing much loading so far. I'll keep an eye on it.

        • I have printed the exterior ballistics piece for permanent reference. Thank you, it is alarmingly informative. I had heard of the hot load restrictions but the primer issue was news to me. Do you know of any .308 or 30-06 ammo that is safe to shoot in the M14 or M1? It sounds like only 7.62 NATO surplus or ex-GI 30-06 is all that can be used. That or hand loads. I still like the M14 but the ammo could become an issue.

          • For the M1, ex G1 30-'06 M1/M2 ball and handloads that are safely worked up within that pressure curve are the safe rounds. Recently Federal started making new 30-'06 under it's American Eagle line that is pressured for M1 Garands, the p/n is AE3006M1 and it says "For M1 Garands" right on the box. It's also about $1 a round at this time, but shoots very well (better than late 60's Greek surplus).

            For the M1A, 7.62 NATO would be best, but I do believe most commercial guns out there are cut with a 308 Winchester chamber, but pressures require keeping within the 150gr to 175gr range. This may be mitigated with a vented gas nut, to keep forces on the operating system less violent, but the M1A/M14 is a quick and violent system.

            Here is a link for the vented gas nuts, I've been impressed with the quality of these products, used to run one on my Garand, slowed the action down dramatically:…

            Here is another good resource, Loading for the M14, which goes into chambering for match guns a bit and brass selection and prep for M14 guns:

          • Thank you, sir. I feel better about staying out of trouble. It still seems to limit 'pickup' ammo in the same vein as a .223 limits pickup ammo for it. Definitely food for thought.

  9. For those who save their brass and shoot a bit it is a lot more cost efficient to invest in reloading. Inspecting your brass for cracks is important… You don’t have to tumble your brass you can just dust it off if it’s not too bad or you can always wash it. Just dry it well. Best time savers: measured plastic powder scoops and a plastic funnel.

    • If I was going to use a scoop for a large case round, I'd investigate IMR's Trail Boss. It is a modern powder designed to fill up a case like black powder. No possible double loads with it because the case would overflow. I know folks who are afraid of black powder for a number of reasons but you shouldn't be. It is a lot smokier than modern so that's a drawback in a survival round but they are fun to shoot and easy to reload.

      • I'd suggest using a powder check die ( if you're using a progressive press or a bright LED light if you're using trays to check for double charges. Working with a buddy helps as well if you're not confident in your reloading skills.

        For bottlenecked rifle rounds, my loads will overflow if double charged; it's flake-type pistol powder that doesn't take up too much case density that I'm worried about. Luckily a progressive press makes a double charge much less likely, and I use a bright LED light to check powder depth before placing a bullet. The slight blue tint of the LED light makes it easier to see the powder contrast against the brass.

        • Again, thank you for the link. Looks like a useful tool. Right now I'm only reloading straight wall cases. I'm trying to get up to where I can load 'paper patched' bullets for my 50-90. I have the dies for the bottlenecked rounds. I had not heard of using the LED to see. I have always used the weight and it works well so far. I think I'll start using the LED to help with the bottlenecked. It is a good idea.

  10. Good Article! Question. Has anyone thought of what might happen if the fed orders/imposes a stoppage of production in modern powders and primers? Or perhaps they just go out of business because of SHTF or TEOTWAWKI? How do you make bullets for the modern weapon (M-4/AR-15) then. Sure, we can stockpile untill we are blue in the face and the primers are piled up to the refters in the garage, but what happens when those run out? Has anyone tired to load black powder into the shell case of a .308 for poops and giggles to see what happens? Does anyone even know how to make black powder anymore? What about percussion caps or primers to ignite the stuff? We are about survival but what happens when our modern weapon technology fails or runs out.

    • continued…Back to the basics. I know I can load BP shells and cartridges when I run out of the "other stuff" and it will still suffice. I've learned the components of and how make black powder from scratch if need be. The weapon of the day in 1866 was the Henry Yellow Boy. Prior to that is was flintlocks and patched round balls. I'm not advocating abandon what we know, I suggesting we learn a alternate method of doing things, just incase the primary method becomes obsolete, unavailable, or whatever reason that is might not be available to us anymore. Untill recently, I figured I would survive the food issue by hunting game with a rifle. But then I realized, they make a lot of noise and if the fed is looking to confiscate them, I'm a surefire prospect to fall under their scrutiny and desire to take it from me. So now, I've taken up bow hunting to be able to eat and gather my food in a more stealty manner. Just some food for thought and trying to get the old survivor thought process moving in other directions besides where we are.

