Reloading: Want To Reload Your Own Ammo? Basic Questions to Consider

Reloading bench

SERIES

Part 1: Want to Reload Your Own Ammo? Basic Questions to Consider

Part 2: The Reloading Process
Part 3: The Gear You’ll Need and What It’ll Cost You

Part 4: Brass Cleaning and Preparation to Load

Part 5: Brass Resizing

Part 6: Trimming Cartridge Cases

Part 7: Repriming the Cartridge Case

Part 8: Powder, Propellants, and Pressure

Part 9: All About Primers

Part 10: Projectiles: Materials, Weights, and Styles

Part 11: Seating and Crimping Bullets

Part 12: To Crimp or not to Crimp

Part 13: Final Inspection and Packaging Tips

The big joke about reloading your own ammunition is that you save money. Sure, the monetary cost of each cartridge is less if you shop smart for reloading components like powder, primers, and bullets. The reloading is really “more expensive” part comes from the fact that you’ll shoot more! And then there’s all the cool gear that you’ll want to add to your reloading workshop…

There are some great reasons to take up reloading, and certainly different folks do it for different reasons. Some people reload to save money, and you certainly can if you’re willing to allocate some of your free time to the project. Others reload their own ammunition to optimize ammunition characteristics for their specific gun. Some get satisfaction from competing or hunting with their own hand-crafted ammunition. Others reload because it’s just a fun and relaxing hobby.

Whatever the reasons for your interest in reloading, we’re going to help you get started. This article marks the first in a series on reloading for centerfire metallic cartridges. Notice I specified centerfire ammunition. That’s standard rifle and pistol ammo with brass cartridge cases. Rimfire ammunition, like .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum, and .17 HMR is not reloadable as it does not use a removable primer. Well, technically, you can reload it, but it’s hard and tedious, so we won’t get into that just yet. Shotgun ammunition is reloadable too, but the process is significantly different, so this series won’t address that either, although the basic principles of reforming the “case” (or shell), re-priming, and re-charging are similar.

By the end of this series, you’ll know what gear you need, what you don’t, and what’s optional. You’ll understand the process and the different types of components you need. Most importantly, we’ll share tips and tricks to make your efforts easier and safer. With that said, let’s get started.

Let’s address the cost issue first…

This seems to be the first question everyone has about reloading ammunition.

The potential to save money (at least on a per round basis) comes from two factors. First, the brass cartridge case is the most expensive part of the complete package. You can reuse this anywhere from five to ten or more times depending on the caliber and your loads, so there’s a big savings opportunity right there. You don’t have to “re-buy” the expensive brass case for every shot. Second, you’re investing your time to process and assemble a new cartridge, so you’re not paying a factory to do it for you.

The amount you can save, again not counting the value of your labor hours, varies depending on the cartridge. Generally speaking, if you shoot larger caliber or unusual rifle cartridges, you can save significant money. If you choose to reload common and inexpensive handgun ammo like 9mm, it’s harder to trim costs. Let’s consider a couple of common examples. I’ll use low quantity pricing for each part assuming this model is for beginners who may not be ready to invest big bucks in buying pallet loads of materials at once. As you get into it, you can reduce your costs significantly by buying things like bullets in quantities of 2,000 or more at a time. The same goes with primers and powder. So consider the following examples as on the high end of what you might pay. Also, these rough figures don’t include your investment in startup equipment. We’ll cover that in the next couple of articles.

The consumables for our .308 Winchester cost example.

The consumables for our .308 Winchester cost example.

.308 Winchester

Brass: The day I wrote this, Brownells had Winchester brand .308 brass in stock for $23.99 for a bag of 50. If you use this brass eight times, that works out to six cents per use. As you gain experience, you can dramatically reduce your brass cost by using carefully selected once-fired brass, but that’s for a later discussion. For now, we’ll use the figure of just over a nickel per shot.

Primer: CCI #200 primers are the Large Rifle size appropriate for .308 Winchester, so we’ll need those too. A box of 1,000 was priced at $31.99 the same day, so that’s about 3.2 cents per shot.

Powder: There are many combinations of powder type and charge weight that you can use for .308 Winchester, so I just picked one I’ve used for this example. Hodgdon H380 powder costs $22.99 for a one-pound container. Again, you can save a lot of money buying in larger quantities, but for now, we’ll start small. This particular load calls for 45.2 grains of H380, and there are 7,000 grains per pound, so you can load 154 cartridges with a single one-pound container. In reloading, “grains” is a weight unit of measure, not an “object.” If you do the math, the powder cost works out to 14.8 cents per shot.

