Sunday, December 19, 2021

Reloading ammo: Maximizing the value of a limited supply of small pistol primers

Relative size comparison, From left-to-right: .22 Long Rifle, .38 Special, 9mm Luger, 40 S&W, .223 Rem, 12 gauge slug. In VERY coarse increments, in a handgun the .38 Special offers about 5 times as much energy as the .22 LR. The 9mm offers a very modest increase over the .38 Special. The .40 offers 30% more than the 9mm.

I am mulling around how many of my stock of small pistol primers convert to loaded ammo and how many to leave unloaded.

Obviously, the ones that are not loaded can be used in virtually any handgun round that uses a small pistol primer. If somebody showed up on my doorstep and needed .380 ACP, for instance, I could probably figure out a way to do it as long as I had primers. Stated another way, not loading ALL of my primers gives me some flexibility.

Loading them, on the other hand, is a good use of time. This is not a busy time of year and there is a special comfort to seeing ample amounts of reloaded ammo.

It seems like everybody and their dog has a 9mm. It might not be their favorite for open carry but many of my nibblings* seem to be gravitating to 9mm for concealed carry. Also, 9mm is just plain fun to shoot in a medium-to-service size weapon. So 9mm Luger will be my high runner. The major question is just HOW HIGH of a runner.

Next is .40 S&W.

.38 Special/.357 Mag and .45 ACP tie for third.

Roughly speaking, my current plan is to load three times as much 9mm as 40 S&W and half as much 38 Special and 45 ACP (each) as 40 S&W.

In round numbers that works out to 60% 9mm, 20% 40 S&W and 10% each .38 Special and .45 ACP (Federal "Leverite" small primer cases)

I would love to hear the opinions of the gray-beards out there. Especially for those of you who help feed a fleet of shooters.

*Nibbling, def: Gender neutral equivalent of "sibling" for nephews and nieces.


  1. Maybe it's just the age group I hang around with , but I'd put .40 on the bottom of the list and 38 and .357 right after 9mm. I know several guys, me included, that have .357 pistols and rifles both because of the effectiveness and interchangeability of the rounds. And if you can find primers you can burn black powder in them if worse comes to worse..--ken

  2. I approached this same dilemma by taking care of myself first. My advice would be to figure out how much of your total inventory (brass, bullets, powder, primers) is going to be for YOU and how much you're willing to devote to the nibblings. (good word) Use the downtime this winter to load ALL of YOURS and a smattering (maybe 100 rounds each) of what the nibblings may want. Leave the rest in reserve to be used as needed in the future.

  3. I'd put 9mm way out in front, then 45 and 40 well behind, with anything else well behind them, including 38 Special and .380.
    Have you reloaded 22? I have the kit, but haven't done it yet. At this point it isn't worth it, but it could become worth it later.

    1. I haven't reloaded .22 LR.

      Technically, I know it can be done because people have been doing it since the 1860s. If I were to go down that rabbit hole I would probably stick with corrosive 1920s vintage primer compound. I would also mess around with using diatomaceous earth instead of ground glass for the "grit".

    2. Recently a company has been in the fun news since they make a kit and sell an acetone activated primer compound so you can do it all at home, including pouring new bullets.

  4. What the other anonymous coward said.
    Take care of number one, screw everyone else!
    What will be most fungible? Will 9mm be ubiquitous due to popularity, but .357 shells worth their weight in gold?
    If anything, I would argue to keep your flexibility, vs plowing that 'value' into a feel-good time-wasting project for the winter. Learn a new skill instead, work on comms and HAM stuff.

    1. Alas, since the canoeing accident I have little opportunity to do much shooting.

      Good points about not knowing what chamberings will be unobtainium.

      The time will pass whether I reload a few rounds or not. How-some-ever (as they say in Tennessee) if/when the need arises I might not have time to convert components to finished products. For example, if things get sporty when the potatoes need to go into the ground.

      Great point on the comms. The knot in my garden hose is finding people within 10 miles of Casa ERJ to be on the listening end.

      Thanks for writing. Incidentally, I write under a non de plume because I can express myself with more freedom. Cowardice...some call it that.

    2. My pleasure good Sir, I enjoy your writing (fiction and non-fiction). Allowing the anon comments is appreciated.

  5. The flock needs to participate in the enterprise.

    Powder and primers can be found for a price.

    When people put skin in the game, they appreciate the outcome much more and are much less likely to abuse the final product.

    See Section 8 housing for a gross example.

