Looking for opinions on reloading; startup costs, savings, difficulty...

Looking for opinions on reloading; startup costs, savings, difficulty...

This is a discussion on Looking for opinions on reloading; startup costs, savings, difficulty... within the Reloading forums, part of the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics category; Ok, I think I'd like to start reloading but I'm hoping I can pick some brains and get some ideas before I go any further, ...

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  1. #1
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    Looking for opinions on reloading; startup costs, savings, difficulty...

    Ok, I think I'd like to start reloading but I'm hoping I can pick some brains and get some ideas before I go any further, so I'll give you my scenario and let you folks already doing this give me some pointers.

    For right now, I would probably only care about reloading for 9mm, .40 and .45 since those are the three calibers I shoot 'often'. I would really like to shoot more than I currently do, but I would realistically estimate reloading maybe 200-300 rounds a month.

    I don't need/want the latest and greatest equipment since I'm looking to maximize the return on my investment but I would want quality equipment.

    Based on that, is it economically worth it to reload? If so, about how much cash would I need for a decent setup? I enjoy doing things for myself so I'm going to assume I would enjoy reloading, but I don't want to sink a bunch of cash into something and not see a monetary savings since I could just continue to purchase factory ammo and just not shoot as much as I would like.

    As always, thanks for the advice and guidance!


  2. #2
    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    Lee single stage anniversary kit which has it all except dies, which are about 30$, and componets. If you don't have your own brass, figure about $25 for 100 pieces, $25-30 for 1000 primers and about $20-30 for a pound of powder . Lee kit runs about 100-135 dollars. You will also want a brass tumbler and media to clean brass with. Pistol brass can be loaded 8-12 times depending on pressure from your loads. Also get the latest Lyman reloading Manuel and you are set, for Now.

  3. #3
    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    Unless you quit shooting, there is no way to shoot cheaper than reloading. You can reload a box of shells for about 5-6 dollars after you have done enough reloading to offset the original start up cost. So figure how much your ammo costs to buy, then see how much it would take to offset your start up of probably $250-300 dollars.

  4. #4
    Distinguished Member Array C9H13NO3's Avatar
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    I bought a lee turret kit, steel calipers, tumbler, media, hand primer (not needed), and a loading block. It paid for itself pretty much after a few boxes of ammo. Just did this last week and it was WELL worth it. Go for it, if you like shooting, it's a decision you'll never regret.
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  5. #5
    Ex Member Array Ram Rod's Avatar
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    Looking for opinions on reloading; start-up costs, savings, difficulty...
    A). start up costs? Lot more than they used to be. Components may be more difficult to find as well. Good to find one place that has everything instead of gathering them from hither and yon.
    B). savings? Well, that depends a lot on what you'll want to reload, the equipment you get to do the job, and amount you wish to put out. Then back to (A)..initial costs and tooling.......project the cost/savings over a period of time and usage. The same brass will only last so long (number of reloads).
    C). difficulty? Keep good reference materials......up-to-date, know basic mathematics and measurements, have the appropriate equipment, and an ability to follow instructions. Repeat each procedure and never get distracted during the process. Check everything twice or three times. Your own safety is in your hands. That seems pretty simple to me.

    Find someone locally that already reloads for themselves. An apprenticeship or trading brass and knowledge may be a lot better than going it on your own. Network a bit...just like we do here. I'll almost guarantee that will be faster getting you off the ground. You may even get into some good used equipment buys that will save you buying new. I guess it just depends on what you want to do, how fast, and how soon you'll want results. Reloading is one of the most satisfying things I get involved in. Can't exactly call it a hobby. It's something with more of a purpose. A certain sense of satisfaction is what it should get you above all else.

