Cost/benefit of reloading

The Gun Feed linked to my post about the double charge with the link text of “Reloading Kaboom: All costs savings is lost when your gun blows up…

At first thought you might agree. But it depends on how many rounds you reloaded before you lose a gun and the cost of replacement or repair of the gun. Assuming my gun is a total loss, I doubt this is true but lets go for worst case, I will have to have saved about $3200 to break even.

My worst case reloading cost (buying once fired brass) of .40 S&W is practice ammo. This is $0.24 per round. The ammo I use for matches is $0.19 per rounds. If I reuse my own fired brass then the cost drops to $0.19 and $0.14 per rounds. Let’s go with worst case reloading costs…

Getting the cheapest brand I recognize from Midway USA in one case (1000 rounds) lots results in $0.329 per round after shipping.

Hence by reloading I’m saving, at least, $0.089 per round. In order to pay for a new gun I would have to reload $3200/$0.089 rounds. This works out to about 36,000 rounds.

I have actually reloaded and fired about 84,000 rounds in .40 S&W. So by reloading, even if I have to buy a new gun, I still have saved nearly $4,500.

Plus, having learned the lesson of how a can get a double charge with this load I can either change loads to completely avoid this or modify my quality control procedures to reduce the chances.

This was using the worst case cost for reloaded ammo. It also doesn’t take into account that my reloads are lower recoil than factory loads and result in less wear on the gun. My actual savings is quite a bit greater than the calculations above indicate. Hence, in this case, the headline writer for The Gun Feed is wrong.


19 thoughts on “Cost/benefit of reloading

  1. The implication that one’s own reloads are the only way that a gun can be destroyed is also false. I’ve seen guns blown up by factory ammo.

    Double charges are a risk but as you mention, that risk occurs in specific scenarios and its possible to avoid many of them by choice of load density, etc.

    Besides, reloading is half of the hobby to me. I have guns that have never fired a factory loaded round.

  2. Cost savings is rarely a consideration for me, particularly if I consider time spent. For me the attraction is accuracy, fine tuning, loading for archaic cartridges, or speciality loads.

    Sorry about your STI, Joe! Hope it’s fixable.

  3. I am one of those who doesn’t reload because I don’t see the value. I can get 40 cal for $0.29 a round in my choice of brands: PMC, Blazer, Remington, and Winchester are all cheaper than that Midway ammo in your link, all of it at ruralking (Farm supply chain store) If I catch it on sale, it is even less. That means saving 5 cents per round at most, or a savings of $50 per 1,000 rounds.

    Then there is your time. How many hours does it take to load 1,000 rounds? 5 hours or so? That makes your time worth $10 per hour at the reloading bench. Rather low return on labor, I would say.

    I would argue that your reloads don’t result in less wear on the gun, seeing as how your gun is destroyed. The loss of that $3200 gun lowers your savings to $1000 over that 84,000 rounds your have reloaded. Loading that 84,000 rounds probably cost you at least 400 hours of labor, all to save a total of $2.50 an hour for your labor.

    It would be more cost effective to work at McDonald’s and use the money to buy ammo.

    In short, you aren’t doing it for the cost savings. The only reason for reloading is because you enjoy spending your spare time at the reloading bench.

    • To me, cost doesn’t mean that much. I was responding to The Gun Feed claim that there was no cost savings.

      Where I live the local prices have to include the 10% sales tax. I included the shipping in the Midway USA price.

      With my Dillon 550B (a 650 or 1050 would be faster) I can easily reload 300+ rounds of .40 S&W per hour. So it’s closer to three hours per 1000.

      I didn’t make something clear enough in my post. The nearly $4500 savings was after paying for a new gun.

      I do enjoy the time at the reloading bench. But that pleasure isn’t the only reason, even if we ignore any cost savings. By shooting loads milder than factory I can get faster times in competition.

