Wanna Compete? Better Learn to Hand-Load First
Most any competition you want to get into is going to have a course of fire that’s more than trivial numbers of rounds. For most kinds of competitive shooting you’re looking at 30-50 rounds per match. Some get up to 80 or even more. If you’re shooting rifle ammo and hoping to do better than just tossing rounds downrange then you’ll need match ammo. Rifle ammo for blastin’ is over a buck a shell easily and can quickly find 2-3 dollars each a comfy place to be. That might be comfy for the price to be but it’s not for most folks to pay.
Now let’s call it a 40 round match. That’s a quick and easy 50 bucks in ammo but, you don’t think you’re going to show up with 2 boxes of FGMM, shoot exactly 40 rounds and go home do you? Nope. The way it works is, you get to the venue and verify your zero (at a bare minimum), maybe verify some DOPE at specific ranges, if you’re smart you’ll take a couple chronograph reads before the match to put into your log book and you’ll want to do a few practice shots to warm up and get in the zone. Now you need a whole additional box of shells. Bang we’re at about 70 bucks in ammo for the day. Sure you might have a few left but are you honestly going to buy 60 rounds per outing at retail. That’s nasty expensive. For FGMM we’re talking about 100 dollars.
This means that unless you’re profoundly lazy, extremely unintelligent or untrustworthy, wealthy or resolved to failure that you’re going to need to have a way to make sure you have match grade ammo by the bucketful. Well if you donate your time you can come out really far ahead by reloading.
Primers are about 3-5 bucks per 100. Powder is 20-35 bucks a pound. Good bullets in sporting calibres are 25-70 cents each but let’s call it 35 cents a pop. Those will be good bullets at that price. For 100 bucks you can pick up enough supplies for 150-200 rounds or more (given a 45gn capacity size case). It’s not just a savings it’s a huge savings. Don’t forget that FGMM might or might not like your gun. Certainly with infinite combinations available to you you’ll have the ability to tailor a load to meet your needs and to be highly precise and repeatable. Good brass is a dollar a piece but you can use them 10-20 times or more if you don’t go nuts with the pressures. The only reason to buy retail ammo is to get the brass.
Once you decide that I’m right you’ll need to know one other detail. Buy your components in bulk. Bullets by the 1000. Powder in 8lbs kegs (or more). Primers by the 1000. Cases by the 1000. Once you have 1000 rounds worth in stock, build your next 1000. If you’re going to compete you need supplies and they’re going to be in various stages of processing continuously so you need to make sure you have a few hundred basically loaded and ready to go all the time. Use the off-season to build up a stock once you find a good load to settle on. You don’t think it’ll be a big deal but if you really want to compete you’re going to want to do a match about every month if possible and some months things get busy. If you have 4 matches in a month you’re going to need maybe 500 rounds or more. The last thing you do is only show up with just exactly enough bullets. You need to prepare for duds, out of whack shells that won’t chamber and for things like shoot-offs to break ties. Don’t show up under-equipped and take 2nd because you didn’t think there could be a tie.
There’s one other thing to pay close attention to. Set a goal for your load recipe. Something reasonable that it needs to accomplish. Then engineer your load recipe to achieve that goal. If you only need to knock down some steel chickens at 200m then there’s no reason to get all hot roddy about it. Use enough power to definitely do the job but don’t load the extra 200fps if you don’t need to. Save the wear and tear for the 500m rams. Similarly if you’re loading to push the envelope you’re just going to burn out the throat. Back it off a little and save the wear. A few FPS isn’t going to change things at the target.