Reloading – Outdoor Empire Gear Up and Get Outside! Sat, 05 Aug 2023 22:02:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Reloading – Outdoor Empire 32 32 The True Cost of Reloading 6.5 Creedmoor Ammo (Worth It?) Mon, 13 Feb 2023 10:02:13 +0000 6.5 Creedmoor is an effective cartridge for a rifle that can touch targets hundreds of yards away, whether a deer or paper target. However, it’s not the cheapest round to shoot which may lead one to consider reloading. But understanding the true cost of reloading 6.5 Creedmoor ammo might surprise you. If you’re lucky, you ... Read more

The post The True Cost of Reloading 6.5 Creedmoor Ammo (Worth It?) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

A hand inserting a 6.5 creedmoor rifle casing into a reloading press

6.5 Creedmoor is an effective cartridge for a rifle that can touch targets hundreds of yards away, whether a deer or paper target. However, it’s not the cheapest round to shoot which may lead one to consider reloading. But understanding the true cost of reloading 6.5 Creedmoor ammo might surprise you.

If you’re lucky, you may find soft budget points for $20 per box of 20 cartridges. But you’re going to spend $30, $40, or even more for a box of good ammo!

And we don’t even want to talk about precision match-grade ammo.

Loading your own seems like an easy way to save money. But is this really the case?


Reloading 6.5 Creedmoor will save you money whether you’re hunting or making 1,000-yard shots at the range. The cost is about even when you’re plinking.

Let’s look at what goes into reloading this exceptional cartridge so you can see if the savings are worthwhile for you.

How Much Does Reloading 6.5 Creedmoor Cost?

6.5 Creedmoor is like any other necked rifle cartridge, which means there are only a few components you need to load a case:

  • Bullet
  • Powder
  • Primer
  • Case

Bullet selection is essential when reloading because it affects case capacity, how much powder is required to attain the desired velocity, your shot’s terminal ballistics, etc.

But for our purposes, we only need to know how much a single 6.5 Creedmoor bullet costs. This is so we can calculate your total cost per round, which is an excellent way of comparing reloaded and factory ammo.

Most .264/6.5 bullets now cost around $40 for a box of 100. And they often cost more for higher-quality bullets.

We’ll use $0.40 as a generic price for now, though we’ll go over several more specific loadings later.

To push that bullet, we need some powder. 6.5 Creedmoor likes medium burn rate powders, so we’ll use a pound of Hornady Varget in this calculation.

At the time of writing, that powder is $54.99.

The powder charge depends on many factors but ranges from 32 to 42 grains, so we’ll use 37 grains in our generic load.

To ignite that powder, we’ll need a primer.

Whether you use a large rifle primer or a small rifle primer depends on the case. But both types are the same price, starting at $5 per 100 primers.

So, we have a $0.05 primer, $0.29 worth of powder, and a $0.40 bullet to cap it off. Our generic load costs $0.74 per round.

Not bad!

That’s just under $15 for a box of 20 rounds, which is an excellent deal for a hunting or target load.

However, this presumes you’re reloading used cases. New 6.5 Creedmoor brass will set you back anywhere from $0.33 to $1.20 each.

How Much Money Do You Save Reloading 6.5 Creedmoor?

If you’re using new brass, then you don’t save anything the first time you load that case when you’re making plinking or hunting loads.

If you’re making precision target loads, however, you’re still coming out ahead on your first load.

Medium-quality precision cartridges will set you back $2 or more per shot when you buy factory ammo and you can make them for $1.93!

Once you’ve started reloading used cases, the price drops astronomically.

You can typically reload 6.5 Creedmoor about 6 to 9 times before the neck starts to split or the primer pocket loosens, depending on how much powder you use and whether or not you anneal the case.

This means that $1.16 new brass will cost you about $0.19 per reload. That generic load now costs you $0.93 or less.

The cheapest hunting load I found costs you $1.50. And factory match ammo starts at $2.

So, you can easily save $0.50 – $1 per shot when you reload 6.5 Creedmoor. I call that worthwhile.

The savings only gets better when you compare your hand-tailored reloads with high-quality match ammo.

What About the Reloading Equipment?

Of course, the costs above only take into account an individual round’s cost.

You need a reloading press, die set, and more equipment to start loading that first round.

This can easily cost you $600.

However, if you’re using this equipment to load match ammo, you will save $1 per shot or more.

Since a 6.5 Creedmoor barrel lasts 2,000 rounds or more before needing to be rebarreled, you’ll save that $600 and then save enough money for a new rifle by the time your old one is shot out if you reload instead of buying factory 6.5 ammo.

Comparing Reloaded 6.5 Creedmoor with Factory Ammo

Now let’s compare reloading and buying factory ammo using three types of loads:

  1. Plinking
  2. Hunting
  3. Precision target shooting

To do this, I’m using components sourced from Sportsman’s Warehouse. Compared with their competitors, I’ve found them to more consistently have reloading components in stock whenever I visit.

For factory ammo, we’ll use Sellier & Bellot as the cheap plinking ammo, Hornady American Whitetail for hunting, and Hornady Match ELD as the target shooting option.

These are all quality yet inexpensive choices.

For reloading, let’s use Speer Hot-Cor, Hornady InterLock, and Hornady ELD bullets.

The powder will remain Varget, and we’ll use CCI #200 Large Rifle Primers in Lapua cases.

The reloaded cost per round with a reused case is only for the bullet, powder, and primer. The case’s price isn’t included.

Factory Load Cost per Box of 20 Cost per Round
Sellier & Bellot 140gr SP $16.99 $0.85
Hornady American Whitetail $29.99 $1.50
Hornady Match ELD $41.99 $2.10
Reloaded CPR w/New Case CPR w/Reused Case
Budget Plinking $1.79 $0.63
General Hunting $1.89 $0.73
With Hornady ELD Match Bullets $1.93 $0.77

*Prices current as of spring 2023

Conclusion: Is It Worth Reloading 6.5 Creedmoor vs. Factory Ammo?

There are two more factors that can go into whether it’s worthwhile to reload 6.5 Creedmoor and both still favor reloading:

Due to manufacturing tolerances, every rifle is unique ballistically.

Unless you get super lucky, no factory load will be able to match the tight groups you can get when you’ve dialed in a great hand load.

As for the time you spend at the reloading bench, even if you’re a slow reloader who only gets 100 rounds done in an hour, you’re still saving $50, $100, or more per hour.

I wish I made $100 per hour!

So, go ahead and reload 6.5 Creedmoor.

You’ll get tighter groups and save money at the same time.

The post The True Cost of Reloading 6.5 Creedmoor Ammo (Worth It?) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

What’s the Cheapest Rifle Caliber to Shoot? (Most Bangs for Your Bucks) Thu, 24 Feb 2022 10:40:58 +0000 My least favorite part of the shooting hobby has to be dealing with ever-inflating ammo prices. Unfortunately, unless you’re collecting vintage firearms, you’ll almost never shoot or are one of those hunters who shoots three shots a box the day before hunting season to make sure you’re still on paper. Your main shooting expense will ... Read more

The post What’s the Cheapest Rifle Caliber to Shoot? (Most Bangs for Your Bucks) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

My least favorite part of the shooting hobby has to be dealing with ever-inflating ammo prices.

Unfortunately, unless you’re collecting vintage firearms, you’ll almost never shoot or are one of those hunters who shoots three shots a box the day before hunting season to make sure you’re still on paper. Your main shooting expense will be ammo.

Even if you’re a slow shooter and only put one box of ammo through your rifle every month, you’ll still go through hundreds of rounds per year. This will exceed your rifle’s cost within a few years.

And who only shoots a single box of ammo per trip?

My minimum shooting averages one magazine’s worth of ammo per week. With the standard capacity magazine of a modern sporting rifle like an AR-15, that’s 1,560 rounds per year.

Outdoor Empire Gift Guides

At the current cheapest prices, .223 or 7.62x39m plinking ammo, both would cost me $550 per year. The cheapest hunting cartridge is generally .308 Winchester, costing $800 per year. Both lose dramatically to .22 Long Rifle at less than $150 for a year’s supply!

The Overall Cheapest Rifle Caliber

Cartridge Budget CPR Match or Hunting CPR Reloaded CPR
.22 Long Rifle $0.08 $0.10 N/A (Rimfire)
.17 HMR $0.35 $0.40 N/A (Rimfire)
.223 Remington $0.33 $0.42 $0.43
.22-250 Remington $1.50 $1.85 $0.49
.243 Winchester $1.33 $1.46 $0.50
.260 Remington $1.85 $2.02 $0.56
.270 Winchester $1.16 $1.42 $0.61
.30-30 Winchester $1.50 $1.75 $0.52
.300 Blackout $0.60 $1.50 $0.44
.308 Winchester $0.51 $1.00 $0.57
.30-06 Springfield $1.30 $1.50 $0.62
.300 Winchester Magnum $1.74 $1.74 $0.69
.338 Winchester Magnum $2.95 $5.00 $1.03
.45-70 Government $2.65 $2.96 $0.76
6.5 Grendel $0.65 $1.75 $0.51
6.5 Creedmoor $2.00 $2.00 $0.57
7.62x39mm $0.33 $1.85 $0.52

Note: Prices are from early 2022, aggregated from many websites and excluding remanufactured ammo. Reloaded prices based on starting loads of IMR 4895 powder for most cartridges.

The cheapest rifle caliber to shoot, by far, is .22 Long Rifle.

This venerable rimfire round is light and weak, so there’s little cost by way of raw materials. It’s also popular. Very popular. Which gives it an excellent economy of scale, further driving prices down.

$0.10 per round is my upper limit for plinking .22 lr, though it can be found down to about $0.08.

However, since it’s such a light, low-velocity cartridge, you can’t replace most rifles with a .22 lr version. Don’t go bear hunting or try to win a 1,000 shoot with .22!

This means we need to focus on other rounds to truly answer the question of what’s the cheapest rifle caliber to shoot.

Right now, it’s either .223/5.56×45, 7.62x39mm, or .308/7.62×51.

All of these benefits from a large supply and guaranteed consumption base. A round such as .30-30 Winchester will have a lower material cost than .308, but it can’t approach the same price levels because it’s not manufactured on such a large scale.

