Icon Logo Gun Mart

Reloading Basics - Counting the cost

Reloading Basics - Counting the cost

The majority of people new to shooting start by using factory ammunition and then begin reloading some time later. The reason for this might be either financial, with reloading being that much cheaper than using factory ammo, or the desire to shoot calibres which are not generally available in factory ammunition. It would also be fair to say that many shooters, myself included, start to reload because it is possible to shoot many more rounds for the equivalent cost of factory ammunition.

The cost of reloading components has rocketed over recent years, but it is still, at least in theory, worth reloading if you keep an eye on the budget. There are a number of issues to taken into account when working out the costs of reloading and they are considered here.

Set up costs

The first thing you are going to need is of course some sort of reloading press. You can spend anything from under £50 to over £1000 on the press, depending on your budget and your requirements in terms of output. At the bottom end of the price range, although not actually a press, is the Lee Loader from Lee Precision. This is a very basic calibre-specific tool that contains everything that you need to produce completed rounds of ammunition. Costing around £35 the kit utilises a mallet (not supplied) instead of a press to provide the force required to make ammunition and, although slower than a traditional press, it does produce good quality rounds. Costing around the same amount as a box of twenty good quality factory rounds of .308 Winchester ammunition this tool it is a great way of trying your hand at reloading and ‘breaking even’ very quickly.

You can also buy a single stage press to start reloading with, which is relatively cheap but requires a die change over for each stage of the reloading process. Most shooters find that they quickly outgrow this type of set-up and upgrade to a multistage press, so it can actually end up being a false economy.

At the other end of the price range, presses like the Dillon Precision Big Fifty Reloader cost in excess of £1200, and this does not include dies. This very high-quality press is designed specifically for the 50 calibre and represents probably the most expensive option for reloading.

Most people will initially invest just a couple of hundred pounds in a press, dies, and a few accessories for their chosen calibre and add to their set up as they progress. For the purposes of this article a Lee Classic Cast 4 Hole Turret Press, with dies and an Auto Disk powder measure, costing around £240 in total is considered, with the press being operable in either single stage or auto-indexing mode.

Some shooters share their reloading set-up with a friend, splitting the cost of owning and running a press. This can be a really good way of saving money, provided that access to the equipment can be agreed and there are no custody battles!

Reloading components

Next you will need to source your cases, primers, powder and heads. If you held on to any cases you have from shooting factory ammunition then you will have made a substantial saving before you even start! Cases are the most expensive component although they can, with proper care, be reused several times.

The number of uses you get out of your cases will vary from calibre to calibre. In .357 calibre the author has lost count of the number of times that cases have been used but in .308 Winchester calibre the brass tends to be ‘worn out’ after around ten reloadings. When you are working out the potential saving that reloading is going to generate you need to divide the initial cost of the cases by the number of uses, to get a ‘cost per use’ for your calculations.

Bullets and primers can be purchased by the hundreds or the thousands and most retailers offer a discount for bulk buying. The discount on primers, if you buy a thousand rather than a hundred, is typically around 5% and every little helps with primers now costing in excess few accessories for their chosen calibre and add to their set up as they progress. For the purposes of this article a Lee Classic Cast 4 Hole Turret Press, with dies and an Auto Disk powder measure, costing around £240 in total is considered, with the press being operable in either single stage or auto-indexing mode.

story continues below...

Some shooters share their reloading set-up with a friend, splitting the cost of owning and running a press. This can be a really good way of saving money, provided that access to the equipment can be agreed and there are no custody battles!

Reloading components

Next you will need to source your cases, primers, powder and heads. If you held on to any cases you have from shooting factory ammunition then you will have made a substantial saving before you even start! Cases are the most expensive component although they can, with proper care, be reused several times.

The number of uses you get out of your cases will vary from calibre to calibre. In .357 calibre the author has lost count of the number of times that cases have been used but in .308 Winchester calibre the brass tends to be ‘worn out’ after around ten reloadings. When you are working out the potential saving that reloading is going to generate you need to divide the initial cost of the cases by the number of uses, to get a ‘cost per use’ for your calculations.

Bullets and primers can be purchased by the hundreds or the thousands and most retailers offer a discount for bulk buying. The discount on primers, if you buy a thousand rather than a hundred, is typically around 5% and every little helps with primers now costing in excess of £40 per thousand. The author has a box of Remington primers purchased a few years ago that are priced at £18 per thousand, evidence of how prices have rocketed. Bullets are also cheaper if bought in quantity, particularly if you buy them by post, as shipping on such heavy items can be high. Powders are generally sold in tubs weighing a pound (7000-grains) and they are best purchased over the counter locally as shipping costs are prohibitive.

Another good way of saving money on reloading components is to club together with other shooters and get up a larger ‘bulk’ order, getting a further discount and also spreading any postage and packaging costs over more items.

Doing your sums

The following table summarises how to calculate the cost of one hundred rounds of .308 Winchester ammunition, using the cases 10x and a powder charge of 40-grains. For comparative purposes this same load can be purchased in a factory loading at £78.00 per 100. The prices used for the components are based on purchasing in the quantities shown, over the counter, and with no delivery costs.

This calculation shows that reloading will generate a saving of approximately £20 per 100 rounds of .308 Winchester compared to the cost of factory stuff. The saving will vary according to both the calibre you are reloading and the brand of components used. If you were using the reloading set up described above, costing around £240, after reloading only 1200 rounds you would, in theory, have saved enough to pay for your equipment. In truth however, by the time you have reloaded this quantity of ammunition you will probably have spent more money on more equipment. Reloading is totally addictive and anyone who starts this activity soon find themselves buying more and more stuff, no matter what their initial reason for taking it up. The fact that you are making ammunition cheaper than you can buy it continues to be a huge bonus, but the truth is that reloading becomes a hobby in itself.

Ongoing expenses

The list of accessories and add-ons available is endless, with various tools available to do each part of the reloading process differently or better. You can either constantly try to keep track of the cost of these extras, factoring them in to your calculation of when you might break even, or just accept that you will never ‘pay it off’ and concentrate on the direct saving achieved by using reloaded rounds instead of factory ammunition (most reloaders tend to go for the second option).

There are can also be components of the reloading press that wear out, with Lee Precision in particular being fond of including small plastic parts which wear out or break in their presses. While the justification of these small parts is that they prevent damage to more significant components they are a real nuisance. The best thing to do is to buy in a small stock of these spares at the same time you buy the press, to ensure that if one does fail your reloading is not brought to a stop. Other than these minor and expendable components with proper use reloading equipment does not really tend to wear out.

Conclusion

Although it is possible to justify taking up reloading on a purely financial basis, and the ‘the equipment will pay for itself in just six months’ argument works great with wife (or significant other, ahem!) the truth of the matter is that once you take up reloading the equipment probably won’t ever pay for itself and your reloading bench will become more and more crowded with must-have equipment. That said, savings of around £20 per hundred rounds are not to be sniffed at and it does give you a warm feeling in your wallet.

Contacts

Lee Precision reloading equipment:
Henry Krank & Co. Ltd: henrykrank.com

0 Comments



guns for sale

Buy & Sell Online. Advertise your guns and accessories and be seen by 1000’s of buyers..... Buying a Gun or Accessory, Choose from 1000's of items for sale....

Arrow