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Thread: reloadable, economical replacement for 22LR

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    Default reloadable, economical replacement for 22LR

    I was thinking about the price of 22LR ammo recently, and seeing no end in sight, if ever, to the high prices, I'm starting to wonder if 22LR is no longer the best choice for the activities for which we use 22LR. I wonder if there isn't a small, reloadable, center fire cartridge that can be economically reloaded that might replace 22LR.

    Current retail pricing (I'm not even going to discuss scalper prices) is running about 5 cents per round in the bulk cartons, when it's available. I believe that price will only rise from here and never return to earlier price points. I recognize that component prices will also rise, but are there any cartridges that can be reloaded for near that price?

    I'm considering 32-20, which, I've read in reloading manuals was once the "grown-up's 22." But any rifle in that caliber is going to be pushing a century old. I wonder if a 22 Hornet might be loaded for a similar price and used for plinking, small game hunting, training, etc. I wonder if I can bring down costs by making cast lead bullets rather than buying factory projectiles. Or perhaps some other cartridge might suit my purpose. Any ideas?

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    Default nevermind-asked and answered

    Nevermind. The answer is not no, H NO. Did some math and figured out how many grains in a pound and looked online to find load data for maximum powder load. Then just went to a couple of websites to shop around. Even not counting the cost of brass, 22LR is 1/4 the cost of 22 Hornet, even at the current obscene price. Not to mention, I'd have to buy a new gun. (oh...how horrible LOL).

    I suspect other cartridges-222, 218, etc will add up to a similar result.

    Crap.

  3. #3

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    If you cast your own and use "mid-range" or mild loads, costs get closer. In my experience .224 bullets are a PITA to cast, while .257 are a lot easier, and .308/.312 even easier. Make the bullets "free" and use 5 grains of powder (1,400 shots/pound @ 7,000 grains/pound), and it's headed toward the cost of primers for your shooting. If you're gentle in the sizing department and crimping your cases, they last virtually forever with those mild charges. At the scalper prices for 22 when you can even find it, small cal reloads compete well and often come out on top.

    The 32/20 is a very good candidate, but I'm fonder of the 25/20 in that roll. At the vels I'm talking using small charges, they're still a heck of a lot more potent for small game than the 22LR.

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    Might be time to start looking for a small caliber flintlock. Some of them has very good accuracy and are a lot of fun. Bullets can be molded easy, and they do not require any brass.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cast Iron View Post
    Might be time to start looking for a small caliber flintlock. Some of them has very good accuracy and are a lot of fun. Bullets can be molded easy, and they do not require any brass.
    Now you're talking! I stayed away from flintlocks in my response because this thread was about cartridge guns, but in fact my cheapest shooting is small caliber flintlocks. By miles! I'm shooting 30 caliber, 32 caliber and 36 caliber, with the 30 getting the most wear and tear. I cast my own .290 balls, but you can buy an 8-pound jug of .290 buckshot for $37. Same for .310 and .350, but with fewer per pound. At around 35 grains per .290 ball, that's around 1,600 shots per jug or a little over 2 cents each.

    I'm using only 10 grains of powder and a 3 grain prime per shot, for over 500 pops per pound of powder. If you're being scalped at $30/# for powder that still only 6 cents a shot. I get 1300 patches from a $3 yard of patch material and make my own lube from deer fat, so you can pretty well discount that cost. I'm also getting reasonably successful at making my own flints, so those are free too.

    Since I cast my own and paid less than $30 for powder, I'm down to less than a nickel a shot. Not bad economically, and a whole lot more fun to boot. Since I made the rifle myself, the fun just keeps on rolling.

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    With the price of primers hovering around $35 to $40 per thousand rimfires are still the least expensive choice for brass ammo. Air rifles and black powder rifles are a good alternative though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Money Pit View Post
    Air rifles....
    More fruitful ground.

    I launch 20 aimed offhand rounds a night no matter the weather, right in the comfort of my own living room. Can't say that about any other gun, yet I "save" ammo in all the others because those 20 offhand shots a night improve my performance with all of them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrownBear View Post
    More fruitful ground.

    I launch 20 aimed offhand rounds a night no matter the weather, right in the comfort of my own living room. Can't say that about any other gun, yet I "save" ammo in all the others because those 20 offhand shots a night improve my performance with all of them.
    This modern air rifles are POWERFUL. and im not talking about a daisy pump. A NICE benjamin or other high end will do what you want and far cheaper to operate. They even make compressed air "bir bore" air rifles that are straight deadly... and quiet.

