If you are a regular reader of TTAG, chances are that you are somewhat passionate about the firearms hobby. Based on some of the responses that I’ve gotten to some of my more controversial posts, I’d hazard a guess that more than a few of our readers can sometimes be passionate to a fault – but that’s a topic for another day. While I’m still relatively new to the firearms fraternity (I’ve only been a gun owner for a little over a year now), I’m the kind of guy who jumps into my hobbies with both feet. In a relatively short time, I’ve amassed a fairly robust collection of pistols and rifles, just laid down the cash for a few silencers and am seriously considering picking up my first full auto gun (assuming I can find one that won’t bankrupt me). Reloading my own ammo was probably something that I was going to get around to sooner or later . . .

So I figured that it might as well be sooner. I spent a fair amount of time reading all I could about reloading before deciding to dive in, but dive in I have. And in the short amount of time that I’ve been doing it, I’ve managed to form some fairly strong opinions as to when reloading makes sense and when it doesn’t.

Since I haven’t been at this very long, I don’t feel qualified to write a technical how-to article. There’s a lot of good info out there and our own Foghorn did a great piece on Reloading for Dummies which I strongly suggest you take a look at. Instead, I’m going to address the question of when you should consider reloading as well as when reloading just doesn’t make sense.

Besides the sense of ownership and self-reliance that can come from knowing that you can make your own ammo if you want to, there are often two main reasons to get into reloading. In no particular order they amount to making individually tailored, super-accurate rounds and saving money on your ammo.

In the first case, the goal is to concoct a bullet and powder combination that provides you with the absolutely best accuracy you can hope to get out of your gun. Commercial rounds are built to give decent accuracy from a wide variety of firearms. But if you have control over the bullet and powder, you can get outstanding accuracy from your gun.

The second reason is that building your own ammo can often save some serious money. The amount of money you save will vary widely depending on the bullets you use and the caliber of your gun. For instance, I can purchase 9mm Blazer ammo for about $11 a box or about .22 per round. I’d be hard pressed to make my own 9mm ammo for much less – the cost of 9mm bullet alone would run about .12 per. A primer’s another .05, so even before we talk about powder, we are at .17 per round. With powder close to .02-.03 per round, even if I re-use my brass, the cost savings would be pretty small. On the other hand, if I run the same comparison with higher end rifle rounds, the per-round savings for hand loaded ammo can be much greater. We’ll get into some specific examples in the next post.

In addition to these two main reasons, there are two other special cases where you might want to hand load. First, if you have a pistol that uses obsolete or largely unavailable ammo, hand loading may be the only way to shoot the gun. Second, sometimes and in some localities, specific types of ammo may be hard to find. If we kick off another war, for example, the military is going to be grabbing every 9mm and 5.56 round they which may dry up the supply for the rest of us. Usually when this happens, it’s still often possible to obtain ammunition components, so you may find it advantageous to be able to make ammo that you can’t easily purchase.

Before deciding what sort of equipment to purchase, you really need to think about what you plan to reload. Are you a competition rifle shooter or long range hunter and want to maximize the performance of your gun? Are you an IDPA/IPSC/Steel Challenge/Cowboy Action shooter who is going to be plowing through hundreds of rounds of ammo a week perfecting your skills? A casual shooter looking to save some coin on ammo? A prepper who’s stockpiling for the day when the S really does HTF? Or are you some combination of the above?

Well, there’s good news and some bad news. The bad news is that despite what anyone tells you, there is no perfect ammo press system that’s going to meet all of your needs.  Single stage presses allow you to hold extremely tight tolerances round after round so you know that each cartridge will perform almost identically to the previous one. The problem: they’re dog slow and if you are looking to turn out a few hundred rounds, you’d better block out a good portion of the day.

Progressive presses are much faster with the high end models able to bang out 1,000 or more rounds per hour. But the ammunition they produce is like any other mass-produced item which means that you’re going to experience some degree of variability from round to round. For those folks shooting pistols, this isn’t likely to matter all that much, but if you are looking to nail that 1,000 yard rifle shot time after time, the progressive press probably isn’t going to be your best friend.

The good news, however, is that you can start with a less expensive and simpler single stage press to get started. If you later decide to go hard core, a progressive press can  supplement rather than replace your single stage model, so no money will really be wasted. Even if you never get into rifle shooting, a pistol shooter can still use a single stage press to create batches of highly consistent test rounds as you develop that perfect load for your particular gun and then transfer the recipe over to the progressive press for mass production.

So let’s take a more thorough look at the benefits of reloading. We’ll start with the cost savings approach. First of all, let’s get one thing out of the way – if you are looking to save money by reloading, the only way it’s really going to work out is for you to reuse your spent brass. Generally speaking, 1/2 to 2/3 of the cost of a round of ammunition is in the brass.  To see any measurable savings, you are going to need to reuse that brass as much as possible.

