Does Reloading Ammo Save You Money?

Does Reloading Ammo Save You Money?

It's often said, reloading ammo keeps money in your pocket. But do the economics of handloading really shake out for penny pinchers?

This article is an excerpt from The ABCs of Reloading, 10th Edition by Phil Massaro, on sale at
This article is an excerpt from The ABCs of Reloading, 10th Edition by Phil Massaro, on sale at

I got into reloading for a couple of reasons: first, it was something I wanted to do with my Dad, as it kept us shooting together in the offseason; second, it allowed me to build premium ammunition at a lower cost than I could buy it. I’m not sure that is true any longer, but it warrants taking a detailed look at the cost breakdown of what it takes to make a box of cartridges compared to what it would cost to buy factory loaded stuff. And, never forget, your time is worth something, even if you spend it performing a labor of love.

The volume of ammo you expend will affect the numbers game, as you’ll need to purchase the same tools to make one box of ammunition as you’ll need to load twenty. And it’ll also depend on the cartridge you’re shooting; the cost ratio of reloading to factory ammo is going to be much different for the 9mm Luger, .45 ACP, .223 Remington, and .30-06 Springfield than it will be for the .455 Webley, .318 Westley Richards, .333 Jeffery, and .350 Rigby Magnum. Then there is the ability to load for rifles and pistols that have no factory ammunition option. You can then only place the value on the ability to shoot that gun, making the cost of reloading irrelevant as it’s the only option you’ve got.

Couple these ideas with the ammunition drought of 2013–2014 and the incredible increase in sales of both firearms and ammunition in the madness that began in 2020, and you’d have to add some value to having the ability to reload when there is almost nothing available on store shelves. No matter what the usual market price of your favorite factory ammo, when it’s unavailable, you’ll pay a premium. The value of handloads increases accordingly.

The Economics

Let’s use the universal and popular .30-06 Springfield as an example for cost analysis, assuming you’re a new reloader and starting with no more gear other than a heaping pile of once-fired brass you’ve saved in a shoebox over the years. Looking at the big picture, at a bare minimum, you’ll need a reloading press, a set of dies, a scale, trimming capabilities, measuring tools, case lube, reloading manual, and other accouterments.

Factory ammunition for a standard chambering such as the .30-06 Springfield is generally available and affordable, but once you experience the freedom of handloading, you may never look back.
Factory ammunition for a standard chambering such as the .30-06 Springfield is generally available and affordable, but once you experience the freedom of handloading, you may never look back.

Let’s say you jump into the pool with one of the reloading kits, such as the Rock Chucker Supreme Master Reloading Kit, which has a street price of $400. I’d add to that a trimmer, say an RCBS for $135, and a set of standard dies at $40. Before you buy a single component, you’re now $475 in the hole. You’ll need a pound of powder for roughly $30 and a box of 100 large rifle primers for $4. Let’s use a standard deer hunting bullet such as the Sierra GameKing 165-grain spitzer boattail at $30 per box of 100. You’ve invested $539 and have the capability of loading five boxes of ammo. That works out to $107.80 per box of 20, but that’s not realistic because you can use the tools for decades.

Suppose you take care of your reloading tools, and they last you a lifetime. Further, to simplify the analysis, let’s remove the equipment’s initial cost from the equation. To be conservative, let’s throw in 100 brass cases from Federal at $62/100. Our components for 100 newly loaded .30-06 rounds would come to about $126, or $1.26/round. By comparison, a 20-round box of Federal Premium with that same Sierra 165-grain GameKing bullet fetches $30-$37 — or $1.50-$1.85/round. So, yes, you can handload these rounds for a $.24-$.59 cent per round savings. Not only that, as I write this, there is a run on ammo, and you can’t find that Federal factory load in stock. If you have the components on hand, you can always load some up.

Seeing The Savings

If you’re a one-deer-a-year consumer who generally confirms zero on Ol’ Besty and heads afield, perhaps the factory ammunition is the way for you to go. But if you enjoy recreational shooting and the benefits of routine practice with your big game rifle, you can see how the investment in reloading tools can pay for itself in a short amount of time. If you get a couple of buddies together to share the tools’ cost, you can see a return on your investment even sooner.

