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Trying to Reload Your Own Ammo? There is Now a Primer Shortage

Ammo Shortage
Image: Creative Commons.

Reload Your Own Ammo? It Might Not Be So Easy These Days – Even before the great ammo shortage began in late 2020, there were plenty of shooters who opted to “make” their own firearms cartridges. Doing so isn’t really all that complicated and some will be quick to tell you that reloading components can cost far less than loaded ammunition. That is true to a point, but only a point.

Today, even serious “reloaders” – as such individuals are often known – have found that some of the key “ingredients” used in the production of ammunition are in short supply. Among them are the primers.

While the brass cartridges can last a long time, primarily when used with moderate loads, and bullets can be cast from lead and even gunpowder can be made, primers have long been another story.

Reloading: Time Consuming?

Yes, it is possible to make a primer – and there are more than a few YouTube videos out there that will help you – the truth is that it is a time-consuming process that really should be left to the pros or at least those with experience in reloading.

Primers are actually the tricky part in the reloading process, and even with the right tools, it can take about a minute to produce each primer – the same amount of time required to reload ammunition using the simplest hand-loading tools. While making your own primers for reloads could result in enough ammunition for most hunting, and even home defense needs, it can still be a considerable investment of time.

That is why even experienced reloaders opt to get pre-made primers to cut down on the production time. That has only resulted in greater demand, especially as only two companies actually produced commercial primers.

Fortunately, earlier this year Expansion Industries announced that it would soon begin producing primers. The company announced it was planning on hiring more than 400 new employees by the end of 2022 at its facility in Hooks, Texas, about 12 miles west of Texarkana.

“We have invested $100 million into the site so far,” Richard A. Smissen, owner of Expansion Industries, said via a statement in February. “This is all about supply and demand. There is serious demand in the industry for this product and right now, for various reasons, the supply chain is falling woefully short. So we are getting ready to do our part to help out with that issue.”

And Does It Save Money?

The final consideration is whether the process of reloading is actually worth the time. For those who find the process relaxing, it is time well spent.

However, as Field and Stream noted recently, right now 1,000 rounds of cheap 9mm FMJ (full-metal jacket) ammunition was running around 36 cents per shot. That works out to $360. Now, should you save every one of those 9mm brass casings, the rest of the components – bullets, powder and primers – would still run around $295, which means you’d save only about $65 to do the reloading.

As it takes about a minute per round to reload, you’re looking at spending at least 16 hours to produce another 1,000 rounds. All that time could be spent on literally anything else, so again, unless you find reloading fun and not a tedious experience that requires patience and precision, reloading isn’t all that good of an investment.

More importantly, the prices were for the components not the tools that are required to do the handloading.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.



  1. Will

    May 26, 2022 at 8:44 am

    Several things, here:
    Primers went missing the same time completed ammo did, along with all reloading components.
    It takes only seconds to reload a cartridge, not a whole minute.
    The picture at the top on the article is of .22 cartridges, which are not (easily) reloadable

  2. Kentos

    August 10, 2022 at 9:37 pm

    I would like to see the breakdown where a 1000 reloads of 9mm costs 300.00. Seems kinda high.

  3. Jason

    August 25, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Besides the tedious vs relaxing component and the cost, though the cost example for 9mm is based on a cheap and potentially garbage round. Reloading typically produces a mor accurate round that is consistent round after round unlike mass produced factory loads

  4. James Innes

    September 3, 2022 at 8:58 am

    I cast my own bullets which works out to about 4 cents a projectile

    Primers I get for about $100 per 1000 so 10 cents a pop

    Powder is like $30-$35ish a lb. But pistols barely use any powder. So that works out to like 2 cents per charge

    Brass is usually free, but when I do pay for it, it’s around 3-4 cents per.

    So 20 cents cost per round if I’m paying for brass, or 16 cents if I’m not.

    Also I can crank out hundreds on my Dillon 550 an hour, even on my single stage press I can do 100 an hour easily

  5. jon

    September 13, 2022 at 3:34 pm

    Also…if you reload on a progressive press it doesnt take 1 minute to make 1 round and is more like 5-10 seconds. When I’m running 9mm I’m usually printing 500 in an hour.

    James estimate on cost is about the same for me.

    Reloading my rifle rounds is a different ball game because i’m in the precision rifle world. It takes me about 2 hours to load 100 rounds. My loads are more consistent than anything i could get from a factory and are tuned for my specific rifles. Lifes too short to shoot inconsistent ammo / rifles.

  6. Mike S.

    September 19, 2022 at 12:10 am

    Those figures are way high based on current prices. Before all this started primers were $130 per 5,000 ct full sleeve case. Powder was $16 – $25 a pound which is 7,000 grains. The typical 9mm only uses 3.5 – 5.7 grains depending on what powder you use. Factory FMJ 115 and 124 grain bullets were about $85 – $95 per 1,000. If you cast and powder coat your own bullets out of scrap lead that price is over twice as much as your local scrapyard and tire shops would sell you lead for. I’ve been shooting over 40 years and have been reloading and casting bullets for over 30 years. Whoever wrote this article should have done more research and asked more experienced people. There has been a big wave of “experts” lately that just got started a few years ago and think they are the authority on the subject. A lot of 50 – 60 year old virgins who just got their first firearm in their life before they retire. It bugs me by them being the voice of us lifelong people.

  7. Paul

    October 1, 2022 at 6:04 pm

    Premium rifle hunting ammunition from manufacturers is expensive. Anywhere from $45.00 to $120.00 per box of 20. The median is around $70.00.

    There are 7000 grains per pound of powder.
    Primers cost $85 to $100.00 for 1000 primers.
    Good brass can easily be reloaded 10 to 20 times.
    Premium bullets cost $40.00 to $70.00 per 50 count and they aren’t necessary. Bullets that cost $40.00 for 100 units will take wild game just as efficiently.

    Here is the cost of 100 rounds of rifle ammunition based on an average load of 50 grains of powder, a 10 cents primer, a 1 dollar premium bullet and reused brass over and over.
    $130.00 which translate to $26.00 per 20 rounds of PREMIUM ammunition. The powder has been adjusted to $20.00, in a mangnum it would be a bit more but not enough to push these prices through the roof.
    The case I used as an example is the typical 30-06 size. The cost of powder would drop to $15.00 per one hundred loaded rounds.
    $25.00 per box of PREMIUM ammo. NON Premium ammo (premium is in the bullet) would cost : $14.00 per box of twenty…..
    Please compare these very realistic prices to the $70.00 premium box of hunting ammo. It doesn’t matter if you reload or not but your number aren’t correct.
    I see a very substantial saving if one wants to reload. Not the numbers you suggest.
    5 boxes of premium ammo at $70.00 = $350.00
    3 boxes of premium reloaded ammo = $130.00 a difference of $220.00 dollars. This difference applied to the $130.00 gives a saving of 169%.
    If premium ammunition was priced around $40.00 per box which it isn’t. The added cost would be $70.00 which applied to the $130.00 is still 54% … Basic math. The savings are well worth the time and effort for someone who shoots 100 to 150 rifle rounds per month, and that is a very low number. Someone shooting 500 rounds of .308 per month would save annually $70.00 (non premium) X 5 = $350.00 per month multiplied by 12 = $4200.00 per year. These are extremely realistic numbers. Please verify for yourself.

  8. Paul

    October 1, 2022 at 6:10 pm

    Correction. 5 boxes of reloaded ammo cost $130.00, not “3”. A difference of $220.00 with five boxes of premium. The “3” is a typo on my part.
    Magnum instead of “mangnum”. sorry about that obvious typo.
    Thank you for your time.

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