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’ve never actually purchased a round of .357 or .44 Magnum, yet I’ve shot thousands of rounds in each. I can load anything from full magnum loads to mouse fart rounds. Factory loading can’t do that. the failures I’ve had with my own ammunition I can count on one hand. I think I’ll trust my reloading skills.

  2. I started reloading ammo back in the late 80’s. My reloading press and still in use is a single stage Lyman “Orange Crush”. That just goes to show the quality of American made equipment and how long they can last. All my reloads are “Chamber Check” with Lyman’s and Wilson’s ammo checkers. All my powders and primers is stored in a dry locked container. I buy digital scales and micrometers that can be calibrated. Ok that’s enough, the point I am trying to make is.. I take all these precautions just to load ammo that “I” can trust and rely on!! Keep you powder dry and your aim straight!! God bless America!

  3. While not an entirely bad article, I question the author. There is too much detail that makes me doubt whether he has ever reloaded ammo at all.

  4. I started reloading 3 years ago. My kids bought me a Hornady LocknLoad single stage press kit. After reading 3 reloading books, watching countless videos on You Tube, and reading numerous entries on forums, I started. I did it sl lo w, a batch of 10 rounds at a time with differing powder weights. I started with .380 acp rounds. Once I was happy with the particular load, I reloaded a lot more. Since I made each round by hand, it took a while. Attention to detail and each powder measure ensures no surprises. I clean, inspect, deprime and all the other steps one cartridge at a time. All my reloads perform well and accurately out to 25 yards. I now reload .380 acp, 9×18 Mak, 9mm Luger, .38 S&W, .357 mag, .40 S&W and .45 acp. I am getting ready to reload rifle rounds.

    At first, I reloaded to save money. Now, the political climate suggests reloading in case ammo will be hard to find. I make both target ammo and SD ammo. The SD ammo is reserved for in home use if I run out of commercial ammo. All my carry ammo is Hornady Critical Defense, after hearing legal arguments for doing so. We can never have enough ammo.

    As someone said, without ammo, guns are paperweights. Reloading ensures having ammo when needed.

  5. I have been reloading, without incident for 40 years, there is very little guesswork involved! My ammo is more reliable and accurate than any ammo mass manufactured! As each round is made for a specific rifle or handgun! None are anyplace close to a max load! Speed is not concidered as in each load there is a specific point where speed and accuracy merge! Each and every gun likes this powder and only this much of this powder and this projectile, and only this weight of this projectile! The proof is on target everytime

  6. I love reloading for all my guns. Mainly 9mm, 45ACP, 7mm08 Remington, 223, 300 BO, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 243. Never a problem, keep your mind on what you’re doing. I do however use factory ammo in my carry guns as was recommended to me by local law enforcement.

  7. I have reloaded for over 40 years now. I reload ALL of my target and hunting ammo for every firearm I own.
    That is currently over 11 calibers. At one time I was reloading for 19+ chamberings that I owned all at once. The good old days huh? 😉
    For defense loads I use nothing but factory loaded defensive rounds in my carry guns. The way lawyers are today you really have no choice. Your freedom may depend on it! As for a jury knowing and understanding that be it a factory load or a reload will BOTH kill you just as dead, I wouldn’t stake my life and Home on it!
    My reloads are 100% reliable! They always have been. I am way past careful when I reload. I inspect everything to within a inch of it’s life, and I constantly confirm both my measures and scales after each 50 rounds for handgun ammo, and every 25 for my rifles. All my guns fire MY reloads better than factory ammo, because I taylored them to each gun. It’s not hard to do, it just takes more time to do is all. Worth it if accurate guns are the only ones that interest you, as they do me. 🙂
    Good luck, and be safe!

  8. I agree that if you are new to reloading don’t bet your life on it. I am relatively new to reloading so I always test fire a few rounds after I reload. Once I see how they fire I am confident enough to use them for anything I may need. If I don’t like the way they perform I just use them for plunking around.

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