Determining TRUE reload costs


February 9, 2012, 03:46 PM
I am a broke law student. I reload because of the intrinsic value of making your own product and the "savings" that come from rolling your own. In that vein I am trying to track what I actually spend per load. With that in mind I have a few questions for how to "track" costs.

1. Brass

I mainly load .223 and .308. 95 percent of it will be loaded pretty light for target shooting and plinking. The other 5 percent will be loaded for home defense/SHTF and hunting.

I have a mix of .223 brass. Some is once fired brass commercial brass purchased here on THR. The other is a can of loaded .223 from a local reloader (HSM).

When tracking brass costs do you take into account how many times you will load it? For example, the .223 once fired commercial could probably be reloaded 3 more times. I paid 50 for 1k of it. The cost of brass reloading it onc would be .05 (50/1000). However, if I am going to reload it 3 times would you figure it at about .01/load (.05/3 OR 50/3000)?

In that same vein how much should I expect to reload the HSM brass? 2x more (I figure it was probably 1x fired brass that was reloaded that I then shot and reloaded myself).

2. press/dies/tools

Do each of you track your press/die costs? How do you figure it into each load?

I actually did not purchase most of my reloading tools. I received the press, powder measure, lee safety primer, case length trimmer, etc for my birthday.

Do you include your prep costs? If so how?

3. Time

Do any of you figure into your costs the time you spend? I figure this would be more important for people who are self employed and could likely be building their business in other ways. If you work on salary or are employed by someone else this is likely not that important.

If you do include time how do you figure it?

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February 9, 2012, 03:52 PM
I don't figure it.

To me, relaoding is a hobby like any other, except it allows me to load better ammo then I can buy.

If I had to pin it down to dollers and cents?
It would be a second job, and I could get a second job and make enough money to buy more ammo then I could save loading ammo.

If I was going to figure it?
I'd probably use this:


February 9, 2012, 03:56 PM
To be honest, I have never attempted to track the 'cost' of my reloads. I am comfortable with the general notion that it costs me less per round than buying factory ammo but spend what I can budget to spend on my shooting.

I reload as a hobby, passtime and for my enjoyment, too much cypherin' would turn it into 'work' - lol

IMHO it is false accounting to try and price your free time when pursuing any recreational activity. So I don't figure my 'labor' cost when I go fishing, watch TV, ride my motorcycle etc...... or when I reload.

February 9, 2012, 04:00 PM
I don't try and track reloading costs. Really, if I have the ammo on hand, I shoot. If I have the cash, I reload more and shoot. If not, I don't or not so much. :)

Having said that, I reload very little purchased brass, but that which I have bought generally lasts over 10 loadings, so it trends toward zero cost per shot.

As for equipment, I have no expectation that I will ever really wear out my reloading dies or presses. Therefore, the ameliorated cost of that equipment is really dependant on how many rounds I've churned out already, plus how many I'll make over the course of the rest of my life. (And my kids might be using it, too...) So, even if I've got $1,000 in reloading gear trying to include that into a per-round costs gets to be pointless as well.

So, on the off chance I need to figure out what a box of rounds costs me to make, I only count the actual consumables. Primer, powder, bullet.

February 9, 2012, 04:05 PM
If i included my time I might as well buy loaded ammo as I would go broke paying myself to reload.

Figuring the cost of presses and dies is hard because they are life time tools. You can figure out the cost of your reloads compared to factory and then use that savings to figure out how many rounds you have to load before your press is paid off but to figure the cost of a press into each round for the next 50 years would be kinda hard, what would it be a quarter of a cent per 20 rounds?

As for brass I figure the cost of the brass into the reload and the cost without and know I am somewhere in between and thats close enough for me. I load hunting loads way cheaper then factory and 223 general purpose loads a little cheaper then factory with brass costs figured in so if I get 2 or 10 shots out of a piece of brass then its even cheaper. You could just pick a number say 5 reloads on a piece of brass and use this to figure you load costs and figure that range pickups make up for anything that doesn't make it 5 times. Seams like a lot of worry for nothing but at this point I have to much invested into the equipment to stop now no matter the cost.

February 9, 2012, 04:13 PM
If you want a complete analysis, do not forget to include firearm cost and barrel wear cost.

It is not ALL about saving money, and a large number of people probably save nothing but shoot more.

