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Never done it. Well, I take that back. I did it in the early 1990s at a friend’s shop. Any good articles on getting into it?

With ammo prices and reading Robb’s talk of savings, it might be worth it. What sort of savings can you expect?

Update and bump lest it get lost in our weekend lefty flame war: What’s a good start on reloading equipment (i.e., must haves).

33 Responses to “Reloading”

  1. Mark@Sea Says:

    I never saved much when I was actively reloading. I just shot a lot more… Not sure what prices are now, but I figured my cost (late ’90’s) for a box of .45 ball was under 3 bucks. Not too much more for HP’s.

  2. Robb Allen Says:

    Not a bit. All you will do is end up shooting more.

    However, let’s talk components and how much it costs to load a single 45 ACP vs. buying one.

    First of, with 45 ACP, brass is for all intents and purposes, free. Just go to the range and pick up as much as you can carry.

    Powder – A pound is about $20 (this is assuming you can buy it locally). There are 7000 grains in a pound, and estimate 5.5 grains per cartridge

    Primers – 1000 will run you ~$25.

    Boolits – If you go lead, you can pick up 1000 for $65.

    Ok, so 20+25+65 = add three carry the two… $110

    Now, you can get 1,272 rounds out of the powder, so it’s 2 cents a round in powder (rounding up). 6.5 cents per bullet, two and a half cents for primer.

    2+6.5+2.5 = 11 cents per round.

    Now, go buy 230 grain ammo. A box of 50 is approx. $24, which equals out to 48 cents a round.

    The savings is astronomical, but you also have to figure in both upfront equipment costs and time. If you shoot a lot, you can make up the costs of the equipment in under a year.

    I find it fun to do as well, so my time isn’t as important a factor. You can’t do it distracted, so you have to have “alone time”, which quite often is an added bonus.

  3. SayUncle Says:

    shooting more is not a bug, it’s a feature.

  4. Greg Says:

    Substantial. I reload 223 for ~30 cents per round for really nice stuff. I went out and found the exact same round new for between 50-1.50 per round, after shipping and tax.

    I really like my dillon 550 press. It works wonderfully. I have reloaded ~2000 rounds of 45 ball (copper plated/jacketed, not raw lead) for ~0.15$/round. Add another 1000 rounds of 223. It paid off rather quickly. I found I would sit down for an evening and just pump them out.

  5. Greg Says:

    as far as must have’s, it depends. Are you reloading on a single stage press or a progressive? I love my 550 progressive press.

    If I had it to do over again, I would do the following:

    Buy an electronic scale from the start
    -beware that the zero point can drift if the temp in the room changes. Always check to make certain it is zero’d before use. I also always check with one of the cal’d masses that came with mine to make certain it reads correctly

    Buy a complete tool head (for the 550) including powder measure for each round I reload frequently and in volume. Just the tool head for others. I now have 2 complete heads, one always set for 223, the other for 45acp. other stuff shares as I don’t reload it that often.

    For pistol rounds, seat and crimp with different dies. I know there are dies that do both, but it is so much easier to set up and adjust the two different dies in the press. the extra 20$ is worth it in hassle.

    Make a golden round (blank). after I had each round set up and shooting well, I made a golden round. This allows me to quickly and easily set up again to that round, if for some reason I have to take the dies out of the head.

    If you plan on playing with the OAL of the cartridge, or reloading many different bullet types/brands in the same calibur, get a bullet seating die with a micrometer attachment, so you can easily mark and reset it to different positions.

    for example

    get a good case trimmer and a deburring tool.

    And most importantly, find a local store to buy powder and primers at. Shipping them is unpleasant.

  6. TNProgrammer Says:

    I second Greg on the shipping of primers/powder. Hazmat fees = ouch.

