Powder is Powder, Isn't It?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Jim Watson, Apr 15, 2021.

  1. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    We are frequently cautioned that smokeless powder varies from production lot to lot and one should "work up" a load with every purchase.
    We are told that powder changes with age.
    And further, the distributors (Hodgdon and Accurate, I am looking at you) will change the source of a given powder without notice; same name, different raw materials, different factory.

    I thought that surely the stuff was more consistent than to warrant all this angst, but then the back of the shelf gave me a chance to check it out. I have two partial containers of Hodgdon's H322; one with fine print "Made in Scotland," the other "Made in Australia." So I loaded up some ammo with each; .223, 50 gr SP, 22.8 gr H322, a 95% load from the Hodgdon www. Same bag of WW .223 brass, same flat of CCI BR4 primers, same box of 50 gr Remington soft points. Kind of a third tier bullet, but it was the last of that box, so I used them up in the name of science, not expecting really fine accuracy.

    I shot some hardball to get on the paper, then a couple of H322 rounds as fouling shots, then tediously aligned the chronograph with the target. (A great advertisement for Labradar, if I were doing a lot of this.)

    H322 Scotland - average velocity of ten - 2946 fps
    H322 Australia - average velocity of ten - 2877 fps
    Difference of 69 fps, 2.4%.

    I didn't expect great accuracy and I didn't get it but there was no real difference, 1.15" best of 4 five shot groups, other three right at 1.21".
     
  2. Ranger99

    Ranger99 Member

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    JMHO- the warning is probably geared
    more toward the folks loading on the
    ragged edge.
    I see a lot of folks these days that won't
    work up from suggested start at all
    and skip right to, and past book max.
    More so than when I first started.
     
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  3. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

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    I think that is probably the reason. I habitually stay away from max loads as long as I can get good accuracy lower on the scale. I think you avoid a lot of problems in doing so.
     
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  4. milsurpguy

    milsurpguy Member

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    I just buy kegs, lasts a long time, buy another keg, load it close to the same charge, check V and MOA and keep loading.
     
  5. FROGO207

    FROGO207 Member

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    Interesting. I think that canister propellants have pretty good batch to batch tolerances on the whole. If I had a little in each canister and was going to use it all up at once I would mix both well and work a load up from there. Have done this several times with zero problems but YMMV.
     
  6. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    "... folks loading on the ragged edge ..."

    Friend of my son inherited a nice bolt action rifle and the relative's handloads. We went together to shoot it. Bolt locked up and had to be forced open. I was given the ammo to check out. The fired casing we pried from the gun showed signs of excessive pressure. The load was written on a label on the box. According to Hornady's reloading manual, the load was two grains past the maximum listed for the powder and bullet weight used. I pulled one of the bullets and weighed the charge with my balance scale. It weighed what he wrote. Two grains over the recommended maximum for the powder.

    Some folks load on the ragged edge. Then some folks push the envelope right over the edge of the loading table.
     
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  7. MEHavey

    MEHavey Member

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    Also... no two weapons are alike.
    Chamber dimensions, leade, barrel bore/groove (and many et ceteras) ...
    all play "in" the internal ballistics that play "out" when thing go "bang."
    :what:
     
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  8. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    I just changed lots of RL-15, and the difference was substantial.
     
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  9. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    The gunpowder we buy is blended to a pressure curve, plus of minus. Accurate Arms told me their plus or minus 5% was half the industry standard of plus or minus 10%.

    We live in a world where most of the products you consume are blended to met some sort of an average. Single malt scotch is blended from stocks from different casks to meet the "taste" of the brand, so is Kentucky bourbon. The Master distillery will rotate casks/barrels, move them around the warehouse, even pour the spirits into a different cask, of different wood, to get the stuff close to the taste he wants, which is then going to be blended anyway.

    And no one thinks about this, but tomatoes, mustard, tea, etc, none of it is the same on the vine or on the tree, so the manufacturer's of ketchup, mustard sauce, and tea, have to blend stocks so the product has that consistent taste you crave. And this has been true for generations before you were born.

    Ammunition companies have their own pressure and velocity gauges so they can save money by buying non blended powder direct from the gunpowder maker. Back in the day however, all reloaders could do was develop a load till the primer blew out, and then back off. Now at least we have chronographs, which absolutely destroyed the Wildcat cartridge era. Super speed claims were common in the great Wildcat era, because more means more and shooters of course, want more. It is absolutely wonderful how velocity will compensate for lack of range estimation, bullet expansion, and of course, marksmanship skills at range.

    U21sy9O.jpg

    All the shooter has to do, it point the rifle in the general direction of the game, yank the trigger, and velocity will self compensate for all the shooter induced errors for over the horizon shots.
     
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  10. scott511

    scott511 Member

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    If you are within published data, why would you work up again from lot to lot of powder?
    Do they publish data for every lot of powder?
     
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  11. rkittine

    rkittine Member

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    Depending on what you are shooting and what your expectations are, sure stay in the safe zone and from lot to lot probably will not be an issue. But, your POI may change and your groups may change when lots change.
     
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  12. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    The OP provided data. A difference of 69fps between lots. This is pretty significant for many of us. That would be a difference of about a FOOT at 1000yrds for me, not an acceptable offset. So I don’t blindly change lots without confirming velocity and nodes.
     
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  13. scott511

    scott511 Member

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    My expectations are generally that if the guy is on the ground and not shooting at me, I'm good.
    I will say that for long range shooting it might make sense though.
     
