Sunday, September 8, 2019

What does it cost to reload a thousand 20 gauge "field loads"?

Lets assume you have friends or family who can loan you a reloading press like the Lee Load-All 2. That is not a big stretch. Mine are bolted to planks that can C-clamped to a table or be held in place with a couple of deck screws. I EXPECT to loan them out.

I will also assume that you can get your hands on hulls. They can be either your own, saved from the field or you can make a trip to a gun range and scavenge from the trash cans. With care you should be able to get five reloadings or more out of your hulls, so you will need two hundred.

You will need:
  • A thousand Primers
  • A thousand Wads
  • 55 pounds of lead shot for 7/8 oz loads
  • About 2.5 pounds of a suitable powder
A thousand primers runs about $35 locally. There is little advantage to buying on-line

If you are scrounging hulls you will probably want to buy five hundred "Winchester" type wads at $12 and five hundred "Federal" type wads for another $15 for a total of $27.

Shot is currently running a little less than $2 a pound. Two, 25 pound bags will run you $90.

There are thousands of "recipes" out there and at least twenty powders with a suitable burn-rate for twenty gauge shotguns. Most of recipes for "7/8 oz Field Loads" in a twenty gauge run between fifteen-and-twenty grains of powder.

At 17.5 grains per load that works out to 2.5 pounds and the 15 grain load nets out to 2.1 pounds.

One cost effective option is to buy Vectan powders from Grafs. Vectan is sold in half kg bottles or 1.1 pounds. Two bottles will holds 2.2 pounds and cost $30 with $10 shipping and another $12.50 Haz-Mat fee. That works out to be a wash with local prices unlessl you also buy your wads from them. Then you come out a little bit ahead and have the convenience of having them delivered to your door.

Totting up the damages

Hulls (salvage)
Primers $35
Wads $27
Shot $90
Powder $53

$205 for a thousand rounds works out to about twenty-one to twenty-five cents a round depending on sales taxes or about $5.25 a box of 25.

250 shells per case.

That is about the same as the price of target shells when they go on sale.

Is it worth it? Tough call. Reloading gives you more choices for shot size. Reloading might also have advantages if laws are passed about the number of "rounds" you can have in your possession at any given time. Unloaded hulls, wads, shot, powder and primers are not a "round" until they are assembled.

Another slight advantage for reloading is that the most expensive components, the shot and the powder, can be shared (within reason) between 12, 16 and 20 gauge applications. You have the ability to respond if there is suddenly a shift in demand while the pre-assembled shells don't offer that flexibility.


  1. Good analysis, but you don't take into account what YOU cost per hour to do the reloading.

    1. Opportunity costs.

      If I were to otherwise be taking a nap, watching TV, combing through social media or buying crap I don't need, the cost of my time is free.

      If, without the distraction of the reloader I would be out in the garden weeding or working a job, then my time is worth at least $10 an hour.

      That is one of the tough arguments to have with kids. One might claim, "I am going to be a plumber in two years so my time is worth $65/hour."

      Whereas the kid is not yet a plumber and even if he was, he made choices where he is not working this hour. A little side business that turned $10 an hour tax-free is worth his time as long as it is "Plus" rather than "Instead of".

  2. I'm surprised the numbers come out that close, but it shows the value of bulk purchasing and automation.
    I haven't reloaded much because these days it doesn't seem worth it - I've done similar calculations for rifle and pistol ammo and the only round I found worth reloading is 30-06.
    Also, don't forget the liability you undertake if you make a mistake.

  3. And from the very cheap seats...

    An additional cost is how much for Cheeri-O's? Cereal ain't cheap!


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