CCW: Avoiding Reloaded Ammo?

Many handgun owners reload, but is it wise to count on that ammo for defensive carry? Jason Hanson says “no.” READ WHY

handgun bullets

Jason Hanson

During war, one of the most common tactics used to fight the enemy is to disrupt their supply lines.

During the Vietnam War, U.S. soldiers did this in a different way than just simply stopping supplies from getting to the enemy.

This specific operation, code named “Project Eldest Son,” was carried out by U.S. Green-Beret patrols, who captured enemy ammunition stashes that were typically 7.62 X 39mm ammo cartridges, which were used in the AK-47’s regularly carried by Communist forces.

Once the U.S. captured the ammo stashes, the cartridges would be disassembled and then put back together with different components.

For instance, the powder in the cartridges was replaced with a high explosive powder that would generate five times the pressure in the firearm.

The high explosive powder inside the cartridges would typically cause the AK-47 receiver to explode sending bolts and pieces of the gun backwards towards the person holding the rifle.

Once the sabotaged ammo was ready to go, U.S. forces would return the ammo to the stashes and would usually put one bad round in a container full of good rounds.

Basically, this would put doubt into the enemy’s mind regarding the safety and reliability of their ammo.

In addition, most of the Communist forces ammo was coming from China so this also was done so the enemy would question the ammo they were receiving from China.

The fact is, our firearms are obviously worthless without ammunition that works.

I’m sure you’ve heard how many gun activists want to make ammo harder to come by and there is no question that depending on where you live, it’s becoming more difficult to walk into your sporting goods store to buy ammo.

This has led to a continuing growing popularity of reloading your own ammo. Now, I know people who have done this for years and are very good at what they do.

On the other hand, I have a family member who spent countless hours reloading thousands of rounds, only to find out the powder was a little off and the ammo was unusable.

This is why if you reload ammo you have to take your time and know what you’re doing. This is not something you want to watch one YouTube video about and then think you’re a pro who knows it all.

So, if you are considering getting into reloading ammo, keep in mind the factors below and make sure you invest the time to do it right.

As I mentioned, I had a family member who reloaded his own ammo and was slightly off with his measurements.

Of course, no one is perfect, but the thing is, the big ammo manufacturers clearly have numerous safety inspections in place that make their ammo much more dependable, which is why quality ammo rarely has any issues.

Cartridge gets weaker.
Unless you keep your eye on every cartridge you use for reloading, you never know how many times the cartridge has been reloaded. The more you reload a cartridge, the weaker it will become over time.

Essentially, as it becomes weaker, it will be more prone to failure and malfunctions.

I realize this is a big “what if,” however, if you were ever involved in a self-defense shooting would you really want to explain your reloaded ammo?

Again, I realize this is a stretch, but it is one more thing an aggressive prosecutor or civil attorney could use to try and blame you for what happen. During a trial, the best thing you can do is show the court a box of ammo from the manufacturer and say contact them with any questions.

When it comes to ammo, some of my favorite brands are Speer, Hornady, Remington, Winchester, and Federal. These are all quality and dependable brands that won’t break the bank.

I do realize a lot of folks reload ammo for the huge savings cost. If this is the case, I see nothing wrong with reloading rounds for simply target practice at the range or shooting with friends.

However, I would not use reloaded rounds in my self-defense weapon and I would spend the extra money to make sure you have a reliable round when your life depends on it.

Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author of Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life. To get a free copy of his book, click HERE 

34 thoughts on “CCW: Avoiding Reloaded Ammo?”

  1. it’s a “stretch” that the reloaded ammo would be used against you in a court of law.
    With that said however, I agree with you.
    And as time goes on and more liberals get elected, that becomes and increased possibility that they will say your ammo was made to be a special torture device or some such used oats.
    I just carry Speer gold dots. Sheriff Joe supposedly spent a few dollars to be sure they met his spec.
    So, I can say, I use what the sheriff’s dept uses.