    1. My youngest brother has been an absolute prince about "taking care of me" with regard to the fruits of the enterprise.

      One nibbling takes care of some of my mechanical repair needs.

      The biggest benefit would be to have them walk by the reloading counter every time they go into a sporting goods store. If they had a list of the "corporate needs" they could pick up the items and contribute them to the cause.

      Section 8 housing is a good example.

  6. I think leaving a third, minimum a fourth unloaded for 'to be determined load' is worth consideration. I can remember in recent past that a certain load was 'unobtanium' for months before becoming available again. Being able to fulfill that need right now is a key benefit to reloading.

    1. A third sounds like a good amount to leave in component form.

      Things are tight right now but could get worse. The third that is not reloaded might need to be slowly milked to last decades.

  7. What the other guy said about taking care of yourself first is true. But if any of your nibblings and inner circle are light on ammo take off them too. But hoard it till necessary.

  8. Take care of the nibblings and relatives too.

  9. Anonymous Coward works for me because "the dude who is too lazy to set up a nom de plume and usually doesn't comment but likes ERJ's writing and is breaking his own rules about lurking in the background" is just too long.

    Good comments above about sharing the shopping list and letting the nibblings have some skin in the game. Some internet sleuthing will turn up a thing called a 'Reloading Discord' where you can sign up and get alerts about components that are in stock at online retailers. Or, if you have the opportunity to leave a computer running all the time, look for an extension for Chrome called "Distill web monitor" and set up your own monitoring. Prices have tripled and you'll pay hazmat shipping, but you'll find components. If the nibblings aren't in a position to contribute financially they can at least watch and let you know when something is available.

    Additionally, everyone knows that CCI has started selling direct to consumers, right? Minimags and SV are available right now even though they can't be found on the shelf anywhere. There's your fungible commodity.

    Another way to approach the 'what to load' dilemma would be to create a Venn diagram of the calibers used by your inner circle and concentrate on the overlaps. In my case .30-06 and .45acp are getting stacked deep because everyone has those two, while things like 7mm-08 and .327 Federal get left for last.

  10. Do you cast, Joe? If not - jump on that!!!! :)

    Long ago I got caught in the same pickle: I had too many calibres to load for. I simplified and for better or for worse - I went with the 45ACP/45 Colt. But 9mm, or .357/.38 or something else would be fine too. I used to always have a thousand on the shelf ready to go... but I have gotten lazy in my old age. When supply chains recover - do yourself a favour and stock up. Get 5000 primers on the shelf, and buy your powder in 4 and 8 lb. kegs. You won't regret it!!

    Good shooting! ;)

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Concur with Mr. Filthie. I usually keep a minimum of 5000 of each type of primer around, just in case the market does something like this. Been casting since the early '90s; the past year there's been a number of stops at the local shop where younger shooters who only shoot semiautos, mostly in 9x19, are finding the cupboard is bare for ammo & components. Revolvers in .38/.357, .44, & .45 with cast bullets have been keeping me entertained. They can be used with the diameter as dropped from the mold; Lee makes tumble-lube molds, or traditional-style lube grooves can be filled with the pan lube method. Slower, but it works, and some is better than none during a shortage. Although my 1911s like 230 grain truncated cone cast bullets just fine.

    In a worst-case situation, lead & tin bullets you can produce at home are way better than nothing.

  13. I claim exactly 0 or -1 when it comes to reloading. So I'll direct your attention 90 degrees to one side(you wouldn't expect anything else from me right?). Way back when Teddy R. went down to Cuba with the Rough Riders, everyone took their favorite bangstick. Not long after most of the ammo had been used up it became time for resupply. Since everyone had a different resupply need, logistics became a cast iron btch. I'm not saying One ring to rule them all. What I am saying is it may be more wise to shrink the options to improve the logistics. If you follow my drift

    1. I agree.

      Some people will have an abundance of targets and will quickly burn through their-fair-share.

      Others will be twiddling their thumbs.

      It makes all the sense in the world to retain the ability to shift ammo from the twiddlers to the people with targets. And back again if circumstances change.

      Whether we like it or not, the de facto standards are .22 LR, 9mm Luger, 5.56X45mm NATO (aka, .223 Rem) and 12 gauge-2-3/4" with honorable mention to 7.62X39mm Commie and 7.62X51mm NATO.

      The doctrine of area-denial-through-extravagant-fire-power may someday be obsolete, but for the time being it means that brass in these chamberings are abundant and cheap.

  14. For the time being, all my components are staying components. Options are a good thing.


Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.