Tag Archives: Hodgdon

RELOADERS CORNER: Picking Propellants

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There are a whopping lot of propellants on the market. How do you choose one? Well, usually it’s more than one… READ WHY

PROPELLANT

Glen Zediker

All we ever really want is a propellant that provides high consistent velocity, small groups at distance, safe pressures over a wide range of temperatures, and burns cleanly, and, of course, it should meter perfectly. Dang. I know, right?

Ultimately, propellant choice often ends up as a compromise and it may well be that the smallest compromises identify the better propellants. Getting the most good from your choice, in other words, with the fewest liabilities.

There are two tiers of basics defining centerfire rifle propellant formulas. The granule form can be either spherical (round granules) or extruded (cylindrical granules). Next, the composition can be either single- or double-base. All propellants have nitrocellulose as the base; double-base stirs in some nitroglycerol to increase energy.

There’s been a good deal of effort expended and applied over the past several years to reduce the temperature sensitivity of propellant. Coatings come first to mind, and I use nothing but these “treated” propellants.

This attribute is very (very) important! It’s more important the more rounds you fire throughout a year. A competitive shooter’s score hinges on consistent ammunition performance. Test in Mississippi and then go to Ohio and expect there to be some change in zero, but a change in accuracy or a sudden excess of pressure and that’s a long trip back home. It’s common enough for temperatures to (relatively speaking) plummet on at least one day at the National Matches, so my 95-degree load has to function when it’s 50.

extruded propellant

Some are decidedly better than others in this. There are several propellants I’ve tried and will not use because I didn’t get reliable results when conditions changed. Some gave outstanding groups on target, on that day, at that hour, but went goofy the next month when it was +20 degrees. Heat and cold can influence pressure in a sensitive propellant.

Single-base extruded (“stick”) propellants are my first choice. A good example of one of those is Hodgdon 4895. These tend to be flexible in maintaining performance over a wider range of velocities, related to a wider range of charge weights. For instance, I’ll vary the charge weight of the same propellant for ammo for different yard lines. I’m reducing recoil or increasing velocity, depending on what matters more. Zero and velocity are different, but accuracy doesn’t change.

H4895
There are a few single-base extruded propellants that show impressive flexibility in load levels as well as in different round structures. This is one of the most flexible I’ve used, and I use a lot of it!

Spherical or “ball” propellants (these are double-base) are a good choice for high-volume production, and also tend to be a great choice for highest velocities at safe pressures. These meter with liquid precision. They, however, tend to be less flexible. That means they tend to work best at a set and fairly finite charge and don’t do as well at much less or more than that, and especially at much less than that. More in a minute.

spherical propellant
Spherical propellants tend to be volume sensitive. My experience has been they’ll perform best when the fill level is a good 90-percent. That means there’s a little smaller gap between one that’s good with, say, 50gr bullets and one that works well with 60s. It’s likely to be two propellant choices, not just one. Generally, spherical propellants do their best when loaded near-to-max.

Double-base extruded propellants (sometimes called “high-energy”) do, yes, produce higher velocities at equal pressures compared to single-base but also tend to be less flexible and exhibit performance changes along with temperature changes. Vihta-Vuori and Alliant are the best known for their formulations in these. Double-base usually burns at a hotter temperature (not faster or slower, just hotter) and can increase throat erosion rate. Some double-base spherical propellants claim to burn cooler. I’m not certain that this is a huge selling point, either way, for a serious shooter, but, there it is.

VV540
Double-base extruded propellants are mighty fuels, but, they tend GENERALLY to be more temperature sensitive and also burn hotter. Now. That’s not always true (I think NONE one of this is always true). With Viht. you can have a choice of double- or single-base in the same essential burning rate; N140 is single-base, N540 is double.

All propellants are ranked by burning rate. That’s easy. That’s just how quickly the powder will consume itself. All reloading data manuals I’ve seen list propellant data in order from faster to slower. For instance, if you’re looking at .223 Remington data and start off with tables for 40-grain bullets, you’ll see faster propellants to start the list than you will moving over to the suggestions for 75-grain bullets.

