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Ammo battle: Factory vs handloads

Ammo battle: Factory vs handloads

All photo credits: Anthony Wright

When it comes to ammunition for your rifle(s) there's definitely a lot of choices. From ammunition on the shelf at your local sporting goods store to the opportunity to load your own, the spectrum is very broad. Here is my head to head comparison of each. 

Let's start off with factory ammunition

Factory ammunition

Pros

Cons

Readily available in most outdoor retail stores (most popular cartridges). Can be expensive for certain cartridges.
Popular bullet weight offerings covering plenty of barrel twist rates. Chances of inconsistent velocities and extreme spreads from shot to shot.
Many brands to choose from. SAAMI Specifications (no option to seat bullet out further or closer to the lands of the rifling).
Decent velocities, low chance of over pressure issues. Unknown powder temperature stability.
More affordable. May take a few boxes to find which brand works in your rifle.

Now, don't take this the wrong way; I'm not dogging factory ammo by any means. There are great offerings out there and, in fact, I currently use factory ammunition in my primary hunting rifle (6.5 PRC) since I'm able to buy a box and get a 1/2" group at 100 yards every time, which is great for off the shelf ammo. I believe that the performance you see downrange will somewhat reflect in the price on the box. For example, if you buy a cheap box of ammo, you may get mediocre results. Whereas, if you spend a little more, you more than likely will get better results.

Next up, handload/custom ammunition

Handloaded ammunition

Handloaded ammunition

Pros

Cons

Complete control over ingredients, i.e., brass, primer, powders, bullets. Making the cartridge a perfect fit to your rifle. Initially expensive to get started if using quality components.
Ability to gain more velocity to take advantage of the bullet's coefficient downrange. Takes time learning each step; preparing, loading, testing and adjusting the load.
Adjust bullet seating for fine-tuning of shot group and ability to "chase the lands" aka keep the bullet to rifling distance the same while the barrel starts to slowly wear out over time. Could run into increased barrel wear (typically only an issue if having to shoot a lot due to trouble finding the best concoction).
It's fun to learn and know more about the bullet in the chamber; how each component plays a part in a completed cartridge, which in turn speeds up the process of loading over time. Possibility of components (bullets, powder, brass, etc.) not being in stock when you need them.
Using high quality brass can be used for many iterations.  
Once you've found the perfect "recipe," you're able to hammer out identical loads to stock up.  

When I was handloading my own ammunition I really enjoyed it. I liked learning the process, knowing that I was the sole reason why they were or were not accurate. You have complete control on how picky you want your ammo to be, which, when you find the right combination, becomes very rewarding. There are now third-party companies that will come up with custom handloads for you, saving you the time and money investing in the equipment. Once they find the recipe that works for your gun, they will keep your load information on file, giving you the ability to order as you need. The only negatives are that it can be pricey and that you may need to send your rifle in for best results; however, if you get it completed in the offseason then it's no big deal. 

Factory vs handloads

Like I mentioned, I’ve done both options and am currently using factory ammunition from Hornady. Technology has come a long way in the factory ammo world, which, in turn, gives you, the consumer, better ammo on the shelf ready to go, providing you with repeatable results. However, I will likely do some handloading in the future for my varmint rifle since the bullet I've chosen to use isn't offered in box ammunition.

In conclusion

Anthony Wright - Rifles

Each one has its pluses and minuses just like anything. And if you're a person who just wants to grab and go, doesn't have the time or you don't want to deal with all the components and equipment, then factory ammo fits your needs and, in most cases, will be satisfactory. If you enjoy the handmade process, the ability to have control over each variable, want better than factory results or are having a hard time finding a factory load to work in your gun then maybe you should give handloading a try. Comment below on which cartridges you currently shoot and if you handload or use factory ammunition. I enjoy your feedback! As always, stay safe and hunt hard!

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