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Determining TRUE reload costs

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by liberalwithagun, Feb 9, 2012.

  1. liberalwithagun

    liberalwithagun New Member

    Aug 17, 2011
    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?
  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Sep 17, 2007
    Eastern KS
    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:

  3. RandyP

    RandyP Participating Member

    Jan 28, 2009
    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.
  4. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

    Oct 22, 2007
    Central PA
    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.
  5. Muddydogs

    Muddydogs Member

    Nov 23, 2011
    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.
  6. brickeyee

    brickeyee Senior Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    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.
  7. liberalwithagun

    liberalwithagun New Member

    Aug 17, 2011
    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!
  8. Shadow 7D

    Shadow 7D Mentor

    Nov 30, 2008
    Frozen North
    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.
  9. NeuseRvrRat

    NeuseRvrRat Participating Member

    Jan 24, 2011
    Wilmington, NC
    i can't seem to find my handloads in stores. i guess that makes them priceless. ;)
  10. liberalwithagun

    liberalwithagun New Member

    Aug 17, 2011
    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.
  11. Loic

    Loic New Member

    Jan 17, 2012
    If I save money reloading 9mm you will save a good chunck for rifle ammo. Plus its fun to do !

    Sent from my EVO 3 D using Tapatalk
  12. PapaG

    PapaG Participating Member

    Sep 12, 2010
    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 much....it is not a big cost saving for the "average" shooter.
  13. liberalwithagun

    liberalwithagun New Member

    Aug 17, 2011

    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.
  14. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Mentor

    Oct 19, 2010
    East TN
    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.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2012
  15. angus6

    angus6 Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    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
  16. evan price

    evan price Mentor

    Dec 7, 2005
    http://www.ohioccw.org/ Ohio's best CCW resour
    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:
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2012
  17. GLOOB

    GLOOB Mentor

    Sep 16, 2007
    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.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2012
  18. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf member

    Jan 16, 2012
    Wet Oregon
    You can't really put a price on freedom.
  19. USSR

    USSR Mentor

    Jul 7, 2005

    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.:)

  20. liberalwithagun

    liberalwithagun New Member

    Aug 17, 2011
    @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.

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