Remanufactured vs reloaded ammo, what is the difference?

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Remanufactured ammunition has negative stigma attached to it, but is that really correct? I spent an afternoon with Haywood at Defender Ammunition touring his facility and asking some questions.

Now, I have been using Defender Ammunition and a few other companies such as Stillwood and Tug Valley Armament in many of my past reviews without issue. Here is my review directly on Defender Ammunition. 

When speaking on remanufactured ammo, it conjures images of some person sitting in a seedy motel room,  in bad need of housekeeping, wired on energy drinks and pulling the lever of an outdated reloading press as if he were trying to hit the jackpot on a slot machine. Well, maybe not that bad and not to everyone but to many and to some degree. In order to clarify this, I took some photos of Defender’s operation and got the straight dope from Haywood on his company. Now, there are a lot of 06 FFLs making remanufactured ammo and I cannot attest to everyone’s SOP but I can attest to Defender and Stillwood Ammunition from first hand experience.

The process at Defender Ammunition starts as once fired brass is brought into the sorting area.

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It is presorted for any steel or damaged cases, then brought to machines, such as the Camdex in the right photo, where the brass is separated by caliber.

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Next step is for the cases to be tumbled to clean the inside and out. Here Haywood is spot checking the cases being cleaned.

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After tumbling, the sorted cases are brought to the Range Master machine where the cases are checked for cracks or breaks by pressurizing the case with air, and checking to be sure it holds the pressure. Once the case is determined to be serviceable it is deprimed and the primer pocket cleaned and reamed.

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After that, the cases are resized to SAMMI spec, either by roll sizing or, as this machine does, pushes the case through a die. The difference between this process and your depriming/sizing die at home is the cases sized on your reloading press only go in the die so far because the shell plate has to hold onto the extractor groove. In the process Defender uses, the entire case is resized all the way to the case head.

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Now, the clean and inspected cases make their way to the loading machine, where they are primed, charged with propellant, the charge verified, bullet seated, any crimp that is applied, and lastly go through one last die, triple checking the finished round.

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During each process QC is implemented, but after loading the rounds are yet again checked to be sure all is as it should be.

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Finished and inspected rounds are placed in the boxing room.

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Before the rounds are boxed up, they are checked a last time and any questionable or blemished rounds are pulled.

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Boxed up and ready to be sold.

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Defender Ammunition has their own machine shop to support it’s equipment.

By now I expect you are starting to get the differences between remanufactured and reloaded ammunition. Each of these individuals are trained at their job and have spent a lot of time making sure their product is safe and accurate, with each step comes more quality control. The benefit of remanufactured ammunition is that since they are not buying brand new brass but once fired instead, the operating costs are much less expensive and so the end product is much less expensive. So, there is very little difference between this and brand new ammunition.

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Defender Ammunition can produce approximately 100,000 rounds in an eight hour shift, but that is due to a lot of expensive equipment and skilled operators. Haywood estimated 15% of cases brought in are rejected and recycled while they only have a 2-3% rejection rate during QC, and the majority of those are merely blemished, which are sold off at a discounted rate or donated.  Many of those blemished rounds have been donated to for testing ammunition and that has helped me out a great deal by keeping my operating costs down.

Thank you to Defender Ammunition for the education and hospitality.


Updated tour of their new facility.




By Hunter Elliott

I spent much of my youth involved with firearms and felt the call early on to the United States Marine Corps, following in my father's and his brother's footsteps. Just after high school I enlisted and felt most at home on the rifle range, where I qualified expert with several firearms and spent some time as a rifle coach to my fellow Marines. After being honorably discharged I continued teaching firearm safety, rifle and pistol marksmanship, and began teaching metallic cartridge reloading. In the late 1990s I became a life member to the National Rifle Association and worked with the Friends of the NRA. Around that time my father and I became involved with IDPA and competed together up until he passed away. I began reviewing firearms for publications in the mid 2000s and have been fortunate to make many friends in the industry. Continuing to improve my firearms skills and knowledge is a never ending journey in which we should all be committed. I am also credited as weapons master on a few independent films.

5 thoughts on “Remanufactured vs reloaded ammo, what is the difference?”
  1. Great article, I’ve been looking at cost effective/time ways to increase shooting the 45auto, while I shoot 38Super and 10mm in 1911s, I miss shooting the 45. This article has given me another avenue to explore. 🙂

    1. Thank you very much Bob. I agree remanufactured ammunition is a viable option to keep costs down but sticking with quality. I would do my research on who’s ammunition you are using.

  2. I met Haywood at a gun show in Fayetteville I buy their ammo without hesitation. I also like that they will buy spent brass cases .

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