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Questions about making your own ammunition

Jan 29, 2006
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What are the advantages? Is it time consuming? For example, how many cartridges could you make in an hour at a time? What is the cost? Is the ammo reliable/consistent/effective/accurate?

Thanks guys, just wondering in case one day I get into making my own stuff.
Advantages - lower cost per round, and the ability to "tailor" a load to a specific gun or performance level.

Cost - depends on the caliber and components you use. As an example, I could buy match-grade .308 rounds for highpower competition at about $1/per, or make my own (loaded to maximize accuracy in my M1A) for about 32 cents/per.

Do you save money? Not really... you just shoot more for the same amount of money.

Time - depends on the equipment, the round being reloaded, and the operator. I use a single-stage RCBS press for the highpower stuff, and can only knock out about 25 rounds per hour - there's about 13 steps involved. If I'm loading .44 Mag pistol rounds, I can easily double that production rate. If you use a "progressive" loader like a Dillon 550B, you could probably crank out 100 (+) per hour.

From a "is it worth it" standpoint - well, you do save money unless you consider the value of your own time. But the ability to increase accuracy -especially for longer distance rounds - is pretty important. The ammo is as consistent/reliable/accurate as you are.... if you pay attention and do what you're supposed to do, it's just as good or better than commercially loaded ammo. The only problems occur when you try to do something stupid - like not give the process your complete attention, or try to "experiment" with a new load, rather than use the loads spelled out in loading manuals.

You can get the RCBS basic "kit" to get started for about $259 brand new (MidwayUSA.com, Natchezss.com, Cabelas.com), but then when you get all the other "goodies" - calipers, guages, vibratory case cleaners, etc - you can easily sink several hundred more. The Dillon 550B that alot of folks like (terrific service) starts right now at $369 just for the basic machine.

If it all possible, get some hands-on time with someone you know to see what's out there, and what would work for you. There are also several gun clubs that run reloading classes - well worth the time.

Good Luck! If you have any other specific questions, feel free to ask. I'm fairly new to reloading myself, so I just went through the same discovery process myself.
Good reply..

One thing I would mention first however. While RCBS and Dillon are both considered to be top end machines/presses, if you think this is something you are interested in, and want the chance to try it out without taking that big of a leap, there are other brands out there, that will give you a reliable reloading press, for much less money. If you like it, and then want to upgrade your stuff, more power to you.

Also, if you get OLN on Comcast, check out their section in On Demand. There is a reloading show that will show you the process.

Adam_MA said:
Also, if you get OLN on Comcast, check out their section in On Demand. There is a reloading show that will show you the process.



I just checked my On Demand and find no reloading show. Lots of OLN shows, but that one isn't on there. Perhaps it expired?
Adam_MA said:
Good reply..

One thing I would mention first however. While RCBS and Dillon are both considered to be top end machines/presses, if you think this is something you are interested in, and want the chance to try it out without taking that big of a leap, there are other brands out there, that will give you a reliable reloading press, for much less money. If you like it, and then want to upgrade your stuff, more power to you.


When I started reloading back in ~1976, I used a single-stage press. What I found was that I hated reloading since it took me probably 45 minutes to reload 50 pistol rounds! Each to their own, but I probably would have "enjoyed" (tolerated?) it more if I was using a progressive press back then. Although I have all the gear (now including 2 Dillon presses), I haven't gone back to reloading since ~1979.

Thus, I wouldn't want to push someone into a cheap manual setup unless they really wanted to pursue reloading as a separate hobby. If it is to save money, make production ammo (as opposed to tweaking match loads), they might be wiser to take a class (never seen anyplace that actually ran one) and/or visit a friend with a reloading setup and learn the ropes before buying anything . . . then go for a higher end, faster machine.

Just speaking from personal experience.
LenS said:
Adam_MA said:
Also, if you get OLN on Comcast, check out their section in On Demand. There is a reloading show that will show you the process.



I just checked my On Demand and find no reloading show. Lots of OLN shows, but that one isn't on there. Perhaps it expired?

I hope not, but I'm going to have to try to check that out. Mabye it's a reagonal thing.
I strongly suggest you buy a couple of decent reloading manuals if you decide to try it. Sierra is a really good one, and Speer, Hornady and Lyman are also good. Consider getting a Lee Manual to add to that as you load more. The Lee manual is more for experienced loaders, but has a compliation of loading data.

Also, consider buying used equipment, if you want to save money. Just make sure to buy your powder scale new, and possibly your powder measure. Buying used can get you into better quality equipment for the same $ as the cheaper stuff.
I wasn't specifically talking about inexpensive single stage presses, but inexpensive presses in general. I opted for a Lee Pro 1000 progressive press as my first press. Mainly because of money, but now I am more into reloading, and I am actually still perfectly happy with the Lee press. Without much effort, I can produce well over 250 rounds per hour. That is moving at an easy pace, and checking every case to ensure the powder has dropped correctly. An unnecessary task for every case, but I feel better if I visually check as it comes around. If I skip this step I can easily crank out 350+ still moving at a reasonable pace. I got into this press for $118 with all the dies and such.

