Every avid shooter comes to the same crossroads at one time or another and asks themselves, “should I reload my own ammo?” There are really only three reasons why anyone should consider reloading; economics, more accurate ammo, and for the enjoyment.
Economics is the main reason shooters will get into reloading. In most cases you can reload far cheaper than you can buy factory ammo. That is not considering the initial costs of the reloading equipment.
For metallic pistol or rifle for example you will need a loading press, powder measure, powder scale, and loading manual, and at least one set of loading dies for the cartridge you want to load for. All this will cost you in the neighborhood of $350 to $400. After the initial investment you will only need to spend about $40 for each additional caliber. You will have about the same amount of money tied up in the equipment needed to load shotgun shells also. This might seem like a hefty price to pay, but if you take care of the equipment it will last you a lifetime.
Once you have your equipment, you will need powder, primers and bullets. The cost per round is greatly dependent on what you will be loading for. Some calibers take more powder than others, and the cost of bullets varies greatly. A typical .223 “go bang” round can be hand loaded for about 25¢ each, if you already have the brass. Figure another 20¢ if you need to first buy the brass. This is still half the price of typical $1 per round that factory ammo is going for right now.
If all you shoot is 4 or 5 boxes of ammo a year, this wouldn’t be much of an economical advantage. It would take quite a while to recoup the initial equipment costs. But if you shoot 100’s of rounds a year you can save huge amounts of money. In my experience though, people who get into reloading end up spending just as much money shooting as they did before. They just end up shooting a lot more!
The other reason to get into reloading is you can get more accurate ammo. Without getting into all the specifics, in most cases you can tailor fit a load for your rifle or handgun that is far more accurate than what is available commercially. This is mostly done by trying different powders and charges, and by experimenting with different bullet styles and weight. Over the 30 years or so I have reloaded I have only had a handful of instances where I couldn’t improve my rifle’s accuracy with a tailored handload. Some rifles just seem to shoot good with any ammo! I have never however had a rifle shoot worse.
The 3rd reason to get into reloading is the enjoyment factor. Reloading can be a very enjoyable hobby. Personally I get great satisfaction in being able to hit the target with a load I handcrafted. I also find it a bit of a challenge to find the particular load that will shoot the best in a particular rifle.
The biggest knock to reloaded ammo is that it is unsafe or unreliable. This can be true if the person reloading doesn’t follow the proper procedures, of just doesn’t quite know what they are doing. In both cases it can lead to catastrophic disasters! Improperly reloaded ammo can blow your gun up, of even blow your head off. But if done properly reloaded ammo is every bit as reliable and safe as factory ammo. I would urge anyone interested in getting into reloading to seek the advice of an experienced handloader.