Give reloading a try

Our first step in reloading shotgun shells is to buy Lyman's 5th Edition Shotshell Reloading Handbook.

Dove season isn't that far off now, so I suppose you've been putting-in plenty of time at the sporting clays range? If the answer is yes, then you've probably fired several hundred rounds of shells. Did you load those shells yourself, or buy factory loads? You probably bought 'em. Most people do nowadays, but it wasn't always that way. The cost of shooting many rounds of factory ammunition in practice is the main reason scattergunners began reloading. It was a good way to save money, so that more shooting could be done, but that has changed to some degree.

In recent times, there has been a large increase in the importation of comparatively less costly ammunition into the U.S. To compete, the large American ammo companies (Federal, Remington, Winchester) have been forced to keep pace by placing their own lower cost shot shells on the market for the clay target shooter. A shot shell reloader can often match or slightly beat the price of this lower priced ammunition, but a huge cost savings can no longer be expected, compared to this lower cost ammunition. But, and this is a big but, while this ammo may be a bargain, its performance may leave something to be desired, as its patterns may not be as good as top quality target loads. This is where the reloader can shine.

Top quality target ammo can be loaded for the same money, or slightly less, than that of lesser quality factory loads. Also, top quality reloads will cost considerably less than top quality factory target ammunition. Should you decide to start reloading, the hulls from the less costly factory ammo are poor choices for reloading. They don't hold-up well because they are built for price, not for strength. The empty hulls you want to reload are Federal Gold Medal, Remington STS, or Winchester AA (or HS). Another advantage to reloading is your choice of shot quality. Lead birdshot comes in three grades: Drop Shot, Chilled Shot, and Magnum Shot.

Drop Shot is made from pure lead. Chilled Shot and Magnum Shot contain the metal "antimony" to give the shot hardness to produce good patterns. The higher the percentage of antimony used, the harder the shot. Magnum Shot (the hardest) is used in top quality factory hunting and target loads, whereas Chilled Shot is used in most standard factory loads. Most reloaders use Magnum Shot for the best possible patterns. Another reason to reload is that you may produce a large variety of loads to suit your needs (target or hunting) by simply using different combinations of components. Sportsmen may also have to look high and low (and pay a higher price) for less common ammunition such as 16 or 28 gauge shells. The reloader doesn't have to worry about that.

Aside from possible cost savings, reloading can be a darn enjoyable, relaxing, and rewarding hobby. If you'd like to give reloading a try, the first thing you should do is buy a good reloading manual such as Lyman's 5th Edition Shotshell Reloading Handbook. It will advise you on what equipment and components to buy and take you step-by-step through the loading process. Study the book thoroughly, and you'll be ahead of the game even before you load your first shell. Components you'll need are hulls, primers, powder, wads, and shot. The manual will give you many loads using various combinations of these components to yield top notch shotshells. Alabama's split dove season begins September 7th-October 27th, November 23rd-December 1, and December 14th-January 12th. That's the North Zone, which includes Montgomery Co. and surrounding counties. The limit is 15 doves per day.