TTAG doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about handloading. That’s probably because it’s not really that much fun. Unless you’re some kind of Zen master, handloading isn’t something you do because you love to do it. It’s something you do because you love to do what handloading lets you do: shoot your guns exceptionally accurately or exceptionally cheaply. I tend to go in for the latter of these reasons, and these are not exactly (in the immortal lyrics of Dennis DeYoung) The Best Of Times for handloaders like me. Just a few years ago I sometimes had to drive 45 miles to hunt down the rumour of bulk primers or gunpowder in stock. Handloading components are now universally available again, but the economics of ammunition have changed and it’s not always cheaper to DIY . . .

Let’s look at three common rifle cartridges: 5.56x45mm NATO, .270 Winchester and 7.62x51mm NATO, and consider when or if it’s worth making your own ammunition. Five years ago the answer was a no-brainer, but times have changed.

Assumptions

Let’s make the generous assumption that you already have a reloading press, dies, and several hundred empty cases. We’ll assume that primers cost $.04 each for rifles or handguns which is what I just paid for them. We’ll also assume that rifle powders cost $30 per pound. You can sometimes find slightly better deals, but you can almost always find any powder you want for $30 a pound.

Note: if your goal is the very best accuracy you can get from your rifle and optic, you’ll probably end up handloading whatever it costs. I’ve had remarkable success (sub-1″ groups at 300 yards) with Black Hills 168-gr .308 Match, but most handloads are noticeably more accurate than Wal-Mart grade rifle ammo.

5.56/.223

Image: Chris Dumm

Commercial Ammo
Commercial 5.56 ammo currently (November 2013) runs at least $.35 a round for steel-cased plinking ammo, $.40 to $.80 for surplus or commercial reload brass-cased FMJ, and $1 or more for exotic target or hunting loads. (One year ago the same steel-cased plinking rounds cost only $.21 per round, and brass FMJ was rarely more than $.50 per round. Many of us are waiting for those happy days to return.)

Reloading Components
Bulk 55-grain FMJ bullets can be had for as little as $.16 each. (Link here.) 25 grains of Varget is a popular powder charge, which costs about $.11 per round. Add $.04 for the primer, and your component cost is $.31 per round. If you want to go lead-free, Barnes Bullets will set you back a staggering $.50 each.

Conclusion
55-gr FMJ handloads will produce essentially the same performance as Remington Green Box or other standard commercial ammunition, and you’ll save at least $2.70 for every full 30-round magazine you burn through. Handloads with exotic bullets are cheaper than their commercial Barnes cousins ($.65 instead of $1.50) but they’re as expensive as standard factory loads. I’m not sure a groundhog can tell if it’s been vaporized by a Remington Green Box 55-grain FMJ or a Barnes Bullet.

The more you shoot the more you can save by handloading, but the more time you’ll have to spend at the reloading bench. No centerfire burns through rounds faster than a 5.56mm modern sporting rifle, and if I can shoot 300 rounds in a day at the quarry I’ve always preferred to spend a few more cents a round to let somebody else do all that work.

.270 Winchester

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Unlike the 5.56 and 7.62 rounds, there is no military market for the .270 and thus no steel-cased or milsurp imports. You can always make .270 brass by necking down surplus .30-06 brass (boxer-primed only) but this article assumes you’ve already got the brass.

Commercial Ammo
The cheapest .270 you’ll find is $.90 per round. This really isn’t too bad, because the price of .270 has increased by only about $5 a box over the last twenty years. If you want high-performance hunting ammo, you’ll spend $1.50 to $2.00 per round.

Reloading Components
130-grain spitzer bullets run about $.30 each for the .270 if you look carefully. They’re not fancy, but these flat-shooting bullets will put mid-sized deer and antelope down for the count and they’re dynamite on varmints and predators. Most .270 loads use 50 to 60 grains of powder, for an average propellant cost of $.24 per round. With a $.04 primer, the cost of these 130-grain loads will be about $.58 per round.

