One thing is certain — reloaders are a particular sort, with benches chock full of the tools of the trade. The art of reloading is one that must be treated with discretion and a mind to safety. However, do we reloaders hold true some incorrect ideas of our craft, or have we been right-on all along? Lets take a look at some of the topic handloaders like to debate.
1. Smokeless powder does not perform as well in the cold: At least, partly true
We can qualify this statement to say with certainty that “certain” powders do not handle frigid conditions as well as others. While I can’t make the argument for metallic cartridges, I can say that my trap loads do not shoot as well when forgotten in a freezing vehicle. My winter trap team went so far as to leave a box of Green Dot loads in the truck for several sub-zero days before running them through the chrono and on the patterning board. While the results were neither startlingly low nor blown, they were nonetheless negatively skewed from the baseline tests taken with the same recipe in summer. The decrease in performance should not be enough to cause a loss of birds, though it sounds like a viable excuse (I admit to enjoying good excuses for lost birds). It would stand to rise, nonetheless, that velocities achieved with most powders would be at least somewhat lower in the naturally more dense winter air. If a powder creates less pressure in the cold, lower velocity is the general result. Whether the decrease in velocity is due to the bullet or shot’s physical reaction to dense air remains for debate.
It’s also important to note that modern powders, as opposed to old timers like cordite, are much more stable at a range of temperatures, both significantly high and low. The fact remains that all loads will react differently under different circumstances, not to mention the myriad of other factors to consider involving the firearm itself. If concerns remain about a certain powder’s capabilities in extreme conditions, do what meticulous reloaders do best — brave the weather with some fresh loads and head out to the range with a chrono.
2. Factory ammo is more reliable and more accurate than reloads: False, with exceptions
“Factory will outshoot reloads every time. Handloads are not reliable.” I’ve heard statements like this from many folks over the years, usually defensively and always from non-reloaders. It is very true that factory ammo has improved drastically over the years, and today’s factory ammo is far superior in both accuracy and reliability to that available 40+ years ago, especially the match grade varieties. Still, in my reloader’s brain, the majority of factory ammo is no match for…