Question for the Veteran Reloaders
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Old 08-03-2009, 07:28 PM   #1
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I am trying to decide whether or not reloading would be a justifiable expenditure for me. I know nothing about reloading, and if it turns out that it would be financially beneficial I will definitely buy several books and do much more research before ever attempting to reload.

That said, I would like your input on a couple of questions. This will help me crunch the numbers to see if reloading will be feasible for me before I go any farther.

1) Is a budget number of $750 dollars for beginners equipment reasonable?

2) What would be a good average cost for the components of a 9mm target round with salvaged brass?

3) What would be a good average cost for the components of a .45ACP target round with salvaged brass?

4) What % of failures should a novice reloader expect?

I realize that costs vary for each load, just looking for an average approximate cost for a target round with salvaged brass for each of the listed calibers. I tried to figure it out on my own, but there were too many variables I did not understand.

Thanks in advance.

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Old 08-03-2009, 08:27 PM   #2
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Your $750 budget is very do-able. Would urge you to look at USED components- it is damned HARD to wear out a good die.

You will need a good loading manual (altho most powder companies have load data on the net) and I would get a copy of ABCs of Reloading (try Amazon.com- check for used copies)

You will need a press, dies, priming set up, powder measure, and scale. Frankly, you can spend almost as much as you want, or as little. For a beginner, would suggest a single stage press. No, not as fast as a turret or progressive, but you are less likely to screw up. There are other things like case trimmers, tumblers for cleaning brass, primer pocket cleaners, etc- but you may not need everything at once.

Cost? A pound of powder is 7000 grains. Divide cost by the number of cartridges for the load you are using. ($20 lb of Bullseye, loading 5 grains per cartridge= 1400 cartridges. 20 divided by 1400= 1.42 CENTS of powder each. Primers- one per cartridge. Prices have been up lately, check your area. If they were $40 per thousand, about 4 cents per cartridge (should be less) Bullets? What are you loading? Jacketed soft point, solid coppers, partition bullets- or just plain lead wadcutters? If you paid $15/ 100, that's 15 cents per cartridge. You may have a fraction of a cent in polishing media for a tumbler, case lube, etc, so take that 1.42 cents, round up to 2 cents. Cost of a loaded cartridge is 21 cents. Or about $10.50 per box of 50.

However, that is with a very pricy bullet. I cast my target pistol bullets from wheelweights- so my cost there is time and some propane for the melting pot burner- and a one time $22.50 set of molds- and a bit of liquid ALOX for bullet lube. My cost for 45 ACP is about $3.90 a box. Plan on 5% spoilage when you first start (forgot powder, crushed lip of cartridge, etc)

How would you amortize the cost of the durable stuff- press, dies, scale? Dunno- have seen them abused, never saw one worn out by a home reloader.

Your cost really will be driven by WHAT you load, WHAT components you use, etc. But for something like .348 Winchester where new ammo is about a buck fifteen a SHOT- reloading makes really good sense.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MY TIME ?!?! (yells the little man in the back row) What about it? Do you bill your hours spent fishing? It's called a hobby- and gives you something to do on cold, wet winter days.

Now, having said all that (yes, I know, I tend to lecture and preach. Wife tells me that) Really should not look at reloading to save money- it is a way to roll your own, get good ammo, and quit worrying about availability. Hey- I grow my own tomatoes. When you add up everything (gas for tiller, plants, tomato cages, etc) it would be much cheaper to go to store, buy the 3 small rock hard tomatoes in the plastic tray that have all the flavor of a Styrofoam cup. But MY tomatoes are the size of a softball, taste like a tomato, one slice= one sammitch- and I can stop worrying about the illegal migrant that picked them, and whether there is E. Coli on my sammitch.

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Old 08-03-2009, 09:23 PM   #3
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Allow me to second the sentiments in the last paragraph. Reloading is certainly part of shooting sports, but is also a hobby in it's own right. Focus and relaxation, production and satisfaction of a job well done.

If you really want to start cheap, pick up a Lee Loader in 9mm or .45 and some components and make a few rounds just to see.

Tom

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Old 08-04-2009, 05:11 AM   #4
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C3 summed it up pretty well. A single stage (RCBS, Lee, Lyman) will give many years of yeoman service. Not the fastest but care is utmost importance especially when you are learning.

Failure rate? If you get one in 10,000 you are being careless. I cannot remember the last misfire I got, it must have ben about 1987.

ABC's of reloading, The Cast Bullet Handbook, Bound manuals from any of the press makers or bullet makers and load data to supplement the above online from the powder makers.

It really is not about cost, but pride and workmanship.

