The following cost summaries illustrate these differences (all cost data collected in June 2009):

Pistol Ammunition Summary:
\$0.270 = Total Cost of one New Factory-Loaded 40 S&W 165 Grain Pistol Cartridge.
\$0.206 = Total Material Cost to Reload one Used 40 S&W 165 Grain Pistol Cartridge.
\$0.064 = Cost Savings of Reloading one Used 40 S&W 165 Grain Pistol Cartridge.

Rifle Ammunition Summary:
\$0.800 = Total Cost of one New Factory-Loaded 308 Caliber 165 Grain Rifle Cartridge.
\$0.480 = Total Material Cost to Reload one Used 308 Caliber 165 Grain Rifle Cartridge.
\$0.320 = Cost Savings of Reloading one Used 308 Caliber 165 Grain Rifle Cartridge.

Shotgun Shell Summary:
\$0.240 = Total Cost of one New Factory-Loaded 12 Gauge 2.75-inch #7.5 Shot Shotgun Shell.
\$0.410 = Total Material Cost to Reload one Used 12 Gauge 2.75-inch #7.5 Shot Shotgun Shell.
-\$0.170 = Additional Cost to Reload one Used 12 Gauge 2.75-inch #7.5 Shot Shotgun Shell.

Shotgun Slug Summary:
\$0.631 = Total Cost of one New Factory-Loaded 12 Gauge 2.75-inch One-Ounce Shotgun Slug.
\$0.738 = Total Material Cost to Reload one Used 12 Gauge 2.75-inch One-Ounce Shotgun Slug.
-\$0.107 = Additional Cost to Reload one Used 12 Gauge 2.75-inch One-Ounce Shotgun Slug.

A more detailed cost analysis that supports the above numbers appears at the bottom of this article.

The above data is based on average costs as of June 2009.  I did not select the lowest possible cost nor the highest possible cost for each item.  Instead I used the average cost.

If a person wanted to prove a specific point then he or she could easily select a set of extreme cost data that would support his or her point of view.  For example, a person could compare the cheapest reloading materials to the most expensive factory-loaded ammunition and show a large savings.  Or a person could compare the most expensive reloading materials to the cheapest factory-loaded ammunition and show a loss.

Since I am not trying to encourage or discourage reloading I used the average cost numbers for each material to provide a more balanced perspective.

The above data suggests that the average person could save a little money by reloading pistol and rifle ammunition.

The above conclusion is the same one I reached in 1974 when I first investigated the costs of reloading ammunition.  In 1974 I could save money reloading both pistol and rifle ammunition but I would have paid a premium if I had tried to reload shotgun shells.

The above analysis does not take into consideration the cost of the reloading equipment.  If a person were to invest \$290 in reloading equipment plus \$40 in one set of reloading dies in a specific caliber, then that person would need to reload the following number of empty cartridges to recover the cost of the total investment of \$330:

5,156 Pistol Cartridges = \$330 divided by \$0.064 savings per pistol cartridge, or
1,031 Rifle Cartridges = \$330 divided by \$0.320 savings per rifle cartridge.

This clearly illustrates that a person would need to reload a lot of ammunition in order to break even on his or her investment of \$330 in reloading equipment that includes one set of reloading dies.  Therefore, the average person would probably be better advised to invest in new factory-loaded ammunition if he or she can still find it available for sale.

However, if factory-loaded ammunition becomes increasingly difficult to find, or if its price continues to increase, then a person might want to consider the reloading option as a viable alternative.

Some additional information about the reloading process is at the following page on my web site.  This following web page also discusses the art of bullet casting and how to reduce your lead bullet cost to approximately \$0.05 per bullet using clip-on lead wheel weights and ordinary solder that contains tin:

A general discussion on how to improve your marksmanship ability when shooting at paper targets is at the following page on my web site: How to Hit the Target Bull’s-Eye.

The following detailed cost information is provided to support the cost data at the beginning of this article. This cost data is based on the average costs for each material as of June 2009:

Pistol Cartridge (40 S&W 165 Grain FMJ):
\$0.030 = Primer Cost (\$29.99 per box of 1,000 divided by 1,000).
\$0.016 = Average Powder Cost (\$15.79 per pound divided by 959 cartridges per pound).
\$0.160 = Average Bullet Cost (\$15.99 per box of 100 divided by 100).
\$0.206 = Total Cost to Reload one Used 40 S&W Pistol Cartridge.
\$0.270 = Average Cost of one New Factory-Loaded 40 S&W Cartridge (\$13.49 per box divided by 50 rounds per box).

Rifle Cartridge (308 Caliber 165 Grain):
\$0.030 = Primer Cost (\$29.99 per box of 1,000 divided by 1,000).
\$0.120 = Average Powder Cost (\$21.99 per pound divided by 184 cartridges per pound).
\$0.330 = Average Bullet Cost (\$16.49 per box of 50 divided by 50) .
\$0.480 = Total Cost to Reload one Used 308 Rifle Cartridge.
\$0.800 = Average Cost of one New Factory-Loaded 308 Cartridge (\$15.99 per box divided by 20 rounds per box).

Shotgun Shell (12 Gauge 2.75-Inch #7.5 Shot):
\$0.039 = Primer Cost (\$38.99 per box of 1,000 primers divided by 1,000).
\$0.049 = Average Powder Cost (\$18.49 per pound divided by 378 Shells per pound).
\$0.290 = Average Shot Shell Cost (\$50.99 per 11-pound bag divided by 176 Shells per bag).
\$0.032 = Average Wad Cost (\$7.89 per bag of 250 Wads divided by 250).
\$0.410 = Total Cost to Reload one Used 12 Gauge Shotgun Shell.
\$0.240 = Average Cost of one New Factory-Loaded 12 Gauge Shotgun Shell (\$23.97 per case of 100 shells divided by 100 shells per case).

Shotgun Slug (12 Gauge 2.75-inch One-Ounce Slug):
\$0.039 = Primer Cost (\$38.99 per box of 1,000 primers divided by 1,000).
\$0.107 = Average Powder Cost (\$18.79 per pound divided by 175 Shells per pound).
\$0.560 = Average One-Ounce Slug Cost (\$13.99 per 25 Slugs divided by 25).
\$0.032 = Average Wad Cost (\$7.89 per bag of 250 Wads divided by 250).
\$0.738 = Total Cost to Reload one Used 12 Gauge Shotgun Slug.
\$0.631 = Average Cost of one New Factory-Loaded 12 Gauge Shotgun Slug (\$9.47 per box of 15 slugs divided by 15 slugs per box).

The cost of the empty metallic brass shell case and the empty plastic shotgun shell is not included in the above figures because those items are being reused and therefore they may be considered a “sunk cost.”  A sunk cost is an expense that was incurred in the past and it is not relevant for future purchase decisions.  In other words, after you have paid for the factory-loaded ammunition, and you have fired that ammunition, then you have the choice to either: (1) discard your empty shell cases, or (2) re-use those cases.  If you decide to re-use your fired shell cases then you do not incur any new additional expense.

Sales tax and/or shipping expenses were not included in the preceding data.  These costs would be unique to your geographical location and they would equally impact all the above costs by the same ratio.

The above costs for new factory-loaded ammunition are based on the cost of that ammunition at a Wal-Mart in the southeastern United States as of June 2009.