It’s tough to find a perfect propellant for a wide range of same-caliber bullet weights. Faster-burning propellants tend to do better with lighter bullets and slower-burning tends to get more from heavier bullets. That’s all about pressure and volume compatibility. Again, I have found that a single-base extruded propellant will work overall better over, say, a 20-plus-grain bullet weight range than a single choice in a spherical propellant.

scale pan with powder
Extruded propellants vary greatly in granule size, and, usually, the smaller the better. More precise metering. This is VV540, strong stuff, meters well. There are a few now that are very (very) small-grained (like Hodgdon Benchmark).

The idea, or at least as I’ll present my take on it, is that we want a fairly full case but not completely full. I don’t like running compressed loads (crunching a bullet down cannot be a good thing), and excessive air space is linked to inconsistent combustion. We ran tests upmteen years ago with M1As and found that out. Many details omitted, but here was the end: Settling the propellant back in the case prior to each shot absolutely reduced shot-to-shot velocity differences (the load was with a 4895, necessary for port pressure limits, and didn’t fully fill the case).

Generally, and that’s a word I’ll use a lot in this (and that’s because I know enough exceptions), spherical propellants have always performed best for me and those I share notes with when they’re running close to a max-level charge. More specifically, not much luck with reduced-level charges.

Too little spherical propellant, and I’m talking about a “light” load, can create quirky pressure issues. Workable loads are fenced into in a narrower range. This all has to do with the fill volume of propellant in the capped cartridge case, and, as suggested, that’s usually better more than less. That further means, also as suggested, there is less likely to be one spherical propellant choice that’s going to cover a wide range of bullet weights. That’s also a good reason there are so many available.

With some spherical propellants, going from a good performing load at, say 25 grains, and dropping to 23 can be too much reduction. One sign that the fill volume is insufficient is seeing a “fireball” at the muzzle. Unsettling to say the least.

Spherical propellants also seem to do their best with a “hot” primer. Imagine how many more individual coated pieces of propellant there are in a 25-grain load of spherical compared to a 25-grain charge of extruded, and it makes sense.

However! I sho don’t let that stop me from using them! I load a whopping lot of spherical for our daily range days. We’re not running a light load and we’re not running heavy bullet. We are, for what it’s worth, running H335.

So, still, how do you choose a propellant? Where do you start? I really wish I had a better answer than to only tell you what I use, or what I won’t use. There are a lot of good industry sources and one I’ve had experience with, including a recent phone session helping me sort out Benchmark, is Hodgdon. You can call and talk with someone, not just input data. Recommended.

When it’s time, though, to “get serious” and pack up for a tournament, I’m going to be packing a box full of rounds made with a single-base extruded propellant that meters well. As mentioned before in these pages, I have no choice in that, really. I’ll only run the same bullet jackets and same propellant through the same barrel on the same day. I need a propellant that works for anything between 70- and 90-grain bullets.

With time comes experience, and I know I sure tend to fall back on recollections of good experiences. I admittedly am not an eager tester of new (to me) propellants. I have some I fall back on, and those tend to be the first I try with a new combination. There are always going to be new propellants. That’s not a static industry. I may seem very much stuck in the past, but I no longer try every new propellant out there. I like to have some background with a propellant, meaning I’ve seen its results in different rifles and component combinations. Mostly, I ask one of those folks who tries every new propellant…

There is a lot of information on the internet. You’re on the internet now. However! There’s also not much if anything in the way of warranty. If you see the same propellant mentioned for the same application a lot of times, take that as a sign it might work well for you. Do not, however, short cut the very important step of working up toward a final charge. Take any loads you see and drop them a good half-grain, and make sure the other components you’re using are a close match for those in the published data.

One last: Speaking of temperature sensitivity: Watch out out there folks. It is easily possible for a round to detonate in a rifle chamber if it’s left long enough. Yes, it has to be really hot, but don’t take a risk. A rash of rapid-fire can create enough heat. Make sure you unload your rifle! Here’s an article you might find interesting.

CHECK OUT CHOICES AT MIDSOUTH
Hodgdon
Shooters World
Vihtavuori
Alliant

The preceding is a specially-adapted excerpt from Glen’s book Top-Grade Ammo. Available HERE at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.

