Cost savings of factory vs. reloaded ammunition


The SurvivalBlog have published a blog post detailing the cost savings of hand loaded vs. factory ammunition based on the ammunition and component prices as of this month.

Aside from price, reloading also allows you produce better quality ammunition and tune the load for accuracy in your particular gun.

Thanks to Solomon for sending me the link

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Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • D.Corriveau

    Interesting piece…but I am disappointed that he does not include any cost for brass. Obviously, we are reloading our used brass, but it is still a consumable with limited life span and since brass is the most expensive component it would be interesting to see what its inclusion would do to his analysis.

  • Mu

    I think this is pretty much “worst case” scenario, using inexpensive factory loads for comparison. Move up to a 338 lapua instead of the 308, and it looks much better.

  • Matt Groom

    Interesting, but using the average cost of factory components really doesn’t tell you how much you actually save. I cast my own bullets, it took me a long time to get around to doing it, but I do now. I computed the cost of reloading my favorite all-around shooting caliber, .38 Special, as costing $0.04 per round, or $40 per THOUSAND. I cannot shoot .22LR for less money than I can shoot .38 Special +P if I tried, and it’s super-accurate to boot. This, of course, does not include the cost of reloading and bullet casting equipment, most of which was purchased used, and has been paid for many times over.

    One reason I shoot revolvers so much is that I don’t have to chase brass, and I have to make a conscious effort to throw out revolver brass, which I don’t do. I had a bucket full of Winchester .38 Special just a couple of years after I bought my first revolver ever, a S&W .38-44 Heavy Duty, pre-model 20. I had been shooting my Kimber Custom for about 5 years at that point, and I had about half as much brass after making a conscious effort to collect my fired brass. Once fired brass = free. Cast bullet lead = free (when you can find it). Electricity and natural gas to cast bullets = to low to estimate. Primers and powder are the price I pay, which is four cents.

  • http://leisureguy.wordpress.com Leisureguy

    You not only save money, you can juice up the loads and blow apart your weapon, as you illustrated recently.

  • Spaker

    I got into reloading pistol rounds specifically to save money so I use cheaper bullets. By using plated or lead bullets, I save about $7 per 100 rounds versus the Wal-Mart price. A guy on a forum once sent me an excel worksheet where you plug in your component costs (including shipping) and it figures the per round cost for you. Very handy.

    Of course, the primer shortage means I’m back to buying factory ammo (when I’m lucky). His comment “if factory-loaded ammunition becomes increasingly difficult to find, or if its price continues to increase, then a person might want to consider the reloading option as a viable alternative” implies that we’ll even be able to find components… not an assumption I’d make.

    • http://Spaker Mr. Wizard

      I would like to get a copy of the Excel work sheet that you have and I’ll bet there are a lot of other reloaders who would. Thanks, Mr. Wizard

      • Chris

        To Mr.Wizard

        I am new at this reloading ammo thing. I would like a copy of that excel worksheet that you have if that is ok with you.

        Thank You

  • Monty

    What happens if you factor in the value of your time, and the time value of the money you invest in reloading equipment?

  • http://oswaldbastable.blogspot.com/ Oswald Bastable

    It costs me as much to reload as factory ammo costs in the US.

    But you should see the price of factory ammo here!

  • Carl

    “What happens if you factor in the value of your time, and the time value of the money you invest in reloading equipment?”

    Exactly. Handloading FAIL, I suspect.

  • http://oswaldbastable.blogspot.com/ Oswald Bastable

    Let’s see:

    I can load 200 rounds/hour.

    $176 for 200 rounds of the cheapest .357 factory ammo.

    Components of 200 rounds of 357

    Primers- $14
    Projectiles- $24
    Powder- $10

    Sub total- $48

    Depreciation of 10% on cases (assuming 10 reloads)
    $10

    Labour at my work rate
    $23

    Total- $81

    So I’m ahead $ 95, less a bit to amortize my reloading gear.

    I get through about 5000 rounds a year, so that would be $2375 a year I save. (although the reality is it just means I get to shoot more)

  • amos

    The one benefit that reloading confers is independence from ammunition sellers. Nobody gets to decide if I can shoot next week but me.

    I think that is worth something, right there.

    Factor in the fact that I bought a few thousand bullets and primers a few years ago, and I still haven’t used them up, and my costs are way less than today’s prices. It’s just money in the bank. (as a matter of fact, I have done better on reloading supplies than the stock market has done. Hooray for planning ahead!)

    I did a spreadsheet analysis of reloading costs too, and I figured that (in those days) it was cheaper to buy in bulk than to reload. The only problem with bulk ammo is if it doesn’t work well in your gun, you are stuck with a lot of it to shoot or trade.

    Handgun ammo reloading costs worked out better than rifle, for some reason.

    As to my time, well, that is one reason I got a progressive press – I didn’t have time to pull the handle four or five times per round anymore. Assuming the brass is in good shape, I can reload 500-600 rounds per hour, and that is at my own leisurely pace. At today’s costs, my time is paying me somewhere around $200 per hour – not bad wages for something I do instead of watching TV.

    Equipment costs are significant – but you don’t need to get everything all at once – in fact I think you are better off learning on a single stage press – less chance to screw up dozens of rounds, and you learn exactly what is going on during each step of the process.