Bullet: Last, we need a bullet. A common one for practice, plinking, and competition is a 150-grain full metal jacket style. You can choose from a wide variety of bullet weights and styles for .308 Winchester, but for now, we’ll stick with the basic stuff. A pack of 100 Hornady full metal jacket bullets costs $22.99, so that works out to 23 cents per shot.

If you add all this up, you’ll see that our cost per cartridge is 47 cents. That’s not bad, but again, remember that we used small quantities of supplies, and that’s much more expensive. Right now, .308 Winchester full metal jacket ammo with brass cases costs between $.65 and $1.20 or so per round, so even our “pricier” reloads saved some money on a per round basis.

Buying in bulk, like this box of 6,000 .223 bullets, can save you a lot of money.

Buying in bulk, like this box of 6,000 .223 bullets, can save you a lot of money.

If you want to reload a common caliber like 9mm and try to save money, you’re going to have to work harder at shopping for components, and you’ll have to buy in larger quantities. Doing similar math with smaller quantity component purchases, you’ll end up spending about 18 cents per round. These days, you can find brass-cased 9mm for 20 to 25 cents per round if you shop, so the savings aren’t as easy.

So, the bottom line is that you can save some money reloading, depending on what calibers you reload and how you buy components. Of course, you’ll have to factor in the cost of equipment and your time, so that will eat into your “profits” at the beginning.

Now that we’ve gotten past the cost thing, I have to mention that, for me at least, that’s not the real issue I reload my own.

Consider some of the other benefits of reloading:

You have a constant supply. Once you build your inventory of components, you are no longer at the mercy of local ammunition supply. Every time a politician introduces a new gun control measure, everyone else runs out to clear the shelves of ammo, but you won’t have to. Of course, you’ll want to build up and maintain your stock of components so you can ride through the storms without having to scramble for powder, primers, and bullets.

You can create “perfect loads” for each of your guns. I like to load practice and training rounds that are on the lighter side of velocity and recoil. The reduced muzzle blast helps me focus on technique, not just managing recoil. These practice loads are also great for introducing people to shooting – it’s a lot less intimidating when there’s less bang. The beauty is that you can tweak loads and make them as light or heavy as you want (within safety guidelines) while still making your particular gun function reliably.

You can embark on your own accuracy Olympics. Especially with rifle loads, you can experiment to find the perfect combination of bullet, powder, primer, and charge that makes your rifle perform to its full potential. Factory ammo is great, but it has to be made to function in all rifles for a given caliber, so it can’t be optimized for yours.

While I don’t recommend using hand loads for self-defense, it’s satisfying to make your own cartridges for hunting. There is a near infinite variety of bullet styles so you can create a cartridge that does exactly what you want for the game you hunt.

Then, of course, there are the zombies. When that happens, you’ll be the most popular person in your neighborhood!

But seriously, reloading is a great hobby with plenty of benefits. How about giving it a whirl? Stay tuned – next time we’ll get into the actual process of reloading cartridges.

{ 55 comments… add one }
  • Cody January 9, 2017, 6:15 am

    I plan on going together with a few friends on a reloading station so we can cut down on equipment costs. We each shoot different rounds, so we can each buy the different parts required for each round. On what few rounds we share, like 9mm or 12ga, we can split the cost. Combine in that we don’t leave trash so we pick up our shells after shooting, that’ll majorly cut down our costs

  • Ryan December 22, 2016, 5:28 pm

    Hello I’m new to reloading and bought the Lee classic turret press with the Lee disk powder measure I’m using Hornady 50 grain sp sx and hodgdon CFE 223 powder I can’t find any were what my powder charge should be and what disks to use… I’m new to reloading done slot of research on reloading and have the Lyman 49th edition handbook any help please thank you

    • Bruce December 23, 2016, 11:10 am

      Look online at the Lee website and the powder manufacturers sites. You can get a starting load there. Lee’s powder disks work by volume. And they publish a list for the more common powders. You may want to get a powder scale to confirm the settings that the disks drop. It is always better to start at the low end and work up gradually. Good luck and stay safe.

      • Sharon Sampson June 3, 2017, 2:37 pm

        I think I’ve got my answers answered!! What a beautiful series! Hubby and I shall be going through this for sure. Nicely laid out and pictured and written…thank you so very much in advance. We have an old friend who is a big time gun and ammo guy that we can purchase this equipment cheaply. I’ve just been hesitant to talk to him and his wife, last time we found he had the ‘big C’ and was doing radiation. Ugh. I hate our medical system. But this has just given me reason to check on how he is doing. I hate death (like duh howdy again)! We’ll be back with questions no doubt!