Yes, in some cases you can still get some savings on a per-round basis buying new brass, powder, primers and bullets and assembling them yourself. But depending on the round in question, the savings might be so small – particularly if you buy bulk ammo when you find it on sale – that it takes a very long time to pay back the initial investment in reloading equipment.

On top of the component costs, you need to factor in your time. What’s an hour of your time worth? For me, between my job, my family with two young children and my other interests, I have precious little free time. So spending a lot of it reloading for a miniscule cost savings doesn’t make sense to me. On the other hand, if you are single and your job doesn’t consume a lot of your time, you might consider your time to be cheap and reloading – even if the savings is small – still makes financial sense.

Let’s look at the cost for the reloading gear. One of the first things that a beginning reloader will have to decide on is what type of press to get. To massively generalize, there are three main types of presses available. The first and simplest is the single stage press.  Examples include the RCBS Rockchucker, the Hornady Lock N Load and the Lee Challenger.

This type of press has a single reloading die socket which means that each round will require multiple passes through the press. This is the slowest arrangement as you have to adjust each die each time you mount it. For rifle rounds, you’re going to be using two dies and for most handguns, you’ll be using three.

On the plus side, a single stage press affords the most precision, so it makes sense for larger caliber rifle rounds as you generally don’t need to make a ton of them. In a typical shooting session, I might touch off 150-200 pistol rounds, but it’s rare for me to shoot more than 40-50 .300 Win Mag rounds. The obvious exception here is rounds destined for your AR or similar military style rifle where shooting a couple hundred rounds of .223 or .308 in a single session isn’t unusual. A single stage press runs in the range of $100 – $150.

The second style is the turret press such as the Lyman T-Mag 2, the Lee Classic 4 hole, or the Redding T-7. These models are similar to the single stage except that they have a rotatable turret that allows you to mount all of your reloading dies and possibly a powder measure at the same time. You mount your shell in the press and then rotate the turret head between the various stations for each step.

Most of the turret press manufacturers offer spare turrets so you can set up your dies and swap turrets for different calibers. This the basic entry level set-up if you plan to do moderate volumes of pistol reloading and a turret press will run you between $150 – $200.

The final style is the progressive press such as the RCBS Pro 2000 and the Hornady Lock N Load Progressive. Like the turret style press, these models have multiple stations for your various dies and powder measure. On these systems, you rotate the shell holder between the stations as you do the various reloading steps. These are the fastest reloading systems with hourly outputs of several hundred rounds, but they are also the most expensive running in the $400+ range.

Just like asking someone what’s the best gun for a beginner, there are plenty of opinions about which is the best type of press for the beginning reloader. Based upon my (albeit limited) experience, let me add my thoughts to the mix. If you primarily plan to reload rifle rounds, go with the single stage press. It’s the simplest, the cheapest and the type most capable of producing very consistent loads.

If you want something that can handle rifle reloading accurately but you also want to dabble in handgun reloading, go with a turret press. And if your primary goal is large volume pistol reloading, then the progressive is really the only way to go. Many reloaders have two or more presses for different tasks, but as I’ll argue later, unless you’re into competitive handgunning where you need a large amount of custom-tuned handgun ammo, chances are that when you factor in your time, it will take a very long time to recoup your costs on the reloading gear if all you plan to reload is handgun ammo.

I decided to initially go the route of the single stage press as my primary need was for very accurate rifle cartridges. For this, I purchased the RCBS Rock Chucker starter kit which included most of the things you need to get started including a scale, a powder measure, a handheld priming tool and some other accessories. While I don’t plan to reload most of my handgun cartridges, I do want reloads for my .44 magnum as ammo for this caliber tends to run $30+ per box. To handle that, I added the Lyman T-Mag 2 and a .44 caliber die set to my setup.

OK, get our your calculator. The RCBS Rock Chucker Master Kit cost me $345. Die sets in .300 Win Mag and .308 ran me $32 a piece. I also needed shell holders for each caliber which were another $7.22 each. Cases tend to lengthen a bit on shooting, particularly rifle rounds, so I needed a trimmer. I went with a Hornady Cam Lock trimmer for about $69.

You’re going to need to clean your cases after each shooting session. You can do it manually, one case at a time, but that takes more time than I want to invest. So I purchased RCBS’s vibratory case cleaner for $78 along with 5 lbs. of walnut cleaning medium for $17. A bullet puller is a good idea since everyone makes mistakes. My Kinetic Bullet puller clocked in at $17. You are also going to need to prep your cases. This involves some reaming as well as cleaning the primer pocket. The RCBS kit included manual tools for this, but I wanted to automate this step as well. I purchased the RCBS Trim Mate Case Prep center for $120.