Fancier hunting bullets can run $.70 each, so even handloaded hunting rounds are too expensive for a day blasting tin cans at the quarry.

Even the lowest-cost .270 handloads, if carefully assembled from your once-shot brass, will usually be more accurate than Wal-Mart ammo costing almost twice the price. These handloads will give excellent exterior ballistics and acceptable terminal performance for varmints, antelope, predators and medium-sized deer, but they’re not the right medicine for big mulies or elk. The .270 is one of the most versatile hunting caliber on the planet, but it’s only appropriate for the biggest North American ungulates when it’s loaded with high-performance hunting bullets.

Conclusion
Handloading makes a lot of sense and saves you a lot of money for hunting calibers like the .270, whose rifles are typically very accurate bolt-actions. Whether you’re loading simple soft-tip boattails for coyotes or Barnes Bullets for elk, your handloads will be 30% to 50% cheaper than comparable commercial ammo and you’ll save a minimum of $.30 per shot.

7.62/.308

Image: Chris Dumm

Commercial Ammo
If you can spare $.60 per round, the world’s your FMJ .308 oyster. Because of the global military market for 7.62x51mm, the heavier projectiles and powder charges only cost you $.20 more per round than comparable plinking-grade 5.56mm cartridges. Hunting-grade .308s with excellent terminal ballistics cost $1.10 to $2.00 per round, and match .308 runs about $1.50 a round.

The cheapest imported .308 is about the same price as the cheapest handloaded .270 Winchester.

Reloading Components
The cheapest .308 FMJ bullets cost $.30 each, and we’ll assume a hypothetical 50 grain powder charge. That powder costs $.21 per round and the primer another $.04, so a really cheap handload will cost $.55 to assemble. Premium-grade Barnes or Nosler hunting bullets are at least $.60 each if you really need them, and that price hurts you almost as much as it hurts that elk you’ll shoot them into.

Conclusion:
If you’ve got an accurate rifle and your targets are paper or elk, you can save a good bit of money and really increase your accuracy by rolling your own 7.62/.308 ammo. Accurized handloads can save you 50% of the cost of commercial match ammo, if you invest the time to develop the right load. Fancy hunting handloads with premium bullets will cost about $1 a round to assemble, but they’ll still be $.50 to $1 cheaper per shot than premium commercial hunting ammo.

For hardcore hunters and actual target shooters, handloading is the way to save money shooting the 7.62/.308. If you don’t already have a press and dies, you can recoup the cost of a simple single-stage reloading setup by the time you’ve assembled 500-600 rounds or less.

If you’re shooting a 7.62mm semi-auto sporting rifle, however, my advice is completely different because your needs are completely different. Your AR-10 doesn’t care if it’s eating 175-grain OTMs, Barnes TSX or bimetallic Brown Bear, so shoot the cheap stuff.

Handloads will only save you a few cents a round over imported or mil-surp ammo, and pricier domestic ammo won’t give you a noticeable boost in accuracy.

So…

These may not have been the conclusions you expected. I was surprised by the cost benefits of handloaded .270, and shocked to see that handloaded .308 FMJ isn’t appreciably cheaper than Privi Partisan.

Next time we’ll look at some popular handgun calibers: 9mm, .357, .45 Colt and .45 ACP. Just as with rifles, the critical price factor is the cost of the projectile. Unlike rifles, however, bullet construction is often crucial to good handgun stopping power.

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62 Responses to 5.56, .270 And 7.62 Ammo: When Is It Worth Handloading?

  1. I loaded 150 rounds this morning of .223 – took me about 40min. At the store, that’s still about $70 worth of ammunition – and my loads are more accurate.

    Also, it’s an awesome hobby to have with the shelves go bare. I didn’t stop shooting this past spring or summer.

    • Agreed. I have plenty of 5.56 now and presumably into the future. I bought near 20 pounds of surplus WC844, a couple thousand surplus projectiles, and a bags of once fired LC brass.

      And all before the panic thank god. I reload and cast for the love of it.