  • Jade Brunet August 18, 2016, 1:38 pm

    My husband and I love to hunt and we are looking to save money by reloading our own bullets. I did not know that if brass is used eight times it costs about six cents per use. Another thing to consider would be to store bullets in a safe place.

    • Chris December 9, 2016, 3:42 pm

      One thing to consider is if you go to outdoor ranges, you might find that you can easily collect brass which will help bring the costs down a bit.

  • reload August 16, 2016, 4:20 am

    I cast my first round ball at 14. Loaded 12 ga at 21 and started metallic in 1985 and casting for handgun and rifle then. Your article is correct it is an expensive investment. However for myself a FFL the cost are a tad lower. I tell those who want to get into reloading; IF you are not shooting several thousand cartridges a year then you’re better off to purchase cartridges from me. I also tell them to return the brass and box when possible for a bit of a refund.
    We, the industry have been through ups and downs . Fickle supply demands and costly component increases. The gougers and flea market firearms and ammo experts pop up over night. As fast as these new experts pop up they are gone! Right now I’m seeing a glut of sorts in used like new firearms and reloading supplies being sold by those who impulse purchased. The prices are insane to say the least. On the other hand guys are offering me 50% less than my asking price for components and firearms. Like I’m hurting for the sale and they are gonna make a quick deal to flip the firearms over. Like mentioned above. Then we have the guys who set up to reload for their friends hoping to expand into selling ammo to others. We all know where that can lead to, RIGHT? I , the industry has been up and down several times the past 40 years. So, if you can’t afford to item don’t make a impulse purchase. Do the math on both firearms and reloading components and equipment. You will find that it is cheaper to purchase cartridges for a day of plinking than it is to set up shop to reload. I offer
    LEE equipment knowing it will be sitting idle in a year and guys want to start on Dillon. Go figure~ Regards, BPB

  • Robert July 13, 2016, 12:16 pm

    I come from a family of gun owners and it is so convenient to use the once fired brass. We reload our own ammo all of the time. It cuts down on cost, especially since the tax on ammo is so high these days. Thank you for the article.

  • Jonathan Smith June 21, 2016, 8:40 pm

    I have a question I just got into all of this I just got in the mail 9mm 115gr and it’s weight it 7.5 did they send me the wrong bullets idk can somebody help me please

    • Dave February 20, 2017, 9:29 am

      What weighs 7.5? Is your scale on grains or ounces or something else.

  • Michiel June 19, 2016, 5:19 pm

    I have a question. I just started reloading my .308win ammo.im using imr4320 at 43gr and 180gr bullet.seems like the powder is alot for the case.when i seat the bullet it compresses the powder.is this right?

    • Paul Helinski June 19, 2016, 6:32 pm

      At http://www.hodgdonreloading.com/data/rifle
      it says starting load is 41 grains and top is 45.4. I think you are ok, but check your OAL to make sure that you aren’t seating the bullet too low. Some powders are ok to compress a bit, though I don’t know that powder personally.

  • Eddy March 23, 2016, 2:26 am

    Reloading is a lot of fun, and adds much to the shooting experience. If you want to become the best shooter you can be, start reloading. Almost every professional shooter is a reloader or, in the case of the military, has a team of reloaders working with them. As a reloader you will be shooting more frequently and testing bullet, powder, and primer combinations. In order to find that perfect recipe for your specific gun. Not only will you get plenty of practice, tailor made ammunition that is made for your gun will out perform any generic factory load.
    Will you save money or will you want the latest and greatest gadget available? That is up to you. But, with a little effort, you will get the best ammunition possible.

  • Curtis in IL February 24, 2016, 4:07 pm

    There are two kinds of people:
    1) Those who buy factory ammo and leave their brass on the ground or in the trash cans at the range.
    2) People like me who pick up that brass and reload it for half the cost, or less.
    Reloading plinking rounds for handgun ammo requires a 10 cent bullet, a 3 cent primer and a couple cents worth of powder. So for about 16 cents a round you can go have some fun at the range. So unless you can buy pistol or revolver ammo for $8 a box, there is significant money to be saved.

    • Andrew N March 22, 2016, 8:23 pm

      The only sad part is when we become such “Brass Junkies”, we spend more time at ranges scrounging brass than shooting. “It’s a gold mine” is the line we use when we find a good batch left by somebody with more money than brains.

