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What do I need to start reloading? Part 2: Equipment

Hopefully you’ve read part one in this two-part series, and figured out you could not only save a lot of money by reloading, but produce match-grade ammo at the same time. In this article we’re going to look at some of the basic pieces of equipment you will need to make your own ammunition.


So, when will you be reloading? For most shooters it will be in the garage or the gun room, with something on the telly or radio, cranking through a 20 or 100 rounds at a time. However, this has not always been the case (and for some, it still isn’t). Manufacturers used to put a lot of effort into creating reloading kits like the shotshell one in the video below, that you could use on the range, or wherever.

They’re not that common these days, but you do get handheld metallic cartridge reloading tools which will do exactly what your bench mounted press will do. Sometimes you will see these at competitions or when someone is working up a load on the range, or if they simply don’t have much room for a massive setup at home. Still, by far the most common types of reloading setups you will find will be single-stage or progressive reloading presses, which are bench-mounted. These are what we will concentrate on.

The manual

Don’t skimp. Buy at least one reloading manual. There is plenty of stuff online, sure. But you should always have an authoritative source of reloading info on hand. It’s a great tool to compare the internet forum wisdom to as well. ADI does publish a good selection of data on their website, and some other powder and component manufacturers do too.

I personally quite like the Lyman reloading manual, and have it alongside a few others on my bench as well.

The press

You will most likely start out with a single stage press. That is, it is designed to do one operation at a time. So, you decap and resize all your brass in one step, you then trim the cases as needed, prime them and fill with powder, before changing the die in the press to a bullet seating die, and seating your projectiles. There are extra steps you can take, and limitless variations on the process, depending on your load, tools, preferences, etc., but this is essentially what you do.

If you are a high volume shooter (or plan to be in the near future), you might start with a progressive press. This is a press that has several stations, into which you load all of your components, and each time you pull the handle, you get a complete, loaded round. There’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s the guts of it.

In between these two options you have a “turret” press, which gives you more flexibility than a single-stage, but much less “process automation” than the progressive.

You'll start noticing some colour schemes among dies and presses on a particular reloaders. My bench is mostly red and green.
You’ll start noticing some colour schemes among dies and presses on a particular reloaders. My bench is mostly red and green.

Single stage press

There are many fine manufacturers of single-stage presses, and they are not all equal. You can get top-end presses from Forster, Lyman, Redding, and more, which are all very precise. You can even get arbor presses that take you into a next level world of precision and measurability, for bench rest and F-Class type shooters. However, most first-time reloaders will make their press choice based on their budget, and upgrade to one of the above setups as they expand their reloading bench beyond the basics.

For those looking at the cheaper end of the single stage press spectrum, you will land on a Lee press as a matter of course. They are affordable, and sturdy units and will last you a lifetime if you don’t ever feel the need to upgrade to a higher-end press. For a basic Lee press, you are looking between $80 and $200, depending on the style that floats your boat, and also depending on where you buy it.

Hot off the press #dadjokes #hornady #norma #lee

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If you intend to only load for rifle, and only a few calibres, then a single-stage press should be sufficient for your needs. You may want a turret press or even a second press, so you can have one for sizing and one for seating. For a good press line up, check out Workshop Innovations.

If you want to load for shotgun, Google “Lee Load All”. I don’t know many people that load for scatter guns, as the ammo is pretty cheap. But, you can save some $$$, and customise your loads as you like.

Progressive press

As mentioned before, a progressive press spits out one loaded round for every pull of the handle, with minimal intervention in between (some models require you to place the projectile, or whatever). Of course you don’t skip your brass prep stage, as you do all of this beforehand. But, once you are setup with all of your components ready to feed in, you are good to go and can churn out dozens, or even hundreds, of rounds in an hour.

For this reason, a progressive is almost essential if you want to take up reloading for pistol. Given the sheer volume of ammo expended in most matches, you won’t want to be doing this on a single stage press. There are those who are proponents of loading rifle on progressives too, and again, high-volume shooters would find this the way to go. For example, a 3-Gun shooter may buy their shotgun ammo, and load their huge amount of pistol and rifle ammo on the same press, by changing the tool heads, etc. There are also plenty of tools and attachments to get your progressive churning out match-grade, super consistent, ultra concentric rifle ammo – depending on how far you want to take it.

A progressive ProChucker 5 by RCBS. Image credit; RCBS
A progressive ProChucker 5 by RCBS. Image credit; RCBS

If you’re looking on the cheaper end of the scale, you will again encounter Lee as the basic of basics. The Lee Pro 1000 is probably the cheapest progressive I have seen (at time of writing, $489 from Reloaders Supplies). It has its place in the market, but if you’re going to invest the money in a high-volume reloading setup, you may as well do it once and do it properly.