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Old 08-04-2009, 11:30 AM   #5
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I am still using the RCBS JR single stage press that I bought in 1976. I do have a Dillon 450B that I had bought and used in the mid-1980's. I took a hiatus from reloading during the 90's - to many other obligations and not much time to shoot. But I have reloaded over 4,000 rounds of all calibers in the past 9 months using the single stage press. I seem to spend more time on case preparation (cleaning, trimming, etc.) than I do actually re-loading so I have not felt the need to set-up the old Dillon machine.

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Old 08-04-2009, 12:47 PM   #6
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"1) Is a budget number of $750 dollars for beginners equipment reasonable?

Easily. And, properly chosen, "beginner" equipment will last forever IF it's not misused or neglected.


2) What would be a good average cost for the components of a 9mm target round with salvaged brass?

Already covered, very well.


3) What would be a good average cost for the components of a .45ACP target round with salvaged brass?

Essentually the same as for the 9mm.


4) What % of failures should a novice reloader expect?

If you mean "failures to fire", virtually zero. No more than for factory ammo for sure.


Start with a Lee Classic Turret press. It's quite inexpensive, compared to others. It can be used as a single stage when learning and converted into an auto indexing "semi-progressive" later when you want more speed. It's mostly made of (cast) steel and plenty strong enough to also reload large rifle cases.

Lee's dies are also quite good and inexpensive too.

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Old 08-04-2009, 12:47 PM   #7
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I too, have a Dillon 450. Bought in 1984. 10's of thousands loaded on this machine. I have an RCBS single stage also. I use the Dillon to speed up the case prep. I can resize/de-cap only and go much faster because ot the index feature. I only need to put cases in and rotate.

I prefer to resize in one operation, clean the primer pockets and sometimes chamfer the mouth. Then back in the Dillon for the rest of the loading process.

I use the Rockchucker for those few calibers I don't have shell plates for like .45 Colt and .45-70.

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Old 08-04-2009, 07:26 PM   #8
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cost is not only factor of reloading your own ammunition. right now I can go shoot my pistols whenever I want because I reload. I know a lot of people out there who have stopped or slowed down their shooting because they cant find ammo. I like the fact that I do not have to rely on walmart or gunstores for ammunition. lee turret press is good place to start for beginning reloader. dies lee dies at midway usa are very cheap also.

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Old 08-06-2009, 08:36 PM   #9
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If you're like many of us there is a good chance that reloading your own ammunition can become an enjoyable part of your shooting experience.

Probably the biggest factor effecting cost is simply how big of a hurry you are in. You can probably pick up a perfectly good used RCBS Rockchucker for 50.00 or less that will load all the ammunition that you have time to load. I haven't checked the prices on new ones for a while but you should be able to buy a new Lyman, Lee, or RCBS press for less than 100.00. Now I'm talking about the press that most reloaders start with and will only process one case at a time and you will have to change the dies to perform the case resizing and bullet seating for a rifle case, and for pistol ammo there is a 3rd die that will be needed.

As far as the cost of a reloaded round a lot will depend upon if you have access to once fired brass or find it necessary to purchase new, the amount of powder required, the cost of the bullet and primers. (When I first started reload I could buy primers for under a penny, but a recent "shortage" have sent prices to 3 or 4 cents, but they will likely come back down in time. I used to figure 7 or 8 cents per round depending on the cartridge but at today's prices to be on the safe side it might be double that. But of course some cases can be used upwards of 50 times when using light loads, so you price will come down the more rounds you load. In other words, you are going to save a LOT over buying factory ammo and if you shoot much at all you will pay for your equipment fairly quickly.

As for "failures" or misfires, if you keep your mind on what you're doing, you shouldn't expect any more than from factory loads. Basically none.

Reloading is not for everyone, but if you shoot much at all it will save you a good bit of money over they years, plus it allows you load cartridges that are not available in factory ammo such as reduced loads for practicing without having to endure the recoil of factory loads if you are shooting a magnum pistol for example, and one the other hand, in many cases you can safely work up to loads that will exceed factory ballistics.

So to sum up, you can spend a good deal of money if what your interested in is turning out a lot of rounds in a short period of time, but if your not in a hurry and shoot more than 3 or 4 boxes of factory loads a month, reloading will pay for itself fairly quickly and can be an enjoyable activity as a bonus. The only way to find out is to give it a try.

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Old 08-06-2009, 11:50 PM   #10
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[QUOTE=Caliche;138895]
1) Is a budget number of $750 dollars for beginners equipment reasonable?

You should be able to set yourself up with everything you need (press,dies, case trimmer, primer pocket cleaner, and tumbler with media) including 1000 primers, a lb. of powder, and 100 bullets for about $450. I would suggest a top of the line powder measure, since your accuracy and safety will depend mostly on this piece of equipment. Buy a Redding 3BR for about $110 and your grandkids will be using it! For beginners I would recommend the Lee Pacesetter 3-die set - it includes everything (you don't get shell holders or crimp dies from anyone else) and they only cost $26 per caliber.

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