A few weeks ago I took a look at how many reloading components I had left in stock and decided it was time to replenish, so I headed over to Powder Valley (one of my favorite places to buy reloading supplies—great prices and they're in Kansas, which is where I grew up). A few pounds of powder, some primers, and bullets for both pistol and rifle and all of a sudden I was looking at a $1,000 bill. Yikes!
While there's more inflation happening than the government likes to admit, the rising prices of reloading components are not all due to inflation. Commodities prices and the increased demand ahead of the presidential election probably drive more of the cost increase. Regardless, the prices are getting crazy for even us reloaders. While I dearly love my .45 ACP, the sticker shock from my contemplated order with Powder Valley made me want to have a look at its impact on the ol' budget and see if I need to consider an alternative caliber. For me, that'd be 9mm.
My preferred practice bullets (bulk JHPs from Winchester) are currently running $171 in 9mm, versus $250 in .45 per 1,000. Looking back just a few years I see I was able to get the .45s for nearly the same price as the 9mm are now.
Of course, bullets aren't the only cost. There's powder and primers, too. Interestingly, both 9mm and .45 require about the same amount of powder (somewhere between five and six grains each round), and the primers are approximately the same cost, too. Brass, well, there's a price difference but it can be reused so often that the initial price difference becomes negligible by the time the brass expires.
It looks like 9mm would probably only save me $80 a year or so. (Yes, sadly, outside of classes I probably only fire about 1,000 rounds a year.) Well, I should probably see a larger savings with factory ammo, right? Many schools don't like folks to use reloads, so I still need to buy enough for the class I like to take each year to stay tuned-up: $14.50 for 9mm versus $22 for .45 ACP per box of 50. Considering a class will require about 600 rounds, it becomes a $90 price difference.
Hmm. Not quite as much a savings as I'd imagined, but every bit counts. I guess I'll give 9mm a try for a while, at least for the majority of my practice time, but I'll be sticking with .45 ACP for serious use. I'll also make a better effort to break out the .22 LRs to practice the fundamentals. At $30 for a box of 500 rounds, it doesn't get much less expensive than that!
This kind of reminds me of all the complaints you hear when gas prices go up. Some folks run out and finance a new $40K car so that they can go from 24 to 32 MPG, but if they sat down to do the math they'd find that there's no way they're going to save any money unless they drive 100K miles a year.