  4. If you haven’t seen a case failure from new factory ammo you probably don’t shoot much.

    • Word. Had a case failure with factory ammo while shooting my hi-power a few years back. I won’t name the brand, but it was common practice ammo. 115 grain ball. 3rd or 4th shot in it failed at the ejector contact point on the cartridge rim. Blew the right grip panel off, ruined the mag and stuck the slide open. A small piece of brass had gotten stuck in slide locking lugs preventing it from going into battery. Stung a bit. No injuries, thank God. No damage to the gun. After taking it home and carefully examining the frame and slide I put it back into use. Tossed the mag.

  5. Is your 84k rounds all in the lifetime of this gun or is a portion of that on your last STI gun that this gun replaced?

    • The 84K was both guns combined. About 45K was with this gun. I used the total because the reloads had nothing to do with the previous gun being semi-retired and I reaped the benefit of the savings without the additional cost of a damaged gun.

      Also, I just got off the phone with STI. They expect to be able to repair the gun for parts and some labor cost.

  6. Pingback: Cost/benefit of reloading - The Gun Feed

  7. I reload too, so please understand where I am coming from: I used to push my reloads to the max, when I was young and foolish.

    I would pull the bullets from the whole lot of ammo, and reload with new powder.

    There is another cost to a blown-up gun – that is the risks imposed on you and the other people at the range.

    A chunk of steel through some random stranger’s head is expensive even if he doesn’t die – he might only be blinded, or maimed, or disfigured for life. Usually the guy behind the gun is not seriously injured, but the poor suckers on either side have to take their chances with the shrapnel that a catastrophic failure can fling about.

    Always check the powder level in your reloads before you seat the bullet – either automatically or by eye, to make sure that your powder level is close enough to “Just Right” so you don’t endanger yourself or others. Use a powder that fills the case more than halfway, so you can’t double charge without powder spillage – this gives you a clue that you are about to screw up.

    And, one last word: Don’t push the envelope. The last 5% of performance is not worth the stress and worry, and unless you are doing something out of a “Mission:Impossible” script, it isn’t needed. If you are doing something out of one of those scripts, rewrite the scene so you don’t need it.

    • I agree with all of the above. I thought I had the “more the halfway” criteria essentially covered but I was wrong.

    • I just ordered a Dillon 650 with the powder check option. Too much or too little in a case and it will set off an alarm.

  8. As I said on the other article, I reload 9mm and there is no way to double charge, trying just spills powder all over the bench. You can’t double charge a 9mm case.

  9. Bottom line for me is I just love the time at the reloading bench. Then I love the fact that I can readily go out shooting at anytime without having to purchase ammo first. Then it’s the pride I take on shooting the ammo I’ve reloaded. When I’m at the range with a gun I’ve practically built and the ammo that goes with it I’m happy.
    Fact is,, we all have our reasons for reloading or the choice to not reload.

  10. “…All costs savings is lost when your gun blows up…”

    This is known as the “appeal to consequence” logical fallacy. Like saying all the time you saved using an automobile for transportation would be lost if you were to be killed in an automobile accident.

    If that’s the crux of your argument, this article amounts to click-bait.

  11. ” It also doesn’t take into account that my reloads are lower recoil than factory loads and result in less wear on the gun.”

    Except for that last one!


    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  12. If your gun blows up, the cost of the gun will be the least of your concerns. People have been seriously injured from that. Even if the injuries are recoverable, the cost of a trip to the emergency room can make the cost of a gun pretty insignificant.

    Any reloading recipe that fills the case less than half full with powder is a potential disaster. Choose a powder that nearly fills the case so that a double charge results in obvious spillage.

    Whatever your safety procedures at the reloading bench, understand that your life may depend on getting it right.

    • “Your life may depend on getting [safety procedures] right”. That’s true for many endeavors. It applies to driving (though that’s fairly forgiving). Also more clearly to flying, scuba diving, and skydiving. If you look at skydivers doing safety checks, the attitudes you see displayed will look very familiar to serious shooters.

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