  • Geoff February 24, 2016, 2:54 pm

    After the initial cost of equipment, and I kept it to the “best bang for the buck” choices, I bought a Lee single stage press, Lee dies for 9mm., .223, 300BLK and 7.62X54R. Also the Lee Auto Prime, the Lee shell holder set, digital calipers from somewhere, Hornady digital scale, a friend gave me a Lee Perfect Powder Measure, and I also boutgh the trim dies for 9mm., .223 and 7.62X54R. Maybe $200 to $250? It has been 3 years so I forget. Before I started on the reloading I was shooting store bought .223 and saved all the brass. I converted about 200 of them to 300BLK with a 2″ cut-off saw from Harbor Freight. I have been partial to Lake City NATO brass, it seems to last a long time, some have been reloaded as many as 10 times. A few have failed with a split neck, they get cutoff and used for 300BLK. I was buying powder and primers at Bass Pro, even though it was more expensive, I only bought a pound or two and a couple hundred primers on any trip. Just enough to reload some for shooting. I finally saved up and bought 7 pounds of powder and a brick of CCI400 from Powder Valley for $205 including HazMat and shipping. I use H110, H335 for rifle and TiteGroup for 9mm. I also bought some new 7.62X54R PPU brass from Graf’s. The most expensive reload is for the Mosin at 49 cents a round. 300BLk runs 28 to 38 cents a round depending on the bullet. .223 runs me 20 to 25 cents. 9mm. about 13 cents with LRN.

  • John Christensen February 22, 2016, 11:43 pm

    I face one thing in shooting. I cannot afford factory shells every time I shoot.
    If you want to save “beau-ko” bucks at each reload, try to shoot a 410 shotgun (or 28ga, even 24 ga)
    There is no such thing as a cheap factory round in these shot gun gauges/caliber.
    Smaller savings (thought significant will show in most large pistol calibers (magnums like .41 magnum, tell me where these are cheap?!
    Similarly rifles in less “usual” calibers can show savings where “cheap factory loads” don’t exist.
    Personally I load .244/6mm Remington and 4570 govt. You absolutely must preserve your brass. Most standard factory loads can be reduced small percentages and gain accuracy. The 45 70 reloads of mine will 325 g JHP will cloverleaf easily at 100 yards.
    You can & will save. I have

  • Mongo February 19, 2016, 7:30 am

    Another aspect of saving money is smart reloading: using powder that is used across many calibers. I use a pistol powder that doesn’t use as much grain weight load to get comparable velocity: a 5 grain load is the same velocity of another that needs 8 grains. And I use it for 4 different calibers. I use one rifle powder for 4 calibers. Matching powder to the most common bullet weight you use is just as important. Pouring your own lead bullets really saves money too. The most comprehensive reloading manual I’ve used is Lee, there cover all powders and all bullets, they aren’t beholden to certain brand names like the rest. Get a manual first, evaluate what you really want to do; practice more (I use lead bullets for pistol) or fine tune rifle accuracy, or both. Get a wide variety of helpful input from other reloaders, talk to powder manufactures (Hodgdon is great, also Christian owned and operated) and don’t go buy the shiney brand name, big buck costing equipment right off the bat. And most importantly: do one step, do it well, then move to the next step.
    Have fun, be safe
    Mongo

  • John Chinn February 18, 2016, 7:35 pm

    Love what I’m hearing from this discussion. I think there’s a lot of guys on both sides of the experience fence. I’d like to encourage anyone who’s got the wherewithal to be self sufficient to get into reloading. I currently only do nine millimeter myself, but I get free lead from work and cast my own bullets (so there’s savings!) and I’ve been saving my nine brass forever so I’ve never had to buy any; and a few years ago when nine was almost like 22 is now I still had rounds to shoot. Keep your powder dry, your measurements accurate and your barrel pointed down range.