    I use a Hornady LNL AP for my straight walled pistol cartridges, and a single stage Hornady LNL Classic for my rifle/necked cartridges. I like the fact that i can leave the dies in the bushings and just replace them wholesale. If I want to reload a different caliber, I just buy a few more bushings. Never had problem 1 out of either press, and if I do, Hornady has a great warranty policy. Bonus: Hornady offers free* bullets with purchase of dies or presses, at least through the end of the year, but they ran the same program last year, and it may very well be run again in 2009.

    *You still have to pay s&h.

    Local suppliers (Knoxville area):
    For what it’s worth, Wal Mart in Halls always seems to have primers in stock, unlike Gander Mountain, which always seems to be out of CCI large pistol primers.

    Powder can be had either at a show, Gander Mountain, Guns & More, or Randy’s Guns and Knives locally.

    I’m sure there are others, but if it’s not powder or primer, Midway or Grafs are the places to look. Especially Grafs, particularly if you have a C&R.

  7. ben Says:

    I’ve been reloading for a couple years now and it’s a snap. I load on a little single stage Lee press. It’s a really good setup and Lee stands behind their products. For rifle, especially for my bolt-actions, this setup is great.

    For my former AR and my pistols, it’s a little on the slow side. If you plan on loading lots of ammo then a progressive is the way to go. The two top presses seem to be the Hornady LNL and Dillon presses. Lee makes some less expensive models and people seem to mostly have good luck with them too.

    Whatever you decide to do, go for it! You’ll have a blast!

  8. James Nelson Says:

    I have done 15000 rounds this year on my Hornady progessive. The main advantages over the Dillon are the powder measure and the ease and lower expense of doing multiple calibers. The Hornady costs less than the 550 and is the equivalent of the 650, a lot of tool for the bucks. All progressive presses have their little quirks and doing research on the net can be very useful. A beginner might be better advised to start with a single stage and you can’t do better that Lee stuff, though I wouldn’t get their scale or their progressive presses.

  9. Syd Says:

    My “must haves”

    Press: Dillon Square Deal B (only does pistol)
    Powder scale
    Digital Caliper
    Bullet Puller
    Brass Tumbler
    Primer flipper tray
    Speer reloading manual

  10. mariner Says:

    It depends on whether you shoot to reload, or reload to shoot. I reload to shoot, so I want a progressive setup.

    At the top of my must-have list is a Dillon 550.

    I second the electronic scale, a tool head for each caliber, and an extra powder measure for the cartridge you load second-most.

    Don’t go crazy. Get those basics first, then see what else you really need.

  11. DJK Says:

    Dillon 550 with some fixin’s. That’s all you’ll ever need.

  12. Kristopher Says:

    Get a reloading manual first, and read it.

    Get a good single stage press to start with … I would suggest a Lyman or an RCBS rather than a Lee.

    A set of dies.

    A separate hand primer.

    An electronic scale with a trickler.

    A case cleaner ( tumbler or vibratory ).

    Choose a load, and buy powder/bullets/primers needed.

    A progressive press is something to buy once you know what you are doing. A single stage press will still be useful, even after you buy a progressive.

    I still use a single stage press.

  13. Dave D. Says:

    Hey Uncle, if you get the Hornady LNL progressive you get 1000 Hornady 230gn HP/XTP bullets for free. I did that last year (they had the same deal) and it effectively takes a huge chunk off the price of the press.

    I love the Hornday LNL… works great.

  14. Alchemyst Says:

    I usually respond when discussing George Dickle but this thread peaked my interest. Since I’ve been reloading for almost 50 years I feel certain I can give you some worthwhile pointers. Also since I live relatively close (Monroe County) it might give us a chance to meet. You could try my setup to reload a few, step to the back door and try them out. If you’re interested let me know.

  15. Robb Allen Says:

    Get a copy of The ABC’s of Reloading.

    A great book that gave me a solid foundation to start on.

  16. Mike Says:

    I love my Dillon 650. Have a few thousand rounds through it now. I’d echo earlier comments: get another quick change tool head setup. I haven’t, and it is the suck to change calibers.

