> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Long Term Survival: TEOTWAWKI Reloading



Long Term Survival: TEOTWAWKI Reloading

What to do?
Buy it cheap and stack it deep is a common mantra when it comes to survival ammo. It is one of those critical, difficult to replace survival items and a healthy supply of ammo is a good idea if you're preparing for a sustained, long term TEOTWAWKI scenario. But what to do if the ammo runs out or you are separated from your mountain of cartridges?

Reloading is the obvious answer, but if you're at the point where you and your personal treasure trove of ammo have been parted, there's a good chance you're low on reloading components--namely primers, powders and bullets. So we've got to look to unconventional methods - scavenging components from other caliber cartridges and making your own components by casting lead and mixing up black powder.

Revolvers, pump/single/double barrel shotguns, bolt and lever guns stand out here - less strict requirements on powder loading, bullet types and so on than a semiauto. An AR-15 is probably not going to run very well with cast lead bullets and black powder.

Of course, mess around with any of these at your own risk. Firearms, fingers and eyeballs are all things you don't want to blow up.

Scavenging Components
One scene from the book version of The Road has always stuck with me - where the dad finds a couple boxes of ammunition and wonders if he can somehow use 'em to load his .357 magnum revolver, for which he has only a round or two at the time. It's been something I've wondered about.

Scavenging the components from ammo isn't terribly hard--reloaders disassemble ammuntion all the time. An impact bullet puller is made for this purpose - a couple whacks and the bullet comes out, along with the powder. A vice and pilers can accomplish the same thing with a bit more trouble. With care, you can remove and reuse an unused primer, too - normal primer removal methods will work.

If you're going to be able to use scavenged components, you'd need to know what primers you needed and what sizes of bullets would work.

There are 2 standard primers sizes for pistols and rifles--small pistol & large pistol, small & large rifle. There are also magnum versions of each, paired up with different powder loadings that require a hotter/faster primer to burn correctly. As an example, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, .38 spl, some .357 magnum loads and many others use small pistol primers. If you had a box of say 9mm and but only had a .38 revolver to shoot 'em out of, you could certainly put the primers to use.

Bullet sizes get a bit trickier - you've got bullet diameter, length and weight to worry about--diameter is the most critical to worry about. Luckily, many calibers use the exact same diameter bullets--for example, .30 Carbine, .30-30, .308 Win, .30-06 and .300 Mag all use .308" diameter bullets, while 9mm Luger, .380 ACP and .357 Sig all use .355" diameter bullets...and .38 spl and .357 mag use a very close .357" bullet.

Here are lists of pistol (pretty exhaustive) and rifle bullet diameters for your perusal. Bullet diameters can and will vary by small amounts - thousands of an inch - and fall within spec.

Shotguns have an advantage for scavenging - you can open up a shell with a pocket knife, they use the same primer size (209 - though there are magnum and other speeds of 209) and you can cram

Scavenging powders would be tricky business unless you knew the exact powder that you were dealing with. You probably wouldn't, as manufacturers don't typically use the same stuff you buy off the shelf and they don't plaster it all over the box. So you'd be using an unknown powder to switch between loads. A reloading manual and knowledge of powder weights, SAAMI pressure specifications and so on would be a starting place to avoid blowing your gun up with an overcharge of mystery powder. For example, 9mm Luger typically uses less powder and runs at similar pressures of a .357 magnum, so you would be less likely to blow up a .357 magnum with a powder charge from a 9mm.

You would, of course, in all cases, start out with as light and safe of loads as possible.

Rolling Your Own Components
There's lots of information out there on casting bullets - Google up the topic - basically melt lead, pour into moulds, trim as necessary and lube. For shotgun shells, there are lots of viable improvised loads - Dave Canterbury and others plenty of have videos up on YouTube. Not too difficult, and lead isn't too difficult to source.

