Tuesday, February 13, 2018

guest article-1 of 2 articles today

GUEST ARTICLE-1 of 2 articles today

Cost breakdown of reloading with the Lee Loader



I’m the minion that posted before on reloading the .45 long colt. I decided to sit down and crunch some numbers, to get an idea of if it’s really worth reloading or not. For the purposes of this analysis, I’m assuming a comparison of standard pricing, non-bulk ammo purchases. I’m also assuming a low cost Lee Loader (limited caliber selection) cast lead bullets, and cowboy load velocities (under a 1000fps). I recently performed an online search for .45 Colt ammo, and just about fell over in my chair when I saw that a box of 50 was $30, and that was the cheapest that I found. So here’s the breakdown:


Lee Loader (one time cost of $40).

Bullet mould (Lee brand; one time cost of $21, Cabela’s).

Brass (one time cost for multiple reloads; $77 for 300 count, Cabela’s).

Powder ($24 for 1lb of HP-38: 920 reloads assuming 7.6 grain cowboy loads, Cabela’s. For this analysis, I’m basing the number of reloads on a one pound can of powder).

Primers ($28 per 1000, Cabela’s).

Melting pot and dipper ($69 and $21 respectively, one time cost, Cabela’s).

Lead ($22 for a 5lb bar - $22 x 6 bars = $132, assuming 200 grain bullets @ 1050 bullets. link below).



Total cost per 920 reloads on the very first loading, due to the initial cost of the lee loader, brass, lead, mould, melting pot and dipper:




Store bought at $30 a box (I rounded off to 900 rounds here):




2nd time reloading for 920 loads (Roughly guesstimated. We had left over lead and primers from the first loadings, so we only purchased 5 - 5lb bars this time around, another 1lb can of powder, and another 1000 primers).




So while we only saved $128 on the initial loading, due to the upfront costs of the equipment. We saved around $378 on the second loading. If you were somehow able to find the lead for very cheap or free, you could really save some serious money on your reloads.


Now I understand that it’s not quite as simple as I outlined above. I did not include tax in my estimate. You would also have to factor in new brass at some point. And some of the minions may not live close by to a Cabela’s, or like store, in which case, there would be shipping and/or hazardous fees. I also assumed low velocity cast lead cowboy style loads in this equation (which may or may not work for all of the minions) and the Lee Loader, which is only available in the more popular calibers.


Another consideration is the painstakingly slow reloads that result with a low tech system as the Lee Loader. This is where one of the few benefits of having kids comes into play. I started reloading all of my father’s ammo from about the age of 9 on, and have thousands of reloads under my belt. This is probably considered a borderline controversial statement by today’s standards, considering today’s predominantly special snowflake generation. And if the kid in question can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, then it’s probably best to keep them as far away as possible from anything that can cut, shoot, or blow them up. That said. I understand that this is a delicate operation that most modern parents would not wish to entrust to their children, due to safety and liability issues. In consideration of this, you could always let them handle the safer operations such as de-priming/sizing/bullet seating, while you handle the priming (still relatively safe as long as one wears safety glasses, as one always should) and powder charging (the biggest danger being an accidental over charge).


In my case, I do not own any guns that eat a lot of ammo, so 900+ rounds would go a long ways for me.



  1. Good article; speaks to the audience I imagine reads this blog. I'm at the other end of the reloading spectrum, with top end equipment and components capable of runs of 10,000 rounds of just about whatever. 416 Taylor, anyone?

    From my perspective, Lee does interesting engineering of crap equipment. He has identified a particular market segment and hits it perfectly.

    It is pure Better Than Nothing, as Dankin might put it.

    And this is my point: It works. Want to get in cheap? This is The Way.

    Again, I agree with all the points here.

    The ability/equipment to do small volume reloading should be part of your preparation. Lee would be the way to go. Bullet casting is a whole other skill set. Enter therein with caution, but it can be done with a campfire as a heat source.

    1. Thank you-you understand the difference of reloaders. Most would only advocate for their kind. I shudder and soil myself at the cost of "real" loaders, but my Lee is probably only going to ever make a few thousand rounds. If I had a semi, or several of them, I'd recognize the need for tens of thousands and never consider Lee. If I had an AR and lots of mags and did run and guns, I'd look at 20k rounds as a minimum. The Enfield-5k.

    2. Ditto. While I have a progressive press for volume reloading (I used to shoot competition pistol way back when) there's also that inexpensive single stage Lee Turret press off to the side for the low volume stuff (like my 348 Winchester). It's all about matching the tool to the job. A professional auto mechanic can justify a full roll-around chest of Snap-on tools, but for the guy who just needs to do occasional repairs a few tools from Harbor Freight will do just fine.

    3. When I worked at a gas n'garage in the late 80's, early 90's, a Snap-On seemed to be in the range of about a days day for me, an hours pay for the mechanic. The thought of a tool chest full of them seemed completely foreign.

  2. First, thank you for this article and all the effort you put into it !

    Back when I was serious about stockpiling ammo, reloading was unavoidable. The price difference with manufactured ammunition is dramatic, especially when you're using brass collected at the range.

