View Full Version : Reloading shotshells - how much can I save?

November 27, 2008, 06:37 PM
I am new to trap and clays, but i can tell i'll be doing it for a while. I can buy Remington Gun Club shells at Dick's on sale for 5 dollars per box. I can get Nitro shells for 8 bucks or so. How much $$$ am i going to save if I get a MEC single-stage press and reload all my shells.

I am figuring on going through maybe 300-400 shells a week.

BTW, if I can afford a MEC 9000 i would get one, I suppose. But the extra 350 dollars is a lot.

November 27, 2008, 07:32 PM
My experience is that you won't save much if anything on the dove, quail loads you can buy at Walmart. The magnum field loads are a different story. The heavy field loads you can make for $3.50 a box will cost a whole lot more at Walmart. If you shoot a lot of heavy loads it pays off.

November 27, 2008, 07:41 PM
At 23 dollars per hundred You are real close to 5 dollars per box for the cheap bulk brick walmart loads... So you can make a heavy load for $3.50 but not a light load?:o Seriously tho... I priced walmart bulk last night and it made me wanna start reloading...

November 27, 2008, 07:51 PM
What I'm saying is that it isn't really worth loading target loads to save a dollar a box. You can save a ton on heavy field loads. So you wonder why not just load all heavy field loads. Because they aren't much fun to shoot. Especially in my old A5. 1 1/2 oz. Magnum loads kick like hell. I got a K Mart flyer advertising 12 gauge dove loads for $3.99 the other day.

November 27, 2008, 11:30 PM
If you go to trapshooter.com, on the home page there is a reloading calculator. Plug in your costs and it will give you a price per load.

To get the best deals forget Gander Mountain, Cabelas and the like for components. They habitually are very expensive.

If you are going to get into reloading think bulk. To make reloading remotely feasable you are going to want to buy powder in at least 8lb kegs, wads by the case (5000), primers by the case (5000) and shot several hundred lbs at a time. Then you have to decide on a press they range from $100.00 to $2500.00.

My wife and I both shoot a fair amount of trap. On average we go through 30,000 to 40,000 rounds per year. I found out that the time I spent reloading didn't offset the additional cost of factory shells. I now buy shell by the pallet (Federal Top Gun and/or Estates). Fortunaty either of these shell perform well for what we do.

The advantage to reloading is you can taylor loads to your needs (as long as you follow established reload data). If my daughter wants to shoot trap when she get a little older I will mostly start to reload for her. That way I can taylor a light recoiling shell for her. But for the wife and I it is factory shell from here on out.

If you are shooting clay targets or dove and are shooting anything less than a couple thousand shell per year, buy factory. It will save you in the long run.

November 28, 2008, 01:19 AM
I was shooting 200 rounds/week at the trap range. I could reload that many in an hour with a simple MEC 600 Jr. for a few bucks a box. Best of all, I found my perfect load -- 1oz. #8 shot over 3-dram-equiv. of RedDot.

Reloading shotshells is simple, easy, and cheap. You can play around until you find your own "perfect" load. :D

November 28, 2008, 01:44 AM
JPTJPT, if you are going to do much shooting, I would bite the bullet and get a Ponsness Warren reloader. They are higher than the Mec 9000 but you will not be in anyway sorry that you did after getting over the sticker shock. What ever you do, I would not get a single stage reloader unless you are making speciality shells on it. I would find someone that has a PW reloader and someone that has a Mec and watch both make shells. Ask around at the trap range where you shoot about what the shooters there use.


Heres a site where you can figure cost.

November 28, 2008, 01:57 AM
JPTJPT, Sometimes it helps to know where your general location is, just to share info on good places to get powder, shot, etc. Also, sometimes, two or three people can meet and get a little better deal by dealing in a greater quanity.


November 28, 2008, 02:55 AM
If you're reloading to save money, then you want the best component prices, and that means buying in bulk. Unfortunately, bulk quantities of components represent a significant investment. olddrum1 is right about location and sharing, shipping costs can sour a sweet deal. A 40 bag pallet of shot sounds like a lot, but it goes quickly if you shoot a lot.
Don't fall into the trap of comparing your reloading costs to promotional field loads. They use lower quality components that those typically available to hand loaders.