    • +100 …. reloading is not to be thought of as an inconvenience it is a “hobby” part of the sport we all love…

      • +1 on reloading for the love of it. And shooting .45’s. Shooing cast boolits out a .45 saves about 60-75% on a box of 50, and I like to shoot too much. So I don’t really SAVE money, I just get to shoot more for the money I do spend. There is something about the repetition of reloading that I find calming. I can see myself loading every piece of brass I own in one sitting.

    • No problem getting primers during the drought? I don’t reload but during the drought of the past year, most of the guys I know who do reload couldn’t find primers any easier than I could find commercial ammo. I really don’t see reloading as a solution to ammo droughts. Although, it gives you options. Of course, YMMV, and apparently has.

      • Primers are tight for me, but I manage. I snap them up or trade for them on the second hand market when a good deal comes along.

        I don’t save much money (or any money…) with the time and tools and etc etc… I handload because I think you really don’t know guns unless you can create the ammo they use.

        I know my rifle inside and out. From the components and sights to the ammo it fires.

        Would a racecar driver have jiffy lube change his oil? Just my personal opinion.

      • Primers were hard to find for a while. but if you are smart, you stockpile enough primers to get you through those times. Keep a year or two worth of stuff stocked up, and you can make it last for a long time if you shoot a little less than usual.

  2. I got into hand loading initially to shoot more and more accurately, with the bare shelves locally, Im reloading out of necessity. When I go to the range now, I spend the same as before I started loading, I just shoot 2-3 times as much. I can find “used” bullets at the LGS for pennies each.

  3. Btw, on .223 you can buy 55g fmj for about .10 a round, shipped to your house. Varget at the store here is $23 /lb (6000 grains in a lb / 25g to a round = .09 per round for powder). Primers are $2.99 / 100, so .02 per.

    My brass is free because I’m a range hound and pick up after guys that don’t reload – so my cost per round is .21 cents. That’s for brass cased, accurate as all hell, .223. 🙂

    • call me cheap but your math is off on the primers “Primers are $2.99 / 100, so .02 per” …more like .03 ea…..like i said call me cheap it adds up …:)

    • I was just about to post that some one needs to do a little better research. I just bought 55 gr fmj bullets for 8 cents apiece delivered from extreme bullets.

        • Right now you can use the code 17special to get 17% off your order. And the shipping is free. I ordered 1500 .223 FMJs today. total cost was 124.48, or 8.3 cents each shipped to my front door. Are they any good? I have no idea. I just figure they will be good enough for blasting and popping little targets at 50-100 yards. For general plinking/blasting, they should be fine.

    • Anmut, there are 7000 grains to the pound, not 6000, so it’s actually a bit cheaper. Buying 8 lb jugs brings the price per pound down quite a bit as well.

  4. Chris, Great article. Many of my friends have been trying to get me into hand loading based on the economic argument. As I point out to them, the savings is realized by excluding the cost of labor. Many shooters will simply consider the time spent money saved but I figured that the real opportunity cost far outweighed the benefit.

    The other aspect of the analysis is the initial cost for the tools, storage, and workspace. My uncle’s set up is top notch but takes up a dedicated work bench in the basement.

    Lastly, many warranties on firearms specify factory ammo only. If you make a mistake on the load and it damages your rifle you have to eat it… The cost of which faaar outweighs the economic savings.

    The real benefit of hand loading, in my opinion, is to fine tune your loads for your specific gun… Especially significant in precision, long range shooting.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • I don’t consider my time into the cost because I only reload when I wouldn’t be doing anything else. I figure if I spend it downstairs reloading some ammo as opposed to sitting on the couch playing games on my phone, I have actually done something productive instead of just waste time. But, if your time is more important to you, I completely agree with your statements.

  5. Despite some claims and the emphasis of this article, I think economics are not the best reason for loading your own ammo. It’s simply the fun of it and the sense of having made your own the way you want them, and discovering which way you want them.

