Reloading Ammunition on a Budget

If you’re like most of us, your reloading activities have to fall within a budget of some sort. Some reloaders are sponsored (competitive shooters, etc), others have a fat budget, and others need to make the very most of every dollar spent on reloaded ammunition. If you’re like me, above all you want to prevent waste and get a good value for your reloading dollar.

Here are some ideas that should help optimize (or minimize) what you spend on reloading.

Equipment: Focus On What You Need

Sure, that 7-station progressive reloading press with case feed and bullet feed systems is awesome, but do you really need it? What I have done in the past is to create a simple total of all of the major components (press, dies, shellplates, etc) and accessories/parts to get a “total cost of ownership”. You may be surprised when you compare more expensive but more fully featured press systems to less expensive and more stripped down setups. Some times the cost is close, and the quality difference is big. The point: calculate the true cost, focus on quality rather than features. Wait to have a sustained and proven need, then buy the upgrades.

Use What You Have

Especially when you’re just getting started, it helps to use some creativity to help keep the initial cost of reloading reasonable. When I started reloading, I used a rock polisher tumbler that was on hand for case cleaning, and Lemon Pledge for case lube. They both worked, but I’ve moved on over time to more expensive/elaborate equipment and supplies. Little by little you can develop a comprehensive reloading setup.

Look For Deals

If you keep you eyes out you may just find some killer deals on equipment and supplies. I’ve purchased primers at a neighbor’s garage sale, discounted bullets online, and have inherited items from friends. A friend of mine made a great trade at a local pawn shop for a Dillon XL-650 reloading press outfit. The best deal is a free deal right? Look for pickup range brass where you shoot, and always ask other shooters and friends if you can take their brass. It doesn’t hurt to ask does it?

Use Lower Cost Components

If you are shooting a lot of ammunition, the cost of the consumables will comprise most of your expenses. If you are a savvy shopper, you may find good value in lower cost components. Examples include cast lead bullets, plated bullets (if appropriate for your application), Wolf primers, (or similar) and powders with low charge weights for your application. Be careful not to scrimp (cheap hardcast lead bullets of improper hardness, etc) but don’t over-pay either.

There you have it- a few ideas for how you can keep your costs down. Have ideas to share? Please drop a comment!



15 thoughts on “Reloading Ammunition on a Budget”

  1. I want to highlight the above statement about collecting brass from friends and the range. Process the brass that you do not load, and if you accumulate enough, sell or trade it for consumables. Primers just took a big jump in my area (up $4/1000 over costs a few months ago) so I trade a 1000 primers for 1000 piece brass. I save up enough brass that I do not shoot (9mm, .40, 223) steel pin tumble and sell or trade it by lots of 1000. You are looking at ~$30-60/1000 which is not bad for some local folks to pickup. Of course time is money, but the wife does not see the money spent on the consumables, a laundering of gun supplies of sorts if you will.

  2. If you’ve read any of my post before…then you know that I am a Lee Precision person. And there are many reasons why I became such an addict using Lee products.

    Make life siimple when reloading. You can find online the Lee turret press….non indexing so you will not get all caught up in observing if everything indexed properly/etc. The press comes with one three hole turret but new turrets cost $7 for a three hole and $8 for a four hole…four holes turrets get a little crowded but when using Lee carbide pistol dies….there are four dies (Standard calibers). Turret press will cost you $64…..minor accessories such as case trimer/primer pocket cleaner/case mouth reamer and throw in a disc powder throw from Lee…for press/disc powder throw/dies/mis accessories needed extra turret plus shipping will run yo about $160.00…not bad and you will get great results.

    Powder and primers…I use Wolf/now Tula primers and Unique powder. With any powder/primer situation…these two items will run you for 1lb of powder $18.00 and large/small pistol primer – $4…..$22.00m total…we’ll talk bullets here shortly. With 7,000 grains per pound of powder and say your reloading for a 9mm @ 4.5 grains per load = 1,500 rounds per pound or .012 cents per round for powder + 4 cents for primer = .052 cents per round = $2.60 for a box of 50 rounds….reasonable.

