In part one of this post, I presented an overview of why you might want to reload as well as a cost estimate for a reloading setup. As I noted earlier, a large factor in determining whether or not to reload is the caliber you’ll need. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples and you’ll see what I mean . . .
For the first scenario, let’s look at a .308 rifle round and compare a couple of scenarios. In the first, we’ll compare factory loaded match grade ammunition to the cost of hand loading some ammo using match grade bullets. In the second, we’ll do the same comparison between the cheapest .308 milsurp ammo I can find and hand loading the least expensive bullets available.
Looking at the match grade round, we’ll select the Remington Premier Match ammunition that shoots a 168 grain Sierra Match King bullet – the gold standard of match grade ammo. A box of this currently runs about $35 for 20 rounds from Midway USA. This works out to a cost of $1.75 per round. If I decide to purchase the all of the components (including new brass) and make a comparable round myself, things look like this: A bag of 50 pieces of Federal Premium .308 brass costs about $25 or .50 per round. 100 bullets of 168 grain Sierra Match King .308 costs about $31 or .31 per round. 100 primers will set you back about $6 or .06 per round and the powder necessary to fill 50 rounds will cost about $10 or .20 per round.
Add them all up and I can make a round equivalent to our Remington example for about 1.07 each, not counting my time or the amortization of the cost of my reloading setup. That’s a savings of about .68 per round. If my reloading setup cost about $728, my break-even point is roughly 1,086 rounds, again not counting my reloading time. Now, let’s assume that I’m going to reuse my brass – the cost per round now drops to about .57 per round, increasing my savings to $1.18 each. Amortize my $728 reloading equipment investment against that and I hit break-even at only 617 rounds.
On the opposite end of the scale, I have about 800 rounds of Portuguese NATO military surplus ammo that I picked up at a cost of .44 per round. The Portuguese stuff shoots pretty well – it’s not match grade, but it’s still pretty accurate and provides a good example of the extreme low end cost of .308 rounds.
Choosing the same components as in our match grade example above, the only difference is that I’ll be purchasing 110 grain Remington .30 bullets that go for about .18 a piece. Running the numbers above, reloading with all new components costs .94 per round. If I re-use my brass, the cost drops to .44 per round, again, not counting my time to make 100 rounds of ammunition.
So, on the one hand, if all I plan to shoot is match grade ammo, it makes good fiscal sense to go the reloading route even if I plan to use all new components every time. It takes a bit longer to recoup all of my costs with new brass, but I still come out ahead somewhere north of 575 rounds.
Then again, if I want to shoot non-match grade stuff, reloading using all new components is a losing proposition. And even if I reuse my brass, I’m only at break-even not counting my time, so this does not seem to make much sense.
Two things to keep in mind here: first, finding decent .308 ammo at .44/round isn’t something you will come across every day, so your own breakeven point may be reached faster than mine. Second, while I haven’t weighed the Portuguese milsurp stuff, I would speculate that the bullet used in those rounds is probably heavier than 110 grains. So chances are my cost to build similar ammo would go up as I’d need to purchase a more expensive bullet to approximate its performance.
To summarize, reloading for cost savings on a basic .308 round is probably not the best way to go. On the other hand, if you want to shoot match grade ammo then reloading will probably provide a reasonably decent cost savings to justify it.
Yeah, yeah, but you shoot handguns, right? Fine, let’s take a look at reloading the .45 ACP pistol round. I can generally purchase American Eagle or similar .45s for about $18.00 a box or about 0.36 per round. When I get really lucky, I can find CCI aluminum cased rounds for $300 for 1000 or 0.30 per. For reloading with all new components, I’m going to spend by spending $18 for a box of 100 brass cases or .18 per round.
Handgun bullets are bit trickier to match. My reference American Eagle and CCI ammo has 230 grain FMJ bullets. As a reloader I have access to a number of different bullets. For argument’s sake, I’m going to try and match the FMJ as closely as possible which means a box of 250 Nosler 230 grain bullets for $51 or .20 per round. I could also use 230 grain cast lead bullets which, in quantities of 500 pieces, go for about .13 per round, but we are trying to compare apples to apples here. The primers are about.04 apiece and the powder runs in the neighborhood of .02 per round. Total cost if using new brass: .44 each. Already a losing proposition against my American Eagles and an even bigger loser against my CCI rounds.
But if we re-use our brass, the cost per round drops to .26 and things start to make some sense, but you still need to factor in your time. Even if I use the cheaper lead bullets, my cost per round assuming case reuse is about .19 a round. With a savings of .11 per round, I would need to make over 6,618 rounds to cover my cost and at a conservative 100 rounds per hour in my single stage press, that’s 66 hours of my time.
Since I figure my free time is worth at least $50 per hour, that adds another $3,350 to my cost, which in turn makes my break-even point much higher than 6,618 rounds. Clearly, using a single stage press to make handgun ammo is a losing proposition no matter how you look at it. But using a progressive press that can turn out several hundred rounds per hour, though, would likely tip the scales in my favor down the road.
