Reloading: Saving Money or Not?

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin   

*Please note I have corrected the miscalculation on the primer cost on the updated version below. 

There is no getting around the fact that shooting is an expensive sport if you do enough of it. As a handloader, my drive to start was to save money while shooting something no longer offered in factory ammo. This raised the question, how much money am I really saving? We can go through this on an individual round count basis.

All of these prices were taken from a single, reputable mail order distributor and were calculated from their non-sale prices to keep everything on a level playing field. To remain on that level playing field, let’s not worry about sales tax or shipping costs and enjoy the fact that this reloading equipment was an inheritance (mine wasn’t but oh well). Our base line is a 308 Winchester cartridge loaded with Sierra’s #2145 165gr SBT GameKing® and factory ammo is listed at $32.79 for 20 rounds. Since reloading components usually run on a 100 count standard, let’s multiply that number by 5 to get $163.95 for 100 rounds (or $1.64 per round). So by using this $1.64 per round standard, can we shoot the same thing for less money by reloading? Let’s find out.

The same distributor sells reloading components but we will need to take into account certain facts like powder is sold by the pound so we will need to convert the cost. A pound translates to 7,000 grains so if your firearm likes 40 grains of brand X to propel this bullet, 100 rounds would take 4,000 grains to fill them. If the price of powder was $26.99 per pound, then 4,000 grains of it would cost $15.42 or so for 100 rounds.  Bullets were priced at $31.99 and match primers were priced at $4 per hundred. This only leaves the brass to price and by using the same brand as in the factory ammo, they were listed at $25.49 per 50 so $50.98 per 100 count. Let’s add them up to get $102.39 per 100 rounds or $1.02 or so per round. Compared to the factory round price, we’ve saved $61.56 or $0.62 a round.

 

Here is the next thing we need to take into account and that is we can reload the brass more than one time. Let’s figure that we can reload this brass 5 times and calculate for a 500 round count. Our cost of factory ammo went up to $819.75 and even though that is a lot of hunting rounds, it wouldn’t be out of line to have purchased them through a lifetime of hunting. Our cost of reloading, on the other hand, was reduced by $50.98 per hundred rounds because we are reusing the same brass over and over again. This makes reloading the next 400 rounds total $205.64 or $51.41 per hundred so in addition to our original cost of $102.39, this would give us a $308.03 total for 500 rounds. I don’t know about you but I can use that $511.72 we just saved to invest in another 500 rounds. By the way, if we could reload the brass another 5 times, the cost of 500 rounds would only be $257.05 for a total of $565.08 for 1,000 rounds. Compared to the $1,639.50 we would have used for factory ammo, we would have saved enough ($1074.42 in total) to purchase another firearm.  If I really wanted to gain some brownie points, I would take my wife out in style and maybe still have enough left over for lunch tomorrow. Good luck making the right decision on that last part!

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24 Responses to Reloading: Saving Money or Not?

  1. Tore says:

    match primers were priced at $39.99 per hundred??
    Per thousands?

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  2. Guy Lefebvre says:

    In your article you have match primers listed at 31.99 per 100. Shouldn’t that read 31.99 per 1000?

    Sent from my iPhone

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  3. Guy Lefebvre says:

    Match primers 39.99 per 100 ?
    Should read 39.99 per 1000

    Sent from my iPhone

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  4. Kerry Lee Stottlemyer says:

    i look at it this way. I buy bullets by the half thousand, Powder in 8 lb kegs, Primers by the 10,000 case, shell casing in quantities of 200 or more. you spread that out and only buy what you need when you need it it’s not so bad. but sit down and do the match on how much a weekend of F class shooting costs, I pay $.65 perround if you discount the cost of brass all together, other wise I’m paying $1.34 first time out and $.65 thereafter. but I’m shooting close to 200 rounds a month so there’s $130 in ammo and $100 in range fees and target pullers, Fuel, lunch and everything else it adds up to a $300 a month habit And I don’t like to look at it that way..
    I just buy 500 SMK’s a quarter, 8 lbs of powder every six months and a case of match grade primers ever few years. Cases are good for one season maybe more. but then you look at it and it’s a $100 a month habit with an occasional $200 dropped.
    Now that all said it’s going to get real expensive when I start taking this habit on the road and shoot Coalinga CA, Phoenix AZ, and the desert classic at 29 palms… But i guess it’s better than wasting my money on Football or Golf

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  5. Mike Bailey says:

    Please note primers cost more like $.04 per round not $0.40. This make a large difference

    >

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  6. John Snell says:

    I was going to mention primers, but I see you’ve got a black eye already, so I’ll mention that if you anneal and only neck size your cases, the cost is near zero as you can reuse those cases hundreds of times. Oh, using a semi-automatic? Still annealing save a tremendous amount of case money, and provides better neck tension uniformity (hence down range accuracy). So yeah, reloading is way more cost effective.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. firstriverbend says:

    Well the jist of the article was in the right direction, even if some of the math failed.
    But when was the last time you at Sierra failed us?
    Great article overall!!
    I just long for the days when I was putting together .38/.357 for less than .22 LR! Yes casting your own bullets can do that. 🙂
    Keep up the good work, I for one am always thankful for the information and occasional chuckle!!

