Why It Pays to Reload
In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to buy certain caliber ammo and we’ve witnessed prices increase. With this happening, I have seen an unprecedented amount of people take up the hobby of reloading to curb those ammunition costs. Yet I still have customers ask me, “Are you really saving any money when you reload?” with skepticism in their voices. I’ll show you why in most all cases, you are going to be making cheaper ammo and better ammo for your firearms when you reload it yourself!
To start off reloading, you’re going to need some equipment; the proper tools for the job. A lot of people will sometimes get a reloading press handed down to them, acquire tools from garage sales, friends, or buy everything brand new in our store. The initial start up cost can fluctuate greatly depending on where you get everything. If you want to ensure everything is in good working order (not knowing the previous owner or how they treated their equipment) the best route can be buying brand new. If you want to get started off with an RCBS reloading kit, you can get essentially everything you need for $250.00 with their Mail-In Rebate. Or in a similar brand you can get Hornady for $300.00 and receive 500 FREE Bullets to get you on your way. In either scenario, it’s a great deal! These kits will include close to everything you’ll need to begin reloading aside from your die sets and components (brass, powder, bullet and primer). Handgun die sets will cost typically around $50.00 and your rifle die sets usually $30.00 or so. So your initial costs for tools can be expected to be in the $300.00 or higher range. Now let’s talk ammo cost which is why we reload.
When people start crunching the numbers of whether reloading is going to be cost effective or not, they’re figuring out the costs of their components. For this article, I’ll outline the costs of making ammo for some of the most common calibers or commonly reloaded: .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .223 Rem, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Win. When most people calculate their costs, they will count their brass cost as negligible, or none. The reason why is because once people acquire their brass, whether it’s picked up for free at a local range or they just shot boxed ammunition, is it can be reloaded between 10-14 times before the brass will crack or become unsafe to continue to reload. The life of brass can vary depending on a lot of different factors: wall thickness of the brass varying by brand, the pressures to which it is continually reloaded, and/or the manner in which its handled and cared for.
The 2nd component to count into your cost is your primers. We sell a lot of CCI primers here at The Guns and Gear Store because of their reliable ignition, consistency, and affordable price. You can buy a brick for of 1,000 primers for $39.99 which means each primer that goes into your reloading costs $0.04 per round.
Powder is another component that can go a long ways. In a normal 1 Lbs. bottle of powder there is 7,000 Grains of powder. So if you’re reloading something small like .380 ACP you can get 2,800 reloads per bottle! When you get into rifle calibers the amount of reloads you can achieve is significantly less, but that’s to be expected because of the amount of powder you use. Two of the most requested powders we see at The Guns and Gear Store are Hodgdon Titegroup for handgun calibers and Hodgdon Varget for rifle calibers. Titegroup is popular among pistol reloaders because of its low charge volume needed to reload which gets you more reloads! Varget is very popular for rifle shooters because of its extreme versatility, accuracy, and ability to not be affected by temperature extremes. For Minnesotans, this is extremely important because we could be prairie dog hunting in 90 degree heat in the summer and coyote hunting when its -40 outside in the winter. As you can see below, this would be the price breakdown and expected amount of reloads per 1 Lbs. bottle of powder.
The final component you’ll need to finish off your ammo is your bullet. For my reloading example, I used Hornady Action Pistol (HAP) bullets and Speer Total Metal Jacket (TMJ) for the handgun calibers. For the rifle calibers, I used Hornady Soft-Point (SP), A-Max, and Boat-Tail Hollow-Point (BTHP) bullets. All of these bullets are jacketed, or have no exposed lead, so they will shoot cleaner and more accurately than other more economical choices. These bullets are a great starting point for any new reloader, but if you want to purely make economical ammo, then cheaper bullets can be chosen; conversely, if you’re trying to make match or premium ammo, more money can be spent to achieve that greater quality ammo as well. The price breakdown for your typical bullets is given below.
Now that we’ve got our components all priced out, here is how much money you are actually spending when you make a box of 50 rounds for your handgun or a box of 20 rounds for your rifle. For some calibers, you don’t save as much as you’d expect, like 9mm and .223 Rem. This is why if you’re making “plinking” ammo it may not be a fruitful endeavor, but if you’re making premium ammo it can still be cost effective. In all of the other calibers, you’re making tailored ammo for about half the price of boxed ammo! Now that’s saving money!
Here’s a better representation of the savings you can get when you reload for your favorite handgun calibers.
Your savings tend to be even higher when it comes to rifle ammunition, and you’re producing better ammo than what you can traditionally buy off of store shelves.
So returning back to our original question, does it pay to reload?…