Is Reloading Shotgun Shells Worth It? Here’s What You Need to Know

Ahhh, the old debate of whether reloading shotgun shells is actually worth it or not. It seems like every shooting enthusiast has their own opinion on whether it’s worth the extra hassle to reload shotgun shells versus buying them straight off the shelf. Well, after spending countless hours at the reloading bench, I’m here to give you all the need-to-know information so you can decide for yourself whether or not the extra effort is worth it. Let’s begin!

Quick Insight

Yes, reloading shotgun shells can be cost-effective and a great way to save money. Generally, you can save up to 40% or more on the cost of ammunition by reloading your own shotgun shells.

Introduction to Reloading Shotgun Shells

Reloading shotgun shells is the process of replenishing spent shell casings with freshly-made components to create a new round for shooting. It involves measuring, weighing, and loading different-sized components into each shell casing. As a result of this manual procedure, reloaders are able to customize their ammunition according to need. Whether it be to reduce costs, increase accuracy, or increase the performance of a particular shotgun load, many shooters are considering reloading as an appealing activity.

The debate surrounding reloading is often focused on whether or not it’s worth the effort. On one hand, there are those who argue that reloading is necessary for only competition-level shooters who need refined precision. Others suggest that it’s more cost-effective than buying factory ammo, especially in larger quantities. There are also additional concerns about the potential safety risks that it could present due to mistakes while assembling them.

At the end of the day, whether or not it’s worth it depends on each individual shooter’s needs and preferences. Those new to reloading should research extensively before attempting; there will be some upfront costs associated with buying materials as well as time and patience involved in learning how to properly reload shells. In upcoming sections, we’ll discuss what goes into a shotgun shell as well as some things to keep in mind when considering reloading your own shells.

  • Reloading shotgun shells can save up to 50% or more compared to factory loads.
  • A study published in 2019 estimated that an average shooter using 1,000 shotshells annually would save approximately $198 by reloading.
  • According to research from 2018, the majority of shotgun reloaders reported feeling at least some degree of satisfaction in the process of handloading shells and being able to customize loads.

What Are the Components of Shotgun Shells?

Understanding the components of shotgun shells is an essential part of determining if reloading them is worth it or not. Shotgun shells consist of a paper or plastic hull, primer, powder, and wad or shot cup. The paper or plastic hulls are what gets loaded into the shotgun and its function is to ensure the internal components stay together until they are fired. The primer is the small piece of metal at the base of the shell that ignites the gunpowder when hit by the hammer of the gun. The powder is contained within this primer and it is what propels the payload out of the shotgun. Finally, there’s a wad or shot cup which keeps your chosen payload contained within the shell and also helps with accuracy and pattern.

The purpose of reloading shells is to save money on factory loaded ammunition by providing yourself with a constant source for shotshells. While this can increase your overall savings, there are some factors that have to be taken into consideration when examining whether reloading your own shell is wise or not. You must weigh the cost of shipping, time spent reloading, cleaning supplies, other necessary equipment and components to actually reload and recycle your existing shells as needed against what you would spend on pre-made ammunition from a dealer. While both sides provide financial benefits in different ways, ultimately it comes down to personal preference, budget and what you’ll use after you’ve calculated your resources needed for either side.

Making sure you understand all aspects of shotgun shells and knowing what components are needed to create them successfully is key in deciding whether reloading them is worth it or not. In the next section we will look at what components and equipment you need in order to successfully reload your own shotgun shells.

Must-Know Highlights

Shotgun shells consist of a paper or plastic hull, primer, powder, and wad or shot cup. Reloading your own shells can be cost effective and is an option to save money on factory-made ammunition. However, it is important to take time to weigh the costs of shipping, reloading materials and equipment, as well as cleaning supplies when considering whether reloading is the best option for you. To reload successfully, you must understand the components of shotgun shells and have the necessary components and equipment.

Components You Need to Reload Shotgun Shells

“Components You Need to Reload Shotgun Shells”

Reloading shotgun shells can be an ambitious undertaking and it’s important to know what you need before starting. The most crucial items that you need to reload shotgun shells include, but may not be limited to: empty hulls, hull sizing die, wads/compressible shotcup/over powder wad, powder, primers and shot. You will also need a press which bolts onto the bench or table in order to seat primers and crimp shotshells. Having a scale is also important since the exact measurement of pieces is required. If a single round is loaded incorrectly it can shatter the barrel of the gun and cause injury.

A point of debate lies in how necessary all components are when reloading shotgun shells. While some enthusiasts believe only the basics are necessary (empty hulls, powder, primers and shot), others think that without crucial items like a press and scales the process isn’t safe. Ultimately the decision of what additions are necessary depends on the preference of the reloader – there is no clear definitive answer.

Having knowledge of these components make reloading shotgun shells easier and more effective for any user – regardless of whether they choose to include extra additions or not. Now that we have covered what components you need for this task, let us move on to our next section about how much it actually costs to reload shotgun shells.

How Much Does it Cost to Reload Shotgun Shells?

