When does reloading become cost effective?

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by Yunus, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. Yunus

    Yunus Active Member

    I shoot .40, .45, .223, .308 calibers for the most part.

    Roughly how much does it cost to make a .45 or .223 round and how much time does it take? How much is an initial investment in equipment to be able to reload the 4 calibers mentioned?

    I'm trying to consider and weigh the options to determine at what point reloading becomes cost effective.
  2. mountainman13

    mountainman13 New Member

    Put it this way. I'll be spending about $200 to get started reloading 10mm. My carry rounds cost me $1 each. I'll be reloading the exact same thing for $.35 each.

    The first thing you will want to buy is a reloading manual.

  3. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member Admin Moderator Lifetime Supporter

    Depends on how much $$$ you want to put into the equipment. Those are pretty common calibers- I'll be you can check Fleabay for used dies and a press.

    Other variation is what BULLET do you want to load? Lead cast 45s are cheaper than JHPs. Do you have range brass, or are you buying brass?

    Check on the price of the components you want to use, plug them in HERE: http://www.handloads.com/calc/loadingCosts.asp
  4. Overkill0084

    Overkill0084 Well-Known Member

    I reload .380, 9mm, .38/.357, 40 & .45. Recently I just started w/ .223.
    I shoot more .45 acp than anything else. With cast bullets I can do them for about $13+/- per hundred.
    .357 is where I probably save the most with handgun stuff. Not because I'm so clever, but because factory ammo is overpriced.
    My .223 was a huge success as far as accuracy went. I suppose that with bulk purchases of cheap Russian ammo, reloading may not make a lot of sense if all your doing is killing cans. My reloads probably cost between $.20 & $.23 ea. With careful shopping I could probably drop that somewhat.
    How much do you shoot? If you only pop off a few boxes once in a while it will take a while to recoup your costs. Volume will also dictate what sort of initial investment you will want to consider. High volume shooters will likely want to look at a progressive press (more $$.) Whereas lower volume, but accuracy oriented rifle shooter may be just fine with a single stage.
    If you shoot a lot of .308, it's cost effective now. Especially if your buying premium hunting or match ammo. That stuff is like $30 to $40 per box of 20, right ($150 to $200 per 100 rounds)? If you can't reload for way less than half of that, you're doing it wrong.

    Initial investment? Anywhere from $100 to $1000 or more. Again, it depends on your needs. My first setup was a Lee Challenger Kit. Nothing fancy, but it did the job. I migrated to a Lee Classic Turret from there. Now that I've started with .233, I broke out the Challenger again. My needs are more humble than some. If you are burning up a thousand rounds per weekend, you might want a Dillon progressive. The Lee kits are good enough to get your feet wet and are good value. I hated the scale and powder measure so I replaced them. But they will do the job and you can make very good ammo with Lee Equipment.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2012
  5. Yunus

    Yunus Active Member

    Thanks for the quick replies. I'll check out the link and look up some real costs for the supplies.

    My guess is that because I use common calibers that the ammo on the shelves is cheap enough that it's going to take a long time to pay for equipment costs. If I shot 10mm then it would pay for itself quickly but I can get .45 for $.40 a round, if doing it myself costs $.35 then it's not worth the time.
  6. JonM

    JonM Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

    hmmm pay for itself... heh

    you just end up spending the same amount in the long run but you get to shoot more for the same money spent. thats my experience.

    mine comes in from a 2-1 to a 5-1 cost advantage depending on what im loading up. the more premium bullet i use the greater the price difference between making the same quality or beter than commercial. blackhills and federal match in my ar15a2 match rifle gets around moa or alightly under with open sights. my reloads are about half moa with open sights. since im my own quality control i can make the ammunition as precise as i care to.