Finally, I needed a way to measure the length of the cases. As I noted earlier, cases stretch a bit on shooting and you need to ensure that they’re within SAAMI specs. To do that, you’ll need a set of calipers, so I added a Frankford Arsenal Digital Caliper to my collection for about $23. If you plan to reload military brass, you are going to need a tool to remove the primer crimp placed on military cartridges, so I bought a Dillon Precision Super Swage for about $101.

Total cost for my reloading setup to handle two rifle cartridges was about $728 not including the $120 trim mate case prep center which is a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have item. To enable me to reload my .44 magnum cartridges, I had to get a .44 mag die set for about $51 and a shell holder for another $7. As I said before, I plan to use my Lyman T-mag 2 press for this, which added $185 to the cost.  Total out of pocket including the case prep center came to about $907.

So that’s our introduction with an overview of reloading gear cost. In part two, we’ll take an in-depth look at the two primary arguments for reloading; cost savings and accuracy.

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48 Responses to Reloading: A Cost/Benefit Analysis – Part One

  1. Jim,

    In a couple of places you talked about “bullets” stretching upon shooting and the need to measure and trim them. Shouldn’t that be “brass” or “cases” instead of “bullets”?

  2. Re: case stretching. If I remember correctly, rifle brass stretches, more or less, depending on the load. For handguns, it mostly doesn’t stretch very much. I know the .45 ACP and .45 LC brass I used to use never grew to any measurable degree after numerous reloadings. The .357 Magnum cases would grow in length a little bit but it didn’t matter much since I was using them in revolvers with pretty long cylinders. As is the case, YMMV.

    I no longer reload. I haven’t done any reloading in over 20 years now. I found it to be tedious and time-consuming so the gear ended up unused and finally stored in the attic. Several months ago, I boxed up all the gear and empty brass I owned and gave it to a friend who had been expressing interest in reloading. He started out gung-ho, devouring information and “jumping in with both feet”. But his enthusiasm has declined a little. Last time I talked to him, he was still reloading but admitted it was becoming tedious and time-consuming for him as well.

    Shooting is expensive whether it’s handloads or factory loads. If reloading is considered a major part of the overall hobby of shooting, I think people will stick with it and care less about the time/dollar investment. But if the only reason someone wants to reload ammo is to save a little cash, I think the odds are good that they will eventually lose interest.

    • Case stretching is almost entirely commensurate with the pressure the cartridge works at. Full-on .357 Mags and .44 Mags stretch way faster than “Special” loads in either caliber. By the same token in my experience .35 Remingtons barely stretch compared to full-house .22-250 or .243’s. The lower the pressure the less stretching.

    • you’re right… i’m pretty new to reloading but if i was only doing it for the cash savings i’d be done before i started, when you take into account your time and effort the real reason to load is for precision and accuracy. i don’t compete in matches but i can make match-grade ammo for less $$. for any bolt action rifle if you’re not reloading then i’m going to be shooting more accurately than you.. its just that simple… unless you’re buying bullets for $2 apiece from someone, and you tune your load via trial and error in buying different expensive ammunition. it doesn’t make $$ sense for pistol or AR… but i’m doing it anyway on a single stage press to see just how much the accuracy improves. i get really good groups out of the AR at 100 so i would imagine weighing individual loads and using TMKs would keep it that tight at 2-300yd. the pistol… who knows, haven’t shot them much yet… but pistol brass is so easy to process on carbide, i didn’t feel as bad about spending the time. another benefit is i’m shooting the hollow points that i keep in the gun just walking around so my practice is with the same ammo i’m always going to use in whatever situation.

    • Like adding Performance Parts to Cars to get better Economy. You Might get better Mileage, but it’s so much fun, you can’t keep your foot out of it.

      At the end of the Day you had MORE FUN for the Same $$$$. By Many Measures, that’s still Cheaper.
      More Fun or Less Dollars….. The payback time is usually MUCH Longer than the analysis.

  3. It isnt an issue of saving a little cash, it is an issue of saving a ton of cash. I reload and shoot tens of thousands of rounds each year using hard cast lead bullets and a dillon 550. They are around .05 to .07 a head depending on caliber and weight. They are impeccably accurate if you load them right. Find a local caster or cast them yourself. Dont buy anything with brinell hardness over 17 or under 12 for normal pressure loads… you will experience leading and accuracy affects due to seperate phenomena in each case. Buy primers and powder in bulk. You can get down to about 8-9 bucks a box (50) currently for .45acp and .44 specials.

  4. Yes it’s the cases that stretch…not so much with most pistol loads, but it can be significant with rifle loads, especially magnums. I reloaded for 25 years, starting out with an RCBS single stage press and ending up with the Dillion 650 progressive press. I could crank out about 400 handgun rounds an hour without much effort on that thing. For my Remington 7mm magnum rifle I worked up a load that was about 1/2 minute of angle at 100 yards using once fired brass. It’s a time consuming process but the accuracy potential is fantastic on the single stage press.