    No one cooks from scratch because it has better nutrition or better cost. It’s for the joy of cooking. Loading ammo is for a similar joy. Someday when I retire I might try it, but not until I have a lot of time and a place to shoot without going to a range.

    • Weird…most of the people I know who cook from scratch do it because it is healthier. Some enjoy it, some don’t, but either way they all recognize the return in nutritional gains and the performance benefits said gains entail is worth the investment.

      I guess I will need to inform them they are wrong on why they are eating healthy 😉

      • Ditto, Thanksgiving is over now and looking back on most everything we cooked was from scratch. A few exceptions but otherwise MUCH healthier that what gets served at the house next door.

  6. If you are going to invest in quality reloading equipment (don’t invest in cheap crap) and spend the time learning the craft, then your goal should be for accuracy. If not, spent the $350/1000 for cheap, factory plinking 223 ammo.

    Stay away from cheap components. Your bullets should be only Hornady, Sierra, Nosler, Lapua scenars, or Berger. FYI, 77gr SMKs cost only $0.26. You can get overruns of Nosler Competition for close to half that. Stay away from anything else.

    Brass: Lapua, Winchester, LC, Nosler, or Norma. Unless you want runout over .005, avoid everything else.

    Buy quality reloading equipment. Buy once, cry once.

    Tip: Buy primers and powder locally to avoid HAZMAT, and buy everything else online. It will almost always be cheaper.

    Buy Zediker’s book on handloading for competition and seek out those posters on SH or accurateshooter that are experts if you have questions.

    Avoid most advice from your LGS or those at the range, most of that advice is wrong or dangerous. Take your time, use quality components and tools, and you will enjoy yourself.

    • “Tip: Buy primers and powder locally to avoid HAZMAT, and buy everything else online. It will almost always be cheaper. ”

      Primers + hazmat + shipping online are still 33% cheaper than buying them in the store in mid-northern CA, and that’s before the local 9% sales tax, which means you probably save 40%+ by buying online.

      • Sorry to hear it’s so expensive there. I guess I’m lucky that our local stores are pretty reasonable with primers and powder, but still more expensive with bullets and brass.

    • That’s terrible. Here in TN, and my family in NY, online prices with hazmat fees can’t even touch the prices of the local shops, unless you buy in HUGE quantities. If I save $3 a lb. online and hazmat costs me $30, I have to buy 10 lbs. just to break even.

  7. There are occasional deals to be had for particular bullets. Pulled military 5.56 bullets are a great deal when you can find them. I bought 500 pulled 9mm FMJs for a song three or four years ago and made my own 9s for less than the price of steel Tula.

    Deals like that don’t come along frequently enough that you can count on them, though.

  8. Reloading is a great hobby. I share my press with a couple different friends that I trust, know what they are doing. We make an evening of it. BSing the time away.
    Once your set with a good press and have the basics down, it’s fairly easy. Before you know it, you have a pile of fresh ammo to go plinking with.
    I’m under a buck a round for my .50 plinkers. About 4 bucks per round for really bitchen match grade.
    Shooting odd calibers like .375 H&H, .416 Rigby, 7mm mag saves a ton of money by reloading.
    Shooting cheaper, means shooting more. Shooting more means more fun and being a better shooter.
    What’s not to like?

    • 50 plinkers. As in, you plink with a 50 BMG. I want to shake your hand, and also punch you because I am so envious.

  9. FYI: you really shouldn’t be advising potential novices that a particular charge weight (here, 25gr of Varget) is a good or popular charge. Always remember that due to many variables (chamber, seating depth, temperature, humidity, etc.) it is ALWAYS advisable to work up a load.

    Another FYI, 175 SMKs are only $0.42 each.

  10. There is a certain zen to handloading. It requires concentration and care. It’s also a chance to accumulate new tools, learn some skills, research about firearms.
    I also imagine that if it made their radar, it would really annoy the gun-control crowd. “What?! They can just make ammunition!? In their HOMES?!?!”

    • Don’t give them any ideas. Next thing we know they’ll be looking for a ban on reloading components–or more likely, a ban on the equipment needed.