Compare this idea to a cartridge such as the .300 Weatherby Magnum, where factory ammunition runs from $40 to $90 per box. Suddenly, your investment in tools seems much more worthwhile. Should you shoot multiple calibers — both rifle and pistol — you will see how reloading gear can quickly provide a return on your money. I’ve also experienced the frustration of finding a factory load that a rifle loves, only to have the factory change the recipe (whether intentional or not, I cannot answer), resulting in ruined accuracy and me scratching my head wondering what happened to the rifle. What’s more, experimenting with different factory loads can be a hefty investment, especially if you’re shooting a rare and costly cartridge. The initial investment of the reloading tools, and the cost of components, coupled with the time spent developing a load, are all well worth it to me. I can grab primer X, charge the case with my known charge of powder Y, and seat bullet Z on top to arrive at the load that will serve for the rifle’s life.

More Reloading From Phil Massaro:

Piecemeal Approach

I gave the example of purchasing a reloading kit, and that is certainly a sound idea, but you could also buy your tools individually. Depending on your budget, you can make the tool list as expensive or inexpensive as you choose. One benefit of reloading: dies and presses are interchangeable — should you choose a Redding press, you could easily use a Hornady resizing die, an RCBS seating die and a Lee crimp die, or just about any combination. You can buy as you go, keeping your eyes open for specials and deals on reloading gear to keep costs to a minimum.

Considerig reloading requires an upfront investment in tools and components, bulk factory ammo might be a better value (when you can get it) for some shooters.
Considerig reloading requires an upfront investment in tools and components, bulk factory ammo might be a better value (when you can get it) for some shooters.

Online shopping has become popular, and that applies to reloading as well. But primers and powder require a Hazardous Materials fee on shipping. This fee can add a considerable amount of money to your components’ cost, so keep that in mind and try and order in bulk, even if you have to combine orders with a friend or two. I recommend combining primers and powder on the same order under the same HazMat fee.

Looking For Deals

For the high-volume handgun shooter, there are many quality, inexpensive projectiles available that will keep the cost of ammunition down. Federal’s SynTech is a great example. It’s a synthetic-coated lead bullet, perfect for the indoor ranges, which cost between $23 and $27 per box of 100, or roughly 2/3rds the cost of Federal’s premium handgun bullets. It runs clean and is accurate for practice. If you don’t mind scrubbing lead from your bore, companies such as Meister Bullets offer hardcast lead bullets in bulk that can be as cheap as $0.07 per bullet for the classic 230-grain round-nose .45 ACP bullet if you buy them by the 1,000 count. Berry’s Bullets offers plated projectiles for both rifles and pistols at an affordable rate; they are accurate, and you can use them in an indoor range.

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from The ABCs of Reloading, 10th Edition by Phil Massaro, on sale at


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Philip P. Massaro is the President of <a href="">Massaro Ballistic Laboratories, LLC</a>, a custom ammunition company, which is comfortably nestled in between the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York. He has been handloading ammunition for 20+ years, and has loaded a wide range of pistol and rifle ammunition, from the lightest plinking loads through the heavy hitting cartridges designed for animals that are measure in tons. He is a Licensed Professional Land Surveyor by trade, a musician by choice, and usually reeks of Hoppes No. 9.


  1. I shoot obsolete cartridges so I can reload. I reload so I can cast bullets. What I’m saying is that bullet casting and reloading are every bit as enjoyable as shooting. Try buying 56-56 Spencer, 577 Snider, 577-450, 11mm Mauser, 40-82 WCF, 38-40 WCF, 50 ActionExpress, 41 Swiss CF, etc.
    I’ve always kept about 20,000 primers on hand. Just pulled out a box of Win small pistol primers with a price of $13.85/1,000. This winter is the 1st time I’ve ever reloaded 9mm Luger. I’ve reloaded 9mm Browning Long but did the Luger’s just for the heck of it. I load 38 ACP for my 1902 and 1903 Colt semi-auto’s and lots of 44 Magnums with bullets I bought 25 years ago in bulk for a fraction of what they now cost. Sure hope this latest panic runs it’s course before too long so I can restock some supplies.

