How Much Money Can You Save By Reloading?

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Video is reloading cheaper than buying

*Guest post by Jason from TrendyTactical.com

Reloading rifle and pistol ammunition is rapidly becoming more popular as the Internet spreads the methods and strategies involved with reloading your own ammunition around to more gunsmith hobbyists. This is a great thing; we can always use more reloaders pooling their knowledge and inventory. But even though reloading is often touted as a way to save money in the long term for frequent firearm users, how much money can you actually save?

There are even some people who contest the idea that reloading saves you money at all. In their mind, reloading isn’t actually cheaper than purchasing your ammunition because of things like startup costs and ongoing costs once you get into the reloading process.

Let’s take a deep dive into reloading and figure out whether this hobby can save you a few bucks over the long haul or if it’s better to reload for other reasons.

How Much Money Can You Save By Reloading? .223 remington

First Costs of Reloading – Start-Up

A lot of first time reloaders think that the only startup costs still have to consider are the prices for recurring supplies like gunpowder, bullets and the initial brass cases. Then they can begin practicing their own reloading techniques.

However, every reloading workshop relies on a comprehensive reloading kit. Even cheaper reloading kits can run you over $100 when you consider all the moving pieces involved and all the tools you need to complete the process from start to finish. Reloading, after all, isn’t just refilling old pistol or rifle cases with gunpowder.

A full reloading kit will include primers, powder, bullets, brass cases, shell holders, reloading dies, and finally a reloading bench. Each of these components is necessary and you can’t skimp on the quality for any of them unless you want to produce subpar ammunition that has the real risk of blowing up in your face.

Let’s break down all these components one by one.

Reloading Press

A reloading press is a machine that allows you to load powder into casings and seal in the primer, as well as holding bullets and keeping things steady. Other presses may have additional tools, like crimpers. Dies are what you use to shape and crimp your cases and make sure they’re the correct dimensions for your rifle and the powder you are loading them with.

Consumable reloading components

The gunpowder, bullets and primers are self-explanatory

Reloading dies

Each different cartridge type that you reload requires it’s own reloading dies that are made specifically for that cartridge. So, if you want to reload .223 Remington, 9mm and .45 ACP, then you will need three sets of reloading dies. One for each cartridge type.

Reloading trays

Reloading trays are the only potentially optional aspect of the entire ensemble. They are technically not necessary since all they do is hold the empty cases in an easy to reach orientation while they are in various stages of the reloading process. Still, we wouldn’t recommend going without them because loading lots of shells at once is a lot easier if you have a dedicated holder within arm’s reach.

Total reloading equipment costs

When it’s all put together, you’re probably looking at at least a few hundred dollars if you want something high-quality and with all the tools and gadgets you may need for your specific ammunition type or rifle build. Because reloading kits can range anywhere from $100-$2500, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you pick up a budget kit for $300.

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So, right off the bat, reloading cost you $300 in terms of startup costs. Then you have to add in the cost for any caliber specific dies, brass cases,gunpowder, bullets and primers. Let’s tack on another $150 for all that. That brings our initial total to $450 on average for just the start-up costs.

Of course, you can lower this number by getting cheaper equipment or buying a used reloading press. Still, this is a good general estimate of what you’ll spend to get your ammo reloading process up and running.

How Much Money Can You Save By Reloading? reloading bench

Reloaded ammo vs factory ammo cost

But if we compare this $450 initial total to the costs for new factory loaded ammunition, it seems that reloading actually is cheaper. The cost of ammunition can vary dramatically, as you well know. A 50 count box of 44 Magnum bullets will cost around $40 depending on where you find them. Let’s say you go through 100 Magnum bullets every week. It’ll only take you a few months to recoup your investment costs.

However, other types of ammunition may not be nearly as expensive. This means that ammunition reloading becomes more cost-effective as the price for retail ammunition goes up.

Brass Costs

Don’t forget that, even though you are reloading, you’ll still eventually need to purchase new brass cases. This element isn’t often brought up in reloading guides or manuals because the reloading process ostensibly reuses spent brass casings over and over. But even the best bullet press and the most skilled reloader will eventually wear brass casings out and have to throw them away. That means you’ll need to purchase new brass casings, which adds an additional long-term cost to your reloading operation. You can get brass for a few dollars a pound depending on whether you have a scrapyard nearby or if you find a recycling program. You can also buy new shells over time and phase out your old and worn down brass with new brass every so often.

Furthermore, you can extend the life span of your brass by preventing it from tarnishing and storing it in cool and dry places and in airtight containers. Brass actually lasts for quite a long time if you store it appropriately. Preventing it from tarnishing will increase its structural integrity and allow you to use your cases more times before they eventually wear down to the point of throwing them out.

Other Recurring Reloading Costs

Then there are other recurring costs of purchasing your own gunpowder, bullets and primers.

Gunpowder

Powder typically sells for around $25 per pound depending on the type, and plenty other powder varieties can go upwards of $50 per pound.

