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Hewitt: Coming up with proper big-game loads

I was working with Beaver Boy this week on coming up with the perfect big-game loads for our hunting rifles.

I specifically was looking for .30 caliber loads for a .300 Win Mag for elk, bear and moose. The sticker shock of off the shelf cartridges that I preferred was nearly $80 a box of 20 count, four dollars a round brings a new meaning to make every shot count.

Years ago, many hunters and bench shooters decided that hand loading cartridges for your favorite sporting arm was the way to go, you saved money and improved accuracy with custom loads for your rifles and I was among the shooters who bought into that thought process. I looked over different systems and decided on a RCBS reloading system. This involved a lot of equipment for the proper hand loading of cartridges including; dies, presses, scales, tumblers, primer sets, trimmers and so much more. Then you needed the physical components of powder, primers, cases, and bullets.

The technical aspects of hand-loading are significant as each firearm calls for customizing the components to fit its needs. For example, if you hunt with a .270 Winchester, you will not be using the same components for a .308 Winchester. Different bullets, cases and powder, but the primers can be the same. Some reloading powders can be used for multiple calibers, but have different results. The powder is precisely measured out in grains of powder for each load that you choose to fire. In looking at the grains of powde,r the size of different powder grains is varied as well.

Well, Beaver Boy and I researched the type of powders that might work best for my rifle and we came up with three possibilities. One powder was nearly impossible to find, really expensive if you did find it, and limited to a small quantity of a one-pound container. The second powder of choice was in my supply box, but not in great quantity for range work in testing bullet loads. The third powder was looking most promising as I had more of a supply on hand and could get some more if I needed to do so.

We chose a powder called IMR 4831, which has been around for some time and is a proven reloading powder for my .30 caliber. I looked over my stock and saw that I had an older plastic powder container that a one-pound measure of powder was sold in back in the day. The price was $19.99 and could load four or five boxes of cartridges. I picked up a second container and it was $31on the sticker.

That was quite a jump, but still manageable considering that off-the-shelf cartridges were even more for just 20 cartridges. The reality of today’s prices really set in when I found that $50 was the going rate for the same pound of powder. Talk about sticker shock!

When I go to the shooting range, there is no long line waiting to use the benches for target practice for hunting rifles. Many fellows are shooting the ARs in .223 caliber and 5.56 x 45 caliber which is really plentiful, but useless for the hunting club. In fact, there are over 100 choices of bullets for this type of rifle and no need to worry about reloading at the costs. Generally, I personally dislike plastic and ARs are plastic with no art form for an old-time firearm collector, not for me.

So, the Fall gun shows will be starting this month and I will prowl the aisles looking for components which I will find. Many of the older hunters will start unloading their equipment and supplies as they are moving into a different stage of their life. I often hear fellows say that they are moving to a warmer climate and have decided to unload their stuff. Some others are giving up hunting while others don’t use the range as much anymore. I am not there yet, but I am sure that one of these years I will be giving somebody a great deal of bargains as my interests changes as well.

In other news, the antlerless licenses in both WMU 2-D and WMU 1-A have been sold out as of Monday. Anyone wanting a license should have had plenty of chances.

The H-T-E class at Moniteau High School is on for Sept. 24, sponsored by the Boyers Sportsmen’s Association. To register, use the PA Game Commission’s website and go to education hunter ed classes. The sportsmen are providing lunch for those in attendance as well.

Until we meet again, remember its never too late to learn something!

Jay Hewitt is an outdoors columnist for the Butler Eagle

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