    .223/556 i can load SS109 for about the exact price i can buy [email protected] wolf steel cased. 1000 air pulled ss109 bullets from upammo was 94$ after shipping then add in powder and primer costs which varies greatly for me depending on availability. i have 0 brass cost atm since all my 223 is range pickups once fired stuff folks have given me.

    wolf 62grain 223 off midway is 240$ for 1000 rounds

    my cost for 1000 of ss109 at current prices is right at 190$, after factoring in powder and primers, if you add in 1000 pieces of brass once fired off midway which is reusable. so you start beating wolf by the third reload or so using MUCH better more consistant quality components.

    i just think that if you like to shoot reloading is one of those things that is a no-brainer

    some folks think their time is worth the difference in cost. i think its just the other side of shooting. if all your doing is blowing up rocks at the gravel pit i guess it really doesnt matter. but i outgrew that about 30 years ago...
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2012
  7. KeysKelly

    KeysKelly New Member

    I reload just about all handgun calibers. I use Lee Equipment. A lot of people will tell you Lee is cheap junk but they have always done very well for me. You can get a Lee 4 hole turret press kit with a couple calibers of dies, a tumbler, media, loading trays all for about $200. The only thing I would replace from the Lee kit is to get a digital scale. You can find one for about $25.

    If you pick up range brass you can load 500 rounds of .45 for about $50-$60. A box of 100 WWB .45 will be $38.00 at Walmart which is about the cheapest you'll find it anywhere. The $50-$60 will also be a good guess for .357 Magnum which are about $45 per 100 at Walmart. Same with .44 MAgnum that is about $55-$60 per 100 at Walmart. There are some rough price estimates. How long it will take to pay for the equipment in savings depends on how much you shoot.

    Another advantage of reloading is once you get comfortable with it and gain experience you can customize your rounds. Then, more as a personal gain, it's fun.

    Do yourself a favor and get a good manual to read BEFORE you start loading. I personally like the Hornady or Lee manuals. The ABC's of Reloading and Speer are also pretty good.
  8. Overkill0084

    Overkill0084 Well-Known Member

    With careful shopping you should have no difficulty building premium quality .45 ammo for $0.25 to $0.30 ea. I'm talking top shelf Sierra or Hornady match grade or self defense bullets.
    For less intensive plinking ammo, under $0.20 per round (Plated or bulk jacketed) is easily achievable, again with careful shopping.
    And of course, bulk cast bullets drop the costs even more. ($0.07 to $0.10 per bullet, seems normal)
    Start scrounging wheel weights and casting your own, bullets get cheap fast.
    Just like factory ammo, your needs/preferences determine most of the costs.
  9. JonM

    JonM Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

    oh, one other thing... be careful. reloading is just as bad as BRD its a deep deep rabbithole with TONS of toys and fun gadgets that will suck you in just as much as getting your first AR15 or AK47 will.
  10. cottontop

    cottontop Guest

    It doesn't. It just becomes a money pit. But, it's a great hobby. A man can spend his money on much worse things.
  11. elfmdl

    elfmdl Active Member

    But the stuff you load will be top quality for the about the same price as the cheapest stuff you can get!
  12. beaglesam

    beaglesam Active Member

    I reload 45 ACP for $16.5/100 rounds and 9mm for $13.40/100 rounds.
  13. Rick1967

    Rick1967 Well-Known Member

    I pour lead to make my own bullets. I bought somewhere around 140 pounds of wheel weight alloy for $25. That actually works out to about 25 cents for 50 bullets at 200 grains each. 85 cents worth of powder. Primers are $1.25 for 50. So I can make .45 acp for $2.35 a box. I shoot a lot. I have never bought .45 acp brass.
  14. Nickwashere

    Nickwashere New Member

    223 is a cheap round but you can shoot higher quality ammo in that round for roughly the same price.. I got my basic set up and by my calculations I broke even loading 40 cal at about 2000 rounds.. After that now I can reload at about half the price.. But i shoot twice as much.. Personally I enjoy reloading and the knowledge it has given me in the 4 months I have been doing it.. It does save money but learning the art of reloading is reward enough in itself.. I like to reload almost as much as I enjoy shooting
  15. rjd3282

    rjd3282 New Member

    Q. When does reloading become cost effective? Ans. A lot sooner than not reloading will become cost effective.
  16. beaglesam

    beaglesam Active Member

    You hit the nail on the head. Problem solved.
  17. gunnut07

    gunnut07 New Member

    Never. Cause you will always be spending money. There really is not a break even point.