  • Jim Stutzman February 17, 2016, 4:54 pm

    I started reloading with my Grandfather in 1962 when I was 12. He used an old hand held press and we loaded thousands of .30-06 with that old setup through the years. He taught me the value of using my hands, proper measurements and technique, of which I still use today.
    Over the years I’ve progressed through several single stage and turret presses and acquired a multitude of firearms in calibers ranging from .17 to .50BMG. Because of the multiple dies and primer sizes, I decided after much research to buy a progressive press. There are many brands and styles, various features and problems with all of them. I personally chose the Dillon 550B simply for the broad range of calibers it is capable of using and a nice price/feature combo. Others will have their preferred brand..whatever works for you.
    I have a single stage AmmoMaster for the .50BMG that, with careful mounting and usage, has been fed about 12,000 rounds of the big stuff. At between 185 and 250 grains of powder per charge and various projectiles used, this is an expensive but exciting round to shoot.
    The initial investment in equipment can be lowered significantly by careful yard sale browsing, want-ad research and having a knowledgeable friend help in selection of used equipment. Some rusty, cruddy, funky looking press MAY be a real gem if not totally corroded or frozen open/closed. I once found an old Lyman press that needed some TLC in a box of old car parts for $2, it cleaned up and worked for several years reloading thousands of 5.56 for my XM177 when we could still shoot full auto without an armed response and six pounds of paperwork.
    The real cost that needs to be discussed is the equipment…components are a variable that as already mentioned, can vary significantly.
    For beginners, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS use a RELIABLE reloading handbook for the starting loads, no matter what caliber. Case inspection is just as important as correct powder charge and bullet seating. The old saw, “The devil is in the details” is SO important to your safety.
    Remember also, that old model 94 of your Great-Grandfather’s is NOT as safe as a modern rifle barrel so don’t push that sweet old baby too hard with a modern charge…..they DO break, sometime with devastating results.
    Enjoy the hobby, practice ALL of your skills,use common sense (I know, sometimes it’s hard to find among all of the idiots) share the fun and stay SAFE !

  • Jay February 16, 2016, 8:13 am

    I’ve reloaded ammo for a long time, depending on how hot of loads you are producing, how hard or soft the brass how long brass will last, etc., some of the 308’s I’ve made for target practice are on their 14th trip to the range and not a single problem yet, some pistols even more! It depends on your reloads and you’ll find if and when you get into reloading that the hottest rounds are very seldom the most accurate.
    ” It’s not that I don’t have confidence in my reloads to use them for self defense but the sue happy lawyers and them saying I made some kind of extra dangerous ammunition some how” We all heard it in one form or another, right? Really, if I am in a situation that I have to point and shoot my firearm at an assailant I want the most dangerous, damage causing ammo I can get my hands on! So sue me for protecting myself! I see a lot of ammunition manufactures doing just that in advertisements to sell ammunition, showing how much more damage they can cause!

  • markle laws February 15, 2016, 11:29 pm

    I have been reloading since 1972. If you work up a load, buy in bulk and are willing to share your knowledge you always have a place to shoot ammo to shoot shooting and hunting companions and friends who are willing to help you and a hobby you can share with your son in law your child and grandchildren. The shooting sport needs people and I like to think I am doing my part to ensure our freedom to keep and bear arms.The government has not outlawed knowledge YET.

  • Archangel February 15, 2016, 4:08 pm

    With pistol ammo at .25 to .30 per round, I see no reason to reload.
    I do save all my fired brass just because.
    However, with something like the expensive big bore rounds like the 458 Socom and 450 bushmaster, or something quite pricey, reloading is more reasonable.
    The 45 Raptor based off the .308 case intended for use in the AR 308 platform to exceed the 458 Socom or 450 bushmaster power levels, you need to reload as it is not commercially commonly available anywhere.

    • mark g February 15, 2016, 5:07 pm

      i can reload .38 special for 8 bucks a box of 50 vs 20 bucks store bought…9 mm does not have as much savings but for .38, 44 special or 10mm the savings is BIG!!!!!!!

      • Roy February 15, 2016, 11:41 pm

        As the author said, unusual rounds = greater savings. Best example I know is the .41 Mag. Excellent round, fans are really fans but unless you ask often and buddy up to the purchaser at your local shop, ammo is available but limited. For example my local Cabela’s usually base .41 mag, but usually only has 1 or 2 boxes and it is priced over $1 per round before taxes. Reloading even when buying in small quantities gets the price down to under $0.30/round and I can press out 4 or 5 boxes for the range.

        • Tom McHale June 10, 2016, 2:35 pm

          The first rifle cartridge I started reloading was 7.7 Arisaka. At the time, they were running about $2 a shot. That was really, really easy to save over $1.50 per shot, even buying small quantities of powder and bullets. At the time, I think it was costing me somewhere around $.30 to reload one of those.

