(Editor’s note: This article was a submission from freelance writer Sarah Farver. You can check out her other article, “Five Tips for the Novice Reloader.“)
Confession. Sometimes I’m “that” kind of wife. You know, the one that takes a look at all the guns in the safe and secretly wonders if we sold them how well we could live.
Shh, I usually keep that to myself. I mean, where do you draw the line? First there were the guns, then the safes, then reloading gear.
The practical side of me wanted, nay, needed to know if this was worth it. Here’s the low down on how much it costs to get started reloading so you can decide if it’s something you want to pick up. Warning: it is a bit addictive.
The set up we started with is the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master kit. It sells for about $300 at Walmart or Cabela’s. Don’t be too excited over the term “supreme master” if you’ve never reloaded. When you open that box for the first time, I bet you’ll realize you’re not the supreme master. You are a child in the ways of the reloader.
Honestly, it was rather daunting to see the whole set up when it came out of the box and in my mind they were just “the big heavy part and the part that measures the stuff and…” well, you get the picture. I knew nothing.
The beauty of having such a large community of gun enthusiasts on the Internet is realizing there are a lot of people who are willing to share what they have learned.
Aside from the items that come in a kit like ours, there are a few more things you’ll have to buy to get started. The obvious extra things to purchase are primers, cases, powder and dies. So to keep it simple, I’m going to focus on the cost of reloading 9mm, since that is what we started with.
The first step is to purchase a die for the 9mm that would go into the press. Our costs about $50 bucks but know that generally you typically need a different die for each caliber that you reload. You will probably want to pick up a micrometer for another $30, to measure the overall length of the bullet after it has been seated.
Our reloading kit comes with the hand-priming tool, but you will have to buy the primers separately. Winchester primers run $33 a box, or .03 a piece. These can be bought at most retailers, but we typically get ours at Midway USA. (Here) You can get comparable ones from Federal, CCI, or Tulo.
We found 9mm bullets at Rocky Mountain Reloading, which will run you another $48 for 500. Your investment in each bullet went up only 9 more cents.
We have been purchasing “once-fired” brass casing from Midway USA for about .06 a piece. ($31 for a box of 500) Using fired brass is probably the way you will save the most in this endeavor.
The cost of gunpowder will vary, depending on which brand you go with. Some people prefer driving Fords over Chevy and while others feel the opposite. I say you find what you like and what you think gives you good results.
We have been using Hodgdon which is about $26 per pound, but we only use 6.4 grains (EDIT–not grams) per bullet. One pound of gunpowder we could load 1,093 bullets, making it close to 2 cents per bullet.
All these basic kit plus supplies will cost you about $490. As you consider the costs, you will also want to ask yourself how much you view your time being worth. This isn’t something you can quickly do and be done with. It’s a process and will take some time.
So if you ask yourself what your goals are and that may help you decide if this is worthwhile. On the one hand, it will take a few hundred dollars to get started but over time, you will definitely be saving some money on each bullet you fire. Saving money means you’ll want to shoot more and likely improve your shot.
If you only use store bought bullets you are using something made for a broad range of firearms. However, if you make your own concoction you have the opportunity to tweak it to improve your own accuracy and shoot better.
The truth is, though, it depends on you and how you’re wired. Do you like to pay attention to detail? Do you enjoy working with your hands and have the time to put into this?
The hard costs of reloading at a glance:
Reloading kit $300
Brass casings $31
Time with spouse: PRICELESS!
For me, it was a no-brainer of a gift for my husband. He loves to work with his hands, loves to shoot and is a stickler for details. (When diesel prices were so high there for a while, he even made his own biodiesel. Our car ran at a fraction of the cost and since we used recycled oil from fast food restaurants, it smelled like French fries. Yeah. We’re cool people.)
How much does it cost for store bought 9mm bullets? Federal’s American Eagle line of 124-grain bullets are $14.99/ 50 cartridges at Cabela’s which is about $.30 a piece. Midway USA had similar bullets ranging from $.37 to $1.15 per round. The average cost of the store bought 9mm rounds are $.76.
Let’s just set all the start-up costs aside, and see how the much the home made round would cost. When we add up all the individual components, it comes out to .20 a piece. That turns out to about $10 a box. Not bad at all. So if it’s a hobby you enjoy that will leave you more money to spend on shooting, that’s time well-spent.
A word to the wise: you may feel yourself getting pulled into the vortex of wanting new things to add to your set up. There’s the media for cleaning the fired bullets, and then you’ll want a tumbler. After you have that, you will likely come across other gadgets–so you will have to know where you personally draw the line.
What’s more, if it is something that you and your spouse enjoy doing together, then it’s a bonus. It’s like when someone has a great personality AND they’re pretty. That’s what it’s like if you enjoy a hobby and you get to hang out with your spouse.
Speaking of him or her–it’s the Christmas season so now’s the time to start dropping hints.