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Book Review - Metallic Cartridge Handloading

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Book Review - Metallic Cartridge Handloading

Chris Upchurch

I’ve recently been getting back into handloading. Specifically getting into handloading rifle rounds for precision. In the past I’ve reloaded pistol ammunition, but I gave that up when I switched from .45 to 9mm. I’ve only done a small bit of rifle reloading with a friend up in Salt Lake City, and I’ve never done any reloading for maximum precision.

Since this is a new area for me, I went looking for some resources to help me learn about it. In particular, I was looking for published resources. Reloading isn’t an area where I want to be relying too much on what some random person has posted on the internet (yes, I am some person posting on the internet, you should be appropriately skeptical of anything I say). So I went looking for old fashioned dead tree books on the subject. One of the books I found in my research is Metallic Cartridge Handloading: Pursuit of the Perfect Cartridge by Mic McPherson.

The first thing I’ll say is that this is probably not a book for someone with no experience reloading. While it is quite comprehensive and reading it would tell you everything you need to get started reloading the level of detail and the sheer amount of information would probably be a bit overwhelming. If you are new to reloading I would suggest starting with something like The ABCs of Reloading, then coming back to Metallic Cartridge Handloading with that as a base for understanding.

While it does cover reloading pistol cartridges, the book is predominantly dedicated to reloading for rifles, and not just because reloading rifle catridges is more complex. It's definitely slanted towards reloading for accuracy, rather than volume. It spends quite a bit of time and emphasis on techniques for coaxing maximum accuracy out of a particular load, though it does make clear which of these steps are optional when accuracy is not the primary goal. Overall the book is fairly comprehensive and has good coverage of all aspects of handloading.

If you have read some of my other stuff, you’ve probably noticed that one of my favorite words is “context”. There are very few answers that hold true across all possible circumstances. This is especially true in reloading, where a technique that works great for a benchrest shooter might be disastrous for someone going after dangerous game and reloading methods for a precision bolt gun could render a semi-auto completely non-functional. McPherson does a good job talking about different contexts and making explicit tool or technique may not be applicable to all.

One nice feature of the book is that it goes beyond the “how” and gets into some of the “why”, particularly when it comes to primers and powder. The book includes a history of firearm propellants, going all the way back to the early days of black powder, as well as detailing the characteristics that influence a powder's performance.

One oddity is the inclusion of a lot of photographs of friends of the author either shooting with handloads or alongside game that they shot with handloads. While it’s not like these detract from the book, they don’t really add anything to it either.

I do have to say there is one area where I must vehemently disagree with the author. McPherson advocates reloading for self-defense use and frankly that is something I do not think is a remotely good idea.

Overall, this is an excellent resource for anyone looking to take their reloading beyond the basics. I’d highly recommend it.

One parting bit of advice. Around the time I finished reading this book I realized that there was far too much information for me to remember. Too much even to remember it well enough so that I could say “McPherson covered that subject in his book, I should look it up”. I’ve recently finished reading it a second time, taking copious notes along the way. Take it from me and take some notes the first time through.