      • Yes, I know how to make black powder. You need to practice that a bit as well as it is a unique skill. Remember, use only lead balls as the grinding agent. The problem with homemade BP will be one of consistency. While I have several weapons that can and have shot BP rounds (single shots and lever guns) I suspect that a modern semi-auto may well fail to cycle on a BP round. The different burn characteristics and fouling patterns of BP could well make an M1 a single shot weapon while a bolt or lever might keep going. My .45 ACP revolver should shoot it OK but I suspect my Colt Commander won't be much use. Ballistics will be questionable. If you shoot BP, I found that WINDEX with Vinegar (never with ammonia) does a great job of cleaning. One part Windex to 3 parts water and it cleans everything right up.

        • Indeed, CaptBart, you, we are a but a handfull of those that know how to make BP from scratch. Even though it would "suffice" the old ways of the pioneer are dying off as fast as our older people that knew the ways. I realize it would take awhile for modern ammo and methodoloigy to go by the wayside but, rather than relay on one way of doing things, depend on several ways to do the same thing. Cooking for example. One should know how to use a gas stove, and electric range, a dutch oven and an open fire with a spit in order to cook a steak, piece of meat.

          • Also other means of self defense with other weapons such as bow and arrow, crossbow, sling shot or in the event your firearm malfunctions look at improvised methods of firing your ammo such as a zip-gun.

          • Jarhead03,
            I'm curious – compound bows are very effective weapons but I wonder at their complexity. Do you, or anyone, have a feel for the maintenance a compound bow requires? If there is already a post, I have missed it.

          • I've been looking into them and indeed they are complex. They can not be "taken down" to make them more concealable and they have to be constantly "tuned" Personally, I would stay away from a compond in a survival situation. A recurve, such as some made by PSE and others, that can have the limbs removed are a different matter. They get "small" quickly and they deliver just as much power a a compound. Only problem is they have no "let off" that a compound has. So unless you have well developed back muscles, a recurve is difficult to hold in the cocked (for lack of a better word) position. A crossbow… brother swears by them.

          • Thank you for your input, sir. That was my impression but I fear I am too ignorant of the topic to make a solid decision. My Brit friend went with cross bow and long bow. he can't own firearms but these are historical British weapons and are certainly lethal.

          • I might have to retract my last thoughts. I'm looking into a compund bow at the moment and find they are not as complicated as I first thought. Initially, they ARE difficult but once they are properly set up for the shooter, they stay that way unless you change the string. So a compund just might be a viable resource. They are also "somewhat" small compared to a long bow.

          • I'm in the uk and it's not hard to get an auto loading shotgun legally.
            Way harder than in the US, I imagine, though!

            I have shot bows since I was a kid so I could chip in here.

            You are dead right re compound. One thing to remember though is that re-stringing a compound in the field is a right pain.

            For my money, a recurve is the ultimate simple weapon. Easy to re-string and tune, very very cheap, almost nothing to go wrong (other
            than the string), yet it has the most ridiculous penetration power ever!
            The average target boss I use is about 12 times the desity of a body
            and our arrows often go right through at 30 yards!

            The 45 lb recurve I shoot will throw the arrow 100 yards no prob, and it will stick in the boss no worries!

            The down side is that it is hard to make your own quality arrows, a recurve is long when put together and the weight to keep it drawn takes a bit of getting used to. But the old English Long Bows (the ultimate weapon of it's day!) often had draw weights of over 100 lbs! So a little 45 lb like mine would be no prob for any of the tough chaps here! With a little practice.

          • Sorry. I just realised how off-topic I had got there!
            Very interesting article by the way!!!

          • Please do not apologize. it is very informative and I suspect that if you wrote an article on the use of the re-curve bow (care, feeding, accuracy, advantages, disadvantages) Survival Cache might publish it. It would be of interest to many of us who are "bow illiterate".

