Reloading Ammo

I figured this will be more opinion than fact so it would go here.

I’ve been shooting my 45 and 40 a lot lately and was wondering about starting to reload my own ammo. We have a free outdoor shooting range so retrieving my brass won’t be an issue. Any ideas on what my breakeven point would be for reloading compared to buying FMJs from Walmart? Does it quickly become a money pit with the equipment needed? Do you enjoy shooting your own reloads more than store bought? Opinions are needed! Thanks

I’ve heard the opinion on gun boards more than once, that buying loaded ammo in bulk is cheaper in the long run than buying components and equipment and counting time spent re-loading. It’s a WAG on my part, but I think that it’s probably true. Of course this is with more “common” calibres, if that 45 is 45 Colt and not 45 ACP, then your’e probably better off reloading.

I don’t agree.

I bought a press and dies for $150 or so, and was able to load my own .38 specials at a fraction of what store-bought ammo cost.
I always went to the range with 200-300 rounds loaded and had a good time. I would never have shot so much had I not reloaded.

Of course, if you go for entry-level stuff like I did, it’s a somewhat time-consuming procedure that you have to be ready for. It takes about an hour or so to process enough rounds for a trip to the range.

Either buy a proper measure or make one that holds the perfect charge so you can load hundreds one after another without pausing to weigh powder.

I found the process quite enjoyable. Perhaps the time component is what tips the balance for some folks, but for me it was just one more part of the whole shooting experience, just like cleaning the guns after a trip.

Heh. This reminded me of something- way back when I was a baby, my then-uncle was a cop and he & my dad would go shooting a bit. Apparently, they were reloading brass in my mom’s kitchen with me in a baby seat when my grandma walked in. She almost had a heart attack.

Dad thought it was a PITA to reload, considering how little he was shooting, and rarely did it.

.357 magnum, for what it’s worth (but that was the gun- I suppose he could have been shooting .38s at the time).

Mil-surplus 9mmPara FMJ ammo can be cheaper than reloading, but this is about the only caliber I can think of that it’s cheaper to buy surplus than reload, and even then, you’re going to end up with dirty powder.

A simple “O” style single stage press (I like the RCBS Rockhopper) will run you between $100-$200 dollars, and other necessary accessories (scale, measures, dies, case trimmer, calipers) will ring up another $150-$300, depending on quality. You’ll be able to save some of that if you buy used, and there are a lot of people who take it up and then stop doing it, so check around. It’s been a long time since I’ve bought reloading supplies but raw materials were about 1/3 to 1/2 of the total cost of the rounds, not including brass. Brass is the single most expensive component, but if you scrounge and save your own, you won’t have but buy it very often. (Note regarding .40 S&W: the case pressures are much higher than something like 9mmP or .45 ACP SAAMI spec loads, and unfortunately the case wall was underspec’ed. With guns that have a partially unsupported chamber–and unfortunately, most autoloaders have an area that is unsupported near the feed ramp to facilitate feeding–the .40 S&W case will tend to blister. So you’ll want to check .40 S&W rounds carefully and plan on reusing the cases only 3-4 times.)

The big cost of reloading is time. minor7flat5 suggests that a reloading session to load up 200-300 rounds will take about an hour. Maybe he’s much faster than me, but I usually estimate 2 boxes (100 rounds) to an hour, including case check and trim, powder measure, loading operations, et cetera. Most of this is pretty mechanical work, though. You can go much faster (500+ rounds an hour) with a progressive (multistage) reloader, but you’ll really want to be comfortable with the process before you move onto this, plus it costs considerably more (a good progressive will run about $800+, not including accessories like a case hopper) and takes up a lot more space. A single stage press can be attached to the kitchen table and taken down; a progressive needs a home bench where it lives, and space to set everything out.

I’d say that if you’re shooting more than a couple of boxes a month, you’ll save money in the long run by reloading, plus it can be a fun hobby in and of itself, if you like that sort of thing. Actually, based on experience and observation, you probably won’t “save money” as much as shoot a lot more for the same budget. So if you’re seriously interested in shooting (especially competitive shooting) then it’s a great idea. Also, if you ever get into long-range rifle marksmanship, tuning your loads to your rifle is a must.

Good luck, and have fun.


I don’t bother. I hit the gun shows and buy in bulk. It occupies a hunk of the floor of the garage, but I don’t have the patience to load my own.

Another “meh”. Most of the people I know who do it only do it because they’ve become owners of oddball guns that they really like shooting, so it really does save money especially on large bore rifles that can get into the multiple dollar cost per round. Everything I own and shoot (as opposed to shelf pieces, like my little Savage 1907 which I recently retired) uses pretty cheap and easy to find stuff so I don’t really want to get into reloading for them.

I don’t have the time or patience to reload.

I did the costings not long ago and worked out for most of my guns, It’s cheaper to just buy the ammo and be done with it, rather than dicking about with powder weights, projectiles, primers, and so on.

The only time it’s really worth it, IMO, is for something in a really obscure calibre- .455 Webley, 7.63 Mauser, 8mm Lebel, and 7.62x38R, for example…

The more I look into it, the more I’m figuring it isn’t going to work for me. I priced the equipment and based on some of the time estimates I’ve seen here, it probably won’t be a go. Thanks for the input.

It really does come down to how much you enjoy the reloading process – that’s the differentiator.

