Quick, cheap and easy .308 hunting ammo
Some time ago, I bought sealed battle packs of surplus 7.62mm NATO ammo made by FNM in a western European plant. It had a reputation for good quality and was 25 cents per round. I also proved through chrono testing that it was temperature stable against elevated temperatures in hot weapons.
The problem is, while good for practice and breaking in a new rifle, due to its low price and reasonable accuracy, the 147-grain FMJ bullet has limited effect against animals unless making a CNS shot to the brain or spine. So I concocted a plan to turn it into high quality hunting ammo for less additional cost than I paid for the surplus ammo.
I chose to buy a lot of Nosler 150-grain Ballistic Tip bullets which at the time were well under 20 cents each. I pulled some of the FMJ bullets and dumped the ball powder and measured each powder dump. I saw that the factory had managed to keep the powder charges within a 0.5 grain range, and considering the variation in bullet weights, any further precision was a vain venture that only increased costs. I decided to use the powder charges "as is", and I had already proven that it was temp stable powder.
By using a Hornady Cam-Lock bullet puller in my press, I can pull bullets in a 200-round battle pack in less than an hour, no hurry at all. All the powder is saved, unlike a kinetic bullet puller, which is mainly a piece of junk equipment for volume bullet pulling. I seated some 150-grain Ballistic Tip bullets to magazine length, same as the FMJ bullets, and then proceded to the rifle range. But first, make sure you use a Lee Factory Crimp Die as the BT bullets have no cannelure to prevent bullet setback in auto weapons. Probably unnecessary in a bolt rifle. Groups were about an inch tighter and grouped closely to the FMJ groups. Speed through the chrono was 10-15 FPS less, and less extreme spread due to less weight variance. With a higher BC, the slightly lower speed Ballistic Tip will have no speed reduction on target.
Performance on deer sized game is devastating from a 20" barrelled FN FAL. LOTS of meat loss unless taking broadside shots behind the shoulder at close distances. However, on a thin-skinned predator about the size of a deer, I WANT a lot of destruction and meat loss. The FN FAL was designed for handling those type predators.
The fact that the FNM ammo is Berdan primed is not an issue. In the situations my FN FAL was designed to handle, brass pickup is usually not an issue. After pulling the FMJ bullet, I still have a bullet that is more consistent than the Winchester FMJ bullets used in American NATO ammo.
Loading up 200 rounds of this ammo in a night is easy. It is cheap as it cost me less than 50 cents in parts total, with a spare bullet worth half of that in today's market held in reserve for later use. Your cost today would be more as similar ammo costs about 50 cents per round surplus, then your BT bullet will be about 25 cents. That is $15.00 per box of twenty that will outperform the $20-$25 per box commercial bulk fodder most people use. You do not get to reuse the brass due to Berdan priming, but the bullet that is worth the price of a once-fired case will zero out that loss.
If you consider your cost savings about 50 cents per round over comparable commercial ammo, you save $100 per battle pack doing it this way. If you use Winchester or Lake City surplus ammo instead, you get reloadable brass but a cheesier FMJ bullet in the bullet storage can. I measure over 4 grains weight variance in Winchester FMJ bullets.
Winchester just got a huge government order, so it is Winchester surplus in the future if you happen to be around then. The FNM plant that made my ammo has been closed down.
Loading decent ammo from all-new components can be very costly as every reloader knows. If you need to put up lots of ammo against future shortages, then it will cost you a bundle, even if it is just the low end commercial fodder such as Super-X or Core-Lokt. This stuff I have is considerably better stuff for less cost. Not counting my labor, of course.
People who have a .308 Winchester rifle have a big advantage in cost to value over other calibers. You can go the once-fired case route and get savings, but the case has been stretched a lot and I have experienced case head separation or near separation several times already. This is the bane of the semi-auto rifle, especially military ones. The chambers are really loose and the brass gets worked a lot in the head webbing area. Replacing the bullet in an unfired 7.62mm NATO round is safer. If you are after the ultimate accuracy, you can reload the powder to a tolerance several times tighter than what the military contractor has done. Military powders these days will be low flash, low heat generation, and temp stable if you stick to the better contractors such as FNM, Sellier & Bellot or Lake City.
I saw a guy shooting his new M1A at the shooting range a couple of weeks ago. He was using common Winchester Super-X commercial ammo. My reworked FNM ammo shoots much better than that in my FN FAL. FNM designed the rifle and the ammo, so it is no surprise it is a better tuned load.
My FNM ammo was made in 1982-1983. The guy who sold the ammo to me was selling tons of the stuff, as people really liked it. It shoots as good as new ammo, so I am not seeing any NATO primer sensitivity issue, meaning the primer will deactivate over time. Out of many hundreds of rounds fired, there has not been a single misfire or weak round. I broke-in two new FAL rifles using hundreds of rounds per rifle. I suspect the NATO primer sensitivity issue is for newer ammo, but I haven't paid attention to that. If using newer surplus ammo, I would check out that issue before purchase.
Last edited by FAL Shot; 09-21-2013 at 04:03 PM.
Reason: more info