If you’ve looked at progressives before, you’ve seen the big blue machines. Yes, Dillon dominate the progressive market, but there are green, red and other colour progressives out there too. Being so prolific, many people have put a lot of time and effort into creating add-ons and betterments for Dillons, and you will find an endless array of optional extras. Every progressive machine I’ve ever seen has a huge range of optional extras, so make sure you find out exactly what you need before you purchase, as the base price on the machine is often only the beginning.

If you don’t know where to start, check out these Dillon setup “builders” which take you through all you need for your new blue machine.

Dies and shellholders

Dies and shellholders are calibre specific, so they won’t usually be included with the press you buy. In order to use your press, you will need a shellholder for your intended calibre (this is what you seat the case in). These are about $10 – $15, or you can buy a set of them for multiple calibres to save some money in the long run. Depending on your die set, a shellholder may be included.

For starting out loading rifle, you will need a minimum of two dies. One to full length size your cases, and another to seat the projectile. Lee produces a basic set of RGB (Really Good Buy) dies that consists of simply these two dies, and they have them for most common calibres at a very cheap price, usually less than $50, depending on where you go. The quality of these dies is great, so don’t be fooled by the price. They will, however, not have some of the extras other die sets have, such as shellholders, neck-sizing dies, crimp dies, etc. Your more highly specced die sets will probably run you around $80 – $160, depending on what flavour of die you want.

Lee produces a range of die sets, from the more costly/comprehensive to the simple and affordable.
Lee produces a range of die sets, from the more costly/comprehensive to the simple and affordable.

The great thing about dies and presses, is that they are almost all compatible and have common thread dimensions. Most FLS (full length sizing) and seating dies will do a great job, so my advice would be to get what is available for your cartridge and in your price range. If you want to start getting into precision seating dies with micrometers, etc., then you’re probably not even reading this article, as that is more advanced than the basics of getting started in reloading.

Neck sizing is something you will hear about when researching dies and reloading. I really like the Lee collet dies, as they do not require any case lube, and they size over a mandrel, instead of use a pull-through sizing button, which induces excessive stresses on the neck and can push imperfections around in the brass. If you want to load for hunting only, or if you’re tight on cash, skip the NS (neck-size) step for now. If you want to get really accurate ammo for a specific rifle, either invest in a die set that has a NS die included, or buy a separate one. Reloaders Supplies in Onehunga usually has a good stock of the Lee collet dies, or could order one in for you if needed.

Case lubricant

When you are using a FLS or most NS dies, make sure you are using case lube or some kind of powder. I find graphite powder great for neck sizing when not using a mandrel-type die, and it doesn’t react with gun powder. Lanolin spray on lube is apparently the bees knees for case lube, but I’ve not personally tried it. Watch this interview with the 6.5 Guys and they’ll convince you of its merits.

Some common case lubes - you do also get lube pads and lanolin spray.
Some common case lubes – you do also get lube pads and lanolin spray.

Case trimming and measuring

When you reload your spent cases, you will need to ensure that they have not stretched beyond maximum tolerances for that cartridge. You can get a cartridge specific case gauge, or you could get a multi-calibre case gauge. Again, showing my preference for red reloading equipment, I quite like the Lee case trimmer and lock stud. When combined with a (different type of) shellholder and a cause gauge guide, it will measure and trim your cases in one easy step. I use these with an electric screwdriver to speed up my case prep.

Case measuring tools are essential for safe ammo.
Case measuring tools are essential for safe ammo.

Once you’ve trimmed your cases to size, you’ll want to chamfer the edges for uniformity of escaping gasses, as well as ease of bullet seating, and easy chambering. Don’t forget to clean out the primer pocket too.

A vernier caliper is a great tool for checking trim length, as you can use it again for COAL length (tip to tail, not to ogive to base) and other measurements. You can get these with normal scales, like a ruler, or with a digital or dial readout.

Priming tool

Simple decision here, you can either get a hand priming tool or a tool that mounts to your press. It’s really user preference. Do you like the feel of seating the primer exactly by hand? Do you want to prime your cases while you watch the rugby? Or do you want to have a mechanical stop on your primer-seating depth, and prefer to do all your stages in one go at the reloading bench?

A few options for your powder measure - a thrower, dipper and a trickler.
A few options for your powder measure – a thrower, dipper and a trickler.

Powder measure or scale

Your simplest way to measure powder is by volume. A powder thrower will “throw” a relatively consistent volume of powder each time you pull the handle. Great for loading pistol, hunting rounds or high-volume stuff. Don’t forget you will need to weight it to start. and check the weight every now and again, to make sure you are throwing the right amount.

Your most accurate way to measure powder is by weight. You can use a simple (yet effective) balance beam scale, or you can use a handy-dandy digital one. Both can be had relatively inexpensively. If you want to get into super-accurate reloading for precision shooting, you’re going to want to drop some serious cash on lab-grade equipment. Usually a powder trickler/meter and scale combo can be bought.