  6. #6
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    I would recommend that you first get a reloading manual before you buy all kinds of equipment. It will show you the process in detail and you can determine for yourself how far you want to go. With a very basic kit you can reload quality ammo or you can splurge and load high end match grade ammo. Of course the more complicated you get, the more expensive your reloads. I figure I'm somewhere in the middle. I have an RCBS Rockchucker press that's still going strong after more than 20 years. It costs more than a Lee, but I've never had to repair it or replace parts, and you did mention quality equipment. I use RCBS Carbide dies which are more expensive than steel dies, but never seem to wear out as long as they're properly maintained. Carbide also allows you to skip lubing and recleaning your brass, which is a big time saver. I also have an auto primer feeder, scale and powder measure. All of which really speed up the process and prevent your having to touch the primers or other sensitive components. All together I have about $300 invested in equipment. Since you're reloading all pistol calibers, Lee does make a cartridge trimming set up that is inexpensive and very accurate, which is necessary for proper headspacing. Good luck.
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  7. #7
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    Thank you for all the ideas and advice, I appreciate it. I will start having a look at some of the equipment mentioned and I think I'll start looking for someone locally who might be kind enough to allow me to check out the process and some of the setup in person. I haven't had much opportunity to do any local networking yet, but I'll start making that more of a priority.

  8. #8
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    "I could just continue to purchase factory ammo and just not shoot as much as I would like."

    And what would be the point of that? If you enjoy shooting--shoot! you should shoot as much and as oftne as you can, just as you would with anything you enjoy. Keeping it as economical as you can only make sense.

    While the costs of reloading has gone up so has the cost of factory ammo, so porportionally the saving are still there. How much you save all depends on how much you reload. At 200-300 rounds per month, you make up the expense of the initial investment fairly quickly. I'd say within a year at most.

    Reloading is easy although a bit tedious unless using a progressive. It does require attention to detail as mistakes can be costly--in many ways! A progressive is faster if cranking out many rounds is your goal, but the slower single-stage and turret presses will easily produce the 200-300 amounts you mention. I've been using an old 1975 single stage that gets the job done. Sure, a nice Dillion would be faster, but I enjoy reloading as much as I enjoy shooting and find it theraputic. My reload count is similar to yours and I can easily load that on a Sunday afternoon.

    Your initial investment will depend on what model setup you get. Lee is good stuff, not great, but will certainly get the job done without sinking a huge wad of cash. It's probably the most economical setup to start with and makes a good beginner set. There are many reloaders who use Lee equipment. You can always upgrade later as you get into reloading more. RCBS, Hornady and such will run $3-4 hundred.

    For straight-walled pistol cases, you definitely want to invest a few extra bucks in carbide dies. They eliminate the need to lube cases, which is a pain.

    A case cleaner, tumbler or vibrator, is needed for cleaning the cases. They don't have to be sparkling clean and shiny, but you don't want grit fouling up the dies and sctratching up things. They can be bought for about $40 and up.

    I prefer to use a hand primer over the press-mounted style. I think you get more of a feel for loose primer pockets. nice to have but NOT necessary.

    A good powder drop measure will speed up loading the powder and allow for fine adjustments in loads. Also good scales for checking the powder weights. Many like the electronic types; I use the RCBS 505 beam style. It's worked fine for years and I've never had to worry about batteries.

    The list of "accessories" is endless and you'll accumulate many in due time. Many are "convenience" items that can be purchased later. A plastic loading block for holding cases is nice, but a few minutes with a 2x6 and a drill press turns out one that has a nice woodgrain finish and works just as well.

    A reloading manual is a must. Those made by the bullet makers list only loads for their bullets, which limits the choices. Several of them, however, do include excellent tips and advice in the books. Most powder companies also offer load data online for free.

    You biggest savings will be in buying in bulk. 500 lead bullets cost less per bullet than 100 do. 1000 cost less than 500, etc. Same goes for primers. I pay $4.95 for a box of 100. I can order 1000 online but shipping and Haz Mat fees makes it almost the same cost. But if I buy 1000 small pistol and 1000 large pistol in the same order, the per primer cost goes way down.

    A 1 lb can of powder wil run about $25-30 in a local gun store, but I get around 2500-3000 loads from it. Again, cheaper in bulk (4-8 lb cans), but that's a lot of powder unless you're really happy with it and use quite a bit.

