Feed The Beast

Reloading The Mighty .50 BMG

Fifty BMG. Say it out loud. Let the words roll off your tongue. Now can you feel it? The tingly rush you inevitably got is a tiny surge in serum testosterone. Simply speaking the name of the manliest cartridge ever created will make you more alert, self-confident and attractive to the opposite sex.

Will believes these Hornady rounds are the finest .50 BMG factory ammo — but they cost $6 per pop.

Taking the Plunge

Inimitable firearms luminary John Moses Browning originally created the .50 BMG (Browning machine gun) round to counter the barrage of balloons, aircraft and primitive armored vehicles on the battlefields of World War I. The original specifications came from General John “Black Jack” Pershing himself. The cartridge is simply a scaled up .30-06.

This massive round and the peerless Ma Deuce heavy machinegun firing it were apparently perfect. Despite several attempts we cannot seem to make anything better, even now in the Information Age. The same M2 Heavy Barrel still fights atop armored HUMVEEs and MRAP vehicles even today, more than a century after its inception.

I freely admit I drank the Kool-Aid. I scraped up my pennies for what seemed half a lifetime until I finally landed a Barrett M82A1 anti-materiel rifle of my own. I could imagine myself exploding engine blocks half a mile distant behind the same gun gracing such action flicks as The Accountant and Robocop.

I found a good deal on the gun on Gunbroker.

However, getting a good deal on a Lamborghini is still a crazy lot of money — once I actually bought this beast of a gun, I had to feed it.

Cheap ammo made from pulled GI components was $3 a round and grouped in a coffee can lid at 100 meters. What had I done? This insanely expensive rifle would clearly never perform a grid square away if it couldn’t print cloverleaves at a football field.

Then I ponied up for some match ammo and found the Barrett was indeed one tack-driving howitzer. The only problem was .50 BMG match ammo costs (no kidding!) $6 per round. It looked like my expensive new pile driver would be a wall hanger and little else — until RCBS saved the day.

CCI No. 35 primers launch the .50 BMG. The .22 LR cartridge is there for scale!

Super Size Me!

Reloading really is fun, particularly when it’s a family affair. Back when my kids were young they helped me manage components, and it was always great fellowship. The work is repetitive so there’s plenty of time to think and visit.

Thanks to RCBS, reloading the .50 BMG is just like loading any lesser rifle cartridge, only on a way-bigger scale (after all, we’re talking an OAL of 5.45). The folks at RCBS know what you’ll need so it all comes in a single box. The set-up is called the Ammomaster .50 BMG Pack and it is one-stop shopping to get you into building your own supersized rifle rounds. The only other things you need are the sundry components, a way to manage powder and a gun to shoot your massive new cartridges!

The press is a gargantuan contrivance sufficiently upsized to provide the considerable forces required to size these things. Compound leverage and a generous handle make this a surprisingly easy chore. The solid steel ram is 1.5 across. Despite its impressive dimensions, the rig will still fit on a typical bench.

The full-length sizer and seater dies look much like their lesser counterparts except they’re as big as hot dog buns. The ram-priming unit fits into the press and the set comes with a trim die as well.

I opted for the RCBS Quick Change High Capacity Powder Measure. This leviathan will hold up to 2 lbs. of powder and comes with three different drop tubes, one of which is designed specifically for the .50 BMG. The metering assemblies exchange with a pull pin. You can certainly make do with less but keep in mind the prodigious scope of this enterprise.

Dies for the .50 BMG are like those for the .308 (at right), only bigger. Much bigger.

Hodgdon US 869 is designed to stoke big rounds like the .50 BMG.


CCI makes the primers and they are indeed impressive while Hodgdon makes the powder. A family-owned company, the Hodgdon Powder Company began with 50,000 lbs. of government-surplus gunpowder sold in paper sacks via mail order immediately after WWII. Hodgdon US 869 feeds really big rounds like the .50 BMG. Loading data is on the label.

If you’re looking for world-class big bore accuracy then 750-gr. Hornady A-Max bullets are the finest show in town. These high-performance boat tail brutes sport exceptionally pointy tips and a secant ogive profile. I’m not completely sure what the last thing means, but these babies are precision beasts downrange.

The Massive RCBS Ammomaster .50 BMG on Will’s reloading bench.
The hopper on this monster will hold up to 2 lbs. of propellant!

The Payoff

Rolling your own .50 BMG rounds is fairly fundamental for anybody who has ever reloaded before. Even if you’re a neophyte the instructions included with the set are clear and easy to understand. Should you get stumped there is always the miracle of YouTube.

I’m not really a reloading fanatic like some names you might see in these hallowed pages. I have reloaded for decades simply to avail myself of cheap bulk blasting ammo. However, if you take your time, the RCBS Ammomaster .50 BMG Pack produces precision .50-caliber rounds that punch tight groups just like the crazy-expensive match stuff, all for the price of components. It’s the only reason I get to play with my fancy .50-caliber rifle!






Purchase A PDF Download Of The GUNS Magazine August 2019 Issue Now!