Hornady. While I've used many of Hornady's ammunition products over the years, reloading for rifle cartridges is something I'd never tried. With a couple of choice tags in my pocket for this fall's hunting season (including a coveted sheep tag!), I was delighted when my number came up to have the chance to review this reloader. Special thanks to the great folks at Outdoor Blogger Network for setting up these opportunities. As a note, while I don't normally do many gear reviews at all, this one is one of the rare ones where I've been provided the equipment by a manufacturer in exchange for a written review. Hornady provided the press and I purchased all of the ancillary equipment so it isn't like I don't have any "skin in the game" myself. As a note of apology, this review is pretty tardy by OBN's standards- all I can say is all those ancillary devices are a bit hard to come by here but some persistence and a couple of trips to Fairbanks and some back ordered mail order parts took care of it nicely (albeit slowly on my part). So with the introductories taken care of...on to the review.
In anticipation of doing the review, I did a bit of research and picked up a reloading manual so I could at least be familiar with the process ( I should have looked at the publishing date, more of that later). I had done a little reloading for pistol cartridges many years ago when I was an avid IDPA competitor so I was roughly familiar with the overall concept but I had my reservations about making ammunition that runs in the 65,000psi range rather than the much lower pressures of pistol ammunition. I needn't have been concerned, when I unboxed the press the first thing I noticed was a DVD lying right on top. So before burying into the packaging I actually did something rather rare for men in general and myself in particular- I watched the instructions....first.
While most of the attempts at video instruction manuals are usually little more than a spokesman referring a guy back to the manual for anything more complicated than opening the box; this one had a spokesman who showed me step by step how to set up the loader, for pistol cartridges. While the best video instruction I've seen to date I do wish they had included a segment on setting up for rifle dies, but that's more personal wish list than criticism. The instructions with the press and dies were more than adequate for the task. In my search for reloading accessories my wife came across a well loved but sturdy metal desk at a yard sale- $5 and it was in my van and destined to be my new loading bench. Setting up the bulk of the mechanicals was relatively simple requiring few tools other than a power drill, a couple of wrenches and some 5/16" hardware. All of the tooling required for working on the actual press itself (mainly hex keys) was thoughtfully included in the box.
American riflemen in general tend to be overly enamored with raw muzzle velocity but in my experience its not required. Most rifles shoot the "middling" load more accurately and its the rare rifle that shoots maximum loads really well. With my load I'm getting somewhere around 3250 fps and that's quite fast enough for my purposes considering the outstanding accuracy I got. A few more grains of powder would yield just north or 3350fps according to Alliant's data but it will be harder on my rifle, my shoulder, my wallet, less accurate and the sheep I hope to shoot will never know the difference.
For the economics of reloading I've often wondered how the costs would break down. When I was loading for competitive pistol shooting (long ago) the break even curve was something like 3000 rounds annually- I sometimes shot more than that in a single week so the cost savings were well worth it (given my budget back then, required!). But as a hunter and rifleman, could I really make reloading pay off? Here is the break down that I made- a pound of powder, 100 Nosler bullets, 100 primers, 20 cases (reloaded 5 times each) costs $81.75*- that's enough to make 100 rounds of ammunition. That same load (150gr Nosler BT) in Federal's excellent Premium line will cost $37.99* per box or $189.95 per 100 rounds. That's a considerable savings- given those prices an initial investment of $500 could be recovered in under 500 rounds and that's using premium hunting bullets. The average hunter might not shoot 500 rounds in the life of his rifle, but he should- lead down range is a huge benefit to field accuracy and I've written on it frequently. While not a strict apples to oranges comparison a person could load less expensive bullets or perhaps load lighter charges or use cases more before discarding and generate even greater savings but the real benefit of reloading in my opinion is not economic (although in these tough times it doesn't hurt). But the bottom line is, when you're rolling your own ammunition you will shoot more and that's a very good thing for your chances of success in the field.
*- Prices per Midway USA's website, not including shipping.