    If you know anyone who reloads, ask if you can sit in on a session and see what's involved. It really shows how easy it is. The basic steps are: resize and deprime case; prime; load powder; seat bullet and crimp.
    Retired USAF E-8. Lighten up and enjoy life because:
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  9. #9
    Ex Member Array Ram Rod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glockman10mm View Post
    If you don't have your own brass, figure about $25 for 100 pieces.
    Ouch! Brand new brass or once fired? Everything else is just about on with the cost figures. But I had no idea brass was going for that much. You can get the Starline brass new for around $18 per 100ct. 1000ct of once fired (mixed) might run you around $40+ shipping when it's available in 9mm. The 45ACP is a bit higher like twice as much for the once fired 1000ct, but almost the same ($18) for the Starline brass new.
    Midway USA is a nice place to shop for me and to keep up on prices. My local gun shops also have once fired brass most of the time. No matter how much the bulk prices may have changed, I think the per piece price of brass hasn't changed much as the shipping costs. I used to trade mine in at around 4 per piece in 9mm and around 7 per piece in the 45ACP cleaned and de-primed. A couple of years on down the road, I got into the forums a bit more. That's our network now (or one of my main ones anyhow). I don't reload for pistol, only my bolt action rifles. I don't get to shoot or make all the matches like I was doing a couple of years ago, but when I did, was nothing to generate 500 empty brass cases a week. Ran into a fellow at a gun show in Ft Smith and after we talked a bit, he ended up buying all of my once fired brass for the next year and a half cheap. Back in the day (couple years ago), the smallest flat rate box available from the local post office would hold 1200 pieces of 9mm brass, weigh around 11lbs full, and shipping was $9.98. I did this plenty of times. Well, times change, and so have the boxes....but flat rate shipping through USPS is still the best way to go. I don't actually know how many pieces of brass will fit the smallest flat rate box available now. Maybe I'll pick one up and see. Pound for pound though, I don't think you can beat the shipping cost. Networking is good, and I've shipped a lot of once fired brass to anywhere in the continental US. Not a sales pitch, and I don't have much in stock right now anyway. Just pointing out the networking possibilities, barter, trade, etc. Not only that....but those who eat up ammo and don't reload for themselves....there is an inside market here. Start picking them up at the range. Think of it as re-cycling. What you can't use someone else can. Empty brass is good.........until you step on it! Just keep that in mind. If 250 empty cases could get you another box of 50 loaded....wouldn't that work? Networking is good.

  10. #10
    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ram Rod View Post
    Ouch! Brand new brass or once fired? Everything else is just about on with the cost figures. But I had no idea brass was going for that much. You can get the Starline brass new for around $18 per 100ct. 1000ct of once fired (mixed) might run you around $40+ shipping when it's available in 9mm. The 45ACP is a bit higher like twice as much for the once fired 1000ct, but almost the same ($18) for the Starline brass new.
    Midway USA is a nice place to shop for me and to keep up on prices. My local gun shops also have once fired brass most of the time. No matter how much the bulk prices may have changed, I think the per piece price of brass hasn't changed much as the shipping costs. I used to trade mine in at around 4 per piece in 9mm and around 7 per piece in the 45ACP cleaned and de-primed. A couple of years on down the road, I got into the forums a bit more. That's our network now (or one of my main ones anyhow). I don't reload for pistol, only my bolt action rifles. I don't get to shoot or make all the matches like I was doing a couple of years ago, but when I did, was nothing to generate 500 empty brass cases a week. Ran into a fellow at a gun show in Ft Smith and after we talked a bit, he ended up buying all of my once fired brass for the next year and a half cheap. Back in the day (couple years ago), the smallest flat rate box available from the local post office would hold 1200 pieces of 9mm brass, weigh around 11lbs full, and shipping was $9.98. I did this plenty of times. Well, times change, and so have the boxes....but flat rate shipping through USPS is still the best way to go. I don't actually know how many pieces of brass will fit the smallest flat rate box available now. Maybe I'll pick one up and see. Pound for pound though, I don't think you can beat the shipping cost. Networking is good, and I've shipped a lot of once fired brass to anywhere in the continental US. Not a sales pitch, and I don't have much in stock right now anyway. Just pointing out the networking possibilities, barter, trade, etc. Not only that....but those who eat up ammo and don't reload for themselves....there is an inside market here. Start picking them up at the range. Think of it as re-cycling. What you can't use someone else can. Empty brass is good.........until you step on it! Just keep that in mind. If 250 empty cases could get you another box of 50 loaded....wouldn't that work? Networking is good.
    Yes RamRod, auto pistol brass may be cheaper since it tends to be a little smaller in construction. I only load straight walled revolver big bore stuff which may cost a little more, since its bigger. I only buy virgin, unprimed brass, and keeping the integrity of my brass is very important. The reason I dont reload auto pistol brass is because you always lose some, or can accidently pick up someone elses. I reload 50 pieces at a time and have the boxes marked with load data, so I know how hot the load is, velocity, powder/grains, primer, bullet type, and how many times it has been fired. This is very important, and I also keep a log book of what is a good load and what sucks so I dont assemble the bad ones again. By keeping good records you minimize the chances of case failure due to pressure weakened brass.