The brass case is the most expensive piece of any load and reusing it saves money.

How fast it might 'pay back' is another matter.

I have some antique guns that you cannot find any ammunition for (yep, I've made cases, sometimes from scratch) and a few that if you find any ammunition expect to pay upwards of $20 a round.

A $2 .50-70 government case will last nearly forever if used carefully, let alone a few of the nitro express calibers at even higher cost.

February 9, 2012, 04:54 PM
Good replies.

I will admit that I am a bit of a nut when it comes to tracking my costs. More than anything I do it because it will be interesting to see just how much the costs change over time.

Just to clarify keeping "time" tracked and cost is incredibly silly. I threw it in there just to see what people would say. I have a few friends, in other hobbies, that will track time and "bill" it. It could be due to the fact that they are attorney's and have to track their actual billable hours at work and it feels natural to them.


I would not even know where to begin on firearm cost/barrel wear cost. However, I think you may be being a bit sarcastic=)

Thanks everyone for good replies!

Shadow 7D
February 9, 2012, 05:12 PM
compared to cheap bulk factory reloads from some somewhere like Georgia Arms Canned Heat (equivalent to $13/50rnds) you probably won't "save money" between the cost of bullets primer and powder.

compare making the equivalent of your carry ammo at $40+ per 50 ($29.95 for 20 or 25)
your savings are vast, and rifle ammo, well, making a round for 10-15 cents compared to wally world more than pays for your time.

and the time, if you enjoy reloading (if you didn't why are reloading) cost you just as much as sitting on your but watching TV.

February 9, 2012, 05:15 PM
i can't seem to find my handloads in stores. i guess that makes them priceless. ;)

February 9, 2012, 05:17 PM
Just for those who keep track - what are you spending per round on .223? I currently am at about .25/rnd. I don't/can't buy my powder in bulk so that is holding me back a small bit.

February 9, 2012, 05:25 PM
If I save money reloading 9mm you will save a good chunck for rifle ammo. Plus its fun to do !

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February 9, 2012, 05:29 PM
When I used to teach reloading I gave a little test to see if it was really something that a person should persue...a couple of the questions I used were:
a. can you go for a half-hour without a smoke
b. can or will you spend enough for decent press,dies,scale,case prep tools, trimmer,and a good manual...and use them all
c. do you shoot at least ten boxes of the ammo you will be loading for in a year
d. are you willing to take the time to learn to read pressure signs, or at least back off from max loads and work up

Most people who start loading to reduce cost wind up loading more and more calibers and not shooting some of them is not a big cost saving for the "average" shooter.

February 9, 2012, 05:40 PM

Great questions. It is funny the different reloaders I have run into. A few only load for one or two calibers. Others load EVERYTHING and would load .22lr if they could find a way to do it. When I see the second person at the gun range they tend to only shoot 1-2 different guns. Yet, they are reloading for every caliber they own.

I only plan to reload .223 and .308. I am unsure if I will reload 9mm as the basic cost of the factory ammo is so cheap. I may do it just for the experience and for time to get away from the girlfriend :D.

February 9, 2012, 06:38 PM
Do any of you figure into your costs the time you spend? I figure this would be more important for people who are self employed and could likely be building their business in other ways. If you work on salary or are employed by someone else this is likely not that important.

If you do include time how do you figure it?

30 years ago, I figured what my reloading costs were and I saved money. i do not worry about it now.

I never figured my time. It was a recreational activity and I make as much reloading as I do watching TV or tinkering on my race car.

You will save money reloading on virtually everything except maybe some surplus stuff you would not want to shoot as long as you enjoy reloading. The savings will vary, 9x19 will have less savings than 458 Win Mag.

But, the ammunition you reload will be of better quality than lots of the commercial ammunition and you can tailor it to your own firearm.

Finally, if you keep a supply of components on had, you can weather shortages and always have something to shoot. You don't have to stock components for "x" number of cartridges but for a range of cartridges and then you can load only the cartridges you plan to shoot during the shortage. Hope that made sense.

February 9, 2012, 06:56 PM
Really don't track cost per round either , do try to get best deal possible on componets though. With all of the equipment I've picked up reloading will never pay for it's self :banghead: but it's a great hobby

evan price
February 9, 2012, 06:58 PM
I don't figure the cost of the equipment into the cost per round.