    a press will last 3 lifetimes. My brother has a press that was passed down from his grandfather still reloading today. So The life of dies if you let them get rusty that is about the only thing that can cause any damage unless you drop them or they are in a fire.
  18. Steel_Talon

    Steel_Talon New Member

    There are several material cost calculators out there that can give you per cartridge cost. What they don't include is your time and initial equipment outlay. If you go beyond the "hobby aspect" of handloading then time spent should be a consideration. Equipment outlay can be controled to a point but ultimately it becomes what you make it..LOL.

    Lets say a good start up will be about 800.00 to include your first 1000 rounds of .45acp.

    Materials Needed

    *Manuals ABC's of reloading is a good start.

    * Press For what you laid out above I'd go with a Lee Classic 4 hole Turret press. Reason is it's easy to learn on, and it can produce a fair amount of pistol cartridges per hour. It's faster than a single stage press, and less expensive than a true progressive press. Calibre change over is fast and simple with additional 4 hole turret plate and dies.

    Example of press kit https://kempfgunshop.com//index.php...n=com_virtuemart&Itemid=41&vmcchk=1&Itemid=41

    *Press II a simple use single stage should always be present on your bench they will always be useful.

    *Beam Scale
    *kinetic bullet puller
    *Machinists Caliper
    *Case trimming system (bottle necks only)
    *Case prep tools
    *Lube system
    *Dies,wrenches, allen, wrenches
    *Load Books
    *Numerous odds and ends.
    *note taking system
    *Quite work area
    *Solid work bench
    *Trips to the range to work up safe accurate loads for your firearms.

    *1K brass
    1K bullets
    1k primers
    enough powder for 1K

    This is a primer for thought, there are others with far superior experience than I on this forum when it comes to handcrafting cartridges
  19. 1hole

    1hole New Member

    "Roughly how much does it cost to make a .45 or .223 round and how much time does it take? How much is an initial investment in equipment to be able to reload the 4 calibers mentioned? I'm trying to consider and weigh the options to determine at what point reloading becomes cost effective."

    I started loadng in '65, only partly to same money, but figger I should break even any day now; after that I'll be making money! But I haven't yet worked out how many rounds I'll need to crank out in a month to make a living wage!

    Your question seems reasonable on its face but it isn't. How much time it takes depends on what tools YOU use, how quickly YOU work, how well set up YOUR work path is and how meticulous YOU are. How much it costs to load a single cartridge is so highly variable according to the components used and where you obtain them that my costs vs. anyone else's are irrelvant. Where/how you get your cases and how long they may last varies tremedously. We don't know what equipment YOU would wish to buy or how much YOU might have to spend to set up a place to work (which can be a big part of the costs) nor at what point YOU would consider reloading worthwhile. Loading becomes 'cost effective' with the first round but it's not free.

    With all that said, reloading is a great activity but it's been my advice to anyone looking into it purely to save money to forget it! IMHO, it takes time and money to do so unless your goal is much greater than just to cut costs it's unlikely you would keep it up long enough to break even.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012
  20. srtolly1

    srtolly1 New Member

    I took similar advice. I like to shoot, a lot. Factory ammo was starting to get expensive for the amount I like to shoot. I shoot .45 the most and picked up a Lee anniversary single stage setup for about $100 that had almost everything I needed to start. A set of dies, caliper, digital scale, kinetic bullet puller, reloading manual, another $100. You get the idea, these non expendable items I don't figure in because I can use them for other calibers. I'm getting by at about $13 per 50 rounds but ok getting that down with some other bullet sources. I have more time than money so it works for me and I am tuning a load for USPSA now.