Satisfying as handloading itself, passing on your passion for reloading keeps the next generation shooting straight.
How To Introduce Youths To Reloading:
- Introduce them to the tools and terminology.
- Explain each individual step.
- Have them watch each stage of the process.
- Be certain they understand the “little details.”
- Give them tasks to do in the process and increase responsibilities as time wears on.
- Provide guidance when they reload on their own.
- Enjoy the fruits of their labor — go shooting or hunting with them.
The shooting sports are a unique situation in that we are lucky enough to participate irrespective of age; however, the number of youths participating has declined, at least in comparison to when I was young. Just as it’s highly important to mentor the youth by taking them shooting, teaching them the basics of firearm safety and introducing them to the wonderful world of hunting, I do my best to pass on the benefits of handloading.
In an age where there’s a never-ending supply of immediate electronic gratification, teaching a young person how to handload their own ammunition might not seem all that attractive. Obviously, there needs to be a certain level of maturity, but with that comes a driver’s license — and the allure of the opposite sex. Still, I have done my best to bring people into the fold, including seminars at local gun clubs and fielding hundreds of phone calls from would-be handloaders.
Yet, I found one young man who had a definite passion for the shooting sports, whether it was target shooting, hunting and, ultimately, handloading. I met ManDrake Vermilyea when he was still in high school; he had come over to my handloading pal Marty Groppi’s backyard range while we were doing some load development. He showed a level of maturity beyond his years, as well as being one of the most natural shooters I’ve ever seen. He had his uncle’s Winchester Model 70 in .270 Winchester, and he was unsatisfied with the performance. I suggested handloading for it, and he was immediately receptive.
In his words: “I was raised to believe that one ammunition company’s brand was ‘the best,’ as my uncle’s goal was to simply kill a deer in the woods, where the shots rarely exceed 75 yards. Shooting with Phil and Marty quickly taught me two things: A higher level of precision was needed for the best hunting experience, and that their handloads surpassed most of the factory ammunition we were shooting.”
Marty and I explained the process of handloading ammunition, and Manny was all ears. He watched at first, soaking it all in, and we’d let him help us during the load development process, as the young man could definitely shoot. As Manny explains, “My first time shooting handloaded ammunition, I printed a 1¾-inch group at 300 yards. I was astonished that a rifle could perform so well, and I was immediately hooked.” There’s no better way to kindle the desire in a young man.
Slow And Steady
I had him come up to my shop, at first just helping me organize things, so he could become familiar with the tools and terminologies, and then I eased him into the simpler tasks. I’d have him sit next to me during each stage of creating ammunition, from both new components as well as using fired brass, and I could see that the light had come on. “Once I saw how handloading worked, I desperately wanted to learn.” I was more than happy to teach.
Doing something is one thing. Explaining each individual step and being conscious of a diligent, repetitive pattern, is another. It was as beneficial for me as it was for him; it got me rethinking all the subtle nuances of the art, why we do what we do, and the purpose and function of all the different tools we use. The bottom line: Young “Moncrief,” as I call him, got it. Seeing him understand the process, including the little details — such as variations in seating depth, adjusting the amount of shoulder bump or setting up both brass and dies for the perfect roll crimp — just plain tickled me.
As time wore on, I allowed Manny more and more responsibility. Did he make mistakes? Of course — but so did I, and so did you. I was happy to be a source of information, and quite possibly guidance, as he would look at the performance of different cartridges, powder and bullets. A midday text regarding some aspect of handloading would assure me it is definitely on his mind; in other words, he’s got the same bug we all have.
“I wanted to produce what the factory couldn’t; I inherited a rifle which my uncle swore wouldn’t shoot well. I wanted to show him that it could. Getting my uncle’s rifle to print less than MOA was a huge source of pride. We took our time, and we found the answer,” Moncrief relates.
That statement alone made me smile, more for him than anything else. A simple blend of Reloder-19, Federal large rifle primers and Speer 150-grain Deep Curl bullets printed groups averaging 0.9-inch at 100 yards, solving an issue with a rifle that was 1¾-MOA at best.
More Information: Mils vs. MOA: Which Is The Best Long-Range Language?
It Goes Both Ways
Passing it on, and sharing the process of handloading ammunition, has been very rewarding for me. Sometimes, it’s just an extra set of eyes at the bench to pick up some little detail I may have missed, or a different perspective when actually setting up the bench and all the gear. Other times, it’s a fresh look at a problem rifle/bullet combination, or simply an idea I never may have had.
There’s an undeniable camaraderie among handloaders; we love to talk shop and support one another as much as we love to argue in defense of our favorite cartridge or pet load. We handloaders enjoy spending time together, and I’ve found it to be much more fun when there’s a buddy present than as a solitary duty. I feel the same way about hunting; the memories made doing the most mundane things can become favorites, and the score of a deer becomes irrelevant when weighed against the good time had with a friend.
I’ve seen Young Moncrief mature from high school junior to his second year of college, and yet he finds time to still join me at the both the reloading bench, as well as the shooting bench and hunting fields. We have a tight-knit group of friends who truly enjoy handloaded ammunition, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to pass some of the hard-learned lessons onto a responsible kid — who will hopefully have the chance to do the same later in life.
Just as we all enjoy shooting and the opportunity to teach someone else how to shoot, I think those of us who are passionate about handloading need to hand the knowledge down to the next generation. The tools don’t need to be expensive, nor the accommodations perfect; what will become the true treasure is the time spent.
More Reloading Info:
- The Flexible And Forgiving .30-06 Springfield
- The .45 Colt: A Wheelgun Classic
- .300 Win. Mag.: The Answer To Most Hunting Questions
- Tips For Reloading the .223 Remington
There will be frustrations along the way, as there will with any student/teacher relationship, but that comes with the territory. Things will be broken, and mistakes made, but the look on a new handloader’s face when those bullets are nearly touching is, to me, priceless.
By the way, Moncrief: You owe me a couple new de-capping dies.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.