George Block Column

Many more reloading options are available today

Many more options available in the golden era of reloading

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Now and then, any writer assumes the reader knows what he is writing about, which isn’t always the case. That’s where the editor enters the picture and tries to straighten out the writer.


I’m sometimes guilty of that and assume readers know the ins and outs of reloading ammunition.


Forgive me. I have been loading my own ammunition for paper punching and hunting for 59 years. Back when I started, Lyman made three presses for metallic cartridges.


The highest-priced press was the All-American, many of which are still being used today.


The mid-level one was the Spartan, and I am including it because I am not sure of the year in which production began. I only know it was advertised in the mid-1950s.


The cheapest press they made was the Tru-Line Jr. This was a turret press that could only be used for neck sizing.


The Tru-Line was the most popular of the three. Perhaps many, like me, couldn’t afford the All-American.


I have a Tru-Line that I use often, though most of my loading is done on a Forester Co-Ax.


While we made due with what we could afford, we were privy to advice from those who preceded us. As I look through a catalog, I am amazed just how much is devoted to assembling ammunition.


When I started, there were but two common reloader manuals, Lyman and Speer.


When purchasing a .243, we would extrapolate the numbers to come up with a powder charge for the Sierra bullet, the 85-grain spitzer.


There were those who prefer an 85-grain hollow point, but I have found the spitzer to have a higher coefficiency, and it is actually a very accurate bullet.


Speer made the best manual available, but didn’t make an 85-grain bullet. Because of that, the data for that weight in a .243 was not included. But they did make both an 80-grain bullet in addition to one that weighed 90 grains.


Using that data, we came up with a load that I still use when going afield with my .243.


While we lacked much of what is with us today, the low volume of handloading components forced us to adapt to what was available. Out of curiosity, I pulled out an old loading manual and checked the number of bullets and powders that were available back then.


In an old Shooter’s Bible, I counted 18 powders from Dupont – later renamed IMR – and Hercules.


Most Hercules powders were made for pistol shooters, and a few are still being offered with a new name, Alliant.


Hodgen was formed as a company that marketed surplus gun powder. Bruce Hodgen purchased this powder by the box car and offered it to the public under the name H4831.


Soon his business took off, and today, Hodgen not only produces the popular H series of powders, but also owns IMR powders.


The same story could be told of bullets. Back in the 1970s, Sierra offered 50 different bullets. Now, it markets 150.


While both Speer and Hornady where selling bullets, only ones from Nosler were the handmade partition.


There were no Bergers or other custom-made benchrest bullets available.


We have gone through the moly-coated frenzy and now have the plastic-tip era. None of these were around in my youth.


We are without a doubt in the golden era of reloading.



George H. Block writes a Sunday Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.


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