Dave McC
November 28, 2008, 09:28 AM
Using that calculator over on Trapshooter.com, my pet reload costs about $4.65 a box.

Not much savings,huh?.

Actually, market price on comparable factory loads saves maybe $1.50 a box.

In actuallty, I just get to shoot a little more for the same expenditure.

And, I can tailor the load to the weather, game etc.

I use 7/8 oz of shot for most clays stuff. SC and trap sees 7.5 shot, skeet 8.5 or 9s. 7.5 works for dove, and 6s for squirrels when I get the urge for Simmered Squirrel au Vin.

The load kicks little, has enough shot for the purpose at hand to satisfy the minimalist in me( The same Minimalist that has me shoot a single shot often) and assures WW that I'm spending as little as possible to feed my Jones.

There's also some satisfaction is taking game or busting clays with ammo I crafted, like catching fish on a fly one has tied or taking a deer with a handmade wooden arrow and hand honed head.

I do buy ammo sometimes when time forbids loading on my venerable MEC, but it's not the same.

November 28, 2008, 09:47 AM
With the price of shot still pretty high you aren't going to save enough money reloading to retire on. I still reload as I find the time spent relaxing and of course I end up with a better shell.
I also shoot 4 gun skeet and I load for all 4 guages. There is a considerable savings loading 28 and .410. Less shot and powder not to mention the usual cost of factory 28's or .410's are right around $9 +/- a box.

November 28, 2008, 11:14 AM
On 12ga you'll save about $1.50 a box over discount ammo / but you're loading a much higher quality shell than the discount specials - you're loading something closer to a new Remington STS at $ 6 - $7 a box.

I reload because I like it / like shooting my own "tailored" shells - and savings are greater in 28ga and .410.

I use the MEC 9000 HN hydraulics - and get about 20 boxes an hour off my presses - so time isn't really a factor. But I'd reload even if there was no savings.

November 28, 2008, 12:33 PM
"I use the MEC 9000 HN hydraulics - and get about 20 boxes an hour off my presses - so time isn't really a factor. But I'd reload even if there was no savings."
I think I saw a video on the subject. It was listed under: Fetishes, hydraulic :D

November 28, 2008, 07:12 PM

come on man, I only have 4 of them ( a 12, 20, 28ga and .410 ) ....I'd be an addict, if I had a backup for each one .... I'm just prepared ...

Fetishes are for the "perfectly formed crimp"....

Ricky B
November 30, 2008, 08:42 PM
There are many advantages to reloading, saving money being only one of them. As noted, you can make loads that are to your specs and in some cases that can't be readily found. And there is the satisfaction of making your own ammunition.

But if your principal motivation is saving money, it's a much tougher call. Every so often, a gun magazine will run an article on reloading and how you can save tons of money. But one thing that the articles and that the cost-savings calculators never figure in is the cost of your time. There is no free lunch.

First off, you have the cost of the equipment, which in theory should be amortized over the number of rounds that you make. But since that is pretty much impossible to predict, we all ignore it.

Second, you have to take the time to learn about reloading, which means reading up on it and preferably being shown by a friend.

In figuring how much time you spend in actual reloading, you have to know how many boxes an hour you can crank out. People often brag about their rates of speed, but I don't hear much about the time it takes to set up (you should not leave powder in the powder measure), weigh charges from time to time to make sure your machine is throwing the right weight of powder, correct mistakes, or clean up spills.

What, no one else ever has a primer stick in the tube and fail to get seated with powder dropping right through the empty primer pocket onto the machine? Maybe I'm just the fussy type, wanting to clean up all that loose gunpowder, but to do it right you often have to remove all the shells from the shell holder, lift up the plate, brush out the powder, and put everything back in the right order.

Once I factor all the set up time, cleaning spills and correcting the occasional mistake, boxing the shells, take down time, recordkeeping, and the like, I can make five to ten boxes an hour. At ten boxes an hour, even at $2 a box savings, that comes to $20 an hour, maximum.

I am not willing to work during my leisure time for $10 to 20 an hour. As a hobby, that's a different matter, but solely as a cost-savings measure, $20 an hour is not worth it to me.

