Save Money by Reloading Shotgun Shells

Reloading for shotguns is the easiest way to get started in reloading compared to rifle or pistol reloading. It’s faster because there are a few steps that you don’t have to do for shot shells.

If you get hooked on any of the clay target games, chances are the cost of ammunition can limit the amount of shooting you can do. As you progress, you’ll want to get into smaller gauges for the challenge, and unfortunately the cost of these smaller rounds are more expensive than the more popular 12 and 20 gauge shells. High quality 28 gauge and .410 shells will empty your wallet pretty quickly. You can also tailor your loads for your needs. It’s not uncommon to shoot 100-200 rounds in an afternoon and heavy field loads can take a toll on your shoulder.

Should You Start Reloading Shotgun Shells?

I’m going to use myself as an example. I started shooting clays with a 12 gauge using inexpensive field loads and I enjoyed shooting moving targets and the instant feedback of breaking clays. I found 200 rounds a day one to two times a week was rough on my shoulder. I also progressed to smaller gauges for the challenge and ended up mainly shooting .410 in an over/under shotgun with barrel inserts changing my 12 gauge to handle .410. However, shooting with tubes requires high quality target ammunition like Winchester AA or Remington STS. These run $100-$125 per case plus shipping.

Let’s say you plan to shoot 1,000 per month. A case (also called a flat) is a large box with ten smaller boxes of 25 rounds each. Four flats equals your 1,000 rounds. Since you’re buying from Defender Outdoors, your cost is roughly $100 for each flat, plus another $10 for shipping. (Add sales tax if you’re in Texas) Since I’m in Texas and have to include sales tax, my total bill is $435 delivered to my door.

So I bit the bullet and decided to reload so I could afford to shoot more. I researched online and found a load I wanted to use with AA hulls and began my acquisition of equipment and components. Caution! One thing is different about loading shot shells if you’re already making rifle or pistol ammunition; it’s more of a recipe than a load. There are specific load data for specific combinations of hulls, wads, primers, and powders. You cannot mix and match components without the risking your safety.

The press will deprime, resize, prime, insert the wad, drop powder, drop shot, and crimp each round. The Powder Bushing measures the powder for each drop. Shotgun powder loads are based on density as well as grains. More of one powder will fit in a bushing than another powder, making a scale necessary to check how much powder is in each drop. Don’t rely on the published data for the bushing. Weigh your powder! I usually drop 10 loads of powder before I start loading ammunition, and recheck every 100 rounds just to make sure I am using the correct amount of powder. Equipment is a one-time purchase.

Components

components
While it is possible to buy lead, primers, and powder online, shipping can expensive. Lead is heavy! Primer and powder shipments will incur a $30.00 HAZMAT fee. You can bulk buy to save on shipping or pick up these items from your local store. Here’s a list of what you’ll need to get started.

Hulls–you can buy once fired hulls online or buy your first case of new shells and reuse the hulls. In my area, used Winchester AA hulls are $0.09 a piece when you buy them in bulk. 250 hulls will cost less than $25.00 and I can get 10 or more reloads per hull.pile of shells cut out

Wads–These are inexpensive and are single use. They retail for under $0.04 each, but normally come in large quantities starting at 500 and go up to 2500 per case.

Lead–Select your size. Clay sports are usually shot with #7.5 shot or smaller. I use #8 shot for all of the different clay sports, and lead costs me $60.00 per 1,000 shells based on ½ ounce per .410 shell.

Powder–In my area, powder averages $30 per single pound containers. I buy it in larger quantities. Two 8 lb. containers per case and I pay $132 per container. I started with one pound containers until I settled on a load.

Primers–Shotgun shells take the size 209 primers. Depending on your load of choice, primers generally run $30.00 per thousand.

The cost for your first 1,000 shells:

Item Price
MEC 600 Jr. Press .410 $207.00
Powder Bushing $3.00
Lee Scale $24.00
Once-Fired Hulls $90.00
Wads $25.00
Powder $50.00
Primers $30.00
Lead Shot $60.00

TOTAL $489.00
New Winchester AA shells $435.00

 

Okay, so you’ll pay more for that first 1,000 rounds, but you will save money long term since your equipment cost is a one-time expense and the hulls are reusable.

Your next 1,000 rounds will cost you only $165.00. That’s $41.25 per case of shells! Loading 1,000 rounds completely pays for your equipment, and continues to pay dividends the more you reload.

Using the MEC 600 Jr.

Loading on the MEC 600 Jr. is easy. There are plenty of videos out there to watch, and the press comes nearly fully assembled. Once assembled and adjusted, you can load 80 – 100 rounds an hour. Since you don’t have to tumble and clean the hulls before reusing, you can go directly to the reloading process.

Starting with an empty hull, the first position removes the spent primer from the hull and resizes the brass base when you move the handle down.

Place a new primer in the primer holder in the second position and pull the handle down. The new primer is installed and the top of the case is belled out a bit to make it easier for the next stage.

The third stage begins with putting the primed hull in the base, and moving the lever to the down position. Slide the charge bar to the left. This drops the powder into the hull. Lift the handle up and place your wad in the guide and pull the lever down, installing the wad. Slide the charge bar to the right, dropping the shot into the hull.

Lift the lever and remove from the third stage, and move the hull to the fourth stage. Move the lever up and down and this starts the star crimp.


The last stage finishes the crimp and the round is complete.

And that’s it! Continue the process until you’ve loaded enough shells for your next round of shooting. Each time you reload, especially with sub-gauges like 28 and .410, you’ll be saving money for minimal extra work.

Watch it in action here:

Have you tried reloading shotgun shells? Think you’ll give it a try? Tell us in the comments!

3 Comments On This Article

  1. I began reloading for the .25-20 rifle Dad had as a kid. Even in the late 1960’s this was considered an obsolete cartridge & reloading was the way to get ammo at an affordable cost. I’ve gone on to reload for a buncha different rifle & pistol calibers.

    I thought ab out reloading shotgun shells, but decided for the initial outlay (and I already have scales, powder measures and dispensers, bench and work area) it’s still cheaper to go buy the occasional box of 12 ga. field loads when they’re on sale.

    For the guy who frequently shoots shotgun of any gauge, it is worth looking into. It’s neither difficult nor time consuming to load your own. You can make your own ammo of better quality yourself.

  2. I never reloaded shot shells, but I started reloading over 40 years ago with the M1 Carbine 30 caliber found my sweet load that than moved to 45ACP , 45L.C. 44MAG, 9MM Hi-power loads 38SP, 223REM. Saved lots on reloading. It has paid for my reloading gear and in the savings let my buy a few firearms

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