      • I think a while back some guy in MA was being run through the ringers for reloading in his home. They were accusing him of making it that he “might” sell it illegally. So yes, some places are stupidly going after reloaders.

    • I believe I enjoy handloading as much as I enjoy shooting for the reasons above.

      Great article. This is the kind of stuff that brought me to TTAG.

  11. I do it primarily because I enjoy it. I did it more when I could step out on the back forty and cut loose, but now it’s as much therapy as anything. As Buzzlefutt says above, there is a certain Zen to it.

  12. Thankyou for this article. I have been weighing the advantages of reloading my own bullets for some time. While I still like the idea of handloading, I think I will (for the moment) stick to finding good deals and buying in bulk.

  13. Great article. Lots of really good information here. I’m looking forward to the pistol-caliber edition, as I’m considering getting into reloading. I want to see if it’s worth my time.

  14. Another reason for handloading is for calibers not available commercially, or only at really extravagant prices. Last time I checked, the only Japanese 7.7 was $4 a shot, and this was before the big rush sent prices sky high. I have a WW I rifle recalibered after the war to (I think) 8×56, I’d like to get a French bolt action and they are another weird caliber.

  15. Economics is generally used as the first reason to handload, and it is true that you can load your own for a lower cost per round that pretty much any brass cased commercial ammo. Economics, however is not the primary reason I handload. Contrary to the OP, I really enjoy it. The process of choosing components, trying different combinations and testing each iteration to try and improve on your rifle’s performance is tremendously satisfying to me. You get quantifiable results, good or bad, and have the ability to judge the success of your efforts accordingly.

  16. This is why I like AKs.. They’re not overly accurate anyways so who cares |D I’ll buy the Russian stuff. I find it cheap as dirt all the time, just gotta be persistant.

    • Until there is an import ban on ammo and firearm parts. It’s this reason I keep a cache of brass cased 7.62×39 in storage.

  17. The other thing to consider about handloading is that the components come into the house is seperate lots, meaning the head accountant sees the money leave in smaller chunks and smaller amounts. Next thing you know your sitting on several thousand primers, bullets, and powder. If you went out and bought it all at once your now making a different argument. For 9mm, $30 for 1k primers, 20-25 for 1k worth of powder, and 75-90 for 1k worth of berry’s plated lead. Around $0.15/rd, round here std commercial 9mm is running $0.38 ($19/50) $380 vs $135 and the 135 would have been spent on potentially 3 seperate occasions.

    • +100. I buy a brick of primers every time I hit a store that has them. I get my powder bulk online…if you order 8 lb jugs, it’s still cheaper than buying by the pound locally.

  18. I am some kind of zen master. I love reloading. It’s great fun to tune a load to a particular firearm and see what the maximum intrinsic accuracy and reliability of function is. You can change recoil characteristics, alloy your own lead, etc. It’s like experiencing one firearm as a whole bunch of new firearms.

  19. I started loading 300BLK because, well, I had to. I have been very happy chopping surplus NATO brass and feeding my AR with cheap copper plated 30 Carbine style bullets. My plink loads run 23¢ per. Even my fancy Hornady SST 125s are only ~50¢. With out the door on all the gear at about(press, dies, etc. ) at just over $200. I am very happy. Just started 40 & 308 too.

  20. Strange I can get 55gr FMJ for ten cents a bullet and powder for $20 a pound. Your pricing is off if you are into shooting a lot and or hunting reloading is much much better than buying overpriced ammo in the stores now. .308 Win is especially over priced at a buck a round for cheap military surplus. Half a dollar for 5.56mm FMJ which is ridiculas. If you can follow safety rules and buy components for a good price its better and cheaper than buying the over bloated prices the ammo makers sell ast your store.

    This writer is way off.

    • I’m happy that some of you have found better deals on components. Sometimes you could find pulled bullets for $.10 each, and sometimes you could also find steel-cased ammo for $.20 each. If you’re free to assume $.10 bullets, $.03 primers and $.08 powder charges, you’re free to compare them to the price of assembled steel ammo, which is quickly falling toward $.30 per round.