    I cast bullets for handguns….again I use Lee for this….I just bought a Lee Pro Pot that handles 20lbs of lead…cost $65 and a two cavity mold will cost you cost $19…you can use the 10lb pot for $45…pot/mold $64. Brass is where you find it….online you can find 9mm military brass for $57 for 500 or $5.70 for 50 rounds so really…unless you can find give aways…..sometimes it is best to buy new ammo and use this brass for reloading….how much? I have thousands but that’s just me. Getting to bullets….hollow points or FMJ can run too much money if you’re serious about shooting cheap unless you find an outstanding buy. Copper plated or FMJ’s will cost around 12 cents pre round = $6 per 50 + powder/primer = $8.60 per 50….getting pricey now.

    Final penny pinching…casting pistol bullets is fun and will save you a lot of money…even with high lead prices. You can use magnum lead shot for pistol bullets and works well for this. At $45 per bag…and cliimbing…..for a 9mm using a 124 grain Lee mold…you’ll get 1,400 9mm bullets from a 25lb bag of magnum shot or .032 cents per round = 1.60 per 50 + $2.60 for power/primer = $4.20 per box of 50. Now we’re talking saving some dollars or you’re able to shoot much much more by reloading verses buying new. The way I buy lead however….it cost me about 90 cents for 50 cast lead bullets and I buy thru online suppliers primers and powder. There is a Hazmat fee incured however…so you’ve got to order to make it worth the effort…that means 5 to 10 thousand primers and 4 to 5 pounds of powder at a time…but it will cut down the cost of reloading noticeably.

    That’s is how you can reload on the cheap… gets addicting I will warn you, But I just can’t enjoy shooting like I do if I had to buy all my ammo new…well…unless I was well off financially. If I was well off…I probably wouldn’t be around this website…..but then again….target rifle and hunting rounds you just have to reload for.

    Shooting for less is fun!!

  3. 2yrs ago powder valley ran a special no hazmat free shipping bought tula primers at 15.00 per 1000.I bought 20,000. I use these for practice and keep cci for hunting loads also cast bullets keep cost down. And reduced loads for target practice.

    1. Yes indeed…I’m not sure however if we shall ever see the free hazmat again. Nor 15.00 per thousand Tula primers….but you can bet I’d be loading up if there ever is free hazmat!! Or $15.00 per thousand primers. I messed up and did not load up on Wolf primers when these were $15.00 per thousand…..just about out of the Wolf primers.

      I can’t afford not to reload the way I burn up ammo practicing…how do some guys get away with buying new ammo all the time…and lots of it too….man!

  4. Do not forget about .22 conversion kits. After Bushmaster gave their blessing I started using .22`s for close-in drills & training, plinking and introducing people to the shooting sports. Use a kit in my Glock 26 for the the same reasons. Saved alota $$$ over the years. I remember when people poked fun at me for picking-up brass for reloading…BUT no more 🙂

      1. With high brass prices..I’ve seen guys with portable battery powered shop vacs sucking up anything brass…rifle range brass? Not much.

        I started doing something that does seem to be out there…reloading 223/45ACP/40 S&W polymer coated steel cases…these are boxer primed so there isn’t a problem with primer removal and seating a new primer. Sure you can’t get that many reloads til steel fatique sets in….but those cases it appears…no one wants. That’s fine with me…free cases!! Ammo feeds and fires great and I haven’t had any problems whatsoever!

        Now with my own usage of 7.62×39 ammo and picking up range rejects of polymer steel 7.62…Berdan primers are available from Powder Valley….it’s just getting the primers out of the steel case….and then of course you would have to cast bullets for price sake and gas checking the bullets when sizing…I think I can load a box a twenty for about $2.00…..but getting those spent primers out…..just not sure if the time would be justified…..watching a lot of YouTube about this.

  5. You folks can buy whatever you want…
    Me, I buy AMERICAN made components…

    To me, they’re worth the (sometimes) extra pennies they cost you. I believe in keeping AMERICANS and not some godless commUNists (former and otherwise) at work.

    I also cast my own bullets out of wheel weights when I can get them as well as picking up every empty I can find. If I can’t use them, I got friends who do and don’t mind picking up 45 ACP for me.

    Hope you enjoy shooting and reloading as much as I do…

    1. And I rarely shop at Wally World by the way…and I do not buy Chinese…just Russian ammo. And I drive American made Vehicles…but this isn’t a political view point website…just about reloading.

  6. Good points…enjoy this website…

    wish you sold many of the products you review… you have me convinced on almost of them

  7. really great post! the way i hold down the cost is doing bulkbuys with my friends and collecting good brass at the shootingrange! and i have made my loading process faster! everybody knows that time IS money!

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