Should You Avoid Reloaded Ammunition?

Lyman digital powder scale

During war, one of the most common tactics used to fight the enemy is to disrupt their supply lines. During the Vietnam War, U.S. soldiers did this in a different way than just simply stopping supplies from getting to the enemy. This specific operation, code named “Project Eldest Son,” was carried out by U.S. Green-Beret patrols, who captured enemy ammunition stashes—typically 7.62x39mm ammo cartridges—which were used in the AK-47s regularly carried by Communist forces.

.223 NATO Lake City M855 FMJ 62 Grain Steel Penetrator Ammo
Besides guns, what is the second thing a shooter can never have enough of? Why, ammo, of course!

Once the U.S. captured the ammo stashes, the cartridges would be disassembled and then put back together with different components. For instance, the powder in the cartridges were replaced with a high explosive powder that would generate five times the pressure in the firearm. The high explosive powder inside the cartridges would typically cause the AK-47 receiver to explode sending bolts and pieces of the gun backward towards the person holding the rifle.

Once the sabotaged ammo was ready to go, U.S. forces would return the ammo to the stashes, normally putting one bad round in a container full of good rounds. The objective was to put doubt into the enemy’s mind regarding the safety and reliability of their ammo. As an added benefit, since most of the Communist forces’ ammo was coming from China, this also caused the enemy to question the ammo they were receiving from China.

Today, as during the Vietnam War, one simple fact remains true: Our firearms are obviously worthless without ammunition that works. I’m sure you’ve heard how many gun activists want to make ammo harder to come by and there is no question that depending on where you live, it’s becoming more difficult to walk into your sporting goods store to buy ammo. This has led to a continuing growing popularity of reloading your own ammo.

Vietnam became the proving ground for a lighter battle rifle and the Soviets took notice. Although somewhat reluctant, Kalashnikov designed the lighter, faster AK-74.

Now, I know people who have done this for years and are very good at what they do. On the other hand, I have a family member who spent countless hours reloading thousands of rounds, only to find out the powder was a little off and the ammo was unusable. This is why, if you reload ammo, you have to take your time and know what you’re doing. This is not something you want to watch a five-minute YouTube video and think you’re a pro who knows it all. So, if you are considering getting into reloading ammo, keep in mind the factors below and make sure you invest the time to do it right.


As I mentioned, I had a family member who reloaded his own ammo and was slightly off with his measurements. Of course, no one is perfect, but the thing is, the big ammo manufacturers clearly have numerous safety inspections in place that make their ammo much more dependable, which is why quality ammo rarely has any issues.

Cartridge Durability

Unless you keep your eye on every cartridge you use for reloading, you never know how many times the cartridge has been reloaded. The more you reload a cartridge, the weaker it will become over time. Essentially, as it becomes weaker, it will be more prone to failure and malfunctions.


Lyman Cyclone rotary tumbler
The beginning loader will find Lyman offers excellent gear.

I realize this is a big “what if.” However, if you were involved in a self-defense shooting, would you really want to explain your reloaded ammo? Again, I realize this is a stretch, but it is one more thing an aggressive prosecutor or civil attorney could use to try and blame you for what happened. During a trial, the best thing you can do is show the court a box of ammo from the manufacturer and say contact them with any questions.

When it comes to ammo, some of my favorite brands are Speer, Hornady, Remington, Winchester, and Federal. These are all quality offerings and dependable brands that won’t break the bank.

I do realize a lot of folks reload ammo for the huge savings cost. If this is the case, I see nothing wrong with reloading rounds for simple target practice at the range or shooting with friends. However, I would not use reloaded rounds in my self-defense weapon, and I would spend the extra money to ensure you have a reliable round when your life depends on it.

Do you reload or shoot handloads? Do you carry handloads for self-defense? Share your answers or opinions about reloading in the comment section.

Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author of Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life. To get a free copy of his book, visit

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog. "The Shooter's Log", is to provide information - not opinions - to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decicions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (34)

  1. If the question is should you reload? The answer is most definitely yes. You get loads that you can tailor for your particular gun. Ammunition that can be superior to factory loaded ammunition, more accurate and more powerful. Reloads are the only affordable way to shoot alot, plus may be the only way to get some ammo if certain politicians have their way.

    That all said, as I said in another posting, I would stay away from reloaded ammo in this lawsuit crazy world we find ourselves in today…..

  2. As for carrying it for defensive purposes, you are also fine….. There is no prosecutor in the world that would actually be able to pull off you had a stronger bbn intent by carrying bvb hand loaded ammu it on. It’s a fire arm, and a bullet….. every combo of the two is considered to be lethal.

  3. I have been reloading for 30 years and still have both eyes and all my fingers. I have never had a scary moment and that is because I stay focused when I am making cartridges. I started out reloading .44 Magnum and I still have brass from 30 years ago. The older brass is relegated to target loads with SWC’s over Unique powder, brass that is once or twice fired will be loaded to full power factory specs. I never load “MAX” charges, just no need to. I reload 5 pistol calibers and 5 rifle calibers. It is nice to develop loads specifically to your needs…FMJ, copper solids, lead, Hornady XTP’s (my go to pistol bullet if it isn’t lead. The biggest concern I have is seating a bullet over a case that didn’t get a powder charge…that keeps me paying attention at the reloading bench and at the range or in the wilds. I use cheap LEE equipment, which has served me well making thousands upon thousands of rounds over the years. I have the time, not the money, so reloading lets me fire the number of rounds I like to shoot per outing…if you ain’t shooting, you should be reloading! I also do things in batches…size hundreds of .223 cases or .308 Win cases…then trim, chamfer, etc…which lets me inspect each case for wear or fault. I just reloaded 100 rounds of .38 Special last night.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit exceeded. Please click the reload button and complete the captcha once again.

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.