It’s no secret that you can create extremely accurate ammunition, save a boatload of money, and all but guarantee your ammo supply during shortages by handloading your own cartridges. But if you’re just getting into handloading, here are a few surefire tips for squeezing some extra savings out of the process, driving your price-per-round down even further.
Cast your own lead bullets. This one comes with a big, bold surgeon general’s warning: Lead, when heated or even handled, can be very hazardous. Wash your hands thoroughly after working with it and cast bullets only in a well-ventilated (outdoor) area while wearing a respirator. Dangers aside, the returns on this are immense. Depending on how much it costs you to acquire scrap lead (and following your initial investment in a melting pot, side-pour dipper, and a bullet mould), you can make your own bullets for pennies. Note: Soft lead bullets will foul your barrel quickly and won’t be especially accurate. Adding the correct amount of tin and antimony to your lead generates a harder alloy better suited for shooting. Quick tip: Scrap lead wheel weights can often be acquired cheaply from tire shops and already have antimony in them.
Become a brass collector. Pick up brass at the range and ask your non-reloader friends to do the same. Many shooters aren’t into handloading, so they leave their brass where it lies. Even if it’s not in a caliber you shoot today, you may find that down the road, once you’ve picked up a new rifle or handgun, that brass comes in handy. Or you can exchange it with someone who needs it. You can also establish a relationship with a range to buy spent brass they sweep up. Inspect any spent cases carefully: You don’t know how many times they’ve been reloaded and shot or how they were loaded initially. Find a hairline crack? Throw it out. Also be aware that some military surplus rounds have crimped primer pockets that will need to be reamed out to accept a new primer.
Buy components in bulk. Like shopping at a wholesale grocery store for a 70-pound wheel of cheese or a pallet of Nutella, powder, brass, bullets, and primers are all more affordable when purchased in bulk. Don’t plan to use that much powder or need 2,000 bullets this time around? Talk to your buddies who reload or who shoot the same calibers and see if they’ll go in on the order with you. When buying powder online, you’ll have to pay a mandatory hazardous materials shipping fee regardless of whether it’s one pound or eight, so consider placing a larger order.
Wait for deals. Wait to buy your components until a vendor puts them on sale or runs a promotional campaign for free shipping. Comb through a website’s clearance section in search of marked-down components, and keep an eye out for rebates offered by manufacturers—they can be substantial.
Peruse estate sales and auctions for deals. Dies, bullet moulds, and reloading equipment like presses or powder dispensers can often be found secondhand. Even old components—if they’ve been stored in a cool and dry place—can be loaded and shot without trouble. You may end up with a mixed bag of useful stuff and junk, but when the price is right, it’s worth it.