Ammo case

You’ll need something to store all of your shiny, reloaded ammo in! Any old gun store will have MTM or Plano boxes for you to keep your freshly rolled ammo. However, if you’re planning on doing a lot of reloading, or loading for multiple guns and chamberings, it may be more economical or easy to use TAC-PAC clear ammunition boxes. They are cheap, stackable, and come in a multitude of sizes.

What about a starter kit?

Excellent question! As you can see from the above, there is a lot of variety out there. If you want to customise your setup with bits and pieces from different manufacturers, or based on the recommendations of friends (or people who write stuff on the internet), you may want to go and buy each thing individually.

However, if you really are budget conscious, or if you just want enough to get started because you don’t really know your left from your right yet, anyway, then you should probably get a starter kit. A Lee Anniversary kit will set you back $249 – $259 if you know where to shop. Or $399 if you don’t. You can get high-end kits closer to $800 or a grand, like the Lyman T-Mag II Expert Reloading Kit Deluxe from Workshop Innovations for $939.95 at the time of writing.

If you get the Lee, the press itself will last you for ages, and you will probably upgrade the accessories as you go. If you go for the more expensive kits, you may find it will be quite a while before you spend anything else on reloading gear (yeah, right…).

With any kit, remember there will still be things you need to purchase, so factor that into how much you spend. Ask at the store or check online to see what else you will need. You will need a case gauge (unless a universal one is supplied) and you will need dies and shellholders for all the cartridges you intend to start reloading with. My recommendation is to start with a single chambering, because you will have a lot to learn. It also means you won’t have to shell out too much on reloading consumables as well, at the start.

Extras you don’t need now, but will want in the future

  • Loading trays and die trays (I prefer to keep my dies in their boxes with silica gel packets anyway)
  • Universal decapping die
  • Ultrasonic cleaner or media tumbler (or both! I hear wet tumbling with stainless media is a dream)
  • Primer pocket uniforming tool
  • Run out gauge
  • Micrometers for bullet seating depth adjustments
  • COAL gauges for optimising depth relative to lands
  • A second press
  • A much larger bench – maybe even a reloading room
  • A million extras for progressives, I’m not going to list them all here


What do I need to start reloading? Part 1: Materials

Good question – glad you asked! There’s a lot of stuff you could buy if you wanted to start reloading, but actually only a few essential things to start your first load and get hooked with the reloading addiction. This is a quick list of the bits and pieces you’ll need to get going.

Beware – any loads mentioned in this article are my own, and are not to be taken as gospel! Use a reloading manual or manufacturer’s instructions to find the right load for your firearm and application.

Oh, and here’s the difference between handloading and reloading if you were wondering!

Why reload?

Okay, before we get straight into the list – why reload? Ammunition is expensive. Each time you pull the trigger on a rifle, you’re sending $2 – $5 downrange, depending on your calibre and ammo preference. My 6.5×55 reloads cost $1.27 to shoot, roughly. But it’s not just about cheap and cheerful. I could cut that almost in half if I bought cheap projectiles. No, that’s $1.27 for ammo that I would call “match grade”. The results speak for themselves – see below:


#oneraggedhole #tikkaT3 #SMK

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Aside from being economical, reloading allows you to fine tune your ammunition depending on your rifle and intended application. I have two identical loads for my Tikka T3, one for target shooting and one for hunting – the only difference is the projectile and COAL (cartridge overall length).

There’s a lot you can do with reloading, so take the time and get stuck in – you’ll save some money, improve your accuracy/performance, and develop what is really a whole new hobby.

If you’re going to sight in and hunt once a year, then no worries, a pack of factory ammo will last you plenty of trips!

What are the essentials?

Obviously you need a firearm to shoot the ammo in! You also need safety glasses for while your reload (primers are explosives!). You need yourself, a solid reloading bench, some basic maths skills, and a whole bunch of other really obvious stuff. But, I’ll be splitting what you need into materials and tools. This is part one on materials.

Even if you aren't reloading yet - start saving your brass now!
Even if you aren’t reloading yet – start saving your brass now!


This is what makes reloading economical. You can reuse your brass many times over, which turns into a considerable saving. If you neck size and reload for one rifle only, reusing your brass will also increase accuracy. Where to get brass? You can buy it online, or from stores such as Reloaders Supplies or Serious Shooters. Or, what I do is buy ammo, shoot it, and reuse the brass.

I shoot and reload PPU or Sellier & Bellot for cheap plinking ammo (.303, 7.62×39, etc.). For my 7mm-08 and .308 I use a mixture of Hornady, Remington and Winchester. For my “match” 6.5×55 ammo, I shoot and reload Norma ammo. Lapua is also a good candidate. For 9mm pistol rounds I use whatever I have at hand.

Using brass from factory ammo also means you have a base line to start with, figuring out what your gun does and doesn’t like.

