Should I Start Reloading?

By Andrew Scott, A&A Ammunition, CEO

.45 ACP Bullets
.45 ACP Bullets in bulk
A&A Ammunition
A&A Ammunition

USA – -(Ammoland.com)- I have had a lot of friends and customers come up to me asking this very question. In this article I’m going to look at what we call the “Break Even Point” in business.

That is, at what point would your savings on ammunition equal what you spent on equipment to get started?

Obviously I’m not going to be able to cover for every contingency here. The numbers will change significantly based on what cartridge you’re loading, what setup you want, etc.

.45 ACP Ammo
.45 ACP Ammo

For this analysis, we’re going to go with a .45 ACP load I started out with, using the cheapest, most bare bones equipment we can get, and we will price everything off of Midsouth Shooter’s Supply.

Here’s our load data:

For this analysis, we’re going to negate the cost of brass. That’s not because your brass will last forever, you’ll eventually have to procure more, but it’s hard to nail down a realistic cost given the opportunities for free brass from friends/ranges, plus you’ll get multiple uses from your brass. The number of times you’ll be able to reload a casing will vary widely based on the manufacturer, your load data, what reloading dies you’re using, and even what gun you’re shooting it out of.

Because I can’t realistically account for all of this, and it would be disingenuous to price in the full cost of brass, so we’re just going to ignore it here.

So, we get a final cost of 17.9 cents per round when we account for the components. But wait! We need to account for shipping, and with hazmat fees, shipping adds up quick. We’ll price it out if we were buying enough components for 2,000 rounds from Midsouth to my hometown of Tucson, AZ. Unfortunately I can’t currently add in the powder and primers as they are on backorder (a common problem recently) so those will be estimated into the shipping cost.

We get a shipping price of $35.70 plus $2.70 insurance for just the bullets. We’ll add in 25% for the primers and powder, as they are light but bulky. This gives us $48, plus $35 for hazmat costs, or $83 (estimated) for total shipping.

This brings our total cost per round to 26.2 cents. We’ll compare that to Wal-Mart’s price of Federal ammo of 51.5 cents a round (not including sales tax), for a savings of 25.3 cents a round.

Note that you can bring that price per round down significantly with certain things like cast lead bullets, cheaper primers, buying in bulk etc. This is just a basic load I have built up that we’re using for our example.

Now let’s look at what we’ll need for our basic reloading setup and the cost (prices subject to change as article ages):

Total – $302.92

Lee Reloading Products Reloader Single Stage Press
Lee Reloading Products Reloader Single Stage Press

Now if you know or have done any research regarding reloading tools, you’ll see that I really went barebones with this, especially on the actual press (I had no idea you could pick up a single stage press for under $90 before researching it for this article). Also, I discovered the Midsouth Tumbler Kit, which is a really great value at around $73.

Keep in mind that if you start reloading rifle cartridges there's going to be some more equipment you'll need to acquire, such as a case trimmer and possibly even an annealing machine for heavier rifle cartridges.

Also, since we’re running a Carbide die set for our .45 ACP, I didn’t include any case lube, as it’s not necessary when running carbide dies for a straight-walled pistol cartridge. However, even when it’s not necessary, case lube will make resizing your brass much easier.

So our cost is $302.92 in equipment. Since we’re saving 25.3 cents a round, our break-even point will be:

Equipment Cost/Savings per round $302.92/$.253= 1,197.31

For us to break even with our savings per round we would have to load 1,198 rounds of .45 ACP.

So at just under 1,200 rounds, you’re now saving money, which really isn’t bad. Do keep in mind though, if you go with the equipment listed here, you’ll be running a single stage press, and on average you’ll be able to make about 50 rounds an hour. So you’ll be looking at about 24 hours labor (not including doing your research/reading/setting up/developing test loads) to make those 1,200 rounds.

Now that we know the equipment cost and the point at which you’ll start saving money, the question you’ll want to ask yourself is whether or not you really want to start reloading. Like working on cars, it’s a fun hobby to some and a total pain in the neck to others.

My recommendation is to find someone who currently reloads that’ll let you run his/her press for a time, and see if it’s something you’ll want to pursue. If it fits your taste and budget, then pull the trigger! (Pun intended)

Andrew Scott is the Founder and CEO of A&A Ammunition, an ammunition manufacturing and sales company located in Tucson, AZ that specializes in reloading high quality training ammo. He is also a Veteran currently serving in the Arizona Air National Guard, and has previously worked in numerous industries ranging from food prep to stock trading.

