Time to take up handloading shotshells?


April 6, 2013, 07:57 PM
I've been considering this for a while. My interest in shotgunning has been mediocre at best for the last ten years or so, largely limited by the availability of inexpensive ammunition. This past winter, I finally decided to buy some slugs and quality hunting ammunition and see what my shotgun, a Winchester 1300, could do. I patterned it and sighted it and was impressed. I want to play more but I have a hard time plunking down the money for the shells. I overcame this with my rifles and pistols by taking up handloading.

So I'm wondering, is it worth it?

It seems to me that like with a lot of other ammunition, you can, or could, buy plinking/blasting ammo for less than you can handload it. Do you get "better" shells for less cost when you handload?

It seems like last time there was a panic shotshell components reappeared long before other components did. What are current thoughts on this? I realize most shotshells use the same powders as pistols, but what about the rest?

I do most of my handloading on the road so my current "bench" is highly portable. I've looked at presses and sort of like the Lee Load All. I usaully do small batches as it is. Any thoughts on this machine?

Sorry for the long post and many questions. Thank you for you consideration.

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April 6, 2013, 08:05 PM
The big issue right now is the price of shot. Locally it's about $45 a 25 pound bag. That's 400 one ounce loads, assuming no spillage.

I load and shoot AA shells and can still load cheaper than I can buy. If your shooting sport shells like Estate or similar your savings will be a lot smaller if any.

I use a Mec 9000G that I bought used for $200.

April 6, 2013, 08:31 PM
Gary is right about the price of shot. If you get it for $40 for 25 lbs. a one oz load is .10, 1 oz Claybusters wads are about 11.00 per 500 or .02 each, I use 18.5g ClayDot @ 113.00 for 8 lbs or .04 per shell. Primers used to be around 30 per 1000 IF you can find them. I just paid $50 for 1000 or .05 each total per shell for a total of .21 per shell which = 5.25 per box. That is about what you can get a box at wal-mart (if they have them) additionally, what is your time worth?

Now I reduced my target load to 3/4 oz which is 7.5 cents per round = 4.60 a box. The only advantage to reloading is you will have shells as long as you have components where someone who doesn't reload is a slave to market forces

April 6, 2013, 08:40 PM
Locally 25 lb. bags of shot are running between $35 & $40. But you can still load most recipes for a worth while savings.

I would however encourage you to pick up a Mec 600 Jr. over a Lee Load All. You won't like the Lee, they are not a quality shot shell press. I bought one years ago, I sold it almost immediately after I bought it. It was cheesy and weak feeling. It felt like I was going to break the handle off every time I resized and crimped a hull. Having already bought a 600 Jr. in 12 ga., that 20 ga. Lee was a real disappointment. Look around for a used Mec. I'm sure you could find one for $50 or so.


April 6, 2013, 08:40 PM
I've got a fancy Dillon SL900...haven't touched it in probably 2 years. Shot prices are through the roof. You used to be able to do alright if you bought it in person...but buying shot in person is still $40+ a bag these days.

The last time I bought shot I bought 8 bags in the 30 dollar range. I'm damn near out and I figure I'll just cover up the machine. Maybe my son will want to shoot competitively some day and I can crank them out then....if lead isn't banned by then too.

April 6, 2013, 09:41 PM
There's a reloading cost calculator here (http://www.reloaderhub.com/calculator.cfm)that will help you decide whether or not it's worth your time to reload.

April 6, 2013, 09:44 PM
A box of target load is avg 6-8 a box. So yes it is wise to reload shotgun, if you can find the materials at the ^^^^^ prices for components.

April 7, 2013, 12:29 AM
I have 4 shot shell loaders, 2 progressive machines. Unless you want something you can't get off the shelf, save your money for something else.

Even with the run on everything else, shot shells are there.

April 7, 2013, 06:00 AM
Mr Mokin -
Here's the difference between metallic cartridge reloading (what you are accustomed to) and shot shell reloading...

► In metallic reloading you begin at the "starting load" and "work up" your load. You can vary your powder weight, primer and bullet brands. In shot shell reloading you follow a specific recipe to the letter, with zero variation.

► In metallic reloading you can get up to 25 reloads out of some brands of brass. Whereas most all shot gun hulls are used up in 5-7 shots.

► In metallic reloading you can use any brand brass. For shot shell you're going to need a specific brand and type of hull. That means most hulls you find, and all the economy shells you buy are not reloadable.

► Therefore you need to focus exclusively on one brand and type of hull, and exclude all others. If you decide to reload Winchester (for instance), only Winchester AA hulls will work. You cannot substitute Federal or Remington, not even the low-end Winchester.

The requirement for specific hulls, primers, wads means that the payback is there, but it is much, much slower with shot shell reloading. I highly suggest you buy a copy of the Lyman #5 Shot Shell reloading manual to get a better idea. Like was said above, unless you require a load you can't easily find, it may be better to not to reload.

With that information you now have a choice: Buy the cheaper, non-reloadable $5 shot shell loads. Or invest in the machine and components and restrict yourself to a single brand/type of $7+ shot shell cartridge.

Hope this helps.

April 7, 2013, 10:08 AM
rfwobbly is correct, there are differences between the two types of reloading. I've settled on Win AA. One reason is that I shoot at their range in East Alton IL once a month and come home with 200 or so once fired AA hulls. So I'm not likely to run short in the near future.