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    I don't want a replacement for 22LR. I just want it to be available again,
    and it will be.

    I would like to see 25 and/or 32 RFs. Assuming it could be done. I know there are difficulties to overcome for larger cal. Rimfires.

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    With the cost of primers now it is hard to match 5 cents per round as even the small pistol primer is about 4 cents. If you had a rifle with a small cartridge like the hornet or the 22FN or even a 25/20 and can scrounge lead, you could load for around 5 to 6 cents per round. 3grs ( about 1 cent worth) of a fast pistol powder will get you velocity in the 22LR area with a 70gr bullet in the 25/20. If you are going for max loads the price per round goes up at about 3grs of powder per penny and as you get to around 1800+ fps, you're going to need a 3cent gas check as well. There is an initial startup cost for casting that can be a little steep but there are ways around that if you are just going to shoot plinker loads. Your 243 could be loaded with cast for about 13/14 cents per round. The 22Cooper can be loaded very cheap with cast but it takes a custom gun that isn't cheap.
    I have been thinking about a flint lock and have actually made a pretty good black powder for about $6 per pound.

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    It can be done… my current 45 ACP loads are just under 6 cents per round, however I started out with brass that I picked up at the range, cast my own bullets and load each with about 5 gr of Unique. My last brick of CCI 300 primers was right around $35 and the last pound of Unique was about $30, and at 5 gr per cartridge, you can load a LOT of 45 ACP with a pound of powder. I did not factor in the price of the various dies, molds, presses or bullet lube into the equation as reloading is one of my hobbies that I pursue for the enjoyment of it and all of those various items kind of get lumped into a different category in my mind.

    Don’t know if you could do it with 22 hornet as you will be forced to purchase brass. I know by hornet loads are likely closer to 15 cents per round, perhaps even more. .223Rem might be doable if you pick up range brass, cast your own bullets and are happy with lead bullet velocities for plinking? As someone else mentioned, casting those small 22 cal bullets is kind of a pain, and if you go with a gas checked design you have to factor in the price of the gas checks which is about $32 per thousand which will likely put you over the magic 6 cents per round figure…
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

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    If I was to buy a set up specifically designed for economical plinking and entertainment, it would probably be a Thompson center Encore with a 40 S&W bbl. You can walk two feet at any pistol range without stepping on once fired 40S&W brass, and the case is small enough that minute loads of Unique or similar powder can be used. Get yourself a mold that throws a light bullet and you would be cranking out ammo that is about as cheap per round as you can get. Naturally if you factor in the price of the rifle, dies, molds etc. then you would be lots of money ahead to just continue shooting .22lr at the inflated prices, however, eventually…. If you live long enough, you MIGHT make up the difference with the 40 S&W!
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

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    I don't give one flying crap about the price increase writing off 22 rimfires. goobye 22 lr! after this season....goodbye 22 magnum! The quality of the ammo has taken a major hit too. Availability is something I no longer want to deal with. That reminds me, time for a nice 22 lr to hit the classifieds. I'll stock up on 30 carbine all day long, than deal with rimfire ammo shortages ever again. Already got over 600 rounds of norma softpoints. shot em all off for the brass, reload, repeat. New rifles and revolvers are avail.

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    So...reading some of the threads here (great responses, by the way, folks), somethings I'm picking up are, "cost of my LAST brick or pound of...whatever. How much is it going to cost that last brick of whatever? Component prices are going up and also suffering shortages.

    There are two ways to look at equipment purchases: capital expense or consumable expense. How long does a lead smelter or press last anyway (20 years?) That cost, byt he time you work it out over 20 years of depreciation, is too small to consider. OR...how many rounds do I have to load to make this capital expense worth while? In other words, how many rounds do I have to make to get down to my per round target of 5 cents per (or whatever target you set)?

    If I'm looking at this as a solely economical issue, I have to add in the added utility cost of running an electric lead smelter. How much electricity doe that consume, and how much will it raise my electric bill? The more rounds I make, the higher that cost climbs. (CERTAINLY, it will be cheaper than buying factory formed jacketed bullets.)

    Mainer raises the point about dealing with availability, but I wonder if, by switching from 22LR to reloadable 22Hornet (or whatever) is one not simply moving from the kettle to the frying pan.

