If you are like me and my family, guns are in your blood. I do not know a household in my family that does not have a gun safe in one of the closets. I was given my first firearm when I was so small I could barely hold up the weight. It is just what our family does. We hunt, we target practice, and we defend each other. Many of us reload our own 9mm ammo.
Being such a gun enthusiast I find it important to know as much as I can about the use, maintenance, and storage of firearms. In my never-ending effort to learn more about guns, I came across the question of ammo. If you spend much time at the range, you know that the cost of 9mm ammo will quickly outweigh what you spent on the gun. Part of being a responsible gun owner is finding ways to keep your costs to a minimum.
However, like many DIY efforts reloading your own ammo has an up-front cost. There are several pieces of equipment needed to properly take on this endeavor. So is it really worth it? My wife has come to accept that a good deal of my spending money will go towards firearms in general. When I first told her that I wanted to save money by reloading my own ammo, she seemed more attentive than usual. However, when I started listing what I would need to purchase she became skeptical.
In this article I will break down exactly what is needed to get started reloading your own 9mm ammo. I will also cover exactly what to expect for the money you should save from this venture. Hopefully in the end you can decide if this is a project that makes sense for your budget.
Before I get into the hard figures, I want you to understand my DIY mindset. This applies to everything, not just reloading ammo. I like to be self-sufficient. If the difference in cost between doing something myself and buying it at a store is negligible, I will almost always opt to do it myself. I like projects, and I like learning new skills. I also prefer sitting in my workshop for a few hours versus sitting in traffic to run to my gun shop and buy off the shelf. It just feels better for me.
If you are not that type of person, there is nothing wrong with that. If you are strictly about saving money, then stick to the figures. Some people are so busy with their daily lives that there is very little workshop time available. Take what you can from this analysis and apply it to your personal situation.
Up Front Cost Of Reloading 9mm
When you first get started reloading 9mm ammo, plan for some up-front cost along with a learning curve. You can buy a kit that has most of the tools needed for this project, or you can piece a kit together on your own. My suggestion would be to start with a preassembled kit. You rarely save much money by purchasing each tool, and you likely will not have the knowledge to distinguish between the different options available. One good option to consider is the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master kit. It runs about $300, and you can get one at most hunting or big box stores. It is a bit overwhelming when you first open the box and see all the moving parts, but with a little practice you will become comfortable with all the components.
This kit gives you the press and other tools that can be used on any caliber bullet. However, anything specific to a caliber and anything that is not reusable will need to be purchased separately. This includes primers, cases, powder, and dies. Since we are focusing on reloading 9mm ammo, you will need to purchase a 9mm die. In general you will need a different die for each caliber you reload, so feel free to go ahead and purchase others if needed. Our die cost about $50. You should also go ahead and purchase a micrometer to measure the overall length of the bullet after it is seated. It should cost you about $30.
For priming, your kit comes with a hand priming tool. However, you will have to buy the primers themselves. For us a box typically costs about $35 or about $.03 per primer. You can get them at most gun retailers. Midway USA is right down the street from us, so that is where we pick up most of our loose supplies. You will also need to pick up the bullets themselves. For us a box of 500 costs about $50 or so. This adds about $.09 per round in cost.
One of the best ways to save money on this endeavor is to buy fired brass for your casings. You can buy virgin brass casing, but this eliminates several cents per round in savings. We normally go with once-fired brass, and a box of 500 is about $30. This works out to another $.06 per round. For gunpowder we prefer Hodgdon at about $25 per pound. It takes about 6.4 grains of powder per round, so we can load about 1100 rounds with one pound of powder. This works out to another $.02 per round.
The other variable you may want to consider is the cost of your time. There was a time when I worked 70 hours a week and had almost no ‘free time’. At that point I was valuing an hour of my time at about $40. These days I set my own schedule and work from home. While my time is every bit as valuable, I no longer feel the need to factor a rate per hour. If I enjoy doing something like reloading ammo, I can find the time.
So just to recap, here are the costs just to get started:
- Reloading kit $300
- Dies $50
- Primers $33
- Bullets $48
- Brass casings $31
- Powder $26
As you can see, it is not cheap to get started. You need to be sure this is something you really want to do. It is helpful if you can get another family member or friend to help out. If you both use 9mm ammo then one of you can reload if the other is too busy and vice versa. Do not make the mistake of buying all this gear and then letting it collect dust in the garage.
One other advantage of reloading your own ammo is that you can tweak the round to accommodate your particular firearm and shooting style. However, this is more advanced so we will focus mainly on cost.
So how much do 9mm rounds cost off the shelf? We saw prices ranging anywhere from $.30 per round to $1.15 per round with an average of $.76 per round. This is the figure we will use for our comparison. Now we can do a side by side comparison of cost of purchasing off the shelf versus cost of reloading your own rounds.
If you set aside the cost of gear and just focus on the cost of your brass, powder, primer, and bullet, the savings are huge. Your total to reload a round is $.20 per round. This means you save $.56 or 74% off the cost of buying off the shelf. For anybody who intends to continue shooting and reloading long term, the savings are significant.
Now let us take a look back at the up-front costs. It cost us $488 to get started with our initial purchases. If we save $.56 per round, we need to reload 871 rounds to recover the money we spent up front. This works out to about 17 – 50 round boxes of ammo. For most regular shooters this will go by quickly. I average about 300 rounds per trip to the range, so I have broken even after only three trips. When you put it is perspective, it makes a great deal of sense financially.
You will find that just like any hobby, you will tend to want to expand your gear. Anytime you enjoy something, it is hard not to want the latest gadgets to do a better job or speed up the process. If you are making this move to save money, buying more gear can quickly eat up those savings. You need to be realistic about which purchases make sense and which are just for fun. A good idea is to network with other experienced reloaders and ask them if the purchase makes sense.
There are several reasons you may enjoy reloading 9mm ammo. Obviously the savings are there if you spend the money up front. In addition, it can be a great hobby to get you into the workshop. It can also be a nice group project to help you spend time with family or friends. For me, it provides a great deal of satisfaction knowing I loaded every round with my own two hands. For whatever reason you find, I hope this article has encouraged you to get more active and try it for yourself.