Ricky B
November 30, 2008, 08:51 PM
That is an assumption, not necessarily a fact. I have no doubt that you, BigJimP, load a higher quality shell, but I can assure you that not everyone does.

At the trap field where I shoot, they keep a rod for knocking out the wads that get stuck in the barrel from blooper loads. What a coincidence, most of the time those are reloads! I don't recall ever having a factory shell not go bang. For that matter, I don't recall any of my reloads not doing so either. Just the other day, a shooter was spending so much time trying to get his reloads to chamber he just gave up and walked off the field.

I have seen some really crappy looking reloads. I would not shoot those rounds in any gun of mine even if they gave them to me for free.

November 30, 2008, 11:45 PM
I think "generally" the days of big savings are pretty much gone. Much like buying a Enfield or a Mauser rifle for $29.00 to $49.00. The components have gone way up in price and until they return (if they ever do) to previous costs, little savings exist. As I said earlier, 28 and .410 still offer substancial savings over store bought shells.
I prefer to reload as I enjoy the time spent, so I will regardless if I save a dime.

December 1, 2008, 01:39 PM
Ricky B - You make some good points / but there are things I disagree on with you as well.

Understanding and maintaining your press is all part of a quality reloading operation. Keeping the press clean, lubed - your reloading bench clean and organized / and following solid procedures - are all critical to reloading success.

I see shooters with the same problems you do - bad crimps, poor patterns, shells that won't feed, shells without powder, etc. But I also see shooters that have not had a problem with a reloaded shell in many years. To me, its not that they can't reload properly - its that they don't. They don't read and understand manuals, don't follow procedures, don't keep the press clean, etc. - and its too bad, but those are symptoms of other problems - and maybe it means they stay away from reloading as a pastime.

If you take care of the equipment - and really understand how it works - reloading can be performed virtually flawless.

I do see ammo failures from new shells / not as many as from people that don't know how to operate their presses properly - but some of the cheaper shells like Estate or Fiocchi seem to be where I've seen the most problems lately / especially feeding semi-autos.

I do amortize the cost of my loaders into my cost per box of shotshells at about $ 0.10 a box. I'll admit I don't take into the account the time I spend reading reloading books, shotgun magazines ( or screwing around on the internet ), etc - but that's not reloading time, to me, that's just casual, relaxing, etc - I would do that anyway.

I've had very good luck with the Mec 9000HN hydraulics - especially since they came out with a new primer feed a couple years ago. I do spend a little time in my shop fussing with my presses, lubing, cleaning, inspecting, etc and I don't take that into account on reloading time - but it can't be more than 10 or 15 minutes a month. My kids are grown and out of the house / I do have the luxury of having a shop where everything I leave, stays exactly as I left it. I will often leave powder in my press cannisters - as long as they are in position on my bench and hooked up to the hydraulic pump / so if I want to reload 10 boxes, it really isn't a big deal to inspect the press, hit the switch to start the pump - and I'm rolling along in under 5 minutes.

Every press will occasionally fail to drop a primer / but I can't remember the last time it happened that I didn't see it ( but it takes 5 seconds to fix that ) as long as you don't let that shell go on to the next station and dump powder all over. I dump the first 5 drops of powder out of the press / then I weigh at least the first 5 drops of powder to make sure they are dead on - then I check only occasionally, maybe 1 or 2 out of 25 - and the Hydraulic Mec's will easily turn out 20 boxes an hour.

On the Mec hydraulics - my operation is (not that you don't know, but in case a guy reading this doesn't ) - put a wad on station 3 with my right hand, a hull on stat 1 with my left hand / cycle the press with the foot pedal / watch the charge bar move to the left , make sure I see a primer drop into the pre-position hole at the bottom of the stroke, make sure the charge bar moves to the right. I always look at station 4 to make sure the shot level is where I expect it to be prior to crimping - ( do the same thing over again ..). I don't box up my shells - I dump them into 8 gallon rubbermaid tubs / and it does take a couple of minutes to fill powder and shot cannisters - but if you're organized, that's not a big deal.