    A Lee press, dies, scoops and so forth are around $100, and that is enough to get started. If you want something more sturdy, a rockchucker will last through several lifetimes, so keep your eye on the used market. If I had it to do over again, I might choose a Hornady progressive over the Dillon – it’s cheaper, and I suspect it holds closer tolerances.

    As to juicing up loads and blowing up your weapon, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” If you can’t do meticulous careful work, then don’t reload. If you are just nervous, reload for a Ruger Blackhawk, a 98 mauser, or some other indestructible gun at first. Those guns are legendary for strength, and even if they fail, the shooter generally is OK. (The poor bastards in the next lane might catch some shrapnel, but the dopey reloader almost always lives.)

  • Dom

    Notice that the higher the brass content, the more the savings. That is obvious in hindsight but having some math like this helps prove the point. Another thing to remember is that handloading for rifle is also about precision. I think this is more true with rifles than anything else. Fine-tuning your OAL to get a short jump helps get nice concentric seating and aids accuracy! So this, to me, really only helps talk us out of loading for bulk ammo. And even that varies so much as to limit the value of a report like this.

  • http://oswaldbastable.blogspot.com/ Oswald Bastable

    :…As to juicing up loads and blowing up your weapon, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” If you can’t do meticulous careful work, then don’t reload…”

    Damned good advice to anyone considerng reloading!

  • Matt Groom

    @ Leisureguy:

    You could also shoot yourself in the foot if you aren’t careful. Firearms and firearms components are inherently dangerous, and one must exercise caution and pay attention to their handling at all times. There are rules for safe gun handling, and there are rules for safe reloading. Failure to observe these rules has consequences.

    @ Monty:

    I don’t reload because it’s a chore which saves me money, like mowing my own lawn vs. paying somebody to do it. I reload because I enjoy it. I like casting bullets, sizing them to different diameters, working up reloads, and then shooting them in order to find optimum accuracy. The whole process is very zen and since I gave up watching TV years ago, I never find that I am at a loss for time to do things I find worthwhile anymore. It’s the journey, not the destination.

    I don’t include the value of the bullet casting and reloading equipment just like I don’t include the price of the firearms I intend to shoot, or the range fees and club fees of the places I shoot, or the price of periodicals I read on the subject, because that’s the price of enjoyment.

    Amos’ point about how reloaders are nearly independent of the demands of the market and the availability of certain calibers based on popularity is absolutely true. I bought 10,000 small pistol primers a couple of years back because there was a mandatory $25 hazmat fee for shipping primers. I figured if the fee was the same for 1-70 lbs., it might as well be as close to 70 pounds as I could afford. Everyone has had trouble finding certain kinds of ammo since the “November Rush”, but I haven’t. I’ve still got nearly 4000 primers left.

  • jdun1911

    From my own experience. With the exceptions of being rich, being sponsored, or own/work in a firearm training school; the people that reload shoot much.

    The vast majority of firearm owners including cops does not shoot more then a couple of hundred round a year. People that reload tends to shoot thousands rounds a year, go to the range more often, and are better shooters.

    The cost saving is tremendous if you shot in the tens of thousands. The money you save can buy multiply of firearms.

  • Bolter

    “This clearly illustrates that a person would need to reload a lot of ammunition in order to break even on his or her investment of $330 in reloading equipment that includes one set of reloading dies. Therefore, the average person would probably be better advised to invest in new factory-loaded ammunition if he or she can still find it available for sale.”

    - Quote from the linked article.

    Like buying a Prius to save on gas, for most people reloading does not make sense. For those of you who have the time, the patience, and shoot a ton, it can make sense.

  • Cliff

    Oswald Bastable, I just looked over the post with your calculations, and something seems badly amiss, unless I’m just misundertanding…you base your calculations on “$176 for 200 rounds of the cheapest .357 factory ammo.” But that number doesn’t seem at all right! That would be $44 per box of 50, which seems outlandish, especially for “cheapest .357 factory ammo”!!

    I just checked Cabela’s web site, who is hardly the cheapest supplier, and they are selling 50 rounds of Magtech .357 for $22.99 a box. So that would make 200 rounds of it cost $91.96, as opposed to the $176 minimum you claimed.

    Therefore, that would mean you save about $11 dollars reloading 200 rounds of ammo, rather than $95 you claimed, or a savings of less than $3 dollars per box of 50 rounds.

    Now, that might still be significant, depending on how much you shoot…but it doesn’t appear to be quite the number you stated. Do I have something wrong here?

  • Spiff

    There are 2 types of reloaders – Those who have blown up weapons and those who are going to!
    Spiff

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Spiff, LOL, that is a good one.

  • http://www.jscustombullets.com Jim

    I can reload my 9mm for about half to 3/4 cheaper depending on whether I reload cast or not.

  • Chetster

    Isn’t there a point missing in all this? What about a possible time in the future you want to buy factory and CAN’T.

  • francis

    i would think reloading is more for those who shoot alot, long range shooters, and peole wth expencive ammo. reloading 20 .338 win mag is prob. cheaper thn buying a box of it. its $45 where i live. dunno just a thought.