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Current Cost of Hand Loading (Circa 2013/06)

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by luisespinal, Jun 26, 2013.

  1. luisespinal

    luisespinal Member

    Hello all - I was wondering what's the collection of opinions regarding the current cost of hand loading. I'm sure it's been discussed in the past, but I wanted to query your current opinions (and suggestions maybe?)

    I bought a hand loading book and read it from A to Z, and I was already set on buying some equipment for reloading 0 mostly 38 SP for starters, with an eye to reload 45ACP and 45-70 (once I finally get a 45-70.)

    My main goal was to reload for the 38 SP to shoot and practice. But then I'm looking at the current prices of components (current as of the time of this post.) The average small pistol primer goes from as low as $0.03 (if I'm lucky to find a good deal on gunbroker), to $0.15. I've done the math looking at different options on gunbroker and midwayusa, and the typical price is $0.09 regardless of buying 1K or 5K.

    Then, there is the brass, on average $0.10 a piece. I can reuse it like, what, 4-5 times. So, it would come up to be $0.02 a piece. Then there is the bullet, which I find it to be an average of $0.10 a piece as well.

    Assuming the cost of powder is negligible, then primer plus (amortized cost of) brass plus bullet, it comes around $0.21 a piece. That is probably 48% the price of 38 special rounds that I could get in bulk (about $0.48 a round, maybe cheaper if I'm lucky.)

    Maybe I was wrong, but I was thinking the savings per round would have been more substantial. I don't shoot often (once every other month) with no much free time to spare (2 kids). Due to those constrains and lack of space, bullet casting is most likely out of the question for now.

    So I was hoping, perhaps unrealistically, to have more substantial savings to justify the initial investment in hand loading equipment (plus the time to hand load.)

    I might still reload for the larger calibers when I'm ready for it, but I don't think I might do it for the pistol calibers for the reasons above (and might simply pay the $0.2x extra per manufactured round.)

    Am I way off in my calculations (with regards to hand loading the 38 sp)?

    Has it been like this before, or has it gotten more expensive since the Obamapocalypse Gun Chupacabra Scare? BTW, I'm noticing that it is getting harder and harder to get hand loading equipment and parts (most are back ordered on midwayusa for instance.)
  2. 45_auto

    45_auto Well-Known Member

    You're pretty close. Figure $.03 for primers ($30/1000), $.02 for powder ($20/pound, 1000 rounds @ 7 grains each per pound), and $.07 for bullets if you shoot cast ($70/1000). 38 brass is all over the place dirt cheap and you'll never wear it out, I wouldn't even count it as part of the cost.

    So you're at about $.12 per round, about 1/4 the cost of factory. If you don't shoot much, it isn't worth it.

    You'll see much more substantial savings on higher priced rounds, especially rifle ammo.

    It's always been about the same price ratio. Reloading the cheaper common cartridges (especially target loads) like 9mm, 38 Special, .223, etc, doesn't save you near as much as reloading higher priced ammo.
  3. Arkansas Paul

    Arkansas Paul Well-Known Member

    Loading brass 4-5 times isn't even scratching the surface for standard pressure .38 Spcl brass. There was a story in an old issue of G&A magazine where the writer wanted to see how many times he could load a .38 case before failure. He loaded and fired the same case until the neck split. It withstood 157 loadings.
    I'm not saying they'll all do that, but I would be highly surprised if I got less than 50-60 loadings from .38 brass. I'm averaging 8-10 on .30-06 brass and it takes a lot more abuse than straight walled pistol stuff does. I don't even count the cost of brass in my handgun loads. It would be far less than 0.01 per round.
    I cast my own bullets, and I'm loading .38 Spcl for about $60/1k.

    Here is a quick breakdown
    Powder W231 - $25.00/1lb - 1,555 rounds per pound - $0.016 per round
    Primers - $40.00/1k - $0.04 per round
    Bullets - 158 grain SWC from Missouri Bullets - $35.00/500 - $0.07 per round

    That's $0.126 per round or $12.60/100
    And that's buying primers by the 1k and powder by the pound. You'll save more money if you can afford to buy in bulk.