      For most recreational MSR shooters, a few cents a round doesn’t *by itself* justify the expense and time of buying a reloading rig and spending the time to make hundreds or thousands of rounds for plinking and practice. If you enjoy reloading for its own sake, that’s awesome.

  21. Military surplus ’06 loads for my Garand are getting pretty rare – and you don’t run down to Wally World to pick up a box of 7.5mm Swiss. I reload because its the only way I can shoot some of my rifles.

    • Even HXP .30-06 at the CMP is around 60 cents per shot. When that supply runs out the only economical round for the M1 is going to be reloading.

  22. My M&P15 eats steel ammo no problem so its what I shoot. I have the supplies and brass to reload but its not cost effective right now. I’ve got a 300BLK upper though and its definitely worth it to reload that with good bulleets.

  23. 1. You can’t neck down .30-06 and get a proper case for a .270 without lots of fire-forming to try flowing the brass up into the neck. The .30-06 case is 0.046 shorter than the .270’s case.

    The .270’s parent case is the .30-03, not the .30-06. The .30-03 was the original cartridge for the 1903 Springfield. More obscure firearms trivia: The .270 Winchester is about all that is left of the .30-03 today.

    2. One of the things that one needs to count into reloading costs is the case life. Semi-autos beat up cases more, because you have to full-length resize with “small base” dies to insure reliability of feeding. With a bolt gun, you can neck-size only, and your cases can last many more reloadings. Just anneal the neck/shoulder area every two or three reloads. I’m impressed if I can get four+ reloadings off a case in a semi-auto. I can get a dozen+ in a bolt gun.

    4. For larger rifles with slower velocities, you can cast your own bullets from lead. If you want to make jacketed bullets on the cheap, get a swaging press and start swaging your own jackets onto lead wide cores. For higher velocities, you’ll have to put a gas check on the bullet base of a hard cast bullet.

    5. Powder gets cheaper when you buy in 8 lb. cans. Buying a pound at a time runs up your costs. You’ll find that there’s a limit to how much powder you can get on a single hazmat permit, but the best thing to do is limit it out on your order. If you want to get only 1 pound cans of powder and a few hundred primers at a time, then you should probably go to the LGS, because the hazmat fee is going to double your costs (or worse).

    6. When you’re reloading for service rifles, you really should use CCI #34 (7.62/.308) or #41 (5.56) primers, which give you a harder primer cup to resist inertia strikes of floating firing pins.

    7. Where reloading really saves you money is in obscure or large caliber rifles. Example: .338 WinMag ammo with premium bullets is closing in on $65/20. I can load a round for about $1.25.

    • Agreed. I buy from midsouth (all back ordered right now) buying the max shipment. Current order is for 6,000 primers & 8 lbs of powder. Settled on power pistol for 45’s, 38’s,357 & 44 mag. 2520 for 223, 30-30 & 308. 300 blackout is the outsider using 1680. VIC primers were under $25 per 1,000. Black Friday got 1,000 for$27 including tax.

  24. The common myth is that reloading saves you money. No, it allows you to shoot more. 😉

    Convenience is also nice. I literally save “time, gas and money” loading 500 rounds of .223, 9mm, 45, 308, etc. in a hour. Usually as a last minute to-do before the shooting competition/class/weekend getaway….

    • It also teaches you something about your guns. You can make your rifle ammo more accurate by playing with the bullet seating depth as well as the loading. You will know after awhile whether you have a headspace issue, because you’ll see the issues in your brass wear.

    • “The common myth is that reloading saves you money. No, it allows you to shoot more. ”

      Wow. Ain’t that the truth.

  25. The prices in this article are way off. $0.15/bullet for .223? It’s more like $0.08-0.10 at most, at least from my sources. $0.30/bullet for .308 is also way too expensive. There’s cheaper bullets out there, for good Hornady FMJBT, it’s about $0.20-0.22/bullet, and if you’re just wanting blasting ammo, there’s always pulled/surplus M47 ball at around $0.125-0.15/bullet.

