Simple reloading kits like the Lee Loader can help you turn out new rounds in a pinch. (Lee Loader/)
If there was ever a time to get serious about preparing for an ammunition shortage, it would have been about a year ago. Sure, we’ve seen shortages of niche ammunition and reloading components before, but the current lack of general hunting caliber ammunition unique. The pandemonium seems to be fueling itself. It’s not uncommon for people to snatch up any ammo they might possibly use someday—just because it’s on the shelf. It’s frustrating for you, me, and everyone else interested in hunting and the shooting sports. The situation has got many of us thinking about the possibility that someday, there might just not be any more ammo available. There may come a time when I have to improvise to put some meat on the table. I’m optimistic that eventually, the panic buying will subside and things will go back to normal. But this situation has definitely highlighted the importance of being able to load your own ammo.
Handloading ammunition isn’t a singular solution to ammo shortages—component shortages are a problem too—but being able to hand-load ammo, even in limited quantities, simply gives you more options. The impacts of the current ammo shortage will likely last into next fall’s hunting season or beyond. If you don’t already have ammo for your hunting rifle, it could be hard to come by. For this reason alone, it never hurts to have a backup plan. Handloading can be expensive and complex to get into, but below I’ve outlined 3 simple reloading kits that allow you to reload pistol, rifle, shotgun, and even rimfire ammo without any special tools or expensive equipment.
Lee Classic Reloader Kit
I got my start in handloading with the Lee Loader, and so did my dad. It’s been around for more than 60 years. These kits come in packaging that’s a little smaller than your standard reloading die box and include all the basic tools you need to decap, re-size, prime, measure and fill powder, and seat bullets, with only the aid of a non-marring mallet. The “loader” is a die that somewhat resembles the reloading dies that presses use, but you only need a solid, flat working surface. Except for some pistol cartridges, these loaders only re-size the cartridge neck, so it helps (and sometimes is necessary) to only use brass fired from the gun you are loading for to ensure smooth chambering. First, you’ll set the case in the base and use the decapping rod to tap out the old primer. Next, you’ll hammer the case into the sizing die until flush. You’ll place a primer in the priming chamber, set the die with case on top of it, and use the priming rod with the hammer to seat the new primer and push the case free of the die. Next comes the powder charge. Each kit comes with a generic powder measure and lists of powders and associated measurements with that cartridge. It does help to use a real powder scale for accuracy, but as long as you stay within the guidelines, your ammunition will be totally safe. After charging the case with powder, you set the case in the depriming chamber (so that no contact can be made with primer), and slide the die over the case (which is also used to adjust seating depth). Drop the bullet in, and use the seater to tap it into place. For what is a pretty rudimentary process, this kit is very capable of producing accurate and dependable ammunition, and is completely safe. These kits are mostly sold out on the Lee website, but you can still find them by hunting around online.
The author's original Lee Loader kit. (Tyler Freel/)
Lee Loader for Shotguns