These rough calculations should give you a rough idea as to when reloading makes sense. Keep in mind these are “back of the envelope” calculations and are subject to a fair number of assumptions including small quantity purchases of 100 units of the various reloading components. Brass, bullets, primers, and powder definitely get cheaper if you buy in bulk, so the actual point of your return on investment can be reached sooner if you are serious about this sort of thing. To really make reloading a cost-saving endeavor, you need to go all-in. Dabblers will likely not see a reasonable ROI to justify the initial up front and ongoing expenses, let alone the time involved.
Let’s shift gears a bit here, though. So far, we’ve only looked at reloading as a potential cost-saving option. Depending on your particular circumstances this may be all the convincing you need to take the plunge, particularly if you’re a prolific shooter who sends hundreds of rounds down range every week.
What about the rest of us who may not be expending that much ordinance? Is there a good argument for getting into reloading even if the breakeven point to cover reloading gear cost is far in the distance? The answer depends largely on what you shoot. If you shoot rifles, then it’s an emphatic “yes.” If you only shoot pistols, then the answer is probably a definite “maybe.”
When you break things down, there are a lot of elements to shooting well. You need an accurate gun and you need to have good shooting skills. In a contest between me shooting the World’s Most Accurate Pistol Ever CreatedTM and champion shooter Rob Leatham using the Crappiest Gun Ever MadeTM, Rob’s going to kick my butt every day of the week.
On the other hand, if Rob’s shooting against his clone, the one with the superior gun and ammo will likely win that contest every time. So if I’m shooting against other people with skill levels similar to mine, having the better gun and the better ammo will definitely give me an advantage. And better ammo is where reloading can come in.
Every gun is unique in that the tolerances in gun making, while precise, do allow for some variation. When you consider all of the parts that make up a gun, the individual tolerances in the various components add up to slight – but relevant – differences from one gun to the next within the same model.
While the impact of these variances is relatively minor for pistols, rifles are a whole ‘nother ballgame. Rifles are generally shot at much longer distances than the typical 25 yards pistols are used for. This means that minor deviations in the bullet’s flight upon leaving the muzzle will result in much greater deviations in the bullet’s path simply because the deviation becomes more pronounced the farther the bullet travels before striking its target. Add to that the fact that many long range shooters customize their rifles to a greater or lesser extent, changing out barrels, blueprinting the action, etc.
The end result is that almost every rifle is going to shoot a little differently from its peers and the perfect ammo load for one rifle may not shoot as well in another rifle of the same make and model. If all you have to work with is commercial ammo, you have only a few options available to you to try and find the best round for your gun.
You can generally choose the bullet type and weight, but that is pretty much it. If, for example, you want to shoot 185 grain Sierra Match King bullets in your .308, there are only a couple of manufacturers that offer it. You have no control over the type and amount of powder used. Furthermore, the manufacturer is under no obligation to use the same primer/powder recipe every time, so the batch you buy today might very well perform differently than the batch you buy in a year from the same maker.
As a reloader, though, you get to choose the exact bullet, brass, primer and powder. Generally speaking, powder manufacturers don’t alter their formulas over time, so you should be able to obtain the same results from a bottle of powder whether you buy it today or in six months. This means that if you take the time to create the perfect load for your individual gun, you’ll almost certainly see better results at the range or on the hunt than you will if you simply use commercially manufactured ammo.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention safety here. One thing that tends to be glossed over in the reloading community is the risk that one takes when you brew your own ammo. There is a lot of science involved in the making of a round of ammunition and if you screw something up, the results can be catastrophic. Put in too much powder by mistake, seat the bullet a little too far into the brass, fail to ensure that the primer is set flush with the bottom of the round, make a bullet that’s too long or too short and you could be facing all kinds of failures that can result in a slam fire or – worse – an explosion that ruptures the barrel of your gun throwing shrapnel in all directions.
Keep in mind that every time you pull the trigger that your face is mere inches from a very powerful explosion. You really don’t want to screw it up. Thousands of people reload safely every day, but once in a while someone makes a mistake and pays the price. Remember, too, every single gun manufacturer states in their manuals that you are only to use factory loads and if you shoot hand loads, you accept the consequences of your actions. You can reload safely, but you need to treat the process with the utmost care and pay close attention to everything you do. Otherwise, well, you get the idea.
Bottom line: reloading may make sense for you or it may not. In my analysis of the payback time frame above, the picture can be somewhat bleak. Again, your mileage
may will vary considerably depending on what you shoot, particularly if you buy your components in large quantities, use cast lead bullets, etc.
For me, even if I purchase all of my components in small quantities and use very expensive bullets, in the case of my .300 Winchester Magnum rifle my analysis has shown I can save about $1.73 per round for match grade ammo. This alone allows me to recoup the cost of my setup in as few as 423 rounds for my single stage setup. When I add the benefit of developing the “perfect” round for my rifle, it really makes sense for me.
For someone who purely shoots handguns, the way I look at it, large quantity purchases, cast bullets, and a high speed progressive press are the only way to go if you want to see a reasonable ROI. My goal here was simply to present you with some hard numbers for those interested in cost savings and add in a little of the accuracy argument to tantalize you. From there, the decision is yours. Flame away!