 

Hodgdon Adds 224 Valkyrie to Load Data Site!

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Hodgdon Logo

One of the hottest calibers of 2018, the 224 Valkyrie keeps the hype comings and suppliers are working hard to keep up with customer requests. It continues to impress shooters across the nation, but as it’s popularity gains, more and more people are hungry for better standardized data to build their own ammunition.

Hodgdon Powders, one of the most trusted names in reloading powder, and reloading data, has stepped up to the plate with their amazing reloading web tool, and offered a full menu of reloading data for the 224 Valkyrie. Use this guide to hone your reloads!

Hodgdon Valkyrie Reloading Data

Much to the excitement of our Do-It-Yourself customers, the reloading data comes at a time when there are more component options available than ever. You can find everything you need to load your own 224 Valkyrie right here at Midsouth shooters Supply!

Will this wicked new caliber continue to live up to the hype? Have you started reloading for it yet? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

PRODUCT NEWS: Shooters World SW4350 Propellant

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A newly-formulated old-favorite propellant gets put to the test by Olympian Ken Johnson. READ THE RESULTS

Ken Johnson

I’ve been having dreams about 4350. But not the kind of dreams you’d think a ballistician would have. The book, “The Art of Memory” therein provides clues as to why my brain thought it would be smart to sprinkle this stuff on my ice cream. WAIT! Before you wave your magic finger and go back to Facebook…

Well, sure enough, it’s a useful propellant. Moderately slow. Too slow for .308, but in terms of propellants better suited for higher chamber-to-bore ratios, it’s a wise choice to have on hand. And it seems to be the favorite punch to serve to the Prom Queen (Miss Jezebel Creedmoor) at the Prairie Revival School dance. More soon…

I shot 4350 in .243 Winchester with a 107 Sierra Match King, back when I won the very last 300-Meter 3-Position Rifle event at the Pan American Games, Argentina 1995. I have fond memories of Argentina. And, the accuracy of that 4350 powder.

Our manufacturer has been making 4350-speed propellant for approximately 70 years. They know the burn speed, and they know how to make it right. Recently, they upgraded the chemical stabilizer from 1940s technology to that of the European Chemical Hazards Agency compliant goop. Current vernacular describes this propellant as “REACH Compliant.” It’s good to know that you won’t be poisoned by this powder now, if you sprinkle it on your ice cream… That was a joke. Don’t do that.

Now, for those who’ve followed the history and application of THIS propellant in a parallel universe, you’ll know it to be slightly slower in burn rate than other 4350 offerings. In our analysis, we found that to be largely true.

So…about that dance with Miss Creedmoor… I decided to run a test of our SW4350 data against H4350 data to determine relative accuracy performance. It was a relatively warm July day in the Panhandle of North Florida, a few miles inland from the Forgotten Coast.

The thermometer read 94.5 degrees. The humidity would be classified as “swamp.” Mirage was switching left-to-right, and right-to-left again. Heavy at times, like shooting through a swimming pool, but as easy to read as Dick and Jane. Hornady virgin, unmolested brass. I did absolutely nothing to the brass, other than seat a primer, dump some powder, and cram in a bullet. All charges were weighed to 0.10-grains. Federal 210M primers. Nosler Accubond 130s. Fired at 250 yards. Standard SAAMI 6.5 Creedmoor chamber. I did all the gun plumbing. 1-7 twist 5-R Rock Creek 24-inch barrel. Predator action, torqued to 65 inch-pounds.

Now I’ll grant you, I didn’t shoot hundreds of rounds of each sample. But, I did double-blind the test. So, I didn’t know which ammunition I was shooting. All I knew was “1” went on top, and “2” went on the bottom. And, my apprentice had a good time playing with my head. She tends to do that, especially when “doing the dishes” is on the line! That bride of mine, she keeps life interesting.

Below, the various groups shot alternating between the two samples. According to my results, SW4350 had less vertical dispersion than the H-version.

