Most people don’t realize what it means to be a competitive shooter. They don’t realize the effort it takes to perform well and the labors of love behind the scenes.
It isn’t as simple as opening a box of ammo and blasting off rounds. Each shot costs money and someone’s time and energy. When I started shooting my junior coaches were quick to remind us all that someone chose to spend their time loading ammunition for us on a single-stage press. Only when I grew older did I truly realize what that meant.
18 times. I counted. I touched each piece of brass 18 times before it was ready to be fired, sometimes more. With the expense of match grade ammunition, even before the COVID-era ammo shortage, reloading is a necessity for me and many other shooters. It isn’t as simple as pouring powder into a case. The case must be properly prepared so that it is able to be reloaded.
Though I don’t care for brass prep in general, I do enjoy wet tumbling. Taking all of your fired pieces of brass and dumping them in a rotating drum for several hours alongside dish soap and stainless-steel pins. There’s something satisfying about watching the dark liquid flow down the sink, leaving shiny pieces of bras. It’s not unlike panning for gold.
Afterwards you must shake out the pins, dry them, shake out any remaining pins, lube, resize, trim, debur, chamfer, and prime. Say that all at once and you’ll be gasping for air at the end. Try to do all steps right before a match and you’ll be doing the same.
Many people choose to prep their brass over the winter, separating brass by the number of times it’s been fired and executing each stage over batches. It’s simpler this way, and leads to a feeling of accomplishment. Each step finished for each batch can be crossed off the post-it note in your head.
This is an incredibly simplistic view of reloading. There is much more involved in determining how much to resize, how much you should “jump” bullets, etc. The point is that I nearly spend more time preparing to shoot, then actually firing rounds.
I head to the National Matches at Camp Perry this week and the last two months have been filled to the brim with preparations for approximately 500 shots. Now to make them count.
About the Author
I started shooting in 8th grade, competing in monthly cast bullet silhouette matches at Tusco Rifle Club. I progressed to high power service rifle at age 16 and earned my Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge in 2019. I also hunt and compete in smallbore silhouette and airgun matches. I am proud to represent several companies: Sierra Bullets, Krieger Barrels, and Kelbly’s. I am very fortunate to work in the outdoor industry as an outdoor writer and have been published in many national magazines and well-known online publications. The pinnacle of my career thus far was my story and photo being featured on the cover of the January 2022 issue of America’s First Freedom.