    • yes. while not as poweful as nitrocellulose powder, black powder will definitely work in rifle bullets. the sharps used black powder and so did the henry may have to use more powder, fill it up so to speak , but nitrocellulose only adds pressure to the chamber

      • Bob,
        I know of some 'buffalo gun" shooters who shoot modern powder with a touch of BP for smoke. I don't know how they work up their loads but they prefer the modern powders while still wanting the smoke and smell of the BP era. I've always thought that was a tad silly – you get the bad side effects of both worlds – but I've seen it done.

  11. Great Article mate!! Not to forget when reloading a good set of scales make things easy when working out loads!, and powder measure, rcbs and lee reloading make good gear!, also graphite is a great case lube!.

  12. I don’t consider homebrewing black powder viable for survival purposes.
    You need specialized guns to use it that are at a disadvantage against modern weapons, and loud.
    It’s also messy, unstable, and corrosive.
    Go to a rendezvous and watch them shoot before you mess with it.

    • I agree, but if all else fails and there is no other powder available, it is a consideration/resource. As far as the weapons that use it are concerned, I have those as well as the modern ones. I'm ready in spite of the situation.

    • Hoppy,
      I routinely store and reload black powder cartridges. I don't quibble with your decision to not use black powder if you are not comfortable with it, but If it is properly stored it is as stable as modern powder, it is consistent in burn characteristics if properly made, it is not any more corrosive in modern black powders than modern powder. Much of the 'corrosive' ammo is from the primers, not the powder. Any manually operated weapon should function as designed with a black powder cartidge. The ballistics will change of course, but that is a sighting issue not a functioning issue. I shoot both black and modern powder in my 45 Colt and .45-70 long guns for example. I shoot only black powder in my Sharpe's 50-90. The gun users of the 1800's didn't have modern cleaning supplies nor did they have modern metals, yet their guns managed to send many folks to meet their maker.
      The limitation for me is the 'cap' in a cap and ball. Many buffalo hunters recovered the spent lead from their kills and recast them for the next day's shooting. I WILL NOT deal in fulminate of Mercury and I don't know how modern caps are made so that is a limit for me. I am seriously considering a flintlock so that I can provide everything I need for shooting.
      I agree that you should gain experience with black powder if you're going to use it if TSHTF. Of course, you should be experienced with all of your survival preps.

    • untrue my friend. nitric acid is used in making modern propellant, black powder take kno c and s thats pottassium nitrate, sulfer and carbon , less corrosion with blaclk powder and easier to clean

  13. i have decided to use my black powder weapons. primitive, yes, but just as effective for taking game animals or protection . black powder lasts forever and a day if stored properly, and i make my own bullets for pistol rifles and shotguns..primers i only use for my rifles and a 11 or 12 fits shtgun shells and my rifle…

    • Bob,
      remember that the reason caps where invented (by an English clergyman who liked to bird hunt) was that the pan flash often gave the birds a chance to fly away before the rounds/shot got there. A modern flintlock has the same problem. The cap and ball BP rifles don't have that problem but do require caps. You have to choose what you want. The idea of having a flintlock that will always be able to shoot on what I can put together is attractive. The idea of having a clean shot without the pan flash is also very attractive. The cap avoids the 'all skill is useless when an angel blows the powder from the pan' problem. I guess it depends on your vision of how long TSHTF event lasts. I'm thinking cap and ball right now for me but that could change.

  14. In reloading try to pick powders that are multicaliber such as varget or 4895 by hodgdons these powders are interchangable with 308 and 223 and are very accurate,try to standardize as much as possible,It will make things a lot less complicated.Another one is using small rifle primers in pistols. IF YOU DO THIS REDUCE POWDER BY 25%TO START.I have done this to get hottter loads to make major.ALSO MAKE SURE YOU ARE USING A MODERN FIREARM. NOT PRE 80s. You cannot have enough loading manuals in my honest opinion.

  15. well sense we are on the subject of the availability of large amounts of powder for reloading to stockpile , …….I will bring up another reason to do it …….this is a very Taboo subject ….and illegal to do it now , but if the situation was a long term law and order breakdown . Some of that powder that a person wisely stockpiled with some ball bearings , could be used in booby traps and impoverished hand grenades …… Not advocating …. just sayin it could .