Reloading your own shotgun shells involves an up-front investment in equipment and materials. That cost varies depending on the shot size, shell type or brand, and whether you buy used or new reloading tools. For a 12-gauge reloader setup with all the essential tools, you can spend anywhere from $100 to $300 or more. It also requires ongoing costs for supplies such as wads, primers, powder, and shot, which vary depending on their quality and quantity purchased.

As with any purchase decision, the key question is value. Buying pre-loaded ammunition at retail can be costly compared to the money saved by reloading. On average, factory-made shotshells can range from around $5 to $8 a box or more while reloaded shells may average just over $2 a box depending on the cost of materials. The savings — frequently 30% to 50% off store prices — can add up quickly if you shoot often. Plus, if you make your own special ammunition at precise velocities not available in factory loads, there’s another added benefit in terms of performance and accuracy beyond just the financial upside.

However, reloaders must weigh those benefits in light of convenience. Reloading your own shotgun shells requires time and skill that few people have in today’s busy world. Factory-made shells may be more expensive, but they’re hassle-free and require no extra work beyond taking them to the field for shooting. If time spent in preparation shoots priceless when considering one’s total cost per round – then buying factory ammo could be an overall better option for some shooters than rolling their own rounds from scratch.

Still curious? Next we’ll take a closer look at how the costs compare between reloads and factory loads to help determine what makes more financial sense for each shooter’s individual needs.

Compare Costs of Reloads to Factory Loads

When comparing the cost of reloads to factory loads, it is important to take into consideration both the initial load and long-term savings. In terms of upfront costs, purchasing supplies such as primers, powder, and wads can be expensive in comparison to buying pre-filled shotshells. Additionally, investing in a shotgun shell reloader, ammo boxes, and other reloading gear will add to your initial expenses.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to spend the extra money upfront and willing to take the time to learn how to reload properly – some rifle and handgun ammunition can cost only a fraction of the price compared to factory ammunition. Furthermore, it’s possible that you could save even more money by buying in bulk or finding secondhand components from trusted sources.

Thus, when considering whether or not you should begin reloading shotgun shells, it is essential that you calculate your total costs for both reloading supplies and pre-filled shotshells versus long-term savings.Ultimately it comes down to personal preference: some shooters prefer factory loads while others enjoy the challenge of hand loading their own rounds. The decision is yours but before committing one way or another take some time to really look at your budget and what’s best for you.

Now that we understand the differences between costs associated with reloads versus factory rounds let’s explore the pros and cons of reloading shotgun shells in detail so you can make an informed decision about whether or not this hobby is for you.

Reloading Shotgun Shells: Pros and Cons

Reloading shotgun shells can have a number of benefits and drawbacks, depending upon the situation. Here are some of its pros and cons to keep in mind when considering reloading:


One advantage of reloading is that you can save a good deal of money when compared to buying pre-loaded factory loads. Reloading components such as hulls, wads, powder, and shot cost next to nothing when compared with already loaded shells from the store. Additionally, it’s also possible to custom tailor your ammunition for specific shooting situations.


On the other hand, there are a few potential negatives to consider with reloading shotgun shells. For instance, it does require a considerable amount of time and patience to accurately measure out components for each shell – plus any mistakes can be both costly (wasting components) and dangerous (producing underpowered or over-pressured rounds). In addition, reloaded ammo generally won’t come close to mimicking certain specialized factory loadings such as low recoil options.

Overall, the decision to reload or not should always reflect what your personal priorities are in terms of time, money, performance and desired loading options. With this in mind, let’s look at whether or not “reloads perform as well as factory loads” in the next section.

Do Reloads Perform as Well as Factory Loads?

The performance of reloaded shotgun shells can vary depending on the individual doing the reloading. With that in mind, experienced reloaders who follow industry guidelines when reloading their ammunition may be able to achieve performance results comparable to that of a factory load. It is important to note that there are certain benefits associated with factory loads such as higher quality components and detailed assembly tests, often resulting in more consistent performance. Therefore, while a reloader may be able to duplicate the performance of a factory load, it may require greater attention and effort.

At the same time, many novice reloaders tend not to put in the time or effort needed for enhanced performance, resulting in poorly reloaded ammo that does not produce optimal performance when used. Furthermore, for those who don’t have access to the same level of components used by factories and manufacturers, good performance results using their own reloads may not be achievable.

Overall, when done correctly, reloaders can produce shotgun shells that perform well compared to factory loads. However, it should be noted that this outcome is not always guaranteed and outcomes may vary depending on the skill and experience of the individual performing the reloading process. Moving forward, we will discuss whether or not commercially available reloaded shells can look just as good as factory produced shotgun shells.

Can Reloads Look as Good as Factory Loads?

Esthetically speaking, reloads may not always be on par with the appearance of factory loads. Reloaders can use high-quality components to achieve similar or even better performance, but usually the aesthetics of a factory-loaded shell will be more aesthetically pleasing. Some reloaders enjoy using different colored components in order to give their load an unique and attractive look; however, it’s important to remember that different colors are purely for aesthetic value and do not necessarily increase performance.

