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. I reload rifle ammo: 223, 300 BO, 7×57, 308 and I have dies for 38 special, but have not done any since I got the dies. I have a lot of factory ammo in all pistol sizes and also rifle cases. my reloads are just as good as factory. have never had a misfire.

  2. I used to work in a gun store with a range. I did my own reloading and used to shoot about 200 rounds a day of my own .38 special, and around 50 rounds of .45, every day. I never had a problem with my reloads.
    Then I got creative and made bullets as well. I found I could make explosive bullets for revolvers but I also figured different loads to tailor to different barrel lengths.
    I used to carry my reloads in my work gun, and so did some of my coworkers. I did have a Class VI FFL.

  3. Unlike most shooters, I waited until I was 36 (in 1968) to apply for my NY pistol permit and acquire my .22 Hi-Standard target pistol, followed soon after by a Colt ;45 ACP Government Model. I was fortunate to meet an old competition shooter in Jamestown who also reloaded target ammunition for resale throughout the U.S., and who taught me how to cast bullets and reload ammunition so precisely that he could drop 10 shots into a single ragged hole on a 25 or 50 yard target with his ammo and an World War 2 open sighted Remington ,45 that he assembled and accurized for competitive shooting. Rebuilding guns was his other side-business.

    That same year, I purchased my Lyman Spar-T reloading machine, powder measure, scale, furnace and first Hensley & Gibbs bullet mold, all of which are still in service. It was a personal achievement to learn how to produce unbelievably accurate reloads; more accurate than I personally can shoot them.

    Since then, I have reloaded countless thousands of .45 ACP, .38 Special and .357 Magnum ammunition for my own use, and, with a Dillon progressive loader purchased expressly to the purpose, .223 rifle ammo for a retired Army Colonel friend’s AR-15 which he preferred over his pistols.
    While I’m sure that my reloaded ammunition is as accurate as factory products, and more reliable than some imported stuff, I long ago heeded the advice of a lawyer to buy and use only a top brand of U.S. made commercial ammunition for self defense loads, which I keep in a separate magazine in the house.

  4. In the 1950s and 1960s U.S. government surveillance procedures consisted of, in part, random samples of ammunition lots stored inspected, tested and evaluated. Opened boxes in lots were repackaged and stenciled with “REPACKAGED” and the date on the repackaging.

  5. As someone who has been entertaining the thought of reloading for a while, there is one issue that never seems to be brought up. Firearm warranty. Firearm companies, or the ones that I’m familiar with, advice in their manual to use only commercial ammo. Lack of doing so may/does void the warranty.

  6. I got in to handloading not too long ago when I picked up a .458 socom. No way could I afford to shoot it otherwise.
    Luckily I had my father to help me out. He’s been reloading probably 40 or 50 years now.
    Carry ammo will most likely always be off the shelf. Like Gringo stated, there are just too many variables when handloading.
    I load 9mm and 223 in bulk for plinking. I ran tests for numerous loads several times. Settled on the load for each that was the most accurate and the cheapest. Otherwise, the rifle loads are precision. Every one better than factory. It shows on the paper and in the woods.
    I pick up any range brass I see. Even if I don’t reload it, clean deprimed brass is good for trading.
    Ammo is so cheap right now that reloading calibers like 9mm and 223 really doesn’t make much sense if you count your time spent. However, I enjoy the hobby, and it is no stretch to see that ammo prices will go up sharply in the next year.
    My hope is that these socialist zealots will continue to think that folks are in general too dumb to be able to handload, and won’t regulate materials as quickly as assembled ammo.

  7. I’ve been reloading for years, but only to use at the range. I have set up an inspection system and check every tenth bullet for length and powder measure then I log it.
    I’m a manufacturing engineer but trade so I’m very careful. I only reload for my handgun calibers. I also only reload the same case no more then 10 times that to I keep a log and mark the container that I use for them.

  8. Should you avoid home cooked meals? So you only buy premade food from restaurants because they never mess up like you could at home. Just a thought I had during reading the article. I’ve had duds throughout the years with factory ammo. More so than with my reloads which I only remember one time a primer not igniting my charge. I Have however had cheaper steel 223 ammo fail on occasion. I Have had a 40 S&W round bought at Walmart with the bullet shoved near to the base of the case and when I pulled the bullet found a full load behind it. I Have seen one or two factory trap shells not fire. I’m not saying that it’s a good idea for everyone who shoots to reload the ammo they use. Reloading however is extremely safe when done properly and there are huge benefits to be had in the quality department. Just do enough research. I feel lazy careless people more than likely will find it to be too much work anyway…which is a good thing.


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