In a recent post about taking on the shade tree blacksmith task of making your own lead shot, I pointed out how inexpensively shotgunners can buy a press and start reloading their own shells. That’s when Don Worsham asked how much I save by refilling my own empties. Unfortunately, it had been a long time since I put metaphorical pencil to paper to figure that out. I knew pulling that handle like granny at a nickle slot machine was saving me money, but I hadn’t kept track of my component costs and actually fired up the Cray to get any more scientific than that in a while. So . . .
Here we go. Keep in mind that there are more shot shell formulations and ingredient options than Carter’s has little pills. But for shooting trap – my primary smoothbore vice – I like one-ounce loads of number 8 shot. I use Claybusters wads in Remington STS shells and Winchester primers to fire Hodgdon Clays powder. Got all that?
If you’ve never reloaded before, the only question left after deciding what components you’re going to use is how much powder you’ll need to propel your chosen load of lead. Figuring that out is kind of important because if you don’t use the right load, it’s possible to make your gun go ka-BOOM instead of the nice pleasing bang you’re looking for.
Fortunately, Hodgdon – like any other decent powder purveyor – prints very convenient manuals so you can look up exactly the combination you’re using to make your little lead pellets fly downrange at just the speed you need.
Sound complicated? It’s not. Really. If I can do it, any self-respecting Armed Intelligentsian can.
The only thing left, then, to grok my savings was to get updated costs for my components. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy, free reloading cost calculators out there on the Intertubes anyone can use to do the math heavy lifting for you. I took advantage of one the Pacific International Trapshooting Association posts on their site. From there, it’s pretty much a plug and play process.
What does all this tell you? Basically, compared to an off-the-shelf box of Remington’s or Winchester’s finest target loads, my homebrew shells save me about $2.25 per box. That’s right, per box. Shoot a round of trap, skeet or sporting clays and you’ve left nine more samolians in your pocket. Depending on how often you shoot, that adds up pretty fast and repays your investment in reloading equipment before you know it.
And don’t give me any crap about it being hard. Reloading couldn’t be much easier. Flip on the ball game on the radio, load up the press and you can easily knock out a box of 25 in ten minutes or so. My luxurious set-up (above) takes up a little space in my garage but you could easily get a smaller arrangement into a corner of your basement or a spare room.
Before you ask, the press I use is a MEC Sizemaster. I bought mine about eight years ago and they run about $225 these days. But you don’t have to spend that much to get started. You can get in closer to $150 for a new, more basic model or, better yet, peruse the craiglist.com ads where you can always find someone looking to unload one. So to speak.
So get in the habit of bending over and picking up those shells at the range the other shooters are leaving behind – assuming they’re the goon ones, that is. Leave the Universals and Federal Multipurpose junkers, though. They’re not reload-worthy. You can save yourself some serious coin and ultimately shoot more for the same money you’re spending now. Or piss off MikeB and use the savings on a new gun. Either way, you come out ahead.