I am still happy with this press, and have made over 5000 rounds without issue (other than user error). If the day comes that I feel I need to increase my production levels, I will probably move into a Dillon press. But for now, this Lee press is perfect.

Also... The show on the On Demand... It was under the OLN section, and then the Shooting sub-section. There was a good USPSA special in there too...


Good point on the Lee Progressive. My mind immediately went to the single stage job. I used to visually check powder for each rd and measure every 10th rd. Call me paranoid, but every round I ever loaded went bang and was as accurate as anything that was purchased commercially.

I saw the USPSA listed on OLN Shooting, but nothing on reloading. I checked On Demand as soon as I read your post earlier.
Must have expired... Too bad, it was a good little show.. The RCBS guy took you through reloading a rifle case start to finish, then they showed an 8 station progressive shotshell reloader.

Pretty cool...

I am with you on the visual inspection, and the actual weigh out of a powder drop every 10 or so rounds.. It only takes 15 seconds, and lets you know you are good. I've had one squib load, and I was pretty close to chambering another round before I could see the bullet sticking out the end of the barrel... I don't even want to think what would have happened.. Better to be safe, than sorry!

Wow, thanks for all the information guys...I won't be reloading anytime soon but its nice to know the basics now.
Feel free to PM me if you're looking for any specifics. I'll be glad to answer any queations, or advise you on purchase suggestions. I've got more than a little experience reloading, so to say.
I reload pistol cartridges, mostly .45 ACP, using a Dillon 550. In 1991, I figured that it would take about $800 to get started with a 550 and most of the trimmings. I estimated that I could reload .45 for about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of factory ammo. That would result in breakeven being reached at about 5500 rounds or so.

The numbers have undoubtedly changed since then, but I suspect not markedly.

Don't expect to save a bunch of money by reloading. Expect to shoot a bunch more spending the same money.

Here's an article I wrote in 1999 for our club newsletter. One thing I didn't take into account at the time is that each time I shoot, I tend to lose about 10% of the cases. So the cost per reloaded round is a bit higher than is shown here. These are 1999 costs, so 2006 costs will be different:

Reloading – Is It For You?

What comes out of the barrel each time you shoot a gun is not just a bullet – it’s money. As my shooting hobby has grown over the years, I found that my desire to shoot was bumping up against my budget. So I finally took the plunge and started reloading.

Are You Ready To Reload?

All the good reloading manuals start with the same caution: you can hurt yourself badly, or worse. To be a safe reloader, you must have common sense. You must show attention to detail, and you must follow the recipes in the reloading manuals. If an experiment goes wrong in the kitchen, you can always just call for a pizza. The consequences of a failed reloading experiment could be far more grave. A few years ago, a club member blew up a Smith & Wesson revolver due to an overcharged round that he reloaded. Fortunately, the damage was confined to gun, but it could have been much worse.

To quote from Lyman’s 47th Reloading Handbook, “…if you think all loading manuals are conservative, that maximum loads can be exceeded, or that specific cautions can be ignored by a savvy person, then I promise you that reloading is not for you.”

Is It Worth It?

So, you’ve decided that you’re careful enough to reload. Just how much money can you save by reloading?

Let’s take a quick look at how much it costs to reload 1000 rounds of .45ACP using 230 grain lead round nose bullets. The primers will cost $15. The bullets will cost about $40. 4 lbs. of Alliant Bullseye powder costs about $55 and is enough for about 6200 rounds of .45 ACP. That works out to about $9 of powder per 1000 rounds. 1000 rounds of unprimed brass costs about $110. Assuming that we can get reload the brass 10 times before it needs to be discarded, that gives us a cost of about $11 for brass. Adding all the costs up yields a figure of $75 per thousand, or about 7.5 cents per round.

Full metal jacket bullets are about twice the price of lead round nose, costing about $80 per thousand. So loading full metal jacket 230 grain bullets would bring our costs up to about $115 per thousand or 11.5 cents per round.

Now, let’s compare that to factory ammunition. You can get .45 ACP full metal jacket Sellier & Bellot mail order for about $10 per box of 50, not including shipping cost. Total cost for $1000 rounds would be around $220, or 22 cents per round.

So, you can reload .45 ACP for one-third to one-half the cost of factory ammunition.

What’s It Cost To Get Started?

By now, you’re probably asking so how much does all this stuff cost?
Unfortunately, it’s not cheap. I decided to buy a progressive press from Dillon Precision. They’re generally regarded as expensive, but well built and with excellent support. Dillon offers a lifetime warranty – if it breaks, they’ll fix it for free, no questions asked. You don’t have to be the original owner or show a receipt. There certainly are other, less expensive, manufacturers you might want to consider, including RCBS, Lee, and MEC. But I won't buy anything other than a Dillon.

