Reason To Reload


Getting this kind of group — from ammo you created yourself — can be very rewarding.

My first serious venture into reloading came out of necessity. It was the early years of the Obama administration and between the hoarders and the numbers of new shooters joining our ranks, ammunition had become scarce. I was running a training business heavily dependent upon ammo. I had lots of brass and bullets and powder and primers were still available if you knew where to look. So I turned to reloading to keep my business open.

When the crisis was over and ammunition was freely available, I turned my time and attention to other things. Now, some years later, having recently retired from a full-time, downtown office job, I’m shooting a lot again, and pulling up a stool to the reloading bench.

Right off the bat, I was curious to see if reloading actually saves money. I did a little calculating using 9mm practice and 9mm defensive ammo for comparison. Full metal jacket practice ammo typically comes in boxes of 50. I can buy boxes of various brands for $10 plus a little tax, rounding out to roughly 22 cents per round. Defensive ammo is typically sold in 20- or 25-round boxes. I know some types sell for as much as $1.29 per round, but it just so happens two I like sell for 72 cents per round. These prices are for Hornady 115-gr. XTP and Inceptor 65-gr. ARX.

You should also amortize the cost of loading equipment if you’re buying new gear. I have a single-stage Lee press with accessories resulting in an investment of $185 to load 9mm. Assuming I amortize that over 500 rounds, it will add 37 cents to each of my first 500 rounds. For more expensive gear you might amortize it over more rounds. My comparisons assume the equipment is already “paid for.”

Getting this kind of group — from ammo you created yourself — can be very rewarding.

The Nitty Gritty

Primers cost 3 cents each. I’m using Hodgdon TiteGroup powder for my calculations and a pound cost me $21. A pound equals 7,000 grains and reloading data for 115-gr. FMJ rounds calls for 4.5 grains per cartridge. Dividing 7,000 by 4.5 lets me know I get 1,555 cartridges from that pound of powder. That’s going to round off to about 1.3 cents per cartridge.

You can buy 1,000 115-gr. FMJ bullets by Berry’s Mfg. for $88 or 8.8 cents apiece. I use the same primers and powder for the defensive ammo but obviously the cost of bullets will be different. It just so happens the Hornady XTP and the ARX bullets I like to load cost 20 cents apiece.

If you add the cost up you get 13 cents for your practice rounds, compared to 22 cents if you buy them. The savings for defensive rounds is even greater, with a cost of 24 cents compared to 72 cents (that’s chasing a buck!). These numbers depend on using your existing brass. Should you need to buy brass, that’s going to add approximately 20 cents a round, at first. This takes your cost over bought ammunition for practice rounds, but you’re still going to save significantly on defensive style loads. Pretty decent, and you can do better by buying your powder in 5-lb. containers and your bullets in larger quantities. Partner with a fellow shooter and combine orders.

The price of ammo in the store is a big motivator toward making your own.

Performance And Fun

Once you get into reloading seriously, you can try different bullet, powder and load combinations for your favorite gun to find something it really likes, improving accuracy. Always stay within published specs, though, and beware of what you find on the net unless it’s from a reliable source.

Plus, reloading is just plain fun! This is a way to put more of you and your efforts into your shooting. Personalizing anything makes it more fun for most of us.

It will take a lot of time, though, and if you’re already being stretched thin you may have some decisions to make. Also, almost everyone who’s involved in defending someone who has used their gun for self-defense advises against using reloads in your carry gun. The main reason is the ballistics can’t be replicated easily. If a prosecuting attorney goes off on a tangent about those “dum-dum killer rounds” you had in your gun, there isn’t a good way to defend against it when you loaded the ammo yourself. However, I much prefer practicing with actual defensive ammo and since I can do it for at least 30 cents less per round using reloads, I do it more.

Keep in mind, too, you can’t reload for your friends. That puts you in the bracket of being a manufacturer. If you do it for free, I think BATF may find it hard to fine you, but if you charge them, even for materials, you technically need a manufacturer’s license. So if you’re thinking about buying a Rockchucker 6000 and churning out hundreds of rounds a week to supply your entire sporting club with ammo, you’d better think through the legal ramifications. But, hey, if you shoot a lot — you’ll save a lot reloading with the Rockchucker!

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