The economics of reloading dictating caliber selection


January 5, 2007, 05:51 PM
Hey folks,

I am an experienced hunter and shooter, although my long gun selection has always been limited by my budget and what is most practical for my hunting.

However, the last year or two I have enjoyed range time more and more and shooting and collecting firearms has become a real hobby itself.

I just bought a T/C Encore and I am excited about the prospect of trying some new calibers.

I am also considering diving into reloading. The reason I haven't considered it sooner is because it's 60 miles one-way to the nearest range, and in a good month I can get there about once a week. Not exactly conducive to doing a lot of fine tuning and working up loads frequently. Let me also say that I am not a high volume shooter. This probably means that cost savings will be lost for me, but, it also means that I will have the time and patience to measure each shot charge and pay attention to the smallest details.

Let me also say that I have a couple of gift cards from Christmas, so the out of pocket start up costs for some decent (but not top quality gear) will be largely covered.

My buddy also purchased a 30-378 Weatherby. Ammo is $80/box. We've already discussed me reloading for him and saving him some serious cash (he'd buy the dies and all of his own components).

I also own and would like to reload for:

(also some other calibers that I would ot reload for, such as 7.62x39, and .30 carbine)

and shortly I will probably have some Encore barrels in:

.300 Win Mag

Do you find yourself trying new calibers you otherwise would never consider, just because the cost savings and quality/choice advantages of reloading? Being a low volume shooter, can I experience an increase in quality and at least BREAK EVEN in the long run in comparison to commercial ammo?

Are there some calibers that are more cost effective to reload than others?



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January 5, 2007, 06:08 PM
I have only been reloading for a couple of years.

I started out with .223 for a single shot ruger. I own an Encore too. I now have dies and reload for a .204, a .243, a 30-06 and 45/70. I reload in .38 and .357 on the pistol side.

Here is what I have found.

If you shoot a lot and focus on one or two cailbers and you use a fairly automated reloading rig, at some point you can actually save money over the cost of store bought ammo. With enough years of enough shooting you may actually pay for your reloading rig. But thats a lot of shooting.

However, you can never buy "off of the shelf" what you can dial in for your particular rifle(s) or pistols.

I only reload once a year for the 30-06 and thats just to go hunting. At $25+ a box for run of the mill ammo and $50.00 a box for premium stuff it won't take long to pay back what I have in dies and bullets plus I am able to tweak the round for my particular rifle. But saving money was never the objective, getting a custom round for a particular rifle was.

Same for my .243.

The economics on .204 ammo come quicker but getting to a duplicate of the factory ammo is a challenge although there are several recipes available that will get you over 4000 fps with a 32 grain vmax. Still at the price of factory 204 ammo saving money there comes quickly.

On the .38 and .357 side I shoot a lot more. I don't know if I am saving money but I am able to make .357 rounds that you simply can not purchase at the local sporting goods store (hot Elmer Keith full house .357 rounds). And I make plinkers that are easier to shoot for both the .38 and the .357.

So how much is custom made ammo that you know every detail of worth to you?? For me its hard to put a price on it. I can dial in the ballistics of a particular hunting load and know with great certainty that I can duplicate that load every year. The variety of loads that I can make up with the pistols lets me make great defense loads and mild plinker loads.

The bottom line is you will shoot more and that is not a bad result in any case!

January 5, 2007, 06:32 PM
I'm not so worried about cost per round or saving "X" number of dollars. If that were the case I'd be scrounging range brass, buying kegs of powder, and casting my own bullets. I am WAY more interested in quality, as long as I can break even. (I know, I know, I will SHOOT more. Well, let's say that shooting more was a New Year's resolution anyways!)

Like I said, the out of pocket to start up for me will be (essentially) free.

So, if I can roll better-than-factory .204 loads that shoot REALLY well in my gun for $2 less than at the store, I'm happy. The hours lost in load development at the bench and at the range is entertainment, as far as i am concerned.

For example, if I can find a quality load for my .300 Win Mag that works as well as a $30 premium box of factory ammo, but I can load it for $10/box, I'd be thrilled. That would allow me to load up more ammo, store more ammo, and shoot more ammo for the same price.

But are there any rifle calibers that are inherently just MADE for handloaders? (the cost savings + the quality advantage is much greater than the average caliber)?

thanks for the reply!