  • gator42 February 15, 2016, 2:40 pm

    I’ve been reloading pistol calibers: 9mm, .38, .357, .40, .44 and .45, as well as rifle: AR15, for several years. I use both a progressive Dillon 550b and a Lee single stage press. I can document cost savings by reusing brass and buying components in bulk, but that’s not my primary motive for reloading. My main reason is that it is just a great hobby that gives me many hours of pleasure and challenge. My shooting is mainly target (I don’t hunt), so the experimentation with powders, and bullet weights and types, to produce improved accuracy and tweak velocity is infinite and satisfying.
    If you’ve been considering reloading, it’s not as difficult as you may think. About all you need to get started, in addition to some cartridges, primers, powders and bullets, is a basic single stage press setup (there are beginner sets available from RCBS, Hornaday, Lee, and several other companies) and two or three of the Lyman, Hornaday, or Speer reloading guide books. In addition, there are great “how to” guide videos on every phase of reloading on YouTube and several manufacturer websites. It always helps to have an experienced friend who can be available with answers and advice as you get started. After you fire a few of your first reloads, you’ll find your confidence and interest growing by leaps and bounds. I recommend keeping a detailed written record of every reload: for example, powder and bullet types and weights, primers, cartridge lengths, firing results; it’s amazing how fast you can forget particular details if you don’t.

  • romney dickinson February 15, 2016, 1:54 pm

    please address the following in detail: communications (worst case conditions), battery storage from a gas generator, and making one’s home waaay mo impenetrable. I have several concepts which would likely be unlawful in normal times, but I am talking about when street thugs, muslims, LEOs, feds, even a fair portion of the military may become enemies. You know; you survive or you die and great huge piles of dung have caked up on the fan. I see water, electricity, wire and nets in my dreams. The wire and nets should not be visible outside, but a snare to good shooing at your in-house target range. Got it?

    Can you email me if/when they are run? Details, links, costs, anything greatly appreciated.

  • Gary February 15, 2016, 12:17 pm

    I recently bought 3 pistols, a xd9, a p-38, and a broomhandle in 9 mm. I loaded nosler and hornady jhp’s, mid- range in powder load, with mixed cases. I had zero failures with all the ammo. The reloads all grouped in half the size as the winchester fmj factory fodder, cost about the same, maybe a bit less, and I was able to choose a weight other than 115 gr. If you wanted 125 or 147 grain bullets off a shelf, expext to pay double and in boxes of 20 rounds. Am I right? Factory ammo is typically not as accurate in my experience, even on the first try before fine tuning the load. Another pro is you can bring up the load to what YOUR gun can handle. Some factory calibers are loaded very anemic because they may be used in an old gun, but your modern gun can handle much more effective hotter loads, 44 spl comes to mind.You just have more control if you reload.

    • Nick February 15, 2016, 1:26 pm

      Yes and no. Like the article said, there’s never a “one size fits all” cartridge. You get factory ammo that’s mass-produced with quality control a slight afterthought. They’re gunning for reliability and less consistency, so you can’t expect to get the same amount of precision as with a hand load. However, it’s not exactly a given that your reloads will be better than a factory load. I shot some mystery reloads (FMJ 230 gr) from my Kimber that I bought from a buddy. Up until then, I used Remington UMC stuff I used to buy when it was $65 for a pack of 250 (now it’s closer to $90). The accuracy dropped off and I had some failures to eject whereas the Remington loads were very reliable and consistent. I guess it comes down to the skill of the reloader. Follow the manuals to a T and you’ll get an extreme high degree of reliability and accuracy once you find the “sweet spot” for your firearms. Sounds like you got it down!

  • Tony Oney February 15, 2016, 12:06 pm

    Thank you sooooo much, been into gun for 60 years, never got around to the reloading, but was always on my mind. This is just what I’ve been hoping to find. Thank you again.

    Tony

  • Ronhart February 15, 2016, 11:57 am

    For over 20 years I have been reloading the CHEAPEST rifle ammo I could produce for plinking and target shooting. My favorite calibers are the .308 Win and 30/30, but these loads work well with most 30 caliber rifles. Military cartridge cases are cheap and available from many sources.

    I used to cast my own hard lead bullets, but have found good on-line sources for inexpensive, commercially available sized and lubricated lead bullets (I like Missouri Bullets). I expand the cartridge neck slightly to get the lead bullet started into the case.

    With plain base lead bullets I limit the velocity to about 1800FPS or less, using Hodgen H110, Alliant 2400 or Unique or similar fast burning powders. Other shotgun powders also work well.

    I put a grape size tuft of polyester (from a pillow or stuffed animal) over the reduced powder charge and and tamp it down with a 1/4″ wood dowel. I add a dab of lithium grease on the base of the bullet when I insert it into the case.