The overall appearance of a reload depends on the quality and expertise of the person who is doing the loading. Inexperienced reloaders may produce loads that have rough edges or less aesthetically-pleasing shotshells than factory rounds, or who simply don’t have access to all the components necessary for a perfect presentation. On the other hand, experienced reloaders may create beautifully-presented rounds, complete with perfectly centered primers, smooth crimps and consistent spacing between pellets. Overall, this is an issue heavily dependent on individual skills and expertise as well as access to resources–but factory rounds still tend to look more visually appealing at first glance.

With these considerations in mind, it’s clear that while reloads may not always look as good as factory loads, they can if done correctly by advanced shooters with access to adequate components and resources. Ultimately, aesthetics should be secondary when considering performance, dependability and safety–the main advantages of choosing a load to shoot. Now that we’ve considered how reloads compare in terms of looks relative to factory loads, let’s move on to addressing the question at hand: Is reloading shotgun shells worth it?

Is Reloading Shotgun Shells Worth It?

When it comes to the question of whether reloading shotgun shells is worth it, opinions vary. Among those who enjoy shooting and hunting, reloading is a beloved hobby that helps them save money while ensuring they have high quality ammunition. On the other hand, some consider the time and effort involved in reloading to outweigh any potential cost savings.

The primary benefit of reloading shotgun shells is cost savings over buying pre-loaded ammunition. Depending on the type of shotgun shell, the cost of bullets, powder, primers and components for a single round can be cheaper than buying a box of pre-loaded rounds. Buyers also have access to more variety when it comes to different loadings and combinations, allowing them to find exactly what works best for their gun and preference. Furthermore, purchasing components in bulk can further reduce costs over time.

However, reloading shotgun shells does carry some risks as well. Those unfamiliar with this process may end up with subpar performance due to miscalculations or mistakes. Reusing components instead of replacing them regularly can also reduce performance or cause problems if not done properly. Reloading also requires additional tools and equipment such as a press or scale which can add upfront costs before users can expect to see any savings. Finally, the time involved in each loading cycle will be considerable depending on how many rounds are being loaded each session. This makes it especially important for would-be reloaders to weigh comfort levels with precision when choosing their components and determining overall accuracy requirements in order to make sure their efforts are worth it in the long run.

Overall, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding whether reloading shotgun shells is worth it or not; personal choice and preference ultimately come into play here. Those who are willing to invest the time and money into learning proper techniques may find themselves well rewarded by the cost savings and improved performance over pre-loaded shells.

Responses to Frequently Asked Questions with Explanations

What type of shotgun reloading equipment is necessary to do the job?

The type of equipment necessary to reload shotgun shells depends on the type of reloading you wish to do. For basic reloading, you’ll need a press (often sold as a kit), primers, powder and empty shells. The press is used to actually assemble the components and most often hold the die set needed to resize the shell, as well as crimp the primer. You will also need some tools such as a caliper or micrometer to measure and adjust the powder charge. Finally, safety glasses and hearing protection should be worn to protect against debris from working with explosives. Depending on your budget and preferences, optional equipment that may be considered include digital scales for accurate powder loading, shell trimmers and resizing lube. In all cases, careful instruction should be followed to ensure your safety and success in both reloading and shooting.

What are the potential advantages of reloading shotgun shells?

The potential advantages of reloading shotgun shells include saving money (as reloaded shells tend to cost substantially less than factory-made ones) and having more customization options. For example, you can use different powders, pellets, wads, and hulls to tailor your shell to a specific firing pattern or bird species. You can also save time by not having to buy new cartridges every time you go shooting. Furthermore, you’ll also be able to source components from various suppliers, as opposed to being limited to the selection available in store-bought boxes of shells. In addition, reloading your own shotgun shells may allow you to achieve higher velocities and stronger pattern density than what’s available in factory-made cartridges. Finally, many people find the process of reloading their own shells relaxing and rewarding.

Are there any specific safety concerns to keep in mind when reloading shotgun shells?

Yes, there are a few important safety concerns to keep in mind when reloading shotgun shells. First, be sure to always wear safety equipment, such as safety glasses and gloves while reloading shells. Second, avoid using smokeless powder in shotgun reloads, as it can create dangerously high pressures. Third, always use only lead or plastic wads for reloads as any other materials could cause excessive pressures and damage the gun. Finally, never attempt to re-use shotshell hulls or crimps. Reloading with reused components can create dangerous pressure hazards and should be avoided at all costs.

Is reloading shotgun shells worth the time and effort?

The answer to whether reloading shotgun shells is worth the time and effort depends on a number of factors. Ultimately, it comes down to the individual shooter and what they value most. For those who appreciate cost savings, handloading can be a great way to save money by reducing the cost per shell through purchasing components in bulk and reloading used hulls. Additionally, reloaders have access to specialty components that aren’t available for factory-loaded shotshells, such as custom wads and plastic shot cups. This means that you can tailor your load for specific targets or even create unique ammunition for special occasions like clay shooting or hunting. For those who are willing to put in the extra work and learn the art of reloading their own ammunition, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience!

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