Awesome, thank you. I’ve been following this series with interest. Economically, it’s not really worthwhile for my 9mm, is marginal for my .357, but is definitely of interest for my .30-06 and the eventual M1A that will grace my safe. Availability is another big issue here; unless I go pretty far out of my way, I can end up shooting crap Tulammo if I’m not careful, simply for lack of anything better available. I’d like to reduce or remove that factor from my hobby.
Plus, it sounds like something nice and meditative I can concentrate on in my own garage on those all-too-frequent days when I can’t get to the range. I’ve been reading through the Lyman guide (49th ed.) to get a feel for whether this is something I want to get into, based largely on this series of posts, so thanks for that.
When you get your M1A and are getting ready to start reloading for it, check this resource.
I follow it when it comes to measurements and gauges to use, but I use recycled brass instead of the LC stuff. Also I use standard small base dies rather than making custom ones.
M14 is fun and worthwhile to reload for.
The Lyman book is great, but I would recommend picking up The ABC’s of Reloading as well. That book has a lot of good info on presses, powders, etc and does not fill its space with ammo recipes.
Good article. Reloading makes perfect sense!
can’t find 308 Ammo in NC, SC, or NY -02/18/2013
Here it is 3 years later and here’s what I am finding out about reloading 9mm’s:
Primers: 1000 primers is ballpark $31 or about 3 cents/round
Powder: 1 lb powder (7000 grains) is about $25 and loads about 1400 of the 5 grain or so 9mm’s, making it 1.7 cents per round. Can bring this down a bit but would have to buy the 8 lb container of powder.
Bullets: 1000, 9mm bullets cost about $80 or 8 cents per bullet
Total cost per round to make ammo: approx 12-13 cents/round or $130 per thousand
Alternative: You can buy 1000 rounds bulk 9mm ammo for about $210 (there are cheaper ones but some of them are themelves reloads, some are steel cases and not brass and one I saw had Euro type primers so to get the good stuff (new brass) is around 195-220 per thousand)
So, does one make 1000 rounds for $130 or buy 1000 rounds for $210, the savings being about $80/thousand rounds.
If your reloader costs, say, $380 or so, the break even is about 5,000 rounds.
So…..Is it worth it? Would be interested in comments. Also, if you know of cheaper primers, powder or bullets, also let me know. Thanks
Thanks for the economic update. I was dismissive of reloading 9mm until I read that. I am getting an AR-15 shortly and was going to get my feet wet with .223 reloading. That round itself, the .223, I thought would have been on the edge of press therapy rather than economic sense. If the 9mm is good sense economically then everything is. So, press therapy, plus consistency aka match grade or at least pseudo match, and economics is a three-fer.
Personally, I find reloading in my little single stage press to be therapeutic. Some tie flys for fishing, or make small wooden crafts. My father for example makes wing-bone yelper turkey calls. I enjoy the process and appreciate the craftsmanship when our family takes to the range. There’s plenty of things to do with my time, but on those crappy rainy cold evenings or weekends, my craft is reloading. The cost savings is merely a small benefit of the process.
If you wanted to load the most accurate round possible, you’d need to use the Sierra bullet in once fired brass (in Your rifle) that was neck sized only. Then, work up the load. It will always be more accurate than new brass this way.
This is fine for a bolt gun, but do not try this for an autoloader for safety reasons.
The Hornady manual lists reliability and feeding issues as the main reason, though elsewhere I have seen safety issues mentioned (though I can’t remember the specific safety problems off the top of my head)
For an autoloader you want it to feed and lock up reliably or you can have an out of battery kaboom. Many autoloaders begin extracting a case while it is still in the process of stretching, so the state of the case does not represent the chamber dimensions. They will not necessarily fit right or headspace properly if not fully resized. This is very dangerous. For your gun and your body. Always full case resize for an autoloading rifle. Small base dies are popular too to increase reliability of feeding, but regular full size dies will result in safe ammo as well. Neck only resizing is fine for a bolt gun because the fired case does represent the chamber dimensions, and even if it is off you end up manually camming it in and getting positive lockup anyway.
CHECK your math. In the first example the powder costs $o.20 per round, not $o.05 per round.
Yep. Sorry ’bout that. Fixed it now. Handgun powder tends to run .05 per round. Rifle is a lot more.
the time factor is what did in my reloading. i had a single stage setup for .38-.357 back in the 80’s. i was getting more ammo for the buck. but i was spending a lot of time at it and i had a wife and 2 very young sons. something had to go. so i traded my setup for a 10-22.
It doesn’t really factor into the examples given above but (while I don’t reload) it occurs to me you can only reuse brass a finite number of times. What’s typical? I know some auto-loaders (e.g., my Mini-14) are tough on brass.
Case life can depend on a few factors. Operating pressure of the load is a biggie. The hotter the load the more often you’ll need to trim it. The method of sizing the case matters too. Full length sizing works the brass much more than neck sizing. If you shoot a bolt or single shot then neck sizing is the way to go. Quality of the brass factors in too as well as how hard a firearm is on the brass. I have a Mini too and they sure can be tough on brass.
