I am continually amazed at how few shooters handload ammunition. A box of 50 rounds of practice .38 Special ammo can easily lighten your wallet by $30 or more. Even 9mm full-metal-jacket ammo can go for 30 cents a round at the budget store. Add a jacketed hollow point (JHP) bullet, and the price per round crowds a buck a burn.
If you invest in a good training course like Gunsite, you can reduce the amount of ammo you need to expend in order to become proficient. Still, it isn’t uncommon to go through more than 1,000 rounds during a five-day course. When I got started in this pistol-shooting stuff I would expend about 500 rounds each week—either .38 Special for a revolver or .45 ACP for my 1911. This was long before I got into the business side of this industry, and at that time no one I was aware of was sponsored by an ammo company. The only way I could possibly afford to shoot that much was to load my own practice ammunition.
The two most costly components in a loaded round are the brass cartridge case and the bullet. Brass cartridge cases can be reloaded; bullets are mostly consumable. Practice ammo does not need to be high performance. It does not require a JHP at 1,200 to 1,500 fps to punch a hole in a silhouette target. If you handload, you can reduce the cost of your practice ammo to as little as five to ten cents a round.
Handloaders jealously scrounge and hoard brass. If they also cast their bullets, they equally scrape together and cache scrap lead. Some of the really enthusiastic casters will “mine” spent bullets from the berms at their range, re-melt and alloy that lead into bullets.
Casting is not difficult, nor is it unrealistically dangerous. It does require some care and common-sense safety practices. When I was loading those 500 rounds for a week of shooting way back then, I cast my bullets in an old iron pot on top of a Coleman stove, pouring each bullet with a hand ladle. Today I have two electric furnaces that are temperature controlled to get the most from a given alloy. They have bottom-pour spouts, and most of my molds for pistol bullets have four cavities to maximize production.
About three years ago I did a three-part series for AmericanRifleman.org on getting started with bullet casting. I am looking at making a video version of this series, perhaps over this coming winter. In the meantime, if the idea of pouring your own bullets on the cheap intrigues you, here are the links to those three articles:
If you have any questions on bullet casting, feel free to message me, or ask them in the comments section. Bullet casting—and handloading—are pleasant addictions to the shooting bug.