Primers

A 1000 box of primers can easily cost you upwards of $30, with pistol primers being cheaper and rifle sized primers being more expensive.

Bullets

Bullet costs vary considerably from cheap lead slugs up to precision machined hunting or match bullets. At the high end, just the projectile itself for 50 BMG rounds are close to $50 for a box of 20. While at the low end you can get bulk Hornady 9mm FMJ projectiles for about $320 per 3000.

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Again, these recurring operating costs may be higher or lower depending on how much ammunition you reload each month, but many of the busiest reloaders can easily end up spending more on their reloading process than they did with store-bought ammunition.

Higher Overall Costs

There is a particular habit that many reloaders get into which raises their overall operating costs and which often takes beginners by surprise. It almost happens by accident.

It works like this: you start reloading your own ammunition and have a surplus of rifle-ready rounds on hand. So, you head to the target range and start shooting more often. This means you expel more brass and need to fill even more ammunition than you were using before. Sooner than you think, your firing twice as many rounds as you were before you started reloading, which makes your monthly reloading components bill double. Ouch!

That being said, this isn’t necessarily the fault of reloading your own ammunition. We all tend to get a little excited when we find a surplus of rounds just begging to be fired. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on how many rounds you fire before you start reloading your ammunition. Then you can compare the two after you begin reloading in earnest. This way, you can hopefully keep track of your expenses and avoid surprising yourself when you rack up a $1000 reloading powder bill.

Savings in the Long Run

Even with more expensive cartridges and powder types, you’ll likely save money reloading in the long run. As long as you don’t fire exponentially more rounds once you start reloading compared to when you bought retail ammunition. It’s just like any other hobby you do at home or in your workshop. The more time you spend reloading your ammunition, the more money you save. If you only save a few dollars for the first week, it’s no big deal. But if you save a few dollars every week, it’ll only take you a few months to recoup the initial investment cost of the reloading press and the associated materials.

Then consider how much you’ll save over several years of consistently reloading your ammunition. It can easily add up to hundreds of dollars in the long term.

When considering the other advantages of reloading your ammo, it’s clear that reloading really is a viable option for many hobbyist gun owners.

What About Cheap Ammo?

9mm ammo is often among the cheapest you can buy from retail stores and in bulk online. As such, they serve as a good litmus test for the actual savings you’ll get from reloading.

Reloading a 9 mm round will cost about $.15 if you combine the cost for the bullets themselves, the primer, and the powder – go with Titegroup for this example, and 4.7 grains per bullet. In other words, you can reload about 50 x 9 mm rounds for eight dollars or so with a little variation of a few cents either way.

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However, you can often buy bulk boxes of 9 mm ammo for around 1000 for $160 or so. This ends up costing about $.16 per round to buy the bullets at retail, and it didn’t cost you any more time than it did to click a mouse once or twice on a webpage.

As you can see, the savings here aren’t very high. This illustrates the ironic nature of the reloading endeavor; the cheaper the ammunition you are reloading is, the fewer savings you’ll get in the long run and especially in the short term.

Still, reloading cheap ammunition does have its advantages. Cheap ammunition often isn’t made with the most care or detail, and everyone knows that cheap ammunition is made to work with a variety of firearms. You’ll be able to personalize your 9 mm ammunition or any other type of bullet to work better with your unique rifle or pistol build.

Basically, you’ll be able to rely on a more consistent shot pattern and discharge result with your own ammunition even if you don’t save lots of money overall. This might be enough to overcome the lack of savings.

How Much Money Can You Save By Reloading? bulk ammo

How Much Can You Save Per Bullet Type?

This heavily depends on where you purchased retail ammunition and other factors like the type of bullets, powder and primer you use, along with whether you already have a reloading press on hand.

Still, you can estimate your long-term costs based on your favorite ammunition types. We’ve provided a handy estimate chart below, with costs based on retail-average prices:

Caliber 50 Rounds Retail 50 Rounds Reloaded Savings % .40 S&W $22 $9.35 57.5% .44 Magnum $35 $14.97 57.2% .45 ACP $28 $10.73 61.7% .38 Super $22 $8.23 62.6%

Other Reasons to Reload

Saving money also isn’t the only reason you should reload your ammunition.

Improved accuracy

Reloading your own ammunition can also lead to increased accuracy. Because commercial ammunition is made in large-scale quantities, they adhere to very specific safety standards and work with a wide variety of firearms. This means they are typically loaded with powders that are specially chosen for a particular firearm or build type. You can reload your ammunition by testing out different powder types and amounts and find something that works to much better effect.

More rounds = more practice

You’ll also be able to fire more often because you’ll be able to afford more rounds overall for the same overall budget once you recoup your initial operating costs. As soon as you save enough money to make back the initial expenses of buying a reloading kit and all the assorted components, you can then look at what your budget was when you bought retail ammunition and compare it to your current operating budget.

If you have any excess, spend it on more brass casings and more powder and go to town!

You can save money reloading so long as you balance how many cartridges you shoot and if you tend to fire ammunition that isn’t dirt cheap.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>