Since the dumpster fire that is 2020 started, reloading became top of mind for most gun owners.
If you already load and were lucky enough to get the components needed to press (or already had them on hand), you are probably feeling pretty good about now.
If you thought that starting to reload during the shortage would save you money, it’s not going to. That is similar to buying high and selling low in the stock market. Not the best play. But relax, there’s always the next one. Just think Y2K, 2012, proposed “assault weapons” legislation, pandemics and now pretty much every election year moving forward.
Getting Into Reloading
I’ve been into shooting for a little over a decade and learned to reload my first year. When the new assault weapons regulations were proposed in 2013, it was reassuring knowing I was already recycling most cartridges. That was the first time I personally experienced the supply/demand side of ammo get bad first hand.
Remember when we couldn’t get 22 LR?
I was not prepared for that shortage in 2013 at all and restocked when component prices began to stabilize after the proposed ban failed.
I was fortunate enough to have been taught how to reload when I first got into firearms as a hobby. This knowledge changed my opinion on the merits of different calibers because, once you know how to load a caliber, your thoughts on ammo pricing changes whether there is a pandemic or not.
In this post, I’ll dive into the advantages of reloading while adding a bit of economic reasoning in the logic behind some of these opinions in relation to pistol ammo.
Reloading Non 9mm Pistol Calibers (Normally)
It is (was) cheaper to reload for pretty much every caliber other than 9mm by buying bulk components and recycling brass once you get rolling. Hopefully the days of cheap 9mm return but that remains to be seen. Most calibers also have primers and powder in common. When new cartridges are introduced, I look at the specs and load data while I’m considering buying a new gun in a new caliber (or new to me caliber).
I learned how to reload initially because 357 magnum rounds were expensive back in 2010 (they still are). I was new to pistol shooting and had just bought my first revolver, a Ruger GP100. This gun is perfect for a new reloader because it’s built like a tank and you can also shoot 38 Special and 38 Special +P from the same platform. With this one gun/set of dies, you can learn to load three different cartridges.
When I started shooting more and bought my first 1911, I bought 45 ACP dies the same day after a quick review of my reloading manual. This was my first step in realizing a reloader can make pretty much any cartridge with components on hand by adding caliber specific brass, projectiles and dies. Once you have those three additions, you just need the projectiles.
When times are good and there isn’t a pandemic or anti second amendment political action looming, you can pretty much buy used brass in bulk at fair prices from multiple sources. You might also be the only one of your friends who reloads and get to take home the empties after range day.
Yes, that’s why the old dudes at the range ask if they can have your brass.
Start with the question of: what do you need to make ammo once you have your press set up with dies?
The best advice I got applied to this equation:
Remember what caliber firearms you own and buy components when you see them for a good deal. This is awesome because you could be buying components for a caliber you don’t load for yet in addition to supplying for your staples.
Why is this better than just buying bulk ammo on the same principle?
First things first, buying bulk ammo when it’s cheap is never a bad idea if you have the means.
If you have the time to load, it’s advantageous because you can pretty much make any popular caliber you have the dies for by just buying projectiles once you have a base supply of components to make any one caliber.
This is a huge advantage if all factory loaded 9mm ammo is out of stock or the brass and bullets are double the normal cost. You have options as a reloader to make whatever caliber ammo the market yields as less expensive. This gives you the ability to take advantage of component sales when they pop up.
This reloading calculator from Dillon Precision is useful when pricing components. https://www.dillonprecision.com/reloading-cost-calculator.html
Stock up on powder and primers.
Brass is reusable and projectiles are usually readily available. If you don’t have primers right now, don’t get mad. Learn for next time and buy them when you see a deal once pricing is no longer in panic mode. Take advantage of factory rebates when offered.
Another advantage reloaders have is projectile selection.
If you could buy premium JHP rounds for close to the same price as cheap plinking ammo, would you consider it?
The capability to load JHP for less than factory FMJ might be advantageous during a pandemic or SHTF situation. Apply the same concept to rifle rounds and now you’re talking match projectiles vs bulk blasting.
When you load yourself, you get to make these decisions.
Load Data Selection
Ever wish you could practice with your carry ammo? If you reload, you can find load data (or develop it following the manuals) that has a similar recoil impulse and produce similar practice ammo. You can also go the other direction and make extremely light target loads if you want to shoot faster.
Once you know how to load, you can pretty much make any pistol round as soft shooting as a 9mm depending on the data you’re using. This opens up new possibilities when it comes to the viability of keeping certain calibers in your safe.
There is an initial up-front cost to reloading. However, the gear is durable and will likely outlive you. Getting into reloading during a shortage probably isn’t the best move economically but identifying the potential now and stocking up on components when prices stabilize will help you prepare for next time.
…and there will be a next time.
Howard has been in the firearms industry for about 10 years. Started at a big box store retail gun counter back in the day and is usually found behind the scenes on marketing and product shoots. Live fire videographer.