    • Booby traps are bad! Lots of legal problems. Command detonated, like a Claymore mine is not a booby trap but certainly channels an attack. Be sure to paint the back side of the mine a color easily seen at night (white works). If the BG is trying to move your mine, you'll see the white moving around. If you are about to blow the mine and you DON'T see the white, DON'T blow it because it is now pointing at you. Claymore usage 101 from the files of Lessons Learned – Viet Nam. Having your own Claymore go off over your head gets your attention. The back blast is bad enough but the front blast annoys the guys in the command bunker.

  16. One thing that people may find useful to do if they have multiple magazines of the same caliber and plan to use different loads in some , is to color code . I paint the bottom of the magazine so I can know at a glance what type of round the magazine contains . Red for hollow points and self defense rounds , Green for all other non – FMJ rounds . No paint for standard FMJ . It works pretty good , doesn’t matter what color you use as long as it makes sense to you .

  17. I have followed the conventional wisdom of reloading common bullet calibers and brass for years. Lately, I have to begun to wonder if whether having a last ditch wildcat round would assure you of the higher probably of obtaining not only bullets, but brass that can be necked down or resized for an obsolete caliber such as 7.65 argentine, 6.5 swedish, .38 s&w, or .257 Roberts.

    Another consideration is a handgun that can shoot multiple calibers, such as .357 magnum, .38 special, or even 9mm. Swapping out cylinders would be the best way of maximizing the utility of a revolver, but autoloaders can also swap out parts like 9mm/ .45acp/.22LR, 7.62X25 (.30 Tokarev)

    • I am not an avid reloader but I would be concerned a tad about getting all the lengths right. I saw an article where two calibers were both based on the 30-06 case. I think it was a .270 and a .300 Mag. Problem was the .300 chambered because the round was short enough that the bullet didn't encounter the smaller diameter barrel until after the shot was fired and then you had a blocked barrel. Not good. I like my multiple caliber revolvers; my Blackhawk shoots either .45 Colt or .45 ACP depending on cylinder. I'm just nervous about having multiple calibers that will chamber in a weapon without my knowing it. The difference between my 45-70 Govt and 45-70 Marlin has me using an extremely rigid, never violated protocol when I'm shooting my 45-70 only single shot. I don't want to ruin a gun or any of my various body parts.

      • There are actually 4 calibers that are based on 30-06. 30-06 ofcourse, .280 Remington (7mm Express), .270 Winchester and 25-06 Remington. As for pistols there are two revolvers that will accept and fire multiple cartridges. The .327 Federal will also shoot .32 H&R Magnum, .32 S&W long and .32 ACP with half moon clips. The .357 Magnum will shoot .38 Special, .38 Short Colt and .38 Long Colt.

  18. Reloading is not only a good way to save money, but great when you cannot get ammo. I have been reloading for nearly 30 years for my .22 hornet, .308, 7.62 x 54, 7.62 x 39, 7.62 x 25, .380. 9mm, .30 cal M1 carbine, .357 and .45. I have used RCBS dies, as well as Lee dies with good results. I have an old RCBS JR press that I have used since I began to reload; and it still works like new. Be sure to get carbide sizing dies for any straight wall cased cartridgtes-that is a must. They last much longer and you do not have to lube the cases if you don't want to. I have bullet molds for every caliber I reload. For the rifles, I have both gas check type molds as well as non-gas checked for very low velocity. You can load a 180 grain .308 to around 1400 fps with 14 grains of pistol power. Good enough for defense or in a survival mode-deer size game. If you shoot a lot of reduced cast bullets, keep a good supply of Unique powder. The Lyman cast reloading manual has Unique load data for nearly everything from .32 ACP to the mighty .460 Weatherby. You can probably find a good used press for reasonable. Good ones rarely wear out. I would probably opt for new dies-they can be damaged from neglect easily. Whenever I go to any shooting range, I always scrounge for empties. Many people just throw them away. Well that's my input.

  19. To all those who are commenting about the availability of components:

    -> 20k primers easily fits (in their own storage containers!) in a single CF of space.
    -> at 7000 Grains per lb of smokeless, storing 20k rounds of powder would fit in a large freezer.
    -> Junk lead casting (no hardening elements) works fine below ~1200 fps without gas checks.
    -> Straight-wall cases are easier to inspect, generally stronger, and often operate at lower pressure than bottlenecks. Additionally, after the world 'came back' somewhat, straight wall cases would be (Most likely) the first type reproduced.

