Originally Posted by verbaljitsu
1. a pound of powder = 7,000 grains. Most 223/5.56 loads use roughly 25 grains of powder.
2. I purchase my primers and gun powder in bulk at local gun shows. I think it is almost always better to do it that way than order off the internet. You have to pay hazmat shipping charges otherwise that kill you. If you do order online, order in extreme bulk. I usually try to buy 5,000 primers at a time, but it would not be cost effective to get less than 1,000. I like to buy the 4 pound jugs of powder when I can. Buying powder in bulk is even better than buying primers in bulk.
For example: 100 primers usually costs $3.00-4.00. 1000 primers usually costs $25-30. 5000 primers usually costs $115-125.
A pound of expensive powder (vihtavuori N320) costs $35. 4 Pound jug costs $90.
A pound of normal powder costs $20. 4 pound jug costs $70. 8 pound keg costs $120.
Buying bulk is key.
I buy pistol bullets from Missouri Bullet Company mostly. I get most of my rifle bullets from the Sierra factory in Sedalia when I drive through.
3. If you handload new brass, rather than reload once (or multiple) fired brass, you will not save much money, in fact, you could spend more than the cost of surplus or aluminum cased ammo. However, you will have much higher quality ammunition. There is nothing wrong with loading once fired brass.
There are two main differences in reloading rifle and pistol brass: Case Trimming and Lubrication. If you are smart, you will buy carbide pistol dies, which require no lubrication. There are no carbide rifle dies, so you must lubricate which is an inconvenience. I rarely trim my pistol brass. Sometimes I will trim a batch once If I am really going for super match quality accuracy. Usually I don't trim pistol brass at all. However, you ought to trim rifle brass after ever time it is fired. You might be able to fudge it a little bit with 223, but it is not advisable for both accuracy and safety issues, so a new reloader should just do it the right way and trim.
A case trimmer can cost anywhere between $5 for the Lee cutter you use with a power drill to $440 for a Giraud. Most people get something from RCBS or Hornady that costs about $75.
4. As far as "additional equipment" the only difference between buying new brass and reloading once fired is the case trimmer and a primer pocket swagger for military brass. If you are doing this to save money, it would be a terrible idea to buy new brass or pay someone else to trim it for you.
5. As far as what components to use: This will significantly vary depending on purpose and rifle. If you are a varmint hunter you'll want something different than a hipower shooter or a plinker. I have a 1 in 8 twist rifle and I like to use IMR 4064 powder for the heavier bullet loads, CFE 223 for the middle weight loads, and Win 748 for the light bullet loads. I've also got some surplus powder that shoots fairly well and is good for plinker type loads. My rifle shoots the heavier/longer bullets pretty well, so I mostly shoot 55 grain and up. Sierra Bullets work best for me so far, matchkings are the best. Nosler also good. I use winchester primers almost exclusively, just because thats what I always have used and I buy them in bulk.
But really, there isn't any shortcut, you just have to see what your rifle likes. Twist rate matters and is the closest you can get to narrowing down bullet choice. 1 in 8 and 1 in 7 will pretty much shoot everything but dedicated varmint loads like 35 grain bullets. 1 in 9 usually has trouble with the 69 and 77 grain bullets and wants to hang around 55 and 62 grains. My uncles 1 in 9 likes 50 grains the best. 1 in 12 is for 35 and 45 grain bullets.