Hand loading, the law, and the Courts

I am interested in the current state of prevailing opinion about hand loads that may end up used in a defensive event. I know it is often the case, at least in the past, that hand loading was either used as a way to characterize the defendant as a zealot of some kind, or that the defendant somehow tried to make the ammunition " more lethal" . As i had load the majority of my practice ammunition, it is possible that for some reason, some might be called upon in an emergency. I’m interested in thoughts, and legal knowledge on the subject. Thanks


I load all of my handgun and rifle ammo. To your question though, I never load to the maximum amount of powder recommended in the various reloading manuals. I also typically calmly don’t load the heaviest weight bullet. For instance when I load .45 ACP, I’ll use a 200 gr bullet vs a 230 gr.


The one nice thing about reloading is that you can duplicate your SD ammo rather easily for practice purposes. Much easier to do if you have a chronograph but still doable by shot location at various ranges. I have heard over the years long before the internet was a thing that hand loads would be used against you in court but I don’t know that I have EVER seen evidence that it was successfully used as a basis for a conviction.

@MikeBKY may have an actual case study and I would be interested in seeing it but I don’t actually know of a case.

Personally I have a fair supply of factory SD ammo that I also have developed a load to duplicate so I don’t feel the need to carry anything but the factory stuff.




We differ only slightly. I rarely ever buy rifle ammo, and even the handguns only get factory ammo for carry. Practice is with hand loads tailored to match the characteristics of the carry stuff. And like you, i do not run maximum charges but i do usually go with full weight for caliber bullets. What got me wondering about it was my choice of a home cast flat nose bullet that worked well in my .45. If they, or any of my custom rifle loads got pressed into service for a defensive situation, what might i expect the attitudes to be in the legal system these days. If it were not for hand loading the past few months, I might have had to cut back on practice.


The other thing that brought the subject up was the hunting rifle that hand loading saved from the scrap heap. Though a nice rifle, it failed to shoot any factory ammo tried at all well. The right hand loads however, and a simple but good quality scope, transformed that rifle into a versatile, accurate hunter, even at range. It being a hunting rifle though, all of my efforts, and the ammunition in particular, WERE made to - well, you know - Kill better ,so to speak. While i think that’s the humane, and responsible thing to do, not everyone agrees these days with that take on it.


The reason we don’t suggest using hand loaded/reloaded ammo for self-defense is twofold.

Factory loaded ammo is more reliable and we want the most reliable ammunition we can have when we’re in a self-defense incident. I’m not saying your hand loading is not reliable, but I’ve seen people destroy handguns with hand loaded/reloaded ammo and in a self-defense incident that would be disastrous.

As far as the legal aspect, it depends. (I’m getting used to using that response, @MikeBKY!) The factory loaded ammo is set to specific standards and is tested by an expert to ensure it meets those standards. And that expert can be an unbiased expert witness for you. If you have to testify about your own ammo, you will be considered biased and you might not be considered an expert. Which also leads to the question of did you make an extra-deadly round? (I’ve heard anecdotal stories about that type of questioning in court.)


I did a cursory search (at @Craig6’s suggestion) across all United States state and local court cases where with the terms ammunition and reload appeared in the same sentence. There were 572 cases that matched the terms, however, that does not mean that they were referencing hand loaded ammunition as opposed to reloading ammunition into a weapon. There were 115 results for “reloaded ammunition.” Some of the latter were claims against firearms manufacturers for malfunctions. At least 2 cases were able to help convict the murderer because the projectile was a reload and the murderer reloaded ammo or had reloaded ammo. Most of the cases were criminal prosecutions for possession of firearms or ammunition, including reloads.
There were no cases where the issue was discussed from a negative perspective with relation to reloads except a few cases where the variances in reloads causing under or over penetration. They were not criminal cases.
You have to remember, however, that case searches come up with cases that are being heard by appellate courts and do not include trial court records. The absence of cases does not mean that prosecutors are not raising the issues at trial, only that the specific issue is not one of the questions presented to the appellate court.


As to @Dawn’s points, I agree on both counts. Factory ammunition is usually manufactured to more consistent standards, although I know some folks whose reloaded ammo would put the manufacturers to shame. I would venture to say that many competition and precision shooters reload their ammo and may have higher standards with less variance than the commercial manufacturers.
Butch, my firearms instructor, reloads a lot and makes precision rounds for his rifles but will only use factory ammo in his carry guns. He loads rounds for his carry guns but only uses it on the range. I have watched him reload and he can do hundreds of rounds of practice ammo in his 4 station automated press. But his precision ammo takes minutes per round to produce because each one has the powder weighed so the variance is less than .01 grain. He takes his sniper rounds seriously.


I’m making this a different response because it is important and I do not want it to get lost anywhere. We often talk about being able to explain why you did what you did with respect to the gun you carry, the modifications made, the ammo you use and what you might have with you at any particular time (knives, spare mags, restraints, pepper, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, I want my clients to be able to explain what they did and why they did it. I want them to tell ME every piece of information that they have, no matter how small or big they think it may be.
BUT, I DO NOT WANT MY CLIENT TELLING ANY OF THIS TO THE POLICE, THE PROSECUTOR OR EVEN THEIR BEST FRIEND (your best friend can be compelled to testify.) Remember your response when asked for any details is “I will cooperate 100 percent, but first I need my attorney.”


Yes, one of the reasons for joining, so i would know i had that attorney advice to wait on. I even hesitated to speak here, but I also think we are better for it if we are not isolated from a community like this.

Thank you for the responses. I agree, and it sounds like things are much as i understood them, but i wanted to do more than just assume. Things do change over the years. I wanted to check what i thought i knew. Again, thanks.


The carry guns, or any that serve in back up roles, are all, always, supplied with factory ammunition that is well tested for reliable function in THAT gun. For top accuracy in the rifles, it’s all custom hand loads, which is one of the great benefits of hand loading, consistency and accuracy rarely achieved with the pairing of a rifle and factory ammo.


When I took my CCW course the instructor told us to ONLY USE FACTORY LOADED AMMO. And he even told us to in possible to ask our local police officer what ammo they used and if possible to use that ammo for carrying. I do reload my own ammo and I also don’t do max loads. And that ammo is for practice and competitions. But I use factory loaded ammo only when I carry. And that is for the reasons mentioned here as to why.


This is my 1st time ever responding. I’ve been a member for a couple years and just read and study what is written. Time to speak out now, Your best friend will turn on you in a minute when the law tells him to speak up. They have their ways. Our Attorney is right with his response and I’ll add one more thing to that tell them " I’ll be glad to meet and answer your questions in my attorney’s office". They want you in their place of choosing not yours.


I very much agree. It’s a huge reason to join. To have the advice, and to be able to say, Yes, i do have access to legal advice and i intend to wait for them, and therefore , respectfully, not answer questions. They have the average person who’s never been in trouble, at an enormous disadvantage and they don’t mind using one bit. As for friends, I agree there too. The most mild mannered neighbor you know can become the most vicious person you ever saw when threatened, scared, or just hungry.

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