For more of his writings, visit the A&A Ammunition website at www.TrainHardAmmo.com/blog

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reload
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reload

I cast my first round ball at 14. Loaded 12 ga at 21 and started metallic in 1985 and casting for handgun and rifle then. Your article is correct it is an expensive investment. However for myself a FFL the cost are a tad lower. I tell those who want to get into reloading; IF you are not shooting several thousand cartridges a year then you’re better off to purchase cartridges from me. I also tell them to return the brass and box when possible for a bit of a refund. We, the industry have been through ups and downs… Read more »

Red
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Red

Why have you lumped the cost of the press and dies in with the price of the normal consumables of powder, projectiles and primers? As for the brass, you should have calculated an average price using 2-3 “new” prices and 2-3 “once fired” prices and noted this in your article.

I have been reloading for years and your numbers just ain’t completely accurate.

But you are right, for the casual shooter, reloading today is not a very cost savings undertaking when you factor in the startup dollars spent. But how many presses do you buy?

Just sayin’

Robert
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Robert

I have reloaded rifle and pistol brass and nickel brass since around 1970. I bought a Lee Anniversary Kit which is still cheapest around, for $99.00 thru Midway USA, this kit has everything you need except, trickle charger, but you can just put powder in a empty bullet and rotate it to add powder to your scale to get consistent charges. I also bought a tumbler to clean my brass. This is not necessary to do unless you have brass which got contamination like dirt or mud in it. I have shot brass reloads until they show signs of fracture… Read more »

Chris R
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Chris R

I just got into reloading recently. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a hobby I wasn’t sure on, so I picked up a Lee classic loader for $30 to reload for my .45-70. Setting primers with a hammer made me a little uneasy, so I also bought a hand primer for $46, for a total investment of $76. I am able to load rounds for about $0.35 each, compared to $1.50 each for commercial loads. The investment paid for itself in only 66 reloads!

IHATELIBS
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IHATELIBS

I Used to reload , then sold everything due to a Divorce . Now I am slowly getting back in to it . But the Real thing is , its FUN , and you get much more accurate ammo . Yes , ITS FUN . Just like Shooting . ITS FUN . More Accurate ammo = Less wounded , lost Game too . Oh , did I say , ITS FUN ???

Dr. Strangelove
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Dr. Strangelove

Then I’m way ahead… as long as I don’t count labor. Even at minimum wage it sends the cost way up. But that’s not my primary reason for handloading. It’s a great hobby and satisfying to do it yourself.

Red56Dragonj
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Red56Dragonj

I have been reloading for over 35 years. I started at 21 with a LEE PRO 1000 with carbide dies for .38/.357, 9 mm, & .45 ACP, still going strong.. As a machinist working at a in-house only shop, we had a lot of government jobs. Sheet metal, welding, & paint helped build a small loading table with a shelf for supplies and a hole for the primers to fall into a hanging coffee can. I have calipers & mics. for the job, I don’t mail order anything here in Texas, I purchase bullets, powder, & primers in the largest… Read more »

TEX
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TEX

Never reloaded but probably should. I got plenty of ammo at this time but I have started saving the brass.

james
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james

I too will begin reloading in the next 24 months after i use up all my factory 9mm ammo and have the brass.

Just need to buy my Dillon gear and set it all up.

Just the thing for a rainy day or in the winter months to reload for the spring and summer.

TSgt B
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TSgt B

I started reloading around 1977 while stationed in Colorado in the U. S. Air Force. Although I had been shooting since around age 5, I really didn’t get into the sport big time until I was stationed with a bunch of shooters. I started out with a Lee single state press I bought from an experienced reloader for $20.00, and bought my first set of RCBS .38/.357 dies NEW for $18.50. At the time, being a poor 2 striper with a wife and child, I worked parttime as a tire buster for Sears, and had access to all the old… Read more »

kitchawan kid
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kitchawan kid

Also if you live in a place like N.Y you can’t buy ammo online at all,and stores that sell ammo are few if any,so far you can buy components (for now).You can also cast from scrap lead and save more.

Bob Shell
Guest
Bob Shell

Good piece but I see two things left out. 1. You can customize your ammo to your wants as long as it is safe. 2. Reloading and testing will really educate you on how ammo works

Andrew Scott
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Andrew Scott

Hi Bob, thanks for the comment! There are certainly a lot of things I left out that I would’ve liked to include, but I really didn’t want to take the focus away from the main points of the article, which were how to calculate your break-even point when starting up and giving people looking into starting to reload a basic list of the tools required. Being able to dial in your own customized load for your particular firearm is very fulfilling, and you will certainly learn a lot about guns and ammunition in the process. Maybe I should do a… Read more »

Tony
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Tony

Over a lifetime, it will save money. For me, it’s not just about the money. It’s another still towards semi self sufficiency and a very rewarding hobby.