Note that this advantage dissolves when reloading enters the picture. The cost, for you, is basically just the materials cost.

So, you can reload even the rare cartridges for about as much as the common ones.

What Disciplines Can You Shoot Cheaply?

22 Caliber Rifle Clip with Bullet
.22 LR ammo is reliably inexpensive and great for plinking.

Certain shooting disciplines cannot be done “cheaply.”

You need to shoot match-grade ammo any time you want to maximize your rifle’s precision.

There’s no way around it. Cheaper ammo is just less accurate than more expensive ammo.

This makes Benchrest shooting, Precision Rifle Series, Bullseye/Precision Pistol, and other such competitions expensive to shoot no matter what.

Even your practice for these events should involve higher-quality ammo.

You can get away with mid-grade ammo for hunting, 3-gun competition, and many other disciplines. If “hits” are what’s essential, not minute-of-angle, then you don’t need to use the best stuff possible.

And, when practicing these disciplines, you can get by with cheap ammo, as long as it’s not too inconsistent.

For casual plinking, short-range target shooting, and drills where you’re focusing on speed rather than precision?

Use the cheapest ammo you can get for your gun that’ll still let it run.

What About Steel Cased Ammo?

There’s a trend toward steel cases for cheap ammo nowadays.

Some people shy away from steel cases, but I say, let them fly.

The main concern people have regarding using steel-cased ammo to save money is how it can accelerate barrel wear. (This is likely from the Eastern Bloc manufacturers using hotter burning powder, causing increased throat erosion, but I digress).

The cheapest brass-cased .223 I can find right now costs $0.08 more per round than steel-cased .223. This saves $80 per 1,000 rounds. AR-15 barrels can last for more than 4,000 rounds, more if you shoot slowly.

$320 saved is enough for two mid-grade replacement barrels.

So, yes, shooting steel-cased ammo still saves you money!

The Cheapest Practical Rifle Calibers

hunter loading his rifle
Because it’s so common, .308 Win is usually easy to find and relatively inexpensive.

Most of the advice above applies to for-fun shooting.

Paper doesn’t care about what type of bullet you’re using, making cheap rifle shooting easy.

But what about those rifles which are for use against the live game?

You don’t want to cheap out when hunting or defending your life. You ALSO don’t want to get a gun that prices you out of being able to hunt.

A rifle I love is my Marlin 1895 GBL. However, it’s chambered in .45-70 Government. That gun’s practice ammo is $2.50 a round! Hunting ammo costs $3 per round or more, which means I don’t take it out much.

So, let’s look at some highly-effective cartridges that won’t bleed your wallet dry.

The Cheapest Rifle Caliber for Big Game Hunting

.308 Winchester wins for being the least-expensive big game hunting round. It’s just too common for any of the specialized hunting rounds to compete.

You can take almost any game in North America with a .308 rifle. Only the biggest animals shrug it off.

If you’re hunting a Grizzly, then your ammo costs are going to be a rounding error on your hunting cost spreadsheet.

Must-read: Best .308 Rifles Reviewed – Bolt-Action, Semi-Auto and Hunting Rifles

The Cheapest Rifle Caliber for Varmint Hunting

While I love small-caliber varmint loads such as .17 HMR and .22 Hornet, .223 Rem is exceedingly common and is, in fact, a varmint round.

It’s not the best varmint round, but it is the least expensive.

The Cheapest Rifle Caliber for Long Range Shooting

Low-volume, high-precision shooting muddles the discussion a bit when it comes to cheap rifle practice.

There’s no such thing as a cheap long-range load. Some are cheaper than others, though.

In my experience, 6.5 Grendel is the best long-range precision round for inexpensive shooting. 6.5 Creedmoor, another common long-range rifle round, always seems to be about $3-$15 more per box.

6mm ARC is about the same price but is less commonly available.

.223 match ammo exists and is cheaper still, but it’s not as long-ranged as these heavier calibers, so I still place 6.5 Grendel as the cheap long-range king.

Related: Best Rangefinders For Long Range Shooters: The Definitive Guide

The Cheapest Rifle Caliber for Self Defense

.223 wins here, too.

I favor .223 as a self-defense round for reasons I’ve covered before.

Price shouldn’t be a consideration for the actual loads you use to defend yourself. Get the best self-defense ammo you can then take advantage of cheap ammo to be well-practiced for if such a bad event comes to pass.

The Cheapest Rifle Caliber to Reload

Rifle cartridges caliber 7.62 x 39 mm on wood
While steel-cased box ammo is usually cheap, don’t count on reloading it.

I remember when 7.62x39mm ammo was cheap enough, it cost you more to reload it than buying new ammo!

That’s not the case anymore.

For most cartridges, reloading equalizes costs.

.30-30 Win and 7.62x39mm both use .30 cal bullets, similar primers, and about as much powder. Provided you have empty cases, which are reusable and thus don’t shift the cost much, these two cartridges will cost about the same to reload.

Calibers are where costs change, though. Larger, heavier bullets tend to cost more than smaller, lighter ones, though bullet prices tend to be in bands.

For example, .358 caliber Hornady InterLock bullets are about $0.12 cheaper per unit than their .270 bullets.

And larger calibers require more powder as well, also increasing costs.

This means that the smallest caliber with the lightest powder load to achieve your goal will be the cheapest caliber for you to reload. This depends heavily on your desires.

For example, this is part of what led me to reload 6.5 Grendel instead of 6.5 Creedmoor for long-range shooting. They both use the same bullets, but my Grendel is cheaper to reload than the Creedmoor and is just as effective at the distances I’m comfortable shooting. If I wanted to push past 1,000 yards, then I’d upgrade to 6.5 Creedmoor.

However, for poking holes in paper, .224 bullets are almost always the cheapest. 60 gr .224 Hornady V-Max bullets cost the same as .20 gr .17 caliber bullets, for example. This makes .223 the cheapest rifle cartridge to reload.

Tips for Cheaper Rifle Shooting

man aiming rifle outdoors
REMINDER: Completely unload your rifle before pulling the trigger when dry firing!

No matter how you spin it, high-volume shooting can be expensive. Here are some methods you can use to maximize your training without feeling like you’re throwing money into a bottomless pit.

#1 Dry Fire Practice

I can’t always get to the gun range. So long as I have access to my guns, though, I can get in some trigger time every day.

Except for recoil management, there’s very little practical difference between pulling the trigger on a full or empty chamber. Most of what makes you accurate—breath control, stance, and trigger control—can be practiced by dry firing your gun.

Careful observation while dry firing your gun can reveal any jerking and allow you to fix this problem before you develop a flinch. This will save you money with real ammo, too, as all the bullets will go where you want them to go.

Make sure your gun is completely unloaded before pulling the trigger, including the magazine. I even have a dedicated dry-fire mag with the spring and follower removed!

Failing to follow the basic rules of firearm safety will be more expensive than any range trip.

#2 Dry Fire Training Systems

Up your dry fire game by using a laser training system such as the LaserLyte Laser Trainer.

These systems make any instability in your aim more obvious. That dot can bounce all over the place!

You can also add targets that react to the laser, though this increases the initial expense.

#3 Use a .22 Long Rifle Adapter

Remember how .22 lr is much cheaper than even the crappiest, cheapest rifle cartridge?

If you have a specific type of gun, you can adapt it to use .22 lr.

I use a CMMG .22 Chamber Adapter, which replaces my AR-15’s bolt carrier group so I can use the cheap stuff while getting real trigger time with that rifle.

You can find .22 adapters for other guns, such as the Advantage Arms Glock 17/22 adapter, or pick up a dedicated .22 lr version.

#4 Accurize Your Cheap Ammo

If you need inexpensive long-range ammo but don’t have the components to load your own, you can apply the “Mexican Match” concept to make lower-quality ammo more accurate.

Much of a cartridge’s contribution to accuracy comes from consistency. Consistent powder throws consistent bullet weights consistent seating pressure.

And consistency is where they cut costs.

The original way of making your own “Mexican Match” ammo was to pull the bullet and replace it with a match bullet.

You can also dump all the powder into a container, measure it, and split it equally back into the primed cases. Wolf ammo can have a powder weight variance of over 5%! Just equalizing powder can be effective in making ammo more consistent.

#5 Have a Secondary Gun in an Uncommon Caliber

As we’ve seen in the past few years, the common cartridges can get bought out quickly. Then the price increases.

Less common cartridges will experience the same phenomenon but more slowly.

There was a time when I couldn’t find .223, 7.62x39mm, or .308, but I could find 6.5 Grendel—and for less than the inflated prices of those other rounds!

Grendel’s price eventually rose as well, but that was well after people with only .223 and .308 rifles cursed me for being able to find cheap ammo.


.22 LR is the cheapest ammo you can buy for a rifle, but it’s not the best choice for many shooters.

Even after prices have inflated, .223 and 7.62x39mm tend to jostle each other for the cheapest intermediate rifle ammo you can buy.

If you want a full-power rifle, then .308 is the cheapest choice.

6.5 Grendel is an excellent middling option; it’s more expensive than .223 but cheaper than .308 or .300 Blackout.

Don’t be that poorly-practiced hunter I mentioned back at the beginning, by the way.

Shooting is a skill and, like any skill, needs consistent practice for you to be effective.

Confidently placing your shot wherever you want will make you a better hunter and increase your chance of a swift one-shot kill that drops the deer where it stands with minimal damage to meat and hides.

The post What’s the Cheapest Rifle Caliber to Shoot? (Most Bangs for Your Bucks) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

What’s the Cheapest Shotgun Gauge to Shoot? (Most Bang per $) Thu, 28 Oct 2021 22:25:15 +0000 It’d be wonderful to live in a world where your budget doesn’t matter when shooting. However, every time you pull the trigger, you send money downrange. If you’re like me and have to think about whether you can spare the money for each purchase then choosing even slightly more expensive ammo can add up over ... Read more

The post What’s the Cheapest Shotgun Gauge to Shoot? (Most Bang per $) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

It’d be wonderful to live in a world where your budget doesn’t matter when shooting.

However, every time you pull the trigger, you send money downrange.