    I DO NOT have leading problems. After firing 50 or more rounds I run several cleaning patches soaked in Hoppes solvent through the bore and it is shiny clean.

    As an example, I reloaded a box of .308 ammo using CCI 200LR primers, 16.4 gr of 2400 powder and 170gr flat nose lead bullets (made for the 30/30). Estimated velocity is about 1600FPS. Estimated cost per round is about 20 cents.

    Lyman publishes an excellent book on lead bullet reloading with recommended loads for many calibers.

  • Whyawannaknow February 15, 2016, 10:12 am

    .65/round for reloaded .308 150 grain FMJ?

    AIM has new production 7.62 NATO under .45/round.

    http://www.aimsurplus.com/product.aspx?item=A308ZQI

    Regardless, I load my own for other reasons…

  • Thomas Gaffey February 15, 2016, 10:10 am

    Good first article, I reload for all the same reasons, I buy factory ammo when it is on sale, but load when I want a specific cartridge, for instance, depending on what I’m hunting I may carry 125gr spire for CA black tail, or 165gr HPBT if I’m near heavy hogs or factory/surplus 168 FMJ for target practice, all in 30-06. And here in the Socialist Sate of California where lead ammo for hunting is going away, you can reload with copper for about a third of what you would spend at even Cabelas. Remember just how many bullets are available for 30 cal. / 7.62.

  • bison1913 February 15, 2016, 9:50 am

    Mitch Spence… what is factual about not using hand loads for self defense? The author Tom McHale wrote “While I don’t recommend using hand loads for self-defense” You would think that the loader would have more confident on his own reloaded ammunition than that of an off the shelf store bought one. This would include me I am 100% more sure of my own reloads than that of store bought manufactured supply. I need to know what the author knows that I or we don’t. Please explain in full and concise detail. Please, thank you.

    • George Carnahan February 15, 2016, 12:43 pm

      I’m with you. I have had three instances where factory handgun ammunition, probably made on a Monday, was so hot, the brass would not even re-size, but rather sprung back so that the bullet would literally drop into the brass case. Nothing like one step at a time and 100% inspection at each stage of the loading process.

    • Nick February 15, 2016, 1:44 pm

      Well the idea is that because you reloaded your own ammo, the prosecution might intimate that you are using “non-standard” loads that could be overloaded or loaded with “nefarious” projectiles intended to cause maximum and cruel injuries on your assailant. Masaad Ayoob wrote articles about it. If you want to avoid any additional scrutiny in the event you have to shoot someone, use standard ammo. If you want high performance ammo, there are lots of factory loads like for law enforcement or ones that say “for self defense” that will do the job. It’s just not worth the possible extra flack and arguing you might have to do.

    • mark g February 15, 2016, 5:12 pm

      i have heard it stated ( and dont really agree) that hand loaded ammo makes a person look like a “gun nut” type…possibly make you look bad in a court of law ….

  • BLACKPOWDERBILL February 15, 2016, 9:41 am

    I cast my first round ball at 14. Loaded 12 ga at 21 and started metallic in 1985 and casting for handgun and rifle then. Your article is correct it is an expensive investment. However for myself a FFL the cost are a tad lower. I tell those who want to get into reloading; IF you are not shooting several thousand cartridges a year then you’re better off to purchase cartridges from me. I also tell them to return the brass and box when possible for a bit of a refund.
    We, the industry have been through ups and downs . Fickle supply demands and costly component increases. The gougers and flea market firearms and ammo experts pop up over night. As fast as these new experts pop up they are gone! Right now I’m seeing a glut of sorts in used like new firearms and reloading supplies being sold by those who impulse purchased. The prices are insane to say the least. On the other hand guys are offering me 50% less than my asking price for components and firearms. Like I’m hurting for the sale and they are gonna make a quick deal to flip the firearms over. Like mentioned above. Then we have the guys who set up to reload for their friends hoping to expand into selling ammo to others. We all know where that can lead to, RIGHT? I , the industry has been up and down several times the past 40 years. So, if you can’t afford to item don’t make a impulse purchase. Do the math on both firearms and reloading components and equipment. You will find that it is cheaper to purchase cartridges for a day of plinking than it is to set up shop to reload. I offer
    LEE equipment knowing it will be sitting idle in a year and guys want to start on Dillon. Go figure~ Regards, BPB

  • Thomm February 15, 2016, 8:35 am

    The author states he does not recommend reloaded bullets for self defense. Please explain in detail, Thanks

    • Doug February 15, 2016, 9:57 am

      I can’t speak for the author, but his reason might be that a prosecutor of a self defense trial might use your choice of bullet or powder as a way to color your intent, in the self defense situation. If you are using store bought self defense ammo, your intent is less questionable.