Trey
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Trey

took the long way around the barn… Lee Kit. $ 126.99 •Lee Breech Lock Challenger Single Stage Press •1-Breech Lock Die Bushing •Lee Large and Small Safety Prime •Lee Cutter and Lock Stud •Lee Perfect Powder Measure •Lee Chamfer Tool •Lee Primer Pocket Cleaner •Lee Safety Powder Scale •Lee Powder funnel •2 oz Tube Lee Resizing Case Lube .45 case length gauge $5.19 (cuts to correct length) HFT Tumbler – $54 (though the one you chose does have a separator while I use a $2.00 colander ) Die set $29.06 (your price) No need for a caliper as the lee… Read more »

Andrew Scott
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Andrew Scott

Hi Trey, thanks for the comment! I had no idea this kit existed, which is more than a little embarrassing. I’ve personally found a good set of calipers to be invaluable when we manufacture our ammo, both for measuring our trim length on rifle brass and for measuring COAL of a cartridge. When I first started reloading I was amazed by how much difference there was in the finished round when making slight changes to the COAL and crimp.

Fatbob1945
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Fatbob1945

I have found that .45 cases shrink in length when fired rather than stretch, so thus far have never needed a trimmer (.45 acp is what I’m referring to). Still looking for a brass stretcher.

Bob Frier
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Bob Frier

Have never had to trim a piece of .45acp brass fired thru a semi auto. They shrink rather than stretch.

Vanns40
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Vanns40

You’ve skewed the entire retail cost by using Walmart. You can find far lower prices buying online, in bulk, even accounting for the shipping cost. 9mm is now on sale for $210 for 1000 rounds plus shipping. That’s the lowest price in a few years.

Jeff Dotson
Guest
Jeff Dotson

Yes, that is correct, but he is talking about .45ACP. The price difference is a lot between the two. Much lower than $210 if reloaded.

Andrew Scott
Guest
Andrew Scott

Hi Vanns, I knew my selection of ammunition sourcing would be a sticking point for some, but I picked WalMart specifically because it’s not the cheapest. That isn’t because I am trying to sway people towards reloading, I run an ammunition manufacturing company so pushing people into reloading doesn’t exactly benefit me much. What I was trying to do was get what I felt would be a good median price. I know you can find ammo cheaper online (including shop.trainhardammo.com!) but I’ve found that those prices fluctuate significantly with what Obama put on his bagel that morning. In my mind… Read more »

Jon Aronson
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Jon Aronson

I’ve reloaded my ammo since I was 18 and am 67 now. Grew from a single stage Lyman to a terrific Dillon setup about ten years ago and this part of my hobby has paid for itself a thousand times over. I purchase my bullets by the thousand and my powder in the largest containers I can and when I go into a gun store go into sticker shock at .45 ACP going for north of 30 dollars a box of 50. Never had an accident, am super careful! Never had a double load, never had a powderless round. And,… Read more »

Andrew Scott
Guest
Andrew Scott

Hi Jon, thanks for the comment! Experiences like yours regarding brass supply is precisely why I didn’t factor in the cost for brass, just too many variables. A lot of other shooters will leave it laying around or even pick it up and donate it to you. If you’re lucky enough to have a range nearby that will donate brass to reloaders, even better! Thanks again, happy shooting.

Charles Higley
Guest
Charles Higley

I completely agree with your experience. I bought a Lee setup back in 1978 and loaded 1000s of 45 ACP over the years. Over time I added eight other pistol and four rifle calibers. Never had a squib, never a double load, just about 10 duds. 45 ACP brass is done when the last firing tears the edge of the brass, leaving the mouth ragged. It’s a cathartic activity, demands attention to detail, accuracy, and consistency. And, you get to design your loads. All good fun to build and to shoot.

Jeff Dotson
Guest
Jeff Dotson

You made a mistake on price. It should be .179 cents per round, not 17.9.

kiloyard
Guest
kiloyard

Jeff, .179 dollars (not cents) is the total; 17.9 cents is correct.

Andrew Scott
Guest
Andrew Scott

I sure wish I could make my ammo for .179 cents a round though…

Kalroy
Guest
Kalroy

Reloading blogs and podcasts regularly say that you don’t save any money by reloading. Not because it isn’t cost efficient, but rather because you’ll find you are heading out to the range more often and throwing more lead downrange. I’m gonna say that I’ve found this to be true for myself as well.

So even though I’m not saving money, I’m getting to do more shooting and having more fun.

Kalroy

Jeff Dotson
Guest
Jeff Dotson

I don’t shoot as much/often as I should. Mainly because I have anywhere to go to do so. I bought my reloading kit as more of a hobby as well as to sell (I do have my FFL for manufacturing ammo as required by the ATF). Since I don’t shoot that much, I guess, in a way, I am saving money, plus, I can sell my reloads now.