Why Re-load Shotgun Shells? Is it really worth it? by Joe Schram


In short, the answer is yes, it is worth it. And, I can load a better shell than the factories make. Shot shell reloading is a subject that I have spent many years debating with fellow shooters and factory reps. While I have been reloading my own shells for over twenty years, I would advise readers that it’s not for everyone.

Reloading can be a real cost savings especially in the smaller gauges. If you want to find out how much it truly cost to reload shot shells, I would suggest you go to the Mayville Engineering website (MEC) at There you will find a terrific tool for calculating the true cost of reloading shells. I would recommend you base your research on units of 5,000 hulls, primers, wads and so forth. Buying your components in bulk saves a great deal of money and cuts down on shipping costs. I usually split my orders with friends to keep costs down.

I ran the MEC reloading calculator using re-claimed shot which runs about $15.60 for 25 pounds including tax and freight. The re-claimed shot works fantastic and breaks targets as hard as new lead. If you purchase new lead, it runs about $25 per 25 pounds right now. I have seen it as high as $50 and as low as $18 over the last few years. To get your true reloading cost, you would need to use an average cost of components over a one to two year period. When using the MEC calculator, I used component pricing from Gamaliel Supply’s online price list ( There are many places to buy components online. Locally, I like to use Trainer Hale Supply in Marion, TX, (830-420-4530). Trainer Hale is about an hour’s drive from Austin.

Again, I based everything on units of 5000 for economy. I used a Remington 20 gauge 7/8 ounce shell with 15 grains of Hodgdon Universal powder and Noble Sport 209 primers. I calculated my hull cost at .03 cents each. Maybe you can buy them cheaper, but I know I can buy them from Juan at Capitol City Trap and Skeet for that price ( I used the PC Yellow wad (which I prefer) and the aforementioned reclaimed shot. I used a base price for my reloader of $450.00. I actually paid less, but it will cost at least that for a new one today. Used ones can be found for as little as $150.00.

My final cost came out to be $3.28 per box. I can’t find new 20 gauge shells anywhere close to that price. If I buy Remington Premier Shells by the pallet load (60+ flats or 600 boxes), I can get them delivered for around $6.50 per box. That’s a saving of $3.22 per box! And that is an Apple to Apple comparison. My reloads are more consistent than factory shells and hit targets harder.

Sometimes you can find shells on sale at Wally World or one of the other Big Box stores from time to time. However, those are a cheap inconsistent product. I have used them, and they are okay, but do not deliver the kind of consistency I need as a competitive shooter. They are made of cheaper plastics, metals and are not good for reloading. Some guns have trouble ejecting and shooting these inexpensive shells. Most of all, they are not a good Apple to Apple comparison for this exercise. For bird hunting, they are acceptable but not preferred. When I guide bird hunts, I know most of my clients have spent a lot of money to get there and hunt. The cost of shells is not a major factor to them, but a missed bird due to a cheap bargain shell is a big deal.

So what’s your time worth? I hear people tell me that they shoot new shells because they don’t have time to reload. This is true for many people; time is a valuable commodity. However, you must consider that reloading is a hobby and most hobbies take time. I can reload around 500 shells in an hour or so.

So what’s the downside? Time… Time is always an issue. Space…it requires less than 50 square feet of your home/garage/workshop to use for your equipment and storage for supplies. The other downside is safety. While I have never had an accident at the reloading table or in firing a reloaded shell, there is always the potential for a deadly accident when dealing with gunpowder. If you practice reasonable safety precautions as outlined in the owner’s manual of your reloading equipment and the manufacturer’s data sheets, there should never be a problem. I have known one person in my life that blew himself up reloading. He would be the first to tell you that he broke at least three cardinal rules at the same time which got him into trouble.

Be safe, be smart and always respect the components you are working with, and you can experience many years of fun, and savings that come with reloading your own shot shells. If you aren’t sure where to start, just ask one of us old timers, we are happy to share our knowledge and experience.

Until next time, shoot safe and shoot straight!

Categories : Articles

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Today’s Devotionals and Blogs

Kent Crockett’s blog –

Mark Dillow’s blog –

Bible Verse of the Day

A little that a righteous man has Is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, But the LORD upholds the righteous.