    As I said your brass will be less than a half a cent per round. I wouldn't bother counting it.
  4. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

    Want to save money even more? By your powder in 8# jugs, NOT 1# containers - the price per pound drops dramatically
  5. Springfield0612

    Springfield0612 Well-Known Member

    +1 on not counting the brass. If you didn't reload it, you just leave it in the range buckets right? So after the first firing it's free!
    I started casting my own bullets, and thought to myself, I'm paying for lead and shooting it into a hill side why can't I reuse it? Well I don't want to spend the time digging and sifting, so I made bullet catchers out of propane tanks and shredded rubber. Now after the first firing of the lead, it's free, after the second firing of the lead I figure I paid off the molds, the third time fired now I'm back in the black and shooting free bullets! I'm reloading for .45 ACP, .45 LC, 9mm, .38 S&W, .300 savage, .32 ACP, and .380 ACP for the cost of powder and primers. What's that? $.05/round $5/100 for .45 acp? I'll take it.
  6. silicosys4

    silicosys4 Well-Known Member

    You are way off in your costs.
    For me, .38 spcl reloads are roughly $0.06 each.

    Brass is approximately $70/1k for once fired brass that lasts up to 20 reloads, depending on how rough on your brass you are. Thats $0.07 each. divide that by an average of 10 loads over the lifespan of the brass, and you get $0.007 each.
    Powder shouldn't be over $20/lb if you buy it by the jug and not by the lb. I paid roughly $18/lb on the last jug of Unique powder I bought. Charge weight on my wadcutters is 3.2 grains, so you get a lot of loads per lb with wadcutters.
    I cast my own bullets so pay about $20/1k bullets.

    All in all, about $63/1k. Compare that to what a case of factory ammo would cost.

    9mm and .40 are about as cheap. For $75/1k for my reloads vs. $325 for 1k (cheapest factory 9mm ammo available right now that I could find)......
    Its still worth it to me to reload 9mm.
    Another reason....
    Shortage? What shortage? (as I load up another 1k 9mm rounds for $75.)
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2013
  7. silicosys4

    silicosys4 Well-Known Member

    Actually, I've found the opposite is true.
    If I pay $75/ 1k to reload 9mm ammo that (pre panic, even) is $250/1k, I'm paying 30% of factory ammo cost to reload.
    Rifle rounds are more expensive for me because quality factory bullets are MUUUCH more expensive for rifle rounds than the home cast handgun bullets I load with, and more expensive than even commercial cast or plated bullets.
    Once everything is said and done, I'm paying about $1 each to reload premium rifle ammo who's equivalent can be purchased for approximately $2 round from the factory. Once you factor in the savings on brass by loading multiple times, say 5x per brass, my cost to reload rifle ammo is still $0.75 each, or 37% of factory ammo costs.

    By the numbers, reloading for those common calibers is actually more cost effective than reloading for rifle rounds, unless you shoot something really expensive like weatherby factory ammo, or exotic.
    The real savings are found when you reload something like .357 magnum or .44 magnum, rounds that are expensive in their factory offerings in any flavor.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2013
  8. Arkansas Paul

    Arkansas Paul Well-Known Member

    ^ Similar results here. I'm at about 50% on rifle rounds. A little better with some, but that's about what I average.
  9. Katitmail

    Katitmail Well-Known Member

    Primers $45/1k (first I bought), now it's $37/1k in LGS
    Powder - $22/lb (first I bought)
    Bullets - $167/1k from cabellas - plated

    Brass I don't count - you should have it by the time you want to reload (I collected all factory brass)

    Cost me $234 for 1k of 45ACP ammo.
    Not very good but I didn't get great deals on components either. Still, I saved almost $200 which paid for LCT press kit.

    I plan to buy 8# powder, 10k+ of Tula primers and group-by lead bullets next time I get a chance.

    I hope to get closer to 10-12c per round
  10. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    Reloading causes me to buy far more ;-) But it also allows me to work around ammo shortages, which in these parts is essential. Without reloading I'd be up the creek for half of what I shoot.
  11. luisespinal

    luisespinal Member

    Thank you all for your input. One interesting thing I noticed is that you guys are seeing much cheaper price tags for primers, so your advice would be appreciated. When I go check on gunbroker (as of today, for example) a 1k brick of small pistol primers go between 50 to 80 (not counting S&H), which is why I keep coming up with a number of $0.09 or more per primer.

    So that tells me that I need to do better research on where to buy primers :)

    It seems that at the end of the day, to do my own bullet casting is the way to go to really see some substantial savings.
  12. luisespinal

    luisespinal Member

    Actually, digging deeper, I see that if I buy larger primer bricks (5K) off gunbroker (or if I select Tula primers), then the cost begins to approach the costs you guys experience.
  13. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Well-Known Member

    Lots of good information posted so far. As far as reloading costs, I cannot add much.

    But, I enjoy reloading and have been at it for 30 years or so. I am to the point where I do not really care what my reloads cost, I know the cost less than factory and shoot better as well.

