Benefits of Reloading Your Ammunition
Costs vs. Benefits of reloading your own ammunition
At some point, we’ve all been there before- walking past a neglected tool in the garage or the practically unused piece of exercise equipment in the den with layers upon layers of accumulated dust sitting atop it. You think back to the weeks that you researched which make/model to go with, as well as the rush of excitement when the delivery truck dropped off the equipment you chose. Then, after you used it once or twice, it has sat neglected, unused, collecting dust. Now, you’re deciding whether you want to order a bunch of reloading gear and get a home degree in ballistics so that you can join the ranks of ammunition reloaders. However… after thinking back to that dusty equipment in your den, you might be having second thoughts.
Well, let’s take a look at the reasons why you should or should not reload your own ammunition!
The Reasons to Reload
Why reload? There can be a lot of different reasons to reload, but here we’ll focus on the four biggest reasons to consider.
Reason 1: Save Money, Shoot More
The first reason we’ll discuss for reloading is the reason that got me thinking about reloading in the first place- saving money on ammunition and feeling good about shooting frequently. A good portion of the cost of ammunition is the brass casings that are used to hold all of the components together- so why throw it away? You probably thought the same thing the first time you finished shooting and saw all your used casings, right?
So, how much money can you save by reloading? In some cases it all depends on the caliber or ammunition spec you’re shooting. In other cases it can depend on the kind of deals you get on factory ammunition. Another factor that can change the savings associated with reloading are the costs associated with the components used to reload ammunition- mainly the primers, powder, and bullets used when reloading.
My first press was purchased to reload 44 Magnum ammunition. This is a great caliber to reload, because 44 magnum ammunition is very expensive, and revolver brass is easy to collect- you just dump it out of the cylinder into a nice shiny pile.
Let’s take a quick look at a “factory vs. Reloads” cost comparison for 44 Magnum based on reloading component street prices. First, consider a box of Magtech Sport Ammunition with 240 grain JSP bullets is running about ~$40 if you can find it in stock. Second let’s consider what it would cost if you were to reload equivalent ammunition with the following components:
Component Cost, reloading 44 Magnum
- Brass $0.00 (re-use)
- Primers (per 1000) $25.00
- Powder (per pound) $20.00
- Bullets (per 1000) $175.00
By doing a little math, and assuming a powder charge of 20.0 grains (where one pound = 7000 grains), you will arrive at a total of $12.86 per box of 50 for your own reloaded ammunition. Now, this analysis doesn’t factor in the cost of your equipment, and other costs related to reloading (such as case cleaning media and the cost of your time spent reloading) but it does give you an idea of how much you can save by reloading your own ammunition.
Savings per box (44 magnum reloads) = $40.00 – $12.86 = $27.14
Here reloads cost only 32% of what factory ammunition would cost! Keep in mind though, that in some cases it does not save you much (if any) money to reload ammunition. If you take the example of 9mm Luger ammunition, if you are comparing your own reloads to Winchester “White Box” factory ammunition, you may be closer to a wash on your costs if you are shooting plain FMJ (shortages and near-term price hikes aside). If you’re reloading JHP ammunition, the equation will look different, and you’d likely save money by reloading. There can be even more extreme cases of savings due to reloading, such as if you were to cast bullets (usually the most significant cost for reloading is bullets) and load your own 500 S&W magnum ammunition. In that case, you’d save even more compared to factory ammunition where a box of 50 could run $50.00 or more. That could transform your expensive bear repellant from a novelty into a frequent range companion- especially since you will be able to load cartridges to the power level that you can shoot comfortably.
Reason 2: Optimizing and Customizing Loads (Increase Accuracy)
There are two factors that are most instrumental in attaining accuracy when loading ammunition:
- Tailoring component selection and dimensions to the firearm
- Minimizing variation between cartridges
It’s a bit difficult to explain, but each firearm tends to have an inherent preference for specific components. Bullets vary by profile, construction, weight, and hardness, just to name a few things. These factors can make a big difference for accuracy. Primers ignite in a particular way, some burn hotter, some burn cooler, some burn longer, some burn more quickly. Primers will need to be matched to both the bullet and the powder being used. Even when they are matched to the components being used, firearms can show a preference for one brand/type of primer over another. Accuracy variation due to primer selection is more evident in rifles than in handguns, but it is definitely a noticeable factor in both applications.