Cost example:

ADI 300 Blackout brass x 100 – $69 from Reloaders Supplies. That’s 69 cents each, and anecdotally you’ll be getting around 10 loads per, so call it 7 cents per round.

Federal American Eagle loaded 300 BLK ammo x 20 – $55 from Serious Shooters. That’s $2.75 per round if that was that. But if you plan on getting another 9 loads (at least) out of the brass, then call it 27.5 cents per round (including your first, loaded shot). It’s not as cheap, but you do get that first shot, and you get to experiment with different weight projectiles without buying a bunch of different types.


Projectiles (bullets) are likely to be your biggest expense if you’re aiming to make quality ammo. My most expensive pills are about $1.03 each, depending where you buy em. There are plenty more expensive out there. Plenty! But if you shoot a cheap/common/small calibre, like .223, you’ll be able to pick up bullets for much, much cheaper. Have a look at your usual stores and you’ll see what I mean.

Different projectiles will enable you to experiment with your firearm and produce application-specific ammunition.
Different projectiles will enable you to experiment with your firearm and produce application-specific ammunition.

You can get cheaper still with cast lead or plated projectiles, but these come with their own challenges and idiosyncrasies. Stick with copper jacketed bullets as you start out and life will be simpler.

Make sure you choose a projectile specific to your needs. Manufacturer websites are pretty clear, otherwise, read up on your calibre in Nathan Foster’s knowledge base, or ask your local gun store staff. A good example is, Sierra Matchkings (SMK) are super accurate, but dicey performers on game. Hornady ELD-X is great on game, and pretty accurate to boot. Prvi Partisan .31 calibre lead-tipped projectiles are actually great for effective wounding on game, but certainly not match accurate.

Cost example:

Prvi Partisan 6.5mm (.264) 139 gr projectiles x 100 – $60 from Gunworks. That’s 60 cents per round.

Berger VLD Target 6.5 mm (.264) 140 gr x 100 – $106.95 from Workshop Innovations. Looking at $1.07 per round. As you can see, there is a vast difference, but these two projectiles are for vastly different applications.

For comparison, a bag of 500 ADI 22 calibre 62 gr projectiles would set you back $100. That’s 20 cents a round for cheap AR-15 plinking ammo.


Powder is a big expense up front, but lasts for ages. It’s good to have a few varieties on hand for different loads and applications, but once you find one that you definitely will use a lot, buy in bulk to save even more money. Also, buying in bulk eliminates the variance you can get between batches of powder, as you’ll be working from the same batch for longer.

As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of ADI powder. ADI (based in Australia) produces a bunch of powders for other brands, so if you find Americans talking about Varget, it’s fine because you can buy ADI AR2208, which is the same thing. But, where it becomes awesome is ADI powders are sold in 500 gram containers for around the same price of an American or European brand 1 pound container, which is about 454 grams. Immediate savings!

Different powder for different uses, but ADI is always a safe bet. Buy in bulk to make your reloading $ go further!
Different powder for different uses, but ADI is always a safe bet. Buy in bulk to make your reloading $ go further!

There are many good powder brands, and if you will end up reloading for multiple calibres, try and find loads that like the same powder to save on cost even more. My 6.5×55, .303, .308 and 7mm-08 are all fed a steady diet of 2208. Funnily enough, they’re all similar charge weights as well. This leads to multiple efficiencies.

You should definitely get yourself a reloading manual, but if you do decide to stick to ADI, they provide some awesome reloading data on their website.

Cost example:

ADI AR2208 500 g – $65 from Broncos. I use around 40 grains for most loads with this powder, so let’s call it 34 cents per round. If you bought the 4 kg container, your cost per round would drop to 30 cents.

IMR 4198 1 lb – $69 from Reloaders. I use 26.5 grains of this for my 7.62×39 loads. That’s 264 rounds, so 26 cents per round.


The things that go bang! I won’t spend too much time on primers except to say that they are actually different. It’s good to experiment, but when you start loading in volume, try and stick to one type of primer, otherwise you should realistically back off your load and work up again as the reaction inside the chamber will be different. Better yet, buy in bulk. I have found all of my loads requiring a large rifle primer tend to like Federal Gold Medal match primers. So I buy boxes of 1000 at a time.

Again, not only are you saving more dollar dollar bills y’all, but you’re keeping consistent by staying in the same batch of primers. Primers are quite cheap, so buying in bulk is not such a big deal.

Cost example:

Winchester Large Rifle primers x 100 – $12.99 from Gun City.

Federal Premium Gold Medal Large Rifle primers x 1000 – $90.95 from Workshop Innovations.

Primers are another area where buying in bulk saves a little bit of cash, but also improves consistency.
Primers are another area where buying in bulk saves a little bit of cash, but also improves consistency.

What will my first lot of materials cost me?