    Like

  8. Frank bliss says:

    LOL! JOhn Snell, I just would love to see a case go over 20 loadings let alone hundreds of times. Might be a slight mis statement. I loaded 1/4 million rounds last year. I anneal religiously and use top shelf brass. 15 loadings is a lot for a batch in my experience. Your mileage may differ. What am I doing wrong?

    Like

    • firstriverbend says:

      I have had light revolvers loads last for well over 15 loadings, possibly close to the hundred mark, but most of the time I lose the brass well before it is worn out. 😦
      As for rifle, if I get a few, then it is good, any auto-loader, well seems they find ways of going to brass heaven after awhile!!
      So I don’t think 15 reloads is out of touch, but 1/4 million reloads per year?? That is a lot of reloads, bullets, powder, primers, firearms, etc… What is your secret for time to do that much reloading, let alone that much shooting???? 🙂

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      • mrjeswan says:

        Wow! you reload on average 685 rounds every single day of the year? Are you a commercial reloaded, or is tha hyperbole (or a miss statement)?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Joel says:

    One part of the calculation is missing. Time. What is your time worth? If you have it in abundance and lots of extra time sitting around, then it’s free. If you don’t have any free time – it will cost you more than any of the other components.

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    • firstriverbend says:

      Time is an invaluable commodity truly!! However, the satisfaction of reloading, producing loads which are not possible to buy is often beyond value!
      Everyone has free time, it is just what does a person use it for? That is the real question!
      What I have found over the years is if one does not have any time to reload, then how will they find the time to practice or shoot?

      Like

      • mrjeswan says:

        How will they find time to shoot? By buying their ammo instead of reloading. 🙂 The key is that we prioritize what.free.time we.have. Reloading comes down the list after family, work, house and car.maintenance, firearms training, etc.

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      • firstriverbend says:

        You really make the point! One finds time to do what they really want with their free time! Which makes the question you posed mute!
        If a person has time to shoot, they have time to reload. Really fairly simple isn’t it. 🙂
        So no part of the calculation is missing, just as your response to your question you posed states.

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  10. Dennis Curtin says:

    I’ve been reloading since 1986 and I agree it is a money saver, but you forgot to add in the near $1000.00 initial investment in reloading machine, dies, tools, calipers, etc etc…

    Liked by 1 person

    • firstriverbend says:

      Only $1000.00???? 🙂
      In all honesty, it is possible to start reloading for well under that mark, but once one gets the bug, it can be hard to stay under that mark! 🙂
      I started with a simple Lee Loader setup for less than $20.00 and still have my first one. It worked very well and served me for years before I could afford to purchase additional reloading presses, dies, tools, etc…
      With care they work extremely well and accurate hunting ammunition is very easy to produce with them.

      Like

  11. Mathew Lehnertz says:

    I bought my RBCS Press in 2003 from a ballistics technician that works for Federal Ammunition. When I bought his press and full reloading setup (his discount meant reloading no longer offered him cost savings), he told me some very true words.

    He said, “You THINK you are getting into reloading to save money. You will NOT. you will still spend the same money you would have on ammunition – but you will be shooting a LOT more with that money.” (Paraphrased)

    He was right. Not only did I NOT save any money – I shot my guns all the time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tone LOC says:

      That right there is the one thing I hear a lot from Long Time Reloaders. And after reloading for a few months, it is definitely worth it. You shoot twice as much, and with Match grade ammo better than factory as you are the QC.
      Definitely can’t put a price tag on the knowledge you gain by reloading, and also will make you a better shooter by understanding your load.
      I love chasing sub .5 moa and single digit ES and SD’s too. It’s fun and you do end loving and respecting the process.

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  12. Jerry Shaw says:

    There are a couple of things to take into account when you’re looking at handloading.
    Everyone seems to think mostly about the financial aspect. That’s fair and reasonable. Unless you’re going to do a lot of loading the per piece savings won’t offset the cost of equipment for quite a while. If you load lots of ammo, the gear eventually pays for itself. The more you shoot the faster the gear pays out.
    A more relevant argument for many of us is that if you shoot competitively you’re apt to want a particular flavor of ammunition to take advantage of your rifle’s construction. Many of us find that there’s some ammo recipe that we really like, but that is either not available commercially or is prohibitively expensive at retail. For example, my Palma guns really shine with a specific loading that I can’t buy over the counter. The closest commercial equivalent is awfully expensive. My handholds cost about a third of what the commercial loadings go for – after prorating the price of brass over the expected number of loadings. The same thing applies to the ammo I build for my service rifles.
    It takes a while to pay for everything. I’m not sure I would advise handloading for someone who just wants to build ammo for hunting. You would have to shoot an awful lot of whitetails to make the gear pay for itself if that’s the only thing you plan to do with your ammo.

    Liked by 1 person

    • firstriverbend says:

      Excellent points!
      While I first started with the idea of saving money over 40 years ago, reloading has really shined for me as a means of producing ammunition that is just not possible to purchase anywhere!
      The ability to make custom loads for a particular style of competition, game or just fun shooting, is where reloading really shines!!

      Like

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