All in all - I think it is easily possible to get a high quality reload off a well maintained press / and as good as a Rem STS shell. I run my presses all the time without a mishap - it just takes attention to detail and a little organization. The only distraction I allow myself when I'm loading is to listem to the stereo in my shop / its a great way to spend a few hours in the shop ( I reload 12, 20, 28ga and .410 - and a variety of metallic cartridges for my pistols 9mm, .40, .45 acp, .38 spl, .357 mag and .44 mag - but I use a Dillon 650 progressive there as well with a case feeder). There are much bigger savings on 28ga and .410 and on metallic cartridges - and I'm not into spending my leisure time for $ 20 an hour either - but its leisure time, its not really a chore. It does take a little time / but for me at least, its time that I just fit into my leisure time.... and at a solid 20 boxes an hour off my shotgun presses / or 800 - 1,000 rounds an hour off my Dillon - it isn't like I need to reload every week either / I usually reload 3 or 4 cases of shotshells per gague and then store them in tubs. I usually reload 30 - 50 boxes of ammo per caliber and then store it as well ( but I do spend more time, checking and boxing my pistol ammo with some other checks, that I don't do on shotshells ).

December 1, 2008, 07:50 PM
If you are going to insert your TIME into the equation, you might as well put in the time and gas costs to purchase your supplies, including the Sales Tax. You might as well put in the cost of your Club membership as a cost for a place to shoot your shells. Of course you should add your gas, wear and tear and insurance on your auto into the equation as well.
You probably should also add the time it takes to clean your gun after a shoot @ $ X and hour, not to mention the cleaners, oils and expendables such as patches etc.
There is also the expense of spilled shot and powder to consider along with a few bad shells that can't be used.
Based on the above, I can see, it is a total WASTE of time and money to reload. Just a lose, lose, lose situation. :confused:

December 1, 2008, 08:01 PM
Ruger 4570
I agree with you...

I would reload even if it cost me more than the cheaper shells out there. Reloading is part of the shooting hobby - at least to me and I like it.

December 1, 2008, 08:24 PM
I just loaded 800 Gun Club hulls with 1 1/8 oz. of homemade #6 shot and 19.2 grains of Clays. I figure $450 for the Littleton, $50 for the ammo can and antifreeze,$32 for the primers and my shells cost around $.75 each not counting the powder that the burglars didn't take. I didn't save anything, but I learned a lot. Now if I loaded some warp drive 1 3/8 oz. heavy field loads, I'd save about $10 a box of 25. Those are 1340 fps. with a Gold Medal hull(expensive). I don't load to bust clay pigeons, I load to better factory performance. If I had to buy those $43 per 10 shell Hevishot, I'd buy the ducks and geese at WalMart and forget the shotgun. Assuming you're loading lead, you might save $1 a box on the Gun Clubs, but you'd have to purchase a BUNCH of components to do so. If you are going to shoot 20 boxes of shells per month, I'd buy a Mec 650 or Grabber first, get the basics down, and upgrade to a 9000 later. Powder Valley Inc. has the stuff you need, and much better prices than the retail outlets like Gander, Bass Pro, etc.

December 2, 2008, 11:40 AM
I've owned a variety of MEC loaders - there is nothing wrong with the Grabber except you have to index the shells manually.

The 9000 GN is non hydraulic - the 9000 HN is hydraulic but you need a permanent place to keep the hydraulic ( the elec motor and hydraulic pump sits on the floor - and it would be a real hassle to disconnect the hoses and move it all the time ).

The 9000GN ( the N means it has the "new primer" feed ) its a black plastic base/with a clear cover on it vs the older chain pull polished steel tray - the new primer tray can be added to an old loader - the new primer system is a big plus.

There is a difference in the support rods on the back of the press from the 9000 G vs 9000 H making the H or hydraulic model a lot stiffer and a lot smoother. But, if you don't have room for a hydraulic - then go with the 9000 GN. With MEC loaders you don't change tool heads - you buy a new loader for another gague. If you buy the Hydraulic - you only need one pump / then you buy just the loaders and using a cutoff valve - you can attach 2 loaders to the pump with a shutoff valve / easily swap out one of the other loaders.

On my bench, I leave the 12ga in place all the time on the left side of my table / the 20, 28 ga and .410 get swapped out as needed on the right side of my table.