Let’s use the common 308 as an example. Using the ADI Powders load data and some prices from NZ shops, let’s figure out the minimum you would have to spend to load your first 100 rounds, as well as how economical you can get by buying in bulk.

Supplier Item Quantity Cost Cost per round
Reloaders Suppliers Sierra 30 cal 155 gr HPBT Match 100 $78.00 $0.78
Broncos ADI AR2208 powder 500 g $65.00 $0.37
Broncos ADI AR2208 powder 4 kg $465.00 $0.33
Gun City Winchester 308 Win brass 50 $69.99 $1.40
Gun City Winchester 308 Win brass (10 x) 50 $69.99 $0.14
Workshop Innovations Federal GM210M LR Primers 100 $9.95 $0.10
Workshop Innovations Federal GM210M LR Primers 1000 $90.95 $0.09
Cost per round for first 100 only (will have left over powder) $2.65
Cost per round with bulk buying and 10 loads from each case $1.34
Cost per round of equivalent factory load low end manufacturer $3.00
Cost per round of equivalent factory load high end manufacturer $3.40


As you can see, depending on the life of your brass, you can half the cost of your ammo and produce some excellent results. Especially when you consider that you can set your seating depth and a host of other things that will increase your accuracy from a given load.

Having said that, there’s more to getting started than bullets and brass. The cost of reloading equipment will factor into your decision to start loading your own ammo or not. Make sure to check back for Part Two in this series, in which we will look at the easiest equipment to get started with.


Bullet selection for hunting this roar

For many young girls and guys around the country, this roar will be their first opportunity to hunt – or at least to hunt some of the more prized species New Zealand has to offer in their prime coats and colours. While a shooter may be proficient with their weapon of choice, this does not automatically make them a good hunter.

Aside from the bushcraft, fitness and stalking involved – not to mention antler-induced-excitement behind the trigger – a serious consideration is the choice of ammunition. Fortunately for those shooting a more common calibre, there is plenty of off-the-shelf ammo that will do the trick. If you don’t intend to shoot much aside from sighting in and hunting, then buying ammo makes much more sense than reloading.

Bullet choice in New Zealand

Some common hunting calibres in New Zealand include .308, .303, .223, 6.5×55, 7mm-08, .243, .270, .260 and .30-06. To a limited extent the old Russian military calibres see some use (7.62×39 on goats or yearlings at close range or 7.62x54R if you’re running around with a sporterised Mosin-Nagant). And .300 BLK is becoming quite popular for goat culling or in short-range (but fancy) bush guns.

If you’re buying ammo for more common calibres like .308 or 7mm-08, your store owner’s recommendation will likely be good enough. Remington Core-LOKT and Winchester Power-Point are popular choices, and Hornady Whitetail does very well in most modern bolt actions too. However, for reloaders who have been chasing accuracy, bullet choice can change the game completely.

Some of the more common 7mm-08 hunting choices.
Some of the more common 7mm-08 hunting choices.

For example, with my 6.5×55 a 142 gr SMK or 140 gr AMAX does a beautiful group at 100 yards. In fact, my new favourite is Norma-Sierra 144 gr – it’s a factory load, but I can’t seem to beat it with the projectiles I have on hand. However, all of these loads have hit-and-miss performance on game. The AMAX less so, but certainly the SMKs are not meant for hunting. They have erratic terminal performance, sometimes yawing and producing massive wounds, sometimes producing pinhole wounds that can lead to inhumane kills and extended tracking of wounded animals.

But isn’t the Sierra Match King a hollow point? Yes it is, however the HP in this projectile is not designed for expansion on game. This hollow section in the bullet is to keep weight to the rear of the bullet, stabilizing it in flight and making it a more accurate round.

The SMK looks great on paper but does not produce consistent wounds.
The SMK looks great on paper but does not produce consistent wounds.

Factors like this need to be considered carefully, especially in calibres with higher sectional density, which can lead to deep penetration, but poor expansion if bullet choice is incorrect. This can be prominent in the 6mm and 7mm calibres.

If you’re about to start working up your hunting load for this year’s roar and do some quick sighting in, there are a few ways you can narrow down your bullet selection. You could start by checking out the forums or facebook pages and seeing what others with your rifle/calibre have been using. Or you could start by doing some research on sites like Nathan Foster’s Terminal Ballistics, or checking out the projectile manufacturer’s website. If you are the type to learn better by doing rather than reading, try a sampler pack from Gunworks to get a few different projectiles through your rifle and find its sweet spot.

If I had a range like this in my back yard, I may divide my time slightly differently.

Swiss 300 metre shoot – Any Sights Any Rifle

There are a few centrefire rifle events every year that are just thoroughly enjoyable and worth attending. The Auckland NZDA Prize Shoot is one, as is the Thames NZDA shoot. The Hangiwera Station Sniper Shoot is definitely up there, and so is the Swiss Club’s Any Sights Any Rifle 300 metre shoot.