The m1 style action is extremely fast and notoriously hard on brass. It begins extracting the case before it is done stretching. Start keeping a good eye on it after 4 or 5 reloads.
using a mild target load in .38 the brass last a good 10 uses. that was in a revolver. i’ve never loaded for autos.
A good .38 special target load is 3.2 gr bullseye under a 148 gr cast wadcutter. The brass will last virtually indefinitely in this case. For .45acp, 4.5 gr titegroup under a cast 200 gr swc is a good target load and the brass will last a good 30 reloads.
I reload….a lot, but whenever I am asked about reloading I always say, “list your top five hobbies, if reloading is not one of them don’t bother. If reloading is one of your top five hobbies, have at it, the money you save can be spent on more reloading equipment.”
No flames to be seen here. The only thing I would quibble with is the cost estimate for your spare time. $50 bucks an hour? OK, no prob……but this is the most subjective aspect to your figures and for others, it might tip the balance depending on their self-perceived self worth. Some would argue that one’s spare time costs nothing at all.
I do not buy the value of free time argument from anyone who watches tv daily. 😉
Which is something that I don’t do – watch TV much. Simply don’t have the time for it and most of the stuff on the tube is crap.
It really is.
And that is the reason that I left the time factor out of most of my ROI calculations (the pistol one is the exception since the break-even point in round count is so damn high, that I simply could not ignore it). Everyone will put different value on their time, so it was simpler just to leave it aside. I will suggest that I have rarely met anyone who claims to have too much spare time (the independently wealthy excluded of course). No one that I know would consider their spare time to cost nothing, but as I said, your mileage may vary.
That’s what I said….that it was the only subjective factor in your presentation, which was very well done BTW. I have a single stage setup and a Dillon Progressive. The Dillon will produce 100 rnds of .45 in about 30 minutes, if I have it all together. If I value my spare time at, say, $20 an hour……it brings down the cost considerably. In my mind, I can say that I’m shooting cheaper than you are. If I consider it a hobby, which I do, and don’t put a price on my time….price goes lower yet. Eye of the beholder, I guess.
I never did the math when it comes to my reloading. I use the tables supplied with my press; various websites; and other info. I got my press dirt cheap from a friend, so I can’t even use amortization for it. I simply like making my own ammo, and find it very relaxing. It gets me out of the house where I can sit and just while away a few hours and feel like I’m saving money. I am also aware that as political situations change, I might not be able to purchase ammo, so I feel more prepared by making my own.
Sig, you’ve hit on an aspect many only discover after they start reloading. It’s very relaxing and fun. (Once you’ve come up with a perfect load, that can be a long drawn out process).
Nobody mentioned shotshell reloading. That REALLY can save you money, if you shoot as much as I do. And, my loads are as good as or better than the good store-bought stuff, for the same as or less than the cheap promotional stuff.
Yeah, couldn’t really write about something that I don’t do. No experience with shotshell reloading
I’m set up to reload 9mm on a fairly economical Dillon Precision progressive press (Square Deal B which is for pistol calibers only). Unfortunately from a reloading perspective 9mm has the lowest cost benefit from reloading since Wally-world sells brass 9mm for $0.20 a round, but for those dealing with more expensive calibers like .380 ACP, 40 S&W and .45 ACP the economics are much better.
I don’t know where you are getting your components prices, but you are getting gouged by buying quantities of 100. Except for specialty bullets that you may not use in great quantity, a reloader should be buying components in 1000 quantities (or greater).
Primers for both small and large pistol have been around $30 per 1000 ($0.03 each). Last I saw, large rifle primers can get close to $0.04 each but nowhere near $0.06.
Good plated pistol bullets for range use are roughly $0.09 each for 124gr 9mm; $0.12 each for 180gr 40S&W; and $0.14 each for 230gr .45 ACP from companies like Berry’s Mfg. and they ship for free thanks in part to the USPS “if it fits, it ships” pricing scheme.
Something else to consider is that you should get many years if not decades of use from most of your reloading equipment. It doesn’t disintegrate into a pile of dust when you hit the break-even point.
I posted above to another person and yes, it’s now 2015 but I am considering reloading and found this page. Interesting how even data from 2012 can still be important 3 years later.
Bottom line: I am finding now (2015) that if I were to reload 9mm’s, it would cost me about 13 cents/round or $130/thousand. I can buy new ammo with new brass (not steel) and US primers (not Euro primers) for about $210/thousand so reloading saves $80/ thousand rounds made, thus making the break even point for a $400 set-up to be about 5,000 rounds. Thoughts?
Here are a few more cost savers for the reload have shooters friends save brass for you if they do not reload , also catch specials on used brass , midway and others offer lots good used brass cheap, also several times now have been able to get surplus bullets (G.I) , in bulk some were pulled but range testing showed that many times did as good a some brand name bullets, i have a lot of lake city brass that i got years ago dirt cheap in 3006 this is good brass , also found the RCBS x-die saves me lots time because this is a no trim die,, and also sign up on internet with different suppliers like Midway and catch the specials on everything… I have cut cost of reloading good ammo lots more this way….
