Andrew Scott writes [via Ammoland.com]:
I have had a lot of friends and customers come up to me asking this very question. In this article I’m going to look at what we call the “Break Even Point” in business. That is, at what point would your savings on ammunition equal what you spent on equipment to get started? Obviously I’m not going to be able to cover for every contingency here. The numbers will change significantly based on what cartridge you’re loading, what setup you want, etc. For this analysis, we’re going to go with a .45 ACP load I started out with, using the cheapest, most bare bones equipment we can get, and we will price everything off of Midsouth Shooter’s Supply. Here’s our load data . . .
- 230 grain Berry’s .452 diameter Round Nosed Plated Bullet – $0.134 / piece
- 6.2 grains Alliant Power Pistol powder – $0.018 / piece
- CCI Large Pistol Primer #300 – $0.027
For this analysis, we’re going to negate the cost of brass. That’s not because your brass will last forever, you’ll eventually have to procure more. But it’s hard to nail down a realistic cost given the opportunities for free brass from friends/ranges, plus you’ll get multiple uses from your brass.
The number of times you’ll be able to reload a casing will vary widely based on the manufacturer, your load data, what reloading dies you’re using, and even what gun you’re shooting it out of. Because I can’t realistically account for all of this, and it would be disingenuous to price in the full cost of brass, we’re just going to ignore it here.
So, we get a final cost of 17.9 cents per round when we account for the components. But wait! We need to account for shipping, and with hazmat fees, shipping adds up quick. We’ll price it out if we were buying enough components for 2,000 rounds from Midsouth to my hometown of Tucson, AZ.
Unfortunately, I can’t currently add in the powder and primers as they are on backorder (a common problem recently) so those will be estimated into the shipping cost. We get a shipping price of $35.70 plus $2.70 insurance for just the bullets. We’ll add in 25% for the primers and powder, as they are light but bulky. This gives us $48, plus $35 for hazmat costs, or $83 (estimated) for total shipping.
This brings our total cost per round to 26.2 cents. We’ll compare that to Wal-Mart’s price of Federal ammo of 51.5 cents a round (not including sales tax), for a savings of 25.3 cents a round. Note: you can bring that price per round down significantly with certain things like cast lead bullets, cheaper primers, buying in bulk etc. This is just a basic load I have built up that we’re using for our example.
Now let’s look at what we’ll need for our basic reloading setup and the cost (prices subject to change as article ages):
- Lee Reloader Single Stage Press – 27.07
- Lee 3 die carbide set – 29.06
- Lee Perfect Powder Measure – 20.98
- Lee Safety Powder Scale – 24.38
- Hornady Reloading Manual – 28.34
- Hornady Digital Calipers – 22.85
- Lyman Max Cartridge Gauge – 13.76
- Lee Ergo Prime Priming Tool – 33.21
- Lyman Universal Reloading Tray – 5.32
- Midsouth Tumbler Kit – 72.93
- Estimated Shipping – 25.02
Total – $302.92
Now if you know or have done any research regarding reloading tools, you’ll see that I really went barebones with this, especially on the actual press (I had no idea you could pick up a single stage press for under $90 before researching it for this article). Also, I discovered the Midsouth Tumbler Kit, which is a really great value at around $73.
If you start reloading rifle cartridges there’s going to be some more equipment you’ll need to acquire, such as a case trimmer and possibly even an annealing machine for heavier rifle cartridges. Also, since we’re running a Carbide die set for our .45 ACP, I didn’t include any case lube, as it’s not necessary when running carbide dies for a straight-walled pistol cartridge. However, even when it’s not necessary, case lube will make resizing your brass much easier.
So our cost is $302.92 in equipment. (Equipment Cost/Savings per round $302.92/$.253= 1,197.31.) Since we’re saving 25.3 cents a round, our break-even point will be: 1,198 rounds of .45 ACP.
So at just under 1,200 rounds, you’re now saving money, which really isn’t bad. Keep in mind: if you go with the equipment listed here, you’ll be running a single stage press. On average you’ll be able to make about 50 rounds an hour. So you’ll be looking at about 24 hours labor (not including doing your research/reading/setting up/developing test loads) to make those 1,200 rounds.
Now that we know the equipment cost and the point at which you’ll start saving money, the question you’ll want to ask yourself is whether or not you really want to start reloading. Like working on cars, it’s a fun hobby to some and a total pain in the neck to others. My recommendation is to find someone who currently reloads that’ll let you run his/her press for a time, and see if it’s something you’ll want to pursue. If it fits your taste and budget, then pull the trigger!
Andrew Scott is the Founder and CEO of A&A Ammunition, an ammunition manufacturing and sales company located in Tucson, AZ that specializes in reloading high quality training ammo. He is also a Veteran currently serving in the Arizona Air National Guard, and has previously worked in numerous industries ranging from food prep to stock trading. For more information visit A&A Ammunition’s website at www.TrainHardAmmo.com/blog