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Old March 16, 2001, 07:54 AM   #1
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Hey guys. I'm a young man (22) who has been shooting since I was a tiny little guy, but nobody in my family has been a handloader/reloader, and I only have one real good shooting buddy outside the family who I am certain does handloads(don't really know anyone else in Eastern Iowa well enough that I know if they reload or not, never bothered to ask most of them).

Anyway, I have a few questions here that should be interesting.

Is there any websites on how cases are formed? I know some handloaders can form their own, but they all tell me it's horribly expensive and time consuming and the only guys I know of that do it are not local friends, and they only do it for .50 BMG for match shooting from what I can tell. Why is it so pricey for the little guy, but factories can crank these things out like mad? Can't a little case forming machine be made?

Powder, can it be bought in bulk to save money? It seems like the powder is expensive enough that when compared to mil surplus rounds it often costs more to reload them than to buy a new one, and that's just talking cost of powder. Granted mil surplus is dirt cheap, but it still strikes me as really strange that powder would cost more than a whole round does.

Putting rounds together. Factories probably do this on a conveyor system that loads each round as it goes by and does it quite rapidly. Do any reloaders make anything similar, or have anything similar that they can buy?

Forming bullets. Just like cases, I am always told that making jacketted rifle bullets is more expensive than buying them. Once again this would seem to make no sense. If cost of materials is higher than a new bullet in some cases, then obviously the factory is paying a lot less for the materials and still has enough to cover labour and then sell at a profit which ends up less than I'd be spending. This stikes me as odd. Is there any rapid production techniques for homemade jacketted bullets?

Why can't steel be reloaded? Steel can be annealed, it would seem that it could be reloaded, is the price just too much or am I missing something? As for the Berdan primers, those pop right out when you anneal the cases, and those that don't come out by blowing air into the case with either your mouth or an air hose.

Finally, is there any truth to these places selling pulled bullets that are supposedly 'air-pulled'?? The claims of a few sites that they use air to pull their rounds seems plausible enough but my reloader buddy scoffs at it saying that pulled stuff is still pulled stuff and if you're gonna handload you might as well just pay for new bullets instead of pulled, no matter how it was pulled.
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Old March 16, 2001, 11:29 AM   #2
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I'll help where I can.

>Powder, can it be bought in bulk to save money?

Most powders are available in 1 and 5 pound kegs. I have seen some available in 8 pound kegs. Larger quantities are available if you are able to take delivery of a skid directly from the manufacturer. I'd expect anyone buying 250lbs of smokeless powder will start getting Christmas cards from the BATmen.

Even in 1 pound kegs, the price is affordable.

>Why can't steel be reloaded?

It isn't as soft as brass. Resizing the case would be very difficult, and the steel is as likely to break as bend. I would think this brittleness would also make it of questionable safety.

>Finally, is there any truth to these places selling pulled
>bullets that are supposedly 'air-pulled'?

Pulled bullets are just fine as long as they aren't cut or dented in the process. Lead is lead.

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Old March 16, 2001, 12:19 PM   #3
Mike Irwin
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Location: Northern Virginia
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Bulk powder - Yes. If you buy name brand powder in the larger containers, it is often quite a bit cheaper than if you were to buy it by the pound. Buying surplus powders is cheaper still.

Case forming - Well, that depends on how extensive a forming job you want/need to do. Some just require running the case through the proper die (such as .30 Remington through a .32 Remington sizing die to create that brass).

Others, such as making 7.65 Argentine from .30-06, requires forming and trimming. A little more complex.

Some of the MOST complex operatings require a lathe, such as turning the belt off a magnum case in order to make brass for a Newton rifle.

I don't know of any websites, but John Donnlley has an EXCELLENT book out on case forming which is available through, I believe, Midway.

Assembling rounds - Well, you can certainly get an expensive Dillon press that will allow you to do upwards of 1,000 rounds an hour, but that pales in comparison to the high-speed equipment used by the large manufacturers. Some of those machines can do, at full speed, 50,000 rounds an hour.

