Counting the cost of Shotgun Reloading
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- Last updated: 20/03/2019
To me, reloading, be it rifle or shotgun, has never been about getting a cheaper cartridge at the end of the process but to perfect the load, which can be quite the opposite in monetary expenditure.
However, to many, reloading is a means to achieve ammunition cheaper than factory and be able to load exactly what you want, when you want it. Some shotgun ammunition, especially the cartridges at both ends of the calibre scale, i.e. .410 or 10-gauge, can be relatively expensive for their size, whereas 20- and 12-gauge ammo is plentiful and relatively cheap in comparison.
With reloading, there is always the start-up cost of course, with reloading presses and components but buying in bulk can give that price saving many reloaders want.
Let’s see what you need and compare some reloaded ammo to factory ammunition, to see if reloading is cheaper.
Firstly, with a shotgun, you are going for consistency of velocity and pattern with your reloads. However, all the same rules apply to safety and precise reloading technique and reloading for a shotgun is a whole different proposition to a rifle. In fact, it needs a complete re-think and, with some of the smaller calibres, you have to be extra careful about over-pressured loads. Just like small calibre rifle ammo, the .410 in particular, is a highpressure round; people forget that because its small they think it’s a pipsqueak, wrong! More people have problems with .410 reloading than any other round; so, safety first, all the time.
The first thing you need is a dedicated reloading table, so that the press and ancillary items can be set up and everything can be labelled and checked, so that no incorrect components are used, i.e. wrong primers, powders etc.
Have a well-ventilated room also and, because you will be using a lot of lead shot, make sure you wear protective gloves, or can wash your hands nearby.
As with rifle reloading, you start with a reloading manual. There are many excellent books out there and I would certainly recommend checking out Clay and Game’s website, for some good literature or Norman Clarks gunsmith has an excellent book section, plus knowledge to help you on your way. That’s actually a good point; if you know of a shotgun reloader, have a chat and see what they use and problems they have come up against, sage advice is always welcome.
I use the Lyman Shotshell reloading handbook 5th edition or Ballistic Projects reloading manuals, which are excellent. I would also recommend familiarising yourself with all the parts needed, as they are very different to rifle reloads.
Presses, these will be table top mounted, although I do have a set of RCBS standard dies that fit into a rifle press. As with all things, you can spend as much as you have. However, for this article, it’s about cost effectiveness. A good place to start is with the Lee Loadall from Hannam’s Reloading Ltd.
These are available in 20g, 16g and 12-gauges only and, best of all, is the price of only £75 for the full set up of press and 24 powder and shot bushes, superb value and idiot/Potts proof. There’s no .410 version, which is a shame but then you can step up to the MEC range of presses from Clay and Game and Norman Clarks. I use a MEC 600 Jnr Mark 5 for .410 and a Mec Steel master for the mighty 10-gauge in the Browning BPS. If you want the best, then the Ponsness Warren presses offer single stage and multi stage shotshell reloading presses of very good quality, with prices starting at £549.00.
With a shotgun, the primary components are case or shell, primer, wad, shot and sometimes a card over or under shot dependent on the loading technique and crimp or roll closure to the case.
This is where it gets a little tricky, as the cases or shell has a lot to do with the charge and wad type you need to seat in it. As with rifle cases, manufacturer’s cases vary in dimension for the same calibre. More so with shotgun cases as the base part where the primer sits can vary enormously and this is crucial to the loading you use. This is where the Lyman handbook of reloading is invaluable as it shows all the different types of shells and sectioned to show the different base profiles that drastically effect ignition.
Costings for these can vary a lot but here’s an idea of what to pay for 410, 12g and 10g.