  • Jeremy Jensen February 15, 2016, 8:25 am

    I have been reloading 9mm for 5 years now basically buying components in 1,000 quantities and my current price is usually 12.5 cents a round. Right now you will be hard pressed to buy brass ammo any cheaper than 25 cents a round and that’s buying in bulk but you usually still have to pay either tax or shipping on that so the numbers can be deceiving. Anyways, saving roughly half the price if 9mm or 13 cents a round is HUGE when you factor in that I and most people shoot a lot of 9mm in one shooting or throughout the year. After 10,000 rounds I had my press basically paid for and I have an expensive press! And I could save even more if I bought in bulk!

    • Brass Rustler February 15, 2016, 5:45 pm

      I sure wouldn’t mind some input on where you get really cheap components. I’ve added up the cost for reloading 9mm and I can’t get it below 16 cents per round before I add the powder in and that’s using once fired brass prices and 5000 piece primers and 4000 piece bullets. Any website links you can provide would be appreciated.

      • Richard Hopley February 16, 2016, 2:21 pm

        Brass. I started reloading about a year and a half ago, only 9mm and 45acp. I reuse my brass, use Titegroup powder, Fiocchi primers and Berry’s bullets. I keep pretty detailed records and I figure I’m making 9mm for 12.75 cents/rd and 45acp for 17.56 cents/rd. My goal was the “KISS” principle so I’ve limited my components but I did buy a top notch setup (Dillion 650); I figured I only wanted to buy equipment once. Bullets are always in 500 (45acp) or 1000 (9mm) lots, powder 4 or 8 lbs, and primers in 1000 or 6000 lots. My reasons for getting into it were; 1) Retirement hobby to go with my IDPA shooting, 2) Availability (lack of) ammo, 3) Indoor winter shooting requires frangible bullets which are expensive AND hard to come by! Hope this helps your decision making.

  • Robert February 15, 2016, 8:24 am

    This is great, thank! I’ve been waiting for a series like this. I’m a relative newbie and know next to nothing about reloading, but I love long-range shooting, and especially for rounds like 6.5 CM, reloading would seem like a great way to go. I live in northeastern US, where it’s generally hard even to find 6.5 on store shelves. Anyway, looking forward to the next article!

    • drfred February 15, 2016, 9:44 am

      You can really load accurate rounds for the 6.5 Creedmore but it is a matter of trial and error. You can try loads that others post on various web sites but still need to work out what goes for your specific weapon. I probably have gone through 3 or 4 different powders and fired around 250 rounds or more of different loads and bullet lengths to get what I consider a 1/2 MOA round. Each gun is different. Example.. I have an AR-31, Colt 2012, and an AR-10 in .308. None of them use the same load. I keep each rifles empty shells segregated since the 31 & 2012 are bolt actions and I only have to neck size them since they are fire-formed. Semi’s need full length sized and are harder on brass. It’s a lot of fun reloaded and developing accurate loads. Cost is also a big factor. Good luck.

  • Mitch Spence February 15, 2016, 7:18 am

    A good article here; factual and well written.

    • bison1913 February 15, 2016, 10:15 am

      Mitch Spence… what is factual about not using hand loads for self defense? The author Tom McHale wrote “While I don’t recommend using hand loads for self-defense” You would think that the loader would have more confident on his own reloaded ammunition than that of an off the shelf store bought one. This would include me I am 100% more sure of my own reloads than that of store bought manufactured supply. I need to know what the author knows that I or we don’t. Please explain in full and concise detail. Please, thank you.

      • Tom McHale June 10, 2016, 2:40 pm

        I don’t recommend it because if you ever have to use it, that might cause complications in court. My comment has nothing to do with quality or reliability. While I am not aware of a situation where a prosecutor has attempted the “this person is out to kill because they make their own killer ammo of destruction!” I would much rather be able to point to the nearest police officer or bailiff and say something like “I used the same ammo he does. What’s so exceptionally malicious about that?”

        • Doug February 12, 2017, 9:06 pm

          The reasoning for store bought self defense rounds should have been included in the article.

          As written, it implies to the novice like me (basically lots of people who,got,here via google) that hand made ammo,is not reliable. That’s what I initially took from it.

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