This year was my first shoot at the Swiss Club, although some of my shooting buddies have been going for years, and I attended on their recommendation.

An enjoyable shoot

The shoot is well organised, and is accommodating for younger or inexperienced shooters. There are club rifles available and the RO is very helpful with sighting in. The club rifles are either straight-pull Karabiners (K31s), chambered in the venerable 7.5×55, or modern semi-autos in 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington.

If you’re bringing your own rifle (as most do), you can use anything you like. If you’re really ambitious, you can try your open-sighted SKS and see what it will do at 300, but you’ll be going up against Bench Rest rifles that hit 10.1 more often than not. Most rifles on the day were a mix of F-Class, BR, sporting and service rifles. Because there is such a variety of shooters and equipment, it’s more likely that you will be competing amongst your group of friends than with the top of the table – unless you’re an excellent BR shooter.

The variety of rifles on the range is a joy in itself.
The variety of rifles on the range is a joy in itself.

Although I knew there was no way I could beat the top BR shooters with my modest sporter, this did not diminish my enjoyment of the day at all. I’m pretty competitive by nature, but found myself comparing my scores to my wife’s and those of the other Howick shooters. It also meant I got to see a bunch of really cool guns that you wouldn’t usually see in one competition.

Three-hundred metres is a pretty challenging distance if you haven’t shot past a hundred before. There were even a few who had not shot at all before. However, with the help of the club’s rifle master, these young shooters were hitting paper in no time.

The cost of the shoot is not prohibitive, with a range of $20 on the day, and of the cost of 25 rounds of ammo. The Swiss Club has a really good website for the ASAR shoot, which lets you book your position on the mound ahead of time. With several details across a few days of shooting, you’ll definitely find a time to shoot, and you may even try and better your score on another day.

Swiss Club target.
Swiss Club target.

The format

The shoot starts with 5 individual sighters. Each shooter on the line takes a single shot from the prone position (all shooting is prone), after which the targets go down and the scorers call back the score and location of the round to the RO via radio. A notepad and pen are handy, as you try and figure out where your sighters are landing. The shots are called out like “9 at 3 o’clock” or “7 at at 1 o’clock”, with the first number being the score (1-10) and the position on the clock helping you to identify which segment of the target you are landing on.

After you’ve gone through your 5 sighters, there are 10 individual scoring shots, shot in a very similar fashion. Each shot is still called out, helping you adjust your shot placement, especially if the wind picks up downrange.

A notepad is essential to sighting in at 300 metres.
A notepad is essential to sighting in at 300 metres.

After the individual shots, you have “rapid” groups of 2, 3 and 5. I say rapid, but it’s really not. It’s simply a few shots in a row. There is no pressure to hurry up, and there are plenty of people single loading their shots.

All shots are still called out, except for the final group. This means you can adjust your shot placement right up the last minute.

How hard is it to hit the 10 ring? You’ll need to be shooting around MOA (just over) to consistently hit the 10 ring at 300 metres. If you want to notch up a bunch of 10.1’s, you’ll need to be shooting around between 0.5 and 0.66 MOA.

The experience

I thoroughly enjoyed the shoot. I went a bit early to watch some of my mates shoot, but also to familiarise myself with the format and calls. I did end up waiting around a bit, but I ended up being there for most of the day, as I had some “technical difficulties”.

After watching the 11 am detail, I hung around over lunch time before taking up my spot on the mound. I was a bit nervous as I was shooting my rifle in its complete configuration for the first time. Since the last time I had shot, I had fitted and bedded my Boyds Prairie Hunter stock, had a new bolt handle machined, and modified my magazine follower. Also unfamiliar to me was a 6-24 scope that I had been sent to review.

One new bolt handle coming up, thanks to my mate Thomas.
One new bolt handle coming up, thanks to my mate Thomas.

Unfortunately the scope did not perform and was unable to be zeroed on the day. This meant I had to wait through an entire detail, pushing out my wife’s shoot as well. However, I used this time to fit my trusty Vortex Diamondback 4-12×40 BDC, which I brought just in case. I have learnt my lesson with taking unfamiliar equipment to a shoot.

Unfortunately this meant I had to sight in from scratch, however, I was on paper on my 3rd shot, and the rest was just fine-tuning. By the end of my shoot I had it right were I wanted it, which meant my wife had the rifle ready to go for her shoot, and actually did quite well. Results can be seen here.

Overall I was very happy with the my complete sporter set up, and with some more powerful glass, I think I’d be comfortable taking this rig out onto the F-Class range.

Looking forward to some Norma brass at the end of this.
Looking forward to some Norma brass at the end of this.