Powder varies dependent on maker but usually is between £35 to 45 per lb; so, divide the powder charge per round into the lb weight price. Most .410 ammunition uses between 12- and 15-grains of powder per loading. There are 7000-grains per pound or 454-grams per 1lb. (7 to 10p cost per gram dependent on powder used)
Convert the 12- and 15-grain loadings to grams and that is 0.8- to 1.0-grams, therefore a cost of between 6-8p or 7-10p per round average. Same for the 12-gauge; a typical loading uses between 18-grains and 30-grains dependent on shot charge weight used, sometimes less or more, it’s a versatile round but here’s an average. Therefore, cost per round for 18-grain (1.2-grams) loading is 8.4p and 30-grain (1.9-grams) loading is 19p based on a powder price between £35 -45 per lb.
A 10-gauge will use 35- to 45-grains powder (2.3- to 2.9-grams) to propel up to a 2oz to 2¼ (57-gram to 64- gram) shot charge; so, that’s an average cost of 16p to 20p or 23 to 29p per loading if you use a £35 or £45 per powder cost.
Shot is expensive and lead shot is £6.00/1kg regardless of size for lead i.e. 1000-grams is six quid; so, for a standard 28-gram 12-gauge load, 1kg of shot will last for 36 rounds, so 16p per round. That is really a sample size, so that is why it is best to buy shot in bulk i.e. 5kg or more to have a better cost saving. Now it costs £27.00, £5.40 a kg so 15p per round, with 10kg at £37.50 it drops to £3.75 a kg and 10.5p per round.
Steel is £15.00/ 5kg of any shot size; so, £3 per kg and therefore the same standard 12g load of 28-grams is 8p per round.
Bismuth is £54.69/1kg; so, the same 12-gauge load of 28-grams now becomes £1.50 per round.
Coated lead shot i.e. nickel plated is £31.50 per 5kg or £49.00 for 10kg.
This shows that shot is the expensive part of the shotgun shell. It is best to buy here in bulk i.e. if you use No. 6 or No. 7.5 shot, then most buy a 10Kg bag of shot that will be £37 and 360 loaded rounds (28-gram load) at 10p each; so, a saving of 6p per round if you just bought a 1 kg bag of shot. You can buy 100 kg bags from Clay and Game at £345, so a further saving if you shoot a lot of game or clays.
For a .410 3-inch round with an 18-gram loading, such as the Eley maximum, then a 10kg bag of No. 6 shot will allow 555 rounds to be loaded at 6p a loaded round.
10-gauge is 57-grams i.e. a 2oz load and so per round is 21p per shot loading.
Let’s compare those to factory assembled ammunition to see the price comparison.
So, cases that are already fired are obviously the cheapest option and the reason many people start reloading; although, as can be seen, a primed new case is actually not that expensive and this would negate any problems with oversized primer pockets, damaged rims and split/damaged closures too.
Shot is expensive; so, buy in bulk for the maximum saving. Primers are what they are not; a lot of choice, so just live with it and again, if you are reloading regularly, bulk but for the best cost savings. Wads, either fibre or plastic, vary a lot, dependent on the column charge and type you are using but it is crucial to get advice and get the right ones to suit your cases that you are using, otherwise, adverse pressures and incorrect ignition or sloppy closures will result.
So, with common rounds, like the 12-gauge, what are the real savings? Well, if you save your cases and reload, it’s okay, but some factory is comparable.
The real savings are with the smaller calibres, .410 at 31p for a reload with case or only 19p using the fired case over the factory loaded ammo at 38p.
The 10-gauge is worth reloading for, as the cost saving of 64p own case against £1.50 for factory, is significant and the amount of times you are actually going to shoot them makes a custom reload even more appealing to me. It also means that I can download a 10-gauge to squib loads for some interesting squirrel dray shooting!
As well as being very informative and fun, reloading is a great way to learn how to get the best from your gun and also save money too. For most, and the infrequent user, will be very happy just using factory loaded ammo and there is some excellent ammo available.
However, for the odder calibres, such as .410, 28g or 10-gauge, then there is money to be saved, but as always, take great care in the reloading procedure and best savings are with using the fired case and buying in bulk.
Clay and Game. claygame.co.uk
Norman Clark Gunsmiths. normanclarkgunsmith.com
Hannam’s Reloading Ltd. hannamsreloading.com
Just Cartridges. justcartridges
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