Initial cost isn’t much:

Here’s a basic kit with everything but the dies for ~$80
Here’s a set of carbide dies for pistol ammo for ~$30

Of course, you need a different set of dies for each caliber, but for a little over a hundred bucks you are ready to go. Just keep the brass from your next several store-bought-ammo shooting sessions, ask the shooters where they get their materials (bullets, primers, and powder), and you’re good to go.

I can do it quickly with the basic kit because I process a hundred cartridges at a time through each stage:

  1. Size them and deprime (one pull of handle)
  2. Flare them (one pull of handle)
  3. Prime them (I blew another $10 on this tool that inserts primers in cartridges as fast as you can squeeze the handle)
  4. Scoop the powder in each cartridge and set a bullet in the end by hand.
  5. Press the bullet in place and crimp (one pull of handle).

That is, I do each of these steps on a hundred cartridges, and then I move on to the next. It really does go quickly, and if you enjoy the process it’s quite pleasant.

It’s sort of like a fisherman spending time tying flies. It’s part of the sport.

I started reloading for cost savings, but in my case I was shooting a pretty expensive round to begin with, the .270 Weatherby Magnum. That made it worthwhile, and since I had the press and other tools, reloading handgun rounds was a simple progression. One thing I did enjoy was loading .44 special loads for my .44 magnum. I’ve shot more special loads than magnums through that gun.

If you have a really common caliber, reloading probably won’t pay off. And if you do reload, you won’t spend less, you’ll just shoot more. :slight_smile:

A year or so ago, I reloaded 50 rounds of .38/200 using a turret press.

It took me four hours, including the measuring (by hand) of EVERY. SINGLE. CHARGE. You have to check and re-check, because if you screw it up, you can damage your gun and/or injure yourself and others.

If I’d gone to work for that four hours, I would have earned enough to buy several boxes (50 rounds each) of loaded cartridges.

Still, some people derive a huge amount of pleasure from reloading, whereas for me, the firearm is the focus of my attention- the cartridges are just there to make it go “bang”. :wink:

I would never do that for my target rounds.
I selected the powder (Winchester 231 or something like that) and weighed out the perfect charge. I then made a scoop by soldering a casing to piece of heavy wire. I used a Dremel and then a file to cut the case down until it held exactly the perfect charge.

I checked it a dozen times and rechecked the book to verify that I had the right amount.

Once I had the perfect scoop, I used nothing else. Scoop, dump; scoop, dump…

The most critical thing to do is CHECK THE BOOK.

Of course, I was shooting .38 special full wadcutters with light charges in a .357 magnum, so even if I had accidentally filled the cases to the brim I doubt I would have had any problems.
My scooping method made very consistant rounds.

Is using reloaded ammo disrecommended in some modern semiautomatics ? I’ve read that some models are more likely to suffer case failures if reloaded ammo is used, or that they’re much less tolerant of anything but an exact perfect charge.

One way to help decide if it’s for you would be to find someone who reloads (and thus has the equipment) and spend an evening helping him.

I don’t bother with .45ACP, nor comparatively priced rounds, and I won’t mess with personal defense, but .45LC and most of my rifles make a lot of sense to reload.
I figure that the time spent reloading is time that’d be wasted watching TV, so that’s a wash. Also, it’s kind of relaxing and best done early evening… Soothing, one might say.
Most important to me is that I can build a range of rounds with different bullets and/or powder, sometimes as few as 5 each, and then find what my rifle likes the best.

Reloading 100 rounds of .300 WinMag ran me $30 last time - that’s the same as 20 rounds of good Federal or Hornady. I could maybe get 150 rounds of .308 for that price.

For me it’s more of a hobby than a cost saving.

High pressure rounds can have problems with case failures using reloaded brass if (as is common on many high capacity autoloaders) the chamber isn’t fully supported due to a bevel for the feed ramp. This usually but not always manifests itself beforehand as a slight blister near the rim recess. It seems to occasionally occur with the .40 S&W (a common complaint against the round is its excessive pressure levels) but at least anecdotally is mostly mostly a problem with 9mmP and .45 ACP brass which is loaded well above SAAMI pressure specs. The trick there is to only load high pressure loads in brass specifically marked for +P or +P+ loads, and to be dilligent about sizing the cases and looking for signs of strain. I’ve heard of (but never seened) .356 TSW and 10mm Auto cases splitting in brittle fracture due to work hardening; I’m not sure if this is due to the high pressure of the load, poor case design, or the frequent reuse of this more expensive brass, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem with the (admittedly thicker wall) .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum rounds of roughly similar pressure specs.

Most good quality modern autoloaders are quite tolerant of load variation (within standard pressure allowables), and should function reliably with light to heavy loads. The Sig-Sauer line, the H&K USP-type, and CZ-75 pattern pistols (to name a few) all have a reputation for reliability with a wide range of ammo. Gas op/delayed blowback pistols like the H&K P7, Desert Eagle, or Steyr GB are noted for being more sensitive to pressure and fouling, but these are pretty atypical designs, the recoil operated Browning-style cammed lockup predominating, save for Beretta’s falling and rotating blocks. So an “exact perfect charge” isn’t necessary, although a handloader should alway strive for consistancy for the sake of precision and accuracy if nothing else.


Bear in mind that the use of reloaded ammunition in a new handgun will generally void the warranty…