It is silly to talk about the cost of factory ammo at a per box price then compare reloading at cost per 5,000. I can buy a case of 9mm 1000 rounds for $170 on sale, sell the once fired casings at 4-5 cents for a real cost of 12-13 cents per shot. You might save some money reloading lead, but not when using FMJ bullets, not enough to make it worth your time — unless you make $7 per hour flipping burgers.
If you shoot 223, 9mm or 45 , or 7.62×39 I think its a waste of time. If you shoot less than 500 rounds per year its a real waste of time. If you shoot lots of rifle ammo, do yourself a favor and get a Russian 7.62x54R. Surplus Bulgarian or russian ball in 440 rd case is about $80 — comes to about 18 cents per round, and there is NO full sized ammo you will get cheaper. MY PSL Dragunov groups about 2-3 inches easy with this stuff (did get a few 1.6 on a good day), and My Nagant bolt action can do better. This is good enough for 500 yards, so screw the 308 and 30-06. I think most of reloaders have been conned into thinking they save money, and they are being suckered.
You save money, or shoot more for the same amount of money, when you reload for more expensive rifle calibers. I got into reloading when I was 18-19 because living if Florida, I wanted a larger caliber rifle to hunt pigs. Found a really cheap 308 Norma Magnum, and agreed to buy it if the seller showed me how to reload for the gun. “Good” ammo is $75-$100 per box of 20, mainly because it isn’t a popular round in the USA. You can buy an entire reloading press kit, plus all the brass, primers, etc. for cheaper than a day at the range with that rifle. Not saying that everyone will save $3-$4 a shot by reloading, but it makes the odd-ball calibers easy to shoot.
Second way you save money, is my 300 Win Mag. It seemed like just when I found a round that it liked, the local shops would stop carrying it and I’d have to experiment with rounds and sight in my rifle again (I was in the military and didn’t haul my reloading gear around with me). Reloading means that I can always make that guns favorite load whenever and not have to worry about finding it on the shelf or remembering to order it online a couple days before I want to go shooting. Again, it’s not like you’re really saving a ton of $ here, but the 2nd time you’ve bought a box of decent rifle ammo that your gun hates, you start really thinking about reloading.
I think reloading for military calibers is a waste of time. I can buy a 1000 rd case of 9mm on sale at $170, sell the brass for $50 so am shooting for 12 cents per round. You wont save much over this reloading with FMJ being used. Stop comparing reloading 5000 rds with the cost of a single box of factory ammo!! Its a bullshit comparison, and if you are buying buy the box, you are not much of a shooter anyway, and shouldnt be worrying about ammo cost. And unless you make $8 per hour flipping burgers, the time you spend reloading will eat up the savings. As for rifle ammo, wise up and use the 7.62x54R round. A case of surplus 440 rounds sells for about $80, which comes to about 18 cents per shot. And with my PSL Dragunov or Nagant rifles I easily get 2-3 inches at 100 yaards, with some best 1.6 inches on a good day. So who nees the 308 or 30-06? And I know from experience that 80% of reloaders have no clue what they are doing. The whole reloading hobby is a scam for the most part.
Another caliber tip: you can save huge money handloading for magnum pistol calibers, especially the big ones. Factory .41s, .44s and .45 Long Colts are insultingly expensive at retail, but all of them perform very well with hard-cast lead bullets. Prudent handloading can save you $20 or more per box of 50 rounds.
I love my raging judge magnum and the 45LC rounds are an awesome bullet to shoot.
One of the other reasons I got this gun was because it can shoot the 454 casull bullets up to 300gr. and I wanted to cut costs by having a handgun & rifle that shoots the same calibur rounds, makes sense right?
Well, a henry lever-action chambered in 45LC or 454 casull is the way im going to go and since im not going to hunt grizzley anytime soon (if ever) I am going with the longcolt since that round was made famous by being able to take down a horse on the run, I think that is plenty for the inner-city.
I might just get another henry down the road chambered in casull because I want to reload both calibur’s for my Judge…..the math works out to my advantage because I go to the range 2-3 times a week and have been forced to switch to my 1964 savage bolt action 22 rifle & my 9-shot savage 22 pistol (both passed onto me by my dad) due to cost of ammo for my Judge!
The 22’s are fun to shoot but if you ever have to defend yourself with your everyday carry then it is wise to be “praticed-up” on it and once the bad guy is in your face it’s too late to pratice.
Factory .41s, .44s and .45 Long Colts are insultingly expensive at retail, but all of them perform very well with hard-cast lead bullets. Prudent handloading can save you $20 or more per box of 50 rounds.
Yes! I load six score more or less every month of 45 Colt for my cowboy shooting. Reusing the brass, the plain lead bullet is the most expensive component at around 10 cents each.
Likewise bullseye shooting with my 1911 consumes 180 reloaded rounds per month. Match grade factory 45ACP prices are comparable to factory 45 Colt i.e. expensive.