Black powder could be used in some weapons - doubtful for semi autos, but it's certainly viable in things like revolvers, pumps and lever guns. Many cartridges that we have today started out as black powder loads - the .45-70, .45 Colt, .38 special, various shotgun gauges and so on. I'm not going to venture to walk through the process of making black powder today, but one of the better books on the subject of making your own black powder is the Do-It-Yourself Gun Powder Cookbook from our friends at Paladin Press. Sulfur is the trickiest of the three main components to source, so your ability to cook up gun powder in a post-collapse scenario would vary.

Dave Canterbury has several video up on loading 12 gauge with black powder, and loads can be found in reloading manuals and on the interwebs.

Primers are tough. According to an old CIA insurgency manual, you can reload spent primers with smashed up heads from strike anywhere matches. From accounts, this will work...but you'd need a source of strike anywhere matches. Beyond that, I'm not sure what else would work - and without primers, you're pretty much out of the modern firearm discussion.

Reloading ammo with scavenged or home made components is not the simplest and safest of tasks, which is one of the many reasons why it's smart to have a stock pile of ammo, and probably some redundant caches of the stuff, too. It also pays to have firearms in standard calibers, especially police and military calibers (anyone know how much 5.56 the military has squirreled away?). But, having some of that knowledge up your sleeve, just in case, never hurts either. Something to look into!


  1. find sulphur& potassium nitrite(stump remover) at argiculture or feed store pre or post collapse
    Find lead at wheel weights,battery post(post only)and battery cable terminal connectors on abandoned cars. Find fine carbon (no need for grinding) in stove flue lines (good if dry and powdery,wet and sticky would indicate creasote preaent and not good.
    Stock up now on quality primers a thousand primer brick of small pistol is approx. $35
    Get shotgun mold #00 buck, slug, and pistol molds for revolver calibers. rifles are too hot for cast bullets because the high velocity's cause severe barrel leading(may not be a problem at black powder velocity's)

    1. Rifles are not too hot for cast bullets, you just need an appropriate bullet lube, gas check or paper patch. Do some research before you spout garbage.


    I hand load-reload only for accuracy. The idea that reloading components are cheaper is misleading. I can buy cases of factory ammo for about 30¢ per round (5.56). And components cost about 18¢. There is done savings there, but you lose the sealed primers and a few other amenities. Savings ain't so great with labor too. And that assumes unlimited brass to reload. Not likely with loss and breakage. So, what is a best solution?

    Buy two, three or four 22 LR guns. Then...stockpile thousands of rounds at 3¢-6¢ each.

    When your MBR runs dry, you erik be happy to have the quantity of 22.

  3. Get yourself a flintlock muzzle-loading gun. Tested for over 300 years & it is still the best gun for the job.

      I agree with the simple components and scroungeability of propellants and projectiles. Really, you could settle for hardwood bullets and miscellaneous modern powder that has been cut by filler material. But the question is ' what job are we asking the gun to do?'
      I think most would agree that in a societal collapse we need a gun for defense and meat on the table. Don't get me wrong, I love to improvise as much as the next guy, but it seems that five dollars worth of commercial today is more than equal to a weeks worth of canon fodder work.
      And flintlock seems hard pressed to give you the double tap. But a fella who learns his muzzle loader and runs it well is hard to beat... Especially if you are an 18th century Brit.

      Just be sure you have a good set of guilles if trusting in one barrel-one shot. It can be done.

    2. I'd much rather go with late 1800s level technology than late 1700s/early 1800s tech, if I'm forced to make the choice. Revolver with black powder, cast lead bullet cartridges sounds like a better solution for everything that want a firearm to do, versus a single shot musket of some variety.

      That said, as I mention, if you can't come up with the components, you're looking at something like a flintlock.

  4. Dangerous business messing with primers, and cobbling diff types of ammo, even for the well knowledged
    A good bow, and ability to produce arrows, maybe? Many arrows can be reused, with some maintenance, as well as being quiet. Remember, you give away your position to the enemy while shooting at that animal you plan to eat.