SW4350 vs. H4350

I can tell you that the mirage was running that day. And I never noticed it boil at all. So, I cannot find cause for the vertical shots. But you be the judge, and let me know your thoughts!

ken johnson

As an added bonus to celebrate the release of the new SW4350, Shooters World Powder is covering your HAZMAT! When you buy 4 pounds of Shooters World Powder, you get FREE HAZMAT on your entire order. This is your chance to try one of the most popular powder types out there, at a better price, with some exciting results!

Click Here to shop all Shooters World Powders!

About the author: Ken Johnson works with Shooters World in the capacity of Ballistics Managing Partner, Laboratory Manager, and Ballistician. In addition, Ken has had a long and distinguished career as a championship shooter both with the USAMU and USA Olympic Team, having won numerous gold, silver, and bronze medals in the Pan American Games, World Championship, and other international events, as well as national championships at Camp Perry. 

Top Hunting and Shooting Equipment Brands for 2015

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shooting-hunting-survey graphicSouthwick Associates, a Fernandina Beach, Fla.–based market research and economics firm specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing, and outdoor-recreation markets, released what it says are the top brands for many hunting- and shooting-product categories in 2015. This list was compiled from internet-based surveys completed in 2015 HunterSurvey.com and ShooterSurvey.com panels.

Midsouth Shooters Supply looked over Southwick’s product-category winners and assembled the 10-most-popular category winners for 2015:

Reloading Components

Top Reloading Bullet Brand: Hornady

Top Reloading Primer Brand: CCI

Top Reloading Powder Brand: Hodgdon

Ammunition

Top Shotgun Ammunition Brand: Winchester

Top Rifle Ammunition Brand: Federal

Top Handgun Ammunition Brand: Winchester

Top Blackpowder Brand: Pyrodex

Shooting Equipment

Top Scope: Leupold

Top Muzzleloader: CVA

Top Holster/Ammo Belt Brand: Blackhawk

In a previous survey of people who said they reloaded, 88 percent cited “saving money” as the key reason. The survey, conducted in September 2015, said that “improving accuracy” was the second largest interest of handloaders at 70 percent. “Obtaining rounds difficult to find in stores” came in third with 40 percent, and “reducing waste” was cited as a reason by only 30 percent. Survey participants could choose more than one reason.

Of the types of ammunition reloaded, 76 percent reload rifle ammo, 64 percent reload for their handguns, and 30 percent reload shells for their shotguns.

“Over time, ammunition can be the most expensive aspect of recreational shooting, so it makes sense that avid shooters see reloading as a way to cut costs without cutting time at the range,” said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates. “Of course, a key byproduct of saving money through reloading is a person also becomes more knowledgeable about their firearm’s performance and can even potentially achieve better performance by fine-tuning a specific load to their firearm.”

You can participate in the surveys at HunterSurvey.com and ShooterSurvey.com.

How do these survey results stack up, in your opinion?

 

 

Exploring Hodgdon’s Pistol-Cartridge-Load Website

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Midsouth Shooters Supply customers buy a lot of Hodgdon powders because the company makes great products and because Hodgdon’s staffers support the efforts of reloaders in a number of ways.

We previously noted here that some of the company’s available materials appear in the Hodgdon Reloading Education section. Click here to see the landing page on which Hodgdon begins the education process. Click here to see Safety precautions. Then click the Reloading for Beginners tab to get an overview of the basics of handloading. Click here to  prob

The Hodgdon Pistol Reloading Data page displays a pulldown menu with a lineup of available cartridges from 17 Bumble Bee through 500 S&W Magnum. Here’s a closer look at the detailed data for the 155-grain lead semi-wadcutter bullet.
The Hodgdon Pistol Reloading Data page displays a pulldown menu with a lineup of available cartridges from 17 Bumble Bee through 500 S&W Magnum. Here’s a closer look at the detailed data for the 155-grain lead semi-wadcutter bullet.

e more deeply into the data available for reloading rifle cartridges.

This time we’re going to explore the Hodgdon Pistol Reloading Data page. Like the Rifle page, the Pistol page gets you started by asking you to select a cartridge from a pulldown menu. The lineup of available cartridges begins at the 17 Bumble Bee and continues through the 500 S&W Magnum. There are dozens choices of currently available commercial favorites, such as the 380 Auto, 9mm Luger, and 45 ACP, plus a bunch of popular high-performance loads that can be chambered in handguns as well as rifles.