    Reloading can absolutely be economical. You just have to be good at sourcing components for a low cost, which is where the cost savings manifest themselves over loaded ammunition, especially if your brass is essentially free from range pickups.

  26. And this is blasphemy to some, but i can cast .30 cal, and if i dont push them too fast they work in most of my stuff. short range plinking would be the usual use, and more cleaning obviously. Most useful for handguns of course, but if its the only way to shoot, and our friends in the Govt dont want us shooting….might be worth picking up the gear now and practicing…

    • Cast or plated bullets are the way to go for low-velocity practice loads for rifles, and for cartridges originally designed for black powder. Commercial cast bullets also play a large role in my upcoming article on the economics of handloading for popular pistol calibers.

  27. It’s worth it, to me, when you take an animal or shoot a fantastic group with a round you loaded and tested yourself. I fletch my own arrows too. If I wasn’t so ham-fisted I’d tie my own fishing flies too. It’s part of the experience.

  28. Money benefits or no, hand loading allows me to control things from start to finish. I don’t know of many factory loads that chamfer the primer hole, for example, and I believe that this is a contributor to good accuracy. It IS a Zen process. I probably spend more time making sure my cases are perfect, and a perfect fit for the rifle I am loading for, than is economical. Yet, it is time I treasure, as this is a process that I enjoy. An hour or so spent after work resizing cases, chamfering flash holes, trimming cases, etc, is time I am relaxing after a long day and allowing my mind to wander over many things. I come back in to the house a refreshed person. This is what hand loading means to me, above economy or accuracy.

    • That’s absolutely true. There probably aren’t many TTAG writers who do all the load prep that bench rest or long range shooters do.

      Some additional things a shooter can do to improve the quality of ammo:

      1. Weigh every bullet. Keep the largest grouping of bullets that surround the central tendency of the lot, put aside the bullets that are too far away from the central tendency.
      2. Weigh every charge – use a trickler, not a powder throw. Or use a digital scale, or one of the new electronic scale/powder throw combo’s.
      3. Weigh every case.
      4. Turn every case neck for concentricity.
      5. Make every primer flash hole uniform.
      6. If you want to really get into zen about reloading, make all the primer pockets of uniform depth, so that all the primers are the same depth below flush level. Anything that makes the primer brisance as uniform as possible will result in lower SD’s on the muzzle velocity. The #1 job for a reloader
      7. Choose powders and loads to achieve a 90%+ load density. Avoid loads that are reaching for maximum velocities.
      8. If you’re using OTM pills, clean up the meplat of the bullet.
      9. After putting in the bullet (and any crimping), check the bullet for runout compared to the case and case neck.

      Lots of these tasks will require more tools than a typical reloader will have – if you don’t have a machining capacity to make them, you’ll need to sink several hundred bucks into doodads.

      There’s a lot of things done to loads by precision shooters today that have far surpassed the common reloader’s method of loading hunting or ammo for non-precision applications (e.g., 3-gun, tacti-cool shooting, etc).

  29. This is an invaluable tool to this discussion and for anyone who does (or might) handload for economics: http://www.handloads.com/calc/loadingCosts.asp. I do think there is a rather large economic upside to reloading the military calibers, but where it really shines is when using match-grade projectiles. Calculated 1000 rds of 223 w/ 75gr BTHP for less than $300!

  30. If you are paying 30 bucks a pound for powder, you’re doing it wrong. Buy powder in bulk so you don’t have to worry about when the next time you catch it in stock for the 23 bucks a pound is. When I am plinking and see that I am down to about 4 pounds of powder(enough to load about 1150 rounds), I start looking for more. If I know I have something coming up where I will be shooting a lot, I start looking when I get to 8 pounds. Normally I have between 8 and 16 pounds on hand in case it gets harder to find. Rarely do I have trouble getting a good deal on powder. The worst I ran into was having to get some IMR 3031 instead, and I actually found out I like it.