  2. For a different viewpoint, I started out in 1965 with a Lee Loader for 38 spl. It cost me $10, a box of 100 primers was about $1, I bought a plastic box (100), of cast lead wadcutters 248gr. for, I forget, maybe $2.50. I bought a lb. of Bullseye powder for, maybe, $3.50, and the cases were free. I got them by paying for reloaded ammunition, and shooting same. So I had about $16.50 for all of it. The cases will last forever shooting 3.0 gr. of Bullseye. The loader (I still have), same with the powder, So, I paid $1.25 for 50 bullets , and .50cents for primers, gives me a grand total of $1.75 per box of cartridges. I considered my time as free as it was time that I wasn’t doing anything more productive. Now, time has marched on. I later bought an “EAGLE” single stage press at a gun show for $25. I have loaded many thousands of pistol & rifle ammo on that press, still have it, too. If you aren’t sure if reloading is for you, try it the cheap way. If you find it is fun, you will move up to a press, (Like a Lee Press). or RCBS, or ???? Everything is more expensive today by triple what it was 6 months ago. All my prices are up ten times or more than what I paid. But I never moved on from that old EAGLE cast aluminum press. I use it and a Lee press now. I never have gotten to the point of needing 1000 rounds in a short evening. I shoot for fun. If you get into competition shooting, well, you WILL need one (or more) of those Progressive presses. The way I do it is inspecting one out of five powder charges then looking at 50 or 100 cases that have been sized, trimmed, belled, then filled with powder before fitting a bullet to them. I now cast my bullets, too. I’ll stop as I don’t want to do anything more than say there are cheaper ways of getting into reloading. Jacketed bullets are expensive but ‘rolling your own’ is still cheaper.

  3. I started reloading handgun rounds (45 Colt) a few years back once I discovered that to buy them in the store was about $1.50 A ROUND, and then all you got was Cowboy loads.

    Did the math and after I reloaded 3 boxes of 50, I had saved enough to pay for not only the powder/primers, but the dies, and press and scales …. etc etc as well.

    Not to mention that I could reload something MUCH more potent than “cowboy loads”.

  4. Yes, there are great savings to be enjoyed through reloading. However, reloading, in itself, can become a hobby or more accurately, an addiction. There are unending lists of accessories, accoutrements and gadgets that one MUST have. I know.

    • My father gave me a Christmas present in 1958. It was a pre-war Model 70 in .30-06. The following week I my older brother, recognizing a great opportunity to exploit me, paid me enough money to swap his houshold chores to me for the next six months so I could buy a Lee Loader, a pound of IMR4350, a box of 180 grain Remington core locked bullets, a box of Remington 110 grain spire points and five flats of primers. I used that rifle, sans any scope for 12 years and took deer, bear and hundreds of groundhogs. In 1970, I bought a 2 1/2 – 8 B&L scope with Buehler “Micro dial” mounts and shortly after that, moved to Alaska and lived in the Bush for 8 years. I used that same gun to kill, moose, caribou and all three kinds of bears.
      Nowdays, I have 86 sets of dies from RCBS, Foster and Redding. I’ve got fancy Herrell’s powder measures (one for rifle and one for pistol). Yet, I still measure every single powder charge on a scale, just to be sure of its consistency. I guess that what I’m saying is that you missed the most important point; reloading is not only rewarding, it’s downright fun. I’m retired now, and 78 years old. One of my greatest pleasures in life is to spend an entire evening in the gun room loading ammo, which, of course, is the perfect excuse for me to go to the range and shoot ’em up again. Usually there are only one or two loads that will allow your rifle or handgun to show off its potential by rewarding you with miniscule groups, and finding that perfect combination of bullet weight, style and seating depth, powder type and weight, and primer is like finding gold. It takes a lot of searching, but the rewards are great. I will always believe that no factory load will ever match the accuracy and performance of handloads.


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