  14. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Old rule of thumb for SMALL changes treated as linear:
    Change in velocity is proportional to change in powder charge, but the change in pressure is double. So a difference of 2.4% in velocity implies a 4.8% change in pressure. So that is acceptable to "the industry."
    By the way, somebody else said the usual tolerance was 4%.
    Be nice if one of the Hodgdons would comment, as they did on an earlier powder thread.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2021
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  15. lightman

    lightman Member

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    I have a good friend that max's out everything that he does. He has the fuel turned up on his tractors, the governors turned up on his trailer trucks, the pressure turned up on his air compressor from 165psi to 200psi, and his reloads are the same way. He moved a few years ago and never set up his reloading equipment after the move so he comes over to my house to load. At my insistence we are loading his stuff a lot more conservatively now.

    I have another friend that does the same thing when loading. He usually only gets one loading from his brass. I don't understand..............
     
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  16. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    We have always had the overenthusiastic or uninformed reloader who starts high and goes higher, but I am seeing the opposite in the influx of new Panicdemic generated shooters and reloaders who are timid about the processes.
    If a 10% reduction in powder charge is a normal "starting load" wouldn't 20% be safer?
    Can I shoot .38 Special +P in my .357 Magnum?
    Can I shoot smokeless ammunition in my early 20th century gun*?
    Should I shoot my Old Gun* at all?
    *Even though they are name brands respected for quality then and now, not the cheap stuff.
     
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  17. mdi

    mdi Member

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    Good info from the gentlemen above, thanks. I have read a few times (internet wisdom?) that powder manufacturers keep their performance characteristics to within 4% of the "standard" for a particular powder. But I have also read/heard many years ago that anytime a component is changed another load workup is done. I rarely go up to max. charges, but I like reloading and any "excuse" is welcome. But I have to admit there are times when I opened a new jug and just kept using my "standard" loads and I have even mixed different lots of powders.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2021
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  18. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    More means more, even if they don't know what the increase delivers.

    A gunsmith I know was mocking the reloaders who come in with their M700's with the bolt handles snapped off. These guys load beyond max, try to beat the bolt open with something, and snap off the bolt handle. The gunsmith has to unscrew the barrel to get the cartridge out.

    It really proves that Mike Walker made a safe action as these guys would probably be missing an eye if they had hot rodded a different action. Like a Mauser M1896.
     
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  19. ms6852

    ms6852 Member

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    I've noticed this trend as well, where it seems that the younger generations seem more intrigued with velocity than accuracy. I've always started at the lower end of the spectrum and worked my way to close to max load data but not quite achieving max. In my rifles I've never found two nodes where two different loadings gave me the accuracy I wanted to achieve. So through the years, once a certain load gave me the group I liked I would shoot another group just with a higher load and see the group spread. Now after decades of shooting and reloading I just start at the bottom and shoot until I get the group I want. It always seems to be in the midrange between min and max loads
     
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  20. scotty

    scotty Member

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    I agree with ms6852. I always load for accuracy rather than velocity. If the bullet doesn't hit the target, who cares how fast it went?
     
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  21. Reloadron
    • Contributing Member

    Reloadron Contributing Member

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    The following is taken from Titan Reloading:

    "Using any setting on your powder measure (preferably a whole number), drop a charge of the powder you wish to determine the VMD for. Weigh the charge. Divide the measure setting you used to drop the charge by the weight of the charge. The result is the volume (cc) of a single grain of powder (VMD)

    CC setting (powder measure setting)
    --------------------------------------- = VMD (volume in cc's for 1 grain)
    Weight of the sample

    It is very important that you repeat this process with any new container of the same powder because the powder companies allow themselves a 16% tolerance between batches. This can result in over charging if you work from the same setting and the next container of powder you get is more dense".

    When I buy powder I generally try for 8 pound cannisters and be it a one, two or 8 pound I try and get a VMD check right at the opening and note that on the container along with the date I opened it. I have no idea how close to true that 16% number is but if I see a large shift going from one lot to another I may back down my loads by a few grains and seldom revert all the way back to minimum.

    Also in most of what I load for cartridges like 30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester and .223 Remington I seem to hit my best accuracy primer, powder, case and bullet before hitting a maximum powder load. I am also not really overly big on the whole node thing either. The only rifle that challenged me was my 257 Weatherby Magnum pencil barrel where as I exceeded max loads the groups started to shrink and I just gave up and sold the rifle which I was never that fond of anyway. :)

    Ron
     
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  22. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    I've used 700-X in 45 ACP since the 1980's and True Blue in 9x19 since 2008. Published data from the manufacturers have changed over time, generally reduced the maximum charge. I've reduced my loads accordingly and the performance has remained about the same as with the old powder and old data. This has been my main experience with new lots of powder.

    My rifle loads are not at maximum, I find an accurate load that suits my purpose that is below the maximum book load. Im periodically check that the velocity is the same as I go through various lots of powder. I check to see if the publish data has changed over time.

    I'm not into super accurate bench rest shooting at present so I'm not as finicky about powder lots as long as I do not experience over pressure signs. If new lots of powder exhibits poor accuracy with rifle loads, I make adjustments top find a new, good accuracy level.

    Like many, accuracy is more important to me than raw speed.
     
  23. Poper

    Poper Member

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    I had exactly the same experience with a Ruger 77Rin .270 Win. and AA3100 about 25 years ago.
     
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