    If you get into reloading be prepared to spend a bunch of time at each range session bending over hunting for spent cases. I spent so much time hunched over looking for brass it’s a wonder I can stand up straight today. Alas, things change in life and after the divorce monster bit me I sold all my stuff…at a great price I might add. Now days I just don’t have the time for it…but it is a great way to learn a lot about ballistics and shooting in general. I highly recommend it…and you can save money over time.

    • This is why I pay my daughter 2 bucks a pound for spent brass that she picks up on the range… doesn’t matter what she finds, I can either sell it for a 1.80 a lb to a scrap dealer, reload what I find, or sell what calibre I don’t reload to someone that does.

      Someone will always reload a calibre, and some of them (especially magnums) will fetch a goodly amount to a motivated reloader.

  5. + 1
    I have heard reloading described as a “labor of love” that shooters endure so they can shoot more.
    I also know a few guys who are reloaders, and who shoot so they have some cases to reload.

  6. My reloading initial costs were a lot lower, though I’m only doing handgun rounds right now and clean brass the cheap and slightly less pretty way. After all, there aren’t any beauty pageants at the range!

    Hornady Lock N Load Classic Kit: on sale for $264 + $5 shipping
    9mm dies: $49 (Hornady brand custom grade with Titanium Carbide)
    Shell Holders: 2x $5
    Kobalt brand calipers (no questions asked lifetime guarantee!!): $28
    Kinetic Bullet Puller: $18
    Lemishine and Dawn: $6 and $4

    Total: $384

    For this price, I also have 600 free (well, $22 s/h) Hornady XTP bullets coming my way (slowly) from Hornady’s promotion. At about $22/100 off the shelf, that saved me over $100 right there. I do clean and prep my cases the old fashioned way (lemishine and dish detergent) and it’s a little more labor intensive, but to shave off another $100 or so, I can Deal with the extra work. Not to mention the cost of media every 5k cases or so.

    The cost of a reloading bench and organizational equipment should also be factored in. I used an old dresser because it was free and had drawers already, but others may need to go out and buy one.

    I’ve enjoyed my limited experience reloading so far, and look at it as a way to expand my shooting hobby and save some money. I will be doing steel matches as soon as Sig sends me some more magazines and the $7~8 per 100/rds for custom ammo will add up quickly.

    • +1 all around. I have almost the same setup and am currently at 6909 rounds and $4.36 away from breaking even ($783.11 for total costs). I log in every primer bought, pound of power, bullet etc and compare it against pricing for comparable ammo from Wally World or other sources. Not only does it save me $$ when I take classes that require 1200 rounds of 9mm, but it also lets me reload for my 6×45 AR for hunting season. I don’t’ shoot any more now with a press than prior to owning one, I just know a heck of a lot more about my ammo and have the flexibility of customizing my own and not be held hostage to ammo shortages.

  7. The thing that’s thrown a huge monkey wrench into the reloading calculations is the importation of large quantities of cheap non-reloadable Eastern bloc ammo (Tula and the like.) That factor has made it non-c0st-effective to reload calibers that are commonly available (like 9mm) or plinking ammo in general.

    At this point I am only reloading 2 calibers: .30-06 for hunting (because I can craft my “antelope load” with 125gr bullets, hard to find in a commercial load) and .38/.357 for my revolvers, only because the commies apparently don’t like to load that caliber. Trust me, if I could buy bulk .38/.357 from Tula or Wolf for $8 -$9 a box, I damn sure would, but the $15+/box that I can occasionally find locally makes it worth my time to reload (barely.)

    • .38 specials cost me between 7 and 7.5 to reload per box (50) using hard cast lead bullets. It take between 1 and 1.5 hours on a dillon 550 to do 500 rounds.

  8. The primary thing I learned shortly after I started reloading was that you could drive yourself absolutely insane (and spend a boatload of money) with trying to address every detail of bullet, case, powder, etc.

    Since I’m mostly a pistol shooter, I soon learned that “Good Enough” really is for 90% or more of your applications and that most of us never need to go beyond the basics of case prep (tumbling, resizing, mouth expansion, priming, filling, and mounting the bullet), experimenting with a few powders to get a “feel” for them, and sometimes perhaps trimming cases to length.