Reloading equipment, if properly maintained and not abused, will last a lifetime and beyond, and will hold a residual value.

To properly amortize the equipment expense into the cost per loaded round you need to factor in the residual value. Since I bought my gear used at a very good price, and since the dollar seems to keep inflating upwards, I expect that the cost of equipment versus residual will stay pretty much the same realistically.

And then we have the fact that it's a hobby, not a business, and I'm not an accountant.

Cost of a round is the cost of materials.

Brass, bullet, powder, primer, lube, wad, filler, tumbling media, maybe electricity to run a tumbler or trimmer or casting pot... or propane to melt lead... if you are that detailed...and I'm not.

Oh wait- we can re-use brass multiple times...going to calculate the cost based upon how many firings? Most straight-wall pistol calibers load nearly forever unless lost or damaged. What's the depreciation factored over infinite time? :)

And then there's labor.

I pay myself $500/hour as a Reloading Technician First Class.
I load about 250 RPH.
That means every round of 9mm costs me $2 right off the top.

Plus materials.

Guess I'm a lousy businessman. :cuss:

February 9, 2012, 08:04 PM
When tracking brass costs do you take into account how many times you will load it? For example, the .223 once fired commercial could probably be reloaded 3 more times. I paid 50 for 1k of it. The cost of brass reloading it onc would be .05 (50/1000). However, if I am going to reload it 3 times would you figure it at about .01/load (.05/3 OR 50/3000)?
Depends on the gun. For all my bottom feeders, I figure in my cost to buy once fired brass. If you average the cost over 3 reloads, then your reloads have a hidden cost (that of picking up your brass twice). And then you're comparing apples to oranges. I.e., you'd have to subtract the value of the brass of new ammo when you compare.

For my revolvers, I figure in zero, since I have enough .357 brass to recycle for years, and I don't have to pick it up.

February 9, 2012, 08:18 PM
You can't really put a price on freedom.

February 9, 2012, 08:32 PM

When you take your wife or girlfriend out, do you figure your time spent as a dollar figure, the price of the cologne you put on, and the price of gas driving with her? Free yourself from the curse of liberalism, and start enjoying life for what it is, and not what it costs.:)


February 9, 2012, 08:50 PM
@Evan - You are under paying yourself. Good comedy post though!

@USSR - I don't but may I should. Though I don't think my political views are the root cause of me tracking reloading costs.

@everyone - I think the best approach is just looking for a good deal on my components and not tracking each round. So long as I am not buying super top of the line components I will be saving money.

Thanks everyone.

February 9, 2012, 09:03 PM
If you can buy cheap Russian ammo for what you would buy the same amount of bullets for then you are not saving money.:banghead: Anything else Load Away and save.:D Just don't over-complicate a good thing as long as you are not cutting in on other aspects of your budget to pay so you can play.

February 9, 2012, 09:06 PM
Its a hobby for me, I never look a reicpt twice & never let the wife look at it once. :what:

February 9, 2012, 09:26 PM
@Hoosier - Good advice.

February 9, 2012, 10:31 PM
I've said this to anyone whom asks me about what I save by reloading. My standard reply is; "I don't save any money, I just get to shoot a lot more for whatever money I have available toward my hobby. LM

February 9, 2012, 10:57 PM
I did briefly but only because I like and bought nice equipment. It's a hobby I enjoy.

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February 9, 2012, 11:04 PM
For me, it's more a matter of the cost of not reloading.

It's relaxing. It's rewarding. My homebuilt rounds are not always more "accurate" than factory, but sometimes they're way more so. I've made some rounds that shoot really well and which I continue to duplicate. And I've made some that I won't build again.

I don't pay much attention to the money I spend to be able to build my own ammunition. It might be more than I can really afford. But I can say without hesitation that it's money well spent.

If I didn't do it, my enjoyment of shooting would be diminished.

February 10, 2012, 10:05 AM
I started looking at reloading first because I shoot a lot, the most shooting I did was from Sept to November I shot about 7k rounds. I had to do something about it before I get broke. That 's where I looked at the cost of reloading. With 9mm I could save arround $60 per 1k rounds. With what I reloaded so far, my press , dies etc are almost paid for. 9mm is what i reload the most, the brass can be reused at least 15 x (of course visual check is a must)
Now, it just make sense to me to reload for my 38 spl and my 22-250.
Aside from the cost saving, I enjoy doing it, and its my time in the garage doing thing that I love.

