Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Economics of Reloading

Western mass. man asked what are the economics of reloading ammunition. So I went down to NSB's (Natog's Sekret Bunker) ballistics lab and sat down with excel and figured it out.

You need four components to make a bullet. You need the brass cartridge, an appropriate primer, powder and a bullet. I just took the prices I paid for the small amounts I purchased, things get much cheaper in bulk. So everyone grab a drink,and let's talk math!

First on the list is brass. If you have to buy it new, it's $40 for 100 of the average quality. Remington or Winchester are good examples. If you go all out for the real premium stuff, it's a $1 a round, $.80 each in quantity. The good brass will be more accurate and is better for target shooting. One fellow who uses it says it will last forever, the rounds he was using were 8 years old, and he shoots once a week!

Now I will get more than 10 reloads per brass, but it's a nice round number to work with. So $40 per 100 brass, that you can use 10 times is 4¢ per reloaded round.

Now I don't have the numbers for FMJ rounds. I never signed the Geneva Conventions so I'll be firing soft point bullets at any bad guys. 165grain hunting hollow points are $30 per 100, so 30¢ a piece. The premium ballistic tips are $23 per 50 rounds, or 46¢ each. I haven't tried them yet, but they look promising. Let's use the regular hunting rounds.

Primers cost me $30 per 2000, or 2¢ each. This is for the CCI Large Rifle primers. The Federal #210's are a little more pricey.

There are 7000 grains per pound, and I'm using 40.2 grains per round. I paid $23 for a pound, and after doing all the math it's 13¢ worth of powder in each round.

So the grand total is 49¢ a round. If I walk into a gun shop and buy hunting bullets, they are $18 for 20 rounds, or 90¢ each.

So for about half the cost I reload my own. There is more to it than that, though. I can develop and test rounds that deliver the best possible performance for my rifle. From what I have seen, handloading doubles the accuracy of the rifle. So my 1 MOA Remington 700 is a 1/2 MOA with handloads.

Remember these are for small quantities. Buying in bulk once you figure out what works best for you and your weapon will increase the savings substantially.

For my .45 ACP pistol here are the numbers:
Brass: $24 per 100 times 10 reloads = 2¢
Bullets: $60 per 500 for lead round nose = 12¢
Primers: $30 per 3000 = 1¢
Powder: $17 per pound, 5.3 grains per round = >1¢
Total: 17¢ per round. Reloads at the gun store are $13 per 50 rounds or 26¢ each. turns out .45 ACP is easy on the brass to relaod, so you can get many more reloads then the 10 I have used in these numbers.
Now there is a big outlay of cash up front for all the supplies. I got lucky twice with a free press and all the dies, loading blocks, etc. from when I bought my rifle. Up at Kittery Trading Post I saw many presses for sale used, from $40 on up. They had used dies as well. Here is a list off all the stuff, and how much it goes for retail.

$50 Press (used)
$80 Rifle dies
$25 Carbide pistol dies
$20 Rifle trim die (better than that crappy thing with teeth)
$20 Pistol trim die
$160 Good electronic scale
$10 Powder trickler
$2 Lee primer pocket cleaner
$7 Case neck brush
$9 Flash hole uniformer - optional
$30 Calipers
$5 Lee case chamfer tool
$15 Two reloading trays
$30 Good reloading book
$8 Shell holder (.45 ACP and .308 use same one)

That's $471 bucks worth of gear, and you can easily spend more. But if you spend your money wisely these items will never wear out, providing you with a lifetime of ammunition.

The one thing that is missing from this equation is time. It can take a while to hand craft twenty rifle rounds. I just kick back with a cold soda and knock it out. It's just part of my preps to me.

Also I would like to point out you do not need to store 1,000 rounds for each rifle, just the components to reload them, with extra brass for ones you loose. For my .308 I'll put up 100 rounds and keep supplies for a few hundred more. Once I get a battle rifle it will be different, for now that's enough for me. I'm ordering some JHP's for my .45 and I'll work up a load for those and then I'll be all set there too.

I hope you all found this as helpful as I did. Once I start buying in bulk I'll re-do the numbers and give you an update. If your going to get started go used! Dies and presses do not wear out, so used is as good as new! Also brass is available used for sale, or for scrounging. Stick with common calibers, so you minimize the expense of dies and components. I was going to reload tonight but since I have a few beers wile doing math, I think I'll watch the latest Sarah Conner Chronicles tonight. Good luck out there and be safe!


western mass. man said...

Thanks Nat.
I truly appreciate your effort.
I did a little research last night also. Go the same results.
I'm just not sure on what equipment to buy or type or amount of powder to use.
Now I'm better off than before. Thanks again.

Oh, BTW, I did some looking for .223 also. It works out to be about 1/2 of what .308 costs.
Average cost of commercial ammo is .50 per round of .223
1.00 per round of .308

Natog said...

Go and get yourself a good reloading manual now. I currently am using the Speer manual. I was looking for the Sierra one, but I couldn't find it.

Like anything, keep your eyes open, & talk to guys at the range and at the gun stores, they might know someone with an older press that the will sell you.

Definitely start saving all your boxer primed brass, and scavenge the brass box at the range!

-Jonathan Perry said...

A few shoestrings kits either Lee Classic loaders ( True hand loads and resize no press needed) or a die set and a Lee Hand Press with the basic in a Fiddy Cal Ammo box, with perhaps a .30 cal Mold, makes a nice G.O.O.D or Bug-out kit.

Lee has the Classic loaders in a few Pistol calibers 9mm & .45ACP and in .223. M1 Carbine, .308.

If the SHTF - then I am sure that one can scrounge lead from wheels or from the sides of roads, in a pinch.

But, I think that Primers are going to be the lynch pin, to reloading down the road