  9. Are you buying your components in quantity?

    Even with today’s prices I am paying far less than you.
    9mm 124gr JHP – 8.7c
    small pistol primer – 3.2c
    powder – 2.2c
    total – 14.1c

    • My costs are a little better still:
      MO Bullet Company 9mm – $32/500 = $.0640
      Unique Powder 4.5gr – $25/1555 = $.0161
      Win Small Pistol Primer – $32/1000 = $.0320
      Brass – free (not including the lizard litter tumbler media)
      Total = 12 cents each rounded up or $6.00 per box

      Prices are what I find locally. Natchez is even cheaper but you have shipping to deal with.

      • for me for 9mm:
        Delco Shooting Supply hardcast lead RN 9mm: $31/500 = 0.062
        Bullseye powder, 4gr: $15/1750 = 0.0085
        CCI small pistol primer: $30/1000 = $0.030
        Brass depreciated to zero long ago

        = about $5.03 per box (50) rounding up.

        I find you can get a lot more out of 4lbs of bullseye than you can out of 4lbs of most other powders, Though I’m starting to experiment with titegroup lately.

  10. No room nor patience to reload. Shooting 9mm, 45acp, .223 and .308 – I already shoot the most readily available, lowest priced calibers in the market. To buy all of the gear for reloading would cost quite a bit. Unless I’m going to start shooting more than I currently do, it makes no sense for me to reload. It would take a fairly long time to recoup those initial expenses (because I’d buy all of the fastest, nicest equipment). Oh, did I also mention I don’t have the patience or room for reloading? Heck, I barely can find enough time to clean everything I pull out to the range on each trip. I have too many other hobbies I guess. 😉

  11. The Lee Hand Press (if it is still being marketed) is inexpensive. It allows one to reload without having a sturdy work bench or table for mounting a conventional press.

  12. I would echo what others have said about 9mm prices. I tend to buy primer and powder locally, to avoid hazmet shipping, and bullets on line. My worst case is $.15 per round. Cheapest 9mm by the box I have found is $.20. Now look at rifle ammo. The round I am shooting costs me about $.30, with very high quality components. An off the shelf round of similar components is $1.oo each. Granted I can shoot more, but that was the whole idea.

    When I bought my presses, I did some calcs on rounds loaded to pay off the equipment, and I am actually creeping up on those numbers faster than I thought. My position is if you are planning on doing a lot of shooting in the future, and have a secure location for the activity, reloading is a great tool to make shooting affordable.

  13. Your cost/benefit analysis shows quite accurately for the widely available commodity rounds (9mm, .45 ACP, 5.56/.223, 7.62×51/.308), your “savings” are quite speculative, at best, requiring reloading well into the thousands or 10’s of thousands of rounds to gain any actual monetary advantage over shopping smartly for your ammo.

    And that’s if you value your time at nothing.

    Where reloading will save you considerable money is in hunting ammunition. You can choose which premium bullet you will be using, you can make ammunition that’s every bit as accurate, etc as the factory ammo – at a small fraction of the cost. The economics in reloading for hunting rifles become much more clear, especially when save your brass. Look at the cost of .338 WinMag, or .375 H&H (where commercially loaded ammo can run $2/round or more), then look at what it costs you to reload your used brass…. and the situation becomes much more favorable.

    The other reason to reload is if you like using somewhat obscure rifle chamberings – some ammunition simply isn’t all that commonly available – and it isn’t just hunting rifles where this savings kicks in. Many of the BPCR or cowboy action shooters are using loads that are not very commonly available, but due to the lower pressure loads used in these pursuits, the brass lasts nearly forever.

    That said, you can start reloading for much less money that you’ve indicated above. I suggest people check out the “old school” methods, such as a Lyman 310 tool. If you’re having a custom or wildcat chamber put on your firearm, have your gunsmith cut you a pair of dies with the reamers used to make your chamber.

    BTW, for people who are reloading straight-walled pistol cases (rg. 9mm, .45acp), look into getting carbide dies. Saves you a bunch of time and hassle from stuck cases.

  14. I’ve been reloading for 35+ years. I currently load for 6 handgun and 3 rifle calibers.
    For me it is generally a relaxing endeavor. I’ve always been a hands on guy, a compulsive tinkerer, so a certain amount of tedium and fussing is acceptable to me but I’ve known several shooters who have jumped into the craft only to find that it did not suit them at all.
    Before you start spending money it’s wise to consider the time and effort involved in becoming a reloader, it’s not for everyone.

  15. If you are only doing it to save money, don’t waste your time. Your time is valuable The best reason to start reloading is because it is fun and it allows you to shoot more. My gun room is my sanctuary and reloading gives me the enjoyment of the hobby even when I can’t get to the range.
    The initial start up cost can be high but as I have accumulated stuff over the years, I find that I have to purchase relatively little since most of what I need for any task is already “in stock”.