  11. #11
    Ex Member Array Ram Rod's Avatar
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    Good points.

  12. #12
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    I have two Dillon SDB's and several K's of once fired brass from when I worked at a gun range in the 90's. I also have a G-RX for 40S&W brass which I shoot a ton of and it works great! Lots of primers, brass, powder, and lead make for lots of shooting! I also have several K of .223 loaded since I don't reload rifle caliber......
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by glockman10mm View Post
    Yes RamRod, auto pistol brass may be cheaper since it tends to be a little smaller in construction. I only load straight walled revolver big bore stuff which may cost a little more, since its bigger. I only buy virgin, unprimed brass, and keeping the integrity of my brass is very important. The reason I dont reload auto pistol brass is because you always lose some, or can accidently pick up someone elses. I reload 50 pieces at a time and have the boxes marked with load data, so I know how hot the load is, velocity, powder/grains, primer, bullet type, and how many times it has been fired. This is very important, and I also keep a log book of what is a good load and what sucks so I dont assemble the bad ones again. By keeping good records you minimize the chances of case failure due to pressure weakened brass.
    So if I'm primarily looking at auto reloading could I mark the shells with a sharpie or something so I could identify my spent shells? I realize that I'm going to lose some just because they are getting tossed all around, but I would like to think I could get some use out of my brass before I tossed it. I remember reading a long debate somewhere on the safety hazard vs frugal economics with regards to picking up range brass, but if I could identify my own brass with a mark or something like that, I would only be limited by how much time I felt like spending hunting the stuff back down.

    Thanks for all the ideas guys, I really appreciate all the thought everyone has put into my noob question!

  14. #14
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    The majority of my brass is picked up at the range. The only cases I don't keep has the "CBC" headstamp, which I think is used Magtech(?). I find it is often split or does so on the next reload. Range brass tends to have dents and dings from hitting the concrete and wayward feet, but as long as it's not severe, it comes out on resizing or firing. I do look for nicks or cuts in the case mouth as that can lead to splits. A good chamfering tool removes most of the jagged edges.

    I long ago gave up on sorting cases by headstamp. Other than the CBCs, I've never had a case fail. I guess if I loaded "hot" loads, (I don't) there would be more splits. Unless I have reason to, I don't check case length either. Pistol cases, especially in the low to mid power I load, will last indefinitely. Rifle cases, on the other hand, are much more prone to stretching and need to be checked regularly.

    I make 9mm Makarov cases from 9mm Lugers by trimming them and "try" to mark them with Sharpies or brass black. Both wear off in the tumbler, so it's not worthwhile timewise.

    Some cases, .40s in a Glock for instance, tend to bulge and most are afraid to reuse them. I've never noticed any bulge in my .45 cases from my Glock and they've been reloaded many times.

    So my view is: pick up all the range brass you can. You can always trade or toss (or recycle) any that isn't in good shape or not your caliber.
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  15. #15
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    If you did pick up brass that is not yours,you would probably ok. Just remember that some brass is made thicker than others and it may cause a rise or fall in pressure of your particular loads with your brass. Each manafacturer is a little different even within SAMMI specs. Don't be discouraged, just try to maintain your own brass and always inspect each case as you reload. That's why I recommend a single stage press for beginners as it gives you several chances to inspect your brass as you develop your own system.

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