5 Things I’ve Learned While Reloading Ammunition

5 Things I’ve Learned While Reloading Ammunition

What are the habits and trick of the trade that can help reloaders avoid making mistakes? For one, good records. (Photo: Philip Massaro)

When it comes to getting down and dirty at the reloading bench don’t learn from your own mistakes. Instead, allow custom ammunition manufacturer Philip Massaro help you avoid them through his lifetime of experience.

When I started out handloading, it was a simple matter of economics. The younger me couldn’t afford to buy the Federal Premium and other top shelf ammunition, but I desperately wanted that level of performance. I owned but one big game rifle, a Ruger 77 in .308 Winchester (which still serves me well), so I really didn’t have a major investment in reloading gear. I asked my dad, Ol’ Grumpy Pants, to drag his Lee turret press and RCBS grain scale out of the closet, and I purchased a Lee trimmer and a set of RCBS dies. The first few seasons were spent just making ammo that worked, and I was successful in that department, but the mad scientist experimentation wasn’t far off. It still continues today, in varying forms. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way, which might help you on your path.

1. Don’t Try to Make a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear
My .308 Winchester, while a fantastic big game round, wasn’t a .300 Magnum, though I did my best to wring every last ounce of velocity out of it. Studying the reloading manuals, I did my best to turn it into a flat shooting magnum. I was obsessed with velocity, and lost sight of the big picture. Cratered primers, erratic accuracy and wasted money were the end effects. When I regrouped my thoughts and loaded the cartridge for the purpose that it was intended for, I got the results I should have been looking for in the first place: accuracy, and great field performance. Read up on your cartridges performance specs, and try to stay within reason.

Whether with hand-loaded ammunition or factory loads, learn what your rifle will shoot best and then get comfortable at the range with it.

2. Don’t Discount Old Data
There are many new powders and bullets on the market today, and they are wonderful, but that doesn’t mean that a tried and true bullet and powder combination from yesteryear won’t produce for you. I hoard old reloading manuals, because canister grade powders don’t change, and some of the newer manuals don’t cover all the possible powders. I’ve found great recipes in the old Speer, Hornady and Sierra manuals that have dropped out of print in recent years. Scour the gun shows, peruse eBay, and read through those old books.

3. Be Diligent
Once you become comfortable and proficient with reloading ammunition, it is not difficult to become lax. It’s simply human nature, and I’ve caught myself doing it. But, like the attention given to a chainsaw or a kitchen knife, we loaders need to be consistent and diligent. Treat every loading session as if were your first, and follow the rules of safety and common sense. Don’t clutter your bench with two or three projects. Turn the cell phone off, and free yourself from distractions.

Attempting to force a cartridge to do something that it’s not suppose to can lead to inaccurate results and wasted money. (Photo: Philip Massaro)

4. Keep Good Records
When you finally find that sweet load that your pistol or rifle likes so much, you certainly don’t want to lose it. Or, when things don’t work, say a load that proved to give dangerous pressures with a particular bullet/powder combination, keep good note of that. I keep a spiral bound notebook that is precious to me, as it contains all the load development information that I have compiled, both things that worked well and things I’ll never do again. I also keep a digital copy of that in my computer, so the work isn’t lost should my notebook fall into enemy hands.

5. Clean Your Gear
Sounds silly, but with the very precise tolerances that are involved with reloading, it doesn’t take a great amount of case lube mixed with tiny brass shavings and spent primer residue to gum up a resizing die, or the copper and lead shavings to get jammed in the bullet cup of a seating die. This will change the dimensions of the loaded ammo, and affect accuracy in addition to creating feeding problems. I like to disassemble my dies to give them a bath in the ultrasonic cleaner every so often, to keep things neat and tidy. If you don’t have an ultrasonic, take some cotton swabs and a good copper solvent and scrub away. I then give them a light coating of RemOil or other lubricant to prevent rust, and then reassemble. One more trick in this department: I make a dummy round, using the bullet/cartridge I like, but without primer or powder, so I can easily readjust my seating dies to give the proper dimension after cleaning. Don’t forget to degrease and lubricate your press as well. All of these tips will make your life as a handloader safer, easier and much more enjoyable.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Jan. 1, 2015 of Gun Digest the Magazine.


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LOST FAWN Ma-Mah – Deer Hunting buck and Doe Call Masters CM146

LOST FAWN Ma-Mah - Deer Hunting buck and Doe Call Masters CM146

  • Full size.
  • Straight edge.
  • Includes leather sheath.
  • Blade length: 5-1/4″.
  • Overall length: 9-3/8″.

