If you’re like me, then cost is a driving factor whether you pursue an endeavor. Therefore, when ammo started drying up in early 2020 I began researching how to reload. Unlike many avid shooters, I shoot pistols almost exclusively. Many of you may be wondering about the cost of reloading 9mm rounds vs. buying cartridges from the factory. Today I’m going to cover my calculations, and how I decided whether reloading 9mm was cost effective.
If you’re looking for the up front costs of reloading, you’ll need to check out my other article. In that article I discuss the equipment you’ll need to purchase for your reloading station. Just be aware that those supplies are the minimum of requirements.
However, today is all about the costs associated with actually sourcing and pressing your own 9mm ammunition. Therefore, this article discusses what is need from a materials and labor perspective for reloading.
Finally, we’ll do a cost analysis and compare the cost per round (cpr) of reloading 9mm vs. buying it.
Calculating Costs For Reloading 9mm Ammo
The following sections are dedicated to the sourcing, organization, and delivery fees associated with 9mm reloading supplies. Reloading any cartridge, from 9mm to 300 blackout, requires these same basic components.
Although some materials costs will vary, other costs will remain unchanged. I’ll try to cover which costs are variable for anyone who stumbles across this article on reloading.
What Supplies You Need To Reload 9mm
When it comes to reloading 9mm ammunition, you need 4 fundamental supplies. First, you need to acquire brass casings. Purchasing fresh from the factory brass is going to cost more than sourcing used brass. Even better you can pick up brass from the ground at your local range — just clear it with the RSO first.
Second, you need to acquire smokeless powder. The cost of powder will vary by brand and amount of powder you purchase. I’m using Accurate No.2 for my 9mm reloads. Mostly because it was one of the options in the Hornady reloading handbook (on Amazon) so I don’t have to scour for the reloading data.
Third, you need the bullets — the actual projectile. When the gun goes “boom” this is what is sent downrange. The type of bullet (FMJ, Coated, JHP, etc.) will cause a variance in cost. For simplicity sake, I’ll use coated round nose bullets in my calculations because they were the least expensive option I found.
Finally, you need the ever elusive primers — small pistol primers to be exact — when reloading 9mm ammunition. Although costs will vary slightly by brand, I’ve found that the cost variance to be negligible.
Buying Supplies In Bulk vs. As Needed
As with just about anything else, the more you buy the less you pay per unit. Reloading 9mm ammunition is no different. Buying any of the components listed above in bulk is going to lower your cost per round.
Conversely, if you buy the minimum amount (usually in lots of 1000) your average cost per round is going to be higher. Because I bought some raw materials in bulk, my costs are going to be lower and it is important to remember this when doing your own calculations.
Reuse Brass To Save Money Reloading 9mm
Another way to lower the cost per round is to recycle your casings. After shooting your reloads you can collect your brass back up to deprime and reload again later. Each successive reload of a case lowers the cost. If you visit your range frequently enough, you can skip the initial purchase of once-used or new brass altogether. It’s completely up to you and/or the policies of your local shooting range.
Hazmat & Shipping Costs For Reloading Ammo
One cost that is often overlooked by many during many calculations is the shipping fee and hazardous materials fee. Powders and primers are considered hazardous materials and to lower the impact of hazmat costs you should:
- Buy in bulk but do not exceed shipping weight limits
- Buy primers and powder at the same time and ship together
Shipping can absolutely destroy your cost per round, so do everything you can to save money by bundling products and placing a single order. Due to the ammo shortage, my cost calculations are negatively impacted. Ideally you’ll be able to produce ammo at a cost of $0.25 per cartridge or less.
Different delivery services have different delivery fees. Typically distributors will use a major shipping company in lieu of USPS for hazardous material. The cost for hazmat shipping ranges from $19.95 (UPS) to $37.50 (FedEx Signature Required).
Additionally, different retailers use different shipping companies. Therefore, the rates you’re going to pay for shipping will vary. I pay anywhere from $13.95 – $22.56 in shipping costs for the same product from different vendors. Obviously, the weight of the shipment will also play a pivotal role in your cost to reload.
Omitted Costs For 9mm Reloading Calculations
Alright folks, I can’t account for every penny I’ve spent on my setup for reloading 9mm cartridges. Some things are an “unnecessary” cost such as my organizational supplies like storage bins.
Additionally, some things are such low cost that I did not factor them into my calculations. For instance, I did not factor in the cost of 3 tbsp of Dawn dish detergent to wash 1K cases. I’m also not factoring in the cost of case lube either.
For these items, the cost equals out to fractions of a cent. Additionally the variance of cost is dictated by how much of the product is used during your reloading process. Either way, they are not included in my below calculations.