I think the load development still has some way to go, particularly as the barrel on this rifle is quite short. Not having developed a satisfactory handload, I shot this competition with factory 6.5×55 ammo. I used the Norma-Sierra 144gr HPBT, and the round seemed to perform pretty well. To be honest, I was more interested in the brass than anything else, as I think this rifle will prefer lighter projectiles, in the 130 – 140 grain range. Over the holidays I’ll be testing out the 129 gr Hornady Interlock and 140 gr A-max. I’ll be comparing this projectiles side-by-side with the 142 gr SMK and the 144 gr OEM projectile in the Norma-Sierra load.

At the end of the day, the shoot was enjoyable, and definitely an experience worth repeating. You can shoot multiple times on one day, or on multiple days across the competition. If I have the time next year, I’ll probably try shoot it on a few days. Being located only 45 mins or so north of Auckland, the range is really accessible, although it is also rarely accessible. The Swiss Club is, of course, a club for Swiss nationals, and as far as I know, this shoot is the only time of the year that the range is opened up to the general public.

If you would like to try a different range and format, and perhaps a longer distance than you usually get to, you’ll definitely enjoy the Swiss Club’s ASAR shoot.

Three shot group on smallbore target

Rifle resources

There are so many places around the web that you can visit to become more informed about your chosen shooting sport or firearm. However, some resources stand head-and-shoulders above the rest. Here’s a quick break-down of great places to to do a bit of digging.

Cartridge research and long-range accuracy

Terminal Ballistics is not only the home of Matchgrade Bedding Compound, but is also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to… well… terminal ballistics. The study of terminal ballistics is the study of what a bullet does once it impacts the target.

Nathan Foster does a lot of wound research and load development to help shooters figure out which cartridges will suit their desired application. If you’re thinking of trying out a new calibre, this is a great place to start.

Terminal Ballistics also provides long-range shooting advice, both on the web, and in books and other media. If you’re interested in hunting or target-shooting at extended ranges, make sure to give these a go.

Community opinion

Sometimes what you really want to know, is what other users think of a product. Sites like The Gun Rack provide product reviews and other useful information, but if you’d like to get a variety of opinions or start a poll on a certain subject, a forum may be the best place to do that.

In New Zealand we have and many, many more. Often you’ll find that forum members are across multiple sites, and you’ll soon figure out who really knows their stuff.

Advice on reloading and other topics is plentiful on online forums.
Advice on reloading and other topics is plentiful on online forums.

Technical reviews

While I try and provide thorough reviews from a user’s point of view, sometimes what you want is a very technical investigation into a certain issue.

A website you can’t look past is Full of comprehensive tests and healthily objective comparisons, this is a site that I could get lost on for hours (and sometimes have).


Some of the services that rifle shooters need are just not advertised in the way makeup or used cars are. To find out where to get your stock repaired or get a barrel threaded, you probably shouldn’t rely on Google.

Theirs no better resource for this than your fellow shooters. Aside from checking out forums, or the other resources listed above, joining a hunting or shooting club is an invaluable way to make contacts in the community/industry, and find out where your local gunsmith or hunting spots might be hidden.

Auckland NZDA Prize Shoot

The annual NZDA Auckland branch Prize Shoot is a great day out for Auckland shooters of all abilities. Falling in September each year, the weather can be a bit hit and miss, but aside from that, it’s a perfectly pleasant day on the range with your favourite rifle and some mates.

This year – the 46th Prize Shoot – I shot for my second time and my wife completed her first centrefire competition. We both did fairly well, but she truly excelled. I’ll claim that it’s because I sighted the rifle in through my shooting (we shared a rifle). However, all credit to her, as she outshot some great shooters.

The field

That’s another thing that makes the day enjoyable – there are shooters of all abilities. I placed well ahead of some very experienced shooters, but was beaten by someone shooting for their first time ever. And vice versa. It really is a great field of competitors, where everyone can benchmark their performance against others.

NZDA 100 metre standing shoot
100 metres is more than enough from the standing position.

At the top of Division A were the usual suspects, including Paul Carmine. My wife, Kassie, took out Division B – which got her called up second in the order of prize recipients, allowing her to choose a really nice Hunting and Fishing backpack for her prize.

This year there were four ladies and two junior shooters. In total, there were just under 40 shooters, making up two details. Last year there were around 60 shooters (despite the inclement weather), and apparently previous years have had a similar turnout. Perhaps timing a competition to coincide with Bathurst wasn’t the best move…

The format

The format of the shoot is very simple and easy to follow. Once the safety instructions and competition rules had been read out, the first detail (Squad A) went to the mound for sighting in and the prone target shoot.

Rest and bipods are allowed for sighting in, however, you want tomake sure you're sighted in before competition day if possible.
Rest and bipods are allowed for sighting in, however, you want to make sure you’re sighted in before competition day if possible.

Sighting in is done on a target on the right hand side of the frame, and five minutes are allowed for unlimited sighters.  The range for the competition is 100 metres. I got 13 rounds off in this time, trying to get my rifle on point. The lesson here being to always sight your rifle in before competition day if you’ve done some work on it. After 13 rounds, there was a decent amount of mirage created by the heat of the barrel and my new MAE suppressor. However, by taking my time this didn’t affect my prone shoot.

