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Any reason not to use minimum powder charge?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Brian10, Aug 20, 2010.

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  1. Brian10

    Brian10 Member

    Jun 19, 2008
    The ammo I reload is mainly for practice and plinking. Generally speaking, power and distance are not really concerns for what I'm practicing now, which is mainly short range work with pistol and rifle.

    So reloading powder charges are usually listed as a minimum amount and a maximum amount. I understand the normal procedure is to start at minimum and work your way towards maximum until you see pressure signs.

    If I really don't care about maximizing power and distance, is there any reason for me not to stick with minimum powder charges?
  2. Zeke Markham

    Zeke Markham Member

    Apr 16, 2008
    Not really, as long as it is a reliable, accurate load. One of my favorite 30-30 loads is just over the minimum.

    NOLAEMT Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    go for it.

    I load my 45acp to two different levels, a "minimum level" that is listed at the bottom of the chart for plinking, and a "government" load that replicates standard pressure 230 gr ball ammo.

    For 357 I only load toward the higher end of the spectrum, as I use that gun mostly for time spent in the woods.
  4. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

    Apr 13, 2007
    The minimum charge isn't automatically the most accurate for a particular bullet. The minimum charge isn't automatically the cleanest, either.

    If you're shooting, say USPSA or IDPA, the minimum charge may not make the required power factor.

    Rules aside, the minimum charge may make the gun feel sluggish.

    For range/target/competition use, then, the best charge isn't necessarily the minimum charge, but the one that best balances any of the above with comfort, control-ability (recoil & muzzle blast) and cost. JMHO, mind you.
  5. TonyAngel

    TonyAngel Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    I've found that minimum charges usually result in inconsistent performance. Powders generally tend to perform at their best when they are at the upper end of their pressure range. Faster powders will perform better than slower powders at minimum charges. It's just my experience.

    If I want to go slow, then I use a fast powder. When I want to load hot, I go with a slower powder. Don't take a slow powder and try to download it.

    If you want puff loads, stick with Bullseye.
  6. RandyP

    RandyP Member

    Jan 28, 2009
    I'd say load what cycles well in your pistol and is reliable. That could be min or it could be slightly over that. For SD target plinking at typical (15-20') distances, you may well not notice any accuracy changes regardless of load.
  7. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

    Dec 29, 2006
    Good advice.

    Light loads are easier on your brass, easier on your pistol. Semi auto pistols require a minimum level of recoil to function, revolvers will work as long as you can pull the trigger.

    I found I could get reliable function out of my Kimber with loads that averaged 650 fps. I was using Bullseye which is a very fast burning pistol powder, one that gives a sharp, quick kick to the mechanism. If I had been using a a slower powder I probably would not have gotten as good results and probably had unburnt powder in the mechanism.

    Kimber Custom Classic 45ACP

    230 LFN Bull-X 3.5 grs Bullseye Mixed Brass WLP
    8-Jan-06 T = 61 °F OAL 1.20" taper crimp .469"
    Ave Vel = 643.6
    Std Dev = 14.07
    ES = 63.63
    High = 679.9
    Low = 616.3
    N = 32
    shot a little high
    Pistol cycled each shot

    I would not say that light loads are inherently inaccurate in rifles. Depending on the powder, the barrel, the rifle, light loads can be extremely accurate. My load of 168 Match 39 grains IMR 4895 (AA2495 is same stuff) shoots extremely well and I use it standing at 200 yards. On calm still days I have shot it out to 300 yards and shot high master scores. If memory is correct, this load clocks at 2450 fps in a 26" tube, and I shot a very nice 20 round group in a 100 yard highpower match.

  8. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Member

    Feb 6, 2007

    +1. But if the performance from minimum loads are good enough for you, I second the "go for it!". Accuracy and clean burning are relative to the shooters expectations and needs......one reason we reload. Only concerns I have with using minimum loads is using starting loads for handguns in handgun caliber long-guns. Sometimes starting loads for jacketed bullets work just fine in .357 and .44 handguns, but will stick a bullet in a 20'' barrelled carbine.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2010
  9. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Nov 20, 2006
    or some other fast powder suitable for the caliber. A 700 FPS load of fast powder like Bullseye will burn more cleanly and consistently than a 700 FPS load of slower powder like HS-6 in a caliber such as .45 ACP. Both good powders, but the fast one is better suited for slower velocities.

    All my light loads in pistol calibers use fairly "fast" (WST, AA #2, N310, N320, Competition, etc) pistol powders. When I want more velocity, I go with a more "medium" speed pistol powder (W-231, N330, N340, AA #5, etc. For full loads in magnum pistol calibers I use a "slow" pistol powder, such as AA #9 or N110.

    There are exceptions where some "medium" pistol powders do quite well at light levels, but that is not the norm. They tend to burn dirtier and give bigger ES & SD numbers (less consistent) when loaded down.
  10. Steve C

    Steve C Member

    Jan 5, 2006
    The lower load in the manual is the "start" load not a minimum. The start load is generally a 10% reduction from the maximum and is considered a safe level where you are unlikely to have or see over pressure. The maximum load should never be reloaded at without working up to it as there are enough differences between guns and components where the assembly mix at maximum charge could result in over pressure.

    Target loads that have been used successfully for many years are often below the start level of "normal" or "standard" powder loads for the bullet weight.

    You can safely load charges that are well below the listed start load. Use some common sense and look for stuck bullets if you drop very low in charge.
  11. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

    Nov 25, 2006
    Northeast PA, USA
    I agree with all of the above who say it's fine. Like mentioned, as long as the load is accurate there's no reason to "jack it up" just because the velocity is higher. Hey, the brass will last longer and you will save on powder too...
  12. transtech

    transtech Member

    Jun 17, 2009
    +1 for what Steve C wrote. I have a load in 45ACP with a Hornady 185 grain jacketed semi-wadcutter with Clays that the Hodgdon reloading site listed a minimum charge of 4.5 grains. Since I shoot this in a Smith 625 45ACP revolver, I don't have to worry about cycling a slide & although the 4.5 grain load shot with terrific accuracy, I tried a reduction to 4.0 grains of Clays & got less recoil with the same great accuracy & the lighter load still cycled my Smith & Kimber 1911's with 11 lb. springs. The point: don't be afraid to use min or start loadsor even lighter, but as always, a good practice that you'll see said over & over is "Load 10, Test 10".
  13. Maj Dad

    Maj Dad Member

    Dec 1, 2005
    Carolina Low Country
    The classic centerfire pistol match load in 38 Spl is 2.7 gr BE under a 146/148 gr wadcutter. It is about as mild as you can get, and the accuracy was and is nothing short of excellent. Match winning, in fact. If your pistol shoots mild loads accurately and to your satisfaction, there is no issue. If not, do like we all do: try different loads with different powders and bullets. I think we all do that regardless... :D
  14. mjyeagle

    mjyeagle Member

    Jun 11, 2010
    my thinking too except the bullseye i like trail boss titegroup or clays
  15. Red Cent

    Red Cent Member

    May 20, 2010
    McLeansville, NC by way of WV SASS 29170L
    Pistol. Semi-auto?
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