    Reloading is not for everyone and that is fine. Give it a whirl, you might find a new rewarding hobby to augment your enjoyment of shooting.

    On the other hand, some see reloading as drudgery.
  14. Potatohead

    Potatohead Well-Known Member

    Great thread topic from my perspective. Been wondering about this myself. Thanks very much poster and postees:)
  15. Reefinmike

    Reefinmike Well-Known Member

    Ill ramble on because I like to hear myself talk

    38 brass? that stuff litters the public range, I stopped picking them up at the 5,000 mark. I think I have split one piece of 38 brass in the past 16 months. An old corroded nickel plated(much more brittle) 38 case. so brass- $0.00

    Powder? I use HP38 and get it from a local place that is always stocked for $17/lb after tax. Light 3.4gr charges get me a hair over 2,000 loads per pound so powder- $0.0085/charge

    Primers? Keep an eye out, find a good hole in the wall store(mine has any flavor for $34/k give or take). Keep an eye out in bds' component watch thread http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=707473&page=44 . Between people on here posting availability, powdervalleyinc's facebook etc etc, I probably have the opportunity to buy primers once a week @ $30/k but decline to do so as I can hold out a few more months and prefer my tula primers for $20/k from powdervalley. Last time I ordered tula primers, they were $20.50/k, I bought 20k. Shipping and hazmat was a bit under $50. All said, it worked out to $23/k so primers- $0.023ea

    Bullets- as others have pointed out, you can buy lead cast boolits for about $70/thousand. I cast my own with free lead wheel weights. I have a total of about 2.5 hours wrapped per thousand bullets from scrap lead to shiny lubed bullets. so bullets- $0.00

    So you see, if you really try, you can make em for less than you could buy pre panic bulk 22lr. Im doin em for 3.15 cents per round or $1.58/box. I can make 10 boxes of 38 for less than the price of factory and probably spend less time than it takes to track down ammo nowadays. realistically, you are probably going to get primers at $40, powder for $20 and bullets for $80/k after shipping and roll em up for $6.50 per box. not bad, ive seen fools pay more than that for a box of 22.
  16. Potatohead

    Potatohead Well-Known Member

    Does the same thing go for 9mm, 40s and 45s?

    Sorry, i see this was answered later in thread
  17. Reefinmike

    Reefinmike Well-Known Member

    9mm and 40 and higher pressure rounds so they wont last quite as long. 38 and 45 will last ya forever
  18. Katitmail

    Katitmail Well-Known Member

    Couple things about brass. It seems that if you have access to it - you have ton's of it. But if you don't - you don't. Before I was shooting at static range - I was picking up my brass and on concrete floor I think I saved 95%+ of it.

    Now I shoot matches at local club - brass get's mixed up. I pick more than I shoot (many people shoot factory rounds) but there is no way to know how many times it is fired. Straight-walled cases seems to live forever, so I just sort by caliber. Everybody shoot 9mm, 40S&W and 45ACP. If you came in with different caliber - oh well.. You will lose your brass.

    You can buy cleaned once-fired brass for around $40/1000 for pistols. If you buy new brass - well, I'm not sure where economics go in this case :) I'm considering buying once-fired processed brass in future if I get tired of cleaning/prepping.

    I really need MAKAROV brass since it's not just laying around and I lose mine. So, it seems like it makes sense to buy factory ammo with brass cases so I can reload it. If I buy new Starline cases - cost per round will be about the same.
  19. david bachelder

    david bachelder Well-Known Member

    Kind of like adding up what a pound of deer meat cost you, or fish for that matter.

    I don't buy commercial ammo, I don't know or care what it costs. I do know that the last few times I was at Walmart there was no 38 special to be had. I reload and cast my own bullets so my cost is a bit lower, however my equipment costs are higher. Any way you look at it, it's a good trade.

    Put the pencil away and do a little reloading .... it's good for the soul.
  20. 45_auto

    45_auto Well-Known Member

    Your call. You're saving $1 per round reloading rifle ammo and about 18 cents per round reloading pistol ammo, and you think you're saving more on the pistol ammo?

    Shoot a case of 9mm handloads that saves you $175 (70%, $75 reloads vs $250 factory case), then shoot a case of rifle handloads that saves you $1,000 (50%, $1000 reloads vs $2000 factory case). See which one leaves more money in your wallet.

    Seems to me that I saved MUCH more on the rifle ammo per round, but hey, do whatever makes you happy! ;)
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2013

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