    I agree that lower pressure "cow boy" reloads are an interesting option. Especially when you mention children or even women <:°)

    Recently it came to my mind that WW1-era rifles weighting 10lbs were made for sturdy rural men which had to be well fed to be operational. Perhaps lighter weapons, such as lever-action rifles in a pistol caliber, are better suited to civilians, especially in a context of malnutrition/hunger/disease.

    Reloading with low-pressure rounds also makes sense if you stumble upon an obsolete or unknown weapon : you reduce the risk of the thing exploding in your hand. I can see a future when most weapons one could find would be cheapo handguns, something like cheap knockoffs of a chinese copy of a Kel-Tec gun.
    (Hi-Point pistols seem to be undestructible though).

    1. I see your point on the harder hitting rounds from the first war, but how does that explain the African and Indian colonial troops? Even most White Brits of the lower classes seemed rather of slight build. I think we might be a bit prejudiced towards no recoil weapons, spoiled by the AR with buffer spring, and assume any thing more is dangerous and unworkable and a handicap. I read idiots shuddering at the prospect of a rifle weighing over six pounds ( even as they carry 60 ) and laugh my junk off.

    2. About the colonial troops, sometimes weapons were made specifically for colonized people of smaller stature (Colonial Berthiers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZuGNYk3xUQ )

      We fight with the army we have ... or the family members on hand when troubles begins. Every time I took noobs with me on the shooting range, they found the 5,56 (H&K SL8) impressive (mainly because of the noise) and some of them falt out refused to shoot the 7x64 carbine.

      Should they use the rifles ? Yes.
      Will they, when you're not there ? Not sure. Probably not, or much too late.

      So it's better to take something they will actually use. In that regard, a lever-action in .30-30 is perhaps the most family-friendly rifle there is.

      Or a 7,62x39 bolt-action like the CZ 527, but you'll have to work out a powder charge to fire cast bullets as well (<-- feeble attempt to get back to the original topic :D )

    3. Don't mistake a persons build with their physical strength. More than a couple of times I've gotten into strife underestimating the lean guy who turns out to have a vice like hand grip and hits like a steam train (funny story, a guy I knew had the ambition to fight every single footballer of our professional football team, so we're talking very large, fit, strong and can take hits. Well this guy was short and thin. But damn were his hands fast and he knew how to throw a punch)

      Our ancestors were considerably stronger than todays people. Farm strength is real.

    4. I forgot about that guys videos-he's quite good.

    5. 12:59- I get the strength. But what about the skinny guy being able to absorb the recoil? When I was 30 pounds skinnier, I couldn't fire more than one stripper clip from the Enfield without getting a very sore shoulder. The shotgun was worse.

    6. 12:59 - Agreed, size is not the only determinant of one's ability to handle a powerful round. Coni Brooks (wife of Randy Brooks of Barnes Bullets) regularly hunts with a .338 Win Mag or 340 Weatherby. I read about her acquired skill with the big rifles in an article about heavy bullets in magnum rifles in an issue of Rifle magazine. The writer noted that she's about 4'10" and probably weighs 100 pounds dripping wet.

    7. 12:59 Some of them are like you describe, some others completely not.
      Also when a strong person is sick /is wounded / is undernourished, recoil becomes much more significant.

    8. If the recoil of the.303 Brit, a relatively mild cartridge, hurts you, you are probably not holding it correctly. Same goes for the 12 gauge shotgun.

    9. Could be. I was also 155 pounds and 6'2" ( since older I'm now up to about 180 or 190 ). It could also be I just don't shoot often enough.

    10. 7:38 it's not about me right now.
      But who knows what a person I'll be in ten years, twenty years, thirty years.

  3. Addendum : but pistol-round rifles are still optimal to me (but some people prefer rifle rounds, this is why I was mentionning .30-30 and 7,62x39)

  4. To the author, what type of bullet style are you molding? Might I suggest that the most effective self defense round for a low pressure cowboy-type loading is the full wadcutter? It penetrates straight and leaves a full-diameter permanent cavity through the target, where a .45 round nose, may only leave a 9mm sized permanent cavity (and a 9mm round nose a .22 sized permanent cavity).

    Also, are you recommending someone purchase a .45 Colt revolver to supplement or replace a .357/38 they already own? Quality (Ruger) .45 Colts are high dollar, but a low-pressure wadcutter .45 would definitely be more effective than the same in .38.
    Peace out

  5. Thank you kindly everyone for the great replies!

    @Ave; I actually wasn’t thinking in terms of loads suitable for women/children/elderly, but rather the most frugal approach to the situation, that would produce the maximum amount of loads for the least cost. As it turns out though, they are also family friendly.

    @Peace Out; I haven’t had to mould any bullets as of yet, since I was able to procure a large box of semi-wadcutters many years back when they were still cheap. But I like your suggestion, and will keep it in mind.

    “Also, are you recommending someone purchase a .45 Colt revolver to supplement or replace a .357/38 they already own?”

    No, the .45 Colt was just an example, because I already have one. In my case, I got a cartridge conversion cylinder for my Ruger Old Army, that converts it to .45 Colt (low velocity Cowboy loads only). But for the purposes of staying within the realm of low cost reloading, I’d recommend trying to go with a caliber that is covered by the Lee Loader.