The wife and I have been shooting for over a year now and we’ve gone through a lot of rounds of ammunition. While we were first getting the hang of it, we were going to the range at least once a week to practice. It gets expensive, especially if you’re shooting anything other than a .22.
Over the course of that year, not only have we gone through a lot of ammo, we’ve also gone through an ammo shortage. I know that there have been ammo shortages in the past, but this was our first one and it has been a doozy. We’re just starting to see some relief from it in our area. Ammo is starting to line the shelves again, but the price is typically about 25% higher than it was this time last year. What was expensive before is even more expensive now.
The bottom line is that we haven’t been able to afford to shoot as often as we’d like. We almost stopped shooting altogether during the worst time of the ammo shortage because we didn’t know when, or even if, we would be able to replace the rounds that we were using. Now we’re shooting just enough to maintain our skills, but not enough to improve them.
And like I said earlier, this isn’t the first ammo shortage ever. It’s just OUR first ammo shortage. It has happened before and I can guarantee you that it will happen again. The run on guns and ammo over the past couple of years has swept a massive number of new gun owners into the market. That means increased demand for ammo in the future. One more incident like the Connecticut school shooting that triggered this most recent shortage could put us out of commission for a long time. I don’t like that. I don’t like being at the mercy of market forces. I like being the captain of my own ship. I’ve given the problem a lot of thought and it seems to me that the best way around this situation is reloading your own ammo.
Yeah, I know. It wasn’t appealing to me at first either, but the idea is growing on me. I’ve wrestled with my objections to reloading and thought you might benefit from the results of that wrestling.
- It’s dangerous. Gun owners hear a lot of bogus, uninformed safety concerns from non-gun owners. We know that guns are inherently dangerous, but there is a correct and safe way to handle, use, and store them. Surprisingly, there is a large number of gun owners who have the same kinds of uninformed concerns about reloading. “You’ll blow up your house!” As it turns out, that’s not the case. The smokeless gunpowder that is used in handgun and rifle ammunition is flammable, but not explosive. I’ve got a lot of other flammable things in my house right now and I’ve managed to not destroy anything so far. Be diligent and careful with the storage and usage of reloading components and you’ll be OK. “Your gun will explode in your hand!” Not if you following the instructions in your reloading manual and exercise proper quality control during the manufacturing process. Gun owners place blind faith and confidence in the factory ammo they buy off the shelf. Why not have the same (or greater) degree of confidence in ammo that you have made yourself and have carefully inspected through every stage of the manufacturing process? Learn about it before you do it, of course, and then do it with care.
- My insurance company will freak. This was Sandy’s major concern. Is this OK with our homeowner’s insurance or would they deny a claim because of it? (Because yes, she hasn’t completely gotten over the “We’ll blow up the house” concern, although she admits she has no rational reason to feel that way.) We’re with USAA. They’re a company that only insures military, ex-military, and their dependents. USAA is fine with it, up to me having as much as 20 pounds of gunpowder in the house. That’s enough to load 20,000 rounds of 9mm. I’m good with that. But check with your insurer to see what they say. Your mileage may vary.
- It’s expensive to get started. Maybe. You can go high-end, low-end, or something in between. I recommend the middle path for most beginners. But even with that, there’s still a considerable cash outlay to get equipped properly.
- You’ll need a reloading press of some sort and a set of dies for each caliber that you want to reload.
- You’ll also need a scale for weighing powder — one that is accurate to about one-tenth of a grain. (There are 7,000 grains to a pound, so one-tenth of a grain is 0.00001428571 pounds. Needless to say, a postage scale won’t do.)
- You’ll have to have a powder measure that reliably dispenses gunpowder in the desired quantity.
- And calipers (preferably digital) for measuring case lengths and overall cartridge lengths.
- Don’t forget a sturdy workbench to do your reloading on. And storage units that lock to keep your supplies away from children.
All of this before we get to the actual reloading components of brass, primers, powder, and bullets. Some reloading manufacturers offer beginner’s kits that have a press and most of the tools that you’ll need to get started. The kits are attractively priced and they offer one-stop shopping, but most buyers have complained that some of the items bundled in these kits aren’t adequate for their purposes, so they had to buy replacements for them, negating the “good deal” they got on the kit purchase. I haven’t bought my reloading rig yet, but I’ve got all of my desired bits and pieces wish-listed on Amazon, ready to go when I get the cash together. I may go through my list in a subsequent blog, but for now all you need to know is that I’m looking at a bottom line of about $600 to buy all the equipment that I’ll want to get started with reloading. About the same amount of money as a moderately-priced handgun or rifle. You can go considerably cheaper and get in for about $200 or considerably higher and be looking at a couple of thousand dollars.
I agree, it is a bit expensive to get started, but people do it because it’s cheaper than buying new ammo all the time. I primarily shoot 9mm handguns. My standard factory ammo is CCI Blazer Brass. To buy 1,000 rounds of this stuff (if you can find and buy that much right now) is in the neighborhood of $300 – $380. I just priced the components needed to reload 1,000 rounds of 9mm using my own once-fired brass that I’ve collected after my practice sessions. Buying primers, powder, and bullets to reload 1,000 rounds of 9mm would cost me $143. I would save about $200 over buying new factory ammo. All it would take to make up my initial equipment investment is 3,000 rounds of 9mm. It’s even better with some other calibers. I don’t have an AR-15 that shoots .223 or .308, so I’ve never bothered to price the savings from reloading those rifle calibers, but I’ve seen many postings on blogs and forums that say the savings on those are much deeper than for 9mm handgun rounds. So yes, it can be a bit spendy to get started, but if you want to have a stash that will get you through another ammo shortage, this is the cheap way to do it.
- It’s complicated. It can be, but doesn’t have to be. Consider this — a lot of people who aren’t as smart as you have been reloading their own ammo safely and successfully for a very long time. Start with a simple press and work your way up to more sophisticated equipment over time. Your investment in basic equipment won’t be wasted. You’ll either want to hang onto it for any of a multitude of good reasons, or you can sell it for almost what you bought it for. Resale values on reloading equipment are high.
I’ve overcome all of my original objections to reloading and am ready to take the plunge. As with all significant new endeavors, I’ve studied the topic a lot and have formulated some opinions about how to begin, which I’ll share with you in later postings. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from any of you who are currently reloading, considering reloading, or still have objections to reloading. Leave a comment below this blog or on our facebook page.