Here’s a list of what you’d need to get started reloading .45 ACP with Dillon’s RL 550B progressive press:

Description Price
RL550B reloader $319.95
Balance beam scale
Dial caliper
Primer flip tray
Bench wrench
Case lube
Safety glasses
Machine cover
Reloading handbook
Accessory package deal $160.95
large pickup tubes, set of four $10.95
Case cleaner $87.95
Media separator $32.95
Walnut cleaning media $15.95
Roller handle $30.79
Bullet tray $27.49
Bullet puller $24.95
.45acp dies $49.95
.45acp ammo boxes, set of 10 $23.40
Total: $785.28

As you can see, it takes a substantial investment to get started reloading. How long will it take for that investment to pay off? If we’re reloading 230 grain lead round nose for $75, then we are saving about $145 over the $220 cost of factory ammunition per 1000 rounds. Dividing the cost of the reloading setup, $785 by the savings per 1000 rounds, or $145, we get 5.4. If I’ve done my math correctly, that indicates the press will pay for itself after loading 5400 rounds.

You can spend less by starting with a single-stage press, rather than a progressive. But the progressive press will reload much faster, especially for pistol calibers.

How Fast Can You Reload?
If I’ve convinced you that it pays to reload, you’re probably wondering just how much time all this takes.

Dillon Precision claims that their RL 550B press has a rate of 500-600 rounds per hour. I’m still relatively new to reloading and I’m certainly trying to be cautious, rather than win a race. Nevertheless, I think Dillon is being a bit optimistic here. When I figure out how many rounds I can load in an hour, I include the time required to: 1) fill the primer pickup tubes, 2) reload the ammunition, 3) put the ammunition into ammunition boxes, and 4) clean up my work area. If I add in all those steps, I can reload about 300 rounds in an hour. So I can reload a weekends worth of ammunition in just a couple hours during the week.

Is Reloading For You?

I enjoy reloading. I’m afraid that it probably isn’t saving me any money – instead, I’m just shooting a lot more. As you can see, it takes a substantial investment to get started. And that investment includes not just money. You must spend a significant amount of time learning about reloading before you start. Once you do start reloading, you must do so carefully, cautiously, and meticulously. For me, the time spent reloading is time that I’d probably be sitting in front of the TV. So for me, it’s a good investment.

If reloading still sounds good to you, you can reach Dillon Precision on the web, at http://www.dillon-precision.com.
As I said before, I went the cheep way.

I wasn't sure if it was going to be worth my time, and didn't know if it was something I would like doing... I ended up with a Lee progressive press, and everything I needed to start loading for short money...

Here's what I got

Lets see...
I got,
Lee Pro 1000 Progressive Press
Lee Case Collator Pro 1000
Frankford Arsenal Plastic Ammo Boxes
Lee Safety Powder Scale
Lee Primer Pocket Cleaner
Lee Chamfer Tool
Frankford Arsenal Stainless Steel Dial Caliper Standard
Lyman reloading manual
Total: 249.92

That total would have been much easier to swallow, if I didn't like doing it. And after doing it for a while, I am still completely happy with my setup. I have of course added a few things to make my life easier, but you get the idea.

Adam -- just curious. I scored a Lee Pro 1000 as a long term loan recently, and have almost the same accessories as you as well. It's set up in the basement, and I just got the last of the supplies today to load up 100 .40 S&W cartridges. Hopefully I'll get a chance to use it this weekend. Just wondering what your impressions are. I've been hearing the weak point on this press is the primer feed, just wondering what you've seen with yours?
If you are thinking of reloading then ask yourself this question. How serious do you want to get with your shooting and how much/often do you plan on shooting. If you answer that you're serious about shooting and/or will be shooting a lot and often then you NEED to reload. Lets say you shoot 100 rounds a week at $10 per box of 50 rounds you're looking at $80/month. Now take that same $80/month and with reloading you'll be able to shoot 225 rounds a week. Which way do you think you'll improve faster? More important than that is you can custom load ammo for each gun to make the gun more reliable and more accurate. Plus, it gives you a something to do when you're not shooting.

As for a press, many people have had luck with the Lee Progressive 1000. I bought one when I first started reloading but I didn't have much confidence in it because of all the primer issues. The other issue is with the powder measure. However, when the press is setup it works pretty well. After about a month of reloading I bought a Dillon 650 and never looked back. I load a few different calibers on this press and it can be switched over in about 10 minutes.

I average about 700 rounds an hour on this press and Dillons customer service is awesome!!!

Regardless of which press you buy/use so long as you're safe you can produce quality ammo at a fraction of the cost of buying factory ammo. Just remember too that you get what you pay for.


The viability of reloading handgun ammo also depends on the caliber. If you are going to reload 9m, your savings are modest. Reload 40 and you'll save a bit more. 45ACP reloading saves a bunch as well, but does not benefit from the nearly free brass available for the 40s&w.

If you need a "special load" - 38 super, or 40 in the longer length preferred by Para and SxI guns, reloading has other benefits as well.
As for the Lee... The only issues I have had with the priming system (which I was told from Lee was redesigned a couple years ago) was when I didn't load the primer try correctly, and got a primer in up side down. Other than that, just don't put more than 100 primers in, and make sure they are moving down the primer tube and not getting stuck.

If you run into problems, PM me and I'll do what I can to help.

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