January 5, 2007, 06:47 PM
the cartridges made for handloaders, i'd say, are the wildcats. can't buy store bought ammo for em :)

you pointed out you have patience, and thats the most important thing. you don't have to make a seperate trip with each load, you'll find out quickly that you can bring several variations of the same load on each trip.

for example, loads have a 'range' of acceptable amounts of a particular powder. within that range, certain rifles will group better. you could bring 5 to 10 rounds at seperate points within that range to find what your rifle likes on one particular trip.

next trip you could tweak another aspect of your load, like the overall length of the round, or if the rifle prefers crimped rounds or not.

you could even just start out by seeing if it has a preference as to a particular bullet weight. i know before i started reloading, i bought remington core-locts. that was it for rifle ammo. it was cheap (comparatively), it shot reasonably well, and i got it in whatever gr. the store had on the shelf. Now i realize that my 270 really doesn't like 130 gr bullets, but really seems to like 150s. i never thought to shoot 150s before i started loading.

it's not all daisys, some rifles have really stumped me. i've been reloading for about 2 years, and load for about 10 calibers. I really haven't found tons of unbelievable shooting loads. but my perpose for reloading was different. i wanted to match store bought ammo and shoot cheaper. now that i have done the volume thing, im trying to shoot better groups.

you'll probably go in phases too. You said you don't care if you save money, so i'm not going to even talk about it. but it is immensely satisfying to shoot a load you assembled, after your own testing.

January 5, 2007, 06:50 PM
I used to scoff at the 45/70 until I really looked at it then got a stainless barrel in 45/70 for my Encore.

It is one of the most versatile rounds you can reload for. Anything from really inexpensive plinkers to rounds capable of taking anything in North America and about anywhere else you want to hunt.

There is a 20 inch Encore 45/70 barrel that makes for one very handy field rifle. The accuracy you can get to with one of these is really impressive and you don't have to have knock your arm off rounds to do it with.

January 5, 2007, 11:55 PM
I don't think there is one calibre "made" to reload. The more expensive the box of factory bullets, the more attractive reloading becomes. You can save money(especially if you shoot a lot), but what will probably happen is you'll want all the gizmos and spend money on them all the time. In the end you'll still have the toys, instead of some empty bullet boxes. And it's not that hard to load rounds superior to the factory stuff. If you live far from the range, consider a hand press or make your setup portable so you can load right at the range. Have fun.

Black Snowman
January 5, 2007, 11:58 PM
I know there are lots of guns I wouldn't own if I didn't reload. The 243 WSSM AR-15 and 50 AE Desert Eagle come immidately to mind.

January 6, 2007, 12:02 AM
Since I already have the reloading equipment, I don't have to let ammo costs dictate what I will shoot. Not to say I don't buy factory ammo, but if I came across a more exotic chambered gun I would not shy away.

Dave R
January 6, 2007, 01:21 AM
What wedge said.

I'll add that certain calibers have a much wider selection of bullets than others. For example, Speer has a lot more choice in 7mm bullets than in 6.5mm bullets.

Makes a little difference, but not a lot. I shoot a .17 wildcat. There are not many .17 bullets, but the price is still far less than factory ammo, so who cares?

And there are more than enough bullets (at a reasonable price) for .204 Ruger.

Before I started reloading, I wanted a K-31 (7.5 Swiss) for a long time. When I started reloading, I realized I could shoot it for the EXACT same cost as shooting the ever-popular .308Win and .30-06. So I bought it, and have been a much happier fellow ever since.

January 6, 2007, 01:39 AM
Costs basically the same to load 10mm as 9mm but there's a world of difference in performance. I can save maybe $20 a box on high performance stuff, so it makes the math real easy on payback

I load 255 LSWC's for my .45 LC at maybe $5.00 a box. 200 rounds at one sitting is a lot of shooting, and I can do that for $20.

I have a Contender in .357 Herrett. I can shoot 110 gr. varmint bullets or 160 grain deer rounds

Nice thing is, if I want ammo I can just spend a few minutes and crank some out instead of driving 30 miles to the store, and I can make about anything I want. For me, one of the keys is having a good variety of components on hand and having a set-up that's easy to use .

January 6, 2007, 01:51 AM
Well, that 30-378 is one caliber you almost have to reload, paying $80 for a box of 20 cartridges gets old REAL fast. It's not as cheap to reload as a 30-06 because you're using two - three times as much powder in every round, but you can pick exactly which .308" bullet you want to use instead of just the 4-5 different bullets available in factory ammo.
Other standard (as opposed to wildcat) calibers the you almost have to reload for would be the old obsolete ones like the 25 Remington, that you have to really search to find any factory ammo, much less something that shots well in your rifle.

As far as your exact caliber list, none of them demand being reloaded due to limited availablity or high cost as they are all very popular calibers that are at the lower end of the price range due to high sales. Truthfully, most of us are spending at least as much money for our reloading supplies as we did for ammo, but we get to shoot a lot more for that money. And yes, I have picked up a K31 and a sporterized Krag, which I probably wouldn't have if I didn't reload.

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