Should You Be Reloading Your Own Ammunition?

BY Herschel Smith
11 months, 1 week ago

Rich Simpson:

While not a panacea, reloading can give you a temporary hedge on politically driven market shortages by allowing you to build up an adequate store of ammunition while the components are readily available and still reasonably priced. Second Point: On a more personal level, I absolutely love the fact that reloading gives me the ability to custom tailor ammunition for each of my firearms, thereby maximizing the performance and versatility of every firearm in my collection.

I’ve never been a reloader, but there are advantages to it if you know how, including a level of QA likely not brought to the task by factory loads.  Then again, Massad Ayoob has a warning for you concerning handgun ammunition.

For years, I’ve warned people that there are a couple of serious concerns with using handloaded ammunition for personal or home defense.  The big one is forensic replicability when the shooter is accused, and opposing theories of distance become a factor.

How often does this happen? One time some years ago, that question came up on an internet debate.  I looked through the ten cases I had pending at the time as an expert witness, and gunshot residue (GSR) testing to determine distance from gun muzzle to the person shot was an issue in four of them.  Forty percent is not what I’d call statistically insignificant.

[ … ]

… if you have any friends who use handloads for serious social purposes, please share. You might just save them from the sort of nightmare suffered by the defendant in New Jersey v. Daniel Bias, who was bankrupted by legal fees before the first of his three trials was over, and wound up serving hard time.  Both of his attorneys were convinced he was innocent, and told me they believed that if he had simply had factory ammo in his home defense gun, the case would probably never have even gone to trial.

Remember that if you ever have to shoot in self defense, the entirety of the legal system – witnesses, judges, juries, police and prosecutors – is stacked squarely against you.  Do you need anything else in that stack?

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  1. On May 12, 2017 at 11:19 am, Archer said:

    At our CCW class (required to get a CHL), the trainer emphasized this point. Shoot whatever you want for practice, but carry factory self-defense ammunition for “serious social purposes” (totally stealing that!).

    I raised my hand and offered a suggestion that if they can find out what brand/type of ammunition the local PD or SO issues for their patrol officers’/deputies’ sidearms, they can try to get and carry that (if it feeds through their gun, of course). It’ll help avoid accusations of using over-powered loads, unless a prosecutor wants that accusation to also fall on the police who use the exact same load.

    Anything you can do to pre-emptively foil a prosecutor is A Good Thing.

    There are enough reputable self-defense ammunition brands on the market that something will feed in your gun. There is literally no reason to use hand loads and open yourself to this line of argument and liability.

  2. On May 12, 2017 at 12:52 pm, UtahLibertarian said:

    As I believe Archer is saying, the question isn’t “Should you be Reloading,” but “Should you Carry Your Own Reoads?”

    I enjoy reloading, but I carry what the local LEO carries. The answer to the title is a resounding yes, but for me the answer to the latter question is no.

  3. On May 12, 2017 at 7:26 pm, Dave said:

    My carry weapon is .45acp. I not only reload, I cast my own projectiles. The result is that I’m paying about $3.50 for a box of 50 rounds – meaning that cost is not an obstacle to maintaining proficiency. After a practice session at the range however, the magazine of Speer Gold Dots goes back in the gun.

  4. On May 12, 2017 at 8:21 pm, John said:

    An old but true saying is: “reloading doesn’t save you money but it lets you shoot more” as it lowers your ammo costs substantially. Practice is the key to effective use of a firearm (or any of the martial arts).
    Many hunters and most all target shooters reload for a variety of obvious reasons but I agree that using your reloads for self defense lets the money grubbing lawyers get a hook into you.

  5. On May 13, 2017 at 11:42 am, Ned said:

    Another good rule is to find out what local LEOs are carrying and use that.

  6. On May 13, 2017 at 5:29 pm, MTHead said:

    Total bullshit argument! could only be made by an idiot, unrefuted by a moron, and swallowed whole by urbanites!
    Let’s examine the facts.
    Why did I buy a gun? To defend, or commit murder?
    Why did I buy bullets for the gun?
    Why did I buy hollow point bullets for the gun?
    The only thing that can be added to this argument is weather the defendant is a cheap-ass or not.
    How can anyone swallow the line that loading a federal hydroshok, is different than going to a store and buying a federal hydroshok?
    Or that a handloaded hollowpoint to the heart, is different than a store bought FMJ to the head?
    If criminal intent, (which is the only argument to be made), is present. That’s proven with the purchase of the firearm. Surely you knew it could be used for murder? Didn’t you mister jones?
    This argument rises to the level of educational inbreeding. And yes, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, It stopped the threat…………which is legal to do?………….Just damn!………Sorry Herschel.