If you’re like me and have to think about whether you can spare the money for each purchase then choosing even slightly more expensive ammo can add up over time.

That said, I recommend shotguns to most people! They’re versatile and can be used for hunting, sporting, and even self-defense (though I prefer other firearms for that).

Modern shotguns are typically found in 12, 16, 20, and 28 gauges, as well as .410.

We all want cheap ammo. Which gauge is the cheapest to shoot regularly?

That depends on how much you shoot, what you shoot, and whether or not you’ll reload your own shells.

Put simply, 12 gauge tends to be cheaper for people who buy all their ammunition. Sub-gauges are cheaper when reloading, with 20 gauge being in the sweet spot of inexpensive and effective.

Read on to learn why I made these conclusions.

Or skip to the end for some quick maths and easy answers!

What Is Shotshell Gauge, Anyway?

“Gauge” is one of those measurements that has a historical meaning lost to most people today.

Basically, it came from measuring the bore size of black powder cannons. Specifically, how much a lead sphere that fills the bore would weigh.

However, instead of using ammo that weighs multiple pounds per shot, the number before the word “gauge” refers to how many bore-sized lead balls it would take to weigh one pound.

So, a 12 gauge barrel can fit a lead sphere that weighs 1/12 pounds. The larger the gauge, the more balls are required to hit one pound.

.410 isn’t a gauge. It’s a caliber, much like rifle ammo.

So, .410 would be about a 67 gauge, and 12 gauge about .73 caliber.

I am not going to discuss 10 gauge in this article because it’s basically a vintage gauge. 3.5″ 12 gauge shells cover 10 gauge’s niche. Niche and budget do not mix.

Related: Shotgun Gauge vs Caliber: Why and How Is It Different?

Why It’s Important to Consider the Price of Ammo & Your Shotgun’s Gauge

Pile of hundreds of empty shotgun shells of various colors

The most expensive part of owning a shotgun is (typically!) not the price of the shotgun itself.

Instead, it’s ammo that racks up the charges on your credit card.

How many rounds do you plan on putting through that new trap gun?

If you’re shooting only one round of trap, that’s 25 shells per week minimum. Take a few weeks off per year and that’s still 1,000 shots per year.

Of course, you may want to shoot multiple rounds per day, or hit the range more than once a week. And sporting clays can involve 100 targets per course.

The last box of Herter’s 20 gauge target ammo I bought from Bass Pro Shops cost me $7.99 per box, or $0.32 per shell.

Without reloading, that’s $320 per year (before tax) of light trap shooting. These are for a used shotgun I picked up for $500, so after two years, I’ll have spent more on ammo than on the shotgun!

And this is a shotgun I expect to last many years.

You should be able to see now why part of your budgeting should be the ammo.

What Makes Certain Gauges Cheaper than Others?

Hull, wad, shot, and powder on a plate
A dismantled shotgun shell shows about how much of each material is used to reload one shell.

Shotshells are made of multiple components:

  • Hull
  • Shot
  • Wad
  • Powder
  • Primer

Larger gauges require more raw materials. A 12 gauge hull needs more plastic than a .410 hull, a 10 gauge shell carries more lead shot than a 28 gauge shell, etc.

Following this, you’d think that the smallest gauges such as 28 or even 32 gauge, plus .410, may be the cheapest ones to shoot.

This isn’t the case if you’re buying ammo off your store’s shelves.

That’s because of the economy of scale. There are many more 12 gauge shotgunners than there are 28 gauge shotgunners.

So, while I could find 28 gauge ammo for sale even during ammo-buying panics, that doesn’t mean they were cheaper.

I just checked the prices of some 12 gauge and 28 gauge ammo, both by the same company. The 12 gauge with 7/8 oz of shot was $8.99.

Want to guess the equivalent 28 gauge’s price?


For 3/4 oz of shot, too!

Which is the Cheapest Shotgun Gauge to Buy?

12 gauge is just so much more popular than any other gauge that it’s almost always going to be the least expensive shotgun ammo you can buy.

This is the case whether you’re buying cheap target rounds in bulk or a single specialty hunting shells to knock down those darn kevlar-armored turkeys in one shot.

Notice that I said, “Almost always.”

I’ve found that 20 gauge ammo is often similarly priced to 12 gauge.

Multiple boxes of cheap 20 gauge shotgun shells
I found these brands to be some of the less expensive 20 ga shells you can buy by the box at my local sporting goods store.

For example, Browning Tungsten Turkey Shotshells are the same price whether you’re shooting 1-3/4 oz out of a 12 gauge gun or 1-1/2 out of a 20 gauge gun. 

You get 1/4 oz less shot in the 20 gauge shotshell but it’s the same price to shoot either.

And 20 gauge is easier to find during runs on ammo, though not as easy as 28 gauge in my experience.

So, you can shoot 20 gauge as economically as 12 gauge. If you are careful when selecting your ammo and don’t mind a little less shot in front of your wad.

Which is the Cheapest Shotgun Shell to Reload?

When you’re into shotgun reloading then sub gauges start to become more economical.

Wads are about the same price between all the gauges. Primers, too.

Powder and lead, though?

You’ll use a bit less powder per charge and a significant amount less lead per shell when you drop several gauges.

It’s hard to overstate how much of an effect this has.

A quarter-ounce difference in lead can gain you 100 more rounds out of a 25-pound bag of lead!

1-1/4 oz of shot gets you 320 loads from one bag. 1 oz gets you 400 shells. And 3/4 oz? A whopping 533 reloads!

25 lb bag of shot laying on a table
When reloading, a bag of shot goes a lot farther with smaller gauges which makes the ammo cheaper.

With the price of lead these days I appreciate squeezing every little bit of value from my money.

You can experiment with this type of price/value calculation yourself by using a reloading calculator. I use the one from

“But wait!” I hear you say.

You can load 12 gauge shells with 3/4 oz shot loads! Doesn’t that make them cheap shotgun shells?”

This is true. The small gauge advantage, if you’re a frugal shotshell reloader, is quite small.

You’ll probably have to spend a few cents on padding out the load with cardboard or fiber discs to get the components to the proper length.

And the initial cost of the reusable hull can take advantage of the economy of scale if you reuse your used shells, too.

Generally, though, the smaller the gauge, the cheaper it is to reload.

I prefer 20 gauge for reloading. It’s not as specialized as 16 or 28 gauge so the components are more common and, thus, cheaper.

It’s also able to comfortably carry less powder and less lead than bigger gauges.

I’m a fan of being environmentally responsible when shooting, which means using non-toxic ammo.

A Note About Shells for Vintage Shotguns

Vintage shotgun laying on table by shotgun shells
I try to be careful with what ammo I shoot through my 1970’s era shotgun, which can mean more expensive.

Since I’m using a mid-70’s shotgun and I don’t know if the barrel can handle steel shot, this means using the expensive non-toxic ammo.

Shotgun barrels used to be made with only lead shot in mind, which meant using softer steels.

The environmental movement lead to the introduction of steel shot, which can be harder than some shotgun barrels. This can lead to bore dings and scuff.

Worse, steel shot doesn’t compress well, which can stress the choke and cause a ring or bulge, potentially leading to a cracked barrel!

All modern-made shotguns are safe to use with steel shot so long as the choke is also steel-rated. Vintage guns should only be used with lead or soft lead-free shot. Bismuth is the best choice in my opinion because tungsten is too close to steel in hardness for comfort.

Hevi-Shot and Federal both produce excellent vintage-shotgun-safe bismuth hunting loads.

Every little bit of money saved here goes even further!

A Note on Reloading Safety

If you come from the world of metallic cartridge reloading then the wheels in your brain are already spinning, trying to come up with your own loads to shoot as cheaply as possible.

Here’s a word of caution:

Reloading shotshells is different from reloading metal cases.

Load development isn’t really a thing for common folks like you or me. That’s because of several factors.

The most important one is that, unlike with a rifle or pistol case, there are no overpressure signs that tell you when you are approaching dangerous pressures.

If you see signs of overpressure after firing your shotgun then you’re already in the danger zone. Lucky you that it didn’t explode!

And the way pressure builds in the wider chamber of a shotgun means that substituting one component for another, such as wads from different manufacturers, can have unexpected results on the peak pressure value.

Hospital visits are expensive, so stick with published load data. Both wad and powder manufacturers offer load data. I use Claybuster wads, so I get my recipes from their website.

What About Reloading Equipment?

Naturally, reloading involves purchasing the tools you need to reload those empty hulls.

This can be a large upfront purchase and should be taken into account when determining whether you should reload or not.

However, your choice of gauge will have little to no effect on the press’s price.

The only exception I’ve seen is the Mec 600JR Shotshell Reloading Press. The 12 and 20 gauge models are $15 cheaper than the .410 and 28 gauge versions.

I tend to roam the nation as much as possible, which means that my reloading kit needs to move with me. So, I have a Lee Load-All 2 Reloader.

It’s light, fits into a smallish box, and more importantly for me, can be easily changed from one gauge to another using an inexpensive conversion kit.

The Load-All isn’t as fast as the bigger, fancier shotshell presses, but it’s inexpensive and works well for me.

It’s bolted to a piece of wood so I can use several clamps to turn anything, even my truck’s tailgate, into a work bench.

Shotshell reloading press mounted on a truck's tailgate
Getting into reloading can be cheaper and easier than you expect. Note the second piece of wood to protect the tailgate’s finish.

Though, I do want to start loading 3/4 oz light loads for those long trap days. The Load-All’s bushings only go down to 7/8 oz. I’ll have to make my own bushing or modify an existing one.

This isn’t a problem I’d have with a more expensive loader like the Mec 600, but fringe desires like that are something to keep in mind when choosing your reloading press.

Does Shotshell Performance Affect Price?

Whether you’re hunting or sport shotgunning, you’ll typically only get one shot per target.

So, technically, I’d say that no, a shotshell’s performance doesn’t affect how much it costs to buy shotgun ammo.

I’ve found high-performance ammo, whether it’s specialty turkey shot or home defense loads, to be roughly equivalent in price between the most common gauges.

Note that this is the price per shell, not per ounce of shot.

The cost savings of reloading heavy-hitting non-toxic hunting shells is counterbalanced by how this type of shot is never found in stores so you will have to pay dearly to get a few pounds shipped to you.

