ball / stick powder,,,


September 26, 2003, 07:41 AM
whats the difference?

just curious,,,

reasons for choosing either over the other?



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September 26, 2003, 08:09 AM

What's your application???


September 26, 2003, 09:10 AM
Ball powder is held together with a coagulant. Stick, or log, is extruded powder. Ball powder is usually much faster burning and goes through powder measures easier. Extruded powders usually burn slower but, in large calibers, are usually more accurate.


Steve Smith
September 26, 2003, 09:46 AM
As another side note, ball powders can change burn rates dramatically when temperatures change.

It't not completely uncommon for Highpower shooters to use a ball powder in the spring and fall when temps are moderate and they want to play with perfect powder measurements. This is not widely done, as most stick with one type (stick) but again is not completely uncommon.

September 26, 2003, 11:38 AM
Ball powders meter much more easily. Burn rates can vary for either. That is to say, there are some very slow ball powders, and some relatively fast stick powders, and vice versa.

September 26, 2003, 01:18 PM
All of the above, plus:
Ball powders often burn a bit cooler; OTOH, they just as often burn dirtier.
There are plenty of easy-metering extruded powders, so I rarely use ball, other than in handgun loads.:scrutiny:


September 26, 2003, 10:00 PM
what's the difference???

Ball powders are round and stick powders are shaped like a cylinder:D mean in performance:p

actually..this was kinda answered in "Handloader" magazine this month. John Barnsness had a column on "Picking the Perfect Powder". As above, metering vs. temperature sensitivity.

Some flake (particularly large flakes like 800-X) can be very difficult to meter

Stick powders are usually easier, and there are also some SC (short cut) powders that give stick powder performance but even better metering

I use AA5 in a lot of my pistol loads (ball powder). Meters very well and throws very consistent charges. Supposedly sensitive to temperatures as stated above. I've not used it enough in cold weather to give an opinion. I suppose if I used something like WW-296/H-110 or 2400 for deer hunting when it was cold I'd be sure to use mag primers. I typically use WW primers that are specified as adequate for mag loads anyway. Literature says use 'em so that's what I do.

He also started getting into the cleaner vs. dirtier powders. I still don't get the whole scoop on that. Some are better for cleaning invervals than others but I couldn't catch the "trend"

September 27, 2003, 01:49 PM
no application to speak of, i just hear / see the terminology used and wasnt sure what it meant exactly.

i do recall a bushmaster techie telling me that clogged gas tube problems went out when they started using stick instead of ball powder

but then my federal 5.56 says ball on the boxes so i thought i'd check into it a little further

anybody heard of this one?

or was he blowing smoke up my nose?? (among other places) :rolleyes:


September 27, 2003, 09:34 PM
the "ball" designation on the ammo box refers to the type of bullet, not the powder.

Ball ammo is a simple projectile; not armor piercing, or tracer or grenade launching or mid-air refueling.... Comes from the days when one loaded a military (or sporting) weapon with powder and ball.

Mike Irwin
September 27, 2003, 11:03 PM
When it comes to rifle reloading I just have never been impressed with the performance I've gotten from ball powders. I've only tried two, really, BLC-2 and WW 748, but they just didn't do what I wanted, so I stuck with IMR powders, mainly 4320 and 4064.

In pistol powders, though, it would be a cold day in central hell before I have up WW 231 and 296!


Actually, the .223 round was originally developed with stick powders, and worked great. But near time when the rifle was about to be adopted, Winchester started loading the ammo with ball powder. It was a new manufacturing process, but the powder gave higher velocity. That's when the problems with the rifles really started.

Turned out that early ball powder used calcium carbonate, in quantities up to 1.25% of the total weight of the finished powder, as a final buffer to neutralize any acid remaining from the manufacturing process.

That CaCO3 would collect in the M16's gas system and form a residue not unlike a stone.

As the manufacturing process improved, Winchester found that it could reduce the amount of CaCO3 to a little under 0.25% of the total weight of the finished power. That amount didn't promote scale in the gas system.

September 28, 2003, 01:03 AM
for clearing that one up for me,,,

i would have never guessed calcium carbonate was the problem, i figured it for powder residue build-up and surmised that ball was a dirtier powder

man i love this place!!



September 29, 2003, 08:05 AM
W748, a ball powder, has performed very well.

Black Snowman
September 29, 2003, 12:26 PM
Interesting that BL-C(2) is a ball powder. I've never used it but just picked up some Varget and it's an extruded powder. From what I understand Varget was designed to be a more consistant version of BL-C(2) which would follow if extruded is more temp stable than ball.

Learn something new every day.

September 29, 2003, 08:57 PM
The difference is ultimately in the manufacturing technique. Extruded powders were all there were circa WWII, except for a few cut-sheet flake powders. It was made in a lengthy process which involved toothpaste-squeezing and long dry times. IIRC, a single lot took a month to make.

Ball(c) is a trademark of Olin or whatever. These powders were developed either during the beginning or just before WWII, notably for the .30 M1 Carbine round. The stuff is granulated by doing a bit of a mixmaster thing while the nitrocellulose is in a liquid slurry. Blender speed and maybe slurry temperature determine the sphere/bubble size. It can be dried in a hurry, it frequently includes up to 40% Nitroglycerine ("double-base"), requires surface treatment with burn deterrents to make the burn rate progressive (think what happens to total surface area as the ball burns to a pinpoint), and *can* be relatively more temperature/velocity sensitive than single-base extruded powders. My tests in .308 and a 22-inch barrel and WW 748 showed about 1fps per degree Farenheit over some 70 degrees of spread.

Accuracy at all temperatures was terrific in a gas gun.

The stabilizers in spherical powders also tend to last longer, sometimes resulting in decades-longer "shelf life" than SOME extruded powders. Ever hear a firsthand report of bad spherical powder? Me neither. But a friend once lost an 8-pounder of IMR-4895 after only 11 years or so, and the garage it was in got "only" up to 85°F every summer--for day after day of up to 85 and back down to 60! It grew a white powdery coat and became very expensive high-nitrogen fertilizer.

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