    Not so much for the rifles, as I do all of my tweaks on the single stage and then go back to the dillon for volume. But the pistols which I won’t do on the single stage. I cranked out 300rds of 9mm for the wife’s new CZ the other night.

    If your progressive supports it, spend the extra $200 for the case feeder – every time I start loading I curse that its after business hours and I can’t just head up to dillon to get one. And then forget the next day.

    Get the elec scale, the beams are a pain.

    Have a very solid mounting setup for the press.

    For pistols (and some of the rifle calibers) the carbide dies are lovely. Spend the extra for them.

    Dillon dies are top notch, get them if you can.

    Powder/Primers: order them, in huge quanity. I get my stuff from powdervalley, $20 for hazmat, as much as you can put in the box. Wolf primers are actually good, and cheap. $90/5000 from powder valley. Buy powder in 5 or 8lb buckets, its worth the hazmat. Powder is $22/lb locally, $16/lb shipped if you buy 24lb at a time.

    If you’re shooting rifles for accuracy, pick up the precision shooting reloading guide. Its worth the $.

  17. Mike Says:

    Oh. I’d add that I got a tour of Dillon last week (got to see the minis too, woot!). I talked to the warranty guys there, and they said they’ve replaced presses under warranty for free that were melted in house fires.

    Apparently this has happened more than once. Mike Dillon isn’t kidding when he says lifetime warranty.

  18. Billll Says:

    Here’s everything everybody else ever learned about reloading, and more:

    I especially liked the bits about putting dryer sheets and paper towels in the tumbler.
    I use a Lee single-stage, and it works fine. I’m cheap, so my tumbler is a coffee can that turns like a cement mixer. Hint: it’s almost completely noiseless.
    Tip: Crushed walnut parrot litter at PetSmart is about 1/8 the cost of crushed walnut tumbling media at the gun show. Same stuff.

    Mail order bullets, from Meister bullet, anyway, ship for the same cost for 2000 as for 500. Buy big.

  19. CTone Says:

    While I wish I had a $500 Dillon press, with all the toppings, I went with the Lee Anniversary kit with just about everything you need to start: all for the price of $85 –

    This is a single stage press of good quality, and you can kick out about 100 – 150 rounds of .223 Rem per hour if your cases are already prepped. Besides the bullets, powder, primers and cases, all you will need to start is dies.

    Electronic scales are great, but old school works as well, and the powder dispenser from this kit is accurate. Get it throwing the charge you want and it will hold true for several thousand rounds.

  20. Danno Says:

    I picked up a used 550 a year ago when the seller upgraded to the 650. Two books were recommended by several friends: Hornady 7th ed and Lyman 48. I saw several suggestions such as Kristopher above to “get a single stage first”. While this is probably the safest course of action, it may overstate the complexity for someone with a modicum of mechanical ability. It ain’t rocket science.

    The best advice I got was to choose a powder that mostly fills the cavity. This means a double charge is pretty obvious when it make a mess on the press, and even if you miss the sign, it limits the amount of overcharge possible. It means the powder may not go as far (you may get more rounds out of a pound of powder) but the powder is about the cheapest part of the round. Eliminating the possibility of a double charge is cheap insurance.

    Buy in bulk to spread out the hazmat shipping fees. Powder valley has good prices and is reliable.

    Check your local pawn shops. Saw a couple shot shell machines last weekend. Didn’t see a Dillon, but didn’t look very hard either.

    Reloading really saves for some calibers such as .223 and .30 carbine. Total component costs add up to about $.20/round. Even the cheapest surplus is about double that.

    9mm is (was) almost a wash with the Winchester white box. But since I’m still working off components bought 9 months ago, the savings probably a nickle a round now. I only reload 9mm because it’s the most common caliber at the SandCastle.

    A year ago Reloading .40 saved about a dime, but I haven’t looked at the costs lately.

