Is Reloading Really Cost Effective?

Many people ask me why I reload ammunition. I tell them that in addition to making more accurate loads, it is also cheaper, but many people seem to have trouble believing that, and with good reason. Some calibers are just not as cost effective to handload as others. 

In 2008 and into 2009 shooters saw a drastic jump in prices of ammunition and their favorite calibers disappeared in the wake of the election of Barack Obama. There was also a rash of hoarding on the parts of some gun shops that were holding the very best stuff for themselves. I remember going to Walmart one day and was a little astonished when I saw several gun dealers greeting the store clerk as he pushed in the latest shipment of ammo.  These guys were buying up everything so they could take it back to their shops and jack up the prices.

I had decided early in 2008 that just in case the worst happened in the election that I would have all my reloading gear set up and ready to go so that I would not be at the mercy of a gun store and UPS trucks to shoot any of my guns.  Things have calmed down considerably since then and due to the economy a lot of people cannot afford to go out and buy all the ammo they want like they did a couple of years ago.  I fear, however, that when the election gets hyped up next year we will be going through the same cycle all over again.

cost-collageSo what calibers are really worth reloading? That depends on the shooter and how much shooting you plan on doing. If you are like most hunters who just go out and shoot a couple of rounds before deer hunting season and then a few rounds during the season, you might not want to reload, even though it is in your benefit in the long run. I know one guy who every year harps about the cost of the box of ammo he buys for his .30-06 yet he will not go out and get a simple reloading outfit and load his own. At the end of the season he usually has no ammo left and keeps none in the house until the next fall.

When I used to shoot a lot of handguns, it was not at all uncommon for me to rip off over one hundred rounds at a time, and that means probably about a thousand rounds a year. This is where reloading really makes a difference. If you have enough brass like I do, you can reload the same empties for years as long as the loads aren’t scorching coming out of the barrel. My most commonly shot caliber in one form or another is .38 Special and then .357 Magnum is right behind it.

I don’t think that there is a cheaper caliber out there to reload than the old .38. I usually find once fired brass for around a dollar per a hundred, and sometimes less. Before I began casting my own bullets I was paying roughly fifteen dollars for a hundred, which was nice because I would divide them up between three guns, my two .38’s and my .357.

Yet all these savings were for nothing unless I could load them cheaper than the factory stuff. There are formulas out there that will give you the cost per box but you can go to Beartooth Bullets website and they have a load cost calculator that figures in the cost of caliber by adding in the powder, the primers, the bullets, and the shells.

For my load of 3.8 grains of Winchester 231 in my practice .38 Special load (back when I was buying my bullets) the cost of one hundred rounds loaded worked out to $18.08. Compare this to a box of fifty 158 grain lead bullets that on average is $15.00 or more. My favorite .357 Magnum load works out to $25.71 for a box of a hundred rounds when I buy the bullets, and a staggering $6.71 per a hundred rounds when I cast my own figuring that I pay about a dollar a pound in lead wheel weights. A box of fifty of Remington’s 158 grain JSP’s more than $40.

So what if you don’t want to load lead bullets and you want some nice hollowpoints? A box of a hundred 125 grain Hornady XTP hollowpoints in my .357 Magnum costs again slightly more than $25 per a hundred. A factory loaded box of those same Hornady bullets averages around $25 per twenty five bullets.

I would advise anyone looking to load their own ammunition take a look at one of those load calculators and see if you are really going to save money by loading your own ammunition.  I suspect most will find that they will; some may be surprised their time is worth more than a couple of bucks.

Years ago when factory ammunition wasn’t that bad, handloading was more about accuracy. Now you can save some money too, and in this day and age, especially ahead of the 2012 election, having extra money and extra ammo is a good thing.

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