February 10, 2012, 10:36 AM
I've been practicing law for 35 years. I like to figure the cost of reloading based upon the cost of the components without labor. It's part of my shooting hobby. The time spent is therapeutic.

When I started reloading I compared the cost of my loads to the cost of commercial ammo. The savings I used to offset the cost of the press. Then I started using the savings to offset to cost of all my guns. Soon I had covered the cost of all my guns, so the savings were used to cover the cost of new guns. The more I shoot, and the more calibers I shoot, the more I save.

The wife challenged that logic until we looked at her shopping sales for cloths and shoes. She understands.

Welcome to another lefty gun owner.

February 10, 2012, 11:16 AM
I know I can save substantial money by reloading. Beyond that I don't bother trying to figure actual cost. I have brass that has been loaded many times and still in use.
The first glass of water from my new well cost me $17k. The second glass cut that in half, etc...
I'd rather spend my time enjoying it than figuring cost down to the .01

February 10, 2012, 11:37 AM
I take brass cost, time and equipment cost, and throw it out the window. When I do add up totals, I just add up cost of the bullet ($55.00/1000, etc.)If cost of powder per grain ($19.99/7000) and cost of primer($24.99/1000) Add the bullet price, multiply the grain cost by grain charge and add it, add the cost of primer. Cheaper than factory every time.

Also, Liberal, if HSM is a local supplier for you, you must be in the Missoula/Bitteroot valley area? And I am guessing UM Law? I live in the Zoo, and use HSM components almost exclusively.

February 10, 2012, 01:14 PM
@chalk - You are correct. As of right now I don't use any HSM components because I am reloading .223/.308. The online store does not show much in the way for that.

Do they sell powder out there? Is it worth the drive out there?

Do you use either of the ranges here? If so we should we should get together. I would love to compare reloading data.

February 10, 2012, 01:42 PM
I started reloading out of curiosity, "I wonder if I could put together some of these?" (.38 Specials, in '79). If I were to figger, truthfully, what my reloads cost, along with the regular components cost I'd have to include the utilities cost; heat/AC and lighting for reloading shed, shipping costs and gas/wear & tear on my vehicle to aquire components, the costs of my "Handloader" magazine to keep abreast of latest reloading trends, cost of individual laundry to clean my "toxic" reloading and shooting favorite sweatshirt (Ma won't let me wash some of my clothes with hers), plus I'd have to deduct every crushed case, dropped/lost primer, and every grain of spilled powder. Too much work for me; reloading is my hobby and I do it 'cause it's fun...

February 10, 2012, 01:54 PM
Some folk's hobby is betting the farm, literally, and then eating hot dogs to try and make up for it/save money to do it again and again.
I don't think I'd fret too much about it.

February 10, 2012, 02:12 PM
I work up the cost on every caliber I reload for by adding together the cost of
1 brass, if any, for me this is zero from range pic ups or my own brass
2 bullets
3 powder
4 primer.
loading .38 special now and its costs .15/rd, or $7.50 box of 50

February 10, 2012, 02:17 PM
Instead of law maybe Liberalwithagun should study accounting.

Who cares what the cost of a hobby is if expenses for shelter, food, health, education etc for the family are covered. Hobbies are engaged in for pleasure not profit. I reload for fun and it interests me.

'nuff said.

February 10, 2012, 02:23 PM
I was going to say same also. A B.A. and on has very little hard science. Oh wait.. perhaps nevermind.

February 10, 2012, 02:35 PM
I laugh about this all of the time...I don't save a cent. I've probably got close to 4 grand tied up in loading tools. I have 30?? different kinds of powder so i an find good loads and I STILL buy more. Same with bullets and primers. In .223 I shoot 80 gr Berger VLD bullets that cost as much as lake city loaded rounds, then add powder and primers - not much savings there. Bullet casting, gauges, manuals, chronograph...I suspect I've collected several thousand dollars worth of tools and materials over 35 years, well spent, IMO.

Buy what you can afford, enjoy the hobby, and don't fuss over your cost per round.