My favorite target load is 4.5 gr titegroup under 240 gr hard cast SWC in .44 mag cases for my short and long barreled 629s. It is essentially a .45acp load in a magnum revolver. Great for bullseye, action shooting, pins, and plates.
You can not hunt with FMJ military ammo for one thing, that is range shooting, you can try the RCBS x-die in 223 Rem. it sizes with a small base die, also i full size all my brass and mixed lots, works ok in semi-auto, or lever guns, also use the LEE factory crimp on all my different cal.s this works great on 45acp etc.. sorry guys but i get BETTER ammo that store big brands , and much cheaper , my own tests prove it, and I can match the bullet type to any hunt, or beat any store match load, CHEAPER.
Yeah, tacking onto what a ton of more knowledgeable folks have said, know your calibers. I don’t load for my pistols, because I have two 9mm, a .38 snub (not a lot of rounds through that), and a couple .22s. I don’t load for my AR (though with ammo prices, I may take another look soon). But my deer rifle is a 7mm-08, and ammo is a minimum of $45 for the crap and $60 for anything I’d send at a deer. I load that, and I borrow a friend’s loading setup, so all I paid for was powder, primer and bullets. Saved my brass, bought dies ($27), and my cost per round is miniscule.
I keep wanting to reload, but I shoot mostly handgun and its hard to justify unless you are talking about competition quality rounds. Otherwise, for range ammo, our club recently had three recent group buys.
$0.21/rd shipped for 9mm 115gr Target FMJ
and $0.29/rd for 95gr FMJ 380 Auto
and 230gr 45 ACP for $0.30/rd.
Not sure you can do better for handgun loads doing it yourself. I usually buy as much as I can as I find a good price and always have at least 5000rds of each usually on hand, not for prepping reasons just to keep price of shooting down because I assume it will always go up.
Its hard to get .308 at a good price at least in my area
I think it comes down to consistency and accuracy. Not sure I want to spend time/money to dabble however.
I reloaded for twenty five years, starting with an RCBS single stage press and, keeping that one for rifle rounds, working up to the Dillon 650 for pistol rounds. It will eventually pay for itself…maybe…you load more you shoot more.
I decided a long time ago not to do that anymore. I spent $500 on ammo the last 3 months..but it was delivered to my door and I spent 0 hours loading. It all depends on your free time and what you want to accomplish. I had a load that would go 1/4 MOA at 100 yards. Not necessary…..I’ve killed many deer since then with
Remington factory ammo that will not come close to that accurracy. But it drops the deer. Nuff said
I view my (simple) reloading tools a bit like the guns I buy: if I wanted to save money, I wouldn’t own more than a single 22 rifle. If that. I don’t shoot enough, and certainly am not paid to shoot, to really think about amortization costs. “If I buy this gun I want to get 50,000 rounds out of it, then sell it for 10% of purchase value” then figure out how to keep the cost per round fired low (store bought vs reloaded plus reloading equipment costs)…
Nothing against those who do, but in many ways I don’t care about the reloading equipment costs. It’s a one-time cost, just like a new gun purchase. I don’t shoot that much, and thus don’t reload that much; but I find it kinda fun. So as long as the component costs keep it to same as factory or (preferably) less then I plan to stick with it. For me, it’s more of a hobby. I’ve yet to see a “cheap” hobby.
I got into reloading for two reasons: one, because in quantity, reloaded ammo is significantly cheaper, even in pistol calibers; two, because during the post-immaculation period, people were hoarding ammo such that you couldn’t get even 45 ACP with any regularity.
Now I have components enough to make six months of weekend trips to the range for pistol, and I’m in the process of building up my tools for 30-06 as well.
It turns out I have greater peace of mind knowing I can always make more, even if the store shelves are empty. The cost of the equipment turns out to be negligible by comparison.
I’ve reloaded shotgun shells for some cost savings but mostly to get a clean firing, low recoil round that worked for trap shooting. It was cheap to do so years ago when lead was 11 dollars a bag but when it went over 20 trap shooting in general became rather expensive. I tried cheap shells in bulk from a variety of sources but didn’t like the results.
One aspect to consider is today we can find ammo cheaply and easily. That might not be the case in the future. Reloading might not only be cheaper, it might be the only option available for some calibers or even all calibers. Our esteemed leaders from places like New Jersey have proposed 5 dollar a bullet taxes to pay for all that carnage guns cause every day. Extreme for sure, but it shows they are capable of anything.
I tried to figure the cost of reloading my .45ACP brass using hard cast lead (200Gr LFP) and it’s cheep like just over $120 for 2000 delivered and a pound of Bullseye using only 4.5 to 5 grains, it goos a long way. The ammo I reload shoots good from a rest better than I can hold free hand.
The 338 Lapua drove me to reloading within 30 days. This is a case where you recoup your investment almost immediately. I could not really enjoy shooting $6.00 per round Lapua factory ammo.
That’s great to worry about costs, but for some people reloading isn’t simply a cost cutting chore – its fun, relaxing, and an extension of the whole shooting experience. So what if it takes an hour or more to load 40 or so .308s if you enjoy doing it? If you don’t enjoy it and don’t consider your time well spent, than don’t bother.
