About five months ago, I wrote a piece for TTAG about the cost of reloading. Two or so weeks ago, I was visiting with a fellow reloader who had just ordered a box of 1,000 small pistol primers from MidwayUSA. Earlier this week, I was on the MidwayUSA website and decided to check availability of reloading components that I use a lot. What I found made me glad that I have built up a decent supply.
I’m a cowboy action shooter. Over the course of a typical year, I may shoot around 3,500 pistol caliber rounds and close to 1,000 shotgun rounds in competitions and about the same amount in practice sessions. For competition, I use only Starline brass and Federal small pistol primers. For my practice ammo, I use range brass and Winchester primers.
I don’t consider myself a high-volume shooter, but it is high enough to require a stash of reloading components. Supplies are always a concern. Over the last year, I’ve ordered batches of brass, bullets, primers, and powders just because it was available and reasonably priced.
Being relatively new to reloading (I started reloading as the last supply drought was ending), I kept wondering if my hoarding tendencies were being counterproductive. Well, I don’t wonder any more. Out of curiosity more than need, I checked on the availability of reloading components. What I found is that I should have ordered more when I could.
Brass appears to be available depending upon caliber. I buy my brass for competition from Starline. They currently have brass available in .38 Special and 9mm Luger. Brass for .45 ACP, .223 Rem, and 5.56´45 is on backorder. I use range brass for practice ammo, with a good stash available.
Other suppliers may have a more complete stock of brass in popular calibers. Your LGS may have brass, both new and used, on the shelf. For my shotgun loads, I just keep on reusing old hulls. Bottom line: You should be saving your brass and hulls.
Bullets appear to be available, again depending upon caliber and type. I shoot lead bullets for competition and practice. I ordered another 4,000 bullets and 100 lbs. of #7 lead shot a couple of months ago when I heard a rumor about an upcoming shortage of lead. They were available, but shipping times were significantly delayed.
Those bullets are still available so that rumor about lead supplies may have not been accurate. No regrets though, I’d rather have and not need than need and not have.
I checked a few other sites for copper and FMJ bullets and it looks like they are mostly available for popular calibers, but not in all weights and styles. For pistol calibers, it appears that self-defense bullets are hard to find. Bottom line: If you look hard enough, you can probably find bullets for a given caliber, but maybe not the exact bullet you want or need.
Powder appears to be generally available, depending upon the specific powder and quantity you want. Keep in mind that powder ordered online has both a shipping fee and a hazardous materials fee. The fee is the same regardless of whether you order a 1 lb. or 8 lb. jug. If you order only 1 lb. online, then the hazmat fee could be a third of the powder cost.
Back when I was stocking up, I usually ordered my powder and primers when there was a promotional deal that waived the hazmat fee. I haven’t seen those promotions over the last few months. You may be able to get powder at your LGS and save the shipping and hazmat fees. Bottom line: At present, powder availability does not seem to be an issue.
Whoa! If you don’t have primers on hand, you probably won’t be reloading. At Midway USA and Brownells, available primers are mostly limited to large rifle, shotshell, and large pistol magnum. I cannot find any suppliers that have small pistol primers in stock.
Just like powders, primers also have both a shipping fee and hazmat fee, if you can find them. If you order only 1,000 primers online, then the hazmat fee can be about a third of the price of the primers. Low-volume reloaders are probably better off buying primers from their LGS, even though the individual primer cost is higher. Bottom line: If you don’t have a stash of primers now, you’re not going to be reloading for a while.
At present, we are going through another period of high demand for ammunition, presumably to meet the needs of all the new gun owners. Supplies may also be affected due to pandemic conditions. I believe that there is a relationship between the availability of ammo on the shelves and the availability of primers as manufacturers need the primers they make to meet demands for their factory ammo.
My guess is that we probably will not be able to buy primers until we start seeing ammo back on the shelves. I hope that happens before the year is over, but if gun owners do not turn out and vote against gun control candidates, then your ability to reload in the future may be limited to the supplies that you have at home right now.
The tables below that indicate the availability of reloading components on the MidwayUSA and Brownells websites as of July 2, 2020. The first table indicates general availability numbers for each component type. The second table gives details for a few calibers to give a more specific sense of availability.
There may be other sites that have available components and there may be slightly different components for a caliber that will work for you (different brass manufacturer, bullet weights, powder, etc.). [ED: Check Natchez Shooters Supply, Midsouth Shooters Supply and Graf & Sons] The table also ignores substitutions like using +P brass instead of standard brass. Some products may not be available in all quantities. Availability may have changed by the time this actually appears in the TTAG webspace.
For you reloaders out there, use the comments to indicate the availability of reloading components at stores in your area. As for me, my backup plan is to start keeping my old (used) primers. Maybe someday, I can figure out how to reuse them. If any of the TTAG readers have actually made new primers from old primers, I’d be interested in hearing how they did it.