Bullet forming - You can do it at home. It just takes special presses and dies. Corbin I believe supplies a lot of the materials, including presses and dies, for home bullet assembly.

Steel cases - They can be reloaded. It's just an ENORMOUS pain in the butt depending on the case. I've done it, and it can be tough on the arms, tough on the press, and tough on the dies.

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Old March 16, 2001, 07:03 PM   #4
Chris McDermott
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Dangus the answer to many of your questions is that it takes some expensive equipment to do the job right; spread it over millions of cartridges and the price per cartridge is cheap, spread it over a couple hundred and it's really expensive.

You want to try to form your own cases from brass stock? Takes some powerful presses and expensive dies to turn a disk of brass into a cartridge case. Or for weaker cases that tend to split fast you can turn them on a lathe.

Change one cartridge case into another? Even something that looks as simple as turning 500 free military 308 Win into 243 Win needs an intermediate die (7mm-08), then you need to turn or ream the necks (the necks get thicker when you neck down, thinner when you expand up in caliber), then have to ream or swage the primer pockets. It's a lot easier and simpler to buy what you needed in the first place. Only if your cartridge isn't available at all, or is really expensive does it save you money to spend the time and effort (and money for dies and equipment) to try and make your own.

The benchrest guys are the ones who usually are making their own cases (PPC's from 220 Russian etc) and buying equipment from Corbin to make there own bullets (Berger bullets started this way). They do it to get the extra precision that they need to shoot 1/8" groups at 100 yards; and spend the money it takes. For the rest of us who are looking for "minute of deer" etc, then the cost (and time) doesn't make sense.

Even casting your own lead bullets doesn't make as much sense as it used to, but I think you can still save money if you shoot a lot and can get free or very cheap lead.
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Old March 17, 2001, 12:46 AM   #5
Art Eatman
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To make new cartridge cases from scratch takes about 25 steps with precision equipment. The old story: The first case costs $100,000; the next million cost two cents each.

For powder, a problem in today's world is a mix of federal regulations and company policies regarding shipping. Various fees for "special handling" and suchlike can run the cost up--unless you're buying in BIG quantities. IIRC, primers are regarded as equivalent to dynamite or some such dangerous material.

There are lots of places with pictures of cutaway views of bullets. They are precision-made, with varying wall thickness of the copper, and specific curves to the ogive at the front. Plus, such stuff as depth and diameter of the hollow point. "The first bullet costs $100,000..."

Steel cases can be reloaded, but they are far more likely to scratch both the resizing die and the chamber of a rifle. The military doesn't have to worry about such things.

Casting your own bullets is neither difficult nor expensive, particularly if you are good friends with somebody at a large tire store. Wheelweights work fine.

I've pulled bullets by holding the end with a pair of pliers and withdrawing the case with the loading tool ram. I then reloaded the bullets to see how much degradation in accuracy there would be. At 100 yards, very little. Good enough to hit a easily hit a coyote or deer.

It costs me about 28 cents per round to load for my '06. That's $5.60 a box for loads that will shoot inside an inch at 100 yards. I bought some el cheapo Winchester Silver Tips from WallyWorld for $8.00 plus tax, and got 3" to 4" groups. Duh? And I see very little premium ammo for much under $20 for 20 rounds. Premium ammo is almost as accurate as my handloads.

The "Big Deal" about handloading is that you not only have the versatility as to shape, style and weight of bullet, but you don't have to buy only "hot" loads. Your costs are less, of course, but there is the satisfaction and pride at doing well at something enjoyable.

And like I say, it keeps me out of the beer joints.

, Art
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Old March 17, 2001, 02:57 PM   #6
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Like what Art says ... except the price of the first case and bullet is probably as old as the story ... In my 15 years of manufacturing, I have never paid as little as $100,000 for a piece of high speed automated machinery Factories exploit economies of scale, both in the ability to spread the cost of the engineers and equipment over many, many rounds and also in the lower costs they can negotiate for raw materials by being such a "good" customer.
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