• To start reloading shotshells, you will need a press, a scale, and a solid bench to bolt or clamp the press too.
• Materials needed are hulls, primers, plastic wads, powder, and shot.
• Shotshell presses come in either single-stage or progressive models.
• Single-stage presses don’t cost much and let you load one shell at a time, manually moving the hull through each stage of the process.
• A progressive reloader works on several shells at once. As one shell is being crimped, the one behind it is being pre-crimped, the one behind that is having the shot cup filled, etc., with each pull of the lever.
• Once a press is selected, other accessories can be chosen, like an automatic primer feed, which saves you from fumbling with tiny individual primers.
The 7 Steps of Reloading Shotshells.
1: Size and Deprime the Case
2: Seat a Primer
3: Charge with Powder
4: Seat a Wad
5: Charge With Shot
6: Start Crimp
7: Finish Crimp
Getting Into It
While less a factor today than in years past, the primary reason for getting started in reloading shotgun shells remains cost savings.
With 12 gauge, the savings margin is a bit thin these days. Baseline target ammo has become inexpensive, but you can still save money with hand loads, and you will likely end up with a better product. You can save more money loading your own hunting loads, and if you shoot sub-gauge shells, you can still save plenty.
Cost of Components Breakdown
How much can you save? Checking with Brownells, I find that primers run about $32.00 for 1,000 or 3.2 cents each. Wads run about ten dollars for a bag of 500, or two cents each. The cost of shot rose dramatically after the Obama administration forced the closure of the last lead smelting plant in the US in 2013. A 25-pound bag of shots was about twenty bucks then; today it’s $50.00 or more.
The shot is the most difficult component to find in local gun shops today. Buying online hits you with huge shipping costs as this stuff is heavy. However, if you wait until they are running a free shipping special, Brownells is perhaps the best place to order shot online.
A 25-pound bag will have 400, one-ounce loads. That breaks down to a dime per charge.
Hodgdon’s Titewad powder is $16.19 a pound. You can load about 440 rounds and that breaks down to 3.7 cents per load, so to reload a hull will cost about $ 0.19 per shell.
That amounts to $4.75 per 25 round box. Most budget-priced 12 gauge target loads run about $6.00 per box, so your savings is $1.25 per box. It’s not much, but it adds up if you shoot a lot, and if you look around, you may find components for lower prices than listed above.
However, if you compare to quality target loads, which is the ammo you are reproducing, the cost is much higher. Top-of-the-line target loads run about $10.00 or more per box.
That means you are saving $5.25 per box. Hunting ammo is even more expensive. With anything other than 12 gauge, ammo tends to be pricey. My 28 gauge shotguns have a caviar palate, with some hunting loads eating a twenty dollar bill and a few of its lesser relatives for just one box.
Shawn Wozniak at MEC Outdoors (A major producer of shotgun loading equipment) told me that they have seen a rise in the popularity of loading sub-gauge ammo. That is anything smaller than 12 gauge including, 16, 20, 28, and .410. That’s because ammo is often very expensive for them.
I don’t count my time, as I enjoy the process. A single-stage loader from Lee costs $57.99 from Brownells so, based on the 12 gauge target loads, you cover that cost with less than a dozen boxes of ammo. For me, that’s a weekend of shooting.
You can buy a MEC 600 JR press similar to the one in the photos for about $200, so you will need to load about 38 boxes of ammo to break even. That sounds like a lot, but serious competition shooters can go through that in a few weeks.
If you shoot a smaller gauge shotgun, it takes even fewer boxes of ammo to break even.