Educational Zone #162 – Do You Really Save Money By Reloading Ammunition?

When components were really cheap, this was an easy answer.

But at today’s prices, is it really worthwhile to reload ammunition?

I noticed that I was getting a little low in my .38 Special reloads.

I had ordered some cast bullets and was ready to load them, so I went to the shop and looked at my Dillon.


It was set up for 9mm, and I remembered that I had loaded 500 frangible 9mm loads a while back and left the Dillon set up for them.

I found the other 500, 9mm bullets and went ahead and loaded them up while the machine was set up for the 9mm loads.

It is easy to change the plate out and switch to .38 Special, so that’s what I did.

I load 148 grain double ended full wadcutters for my standard .38 Special loads, with 3.0 grains of WW-231 powder.

I adjusted the powder measure to that setting and then it was a simple matter of putting a clean, empty case in station #1, placing a wadcutter bullet on station #3, and pulling the handle.

Do that 1,000 times and you have 1,000 cartridges.

Nothing to it.


I usually set things up and go to the shop each day and pull the handle a couple of hundred times and quit for the day. Do that for 5 days and you have a thousand cartridges.

But I wondered how much money I was saving at today’s prices?

I looked on-line for some .38 Special target loads, but, as you might expect, they were “backordered”. But the price seemed to be about $25 for a box of 50 rounds, if they were ever in stock. That works out to 50 cents a round. That comes out to $500 for a thousand rounds.

But how about my reloads?

I ordered my bullets from Missouri Bullet Company.

The 148 grain double ended wadcutters were $70, with $14 shipping, for a total of $84 per 1,000 bullets.

The primers were bought long ago, but I have found them recently for $40 per thousand.


The WW-231 powder goes a long way at 3 grains per round, about half a pound of powder for 1,000 rounds.

If the powder was $30 a pound, that would be about $15 for the powder.


I saved my brass from previous loadings, so it is free.

I shine it up and have a few large cans ready to go at any time.

So, here are the numbers:

$84 + $40 + $15 = $139 per thousand.

That beats $500 all day long.


In addition, my handloads are tuned exactly like I like them, and I actually would prefer them to factory loads, even if factory loads were available.

Here’s what a thousand loaded .38 Special wadcutters look like.



If you don’t handload, you ought to look into it. There is a reasonable investment to get started, but after that, you are good to go.

And, believe it or not, I actually enjoy loading the ammo. I find it therapeutic and relaxing to do.

But before anyone asks, no, that doesn’t mean I want to load yours for you.

5 Comments on Educational Zone #162 – Do You Really Save Money By Reloading Ammunition?

  1. I’ve been hand loading ammo for about 2 years now and am always surprised at how relaxing it is. I’ve found it to be much cheaper; however, I do tend to shoot a lot more since I started.

  2. This was a nice concise summary of everything involved in handloading.
    It seems real intimidating, but after reading this I feel like I might be able to do it in a couple of years after I save up my pennies for the initial investment.

  3. George Steele // March 28, 2017 at 8:17 pm // Reply

    How many thousand bullets need to be loaded to amortize the cost of the press and the dies? I’m sure it’s still a deal, but there must be a crossover at some point that says unless you shoot _____ loads a year, you’ll never break even on the press, or some such. Really enjoy reading your posts.

  4. Old_Painless // April 8, 2017 at 10:43 am // Reply

    Thanks. I do not care about amortization, as I enjoy the reloading and consider it an enjoyable hobby. But in the case of these loads, I saved about $360 reloading a thousand rounds. That will pay for the reloading equipment pretty fast.

  5. The difference is really dramatic with calibers like the .458 Win Mag. Factory loads are over $100 per 20, so 5 bucks or so per pop. Luckily, .45/70 bullets are reasonable, at around 30 bucks per 50, and even the heavy stuff like 500 grain FMJ is about 50 bucks for the same quantity. Powder is 70 grains, so 100 rounds per pound. Total cost per box is like $1.00 – $1.25 per shot.

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