    In the end, a true LIFETIME Supply of pistol, rifle, and shotgun supplies would fit quite easily into a van or suburban, and set up quite handily in a relatively small room. This is true whether talking about loaded Ammunition, or reloading. For Reloading though, building a suitable, outward blasting powder magazine, and separating powders out so that a fire or accident didn't level the building or ruin all your supplies would be much harder than selecting, purchasing, and using such a collection. Getting enough reloading supplies for a whole life lived after the collapse, is not as difficult as some are making it out to be.

    Much more serious than this, is the human condition of what if?! The idea that we should research alternative powders (IE Black Powder again) is a cool one, but ultimately not (IMO) practical except perhaps experimentally.

    The route that I am taking is to store up dead-tree books (as well as Gold Archive CD Media) on how both smokeless and black powder are made, how they are purified, and how they are graded.

    Still, if you are considering a situation where the world as we know it REALLY, TRULY, *IS* Ending, having adequate powder and primers are the least of our worries. (Yellowstone Eruption, Big-Space-Rock, or TGTNW mean that preserving the INFORMATION about how such things were / are done, measured, etc…. is much more important)

    Preparing for a 'Evil Fed wants my Rifle' Demi-Twawki scenarios is fairly easy, even if one only kept .22 LR & 12 Gauge Shot… Such a thing is temporary, if one is being realistic. Win or Lose.

  20. While reloading saves money, is fun, and permits custom ammo to take advantage of "your" firearms, it is not the best way to store components. Quality factory ammo is loaded under controlled conditions. Under ideal circumstances it can last 50+ years. Did you get body oil on your primers? What was the humidity when you loaded? Were you tired? I have never had any
    failure of any kind in any type of firearm with quality US, Canadian, or European ammo. I can not say that of other source military, Russian or Chinese ammo. I have also experienced failures with handloads (however rare) in semi-autos. Handloading is also time consuming. We are not talking of casting 50-100 lead bullets. In an emergency you may be rather busy.

  21. If you don't have a tumbler and need to clean your brass just get a plastic pail that has a lid that seals well and mix the following; one cup warm water, one cup white vinegar, a teaspoon of dish soap and a teaspoon of salt. Stir until mixed. Submerge the brass and move around to get all trapped air from inside, close the lid and leave overnight. The next day fill a sink with fresh water, remove the brass by hand from the mixture by hand and put into the fresh water to rinse. Drain and conserving as much mixture as possible before rinsing because if the pail is kept sealed it can be use a couple of times. Rinse the brass thoroughly and stand open end down on towel to air dry. Once dry inspect, lube and start the reloading process or store until needed.

  22. New cast bullet alloy can go to 2000 feet per second with no gas check, are 4-5 times harder than lead, and don't foul the barrel. Skip the wheel weights and scrap lead and better performance is there. Check out carterscastbullets (dot) com for a story on bullet metal alloy and to get professionally made bullets. Reloading equipment and components, and they'll help find guns and ammo. Local pick up and discounts available in Fort Worth, TX.

  23. I think that for common calibers (especially military ammo) you may be better off buying surplus ammo. For uncommon calibers, reloading is probably the way to go! Personally, I prefer storing already loaded ammo because it takes up the same amount of space and I keep a large percentage of my prep supplies in several caches (mostly buried in 6 gallon food-grade plastic buckets); buying and storing multiple sets of reloading gear and supplies would be expensive and take up too much cache space! If SHTF and martial law is declared, then disarming the population may be a priority and having all your eggs in one basket (such as your house,first place they'll look) is begging for trouble! Paranoid, maybe, but if you consider that historically one of the first things tyrants do once in power is disarm their people, and if you're like me, ex-military, NRA member, known gun owner, etc. then you're on their lists! Also, you might want to check out the Emergency Powers Act signed by Kennedy at the time of the Cuban Crisis, it should open your eyes! I suggest that if you want to try your hand at reloading, then buy a LEE original loader kit which loads only one caliber and costs only about $30 each; just add powder, primer, and bullet to begin!


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