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Lifelike Turkey Decoys Make Gobblers Take Second Look

Lifelike Turkey Decoys Make Gobblers Take Second Look

The first time I saw an Avian-X turkey decoy was in spring 2012 on a hunt down in south Alabama and I was flat-out gobsmacked at how good the hen looked in the field.

We were doing a turkey bowhunt with Nu-Fletch and Avian-X contributed some decoys. Holy smokes, did those hens look realistic. I was in a ground blind on one field, had the hen decoy out in the field and, honestly, woke up from a mid-morning snooze thinking a turkey was standing there.

I was convinced and bought a second one when I got home. They’re super. Take a look at this press release below about three Avian-X LCD models you may want to incorporate into your spring turkey hunting.

Avian-X LCD Breeder

Avian-X LCD (Lifelike Collapsible Decoys) turkey decoys are so realistic and life-like they are sure fool turkeys like no other decoys on the market. Hunters will feel nothing but confidence hitting the woods with the realistic appearance of the Avian-X LCD line.

Avian-X changed the game for turkey hunters across the country with the LCD series. The contoured look, feather detailing, perfect colorations and irresistible body postures are matched only by nature’s real thing. The new Avian-X LCD decoys are designed to mimic the anatomy and true-to-life detail of wild turkeys. These decoys incorporate the posture, attitude and expression a real bird possesses when communicating with other wild turkeys. An amazing eye for detail, combined with exhaustive research of turkey behavior to reproduce attractive body language, results in turkey decoys that are sure to fool even the most wary tom.

Avian-X LCD Lookout hen turkey decoy

Three new unrivaled body poses of Avian-X LCD decoys tell the whole story. Every decoy is made with a tactical hunting purpose. The intention is to get the absolute best, most realistic and functional turkey decoys ever available to bring gobblers into range of your gun or bow.

The LCD Lookout: The head-high, upright position of the “Lookout” decoy shows dominance. This decoy has a high exposed rump and dropped wings, expressing the hen is relaxed but ready to fight for her gobbler. This is an excellent choice when hunting big early spring flocks or when dominant male turkeys are henned-up. This decoy drives dominant hens crazy.

Avian-X LCD Feeder

The LCD Feeder: The head-low “Feeder” is in a relaxed position. Often, from mid- to late-season, you’ll see a lone hen feeding in a field or open hardwoods. A strutter will be 5 to 10 yards behind her, waiting for his courtship chance. The Feeder LCD hen is also effective when paired with the LCD Jake or Strutter in tow.

The LCD Breeder: The “Breeder” hen has a lowered head and forward stretching body position, with a high exposed rump and dropped wings. This tells incoming gobblers the highly realistic decoy is receptive to breeding. The decoy is effective when staked alone, but as with the Feeder, the odds of pulling a gobbler in are greatly increased when the Breeder is placed within a few feet of the Avian-X LCD Jake or Strutter.

The Avian-X team has spent countless hours studying live birds to create the most effective decoys ever made. These LCD decoys, with No-Flake painted perfection, are completely collapsible. An advanced Dura-Rubber material makes them easy to pack into the turkey woods. Each decoy comes with a carry bag and folding motion stake. This feature creates life-like motion in the slightest breeze.

Check out the entire lineup of turkey decoys, and others, at www.avian-x.com


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From Deer & Deer Hunting magazine, the 2015 Whitetails Wall Calendar features the work of deer researchers Wayne Laroche and Charlie Alsheimer, who reveal the 2015 whitetail rut prediction, based on years of lunar cycle research. Utilize this deer moon phase calendar to find out which days the deer will be seeking and chasing, so you can time the rut for the best time to hunt.

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Why to Vote Against Mandatory Antler Restrictions

Why to Vote Against Mandatory Antler Restrictions

I just got this note and photo from my friend Ed Waite, a long-time certified antler measurer. Ed measures hundreds (if not more) antlers a year, and is well known for his love of big whitetail racks.

Ed writes:

“This is the last buck I scored during the Central PA Outdoor & Sports Show in Clearfield, PA last weekend. It was taken by 11 year old Eric Myers. He was as proud as a peacock and excited beyond words when I told him I would be happy to measure it for him. I also gave him a certificate to prove that it had indeed been scored by a certified Buckmasters Scorer. Then my friend Ken of Ken’s Skull Taxidermy took it home and mounted it for him!”

Scientific research has shown no correlation between mandatory antler restrictions and the health of any whitetail herd. As hunters and conservations, we should embrace science-based deer management regulations and not support silly rules that would prevent hunters like 11-year-old Eric from securing life-long memories.

