Reduced Load Ammo

Reduced Load Ammo

Reduced load: a cartridge loading that is designed to minimize or at least moderate noise and recoil, often with an economic benefit.

Because “noise” is hard to calculate, let’s just assume that noise and recoil are directly related; that is, if you decrease the recoil and you will also decrease the noise. Having said that we can then simply discuss the things we can do to reduce recoil and the noise will follow.

“Recoil” is the very definition of Newton’s Second Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

When you pull the trigger, the powder turns to a gas that then pushes the bullet out the barrel. The force going both forward AND backward depends on the weight of the bullet, the weight of the powder/gas, and their velocity. The equations that describe what’s happening are simple enough, but it’s even simpler to go to    where you can just enter the variables and let the computer do the work.

Two things become apparent right away:

  • Reduce the powder charge and you reduce the recoil—the lower limit of course is zero . . . that’s when the bullet sticks in the barrel; and,
  • To get a reduced load you must be a handloader.

Let’s illustrate using a .357 Magnum. As can be seen in the table below, a factory load generates about 7.46 ft/lbs of recoil. For me, that’s uncomfortable. So let’s reduce the powder charge from 11.6 grains to 3.0 grains, (the lowest in the Lyman handbook). Wow! The resulting recoil is reduced by 65%.

Any less powder and we’ll start sticking bullets in the barrel—and believe thee me, we’ve done a lot of that! So if we want still less recoil, the only option is to begin reducing the bullet weight. By selecting the right mold and casting your own bullets, you can get down to a 121 grain bullet. Using that bullet you can reduce the recoil to about 20% of the factory load and you can pat yourself on the back.

Can we get lower? Well yes, you could cast a round ball. That will get your projectile down to about 114 grains and could give you a small additional reduction in recoil.


                           Bullet Wt                   Powder Wt.                              Velocity                        Recoil

                  Bullet              (grains)                               (grains)                                 (fps)                            (ft/lbs)

Factory                     158                                    11.6                                   1388                        7.46

#358311               158                                       3.0                                   928                         2.66

#358242               121                                       3.0                                   998                         1.86

round ball              114                                       3.0                                   930                         1.47

4-Sigma Factory  44                                        3.0                                   830                         0.25

.22 Long Rifle       38                                        2.0                                   1100                        0.26


Now we have a reduced load . . . or do we? Remember, we’re using factory ammo as our point of reference. However, when we shift our point of reference to a 10-year old, first-time shooter or to a timid wife or girlfriend, it’s still both very noisy and scary. So what happens if we shift our point of reference? Can we do any better to accommodate our student? Is there a tool we can use to even better entice the next generation of shooters??

The answer is yes, it is possible to reduce the recoil still further. 4-Sigma Bullets makes a 44 grain, .357” bullet that can be loaded down to yield a recoil of 0.25 ft/lbs. That’s 3% of the factory load and identical to a .22 Long Rifle!! Further, 4-Sigma Bullets sell both bullets and ammunition so you don’t even have to be a handloader to take advantage.

The .357 Magnum was used only as an example. Many other bullets/cartridges are available.

If you are reading this, you might also be interested in some of our other articles: “Flinch” and “Training Muscle Memory”.

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