I’ve calculated that it’s still cheaper for me to load my own 20 gauge non-toxic hunting shells than it is to buy them, though it isn’t much savings.

Do Accessories Make Some Gauges Cost More?

New shotgun shell pouches laying on floor

What about other aspects of your shotgun?

Will a 12 gauge shotgun cost more to operate than a 28 gauge shotgun while ignoring ammo?

Not that I’ve seen.

Most shotgunning accessories don’t care what you’re shooting. Your shell pouch doesn’t care if you’re throwing 10 gauge or .410 hulls into it. And your shooting vest doesn’t care what gauge shells it’s packing around.

Even choke tubes are almost always the same price regardless of which gauge shot you’re sending through them.

Overall, Which is the Cheapest Shotgun Shell?

1,000 shells per year is a good round number for a shotgunner who likes to do some trap, skeet, or sporting clays shooting and a little bit of hunting.

If you shoot that many rounds per year, then you’ll spend approximately:

  • 12 Gauge – $360
  • 16 Gauge – $560
  • 20 Gauge – $360
  • 28 Gauge – $600
  • .410 Caliber – $600

(As of the time of writing: Prices presume the cheaper of Herter’s target or dove loads as of late 2021, but don’t include taxes or shipping.)

Then, if you saved all of those hulls and reloaded every one with #8 lead shot bought locally, that would cost you:

  • 12 Gauge (1-1/8 oz) – $266
  • 16 Gauge (1 oz) – $250
  • 20 Gauge (7/8 oz) – $220
  • 28 Gauge (3/4 oz) – $198
  • .410 Caliber (1/2 oz) – $162

(As of the time of writing: Prices include primers, Claybuster wads, and powder, but don’t include hulls, taxes, or shipping.)

Please note that this doesn’t include the price of shipping lead, which can cost as much as the lead itself.

For example, including shipping ups the cost of reloading .410 to $217 and the cost of reloading 12 gauge to $392.

Based on the shipping cost the closest gun store quoted me before saying they would not order the lead. Be sure to scout around and visit other stores because I found another store that did carry lead shot.

Their loss.

Shotgun clubs sometimes order lead in bulk for their members if you need to get shot shipped to you and do not want to pay an exorbitant online shipping fee.

As you can see, buying a more common gauge saves you money, unless you reload, in which case shooting a smaller gauge saves you money.

20 gauge ties with 12 gauge for purchasing expense without giving up utility. I’ll gladly hunt pheasants with a 20 gauge gun, but not with a .410!

What I Recommend

The cheapest shotgun shells you can buy are almost always 12 gauge shells. 20 gauge is often just as cheap, though.

When my wallet starts feeling light I turn to Herter’s or Rio for my inexpensive shotgun shells.

When it comes to reloading, however, the smaller the gauge, the less lead and powder you’ll use, so the less money you’ll spend.

However, since you can load larger gauges with light loads, this isn’t as much of a savings as you’d expect. I know trap shooters who only put 7/8 oz of lead downrange each time they shoot and they still hit 25s.

This can save your shoulder, too.

12 gauge shotguns are heavier than sub-gauge shotguns, which means they’ll absorb more recoil. My 20 gauge over/under kicks harder than my 12 gauge semi-auto shotty!

So, my recommendation for a budget shooter is 12 gauge. It has the largest variety of ammo available and is generally the cheapest shotgun gauge to shoot despite being the largest of the common gauges.

If you want to reload your spent hulls then 20 gauge is more economical. Any smaller and you start to give up too much lead per shot for practical shooting.

Related: Should You Install an Optic on a Shotgun?

The post What’s the Cheapest Shotgun Gauge to Shoot? (Most Bang per $) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

Simple Guide to Reloading Ammo (Beginner 101) Wed, 20 Mar 2019 10:43:15 +0000 Shooting is fun, but it is also incredibly expensive. What if you could save over 50% on ammo and also fire high-quality ammunition? As it turns out, there is a way you can do this: reload your own ammo. Reloading is a very popular hobby in the shooting world, and even those who don’t reload ... Read more

The post Simple Guide to Reloading Ammo (Beginner 101) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.


Shooting is fun, but it is also incredibly expensive.

What if you could save over 50% on ammo and also fire high-quality ammunition?

As it turns out, there is a way you can do this: reload your own ammo.

Reloading is a very popular hobby in the shooting world, and even those who don’t reload have usually at least thought about it.

If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because you are also thinking about reloading your own ammo but don’t know much about the subject.

This article will serve as a fairly brief yet informative guide on the subject of reloading your own ammunition.

We’ll talk about the main benefits to reloading your own ammunition, the types of reloading presses you can use, and then the basic process that you will need to follow to do so.


Why Would You Want to Reload Your Own Ammo?

Here are the top reasons why you might want to reload your own ammo:

Save Money

Saving money

This is probably the first and biggest reason why people consider reloading their own ammo.

But take note that reloading ammo will only save you money over the long term. Up front, you’re going to have a number of start-up costs, including buying the necessary equipment.

Only if you truly commit to reloading your own ammunition over the long term will you save because the cost of reloading each individual round should only be around half the cost of buying that individual round.

Customize Your Own Loads

customized ammo

Aside from saving on money, reloading your own ammo also gives you the opportunity to customize your own loads. For example, you can select your own bullets and their weights and casings.

This means that if you want to get a round with the exact terminal ballistics you desire, reloading your own ammo is undoubtedly the way to do it.

It’s Fun

a person reloading ammo

Last but not least, another reason to reload your own ammunition is because it’s fun. In fact, this is probably the real reason why people who reload their own ammo reload.

Plain and simple, if you don’t actually enjoy the process of reloading, you’re likely not going to do it.

This is why one of the best pieces of advice that you can be given on the subject of reloading will be to practice reloading yourself with a friend or family member.

If you find that you enjoy the process, then consider investing in reloading equipment. But if you don’t enjoy it, then you may want to avoid the expense of purchasing expensive equipment.

In summary, the three main advantages to reloading ammo are:

  1. You can save money
  2. You can create cartridges to your exact specifications
  3. It’s fun!

If you are still unsure on whether you should handload or not, see our full pros/cons articles on DIY reloading.

Types of Reloading Presses

Here are the basic types of reloading presses that you can get for reloading:

Single Stage Press

Single stage press

A single stage press is so named because it only has one die. This means that you will need to switch it out at least twice, for resizing and for bullet seating, as well as for priming the cases (assuming you don’t opt to do so by hand).

Turret Press

Turret Press

A turret press utilizes multiple dies, in contrast to the single stage press. This means that you will not need to swap out each die by yourself, which means that you will save a lot of money.

If your goal is to reload a large amount of ammo in a short amount of time, then the turret press is undoubtedly superior to the single stage press.

Progressive Press

Progressive Press

Last but not least is the progressive press, which also has multiple die stations and multiple places for you to set your brass cases.

If you are unsure what’s the best type for you, take a look at our reloading press reviews.

What is the Process to Reload Your Own Ammo?

bullet case in reloading press

In this section, we will cover the basic process that you will need to follow in order to reload ammo. Keep in mind that this overview is general and not specific to any caliber.

Before we dive into the bullet reloading process, let’s cover the basic parts of a typical cartridge: you have your brass casing, your gun powder, your bullet, and the primer.

The firing pin of the gun will strike the primer, which ignites the gun powder and sends the bullet flying outside of the brass casing.

Make sense?

Understanding this information will also greatly increase your understanding of how the reloading process we are about to discuss works as well.

1. Prep The Case

shell casesThe first thing you need to do when you reload is prep the case.

Each time you fire a bullet out of a shell casing, the resulting explosion causes the brass casing to expand a little bit inside the gun chamber before it is ejected. In other words, a spent shell casing is slightly larger than it originally was. It will also be a lot dirtier as well.

What you will need to do in order to prep the case is both clean it and shrink it. And yes, you can do both.

Start by using a brass tumbler to clean out the cases. This has a lead contamination risk, and the brass tumbler is also very loud, so this should be done outside rather than indoors.

You will also need to bring the brass back to its original specifications. Otherwise, it is not going to feed reliably into your firearm(s) and could be unsafe to shoot.

Start by popping out the primer in the casing after you have cleaned it. This is called depriming the primer. This can also usually be done by simply using a reloading press, so don’t worry about that.

Next, you are going to need to use a reamer to resize the casing. How you do this is dependent largely on the type of casing you have.

There are two different kinds of shell casings:

  • Straight Wall
  • Bottleneck

different type of bullet shells

You should be able to easily visualize what a casing looks like based on those above definitions, if you don’t already know.

Regardless of whether you are using a straight wall or a bottleneck caliber, you will need to run it through a resizing die, which will bring the casing back to its original specifications, in addition to reforming dents and issues with case mouth.

You can run into issues depending on whether you have a straight wall or bottleneck cartridge. Long story short, straight wall shell casings are incredibly easy to resize, most of the time.

The issue is with bottleneck cartridges, or casings that are much narrower towards the bullet and have a “shoulder.” Basically, the shoulder is something you also have to worry about when resizing the casing because you have to resize both the wider and narrower parts of the bullet.

It can still be done, but if you end up cutting off any material from the casing, that casing will probably not be suitable for shooting anymore.

In other words, there is simply more room for error when reloading bottleneck casings over straight wall casings, but both can still easily be done (and are done often).

2. Priming


The next part of the reloading process is known as priming. This step is simple: you can use a hand tool that can fit your primer, or you can use a die on the reloading press as well.

Now it’s time to really get into the fun part.

3. Add Gunpowder

gun powder

Only once the primer has been fully seated into resized shell casings can you add gunpowder (technically it’s smokeless powder).

How much gunpowder you load into your casing is dependent on the caliber. Take note that you can load different loads of gunpowder into the same caliber. For example, it’s very common for 9 mm Luger rounds to have anywhere from 115 to 147 grains of gunpowder in them.

4. Seat The Bullet

All that’s left is to seat the bullet. You’ll need to add a bullet into a die in your reloading press and then press it into the case.

Take note that if the bullet is too wide, you will need to flare the top of the casing.


And that’s it! Make sense? You now know the process to reload your own ammunition.

Again, reloading is an excellent way to shoot for cheap, while also creating bullets to your exact specifications. But it’s also only something that you should do if you truly enjoy the process.

Get some practice reloading with someone else before you commit to buying your own equipment.

Related: What’s the Cheapest Shotgun Gauge to Shoot (Including Reloading Costs)

The post Simple Guide to Reloading Ammo (Beginner 101) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

Should You Reload Ammo? Pros, Cons & When It Makes Sense Wed, 20 Mar 2019 09:57:42 +0000 Anyone who has an interest in firearms or shooting no doubt has at least considered the possibility of reloading their own ammo. There are many reasons why people give at least some consideration to the idea of reloading their own ammo, including but not limited to saving on costs, being more self-sufficient, and simply enjoying ... Read more

The post Should You Reload Ammo? Pros, Cons & When It Makes Sense appeared first on Outdoor Empire.


Anyone who has an interest in firearms or shooting no doubt has at least considered the possibility of reloading their own ammo.

There are many reasons why people give at least some consideration to the idea of reloading their own ammo, including but not limited to saving on costs, being more self-sufficient, and simply enjoying the process.

If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because you are also thinking about reloading your own ammo but are not yet sure about whether you should or not. At the very least, you’re curious about the subject and specifically want to learn more about the pros and cons of reloading your own ammo.

We’ll discuss the various pros and cons of ammo reloading in this article and discuss where and when it makes the most sense.


Is Reloading Your Own Ammo a Necessity?

bullet in reloading press

First of all, let’s get this question out of the way: is reloading your own ammunition truly necessary if you are a gun owner?

The short and simple answer is this: no, it is not. If anything, reloading ammo is merely a hobby. It is not at all a necessity, but it could save you some money in the long run.

What Are the Main Factors that You Need to Consider with Reloading Ammo?

The main factors that you will need to consider with reloading ammo include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

  • Cost savings
  • Cost of reloading equipment and supplies
  • Learning how to reload ammunition
  • The time needed to reload ammo
  • The caliber of ammunition you want or need to reload

Ultimately, the cost of reloading ammo needs to be compared to the cost of buying new ammunition if you want to determine if it’s financially viable for you. And the cost of reloading ammunition is determined by primers, powder, bullets, and brass cases.

Speaking of costs…

What Are the Main Costs Incurred with Reloading Ammo?


Many people want to get into reloading their own ammunition because they believe it will be cheaper than simply buying ammunition.

But this is only partially true because costs vary according to different factors. For example, cost depends on the caliber that you want to reload and how much you actually will be reloading.

Reloading ammunition has a large up-front cost that you will have to contend with, and it can really only be profitable for you over the long run if you really commit to it. Otherwise, reloading ammunition will really just be something fun to do.

Here are the main costs of reloading ammo that you will incur up front:

  • Complete Reloading Kit: $300
  • Reloading Press: $500 to $1,000
  • Primers x100: $35
  • Bullets x1000: $100
  • Brass Casings: $30 to $50
  • Powder: $25

1 – Saving Money (Over The Long Term)

saving money

The first advantage to reloading ammunition, and one of the biggest reasons why people get into it, is to save money. But again, this is something that can only happen over the long term, because you are going to incur a lot of up-front costs in the short term.

That being said, the only ammunition right now that is actually dirt cheap to buy is .22 LR. Other kinds of ammunition, such as 9 mm, .357 Magnum, .45 ACP, .223 Remington, or .308 Winchester, require a fair investment to buy.

How much money can you expect to save over the long term with reloading?

While it depends on the person and also on the caliber and circumstances, let’s consider it this way: right now, the typical box of 50 .357 Magnum rounds would cost you around $30. In contrast to this, reloading 50 .357 Magnum rounds would likely cost you less than 10 bucks.

That’s a significant cost savings margin right there, and it would be even greater if you’re going to be doing a lot of shooting (such as on a daily basis).

2 – You Get Greater Control Over Bullet Quality And Ballistics

time, cost and quality triangle

Another big reason why people get into reloading ammunition is because they have direct control over the ballistics and quality of their ammunition, as they can load them to their exact specifications.

This won’t matter that much to people who just like to casually shoot on the range, but those who want to do more precise shooting over long ranges or who care very much about their ammunition ballistics will definitely want to either:

  1. Use a brand and type of ammunition that they trust
  2. Reload their own ammunition

To put things simply, if you want ammunition that you can fire directly to your exact specifications, reloading your ammo could very well be the way to go.

3 – It’s A Fun Process


Last but not least, reloading is honestly a fun process, as you get to play around and experiment with gunpowder, bullets, shell casings, and fancy equipment.

Honestly, this is probably the real reason why people reload: they simply enjoy it! And to be honest, if you try reloading and find that you don’t enjoy the process at all, you’re probably not going to do it. But if you do enjoy the process of reloading, then it can be something fun for you to do as a neat side hobby.

What Are the Three Biggest Disadvantages to Reloading Ammunition?

Reloading ammunition may have a lot of advantages, but it also has a lot of disadvantages as well.

Reloading ammunition may have a lot of advantages, but it also has a lot of disadvantages as well.

1 – It’s Not Cheaper Over The Short Term


As we covered previously in this article, you can expect to pay up-front costs of at least $1,000 or so in order to get started reloading ammunition. You may even need to spend more than that over the long term, but admittedly those costs will be offset by money saved by not buying your own ammunition.

Reloading ammo only saves you money if you do it over the long term. If you get into ammo reloading for the short term only to find out that you don’t particularly enjoy the process, you’re going to lose money up front.

2 – It Takes Time (And Patience)


Here is something else that you need to know about reloading: it is a very time-consuming process and requires a lot of patience and diligence, not to mention concentration.

You will need to set aside time each week to dedicate to the process of reloading your own ammunition.

3 – It’s Inherently Risky

danger sign

Last but not least, reloading is inherently risky for the simple reason that you’re dealing with gunpowder. You need to ensure that you take all of the proper precautions and are fully knowledgeable on the subject before proceeding. Seeking hands-on experience with someone who reloads regularly would be wise.


In conclusion, reloading will be a good option for you if you enjoy the process and really want to save money over the long term.

If the time investment isn’t worth the monetary savings, and if you don’t enjoy the process of reloading, then reloading your own ammunition may not be the best option for you.

The best advice that can be given to you is this: if you aren’t sure if reloading is right for you but want to try it, try to find someone who reloads regularly (preferably a close friend or family member) and ask them to provide you with some training and hands-on experience.

If you find that you enjoy the process, then investing in your own reloading equipment should make a lot of sense.

The post Should You Reload Ammo? Pros, Cons & When It Makes Sense appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

]]> 1
10 Best Reloading Presses Reviewed (Beginner Kits to Advanced) Wed, 20 Mar 2019 09:33:49 +0000 American gun owners have been reloading their own ammunition for generations. Currently, 5 million out of the 43 million hunters and sport shooters in the United States take part in this activity. Some see it as a relaxing hobby, while others do it purely to reduce costs. Moreover, D.I.Y ammo far exceeds its mass-produced counterpart ... Read more

The post 10 Best Reloading Presses Reviewed (Beginner Kits to Advanced) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

American gun owners have been reloading their own ammunition for generations. Currently, 5 million out of the 43 million hunters and sport shooters in the United States take part in this activity. Some see it as a relaxing hobby, while others do it purely to reduce costs.

Moreover, D.I.Y ammo far exceeds its mass-produced counterpart in almost every way. For example, you can increase your overall accuracy, cut your ammunition costs in half, and increase reliability.

Many components go into handloading, but one of the most important and most expensive items you will purchase is a reloading machine. With the thousands of varieties on the market, it is important to know what is best and, more importantly, what is best for you.

Here are some of the top reloading presses for every skill level.

DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Links in this article are affiliate links. If you click on a link we may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The 10 Best Reloading Presses Reviewed

Here is a list of the best reloading presses:

  1. Best Progressive Presses #1: Hornady Lock N’ Load
  2. Best Progressive Presses #2: Lee Precision Load Master 45
  3. Best Progressive Presses #3: Dillon Precision 16940 XL 650 223
  4. Best Turret Presses #1: Lee Precision Classic Turret Press
  5. Best Turret Presses #2: RCBS Turret Press
  6. Best Turret Presses #3: Lyman T-Mag Turret Press
  7. Best Single Stage Presses #1: RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme
  8. Best Single Stage Presses #2: Redding Big Boss 2
  9. Best Single Stage Presses #3: Forster Co-Ax
  10. Best Reloading Kit For Beginners #1: RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master
CategoryBest ProgressiveBest TurretBest Single Stage Press
ProductHornady Lock N’ Load
Hornady Lock N’ Load
LEE PRECISION Classic Turret Press
Lee Precision Classic Turret Press
RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme
RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme

  • High quality

  • Middle-of-the-road price

  • Clean powder drop

  • Quick-change die system

  • Good finish on projectiles

  • Easy to set up

  • Made of durable, high-quality materials

  • 2-year quality warranty

  • O-frame press

  • Priming on the press

  • Produces outstanding benchrest accuracy


  • Prone to jamming

  • Best for experienced users

  • Wooden lever prone to cracking or breaking

  • Inefficient, quick-change die feature

  • More expensive than most single stage presses

PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

1. Best Progressive Presses #1

Hornady Lock N’ Load
  • High quality
  • Middle-of-the-road price
  • Clean powder drop
  • Quick-change die system
  • Prone to jamming
  • Best for experienced users
View on Amazon View at Optics Planet
08/16/2023 04:25 am GMT

Compare prices at: Sportsman’s Warehouse, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Brownells

The Hornady Lock N’ Load is a heavy-duty, easy-to-use progressive press that will greatly increase your efficiency with every reload.

It provides you with a five-station, auto-indexing feature as well as the EZject System from Hornady, which ensures each cartridge is ejected upon completion. After the initial adjustment, you could produce up to 600 rounds per hour!

Additionally, the case-activated powder drop will not release powder until there is a case attached to the holder. The feature that really streamlines the process though is its quick-change system that simplifies the process of changing out dies with a single twist.

FEATURES: auto indexing, EZject System, Lock N’ Load bushing design, quick-change system, optional accessories, large multi-round hopper, case-activated powder drop, universal bullet case retainer spring; dimensions: 20 x 14 x 11 inches; weight: 29 pounds

This product is the perfect fit for those who have outgrown their single stage press but aren’t ready to empty their pocketbook on an upgrade.

This should provide you with a simple transition that works for multiple calibers and can provide you the confidence that you are still buying a quality device.

2. Best Progressive Presses #2

Lee Precision Load Master 45
  • Less expensive
  • Top-of-the-line features
  • Ability to transition
  • Lightweight frame
  • Prone to jamming
  • Can have issues with seating primers
  • Slight problems with powder measure
View on Amazon View at Optics Planet
08/16/2023 04:45 am GMT

Compare prices at: Brownells

The Lee Precision Load Master is one of the highest-quality progressive presses that you can get at an affordable price. The low price, however, does not mean you will be sacrificing features.

After a little patience and practice, you could be producing up to 400 rounds per hour with the five progressive stations, allowing you to perform up to five functions at once.

You can easily change from caliber to caliber using the removable turret head, and the powder measure system will help to ensure a clean workspace with little waste.

This press is also compatible with a wide range of die sizes, so you won’t feel constrained.

FEATURES: Quick-change tool head, cast aluminum body, both automatic and manual indexes, five stations, removable turret head, powder measure system; dimensions: 19 x 11 x 10 inches; weight: 6.61 pounds

If you are new to reloading, or if it is your first stage of upgrading to a more efficient system, the Lee Precision Load Master is a perfect fit. Not only is it the cheapest progressive press for the quality, but the manual and automatic indexes also allow you to move from beginner to skilled without the added cost.

3. Best Progressive Presses #3

Dillon Precision 16940 XL 650 223
  • Sturdy, reliable structure
  • Sigh efficiency
  • Gigh efficiency
  • Automatic powder measurer
  • Expensive
  • Motor for case feeder not included
View on Amazon

Leading the pack in progressive presses is the Dillon Precision 650XL. The sheer number of accessories and component feeders could make up their own category.

This is probably why the 650XL is the most popular choice to automate, potentially producing thousands of rounds per hour. The design is made to load common rifle and handgun cartridges.

Of course, with a product of this caliber, it’s easy to see why the quality, warranty, and customer service far exceed its counterparts.

FEATURES: quick-change tool heads, automatic indexing, five-station loader, mechanically indexed shell plate, mechanically inserted cases, manually fed bullets

This product is for remanufactured ammunition aficionados. In fact, many professionals who sell their rebuilt bullets turn to the Dillon Precision XL.

You will expect to drop more than $600.00 on this industry-leading reloading equipment, but you’ll be able to produce 800 to over a 1,000 rounds per hour with aftermarket accessories and proper practice.

4. Best Turret Presses #1

Lee Precision Classic Turret Press
  • Good finish on projectiles
  • Easy to set up
  • Made of durable, high-quality materials
  • 2-year quality warranty
  • Wooden lever prone to cracking or breaking
View on Amazon View at Optics Planet
08/16/2023 04:49 am GMT

Compare prices at: Brownells

The Lee Precision Classic Turret is an award-winning press with all of the basic necessities for any intermediate reloader. An easy change turret plate allows for an uncomplicated switch between calibers, and the four stations help with reloading various die sets.

A large clearance area facilitates work on some of the largest rifle cases, and its durable cast iron design gives it the capability to work under pressure while reloading batches of shell casings.

You will feel comfortable with this purchase after reading its outstanding reviews and knowing that you are covered under a two-year quality warranty.

FEATURES: four-station loader, auto-indexing, primer arms, cast iron frame, high clearance, solid steel linkage, long hardwood grip lever

The Lee Precision Turret press is a great option for both novices and intermediates alike. While you won’t be producing mass quantities of ammunition as seen in the progressive presses, you will be producing a high-quality product that you can gear to your needs.

5. Best Turret Presses #2

RCBS Turret Press
  • Ambidextrous handle
  • Quick-change tool head
  • Cast iron frame
  • No auto-indexing feature
  • Maximum production of 50-200 rounds per hour
  • Initial set up can be complicated
View on Amazon View at Optics Planet
08/16/2023 05:50 am GMT

Compare prices at: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Brownells

The RCBS Turret is the perfect reloading press for the intermediate hand loader. You will be able to set up multiple die combinations using the six-station turret head and can work on three different stages in the reloading process: priming, depriming, and sizing.

It’s cast iron design gives you the durability you need for high-volume production, and a quick-change tool head will make you efficient while switching between calibers.

The cost also fits the product, being cheaper than a progressive press but a little more expensive than single stage models.

FEATURES: six-station loader, ambidextrous handle, cast iron frame, quick-change tool head, can be operated in progressive or single stage mode; dimensions: 16.5 x 5.5 x 6 inches; weight: 19.44 pounds

The RCBS Turret Press is a great match for the reloading hobbyist with some experience in the field. This press will produce enough ammunition to keep the average shooter satisfied between trips to the range. And at a fair price, you know you are getting a press with longevity.

6. Best Turret Presses #3

Lyman T-Mag Turret Press
  • Rustproof iron frame
  • Works on all standard size dies
  • Works for both pistol and rifle cartridges
  • Dies are not included
  • Manual priming
  • Thin, plastic catcher tray
View on Amazon View at Brownells

This sturdy, middle-of-the-road turret press from Lyman will up production for a marginal cost. The iron frame with rustproof finish will ensure the longevity of your investment, and the six-station turret head will allow for an easy switch between dies.

Lyman is a lightweight, top-of-the-line brand that lets you easily transform your kitchen table into a workshop.

FEATURES: six-station turret head, ambidextrous handle, multipurpose turret handle, iron frame, rustproof finish, primer catcher, priming arm; dimensions: 6.2 x 9.2 x 16.8 inches; weight: 8.82 pounds

This is the perfect option for intermediate reloaders that are looking for something lightweight, easy to use, and simple to maintain.

Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to produce 200-300 rounds per hour of high-quality, accurate ammunition to up your handgun and rifle game.

7. Best Single Stage Presses #1

RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme
  • O-frame press
  • Priming on the press
  • Produces outstanding benchrest accuracy
  • Inefficient, quick-change die feature
  • More expensive than most single stage presses
View on Amazon View at Optics Planet
08/16/2023 06:05 am GMT

Compare prices at: Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops

In the simplified world of single stage presses, the RCBS Rock Chucker reigns supreme. This O-frame reloading press will give you outstanding benchrest accuracy at a minimal price.

It’s cast iron body will won’t deteriorate, and at only 20 pounds, you can make any space your workspace. Unlike other single stage presses, the RCBS has easy priming on the press feature and the ability to accommodate longer rifle cartridges. You may also use this press for reforming brass for wildcat rounds.

FEATURES: O-frame, cast iron design, quick-change die, lengthened body, priming on the press, ambidextrous handle; dimensions: 20 x 15 x 10 inches; weight: 20.2 pounds

While the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme is marketed as a beginner press, its simplistic design and sturdy frame are great for even the most experienced long-range shooter.

This is due to the necessary attention to detail that must go into making every bullet. You will need to hand measure and assemble each component, significantly increasing your accuracy and reliability (with little practice).

8. Best Single Stage Presses #2

Redding Big Boss 2
  • 3.8-inch ram stroke
  • Cast iron frame
  • Visibility offset
  • No quick-change die system
  • Mostly for large cartridges or magnum rifle loads
View on Amazon View at Optics Planet
08/16/2023 06:15 am GMT

Compare prices at: Brownells

While similar to the RCBS, the Redding Big Boss 2 single stage press has a few features that set it apart from the pack. This solid cast iron O-frame press is offset by 36 degrees, which increases visibility when working with cartridges of all sizes.

The usable ram stroke of 3.8 inches is among the longest in any single stage press. These features help tremendously when you consider this press was made specifically for larger cartridges or loading magnum rifle loads.

FEATURES: 3.8-inch ram stroke, O-frame, cast iron design, 36-degree offset, fitted bushing for different die sizes; dimensions: 15 x 7 x 7 inches; weight: 16 pounds

The Redding Big Boss 2 is great for beginner to professional rifle shooters. As many of the single stage presses, it will greatly increase the accuracy and reliability of your ammunition and is specifically tailored to long-range gunsmiths.

While it may be more expensive than some single stage presses, it is easily affordable when you think of the price for the quality.

9. Best Single Stage Presses #3

Forster Co-Ax
  • 3x mechanical advantage
  • Floating guide rods
  • Snap in/snap out quick-change die system
  • High price
  • Not a standard frame
View on Amazon View at Optics Planet
08/16/2023 06:22 am GMT

The Forster Co-Ax single stage press doesn’t fit the standard—in a good way. This press fits neither the O- or C-frame design, giving it the ability to provide you with three times the mechanical advantage of any other single press.

It’s included snap in/snap out quick-change die system and floating guide rods ensure that you will be producing superb ammunition with little to no physical effort.

Also, this product features a unique top priming device that perfectly seats primers to factory specifications, meaning no flipping or tipping.

FEATURES: steel and cast-iron frame, floating guide rods, 3x mechanical advantage, quick-change die system

If you lack the strength or dexterity to manually operate most single stage presses, or just don’t want the unnecessary wrist strain of operating a press, Forster thought of you.

This somewhat expensive press gives you three times the mechanical advantage and can allow you the simplicity of resizing using the force of a single finger. You can have all of the high-quality features of most single presses without the added work.

10. Best Reloading Kit For Beginners #1

RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master Reloading Kit
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Easy installation
  • High-quality, long lasting material
  • Does not include a mounting plate
  • Does not include reloading dies or shell holders
View on Amazon View at Optics Planet
08/16/2023 06:41 am GMT

Compare prices at: Brownells, Palmetto State Armory

If you are new to reloading and want to get almost everything you need in one purchase, consider the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme reloading kit.

This kit is considered the primary foundation of reloading operations throughout the world. It will unlock the mysteries of reloading with its reloading guide and have you up and running within an afternoon.

Plus, you will have the advantage of having an RCBS product with a large potential for add-ons and accessories to make the reloading process specific to your needs.

FEATURES: RCBS Rock Chucker press, 505 reloading scale, uniflow powder measure, hand-priming tool, case loading block, deburring tool and hex key, case lube kit, 2 ounce bottle of case lube, case lube pad, two case neck brushes (.22 and .30 calibers), powder funnels, spear reloading manual

Considered the best option for the reloading beginner, this kit will give you virtually everything you need to start reloading in one afternoon.

Don’t go through the hassle of trying to buy each item individually just to realize you are missing an important piece. It is important to keep things simple, especially when starting out.

Related: What’s the Cheapest Shotgun Gauge to Shoot

Types Of Reloading Presses Explained!

There are three primary types of reloading presses that you should know: progressive reloading presses, turret presses, and single stage presses.

Progressive Reloading Press

Progressive Reloading Press

The progressive reloading press is designed to create a new reloaded round for each cycle of the lever.

The progressive reloading press accomplishes this by utilizing what is called a shell plate, which can hold multiple cases at once.

When you push down on the lever, several processes happen simultaneously as the shell plate turns so that each shell is prepared for the next operation. The completed round will then be sent into a bin to be collected later.

The progressive reloading press is arguably the be best type of reloading press if you have to reload ammunition for semi-automatic firearms that use ammunition quickly, such as pistols, AR-15s, or AK-47s.

However, progressive reloading presses are also more complex and expensive, which means that if you don’t need to reload ammunition in bulk, they are not the best choice.


  • Excellent choice if you want to reload multiple rounds quickly
  • Completed rounds are collected
  • Best option for pistol and semi-automatic rifle shooters


  • Not the best choice for beginners
  • More expensive than single stage presses
  • Additional time is required for caliber changeovers

Turret Press

Turret Reloading Press

The turret press is very similar to a single stage press in that only one die acts per cartridge.

But the difference between a single stage press and a turret press is that the turret press can hold multiple dies at once. This means that you can manually switch from one die to the next very quickly, which in turn means that you can reload more ammunition at once.

At the same time, turret presses also have more flex and less precision than a single stage press.


  • Faster than the single stage press


  • Less precise than a single stage press

Single Stage Press

Single Stage Reloading Press

The simplest kind of reloading press, by far, is the single stage press. This press only holds one die at a time and is typically built on a very rigid frame.

The die are screwed into an opening at the top of the press, with a shell holder attached to the ram to hold the cartridge case.

Each time you press down on the lever, the ram will raise to reload. Priming needs to be done separately using a hand priming set up.


  • Simplest and easiest type of reloading press to use
  • Most inexpensive kind of reloading press
  • Built on a rigid frame


  • Poor choice for reloading ammunition in bulk

How To Choose?

The reloading press is the most important and most expensive items you invest in when you decide to become a reloader. Therefore, diligent research and evaluation of your individual needs is very important.

Are you wanting to produce a high volume of ammunition? What caliber will you mostly be working in? What are your cost constraints?

Gun Types

Different types of guns

That being said, the first condition you want to look at is the types of guns you will be reloading. For example, if you are solely loading for handguns, having high clearance for longer cartridges shouldn’t be a concern during purchase.

On the other hand, if you are primarily loading rifle rounds, you may want to look at something like the classic RCBS Rock Chucker. The rigid design of this single stage press and slower loading style give you the accuracy needed for long-range shooting.

Volume of Production

Ammunition volume

It is also important to evaluate how much ammunition you intend to produce against how much experience you have as a reloader. With a progressive press, you will have the ability to produce thousands of rounds per hour.

However, these are also the most expensive presses on the market, and if you are only shooting once a week or once every two weeks, they are somewhat impractical. Further, the progressive presses are somewhat complicated to use and don’t have much wiggle room for error.

The best option for the average shooter, even novice or an intermediate reloaders, is the turret press. With these, you can produce anywhere from 100-500 rounds per hour, with less practice time.

They are not high in cost and can be equipped with aftermarket accessories to cover a range of calibers and increase production rates.

Brand and Warranty


As with any expensive product you buy, you will want to consider customer reviews, warranties, and brand longevity. When I say brand longevity, I mean buying from a company that has been on the market for a while.

A reloading press is a long-term investment, and you do not want to make it four years in and no longer be able to buy accessories when you are ready to upgrade.

Also, a warranty isn’t a warranty without the customer service to back it up. You may find a product with a lifetime warranty, but when a piece breaks and it takes you years to get a response from customer service, that warranty doesn’t mean much.

Dillon is a great brand that regularly receives commendations on their customer service.

Price and Skill Level

Price Tag

The price of your reloading press will likely correlate with the skill level you have upon purchase. The simple guide is as follows. The single stage press is going to be your cheapest option and is great for novices. It also produces highly-accurate ammunition.

The turret press is for newbies and intermediate level loaders alike. It is a little more expensive and takes practice and patience but greatly increases your production levels.

The most expensive is the progressive press. This device is mainly for the experts and professionals that have paid their dues on the slower presses and are ready to greatly increase their output.

Best Reloading Press Brands


rcbs logo vector

RCBS is a long-recognized brand for pistol and rifle reloading products that became a part of Vista Outdoors in 2015. RCBS’s 80 years of experience as a producer of high-quality reloading equipment cannot be matched.

They are constantly manufacturing the finest and most efficient precision-engineered (or “precisioneered”) products that flawlessly meld the old and the new.

All products are made with heavy-duty, cast iron materials that ensure quality and longevity. And their pride in their products shows, as they back them up with excellent warranties and astute customer service.

These aren’t just ravings from RCBS, but the customers that repeatedly give five-star ratings over the entire range of their products. The brand loyalty can be seen as people boast about continuing to use their first press bought 56-60 years prior.

One reviewer even wrote, “This press is built like a brick outhouse. It won’t be wearing out anytime soon. It’s also very precise. The threading, the moving parts… it’s all good.”

While their products lean on the more expensive side, they are definitely worth the one-time fee for a lifetime of positive experiences.

2. Lee

lee precision logo 1

The closest contender in the match for best reloading products has to be Lee Precision. With over 70 years of experience in the field, this record-breaking company is always willing to innovate and move with the times.

But they always stick to a tight standard that they state as: 1) Does it fill a real need or is it better than any other product available? 2) Can it be produced at an affordable price? 3) Would I buy one?

Without a “yes” to all three questions, the product will never make it to market. These standards also make Lee the most affordable in reloading products for pistols and rifles. They deliver top-of-the-line products without the painful charges.

Their affordability is achieved by using lightweight cast aluminum to construct a body that is nowhere near the price of cast iron. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t as sturdy. The tough powder coat finish keeps the product strong and durable throughout its lifetime.

If you don’t think that is possible, you may want to check out their warranty policies. Every product automatically comes with a two-year “no questions asked” warranty, along with a limited lifetime warranty. Also, unlike many manufacturers they offer a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.

With those types of guarantees it is easy to see why their customers are so pleased.

3. Hornady

Hornady logo image

Hornady has strong roots in the American culture, shooting off from the Hornady Sporting Goods line back in 1949.

WWII had ended, and the country was returning to peace, but people were still looking for accurate, deadly, dependable bullets they could afford to reload. Joyce Hornady understood this so much that “Accurate, deadly and dependable” became their first slogan.

Now, Hornady continues to adhere to its motto while manufacturing exceptional ammunition, bullets, and reloading products. While their prices may be higher than others, you can feel comfort knowing that their products will exquisitely accomplish their intended purpose.

The proof is in the pudding, though. By this I mean that every Hornady reloading product comes with all of the bells and whistles the brand has patented.

Their unique structures and patented features like the EZject system aren’t found in any other manufacturers’ product. However, Hornady also provides accessories that can be added on to presses that are not their own.

While they do have some minor imperfections, such as a primer seating in their single stage press that wears out easily, the overall product still wins out regularly and receives top-notch reviews.


Where should I mount a reloading press?

You will want to mount your press on a sturdy workbench or table, ensuring plenty of room for your feet and elbows to move around.

You will also want to leave a minimum of 8 to 10 inches all the way around your workspace so you have room for all of your components. Also, make sure that there is room above the press so it can fully extend.

After you have found a space to fit these parameters, clamp down the press and drill the appropriately sized holes through the bench and bolt it into place.

The other option is to simply mount your press using C-clamps.

What is auto-indexing on a reloading press?

When you are indexing, you are moving the dies (or casings) to the next position in the reloading process. Auto-indexing (usually found on turret presses or above) means that you will automatically advance to the next step without having to manually move or reposition the die.

What reloading press do the pros use?

The types of reloading presses used by the pros are as diverse as the presses themselves. However, for the professional hand-loaded ammunition producer, the Dillon XL650 is a top choice.

Long-range rifle shooters tend to lean on the side of single stage presses that increase their overall accuracy.

The post 10 Best Reloading Presses Reviewed (Beginner Kits to Advanced) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

Basic Bullet Sizes, Calibers, and Types, Explained! Wed, 27 Feb 2019 10:39:35 +0000 There is a vast array of bullets out there, described with terminology such as “.30 cal” and “HPBT.” All of these fancy words can be confusing to people who are new to firearms. I’m here to cut through that confusion and explain the difference between bullets, calibers, and cartridges. I’ll also cover the different types ... Read more

The post Basic Bullet Sizes, Calibers, and Types, Explained! appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

There is a vast array of bullets out there, described with terminology such as “.30 cal” and “HPBT.” All of these fancy words can be confusing to people who are new to firearms.

I’m here to cut through that confusion and explain the difference between bullets, calibers, and cartridges. I’ll also cover the different types of bullets, so you’ll know what to feed your gun.

Let’s start with the most basic part: what is a bullet, anyway?

What is a bullet?

bullet fired from pistol

The bullet is the projectile fired from the gun.

“Bullet” doesn’t refer to the item you load into the gun’s chamber, however. That would be “cartridge” or “round.” You have to assemble a bullet with a case, primer, and gunpowder to get a cartridge. Bullets by themselves don’t do much—unless you have a particularly good throwing arm!

The word “bullet” comes from the French word “boullet,” which means “small ball.” Modern bullets come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Three factors determine whether or not a bullet will fit your gun: caliber, shape, and weight.