  21. Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner Says:

    A manual. Then read it. Go from there.

  22. joe Says:

    The most important tool is the reloading book, but you do have to actually read it, not just look up data. I have many different ones but my first and favorite was the Hornady book, because it had diagrams and explanations of the firing process that helped me to understand WHY the cartridge length was important. My other favorite is the Sierra book, because it shows the “potentially most accurate” and “Hunting” loads for each caliber.

    I’d recommend starting out on a single stage too, because you learn in more detail about the process. Lee is OK I guess, but I started out on a Rockchucker, and I still use it for small batches and for salvaging the occasional mistake-round (primers not seated, or whatever).

    The other thing is to be realistic about what you expect from your handloads. When I started I loaded HOT .357 loads which were noisy, and uncomfortable, and flinch inducing. Now, I load mild to middle of the road, and leave the last five or ten percent of velocity for the young eager beavers. I also enjoy shooting more these days. You can easily load rounds that go bang, but nice tight benchrest groups of 1/4 MOA require lots of research, and are attained only through blind luck, or through lots of experimentation with bullets, powders, primers, brass, etc.

    You will get started faster if you can find a mentor to get you started. Hopefully someone who loads the same rounds as you, and ideally on the same equipment as you, although with a single stage press it is not quite as important. The best mentor – a knowledgeable, crusty, OLD hand who is a machinist or gunsmith or both – somebody used to working with precision tools. If you find such a guy, you might want to buy your press and dies and such at his store, which will make you even more welcome to ask for help.

  23. Dave thA Says:

    Get the Lee anniversary kit. Add a Lee Classic cast press – sell the one that came with the kit or use it as a stand-alone de-capping press or something.

    It’s a cheap but good outfit and lets you learn the basics – and it will do up to a 50BMG.

    Especially good for ACCURATE rifle rounds in batches of 100 or so, where you want to check for perfection at every stage of the process.

    You just can’t buy that kind of perfection at anywhere near reloading prices. I do mostly .308 and it saves a bundle.

    I still find that handgun rounds are cheap enough not to be worth my time reloading. Maybe I’ll go for a good progressive when that is no longer the case.

    Oh – and a case tumbler makes it all look so nice, clean and shiny…

  24. Steve J Says:

    I have also been thinking of starting. I bought ABCs of reloading off amazon. It is a good book.

  25. Roger Seitz Says:

    Jeez Unk;
    Some excellent advice above. Especially to start with a single stage for the initial education then move to a progressive.
    IMHO, the best idea is to have or meet a freind that reloads that has all the stuff. Pay a visit and try it all out, get the education there for free, then buy your equipment based upon that.


  26. Greg Says:

    Personally, I started with a progressive. I see absolutely no good reason to start with a single stage if one knows one will be reloading in sufficient volume to justify a progressive. It just takes patience and self control to learn on a progressive. A single stage gives you no other option.

    With The dillon (and I assume the others, however I am not familiar with the other ones out there), it is just as easy to load one round at a time through the whole setup as you get used to it rather than actually utilizing the progressive-ness of the press (considering some of the company here in WA, I feel kind of dirty for even using that word)

    You can resize/deprime, then remove the cartridge and check. Put it back in and insert the primer, remove and check. Same goes for every single station. Do until you understand how it works and make certain that it is functioning properly. That is how I set up a new head or check every few hundred rounds (~100 rounds for powder) to make certain everything is still set up properly.

    As an aside, even after loading 1000 rounds of 45acp in a single session, I noticed no measurable change in the initial setup. And the powder was more consistent, weight wise, than my digital scale read.

  27. countertop Says:


    I’m here reloading 280 Remington and popped onto this post. Good timing.

    Yes, the cost savings are substantial. The argument that you just shoot more is bullcrap, since the per round price is the same and you end up getting out much more for the same money.