  2. I agree in only of the legal liability. I live in CT and I know how bad the anti-gun the attitude can be here! A friend of mine at the time when I first started to carry was a police officer and the first thing that he told me was to only use commercial ammo in my carry gun. Saying “they will try to accuse you of making ammo more deadly to make sure that you would kill someone!” Nuff said! My progressive press can kick out over 1,000 rounds an hour! I would never use that stuff for self defense! A single stage press on the other hand will make ammunition that you definitely can trust your life to! In my own opinion!

    1. I’ve been reloading since 1973. I shoot nothing but reloads except for daily carry in my defensive handgun. It isn’t because of reliability. It is because of the legal issues. I agree I use the same thing the local police use. In my case Hornady Critical Duty. But I still think my reloads are better and more reliable.

  3. The officer didn’t give me a bigger ticket for speeding because I put an enhanced air breather on. Your not going to get a stiffer sentence using handloaded ammo you tried to make more accurate so as to not hit an innocent bystander.
    See how easy it is to debunk.
    That being said most can’t duplicate the quality and reliability of factory. It’s better to just use factory.

  4. Just off the top of my head as a handloader I would say that anyone planning on using their handloads in their EDC should have loaded and practiced/tested with that ammo in that weapon on a regular basis. And have paid special attention to all of their handloading. Anyone who is not, on a regular basis, using the ammo and the gun they are carrying are asking for a failure when it comes to the emergency use of that ammo or gun. No matter which they use store bought or handload. Anyone that is not willing to pay close attention to their handloading should not be doing it. Not doing either of these can leave you in a bad place at the worst possible time.

    Every gun reacts in a different way to different ammo. If you have ever paid attention to magazine articles you will have seen this is true for manufactured ammo. My handloads in my gun are as accurate and perform as well as anything I can buy off the store shelf. That didn’t happen with the first loads or even the second. But now they are that way because I used them in practice alongside ammo off the shelf until I found a load tailored for my gun. Which is also a reason for handloading.

    So bottom line; whether you use store bought or handloads for EDC; don’t carry a gun or ammo that is going to employed as an emergency life saving device that you don’t practice with on a regular basis with the loads you are going to be using in the gun.

    By the way, I know of at least two Sheriff Depts. that hand load their ammo. They are required to practice on a regular basis and be certified to keep their job. And use a lot of ammo.

    1. Great commentary, and I agree completely.
      Interestingly, I have never, after a few thousand rounds so far, had one of my handloads fail to fire, or cause failure to feed or failure to eject issues. All rounds reloaded with used brass and on a progressive press.
      I might be able to crank out 1000 rounds an hour on it, but I’m usually in the less than a couple of hundred range – check, measure, and test.

  5. I do load my own SD rounds. I use new brass and load one round at a time, measuring each charge individually. I have cloned the Remington Golden Saber +P 38 Special, achieving identical velocity and expansion. I load 9mm XTP ammo that performs better than Hornady factory rounds. I do this because I trust my loading QC more than mass produced factory stuff. I have pulled apart lots of factory ammo. Usually it’s ok, but I have found powder charges varying plus or minus 2 or 3 tenths of a grain and sometimes questionable looking powder. If I can’t trust my own SD ammo that is built one round at a time, I shouldn’t trust my range ammo either.

    1. Nicholas,

      Please reconsider using your handholds. Ammo companies have to have lawyers on retainer to approve of products they produce for public consumption. That is very expensive. If you should use your own handholds and have to defend yourself you are risking Civil action and financial ruin. A convenience store owner shot a potential robber with a handloaded lead round nose .38 special bullet(Soft Lead w/no Tin for good mushrooming effect) and lost everything he worked for in court. And friends can turn to foes when one of your handholds ruins their favorite firearm.

      1. So you think he would have done better with a factory hollow point? How about some of the latest police rounds—Some +P+ WE Ranger. Have you seen the advertising for the latest self defense rounds? The YouTube penetration tests? If the DA is going to come after you for reloads, he was going to come at for whatever you used.

      2. My SD loads don’t appear any different than factory ammo. Case headstamps are the same, not mixed brass. I use the same bullets as the factories, not my own castings. I don’t know what else to say except that I trust my loads (or I would not make my own ammo), and I trust my decision making capabilities (or I would not carry).

