For years many people have said that it is unwise to carry handloaded ammo for defensive purposes. This is based mostly on two elements—both of which I believe are mostly myths.

The first point of contention is that handloaded (reloaded) ammunition is unreliable. First, let me say that you may trust your loads, and I may trust mine, but until proven we should not trust each other’s.

As long as cartridges are loaded properly, following a trusted reloading manual (avoid on-line data) and stored properly, reloads are every bit as reliable as factory ammo.

I recently went to the range with some .45 ACP reloads. According to the data sheet, which I include with every batch of reloads, they were loaded in June of 2004.

The loads were accurate and every single round fed, extracted and ejected as if they had been loaded yesterday.

The second element that some people pontificate about is that if the loads are ever used in a self-defense shooting, you are opening yourself up to lawsuit. I have investigated this, and while I may have missed one, I have never found a single incident that supports this theory.

I investigated numerous shootings when I was a peace officer, and I never asked if a handload had been used. It was, in fact, irrelevant to the case. Taking it a step further, many officers are not “gun people” and it is extremely unlikely it would occur to them ask if reloaded ammo was used.

If this truly concerns you, inquire around to what the officers in your area carry. If, for example, they carry a 124-gr. 9mm jacketed hollow point (JHP), load a 124-gr. JHP, being sure to keep the loads around factory velocity specifications.

In my experience “hot” loads use more powder, resulting in an increase in muzzle flash and recoil, and often degrades accuracy while offering little increase in downrange performance.


A supply of duty ammo may keep your hide intact,
while practice ammo will do the same for your skill sets.




Except for precision rifle loads I don’t separate cases by brand. Rather, I separate them into brass and nickel plated cases. Generally, this is more for aesthetics than anything else; though it allows at a glance what category the round fits into.

Jacketed hollow point “duty” bullets go into the nickel cases, while practice lead bullets are loaded in the brass.

By far and away the most used JHP bullet I load is the Hornady XTP. Using manuals from Accurate Arms, Hornady and Lyman, I try as close as possible to duplicate Hornady’s loaded factory ammunition.

Lead practice bullets, with only a couple of exceptions, are cast from wheel weight alloy using Lee Precision molds. I try to come as close as possible duplicating the perceived recoil of the “duty” loads. In hotter loads, like the .357 Magnum, I use a gas-checked bullet to keep barrel leading to a minimum.


Nickel-cased duty ammo beside loads in brass cases. Left to right: .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, 9mm Luger.


Author places hollow point duty loads in individual boxes, while practice ammo is often bulk packed.



Alliant Unique and Accurate #5 powders were used to assemble practice and duty loads.


Author uses Hornady XTP JHP bullets almost exclusively for duty loads,
while casting lead bullets from a Lee Precision mold for practice.



I use Unique powder more than any other because it is, well, Unique. I use it almost exclusively in handguns and it can be used in shotshells and even some rifle cartridges with cast bullets.

When loading my “duty” loads, I wanted a powder that measured very accurately from my powder measures and also had a low flash signature. The powder I chose was Accurate #5.

There are powders with even less flash, such as Winchester’s Auto-Comp and Ramshot’s Silhouette, but I chose #5 because it is widely available in my area without placing a special order and reasonably priced.

A discussion of primers will often result in a spirited debate amongst handloaders. Because one of the main reasons for reloading is to save money, for practice loads I use what I find on sale.

For duty loads I stick with CCI primers. I have been reloading since 1974 and can’t remember ever having a bad CCI primer. They are very reliable and clean burning.

Avoid dies that seat and crimp in one step for auto-pistols. Most pistols headspace on the case mouth and crimping while you seat may displace material from the bullet, especially lead, in front of the case resulting in a round that may not chamber. Either use a separate factory taper crimp die (preferred) of seat the bullet, and then back off the seating stem and turn the seating die down until I just removes the flare from seating the bullet.

Revolver rounds should be moderately crimped into the crimp groove on the bullet, so a bullet will not setback into the case (causing higher pressure) or jumps forward of the cylinder and locks up the gun. The latter may be described as a true jam instead of a malfunction and takes the gun entirely out of the fight.


For lead practice rounds it is a common practice for me to bulk pack them in an MTM .30 caliber-sized ammo can. With a water-resistant “O” ring seal, the rounds will stay protected and reliable for a long time.

For the “duty” rounds I take a bit more care and place them in either 50 or 100-round MTM boxes made for the specific caliber. While unlikely if bulk packed, it is possible for a hollow point to become damaged and may affect accuracy or performance. The boxes are then placed into either a .30 or .50 caliber ammo box for weatherproof storage.


Ammunition companies are working hard to keep up with demand, but in many areas factory ammunition is still missing from dealer’s shelves.

The socialists have taken off the proverbial gloves and are openly admitting they want to take away the guns and ammunition of law-abiding American citizens.

With a little time and effort you don’t need to be caught short on duty or practice ammunition.