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    Some of your equiptment is consumable most will last your lifetime and more. I have presses and dies that are 40/50 years old that will easily last another 50years. Molds last a lifetime if properly cared for. A cast iron lead pot and a dipper will not wear out. For plinker loads, Lee liquid alox and a plastic jar and lid will work for a luber. Lee makes push through sizers for $25 or less. 5 cents per round is material costs today and will probably go up but so will the cost of 22LR. I have a Lee bottom pour lead pot that I bought around 1970 that still works fine. Buying used for a .223 you could probably get set up with a press, dies, mold, and new Lee sizer, scale and bottom pour pot for $250 or a little less with careful shopping. Even after the startup expenses you still have powder and primers to buy as well as lead to buy or scrounge. The 22LR is hard to beat price wise if it's available. If it's not available or if you can only get it from scalpers for $40 to over $100 per brick, you can not only beat the price but can out perform the 30 cent per round 22mag for about 12 cents per round. You still have to plan ahead and stock up on primers and powder as that has been almost as hard to get as 22 ammo. But for me, it's more hobby and something I really enjoy than shooting cheap. Although shooting cheap does allow me to shoot a lot more for the same cost. I also make tools to make gas checks from aluminum roof flashing so I can save another 3 cents per round on those that go beyond about 1800fps. To me it's a way of getting deeper into a very relaxing hobby as well as allowing me to shoot a lot more for the same money. I'm having pretty good luck casting for the 22cal boolits as well with my 223 shooting groups from about 1 1/4" to 2" @ 100yds depending on load and boolit.

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    Well when you talk about component availability, it is no different, and in fact often in line with .22lr availability. That is to say, that when .22lr was plentiful, so was primers, powder and bullets…

    Capital expenditure, consumable expenditures and amortization tables for equipment or whatever is really just a torturous mental exercise in my opinion. I enjoy reloading as a hobby and in order to make myself feel all warm, fuzzy and fantastic inside, I pretty much ignore the fact that in order to load 49 rounds of 45 ACP at 6 cents apiece means that the very first round costs about $624 ;-) I am exaggerating of course, but I will say that if you are not set up with the basic equipment to reload your own ammo and cast your own bullets and were forced to purchase all of said equipment new or used, you would still need to do an incredible amount of shooting for it to pencil out in comparison to purchasing .22lr in bulk when available.
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

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    I dunno, I just don't see trying to save a couple of bucks as that important. If I had to buy a brick of 22 ammo for $40 I would and not give it a second thought. I'll buy the 22 ammo and not worry about chasing brass or chasing down components. Any principals I have about high priced ammo are not going to make one bit of difference to a store owner selling ammo. You can mail order 22 ammo to your house in Alaska for $30 a brick, thats only $.06 each

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    Quote Originally Posted by Money Pit View Post
    If I had to buy a brick of 22 ammo for $40 I would and not give it a second thought.
    And that, in and of itself, is the entirety of the problem and the only reason we will never see affordably priced ammo again. I refuse to be a part of it. Ammo prices are not remaining high due to some market condition other than that the market (i.e. consumers) will bear it. I won't bear it.

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    I've had a similar train of thought and I'm considering a .22 or .25 cal air rifle. Quite powerful, very economical, very accurate...lots to like there for practice and plinking right on through small game hunting. Including a hassle free suppressor that works.

    Also I'm looking at a pistol caliber bolt rifle- .357 or .44 that can be loaded cheap. Possibly a better "big game rifle" anagram than the .22 for training purposes.

    Admittedly- most of my small game hunting is now done with shotguns but I'm also looking to (at least partially) write off the .22 rimfires.
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

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    Quote Originally Posted by hodgeman View Post
    ...considering a .22 or .25 cal air rifle. Quite powerful....
    I'd put accuracy at the top of the list in your shoes. I have a little over 10 years on a .177 Beeman R-7 which "only" hits around 800 fps, while providing accuracy on the order of 1/4" at 25 feet by my own measure. Don't recall what the factory claimed, but IIRC it is even less. Take it as a measure of my skills or lack thereof.

    The real point is that even a .177 at 800 fps is plenty for snowshoe hare with accurate shooting. I've killed them DRT with head shots as far away as I can hit them, and never had one go more than a few feet with lung shots out to a measured 41 yards.

    Only reason I bring it up, if you're looking for quiet, it won't get much quieter than a subsonic .177. I'd certainly take the R-7 velocity over a faster gun in any caliber that didn't shoot as accurately.

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