If you shoot .410 or 28 Ga. the savings are easier to achieve because the initial cost of factory loads is so much higher than 12 Ga.

Use the calculator I linked to and see what your savings might be. I ignore sales tax when figuring the numbers because I'd pay tax on factory loads or components either way.

April 7, 2013, 10:58 AM
If you want to play around with slugs and Buck shot loads then hand loading will save you a bunch of money. A slug mold or two to cast your own slugs helps with the cost savings. Look around your area for guys selling reclaimed shot, its usually cheaper then new.

If I was looking at getting into shot shell reloading right now I don't know if I would. For what you can buy cheap trap loads for down at Walmart, what components and tools cost I am not sure there is a hole lot to be saved there. But I have a couple shot shell loader and all the stuff that goes along with loading them so I load trap, upland, turkey, steel waterfowl, slugs and buck loads for the 12 gauge. I have acquired a couple 20 gauges over the years and figure I will start the grand kids on them but I am sure they will be moving up to a 12 gauge within a year so I just buy 20 gauge rounds as I don't see its worth it to tool up for reloading.

April 7, 2013, 10:58 AM
If you currently shoot the 1 1/8oz WalMart shells and want to keep shooting the same 1 1/8oz of shot, you aren't going to come out ahead.

OTOH, if you load 7/8 or 1oz shot (yes, in 12ga), you can save a buck or two per box. Alliant ExtraLite powder is designed for these weights. Easier on the shoulder as well.

I have no problems reloading the bulk shells. They match the examples in my Lyman load manual and plenty are always available at the range.

April 10, 2013, 12:48 AM
Thanks for the replies.

Been busy writing/faxing congress.....

I'll play with the cost calculator and do a little more research before I invest in anything. I got into handloading for some hard to find and expensive rifle cartridges and moved into others as I learned I really liked to load my own. What has currently turned me on to my shotgun are the premium hunting loads, buckshot and slugs that go for anywhere between 50 cents to a dollar (or more) a shell around here. At a dollar a shot I figured a new machine would pay for itself pretty quickly.

April 10, 2013, 02:53 PM
I just got into reloading and so I've been doing things the super cheap way (tool wise). I've been reloading my own brass shotgun shells with the nail/dowel method. It doesn't get much simpler than that, and I've been having a lot of fun with it so far. The main reason I started reloading was that I have a Winchester 1897 that needs 2 1/2" shells (the crimped bit on the 2 3/4" shells can cause problems). So I started out of necessity, but I'm going to stick with it because I can reload target loads for as cheap or sometimes cheaper than the factory ammo and I can also load more premium rounds for certainly cheaper than factory ammo. I also enjoy being able to tinker with my loads a bit. I'll be trying some buck and call rounds I made up next time I head to the range.

April 10, 2013, 03:09 PM
I shoot a LOT of shotgun compared to most on here - over 250,000 rounds in the last 18 years through one of my guns.
Buying in bulk for components saves you the money.
First, load 7/8, or even better, 3/4oz 12 gauge loads for targets and plinking practice - with 3/4, you get 533 loads per bag
Second, shoot reclaimed if you can, it is closer to $25/bag than new stuff at $45 - available at a lot of trap/skeet clubs and on and off from Gamaliel.
Third, Clone wads at $11/ bag cost $8/bag when bought by the case of 5,000
Fourth, primers are best bought by the sleeve of 5000. Cheapest ones ( and most available currently) are Nobel Sport and Fiocchi
Fifth - powder is best bought by the 8# jug - works out to about $13/pound
Sixth - and most important - don't bother with the Lee - you cannot adjust the pre-crimp or final crimp stages; it is made mostly of plastic and zinc castings- for the price of a new Lee, you can get a used MEC 600 Jr which will run rings around the Lee from a quality standpoint

Current target ammo bought a few boxes at a time are running about $9/box; the wally world promo loads are now running about 27 here - when they have them - with tax making it about $30 total, you are looking at $7.50. Going in on a group buy for RIO or similar might get your box price down to $6/box; however, I can reload my 3/4 practice loads for $3.35/box
For serious tournaments, I buy and shoot factory, no time for a dud load when there's money on the line - but for my twice-weekly practice shooting times, the reloads do the job just fine

Added: the best place to find a used MEC for about $60-$80 is either Craigs List or better yet - your local trap/skeet type of gun club

April 10, 2013, 03:41 PM
I enjoy loading shotshells. As stated, if you buy in bulk, you can save a little on 12 and 20 gauge. The smaller gauges like 28 is where you can really save. I find I can produce a better load for about the same price as the Walmart stuff. Also check Ebay for a used press. There always a ton of used 600 jr.'s on there. I would recommend a Sizemaster though becuase it will resize. Watch prices though. The price of used presses has gone way up. I see used Sizemaster's going for $175 and up plus shipping, I just ordered a brand new 20 gauge one for $175.00 with shipping from Amazon.

April 10, 2013, 05:15 PM
^^^+1 - What AFK said about EBAY - the prices are getting insane, whereas your local gun club will have them closer to the prices I mentioned, AND you should be able to inspect it close up at the club before you buy

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