February 10, 2012, 02:39 PM
@varmint - My mother is an accountant it may be where I get my anal retentiveness as related to hobbies. She actually tracks her costs for all her horse hobbies. That said a trailer + truck + feed + etc is TONS more expensive and may be required.

I think tracking costs will take most of the fun out of reloading. better to focus on the joy of creating my own product.

February 10, 2012, 02:43 PM
Don't forget to account for the time you spend:
- shopping for reloading supplies.
- online researching & talking about it.
- keeping ledgers on said costs.
- auditing the above.

Only then will you be sure that you've tracked all the costs. ;)

Truth be told, it's a hobby so we get a great deal of valuable pleasure from it, which negates most of the above costs.

February 10, 2012, 02:46 PM
I would not even know where to begin on firearm cost/barrel wear cost. However, I think you may be being a bit sarcastic=)

Only partly actually.

I have a couple barrels for longer range varmint shooting that are lucky to last 5,000 r9ounds before accuracy starts to deteriorate.

Since the barrels run about $500 each, that works out to about $0.10 a hot in barrel wear alone.
Add to that BR quality bullets, primers, the brass rejected during sorting and i am around $0.35 a shot.

The setup is painfully accurate though.
Groundhogs at 400+ yards are reliably dead with a single shot.

February 10, 2012, 03:46 PM
My mother is an accountant it may be where I get my anal retentiveness as related to hobbies. She actually tracks her costs for all her horse hobbies. That said a trailer + truck + feed + etc is TONS more expensive and may be required.

But, I bet she does not account for her time.

Nothing wrong with keeping up with expenses.

My wife has horses and I race cars and we keep track of expenses so that we don't over stretch the budget and to know when we can make new purchases for additions and improvements.

Ditto with my shooting hobby. I track, or watch, what components cost and what I spend. Based on what I need and funds on hand, I can decide if a new firearm is on the horizon.

But, since it is all recreational activities, my time has no monetary value.

February 10, 2012, 03:58 PM
reloading is therapy to me.

February 10, 2012, 04:04 PM
I don't grow my own coffee but I roast it. It costs one million dollars per second. I am one poor malasada.

February 10, 2012, 04:06 PM
Something I do is only count purchased once fired brass on the first load. This really give you a idea if you should buy factory for the first shot or buy once fired. With 223 I've been noticing I would do well buying bulk factory and using that brass than buying once would only be .50 over the 1st load and I have brass that only I have shot.

As far as the factoring labor costs in goes I think that is mainly used by guys who really wan a excuse not to load. Most reloaders enjoy the process and consider it a hobby just like watching a football game or hunting/fishing.

Steel Horse Rider
February 10, 2012, 04:50 PM
In the world of business, you would count the press and dies as overhead, the same as you account for the desks, computers, and telephones for a law office. It is a cost of doing business, not a direct cost per transaction although it is factored in. The other part of the equation you missed is the value of the brass once you are done with it. Deprimered clean yellow brass is very valuable at a scrap yard so your actual brass cost is very little.

February 10, 2012, 08:26 PM
No use to amortize the equipment. I bought my starting setup many years ago. It still works as well as it did the day it was new. With the inflation we have seen, it would bring more on the used market today than I paid for it.

The only thing I ever consider is the cost of consumables if I want to see how much the reloads are costing per shot or per box.

February 10, 2012, 10:26 PM
Liberal, I have a membership to the Deer Creek range and use it quite often. I may even be out there this weekend if the weather is nice(but it is not looking so)

To be honest I buy components directly from HSM very rarely, but I try to when I can. I am able to buy through a buddy of mine who is sponsored by them, and he can usually extend his discount to me. Although he lives in Hamilton, and sometimes it can take a while to get the parts, not his fault, or mine, we both have lives and jobs, and don't cross pathes as often as I would like. I get most of my other HSM components from Wholesale Sports in town. Still keeping it local, if buying from a big box store. And it is only a few blocks from my house.

I would be down with meeting up sometime to go over load data and whatnot. If I don't make it to the range this weekend, I will be busy for the next two weekend, but maybe sometime after that. Also, depending on the day, I might have time during the week, but PM me if you want, and maybe we'll hit up a range day.

P.S. All of my current .223 ammo is made up of HSM stuff, I even get V-Max from them...

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