    • Hi Steve,
      l concur with you full heartedly, You are talking about your reloading room as being your sanctuary, mine was my workshop, it probably was the closest thing to meditating i ever got to. I suppose I needed to do something relaxing to do. As an ex Air Force Pilot 1962 we where trained on Pistols more than Long Rifles for obvious reasons. I kept flying till recently, and i confess working on Guns taking them apart and putting them together gives me grate PLEASURE as well, beside of shooting. Men per say are prone to swallow stress by far more than women do. During my Pilots (Air Force Time), I developed PTSD. So whats new ?, Im not alone! they tried everything Hypnosis Meditation etc. Nothing helped, but surprise surprise I felt more happy being in my workshop on my own doing my reloading & taking things apart & together again. So why Im telling you this!!!! Aha, now comes the interesting Part; Latest & extensive resurge has proven that “repetitive activities with some need for concentration”, works the Beta Brainwaves which relives calming Enzymes, contrary to the Alfa waves Enzymes which antagonises the Brain overactivity (Alarm). In a smaller extend if you telephone and doodle with your Pen its also calming as is “colouring an Color book for Adults” -Not an Adult Color Book-.How about that? Now ad the fees for the Shrink one saves to the saving on the Amos and your on a winner.Regards Harald (Harry Puma).

  16. Also for shame not mentioning Dillon 550 or 650 king of the castle (but pricey).

    I’m not sure if it actually is, but for a casual/amateur/small time loader there is also this “Square Deal B” that I think was some kind of ultra basic turret press with some cheaper parts but limited on what it could do. (Handgun only)

  17. Good analysis, Jim – thanks.

    A third obscure reason for reloading is if you are a CEFE (charmingly eccentric firearms enthusiast – NOT a gun nut) who wants to shoot some delightfully obsolete firearm wwith hard-to-find or non-existent commercial ammo. For me, it was way back in 1969 when I bought a BSA Martini Cadet single-shot rifle in the original .310 Cadet chambering. Hey, the magazine article said it was easy to use cut-down .32-20 cases and .311 bullets to reload. Way back then, RCBS .310 Cadet dies were only $24, and the Lyman press and case trimmer weren’t too expensive. Of course, I found out that the rifle bore was .318 instead of .311, so I had to find a bullet mold that was close (.321), then a bullet sizer/lubricator, then a lead melting setup, then …..

    And have you ever tried to find ammo for a Uraguayan Artillery Remington Rolling Block in .43 Spanish? Or a .577-450 Martini Carbine?

    You should add the following warning to your article:

    • Sorry about the duplication – my borrowed (local library) computer had a hiccup and I thought the comment was lost. OK, so I’m a tech dinosaur – whaddya expect from a guy who shoots a .43 Spanish rolling block?

  18. Nice article, Jim. You forgot to mention a third reason for reloading: If you are a CEFE (charmingly eccentric firearms enthusiast) who buys a firearm in a really obscure caliber with no ammo available.

    I was pulled in to the reloading vortex by a nice little original-caliber BSA Martini Cadet .310 single shot rifle in 1969 ($60!) Read an article on how easy it was to reload .32-20 cases for the .310, with just a bit of trimming to the cases. Gosh, this is no big deal, right? Lyman press, case trimmer, RCBS dies for the .310 Cadet, .321 bullet mold and bullet sizer/lubricator to make a .318 bullet when I slugged the bore and found out it was NOT .310, lead melting pot, tin/antimony alloys for the bullets, more .32-20 cases, more lead, oops, running low on primers, gee, wonder if this Unique will work better than the 2400 powder …………..

    And have you ever tried to find ammo for a Uruguayan Artillery Carbine (Remington rolling block) in .43 Spanish? Or a .577-450 Martini-Enfield carbine? Have to be able to reload for those, right? And as long as you have the setup, you might as well get dies for every other modern rifle and pistol caliber you own, right?

    Is there a chapter of Firearms Accumulators Anonymous in Idaho?

  19. The initial buy-in for tools doesn’t have to be anywhere near $700. A lot of folks diss Lee but I have Lee tools I bought 20 years ago that have kept up with the RCBS, Lyman, Hornady and Redding tools I bought back then. My brother is just now getting into the hobby so as a first setup I recommended a Lee Challenger kit,


    $117 gets you 90% of the tools you need. Add dies, a cutter stud, calipers and a loading manual and you’re under $250. For a hobby that you may not stick with keeping your initial cost low makes sense. I did exactly that when I got into casting bullets. I laid down about $150 for a Lee 20lb furnace and a couple Lee moulds. Five years later the furnace and moulds are cranking right along. Of course if a fella has the money and inclination then by all means spend what you want.

    Also, I personally like to see newbies to the hobby steer clear of progressives to start with. Too much going on at the same time and too many chances for something to go wrong. Keep it simple, get a good handle on the basics then move on to the high speed/low drag equipment.

