Choosing a powder for load workup


January 19, 2004, 05:17 PM
I was wondering how you go about choosing a powder to work up an accuracy load. I've been reloading for a while now, but I usually just pick a powder to attain a certain muzzle velocity. I understand how to find the most accurate load for a given powder, but how do you decide what powder to start with? If you just chose a powder randomly, the most accurate load with powder "A" may be less accurate than the most accurate load with powder "B", right? So do you just try every powder in the manual, or is there a better way to narrow it down?


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Ala Dan
January 19, 2004, 07:22 PM
Only one way my friend, and thats by trial and error.

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

January 19, 2004, 07:32 PM
Ala dan has it succinctly nailed!!

I would suggest tho choose a free flowing powder that meters well . that helps for consistent loads .. and of course ... work the loads up from very safe levels.

Further to that - the most accurate load will in the end be a permutation on gun, powder and the bullet choice/design.

Good luck ... and try and use a chrono too as you test stuff and - log results.

January 20, 2004, 09:05 AM
In certain loading books, and in certain calibers, the publishers indicate the most accurate load (Lyman comes to mind). That would be a good clue as to where to start with that particular load.

Dave R
January 20, 2004, 12:22 PM
Trial and error? How wasteful. I would simply pose the question on The High Road, and others who reload that caliber would tell me which powder THEY find to be most accurate.

Of course, I would get 10 different answers...

Ala Dan
January 20, 2004, 12:41 PM
Greeting's All-

Thirties just reminded us all, of the very useful information
thats included in the Lyman handbook. I always knew there
was a reason that I preferred their manual. :D

Hey Dave R,

I remember when I first started loading for the .22-250,
I didn't know which bullet's would give the best overall
accuracy in the 3800 fps range. Tested many bullets from
Speer, Sierra, Nosler, Hornady, etc. After a lot of bullets
were launched downrange, I finally decided on Hornady's
55 gain SX. I think the personal touch of striving for the
best, gives one a sense of satisfaction!

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

Dave R
January 20, 2004, 01:27 PM
I agree with you, Ala Dan. My comment was mostly tongue-in-cheek. Ask any reloading question and you get many answers. For good reason. Every firearm is an individual, and best load (or best powder) for your rifle may not be the same as for mine.

And the satisfaction of working up a load that performs the way you want it to, in your rifle is what its all about.

Asking on THR may focus your experimenting a little, though.

January 20, 2004, 01:54 PM
Depending on caliber, I usually try to pick a powder which has a fairly wide range of acceptable charges for each bullet type. For example, one powder may have a range of 3.0 grains to 3.6 while another may have a range from 4.5 to 6. I will usually try the one which has a larger range, both for safety reasons and because it allows a lot of experimentation (many different loads) with only one powder.

Ala Dan
January 20, 2004, 04:47 PM
I have spent many hours working up load's; cuz at
one time I was feeding four Remington model 700
BDL bolt action's in the following caliber's: 22.250,
.243, .25-06, and 7m/m Rem mag. They all had their
"pet loads"; whereas they actually performed better.

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

January 20, 2004, 05:45 PM
Thanks for the responses. Sounds like everybody pretty much agrees that there's no way around experimentation. Although I do think Bacchus might have a good point. It seems logical that you would have the best chance of finding the sweet spot with a powder that allows a wide range of loads. I might give that a try as a starting point.


January 20, 2004, 07:50 PM
Are we talking long or short guns?
For handguns, I usually let the barrel length dictate the powder speed: Shorter=faster & vice versa:D

Rifles, I usually choose the bullet first, then select around three powders that the manuals show will deliver the velocity range I want. I work with three shot groups and tune the best by adjusting seating depth. Rarely, I will then push the envelope a bit, and/or try a different primer.:cool: I chronograph all loads.


January 20, 2004, 11:32 PM
I have done work ups for accuracy.

1) If the barrel is thick and short, the accuracy from one load and then change a few grains, will not make any difference in accuracy.
It is the long slender barrels that whip around more and need a carefully tuned load.

2) There may be so many other variables in my loading and shooting that I can't resove the right load. Here is an example from my load notes of 3 shot groups from a 91/30 at 100m:

40 gr 2.7"
41 gr 2"
42 gr 2.25"
43 gr >4"
44 gr 1.2"
45 gr 2.9"
46 gr 1.4"
47 gr >4"
48 gr 2.5"
49 gr 3.3"
50 gr 2.5" w/ sticky bolt

I reloaded again second day:
43.0 gr > 2"
43.3 gr 2.4"
43.6 gr 3.5"
44.0 gr 2.1"
44.3 gr 1.2"
44.6 gr 2.2"
45.0 gr 1.7"
45.3 gr 1.7"
45.6 gr 4.5"
46.0 gr 2"
46.3 gr 2.6"
46.6 gr 4.6"
47.0 gr 3.2"
47.3 gr 1.3"
47.6 gr 3.8"
48.0 gr 2.2"
48.3 gr 2.7"
48.6 gr 3"

I don't know what was going on; wind, hot barrel, non concentric ammo, etc.
Anyway, the process was not repeatable.

