Reloading: Show me the money!

Unfortunately it will likely take a fair amount of reloading to save enough for a wad of bills like the one shown in the picture above. Unless of course that Franklin is just wrapped around a bunch of Washingtons! Reloading to save money is an interesting topic. To begin with, one must reload enough just to break even on the purchased equipment needed to start reloading. Reloading isn’t necessarily expensive to get started in but it certainly has its cost. And if you want to reload in bulk and in a time efficient manner its going to cost more money for more complicated equipment. Which brings me to my second point: how much is your time worth? My time is worth a lot. And I can say with confidence that it will be a long while before I recoup my reloading investments in regards to time. If I add up how much time I have invested in research, set-up, troubleshooting and of course the time actually reloading ammo, it could be a very long time before I see a return on investment.

Fortunately I’m okay with that. I started reloading my own ammo primarily because I found the process interesting and thought it would be a rewarding endeavor. Which it is. For me anyway. I know others find it boring and tedious. I however will never feel like I need to recoup my time invested because it was (and is) time happily invested in a hobby I enjoy and wish to pursue for the act itself as well as the finished product.

ammo-reloadingSo how much money can you save reloading your own ammunition? Well that depends. It depends on which type of ammo you reload, whether you reuse your old brass or buy new, how accessible and affordable reloading components are in your area, and how much you shoot. Generally speaking the more expensive a type of round is commercially the more potential saving there is to be had reloading your own. Some of the best savings come from loading precision rifle rounds. Commercial precision rounds can cost anywhere from seventy-five cents a round to 2 or 3 dollars each. There is a huge potential for savings when reloading this type of ammo. Of course, reloading this type of ammunition is also the most time intensive type of reloading as well. Reusing your old brass can make a huge difference. I wouldn’t save any money if I bought new brass to reload 9mm ammo. It would be more expensive in fact. Substantially so. Conversely, I can buy new brass to reload some of my precision rifle rounds and still save a significant amount of money per round. The cost of components is obviously a huge factor. Bullets, powder and primers can vary significantly in cost and availability. Can you avoid expensive shipping cost or hazmat fees by buying locally? Can you buy in bulk and save even more? How much you shoot can also have an impact of potential savings for obvious reasons. The more you shoot the more you save in total. Of course, once again time must be considered.

Below I will give a breakdown on the three types of ammo I reload the most and how they compare to commercially purchased ammunition:

.223 – Rifle Plinking & Training Reloads Wolf Gold 55g FMJ (Commercial)
Per 500 Per 500
Brass – Wolf Gold (used) Free
Bullet – Hornady 55g FMJ $52.99
Powder – Hodgdon H335 $36.00
Primer – CCI Small Rifle #400 $16.50
$105.49 (subtotal) $150.00 (approximate; not including shipping)
Cost Per Round $ .21/round $ .30/round

This is currently my most time intensive reloaded round. Primarily due to the need to trim the cases back to a correct length as well as the need to remove the primer crimp on this military style cartridge. I also reload .223 on a single stage press which necessitates changing dies for each operation and slows down the process significantly. As you can see though, the savings can be substantial. Nearly a third less. I suspect unfortunately that this savings is completely negated by the time invested. Again, for me that is less of a consideration. For others, it may make all the difference in the world.

9mm – Plinking & Training Reloads Fiocchi 115g FMJ
Per 500 Per 500
Brass – Mixed (Fiocchi, Blazer, Winchester) Free
Bullet – Berry’s 124g RN $45.00
Powder – Winchester AutoComp $10.00
Primer – Winchester WXP $21.00
$76 (subtotal) $107.00 (appoximate; not including shipping)
Cost Per Round $ .15/round $ .21/round

I shoot more 9mm than any other round and reloading it is a no-brainer. As you can see there is a decent savings involved and unlike the somewhat tedious process of loading .223 ammunition, I can load 9mm very quickly. Several hundred rounds an hour. Now that I have a progressive press like the Lee Load Master setup, the time factor is almost trivial in comparison to .223. Even though I save less on each reloaded round this is likely where I save the most money just due to the amount of 9mm rounds I shoot and the ease of which I can reload them.

.223 – Rifle Precision Shooting
Reloads Federal Premium Gold Medal 69g Sierra MatchKing HPBT
Per 500 Per 500
Brass – Lapua (new) $80.99
Bullet – Hornady 68g Match HPBT $63.99
Powder – Hodgdon H332 $46.50
Primer – CCI Small Rifle #400 $16.50
$207.98 (subtotal) $602.48 (appoximate; not including shipping)
Cost Per Round $ .42/round $ 1.20/round

Finally we have a precision rifle round in .223. As you can see these rounds are quite a bit less expensive than commercially purchased precision rifle rounds. Furthermore, this is with purchased new brass. High quality brass. This has the added benefit of eliminating the need to trim the brass and swagger the primer pockets. Of course, trimming may be needed when this brass is reloaded subsequent times. Some may question the quality of precision reloads in comparison to the best commercial rounds available but most precision shooters reload for a reason. Those shooters know that particular rifles like particular loads and configurations for best performance. Limiting yourself to only commercial ammo can potentially limit a shooter and their rifle tremendously.

Keep in mind that the cost of reloading can vary even more than what is presented here. There are less expensive bullets out there and in some cases it may be possible and practical to manufacture your own. The cost of powders and primers can fluctuate and buying in bulk can make a big difference. I am fairly certain that a couple of the components listed above were bought on sale. The other consideration is buying cheaper commercial ammunition including other reloaded or re-manufactured ammunition. Steel cased ammo is a very practical option for many people. However, steel cased ammo is not for everyone or for every firearm and can’t be reloaded. It is a very inexpensive option though and should be considered if you have no intention to reload. Especially if its purpose is just for plinking and training.  At the time of writing this article, steel cased .223 can be found commercially for as little at $.22/round and steel cased surplus 9mm for as little as 16 or 17 cents a round.  I tried in this article to compare my reloads to comparable commercial ammunition.

So, can you save money reloading? The answer is yes. How much? It depends. Reloading takes patience, care and diligence. I highly recommend any avid shoot consider it but it does require a level of commitment that I’m not sure will be satisfied with money saved.



Categories: Reloading

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