    • Agree. Have the Lee 4 hole turret press. Agree with the 9’s not being worth it at $10.97 a box of 50 at walmart, but I do have reloading dies and material to do it if I had to. But doing 30-30 and 300 blackout certainly pays off (as will 308 when my DPMS AP4 finally gets delivered), as well as 357 mags and 45’s. I have a range membership and usually go several times a month with my wife or children. Family outing thing. Even with the turret press, I am up to about 70-80 rounds an hour with the auto powder measure and the auto primer, so it does pay off reasonably. Buy in bulk on powder and primers due to the hazmat fee. And it is relaxing sitting on my patio at my reloading bench (on wheels) while I listen to the news or the radio.

  20. I actually find reloading to be a great way to relieve some of life’s stresses & usually spend a couple of days producing .45ACP ammunition on an RCBS Junior whenever I stay at my friend’s place in the US.
    It’s not THAT slow, as I manage between 1,500 & 2,000 in that time.
    I’ve done the same with 5.56 too.
    The .45 costs around $0.17 a round when loaded with a 200gr LSWC & much the same for the 5.56, so there is at least a 50% saving over commercial ammunition.

    Reloading sure beats TV for whiling away the idle hours. 🙂

  21. I purchase in bulk -bullets, powder & primers and make the shipping $ spread thin. I do this for Pistol-Rifle & Shotgun this is 12/2012 pricing before all went gone….. (NOW I cast)
    Bullseye $104 3.5-4 grains = 2k rds per 1 lb powder @ 3.5 grains or 16,000 rds per 8# jug
    Unique $106 4.5- 5 grains = 1555 per 1 lb powder @ 4.5 grains or 12,444 rds per 8# jug
    (other powders as well)
    primers got $14 per 1k @ min buy 5k pcs so I got 25k I think it was
    After Hazmat and shipping it averaged out to under $2.00 more per 1k primers and 1# powder when spread out over all components. Brass is walmart bulk buy $19.97 per 100pcs and range pick up also traded a guy 1k 115 gr jhp for 4500 pcs brass. The 115 jhp were $93 @1k I did a 4k bulk buy after shipping spread out so brass averaged .02ea
    NOW the good stuff: I buy 120-130lbs range lead for $85 buckets then melt to ingots and get about $20 per bucket ( I buy 4buckets at a time delivered $85 ea) for scrap copper left over at the recycling center to average $65 per 110-125 lbs clean lead for an average of $0.59 to $0.50 per lb lead so I cast 125gr for 56 bullets per 1 lb @ $0.50 to $0.59 per 56 bullets.
    Brass = 0.02
    Powder =3.5grains @=.00675
    Primer = $0.016
    18 lbs lead @ $.00982 per 1 bullets
    My cost is $0.05257 per bullet or $52.57 per 1k rds Now I know this cant be done again but so you can see how to make a real savings I do this. You can always do group buys to help the costing but noone was ever close or ready so I jumped both feet in as well.
    I hope this helps those out there on the fence debating the worth, plus I love doing this as a hobby. Now that America is in a crisis reloading components are ???????? beside 50 cal powder I hope and wish you all well and no sorry, I do not have anything to spare I got 5 people NRA memberships and have been going through my supply fast and am now looking everyday to replace my stock. I by max qty primer and powder per hazmat/shipping 1-2 times a year about 48lbs powder a pop to 30k primers a pop. YES it is a whole lotta $$$$$ and I cant tell my wife a thing or I will be sleeping with my reloader, however I make up the $ when I supply rounds to fam and friends who pay range fee etc I end up paying $300 for every $1k I spend so we all win..
    I am not a hoarder I do go through an order about every 5-6 months or so and I SHARE, but had back surgery recently 2013 so I thank God I have something for now.
    PS- try looking at Milsurp powders they used to be $45 per 8lbs. I never got it but wish I had I could have stocked 3 fold what I was doing.
    happy reloading since 1991

  22. I quit handloading way back, but how I got into it is different from anything I see here. Around 1968, I bought a shiny new Colt Python .357 Mag, which I had lusted for since I was 12 years old and could in no way afford. I got 2 boxes of the only ammo my lgs carried, I think it was Winchester, turned out to be very hot, with a soft lead bullet, which several people above warn against, but this was FACTORY.

    After one box, with no ear protection, in the woods, I didn’t seem to be hitting what I aimed at as well as I thought I should, emptied the gun and looked down the barrel. Damn, I had bought a smoothbore! Absolutely no sign of rifling. Stuck my fingernail into the crown area and pulled a solid sheet of lead away from the mouth, to the point it almost reached the other side of the barrel.