In case you were wondering, Ed reports that Eric’s buck had an official score of 25-5/8 inches.

Love it.


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Graphics and More Deer – Buck Hunting Protective Skin Sticker Case for Apple iPhone 5C – Set of 2 – Non-Retail Packaging – Opaque

Graphics and More Deer - Buck Hunting Protective Skin Sticker Case for Apple iPhone 5C - Set of 2 - Non-Retail Packaging - Opaque

This quality skin set will add distinctive style to your device. It is made of specially coated vinyl that resists scratches, applies smoothly without air bubbles, and will not leave behind any residue when removed. The skin set covers the back of the phone as shown. Application is easy, but we include two sets for you just in case. You can use the extra as a test sample or spare… in the event that you royally screw up the application or just want a fresh skin later on. All of the iPhone buttons and the charging jack are fully accessible while the skin is applied. The skin set is also thin enough to be covered with most third-party cases or accessories. Note: This product is not a phone case. It is a set of adhesive vinyl skin stickers as described below. Made in the USA

List price: $9.99

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Buckshots: Persistence Pays for Saskatchewan Prairie Deer

Buckshots: Persistence Pays for Saskatchewan Prairie Deer

t was the most snow I had seen in years. The drifts were so deep that access was limited. Despite all this, I was determined to go back to an area few people would attempt hunting in order to make my 2010 trip to Saskatchewan a success.

By Chris Maxwell

Chris Maxwell with his Saskatchewan buck.

After walking for five miles I came to a hidden draw heavy with sign. Movement caught my eye right away; deer were everywhere. With this many does around and it being the tail end of the rut, I knew at least one mature buck would be dominating this harem. Then I spotted them: two bruisers. The pair had not survived to maturity by taking chances, and my presence soon scared them off.

The next day, thoughts of return- ing to the draw crossed my mind. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was where I was supposed to be. When I returned, a quick survey revealed no sign of the two bucks. Deciding to leave the rest of the herd alone, I resigned to leave once again.

I had not gone 30 yards when I dust and snow, well low of its spotted them bedded in the snow. An eternity seemed to pass before the bucks rose and one presented me with a clear, broadside shot at no more than 30 yards. The boom of my rifle filled the air, quickly followed by the sound of a tumbling bullet.

A ricochet!

The next morning found me defeated. I had missed an easy shot opportunity and my confidence had been shattered. There was no option; I needed to find the buck again. Not knowing where else to start, I went back to the same draw.

It wasn’t long before I saw antlers sticking high out of the grass. I knew this was the same buck!


Although he was nearby, I had no shot, and I knew it. Suddenly he got up and decided it was time to move to the next ridge. I stalked him for hours; every time I thought I had gained a little ground the herd would move farther away. Finally, I was able to get in position and place the cross- hairs on the buck’s shoulders.

I squeezed the trigger … another miss!

Quickly, I chambered another round and squeezed the trigger a second time. The bullet kicked up dust and snow, well low of its mark.

The herd ran off, and I moved in to look for signs of blood. There were none, but I did find that I had been shooting from well over 500 yards!

The flat prairie, clear air and my zoomed in scope had deceived me into thinking I was shooting from much closer range.

At this point, I knew it was over. Trudging toward the truck, I was just about to cross over the last fence when I saw both bucks again!

Renewed optimism in hand, I slowly made my approach to the cover of a nearby rock pile. This time, I checked my scope against several landmarks to ensure I was well within range.

Again, I squeezed the trigger. Finally, I had him down.

When I reached him, I quickly realized the original ricochet had been the bullet striking both main beams! I had been looking at his antlers and not his chest when I had taken the shot.

I finally had my buck … and a valuable truth: persistence pays off!

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Livestock / Deer Feeder

Livestock / Deer Feeder

This is a trough-style animal feeder designed with deer in mind, but it can be used for any medium to large animal. It is very easy to assemble, with no screws or nails. There are no metal parts of any kind on the trough. The bottom of the trough is removable, making it very simple to clean. Because of it’s attractive design, you will want to also use it as a planter for an herb or flower garden. Made from white pine, it will last for years. Wholly made in the USA.

List price: $59.99

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Primos Hunting Calls Mastering The Art Deer Instructional DVD

Primos Hunting Calls Mastering The Art Deer Instructional DVD

Learn how to Master The Art of deer hunting. There is so much to learn about deer hunting that it can’t be covered in one video. You’ll learn tactics from Team Primos on how to call deer up close. We teach people by example as we lay out for you what we are doing on each hunt. This video has fundamental skills for beginners and new techniques for veteran hunters.

List price: $8.95

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