      3. The case you cited is a very rare occurance. If you are carrying and you are concerned you should join one of the many concealed carry protection groups. Most of them offer free legal representation.

        I might teach some friends how to handload but I don’t handload for anyone but myself. Keeps the responsibility where it belongs. People that are not going to be contentious enough to do it well enough to not ruin a gun should not do it. It’s like texting and driving. You are responsible for your own actions.

      4. Easy now Dennis, suggesting that people take responsibility for their own actions is just crazy talk. 😉

  6. My CCW instructor cautioned against using it as well. There is the possibility a aggressive prosecutor could try to sway a jury into believing you were making your own killer ammo. For about a buck a round, buying high quality, well constructed self defense ammo is worth the extra cost. Not sure what to use, ask your local police force what they carry.

    1. Using the same ammo as your local law enforcement is an excellent recommendation for potential legal liability considerations.

  7. I would certainly question this guy’s idea that hand-loads are less reliable than factory ammunition. Either he doesn’t hand-load, or he is someone too sloppy and incompetent to reliably load his own ammunition. I’ve been hand-loading my own ammunition since 1971, I’m a careful guy, and I have NEVER had a single failure with any of the ammunition that I hand-loaded. Never. However, I HAVE had failures from every one of the manufacturers that he listed in the article. Every. Single. One. Sure, it “rarely” happens, but it does happen. Being a CIA officer isn’t a glowing recommendation of competence either; especially his competence in hand-loading ammunition.

    1. Agree.

      Regarding “Unless you keep your eye on every cartridge you use for reloading, you never know how many times the cartridge has been reloaded.” I could never inspect a cartridge yet still no exactly how many times it has been fired. But that’s foolish… I inspect every cartridge multiple times during the loading process. And I keep track of many times each cartridge is loaded since I keep them together in lots. I also have a max number of loads per lot. Once that number is reached – regardless of the condition – I ditch the whole lot. If a certain small percentage need discarded before the max number of loads, the whole lot goes. I also only purchase new, premium brass to load. I never pick up range brass.

      The legal aspect is also silly. It would be easy to hire a professional ballistician.

      In summary, the reasons I reload are for consistent reliability and consistent performance. In both my ammo is better than store bought. Cost has nothing to do with it.

  8. Although I agree with your ammo carry choice, I don’t put as much trust as you in factory fodder. I have been reloading since the mid 80’s and never had a failure to fire round, unlike the half full sandwich bag of factory stuff collected over the years. I like some don’t believe that in a court of law, that the topic of what ammo you chose to use will trump why you used it.

  9. You use the gun in a case where deadly force is necessary.
    But, you are going to be accused of creating ammunition that is more deadly than dead?
    It would be a seriously poor lawyer who could not demolish that assertion.

  10. I feel this is ridiculous. If you dont trust your own loads, you probably shouldnt be reloading. I will go so far as to agree that a novice reloader probably shouldnt use their own until they are confident in their ability to produce consistant rounds. Frankly, the manufactures are not giving the hands on that a benchloader does. Ive had failures and squibs with almost every manufacturer, yet Ive never had a dud I loaded myself. Maybe Im lucky, or maybe I pay real close attention when I pull the handle, but I CCW with my own loads. The other thoughts about lawyers going after your loads… please… unless youve completely designed your own molds, and are casting custom bullets… where can someone go with all off the shelf components?

    1. In this day and age nothing is ridiculous when it comes to Law suits. All a lawyer has to do is create reasonable doubt to very firearm phobic jury. “Why did you use a .357 magnum when your firearm also shoots .38 Specials”? Did you want to Kill whatever you hit? Lawyers are Gun owners too, Talk to one and they will advise you against this practice. Just trying to help.

      1. OK, so now you want me to use .38 Special in a .357 in fear of the prosecutor? That logic would have me searching for the least possible effective round for whatever I carry. It might even suggest we should use .22LR or non-lethal means. Your argument is rediculous. The only thing that will save you in court is it was a good shoot beyond a shadow of doubt. This worrying about lawyers leads down many silly paths. Shoot the largest round you can shoot effectively is still the advice most instructors use. The real argument for factory loads is for reliability : damn good advice for many people.