  7. On May 13, 2017 at 10:19 pm, Miles said:

    I’m neither an idiot, moron, nor urbanite. But I do know how our U.S. effed up justice system ‘operates’ (as opposed to works).

    It’s not about buying the gun.
    It’s not about what bullet that’s bought or shot.
    And, it’s actually not about ‘stopping the threat’.

    It’s appearing to your Prosecuting/District Attorney that you’re not worth the time and effort because there’s easier fish out there to be reeled in.

    What you’re relying on is:
    If you ever do have to shoot in self defense, it appears so righteous that there is no doubt about it being justifiable. Most are, but many aren’t so clearly within the legal bounds of unimpeachable self-defense.
    Can you guarantee that?

    If the shoot approaches that boundary between Justified/No, it’s Murder, most foul!, your PA/DA uses the ‘discretion’ within his power to either not charge you himself or use his powers of persuasion to influence a Grand Jury to “No Bill” an indictment.

    In case you forgot, the line “a good prosecutor can convince a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich” applies if he has decided you’re “IT”.

    If you’re indicted, the average legal cost – just to get to the preliminary hearing – is going to run $25,000 to $50,000 for any decent defense attorney. This doesn’t include Bail Bond fees set at arraignment.
    If your lawshark can’t convince a judge you’re a ‘good guy with a gun’, and you go to trial, your legal costs just went interplanetary.

    And the average U.S. conviction percentage for PA/DAs taking a case to trial is in the high 80 to 90% range.

    However, I wish you good luck, really. You might be in the 10-15% but can your bank account stand it?

    Personally, I’m not going to give some PA/DA a ‘freebie’ point, no matter how ‘minor’ it may appear.

  8. On May 14, 2017 at 12:23 am, MTHead said:

    Miles, got all that. It smells of the fix being in. The meme that reloaded ammo = pre-meditation. Is at best one of the most idiotic arguments a DA could make. (not that DA’s aren’t devious idiots).
    If somehow you had the miss fortune to waste so much money on a lawyer moronic enough to let him get away with that argument. (your a fool of a client). And, you have a jury full of inbred urbanites.
    The same argument can be made for purchasing the firearm, or ammo for it! Its all pre-meditated murder at that point. Using the same bullets police use will not save you from that group.
    And yes, your honor. I pre-meditated the murder of anyone trying to commit pre-meditated murder on me and those in my charge.

  9. On May 14, 2017 at 4:45 am, Miles said:

    You do have part of it correct with “the fix is in”.

    This is surprising to you?

    The U.S. justice system isn’t fixed to do ‘right by you’. It’s used, folded, spindled and mutilated by Prosecutors to fit their own purposes, which is to get convictions.

    That’s the point about not just giving Prosecutors some hook to hang their hat on. You should make yourself as hard to prosecute as possible.

  10. On May 14, 2017 at 11:20 am, MTHead said:

    Surprised that I can’t get “justice” out of the “legal” system? YYYYYYA, that’s me. Put the cuffs on me, and call me Ammon Bundy the II!
    The point being thus: If a prosecutor can hang his hat on reloaded ammo as being pre-meditation, the fix would have to be in. As buying a firearm, ammo, training, etc.. Could all be construed as pre-meditation. And your going to jail, broke. Regardless.
    If you live in a place where the DA feels comfortable enough to bring such idiotic, easily refuted case before a jury? Your in the wrong town to own a gun. situational awareness, not the ammo you have is the key to survival.
    The DA in Portlandia, OR. could make such a case. I would love to see him try it in Wallace, ID.!

  11. On May 14, 2017 at 9:31 pm, Miles said:


    One thing and one thing only gives me further interest.

    Where are you coming up with this “premeditation” thing?

    I don’t see where Herschel, Massad, or the Arkansas lawyer who wrote the linked article on glocktalk uses that to make a point, and I’m not using it either. So, seriously, WTF? over.

    Now, there was a small tangential mention of it in one comment on The Highroad BBS thread linked in the article and how easily it was debunked in the past.
    But that’s not the point and you being stuck tends to make one come to other conclusions than a you’re simply misunderstanding Forensic Reproducibility which was the point that those men were making.
    But maybe I’m wrong.

  12. On May 14, 2017 at 9:51 pm, MTHead said:

    No, sorry, didn’t read the links. I work in a gun shop and have listened the argument about reloaded ammo in a defensive handgun was considered some kind of pre-meditated act.
    If that’s not the subject? I apologize!

  13. On May 14, 2017 at 11:04 pm, MTHead said:

    GSR residue. Amazing. Amazing the heights to which lawyers can push forensic voodoo. My best takeaway.
    Like pa said: Make sure the stories one sided!
    And shakespear: First thing we do is hang all the lawyers!……Sorry again, Miles.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Ammunition and was published May 11th, 2017 by Herschel Smith.

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