    I am just basing mine on what I load. I do plain jane FMJ for plinking and then sometimes some soft points if I am going hunting.

    For my .223:
    5000 Tula primers(from MidwayUSA.com) – 162.50 shipped to your front door, or 3.25 cents each
    (I know people will say “Those are Tula. I don’t want to use that junk!” I have run 5000 of them so far and had one that didn’t go bang. Compared to the price of the CCI primers, I will stick with these.)

    8 pounds Hodgdon H335(from thirdgenerationshootingsupply.com) – 177.50 shipped, or about 22.19 a pound, and I use a lighter load between 24 and 24.3 grains. This means I get about 2300 loads out of one 8 pound jug. That breaks down to about 7.75 cents per load.

    1000 FMJ and 1000 soft points(from midwayusa.com) – 195.21 shipped to your front door, so 9.77 cents each. I have no problems with these. They shoot better than I do. I can put about 1.5-2 inch groups at 100 yards out of my 6920, and that is with me not weighing each charge or sorting them for precision. When I did, I had a 5 shot group just under an inch. I am chalking part of that up to luck, though.

    Brass is just my own brass from mil-surp ammo. I figure I may as well get the xm193 or xm855 and get that nice Lake City brass loaded up for 45 cents as opposed to buying just reloading brass at the same price. If I must buy brass, I just buy once fired brass from midwayusa.com. I actually just ordered some to have on hand and it was 48 bucks for the 500 plus another 15 to ship it, so 63, so about 12.6 cents per case. Assuming I get 3 reloads out of each of these(which I would honestly be disappointed about), let’s call them 4.2 cents per shot. I can probably get more out of them. I normally have no problem getting 8 reloads out of my Lake City brass.

    Now, let’s add it all up(assuming I am using my own brass from mil-surp that I shot)
    3.25 for the primer
    7.75 for the powder
    9.77 for the bullet

    20.77 cents per round

    If I am using the brass I had to purchase and I only get 3 reloads out of them:
    3.25 for the primer
    7.75 for the powder
    9.77 for the bullet
    4.20 for the brass

    24.97 cents per round

    On a side note, I just got 1500 FMJs from xtremebullets.com for 124.48 shipped, so about 8.3 cents per shot(use 17special as the promo code and you get 17% off until the end of cyber monday I believe). I don’t know how accurate they will be, but I am sure they will be fine for plinking.

    If I use those for reloading and my own brass that I had bought as xm193 or xm855:
    3.25 for the primer
    7.75 for the powder
    8.30 for the bullet

    19.30 cents per round

    If I use the brass that I bought and only get 3 reloads out of them:
    3.25 for the primer
    7.75 for the powder
    8.30 for the bullet
    4.20 for the brass

    23.50 cents per round.

    My press kit was 190, dies were 35, my case gauge was 26 bucks, length gauge and shell plate was 5 bucks, about another 35 bucks on a primer pocket reamer to remove military crimps, a better chamfer/deburring tool, and then I spent 25 bucks on steel pins and lemi-shine. I already had a small rock tumbler, so I just use it. It can only clean about 50 pieces of brass at a time, but it only takes 2 hours. After that, I spent about 10 bucks on case lube and about 8 bucks on trays. My total investment was about 350 after shipping and all. Assuming I can get ammo for 400 bucks for 1000 rounds new, I am saving over 15 cents per round(when loading with the xtreme bullets and my old brass, its about 20 cents saved per shot). At that rate, once I have fired 2300 reloads, I have broke even on my investment. Anything after that is just a savings. I guess I am weird. I really enjoy reloading ammo. Different strokes for different folks. For me, it is a way to pass the time when I am bored. I just run downstairs and load some ammo up for when I go to the range next. That is the reason I don’t count my time into the cost. I do it when I wouldn’t be doing anything else except for maybe watch tv or youtube.

    I enjoy reloading ammo and it saves me money. That is why I do it.

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