  11. All of the comments are making excellent points. If one uses reloads for self defense, he/she needs to assemble that ammo like their life depends on it. We’ve all seen the shooter who goes to the range or a shooting class that struggles with jams, malfunctions, and inaccuracies with their reloads. There are way too many people out there stuffing cartridges that just don’t have that “attention to detail” required for quality reloads.

    1. Reload quality has nothing to do with it. Courts, Lawyers and Civil Suits are the issue.

      Your friend asks you to make some special CCW handholds for his revolver his Grandfather carried on the Police force in NY city in the 30’s and 40’s and willed when he passed. You do not know the specific age of the pistol and work up some Warmish, Warmer and Hot loads. All is well until he shoots the first Hot load. Firearm is destroyed, maybe a finger is missing. Who is he going to sue?

  12. I’ve never had a dud or squib load in pistol, rifle or shotgun reloads, either. Been at it it since ’73.
    We’ve learned good bench rest techniques and QC…

  13. Won’t know how many times the case has been fired? Not true. I sort by head stamp and times fired even for competition brass. I use new or specific brand once-fired brass for carry ammo. Quality bullets. Thousands upon thousands of the exact rounds tested in my carry pistol. Duplicate that testing with $1 each factory loads? Most folks shoot a box and call it good. I have yet to hear of a case where hand-loaded ammo put an innocent man in jail. If anyone knows of one, please post.

  14. I run my handloads in all but one of my concealed carry handguns. I would run my handloads in all of them, but I don’t reload .22Magnum. I do trust my handloads with not only my life, but my loved ones lives as well.

  15. I used to subscribe to this line of thinking. I went to go shoot the gun my wife would use, in our house, if something went bump in the night. Had factory Federal HD 357 had all 6 did not discharge. Max 3 years old (ammo).

    Luckily, this was at the range. Used my reloads and all good. At a minimum, don’t let stuff sit around.


  16. I swear the author got good and drunk on a Friday night and came up with some of these concepts. He obviously is not a handloader. I have been hand loading and hunting with my hand loads for many years and have never had a problem, even with steel shot shells. This is because I am very careful when I load single stage bullets and always place the bullets into the chamber so I’m sure they will fit. Also I hand fit each primer and hand weight each load of powder. Clearly his family friend should not be hand loading anything until he learns how to do it correctly. I thought that you would win or lose a lawsuit over the rounds used is ludicrous. Having justification to shoot somebody is the main point. Lastly, I have used thousands of factory rounds in my career and have found several of them are defective. Mainly primer is being upside down. Please don’t tell me that mass-produced ammo is better than my specially designed rounds.? Ds

  17. I think that the author spent too much time focusing on the quality of the reloads we produce and not enough on the legal liability of shooting your own hand loaded ammunition in your defense you carry firearm. Several of the comments already posted on this article point out the fact that having your own hand loaded ammunition opens up a can of worms if you go to court on a self defense shooting. They are absolutely correct.

  18. To all of you who are making the claim that using your own loads for self defense puts you at risk for legal action – Please show us the documented source of this information. I do not believe it, but might be convinced if you showed some proof instead of repeating the “urban legend”. The only similar legal action I am aware of was brought against Winchester regarding their Black Talon self defense ammo, the claim being it was “too deadly”. As for anyone being able to prove what ammo was actually used after a shooting, all they would have are spent cases and probably retrieved bullets. In my case, the cases would have headstamps that are identical to factory ammo, and the same bullets that are used by the factories. If subpoenaed, my loading records would show a normal powder charge for everything I load, if it really became an issue that needed to be proven.

  19. The historical part of the article is interesting, but has absolutely nothing to do with the subject. The rest of the article shows me that the author doesn’t trust his own loading skills (or has never tried), and thus believes that everyone else must be as incompetent as he is. Kind of like the anti-gun folks who are afraid of guns, have no gun handling skills or experience, and so think the rest of us are as incompetent as they are – and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to own guns.

  20. How many cases where the handloads adversely affected the outcome of an otherwise legit self defense shooting are there?

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