Hunters looking for an advantage may discover that loading their own ammunition can increase accuracy just enough to bag that long sought-after trophy.
Richard Kendall was born and raised in Craig and has been hunting since he was 14. That gives him 35 years of hunting experience, as well as ammunition reloading knowledge.
"It's more than a money-saving thing," Kendall said. "The biggest reason I started reloading years ago was for better accuracy."
Kendall said a good ammunition hand loader can match the ammunition to a specific rifle.
The reloading process begins with quality control for Kendall. He carefully inspects the brass casing to ensure it has no burrs in the neck that will scratch the bullet.
Brass can vary a great deal, depending on the manufacturer, Kendall said. Stick with one kind to avoid problems. Kendall likes Remington brass.
A sizing die will assure that the casing is the correct length and the mouth is clean and ready to receive the new bullet.
Next, Kendall cleans the inside and outside of the primer pocket, before inserting a new primer.
A press is used to insert the primer into the casing.
The powder that is poured into the casing is measured in grains, and amounts are listed in various reloading manuals.
There are three basic types of powder, Kendall said. Cylindrical powder looks like small cylinders and burns slower, while taking up slightly more space in the casing.
Spherical powder burns quicker than cylindrical powder and takes up less space.
Flake powder is the fastest burning of the group and is often used in pistol loads.
"It's up to the owner what works best for them," Kendall said. "It depends on the caliber."
A casing should be filled from 77 percent to 98 percent with powder for the best accuracy, staying within recommended specifications.
The bullet comes in various weights, types and shapes.
Kendall likes the Nosler partition bullet in a 180-grain weight when hunting for elk. He said it travels well through the air.
Reloading ammunition is expensive at first, Kendall said, but the costs decrease when the equipment is in place.
A starter reloading kit runs from $150 to $300, but the savings may climb to $2 per shot over the cost of factory ammunition.
As with any operation involving flammable materials, safety should always come first.
Kendall said people should avoid the temptation to load more powder for a higher velocity shot. He also recommends cleaning your work area frequently and avoiding distractions. Do not load with company in the house, or with the television on.
"Reloading is fun. You get to create your own components," Kendall said. "I make some pistol bullets out of wheel weights."
Kendall also reminds each hunter to sight in the rifle before beginning the hunt.
"It's not what you shoot," he said. "It's how you shoot what you have."