Considering the potentially large cost of purchasing a reloading setup, is reloading ammo worth it? This a question that many shooters ask themselves at one point or another. The answer is different for every shooter and will likely depend on what kind of shooting they do and how serious they are about it.
Reloading ammo is worth it under the following circumstances:
- You shoot an uncommon caliber
- You shoot a large and/or expensive caliber
- You are a precision shooter
- You shoot a lot
- You want to prepare for a shortage
- You are a gun nut who enjoys all aspects of firearms
You Shoot an Uncommon Caliber
Reloading is definitely worth it if you shoot an odd or uncommon caliber. My deer rifle shoots 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser. It is an excellent cartridge but is not very common in the United States. I have two large sporting goods retailers in my hometown, and neither of them carries anything in that caliber.
Related: Essential Reloading Equipment: Tools for Handloading
If I want to buy commercially loaded ammunition for my rifle, I will either need to order it online or scrounge around various pawn shops and small gun stores in my area until I find some. Supporting local businesses is always a good thing, but doing all of the leg work to track down ammo can be a pain. Even if I do manage to find a box, it probably won’t be the bullet weight and type I want. Also, there are no guarantees that the shop will have it in the future.
Being able to reload makes finding ammo for my deer rifle much easier. The brass can be reused from ammo I was able to find or can be bought new online. Quality ammo brass should be able to handle multiple loadings, so once you have a decent supply, it should last you a while. 6.5mm bullets are fairly common due to the prevalence of calibers such as the 6.5 Creedmoor. The primers and powders you can use to produce 6.5×55 ammo are the same as those used to produce other mid-size cartridges. By reloading my own ammunition, I have a reliable source of ammo that I can consistently produce to my own specifications.
You Shoot a Large Caliber
Shooting a large caliber, such as 300 Winchester Magnum, or any magnum caliber for that matter, can get expensive fast. Reloading is an excellent way to (eventually) save money on shooting larger cartridges.
Rifle cartridges are not the only ones that are expensive though. If you shoot large-caliber pistols such as .357 or .44 magnum, reloading your own ammo can save you a lot of money, especially in the long run. Just be sure you save your brass, as it is generally the most expensive component of a rifle or pistol round.
You Are a Precision Shooter
Precision shooters love reloading because it gives them absolute control over what they put in their firearms. Commercially loaded ammo will almost always have slight variances between batches or even individual rounds. Careful and deliberate reloading practices can virtually eliminate these variances. In addition, you can design and tweak loads to work specifically for your gun.
The more experience you gain reloading, the more advanced you can become with your reloading practices. In addition to choosing the desired components (bullet, brass, powder, and primer), you can also fine-tune other things such as the seating depth of the bullet. Research, trial and error, and good note-taking will allow you to get the best accuracy possible from your target or hunting rifle.
You Shoot A Lot
Reloading your own ammo can save you money if you are a high-volume shooter. Your savings per round will depend on the caliber you are shooting and the components you are using. The more you shoot, the faster you will recoup the money you spent on reloading equipment. Below is an example of what you might spend for 1,000 rounds of .223 ammo.
Commercial Ammo (Brass Cased): 1000 rounds x $0.35 per round = $350.00
Reloaded Ammo: 1000 rounds x $0.26 per round = $260.00
Savings: $90.00 per 1000 rounds
These figures are based on current costs that you could reasonably expect to pay for manufactured ammunition and reloading components. The cost of brass has been left out of the calculation for the reloaded ammo. This is because brass is reusable, and I am able to scavenge .223 brass at a local range for free. It would seem that there are way more AR-15 shooters in my area than there are reloaders.
You can purchase a decent reloading kit for around $150.00, and you can find good die sets for around $35.00. So, if you go with a low-cost reloading set up, you can almost recoup your equipment cost after the first 2,000 rounds of .223 ammo. If you decide to reload other calibers, just buy the appropriate dies and other small accessories, such as shell holders.
You Want to Be Prepared for Shortages
One of my biggest personal reasons for reloading is that I want to have as many ways as possible to have a reliable source of ammo. It is a sad fact that the availability of ammo often depends on what political party is in office. Having reloading equipment and plenty of bullets, primers, and powder in storage gives me a way to replenish my stocks even if my local stores have been picked clean due to a shortage or panic buying. This alone makes reloading worth it for me.
Although it may be different for your area, I have noticed that during shortages, reloading components tend to show up in gun stores faster than commercially loaded ammo. You may not be able to get the exact powder that you want, but if you have a good reloading manual and are willing to be flexible, something should come in. Just be sure that you have built a relationship with a local gun store owner who sells reloading components. Powders and primers are subject to outrageous hazmat fees that make small individual orders cost-prohibitive. A shop owner will be able to do bulk orders of powders and primers for several customers and may be able to include what you need as well.
You Are a Gun Nut
Some people have guns because they like to hunt. Others see firearms only for the utility they provide as defensive tools. However, there are many shooters who enjoy guns and pretty much everything that goes along with them. I think that I fall into this category. I’m not a SWAT guy or the greatest hunter in North America, but I appreciate firearms due to their value as hunting tools, defensive implements, and for the social value they provide, giving me a way to spend quality time with family and friends.
I also enjoy the more technical aspects of firearms ownership. While many people see cleaning their guns as a chore, I actually enjoy it. I take pride in being able to do safe repairs and modifications to my firearms. I see myself as the guy in his garage tinkering with a classic Mustang or Camero. The only difference is that I am working on guns instead of a car.
Reloading ammo is just another way for me to branch out and enjoy more aspects of shooting sports. Although reloading can be tedious and time-consuming, it is also rewarding. I enjoy looking at my box of newly-loaded ammunition, knowing that I am the one that made it. Also, if you are hanging out with a friend, it is a great way to pass the time chatting. Before I moved my reloading setup to my own house, I used to love sitting in my dad’s shop loading ammo while he and I watched tv. Just make sure you don’t get too distracted. You don’t want to make a mistake that could prove dangerous later on.
These are just a few reasons why you may want to load your own ammunition. Although the upfront costs of the equipment may seem daunting, having your own personal ammunition factory can be rewarding and save you some money in the long run.
If you think that you may want to begin reloading, please check out my “Essential Reloading Equipment” article. It is filled with useful information about the types of equipment you will need.