The Glory of Handloading

posted on February 20, 2013

It was getting late in the mid-January afternoon and buck tags filled in years past told me the rut was in full swing in southeast Alabama. When the magic hour hit, a doe emerged from the far tree line as if shooed out on cue by nature’s stagehand. By the way she was acting, I knew that a buck wouldn’t be far behind. Even at 300 yards, I didn’t need to raise my binocular to know he was a shooter. He was a trophy, not due to inches of horn, but because he was a wise, habitually nocturnal old warrior who was only showing his face because biology demanded it.

It wasn’t a short shot, but I knew the rifle and I knew the load. I’d carefully chosen the bullet, the brass, the primer and the powder. I’d experimented with all four and found the best balance of accuracy and velocity before painstakingly assembling the cartridge in a small batch at my bench. Even before I pressed the trigger, I knew the outcome.

I’d learned to handload rifle and handgun cartridges when I was in high school. I quickly determined that I could feed my pistol-shooting habit far more prosperously on my dime store paycheck by scrounging brass and loading my own. A few years later I started hunting big game and became mildly obsessed with rifle accuracy and bullet performance—it was with one of my own handloads that I took my first whitetail and many since.

Unless you’ve just been roused from a five-year nap, you are undoubtedly aware that centerfire ammunition has increased in both price and scarcity. A box of premium .300 Winchester Magnum ammo runs nearly $50 for 20 rounds but at least you can probably find it on store shelves. But what if you’re going varmint hunting and are looking for a case of .223? Good luck with that.

Though handloading definitely saves dollars, it’s not the only reason you should consider it. The ability to have a sustainable supply of ammunition through marketplace shortages like the one we’ve witnessed lately is another good reason; a modest supply of powder and primers and the ability to cast one’s own bullets can keep you shooting through the lean times. Handloads can also help maximize the accuracy potential of your firearm by allowing you to assemble component combinations or cartridge dimensions that are unavailable via mass production. Though today’s factory ammunition offers the best and most diverse lineup that hunters and shooters have ever seen, there’s still a limit to what you can buy off the shelf.

Best of all, for me, is the satisfaction of having done it myself. When I put venison on my family’s table, knowing I shot it with a rifle that I assembled, using a cartridge that I loaded by hand, over a field that I planted, I can’t help but feel good. And it’s hard to put a price on that.



Winchester 6.8 Western Copper Impact Ammo Lead
Winchester 6.8 Western Copper Impact Ammo Lead

First Look: Winchester 6.8 Western Copper Impact Ammo

Winchester’s new 6.8 Western 162-grain solid copper load sports their Copper Impact bullet, boasting a muzzle velocity of 2875 fps. It shoots accurately, hits hard and penetrates deeply.

Indiana Artist Wins California Upland Game Bird Stamp Art Contest

A painting of mountain quail has been chosen by a panel of judges as the winning entry in the 2021-2022 California Upland Game Bird Stamp Art Contest. The painting was created by Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, Indiana.

First Look: FORLOH Hunting Apparel

FORLOH is on a mission to design, source and manufacture world-class hunting apparel right here in the USA. Engineered with a ‘no concessions’ approach, every piece of gear is backed by a lifetime guarantee. 

New for 2022: Savage 110 Magpul Hunter

A hybrid hunting/target rifle, the newest Savage 110 translates deadly range accuracy into notched tags and a full freezer.

Oregon: ODFW announces 2023 annual wildlife art contest

The winning artist in each contest receives a $2,000 award and winning artwork is used to produce collector's stamps and other promotional items with sale proceeds benefitting Oregon's fish, wildlife and their habitats.

Primos Releases New Trigger Stick Gun Mounted Bipods

Primos hunting has announced its new line of Trigger Stick Gun Mounted Bipods, which come in short, medium and tall heights.


Get the best of American Hunter delivered to your inbox.