Can You Save By Reloading?
A good number of shooters out there are reloading, or more accurately reloading their ammunition, and thus recycling their brass in more ways than one. However, like many other DIY endeavors, the question of whether you’ll actually save money occurs from time to time.
Opportunity Cost For Reloading Can Be High
Many get interested in reloading because it can save money, and there’s something appealing to doing something yourself. Shooting and carrying aren’t always the cheapest of hobbies, so it can do to invest in things that can last, whether that’s reloading equipment, a quality leather gun belt, target shooting equipment, whatever the case might be.
Naturally, the elephant in the room is the opportunity cost. Reloading equipment can be expensive. Granted, the amount a person will spend is up to them; you can invest thousands or only a few hundred. Less, if you score the right deal on Craigslist or something.
Take, for instance, this blog post on The Truth About Guns, which reports a basic reloading kit – including a press, tumbler, and other essentials – at near as makes no difference $300. That doesn’t include equipment consumables or any cartridge components.
The requisite investment you need to make also depends on what you’re looking to get out of it. For instance, a single-stage press is good for turning out one round at a time. A progressive press can produce more rounds, but is less consistent from round to round. Are you looking to make, say, quality rifle ammunition for precision shooting and/or hunting, or are you looking to produce cheap 9mm or 5.56 rounds you can burn through at the range? Are after BOTH? That may require additional investment in equipment.
Running Costs Of Reloading
After the investment in equipment and consumables for that equipment, then you get into the running costs, namely reloading supplies to make bullets. The above-mentioned TTAG article reports $83 for 2,000 rounds worth of .45 ACP bullets, powder and primers. That works out to 26.2 cents per round, compared to 51.5 cents per round of Federal at the writer’s local Walmart.
TTAG doesn’t include brass. Granted, one could easily get it by picking up spent cases at shooting ranges or getting friends to save theirs. All told, they found a break even point of just under 1,200 rounds before realizing a savings.
Economy Of Scale
As with any DIY venture, say if you’re brewing your own beer or whatever, there’s an economy of scale involved. Whether you’ll save money in the long run depends on all the variables involved.
As in the above example, recycled brass and reloading run of the mill FMJ pistol ammunition certainly can save money over retail. Higher-quality ammunition, like match-grade rifle cartridges or self-defense cartridges for a pistol you’re carrying everyday may or may not. See, for instance, this post on PrecisionRifleBlog. Granted, their focus is precision shooting and handloading, but it’s still a salient point.
Another difference is that PrecisionRifle includes labor cost; TTAG does not. Projecting labor costs at federal minimum wage and disregarding equipment, producing 3,000 rounds of match-grade 6.5mm Creedmoor worked out to about $1.20 per round, which is exactly the retail price for match-grade bullets.
Factoring in equipment costs and prorating production time for 1,000 rounds at the national average wage (around $22 per hour) brought the figure up to $3.37 per round, nearly triple retail. Adjust labor to federal minimum wage, it’s still around $3 per round. In either case, a savings will never be realized unless ammunition becomes drastically more expensive.
In short, reloading definitely CAN save you money, but it depends on an economy of scale.
About The Author
Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.