You can use a rest or bipod to sight in, however the rest of the competition is shot without any aids (aside from a shooting mat and a kneeling roll).This means no slings, jackets or gloves.

The prone shoot is 5 shots in 7 minutes – plenty of time. After this is finished and the rifles are cleared and removed from the mound, scorers go forward to retrieve targets. Squad B is next, but in the meantime, people stand around chatting and enjoying the all-day sausage sizzle.

After Squad B, the same process is followed and Squad A goes up for 5 rounds in the kneeling position, also in 7 minutes. Rinse and repeat for Squad B. The last shoot of the day is 5 rounds standing, again in 7 minutes. This is what separates the men from the boys. Some of those scoring in the 40’s in the prone event struggle to scrape 20 together in the standing position.

In between these, there is a 5 round rapid shoot on the 25 metre range, to be completed in 40 seconds. Again, making sure you know your hold under/over and your parallax settings before competition day is invaluable. If you’re sharing a rifle with your partner or buddy, you will be accommodated with an extra rapid at the end – although you’ll probably have time in between while targets are retrieved and people yack on about how they pulled that one shot. Targets are also given out once scored, so there is plenty to talk about during the day.

The rifles

Generally speaking, the rifles are hunting rifles in hunting calibres. There are some rifles that would look more at home in an F-Class shoot, and some that would be quite comfortable in the lineup for a military service rifle shoot. The most exotic calibre of the day was probably .310 Cadet, with one .22 Hornet and a 6BR making an appearance.

As far as I could see, the only semi-auto was a Norinco M305 (the Chinese version of the M14), whereas last year a couple AR-15’s placed very highly in the field. At the 2014 Prize Shoot I did take an SKS – what a mistake. The iron sights had not been sighted in and after I took the muzzle brake off, the scope’s zero was so off that I wasn’t on the paper. It was an exercise in frustration, and using the iron sights and a whole lot of compensation, I managed to get some scoring shots in the kneeling and standing events.

This year I went armed with my 1943 Husqvarna M38, chambered in 6.5×55. This rifle was sporterised when I got it, and has since been modified even more. Over the last ten or so months it has a new matte black coating applied, the bolt has been replaced and the cocking piece cut down to reduce lock time. I’ve also installed a Vortex Diamondback BDC 4-12 x 40, and a new adjustable BOLD Trigger, which was kindly supplied by Boyds. Completing the setup was a brand new MAE suppressor, which thoroughly impressed my shooting buddies as well as those that heard it perform.

I also have a new Boyds Gunstock waiting to be fitted to this rifle, but I didn’t want to rush the bedding and finishing before this shoot. It should be ready before the 300m Swiss Club shoot in November. And I’ve learnt my lesson – sight in beforehand!

The load I was shooting was as follows:

Projectile: SMK HPBT 142 gr
Powder: ADI AR2208 34.7 gr
Brass: PPU (twice fired)
Primer: Federal Gold Medal Large Rifle Match

Aside from my wife and I, there was one other person shooting 6.5×55. The most common calibre by far was  .223 Remington, with 14 shooters using this round. There was one .243 and three .270s, with eight .308 rifles as well. The winning rifle was a .222. There were also four other rifles in this calibre on the day, two placing very low in the field and the other two coming in near the top.

The MAE suppressor cut down felt recoil and the loud crack of the rifle, making it a pleasure to handle.
The MAE suppressor cut down felt recoil and the loud crack of the rifle, making it a pleasure to handle.

The prizes

The prizes for the shoot are kindly donated by several sponsors, including major Auckland gun stores, as well as private individuals and club members. Also on offer was a one-year membership to the club, as well as a couple magazine subscriptions.

There were some great prizes to be had, including four of these Leupold knives.
There were some great prizes to be had, including four of these Leupold knives.

Dotted along the prize table were all sorts of cool items for the garage, range, shed, field or bush. Ranging from knives and a machete to ammunition, books, cleaning products, car accessories and even a leather-working voucher.

Everyone walked away happy, having picked a prize that was probably worth more than the $25 they paid to enter the competition. With free sausages all day, and a lot of shooting to do, it adds up to a very worthwhile day.

With the prizes on display all day, everyone eyes up what they want, and probably spend a fair bit of time vacillating between equally awesome prizes. Last year the knives were first to go, however this year they stuck around for a bit. There were a fair few on offer, and myself and two other members of HSSRC managed to score three out of the four limited edition Leupold hunting knives. The first place junior made a bee-line for the machete, which was clearly something he’d been eyeing up all day.

Whether you only break out the centrefire rifles a few times a year or you regularly enjoy taking your hunting rig out, the NZDA Annual Prize Shoot is a rewarding experience in more ways than one, and is something I’d definitely recommend.