Reloading gives you the opportunity to select the components that work with your gun, and fine tune your loads for maximum accuracy. Once you figure out what works for your gunyou’re your particular application, you need consistency from one cartridge to the next in order to maintain optimal accuracy. By paying careful attention to your reloading setup and using care when operating your equipment, you can attain better consistency than machinery used in factories to mass produce ammunition. By minimizing variations in bullet seating depth, charge weight, and other factors, you’ll experience less variation in point of impact which translates to better accuracy. This does assume that point of aim does not change from one shot to the next, so as the shooter, you have to do your part as well! By working up your own optimal load recipe and loading your ammunition with precision, you’ll naturally have more “pride of ownership” and satisfaction at the range when you seem improved and consistent groups.
Reason 3: The Fun of it!
Is reloading fun? Well, that depends on your personality, how much time you have, how much space you have, and other factors as well. Reloading is about learning and improving. Reloading will challenge you to learn about how your firearm is put together, how it works, and what it needs in terms of ammunition. By studying your weapon and by experimenting, you’ll learn how to assemble optimized ammunition.
While you can easily learn to reload ammunition in just a short period of time, you can also spend lifetimes learning about this craft, while continually learning new tricks, methods, and skills. If you have a clean workspace, are patient, and are willing to take your time, you will be much more likely to enjoy the process of reloading. Keeping detailed notes will make your activities more fruitful over the years as you will have references to look back on and compare to. This information is valuable not only for your own future reference, but also to share with others. This level of detail and discipline will make your reloading more of an experience of craftsmanship, and help to minimize frustration.
In order to convey what the reloading experience is about, I like to articulate what it was like to shoot my first box of reloaded 44 magnum ammunition. The first shot was a complete thrill! At first, you may not know what to expect, but as you drive home from the range after that first shooting session with your own ammunition, you’ll experience a unique satisfaction.
Reason 4: So You Can Shoot, Period.
We’re all familiar with ammunition shortages and hoarding/price gouging that are a result of the current unstable political climate. If you are one of the fortunate individuals that stocked up on reloading supplies and gear before the “craziness”, then you now have the luxury of shooting when you want to and what you want to. Unfortunately, if you didn’t get stocked up in time, you’ll have trouble finding reloading equipment and consumables. My only advice here is to get creative (friends, local shops, craigslist) and to be patient. It’s just a matter of time before presses, dies, powder, primers, and projectiles are more available again.
We’ve covered a few of some of the most important reasons to help you decide whether reloading is for you. Let’s summarize again by walking through some criteria to think about. Hopefully this will shed more light on whether or not you should “take the plunge”.
If you are the type that enjoys working on your own car, you’re likely to enjoy the process of reloading. In addition to just setting up and operating your reloading press, you’ll of course need to troubleshoot your equipment and repair it here and there. If you have mechanical interest and ability, you’ll enjoy rising to the challenge.
Attention to detail
If you have a bit of OCD and like to organize your nuts and bolts, you’ll also enjoy picking up brass, labeling your ammo boxes, and getting your reloading bench setup. Because reloading can be dangerous, this attention to detail is obviously very important.
If you decide to take up reloading as a hobby, there will be times that your patience will be put to the test. Ocassionally rounds won’t chamber, a rifle won’t group, and who knows what else can happen. However, if you have enough patience, you can work through the issues. If you are not a patient person, reloading may not be for you.
We’ve all known someone without the time to use the toys they own, and if you don’t have time to shoot, you’ll need to ask yourself if you’ll even have the time to reload. Reloading does take time, but like anything else, there’s always a worthwhile reward for taking the time to do it yourself.
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