The first step towards healing is to admit you have a problem. I’ve got an ammunition reloading addiction. I can spend hours fantasizing about all the cool gadgets like case concentricity gauges in the Sinclair Reloading catalog. There. I’ve said it.
Since part of my problem is uncontrollable reloading evangelism, I’m going to allocate a couple of these weekly columns to reloading your own ammunition. This week, we’ll look at factors you should consider when deciding whether to reload or not. After our SHOT Show coverage next week. We’ll come back and talk about how to get started.
So how do you decide if reloading is for you? Consider the following.
Are you, or can you be, detail oriented?
As with any shooting related activity, safety comes first. Like shooting, reloading is perfectly safe, as long as you pay attention and follow the rules – every time without fail. With reloading, you have to pay close attention to all aspects of the task. Undercharging (not enough powder) and overcharging (too much powder) are equally dangerous and can harm the shooter and the gun. Seating bullets at the proper depth consistently prevents dangerous over pressure situations. Using the right components, per professionally published recipes is mandatory. While it sounds scary, as long as you are careful and attentive, you can manufacture safe and reliable ammunition.
It’s a gateway drug.
You know, like Crystal Meth. Once you start on that stuff, you’ll quickly move to something really serious. Likewise, if you start reloading something simple, like pistol cartridges, you’ll soon move to rifle cartridges. Before you know it, you’ll be melting lead in your kitchen and casting your own bullets. And we all know how much other family members enjoy lead fumes in the kitchen.
You’ll save money.
If you reload for fun and/or don’t place a dollar value on your reloading time, your cost per cartridge will almost certainly be lower than the price of factory ammunition. Of course, you have to reload often enough to cover the startup equipment costs. We’ll cover that in the next article.
Let’s look at a simple example. Right now, .223 practice ammo costs somewhere around $.45 to $.50 per round. If you reload it yourself, plan on spending about $.09 per bullet, $.03 per primer and $.08 for each powder charge. If you have to buy brass, you can use each casing about 10 times, so your per use cost is about $.04. That brings us to about $.24 per round, not counting your time. Yeah, I know. You know a guy who can get all this stuff cheaper. Keep in mind, this is just a rough estimate example for those uninitiated.
You’ll spend more money.
Once you start reloading, you’ll want to get all the gear. Like digital scales, electronic powder dispensers, power case trimmers, progressive reloading presses, and custom reloading benches. You’ll also shoot a lot more, so even though your cost per round might be lower, you can easily end up spending more money overall.
What’s your time worth?
In our .223 Remington example, we might save $.25 per round, not counting the value of your time. So on a per round basis, your time needs to be worth less than $.25 for the time it takes to assemble one round, else you’re unprofitable. The time value calculations are tricky because they depend on the equipment you have and the pace at which you work safely. Progressive reloading press manufactures claim numbers like 500 rounds per hour, but that doesn’t count other chores like case preparation. Read this to get an idea of the steps involved in reloading .223 Remington ammunition. It’s a little tongue in cheek, but will give you an idea.
If you spend most of your waking hours hanging out at Occupy Something Evil Protests, you’re probably in good shape. If you have a paying job, chances are you’re not beating the ammunition manufacturers in the hourly wage efficiency game. You might be better off working more to cover your ammo bills.
Be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition. It’s available in print and Kindle format at Amazon: