Sunday, October 21, 2007

The high cost of saving money

So, at the Gun Blogger Rendezvous last week, Mel and I (and the rest of us on the line, sharing our guns with each other of course) fired through a fair bit of ammo:
  1. 300 rounds of match grade .223
  2. 300 rounds of 180gr Hornady XTP 10mm
  3. 200 rounds of .45acp
  4. 200 rounds of 9mm
  5. 100 rounds of .380acp
In all, about $700 worth of ammo at full retail, or $600 at bulk prices; about 2/3 of which I handloaded, so it only cost me about $350 (between what I bought, and what the components cost me).

Thankfully, we were able to recover a lot of our brass; including basically all the .45, all the .223, and actually MORE 9mm than we shot (I was the only .223 in my section of the line, but there were a couple other .45s and 9s).

That's great, saves me some money.

Unfortunately, what I was hoping for the most, was recovery of 10mm... and we didn't even recover 100 rounds of it. Considering the stuff is $0.22 a case... ouch.

I've got plenty of .223 brass on hand (a couple thousand) and about 600 bullets (a little low); I ALWAYS have plenty of .45 brass (a couple thousand anyway), and about 800 bullets (a little low); and about 2000 9mm brass, and about 1500 bullets.

What I'm low on, is large pistol and magnum primers, small rifle primers, powder for .223 and 10mm (down to under a half pound for both), and 10mm brass.

... Seems that everybody else is too.

As of right now, I'm down to about 100 rounds (loaded) of .223, about 300 of 10mm, about 200 9mm, and about 1500 .45 (I NEVER let myself run too low on .45).

Well, we've got another couple events coming up before the end of the year. Heading up to Rumpshots up in Paulden in two weeks; and then Mel is going to the "Babes with Bullets" shooting camp the following week. Between them, we're going to need about 1000 rounds of 9mm, 500 or so of .223, another couple hundred 10mm, and 300-500 .45acp.

Anyway, I'm a bit low on supplies. I need about 500 10mm brass, 2lbs of 2400, 2lbs of Varget, and a sleeve each of large magnum, large pistol, and small rifle benchrest primers.

So we head out to a couple stores today to see what we can pick up locally... and let's just say we spent more than we had planned.

The other thing is (and much of the reason why we spent so much), now that I'm loading progressive for my bulk ammo, I need to make some changes in my loading gear.

First, my Lyman .45 dies don't get along with my press. They were fine in the single stage, but they have a very abrupt mouth transition, without much flare, so they just don't work well in the progressive. Also, my .223 dies are very tight match dies, not really suited to the progressive (I'll keep using the match dies for the match ammo, but I want to run some bulk stuff fully progressive).

Bass Pro had the Hornady dies on sale for the same price as Midway, so I grabbed two sets. I gotta say, I'm really impressed with the Hornady custom dies; I cant wait to see the results. Theres $60 down.

Second, I REALLY need to do something to speed up my match rifle loading. My last batch of 300 rounds took me about two days to load; primarily because of the case prep, and individually weighing every charge.

Well, I've been meaning to pick up these two pieces for a while:

RCBS Chargemaster Pro
RCBS Trim Mate

...And Sportsmans Warehouse had them on sale for the same price as Midway USA, so I picked them up.

The chargemaster is GREAT, especially combined with the prep station. It lets you program the EXACT charge you want, just hit "dispense" and it meters and weighs the charge for you. Meanwhile, you're prepping cases, and pulling your lever.

Basically, the chargemaster gives you back 30 seconds on every round, and the trim mate gives you back another 15. 45 seconds saved per round gives me back a couple hours every thousand rounds, and that is MORE than worth it.

...Course, there's $400 right there. Worth it, no question, but expensive.

I still need to pick up one of these:

RCBS Trim Pro

to speed up the final slow step I've got, case trimming (and it's about the slowest part of case prep); but it was $40 more locally than I can get it for online. Next paycheck I guess.

Anyway, that's money well spent, so I don't begrudge it.

Next step, raw materials.

First, unsurprisingly, nobody had any 10mm brass. Or bulk .223 (or anything else in bulk except cast .45 and .38 actually). I was expecting that. What I was hoping was that the primer shortage hadn't hit my local stores yet. Unfortunately, it had, and they didn't have ANY of the primers I wanted.

They DID however have a 4lb jug of 2400, and an 8lb jug of Varget, for the same price as Powder Valley. They also told me they don't expect to get any more until the first of the year.

...I didnt WANT to get 12lbs of powder today, but I figgered I'd better grab it while I can.

Another $200 down. Now that's $200 I would've spent at Powder Valley anyway; but again, it's $200 I hadn't planned on spending today.

UPDATE: Aaargh... so I was putting away my new powder purchase, and I'm making room in my powder hutch, and there, behind the cheap pistol powder I'm not using, somewhow, there are 3.5 lbs of varget I missed when I inventoried. Well... I guess I've got a YEARs worth of powder then.

I'm still gonna have to hit Powder Valley: I need brass, bulk bullets, and primers; but I'm set on powder for the next six months or so (I had about 15lbs of my commonly used powders sitting around already, just not 2400 or Varget), and if I can find primers locally I wont have to stick that hazmat fee on top.

Combined with some other doodads (primer pickup tubes, a couple of flip trays, a couple of caliber manuals) and tax, and I dropped $700 today.

To save money on ammo.

Which, sadly enough, even with all the gear costs, I will STILL be doing; because if I weren't shooting handloads, every time my AR goes bang it would cost me $1.00 (for the match loads I shot, maybe a bit more) and every time my 10mm goes bang it would cost me $0.50 (or $1.25 for the defensive).

If it weren't for reloading, I'd be shooting 50x .223 and 100x 10mm at a time, instead of 300 each.

...So I guess we've proved the adage; when you reload, you don't actually save any money, you just shoot more.