    Or, if your like me and don’t have time to shoot much anymore, you can maximize the pleasure by shooting ultrapremium rounds ever time for the less than bulk surplus.

    Essentials: good internet connection and a laptop. I’m loading and online. A wealth of knowledge out there. Especially at the manufacturers sites (I’m logged into Hodgdon right now).

    Case tumbler
    Case trimmer
    Powder trickler – drops 1 grain of powder at a time. Let’s you get perfect loads
    The golden round idea is vital. Very helpful.

    I use a Lee 4 stage. It actually works better as a single stage, but I can run handgun ammo through it pretty quick too.

    You need time. I end up reloading late at night. Or when the wife and kids go away. Like now.

    Get a good book. Speers manual is good. So is Sierra’s.

    If you load rifle rounds (not sure about 223) I’d urge you to get a case lube pad and a bottle of case lube (my bottle has lasted me 5 years).

    As far as powder, Natchezss is one of the best sources for mail order. But I don’t think they will sell to you retail. If you have a business, might be able to get it wholesale from them. Otherwise Gander mtn usually has a good selection.

    Also, buy 1 pound batches at first to experiment, but once you get a load you like, splurge for the 8 pound container. Cost savings are incredible (and your well covered if the shit really hits the fan).

  28. Robb Allen Says:

    I also want to say that the Lee Turret Press is a good, inexpensive halfway point between a single stage and a progressive. I went that route because I was broke. A few years later and guess what? I’m still broke.

    However, I’ve learned that I like the RCBS dies better than the Lee dies. A few bucks more, but they just seem to work a smidgen better.

    Reloading is also helpful if you’re an idiot like me and shoot non-standard ammo like 10mm and 6.8 SPC 🙂

    Funny note, if you look at the bottom of this page, the round you see is one of my reloads!

  29. countertop Says:

    Reloading is also helpful if youre an idiot like me and shoot non-standard ammo like 10mm and 6.8 SPC 🙂

    Indeed. Like the aforementioned .280 Remington.

    Also, the 4 stage lee is a 4 stage turret press. I like it a lot, but its not a Dillon. But then, I cant justify a Dillon.

  30. HardCorps Says:

    Good news! You don’t have to reload! Let the companies who make all the stuff efficiently do it! Copper prices are down 50% since June. The commodities bubble has burst so .223 factory should be back to .25/rnd by Christmas and .20 by Spring. You heard it here first!

  31. HardCorps Says:


  32. mariner Says:

    I’m going to swim against the tide here (no surprise to anyone who knows me), and suggest that if you intend to shoot mostly pistol and .223 get a progressive press.

    If you want to shoot lovingly handcrafted masterpieces from a bench rest get a single-stage press.

    This is the difference between loading to shoot and shooting to load.

    I started with a Lee handloader, then a Rock Chucker press. If Dillon progressive machines had been available then, I’d have spent about the same money getting one of those than I spent getting a press, primer feeder, and powder dispenser. Even today, I suspect the price difference is not very much if you consider all the stuff you need.

    In use there is just no comparison.

    One Saturday I was scheduled to shoot the IDPA classifier, but I didn’t have enough ammunition. So I sat down at the Dillon, loaded 100 rds in about twenty minutes, then went to the range. I shudder to think how long that 100 rds would have taken if I had needed to run them through the press three times, changing and adjusting the die each time. (The fourth step, charging, would not have taken as long because I just left the powder measure set up on its stand.)

    I agree that it’s important to know what you’re doing when you reload, but I dispute that it’s important to do it one stage at a time to learn.

    Whichever route you take, be careful and have fun.

  33. countertop Says:

    It takes me about an hour to load 100 rounds of handgun ammo on my Lee 4 stage press – once I have everything set up.

    By comparison, I spent 2 hours loading 40 rounds of 280 Rem with it set as a single stage – but the difference in time was hand weighing each round and loading 10 different recipies (was testing out a new combo – 150gr sierra gamekings an H4831)