Cost Breakdown Per Reloading Component
Alright, here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. What does it cost to reload 9mm ammo? According to calculations from my most recent reloading supply orders, it cost $0.30 per round and the cost to reload 1,000 cartridges of 9mm is roughly $300.00. This breaks down to $0.07 per primer, $0.06 per casing, $0.04 for powder, and $0.13 per bullet.
Product Ordered: Primers
Manufacturer: Federal Small Pistol Primers
Quantity In Order: 1,000 units
Total Order Cost (including hazmat): $69.90
Cost Per Primer: $0.07
Product Ordered: Once Used Brass Casings
Quantity In Order: 4,250 units
Total Order Cost: $255.14
Cost Per Casing: $0.06
Product Ordered: Copper Coated 9mm Round Nose Bullets
Manufacturer: Xtreme Bullets
Quantity In Order: 3,000 units
Total Order Cost: $396.78
Cost Per Bullet: $0.13
Product Ordered: Smokeless powder
Manufacturer: Accurate No.2
Quantity In Order: 5# container
Total Order Cost (including hazmat): $136.90
Estimated Cost Per Powder Drop*: $0.04
*Powder drop recommendations will vary by manufacturer according bullet grain, bullet type, and other factors. Powder used is subject to some loss (during initial measurement) or variance during actual powder drops.
Reduction In Price Of Shipping & Hazmat
Each of the above orders was a completely separate order with it’s own shipping cost. Remember earlier how I said shipping will kill your cost per round. If I could cut my paying shipping costs in half I would save $0.02 per round.
Furthermore, if I could eliminate the hazmat cost associated with the primers with bundled shipping of the powder I save another $0.02. This isn’t far fetched as both components were from the same supplier
So, as I said before save money wherever you can on the shipping because it will destroy the cost savings for reloading. Assuming these cost savings, the cost to reload would end up being $0.26 per round.
Time Is Money When Reloading
Another aspect that is omitted during the reloading cost analysis is your time spent on the project. All those minutes and hours spent depriming, washing, drying, testing loads, and more affect your ultimate costs. You have to ask yourself, “how much is your time worth?”
In this regard, your process will also impact your bottom line. Do you deprime brass before washing to get a clean primer pocket, or do you not care? Are you running a progressive press or single station? Are you reloading in a single sitting or across multiple loading sessions?
Too many variables are at play to definitively say how much it costs to reload 9mm when it comes to man hours. My best advice would be to figure out an hourly rate and time how long it takes you to load 1,000 rounds of 9mm to figure out the labor cost.
Cost of Buying 9mm Ammo
Unfortunately, buying factory cartridges from a distributor will run the gamut when it comes to prices. Are you buying online? Perhaps you’re picking up from a gun show. Either way the cost of buying factory ammunition is going to vary greatly.
Additionally, you need to discern what grain of ammo you are buying and from which manufacturer. Finally, you need to account for outside economic forces on the price of ammunition. I’ll cover this more in a later section.
Cost Per Round Reloading vs. Buying 9mm
No doubt, many of you have arrived at this page because you’re looking for a cost effective source of ammunition amidst a national shortage. Therefore, I’m going to provide two separate calculations for the cost of reloading 9mm ammunition vs. buying it.
First, I’ll talk about the costs before the pandemic hit when ammunition was plentiful. Afterwards I’ll talk about the cost of reloading 9mm ammunition during a shortage and why your costs will likely vary.
Costs Analysis Pre COVID-19
In a time long forgotten, you used to be able to buy 9mm ammo for a price that outmatched even the most frugal of reloaders. At that time, circa 2018, 9mm ammo was selling for $175-$225 for 1K rounds.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t reloading at the time so I can’t say for certain whether reloading components were priced similar to what I used above. However, costs would have to be significantly reduced (or at least available for local pickup) to bring down the cost sufficiently to justify the cost of reloading 9mm ammo over buying it.
Pandemic Prices 2020 – 2021
As you likely already know, the ammo shortage and subsequent primer shortage of 2020 and 2021 continues. With backlog orders into the billions of dollars, the cost of ammo prior to 2020 isn’t likely coming back in the near future.
Nowadays, you’ll see ammunition priced at a 300%-400% markup from those days. Common rounds like 9mm are no exception and it’s not unheard of to see small lots of 9mm going for $1 a round. When comparing my above calculation (from component orders during the shortage) it becomes increasingly evident that the cost to reload 9mm ammunition is far better than buying it.
Hopefully I haven’t bored you with the details too much when it comes to the cost of reloading 9mm rounds vs buying them. However, I wanted to be extremely thorough in my analysis, findings, and journey.
I’m sure there’s probably something I forgot (nobody’s perfect). If you think there’s an important piece of information I’ve left out, please share with the community. Contrarily if you found this information helpful then please do me a solid and like, share, or leave a comment. It helps me out immensely.