There are at least several reasons to reload…saving money, better accuracy, and/or the satisfaction of doing it yourself come to mind. I bought a Lee Anniversary Kit and Lee dies in three calibers over ten years ago for about $200. With that little press/those dies I make 308 rounds that shoot 1/2 moa from my FNAR. No one needs to spend $750 on a reloading set-up unless they want to be able to turn out hundreds of handgun or shotgun rounds per hour. My Lee press and dies were paid for by the first 200 rounds I made the day they came in the mail. Cheers.
Cost savings aside, I find that reloading adds a whole new level of activity in this sport I love so much. For me once I leave the range, aside from cleaning them, they become a pretty boring inert object. Reloading allows me to work on the sport I love on a deeper level at home when frankly guns are pretty useless, unless of coarse you have to use one. The other fun part is you can make it as complicated as you want, run a single stage with minimal tools or cast your own and manufacture on a progressive. To me reloading is 50% of the fun in the sport, cost savings or not.
i just got a Mossberg MVP .308 w/ a 16.5 inch bull barrel. i love shooting and hunting and I’m picky about my ammo, but I’m also on a tight budget. do you think reloading would be a good idea for me? If so, what would you recommend i load for elk/moose/bear?
the first time i shot MOA inspired me to reload. now moa is just ok. a 2-3″ grp is a nightmare. reloading makes it possible to shoot tight grps. OAL in factory ammo is way too short. gotta get it close to them lands usually. Other benefits are reduced loading to reduce recoil, is fun, relaxing, creative and testing new recipes is just as cool as smelling burnt powder.
1.) the Portuguese 7.62 NATO you mentioned was likely M80 ball, which uses a 147gr FMJ projectile. I didn’t know they even made 110 gr. in .308″ dia.
2.) As a potential plan of action, you can always buy the cheapest ammo in reloadable brass that you can find and then keep the (once fired) brass for reloading, though with the afforementioned 7.62 NATO, you’ll have to be a bit cautious as the case capacity is slightly less than civilian .308 due to a thicker case wall. This gives you the advantage of the cheap bang-bang up front, and reloadable brass that you can turn into a really fine precision load.
3.) Unless you’ve got a load that’s ripsnorting hot, you can save money on pistol reloading by using lead or plated lead bullets instead of FMJ. I use this to keep the cost of .45ACP down to about $10/50rds (with reusing my brass) as opposed to $30+/50rds retail for the cheap 230gr FMJ. If I load several boxes at a time and don’t have any difficulties, reloading a box of pistol on a single stage press takes about an hour, for an savings of ~$15-$20/hr.
Great article, but do you make $50 per hour or more at work? Few are skilled enough to make $30 in the workforce. Most folks reload as a hobby to feed what they love to do…..shoot. Honestly, I am not worried about my time reloading, because it is making me happy, providing for my family, giving my family and community the gift of safety.
I have seen these guys on arms list that put value on there “time” so to come buy a gun from me I needed to compensate them for fuel and travel time to come and buy my gun they wanted. reloading is no breeze, and is not quick. When you go quick, like anything quality decreases. Same with factory ammo. Reloading is a time consuming hobby and for some a profession that takes skill and discipline. I think if we all were getting paid for our free time we would not work, nor even bother reloading because who wants to pay double time when you can afford to just buy the store bought ammo and not fool with reloading?
make your own cast bullet’s 1 a pound or 1 40 most 1 pound makes around 55 120gr bullet, get your brass from ranges or buy’em in bulk online.. 1000 for 80 some dollars cleaned polished with free shipping, use progressive press and buy your powder and primer at your local gunshow by bulk.. … enough said.
Regarding break even on auto loading pistols:
Powder was listed around 0.05/rd.
my 5,5gr of CFE Pistol purchased at 25/lb makes for 0.019/rd.
projectiles at 0.06/rd for HiTek coated 125 gr lead.
Primers are 0.02/rd with S&B small pistol
I am a brass scavenger, so there ya go… But I just purchased 3000 pcs of 9mm for 60 shipped.: 0.02/rd.
that’s 0.10/rd all new components.
5.00 USD per box of 9mm. The least expensive brass case here in the DFW area is around 12/box.
Loading .40SW I save closer to 12 a box for the cheapest stuff. You should see how much .357/38/44/45 colt go got these days here.
$50/hour to sit on your keister and work a reloading press? PLEASE…….
If its a hobby, then your time’s worth nothing. How many of us are shooting to save lives or defend the border? None. So shooting is a hobby for 99.9999999% of the people reading this article.
Reload and be happy. It’s a hobby.
I also build and fly model airplanes. It’s a hobby. I hear people make the same argument all the time…. no time to sit there and glue balsa sticls together….time worth more than the benefit of building their own models…. most would rather buy cheap pre-made China junk airplanes, than sit down and discover an entirely new and fascinating partof the hobby. HOGWASH!!!!! LAZY!!!!! ENTITLED!!!!! Nobody is THAT busy. People like to ACT like they are….. but they’re not. You’re just not THAT busy. You got time to drive to the range. You got time to load.