January 20, 2004, 11:48 PM
I was going to post what I've learned about powder selection.

But, I've only been loading for 8ish years, what do I know? ;)

I've only played with 5 or 6 different powders, and they've all been Hodgdon and Alliant!! I have yet to try IMI or Winchester in anything...

Ack! I could be missing out on a Holy Grail Magic Load!

The Reloader's Curse, I guess. Horrible affliction... :)

January 21, 2004, 11:35 AM
Picking a powder can be trial and error, but to save money, you can go with what people recommend. Usually there are a top 3 of powders for a specific caliber that people use. For example, Hodgdon Varget and IMR 4064 are really popular for 308. IMR 4895 and Hodgdon 4895 are also common 308 powders. Knowing that, I tried Varget first and had pretty good results with it in 308, and also tried H4895, which I also had good results with.

If you go with the word of mouth method, you should be able to find one of the top 3 powders for that specific caliber you want to reload should work great in your stick, once you find a good charge for it.

Also, sometimes people pick powders that work good in two or more calibers.

What are you looking to reload for? The THR community can give you some good powder recommendations for your specific application.

January 21, 2004, 12:15 PM
My initial question was meant to just be general, but I guess specifically I would start with .223 Remington for my Bushmaster AR-15. I realize this isn't a target rifle, but I can't help but think the accuracy could still be optimized. I've reloaded for this rifle before using Hodgdon H322 or H335, but I've always just picked a load based on velocity. I decided next time I fired up the press I would try a variety of loads and see if I could find one that was obviously better than the others.

So, anybody have a favorite load for .223 in an AR-15? Specifically, mine is a 20" HBAR barrel.

January 21, 2004, 02:08 PM
If you had to pick one powder now, I'd recommend that you try Win 748. It can be used in a variety of rifle cartridges.

January 24, 2004, 08:36 AM
you could use Ken Water's book..."Pet Loads". Most every cartridge is listed. Some of the info may be a little dated, but some of the IMR powder have been around maybe 75 years or more

January 24, 2004, 09:38 PM
I'm not going to pretend that I know all their is to know about reloading or guns, but I have been loading for 10 years now, so here goes. Remember, you asked.... This crap applies to pistols, and revolvers, and works for me.
First step, figure out what bullet weight/design you're going to use.
For instance, if you have a savage .223, you're going to want to shoot mid to heavy weight bullets, if you have a remington .223, you're going to want to lighter bullets, the twist dictated bullet selection.
Then, grab a few load books, and do a little research about which loads seem to be popular, start there, don't bother re-inventing the wheel, that's what the books are for....
Locate a powder burning rate chart, and see where the popular powders are in rate. Now, if you're gonna shoot it in a shorter barrel, use a powder near the fast furning side of the chart, use reason, don't deviate from the common sense range of operation of the powder in question.
Get the components that you're going to use, and go over to your bench.
Grab a bullet, an fired case, and the powder in question.
I sort my brass and use brass from one maker, it's a hassle, but I think it helps.
Get a minimum charge weight of the powder you're using and charge the case with it.
Verify the weight of the powder charge on the scale you're using, check it twice.
Now, get a maximum charge weight of powder, and charge another case.
Does it all fit in the case?
Would it be a compressed load?
I seem to have the best results with powders that, in their desired range, that almost touch the base of the seated bullet. Kinda 'eyeball' the powder charge, and see if the bullet would touch the powder if you had seated it.
This will have to be part one, I gotta go to work now.
If you want part two, respond to this thread, and I'll continue....

The Tourist
January 24, 2004, 11:52 PM
There is a lot of good information here, please read it, and start with reduced charges and work them up slowly.

My theory is pretty simple, I start with bullets of that cartridges most universal weight. For example, in a .357, I use 158 grains. In a .44 Rem Mag, I use 240 grains, 250 in linotype. In a .223 (5.56 Nato) I'll use 55 grains for older rifles, maybe 62 grains for the modern updates.

Then I choose powders with a 'linear performance.' That is, where 4 grains has twice the pressure of 2 grains, and very few parabolic surprises. I have some old Unique for revolvers, A/A Number 5 for pistols, and A/A2230 and A/A 4350 for rifles.

Then the work begins. Trail and error and documentation.

Pretty soon YOUR rifle or handgun will start showing you what it likes, and the performance that you need. It will give you a start at trying other powders and lighter or heavier bullets. You might give bullet casting a try.

The next thing you have is a gunroom, a full time hobby and a loving wife who constantly complains about new curtails.

I'd say when THAT happens, the load ought to be darn near perfect!

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