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Reloading

From time to time, people suggest that I get into reloading. I periodically look at it, and I just don’t see any advantage. Let me explain:

Cost of equipment

First, I would have to buy reloading equipment. In order to make bulk ammo, it doesn’t make sense to buy a single stage press. It would just take too long. So, progressive it is. A Dillon progressive in a decent configuration will coast about $700. There are other things that you need as well, but I won’t even list them. Suffice it to say that you are already looking at at least $800 before you load a single round.

Cost of ammo

Second, the cost of expendable supplies. Let’s say that you want to load the ammo I go through the most of (besides .22LR): the 9mm FMJ. Using the cost calculator here, and prices from Midway USA, here is what I get:
115 gr 9mm FMJ: $88 for 1,000
Brass I will even consider as free
1,000 pistol Primers for $51
1 pound of Blue Dot powder $24

This brings us to a cost of $170 for 1,000 rounds, or if you prefer, $8.50 for a 50 round box- and that is assuming that you don’t need to get brass. If you have to buy brass, you can add another $100 for that, and assuming that you use each case 10 times on average before it is lost or damaged, still increases your cost to $180 for 1,000 rounds- again also ignoring the costs of buying your reloading equipment.

When it is in stock, I can catch 9mm on sale for between $7 and $9 a box for either Federal FMJ or Winchester. (I don’t shoot that Tulammo or Bear junk) If I buy bulk pack from Georgia Arms, I can get 1,000 round cans of 115gr FMJ for $230 even now, with the shortage.

Time

Third, my time. How long does it take to reload 1,000 rounds? I will admit that I am not sure. It sure seems that standing in front of that press, pulling that handle for hours would get tedious. Tedium leads to carelessness, which leads me to my next point:

Risk

Four: Mistakes. A mistake when reloading can cost you a gun, a finger, an eye. There is always that consideration.

Alternative

Yes, right now ammo is expensive and hard to get. So are reloading supplies. Many places that I looked were out of powder, low on primers, and out of projectiles. Who cares? I buy large stocks when I can get it cheap. A case here, a case there on sale will cost you less in the long term, and isn’t more of an investment than all that reloading equipment.

I have, not counting .22LR, nearly 10,000 rounds here in the house. I could tell you exactly how much, but all of my records (including inventories) were lost in my recent data breach. I know that I have at least 2000 rounds of 9mm, 700 or so of .380, as well as .40S&W, .357Sig, .45ACP, and that is just pistol ammo. I have about 25 ammo cans full of every caliber that I own, except .38 spl and .357 magnum.

The only reason I had to buy that expensive .38 the other day is that I just didn’t keep that caliber around for range ammo because up until last week the only revolver I had was the J frame, and I don’t practice with it as much as the others. Now that I have another, that will change, but not until prices come down.

Conclusion:

Reloading can save money when ammo is expensive, but actually costs more under normal conditions. When factory ammo becomes scarce and expensive (as it does periodically) reloading supplies also tend to become scarce and expensive.

There is no real benefit to reloading for me. Your conditions may be different.

5 replies on “Reloading”

I've done a similar analysis.
The only caliber I have reloaded is .30-06. At the time I was shooting it frequently and I could reload for less than .40 a round when anything at all was over .80 a round.

I bought an inexpensive Lee single stage kit. Including dies, I have less than $200 in it. Since I haven't shot .30-06 much since then, I haven't recouped the cost. But now I know how to do it if I need to.

I am considering reloading .308 and 5.7×28 for specialty rounds that are either expensive or not often available, but I haven't started yet.

I am currently reloading 37mm bird banger shells, but that doesn't take equipment.

There are three types of reloading presses out there in common use.
1) Single Stage
2) Turret
3) Progressive

Lee offers a Turret press kit for $199 or so via Amazon. You need to add a set of dies for each caliber to that. $49 for just about any Lee die set. That's four dies, deprime/resize, through powder/flair, bullet seating, crimping.

For a single stage, it take putting a case into the press four times before you have a completed bullet. With lots of opportunity for error, but with a great ability to verify each step.

A turret press allows you to setup four dies all at once, then with each operation of the lever, one stage is done. So load the case, up to resize and remove the spent primer, down to insert a new primer, up and dispense powder, down and place bullet, up and seat bullet to depth, down and up to crimp, down to remove, ready to start again.

I, being slow at this do about 100 rounds per hour on my turret press.

With a progressive, once it is set, up and down once with the lever and a completed cartridge falls out, everything can be automated.

My cost per round of .45acp is around $0.40/round (factory range candy). $0.12 to $0.17 depending on the type of bullet I'm using. Everything from cast lead bullets, to purchased coated lead bullets, to purchased "self defense" bullets. That is the most expensive part.

Regardless, it is all cheaper than the prices I can get locally on .45acp.

For you, being able to pick up 50 rounds for $80 doesn't justify the cost of starting to reload.

The only other thing I can say in favor of reloading is that when all the ammo evaporated online, I still had 1000s of bullets, primers and pounds of powder. Cases waiting to be cleaned and reloaded. While the cost of factory ammo was going up, my reloading supplies were staying constant and I never got to the point where I couldn't buy reloading supplies, either local or online

"when all the ammo evaporated online, I still had 1000s of bullets, primers and pounds of powder. Cases waiting to be cleaned and reloaded. While the cost of factory ammo was going up, my reloading supplies were staying constant and I never got to the point where I couldn't buy reloading supplies, either local or online"

I normally keep at least 5,000 rounds of factory ammo (not counting 22Lr) in the house. I never run out, either.

I get that reloading is a good deal for some. It just isn't advantageous for me. The only way to make it cheaper is to shoot unjacketed lead, and that isn't good for 9mm.

To be very clear, I absolutely respect your decision and even agree with it. You are getting 9mm FMJ for $0.16/round That's a good price. I don't shoot uncoated lead except in my black powder/45Colt firearms. Even there, for the 45Colts I use a coated bullet.

There are sources for cast lead bullets with coatings at a cost about equal to uncoated. These are all sorts of options.

There are some calibers where I do keep a bunch of factory loads. On the other hand, when I was able to have weekly range time, I was going through 100-200 rounds of .45ACP per week. That's 4*20 or $40-$80/week of "Range Candy" verse $13-$26 with reloads. A huge difference.

For 45colt, it was the difference between $0.07/round and $1.00/round. It doesn't take much to make it clear that reloading is nearly a must in 45Colt

Again, to be bluntly clear, your math is not mine. I want you to have the information about Turret Presses as they are a good choice for where to start/go without investing in a Dillion 750.

My personal equipment outlay was: Press, dies, electronic scale, L.E. Wilson gauges for each caliber, Powder throw, On press priming system, Calipers, inertia bullet puller, multiple reloading manuals, small ball mill, steel needle media, food dehydrator. Some of that I had to begin with, but most was purchased as I got started. Oh, forgot, I custom built a reloading bench/station which allowed me to justify a Kreig Pocketing Jig system.

The kits will get you started, but you will spend a boat load before you are happy with your setup.

For me, reloading is a pleasant hobby and it saves me money on 45Colt and 30-06. It keeps my costs for range time under control.

If you decide you want to reload, I think you'll have fun. If you don't reload, I'm sure you will have fun at the range anyway.

In the mean time, be safe, say "thank you" to your son for all he did for the ungrateful of NYC. I wish him safe travels home.

I know that we are having a friendly conversation about guns. That is why I love shooting, it is something that people can enjoy without slinging poop at each other. That seems to be rare these days.

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