Sit down and learn to reload. It’s actually fun and rewarding. There’s a zen-like feeling to working the press.
Zen-like? More like pure Zen!
Cost analytics got better on my end as I just picked up a .45ACP. Reloads are close to 9 dollars per box with the 1k purchased brass, and bulk cast/ coated. Better yet, I bought small primer brass as somebody was having difficulty moving it from their inventory, and I have brick upon brick of Remington small rifle primer that is unusable for .223.
Also started loading x39 and 30-30. Leverevolution and Hornady SST rounds for the x39 ( my two main hunting cartridges,) are unacceptable to my wallet, but the savings related to reloading are not.
Looking into a .458 socom upper, and a Marlin 336 in 444 Marlin. Bet you a$$ I will be reloading those two!
As a 28 year old veteran who loves to shoot massive amounts of lead frequently… Even if the break-even for the cost-benefit comparison was 10000+ rounds, I can guarantee I’ll shoot at least that much in my lifetime. If I plan to shoot until I’m 53 for instance (25 years of shooting) 1000 rounds a year (In other words if I shoot for 4-5 years and take a 20-21 year hiatus from shooting) that’s 27,000 rounds. If I decide to spend around a thousand dollars a year on the cheapest ammo I can find to plink with, I’d likely find myself shooting between 4500 and 5000 rounds per year. If I do that for just five years… it’s still worth it.
No matter how I try to factor my time as money, or costs of factory versus reloaded ammo, just based on the time frame I plan to shoot within (I’ll likely be found dead of natural causes with the newest laser blaster 5000 in my holster, J frame .38, likely a SW 686 in my hand, in my old age) I can’t really justify NOT reloading.
Definitely going to look into Turret presses.
In fact, if you catch a twenty something year old at your local range blowing a ton of factory ammo, do them a huge solid. Ask them if they’re reloading. Introduce them to these (and other) articles on reloading. The younger a hobby shooter starts reloading, the greater potential savings they’ll have in their lifetime, or at the very least, the more lead they’ll throw down range in a life time. At least, it would have helped me.
I’ve been reloading for years and I reload for every gun caliber I have (except 22). if I can’t find the dies and brass I don’t buy the gun. it’s fun and relaxing with a bit of accomplishment thrown in.
I reload all pistol cal’s from 9mm to 460, and all rifle cal’s even 30-40 krag, 7.62X45, 7.7 jap and soon on.
I recommend reloading to any body who has the time, I’ll reload all winter long, about 20,000 and spend some time at the range during the summer months.
I reload all my cals as well except .22LR and 762×39. I only reload some specialty bullets and cast bullets for the x39 because the cost factor has no savings but does have accuracy gains.
My 9mm costs about .11 cents jacketed and 4-5 cents cast. ———————————— retail $0.25 ea
300 Blackout costs me $0.018 to $0.24 jacketed and about $0.097 cast bullet per round.— retail $0.85+ ea
12ga buck costs $0.25 and SLUGS cost $0.32 to $0.35 per shell. ————————–retail $0.95-$2.00+ ea
I buy in bulk for bigger savings, NRA life member & reloader since 1991
Long time reload hack. Gave it up years ago due to family issues. Now, with the upcoming Kalifornia AMMO BAN, I’m rebuilding my reloading equipment. But, I must admit, am a little bet worried about the rumor of a component ban or restrictions. After all, criminals and nut jobs reload????
I just bought 308’s for $146 for 250 rounds or about 59 cents/round so for 308’s I wouldn’t reload as reload cost is the same as buying. Might not be same quality as if you did each yourself but for target shooting it’s not worth reloading. AND for this price I get brass each time that I can sell to, well, a guy who reloads…..
I can only speak to handgun as I do not reload rifle. The figures used make no sense for handgun loads.
I reload 9MM at $0.10 per round using Polymer coated bullets and VERY expensive (Vhitavuyori N320) Powder. I do use hand selected range brass.
Anybody using Nosler 250 count bullets as a basis for reloading is clearly a rifle reloader (and shooter). Buying less than 1,000 bullet heads won’t last many range trips. You can’t even look at a plate rack without firing 100 rounds.
While I can understand precision rifle reloaders going to the range and shooting groups and measuring and recording accuracy while shooting 50-100 bullets a day this is simply not the world of pistol shooters and no pistol reloader is going to spend. 0.36 a round for bullet heads. My most expensive JHP bullets (Precision Delta 124) cost 0.09 per round when bought in 1000 round lots and 0.20 per round if bought in small quantities.
I was looking into reloading my own rounds, but I could not seem to find a place that sold the components. Does anyone have any suggestions on where to go?
Don’t forget about the huge cost of finding the best factory ammunition for a particular rifle. If your rifle doesn’t like it, that 40 dollar box of ammo is lost.
I have shot at an indoor pistol shooting range where only lead bullets not exceeding 950fps could be used. I could not find any factory 9mm Loads to meet those specs.