    I don’t recall what I did with the other box, or how the dickens I ever got the barrel clean again, but handloading was clearly and instantly in my future, starting with a Lee Loader. If you haven’t used one (thank your lucky stars) you use a HAMMER to resize, seat, etc. Every now and then, a primer goes bang instead of seating, just to keep things exciting, my thumb and middle finger were blackened for about two years. But jacketed bullets made shooting much nicer, and by the time I moved to an RCBS Rockchucker, I had a load that astounded me with its accuracy, which I used for many years. Once I discovered tungsten carbide dies, it actually became easy! Every 3-5 reloads I used a gadget available at the time to trim the cases which sure sounds easier than what is discussed here, though it may have been from the scary Lee. You deprime the cases (sized or not) then attache the .357 rod (looks like a decapping pin) to a cutter and slide it into the case in a shell holder thingy that tightens on it, and spin the cutter until it stops cutting. Then an inside/outside reamer to smooth the edges and its good to go. Nobody ever told me, BTW, that there was a point where cases should be retired, I think I still had some of those original 50 cases 20 years later.

    Other rigs described here are no doubt better, but I usually couldn’t afford or use 300-400 at a time, and this let me shoot for many years. Finally, after I could afford just about whatever I wanted, I couldn’t find factory loads which approached the accuracy I got from my loads. Then one day, I read an article on the new Federal (now so old they’re “Federal Classic”) 125 g JSP or JHP terminal performance and muzzle velocity and was tempted. So I bought a box to find out just how inaccurate they were compared to mine, and the damn things grouped at half the size of mine, and the reloading kit was doomed.

    But it was a fun 20 years in between!

    • No. I use the 223 deprimer on the 357 case since I don’t have it. The 45ACP is too fat. That said I use the 45ACP die to hold the 357 case to deprime it again, because I didn’t buy the 357 dies for the Lee manual loader. 9mm (355) is close to 357 so I think it would work. Hope this helps.

  23. You probably wont save any money but your ammo will be cheaper & you’ll shoot more. That’s how it went for me.

    • I have been a reloader since 1991, was distracted for 10 years but 2007 I got back to it and glad I did. I have better than average savings as I buy in bulk and cast/powder coat and load up to max in some cases. My pistol are between .05-.10 ea, 12 ga .15-.40 ea, rifle a bit more .09-.45 ea .300, 5.56, 7.62×39, 6.5 grendel pending a build. What I like most is that I find more pleasure in this hobby than I do watching tv, MSM news lies and the likes. I think this keeps me grounded and more conformed to my beliefs than hearing about everyone elses so not to be influenced by propaganda. If you look at it as a hobby or distraction from everything negative you really begin to enjoy it. Find some reloaders in some forums and try to hook up bulk buys to keep costs down and then it wont feel so expensive. Bulk 5 gal buckets range lead yield avg 120lbs clean lead at $85 a bucket get less than .80lb lead for 50-60+ 9mm bullets per lb minimum 100 bullets @$1.50 or 1000 @ $15.00. Primers .014-.03 ea, 3.8 grains bullseye at 7000 grains per lb powder $13-18 per lb powder, bulk 9mm winchester @ $20-24 per 100 rounds reuse cases and WoW what a savings. With my last purchases $50+/- can make me a minimum 1300 rounds 9mm. I cant hardly find once fired 1000 pcs brass at that cost.Buy smart and look around for the best deals and bulk buys for the best cost savings. God bless, good luck and happy hunting/plinking/shooting.

  24. Reloading is both great as a hobby, and even nowadays, to keep from overspending on ammo. Yeah, you could shoot your way through the savings, but I feel a lot of people enjoy the process of reloading versus going store-bought. That’s just too easy. And the fact that a progressive can rip off 500 rounds or so in 60 is amazing. I’m all for reloading and will continue to be.

  25. As a reloader I really like when I hear about something about reloading press. For a begginer reloader I think single stage press is more helpful then progressive press yes I agree that progressive press is very good but single stage press is best for a newbie.

  26. i use reddings t7 turret with a case activated uniflow rcbs tube bullet feed it works great’ no problems with powder settings as the t7 is a great press

  27. I was considering reloading. Not really to save money but to give me something to do. I am not 100% disabled but pretty much. I only own a couple handguns. A .380 and a 9mm. I sit in my house all day and very rarely have a reason to go out and do anything. This would fill the gap for me as I love going to my garage and turning on music and enjoying my time. I get so tired of sitting in the house.

    I am just looking for the best deal for my dollar. Not the cheapest deal, but the best deal for my dollar. As the old saying goes ,”Sometimes when you save a buck, your not always saving a buck”. So many choices out there that for a newbie like me, it makes it hard to decide or know whats right. I know I can’t really afford progressive so a decent single stage for now to get started.

  28. Hi first of all I’ve to thank you for the post. It’s really nice to hear something about reloading press. For me a best single stage press is better then a progressive press. And yes I agree that progressive press is awesome for pro reloader. 🙂

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