Most bullets are made of lead or another soft metal. Many are encased in a jacket of copper or another hard metal.



The word “caliber” refers to the diameter of a gun barrel and/or the projectile used with that barrel. So, a .30 caliber bullet is generally approximately .308 inches wide.

Differences in measuring caliber muddle the waters somewhat. For example, both .38 Special and .357 Magnum can be used in a gun marked for .357 Magnum!

That’s because some rifled bores have both lands and grooves. Some cartridges are measured from land-to-land and others are measured from groove-to-groove. Also, some older ammunition was measured using the case’s base diameter, not the bullet. As a result, bullets for the .38 Special have a diameter of .357 inches.

Because of this discrepancy, it’s important to pay attention to what ammo you are using. The .303 British and .308 Winchester are both .30 cal rounds, but the former’s bullet diameter is .311 inches and the latter’s bullet diameter is .308 inches.

These tiny differences do not affect performance that much, but they can have devastating consequences if you load a .311 bullet into a gun designed for .308 bullets!

Also, different rounds can have the same caliber but not be compatible. For instance, .308 Winchester and .300 Blackout rifles both use the same caliber bullet, but the case is very different so they are not compatible.

Related: Shotgun Gauge vs Caliber: Why and How Is It Different?


different bullet shapes

The earliest bullets were round lead balls, but eventually, it was discovered that a pointed shape is more aerodynamic.

The bullet’s shape can have a massive effect on performance. Different shapes have different aerodynamic profiles and also behave differently when striking a target.

This is where lots of additional terminology gets thrown into the mix. Frustratingly, the ammo box rarely has more than an acronym describing the bullet’s shape!

Most modern bullets have a pointed tip and an overall boat-like shape. Differences between bullets generally come from varying tip shapes, though some manufacturers change the bottom of the bullet as well.

You’ll find explanations for most common bullet shapes below.

Pistol bullets tend to be shorter and wider than rifle bullets, which tend to be long and thin. Generally, the longer the bullet, the better its aerodynamics. Pistol bullets make up for a lack of long-range performance by having enough mass to be devastating at shorter ranges. Speaking of weight and mass…


A man demonstrating a bullet

A bullet’s weight is generally given in grains, though grams are sometimes used.

Heavier bullets are longer than lighter bullets in the same caliber. This increases their aerodynamic profile. The added mass also helps increase momentum, so the bullet retains velocity further down range and hits harder.

However, heavier bullets have lower muzzle velocity than lighter bullets, which means they start off slower. They also produce more recoil and the added length can sometimes cut into the case’s powder capacity.

Lighter bullets start off with a higher muzzle velocity and kick less than more massive bullets. They’re cheaper, too.

The Ten Most Common Calibers

Now, let’s look at some of the most common calibers in use today.


.22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire

The most common .22 round, by far, is the venerable .22 Long Rifle. It’s a rimfire cartridge that’s tiny and economical, making it popular with plinkers and other recreational shooters. The extremely light recoil also makes it excellent for teaching people the art of shooting.

However, .22 bullets are so small and light that they are a poor choice for hunting anything larger than a squirrel.

Example cartridges: .22 Long Rifle, .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire

.224 / 5.56mm

5.56x45mm NATO

The .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO are the most common .224 caliber cartridges in use today. 5.56 are designed for slightly higher pressures than the .223 Rem, so you can use .223 in a 5.56 gun but not vice versa.

These rounds are almost universally light and fast. This makes them an excellent home defense choice, especially with frangible bullets, because drywall will cause them to deflect or fragment and lose their velocity quickly.

For hunting, .224 bullets are best against varmints and other small game. Some loadings can be used against deer, but you’ll need excellent shot placement and not all localities allow hunting deer with .224 bullets.

Example Cartridges: .218 Bee, .223 Remington, 5.56×45 NATO, .220 Swift

.260 / 6.5mm

.260 Remington

This caliber is commonly used for long-range competition and hunting. Bullets in this caliber are in the sweet spot for small groups at extreme ranges. Larger calibers have more arc from their weight, while smaller calibers have worse momentum.

Example Cartridges: .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmore, 6.5 Grendel

.284 / 7mm

7x57mm Mauser

This caliber is a common hunting caliber because most cartridges are capable of ethically taking any animal in North America.

Example Cartridges: .280 Remington, 7mm-08 Remington, 7x57mm Mauser

.30 / 7.62mm

.300 Blackout.30 cal is one of the most common calibers used in both hunting and military applications.

The .30-30 Winchester first came out over a hundred years ago, in 1895, and was the United State’s first smokeless hunting cartridge.

It is effective for deer without being too heavy or expensive.

Also, the US military has a history of using .30 cal ammunition. First was the .30-06 Springfield, followed by the .308 Winchester. The .308 Win is very similar to the 7.62x51mm NATO round except that it is designed for slightly higher pressures. You can use 7.62 NATO ammo in a .308 Win gun, but not the other way around.

.30 cal bullets are less effective at extreme ranges compared to slightly smaller calibers, but they are still very effective at most hunting distances.

Example Cartridges: .30-30 Winchester, .300 Blackout, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield


9mm Luger

The 9mm caliber is most famous because of a single round: the 9×19 Parabellum, aka 9mm Luger.

The 9mm Parabellum is perhaps the most commonly used handgun cartridge in the world. 9mm pistols can have huge capacities while not being noticeably weaker than larger calibers. It is engaged in a long rivalry with the heavier yet slower .45 caliber.

Example Cartridges: 9mm Luger, 9mm Mauser

.38 / .357

.357 Magnum

.357 caliber bullets are sometimes considered a slight upgrade to 9mm rounds, as they are slightly larger and often have a bit more powder capacity.

The .357 Magnum is an old yet still well-regarded revolver round that can be used for hunting. The .38 Special cartridge is older and weaker but fits in .357 Magnum guns, and is often used for target practice. Make sure not to put a .357 cartridge into a .38 Special gun, though!

Example Cartridges: .38 Super, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .357 Sig

.40 / 10mm

.40 Smith & Wesson

Though not as popular as 9mm or .45 ACP, .40 cal pistols are still popular. They hit harder than 9mm and can hold more rounds than .45, which makes them a good compromise between the two.

Example Cartridges: .40 Smith & Wesson, 10mm Auto


.45 Long Colt

This caliber is most famous because of the Colt m1911, a gun which popularized semi-automatic pistols and is still loved today.

.45 bullets are not the fastest but they have lots of mass, so they hit hard. Their large size reduces magazine capacity, however.

Example Cartridges: .45 ACP, .45 GAP, .45 Long Colt


.50 Action Express

Half an inch wide is about the largest you’ll see most civilian firearms. Any .50 cal gun, whether it’s a Desert Eagle pistol or Barrett M82, is going to recoil hard and hit even harder. (Keep in mind that even the bullets are the same caliber, those pistols and rifles use different ammo!)

.50 cal pistol rounds and the .50 Beowulf can be used to hunt most game in the United States. .50 BMG rifle rounds are overkill against anything a civilian will shoot and are most commonly used for the fun of it.

Example Cartridges: .50 Action Express, .50 Beowulf, .50 BMG, .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum

Common Bullet Types

Most modern bullets have a flat or rounded base, a wide middle, and a narrow or pointed top. This gives an optimal aerodynamic profile and allows the bullet to travel further before losing velocity and stability.

Bullet types are often given in acronyms and can include several different selections from the following list. For example, HPBT refers to a bullet with both a “hollow point” and a “boat tail.”

Armor Piercing (AP)

Armor Piercing (AP)

An AP bullet has a hardened penetrator or other design feature to help it travel through armor. There are few civilian uses for AP bullets, and the hard penetrator can make sparks and ignite dry grass, so AP ammo is rarely used outside of military or police applications.

Ballistic/Polymer Tip

Ballistic Tip

Ballistic or polymer tips were invented to combine the accuracy of spritzer pullets with the expansion potential of hollow points. This type of bullet is essentially a hollow point with a polymer tip. These are popular and effective for hunting.

Boat Tail (BT)

Boat Tail (BT)A boat tail curves the bottom of the bullet. This makes the air less turbulent so the bullet stays more stable than a bullet than a flat base. You often see BT bullets used for long-range competitions.



Frangible bullets are designed to fall apart on impact. They are designed for self-defense purposes so as to minimize the chance of accidentally harming a bystander.

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)

full metal jacket

FMJ bullets have a metal jacket that encases the entire bullet (or all of it except for the base).

In military parlance, FMJ is often called ball ammo.

Hollow Point (HP)

Hollow Point (HP)Hollow point bullets do not come to a point; instead they have a cavity atop the bullet. For pistol or hunting bullets, this increases the bullet’s expansion when it hits the target.

Match HP bullets have a much smaller hollow point that aids in bullet manufacturing consistency, so there is less deviation between shots. These hollow points are for target-use only and are ineffective at creating expansion.

Jacketed (J)

Jacketed (J)

A jacket is a hard metal that encases some or all of the softer inner core of a bullet.

Round Nose (RN)

Round Nose (RN)

A bullet with a round nose is not as aerodynamic as a bullet with a pointed tip. However, they are known for hitting harder, and so are often used in hunting ammunition.

Soft Point (SP)

Soft Point (SP)

A soft point bullet has the soft inner core exposed at the tip. The idea is to be more aerodynamic than a hollow point bullet but maintain a similar potential for expansion.



Spritzer bullets come to a fine point at the tip of the bullet. They are the most technically accurate bullets, especially when combined with a boat tail, but may not be as consistent as match hollow point bullets.

Very Low Drag (VLD)

Very Low Drag (VLD)

A VLD bullet has a spritzer tip covering a hollow cavity along with a boat tail. This moves the center of gravity further back along the bullet’s length, which increases stability.

Wadcutter (WC)

Wadcutter (WC)

Wadcutter bullets are for short-range target use, specifically against paper. They have a flat, circular top that cuts a clean hole in the paper target.

If you are interested in handloading your ammo then please check the following articles:

Best Reloading Presses

Should You Reload Ammo? Pros, Cons & When It Makes Sense

Simple Guide to Reloading Ammo ( Beginner 101 )

The post Basic Bullet Sizes, Calibers, and Types, Explained! appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

]]> 1