Once you’ve selected a cartridge, which for our purposes here is the 45 ACP, you’re then able to select a range of bullet weights. In the case of the 45 ACP, that ranges from weights from 155 to 230 grains and a variety of bullet profiles.

When the user selects a bullet weight (or weights), the site returns a range of data for that load. We’ve been looking at building a lower-recoil training load with a 155-grain bullet, so we clicked “155” from the bullet-weight menu, and then perused the two load-data selections the site presented: a 155-grain cast bullet and an SFire projectile. The cast load was what we’re looking for, so we then expanded that window and saw additional information about that choice, including Case: Winchester, barrel twist (1:16 inches), primer (Federal 150 Large Pistol), barrel length (5 inches), and trim length for the case (0.893 inches).

Then, in more detail, the window for the 155-grain cast LSWC (lead semi-wadcutter) load lists the recommended powders, starting loads, and maximum loads, along with estimated pressures. For our training load, a promising starting load for the 45 ACP 155-grain round is 4.9 grains of Winchester WST, which will produce a velocity of 919 fps and develop 13,100 copper units of pressure (CUP).

If we wanted to work up hotter and hotter loads, there are plenty of powder choices — 15 others, to be exact. Just among the starting loads we could run up to 1,019 fps with 7.8 grains of IMR 800-X, which is estimated to produce 13,600 CUP. Then, if we wanted to really push that 155-grain round, we could work up to maximum loads producing as much as 1,132 fps and 17,000 CUP with 6.2 grains of Hodgdon’s Titegroup.

Also, you can narrow your selections by manufacturer or specific powder if you have already have pet loads you like to work with.

The Hodgdon pistol-cartridge reloading table lets you select proven, safe, and varied mixtures of bullet weights and powder choices to build nearly any recipe of handgun performance you need.

The Hodgdon Pistol Reloading Data page displays a pulldown menu with a lineup of available cartridges from 17 Bumble Bee through 500 S&W Magnum. See the image above for a detailed look at the 155-grain lead semi-wadcutter bullet.

HODGDON’S RIFLE-CARTRIDGE LOADING HELP

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As we’ve previously noted, Midsouth Shooters Supply customers enjoy using Hodgdon powders, in part because the company makes great products, but also because the company’s experts supply plenty of help for shooters who want to get started in reloading.

We previously noted here that some of the company’s available materials appear in the Hodgdon Reloading Education section. Click here to see the landing page on which Hodgdon begins the education process. Click here to see Safety precautions. Then click the Reloading for Beginners tab to get an overview of the basics of handloading. This time, we want to probe more deeply into the data available for reloading rifle cartridges.

The Hodgdon Rifle Reloading Data page gets you started by asking you to select a cartridge from a pulldown menu. The lineup of available cartridges begins at the 17 Ackley Hornet and continues through the 50 Browning Machine Gun, or 50 BMG. What’s nice is there are dozens choices of currently available commercial favorites, such as the 30-06 Springfield, as well as popular wildcats (219 Wasp), new entries, such as the 28 Nosler, and proprietary rounds, such as the 240 Weatherby Magnum and others.

The Hodgdon Rifle Reloading Data page displays a pulldown menu with a lineup of available cartridges from 17 Ackley Hornet through 50 BMG. Magnum and others. Step 2 is selecting a bullet weight, then a powder manufacturer, then a specific powder.
The Hodgdon Rifle Reloading Data page displays a pulldown menu with a lineup of available cartridges from 17 Ackley Hornet through 50 BMG. Magnum and others. Step 2 is selecting a bullet weight, then a powder manufacturer, then a specific powder.

Once you’ve selected a cartridge, which for our purposes here is the 25-06 Remington, you’re then able to select a range of bullet weights. In the case of the 25-06, that ranges from weights from 75 to 120 grains and a variety of bullet profiles.

When you select a bullet weight (or weights), the site returns a range of data for that load. Our search was to “select all,” which provided load data beginning with the 75-grain Hornady V-Max bullet. We then expanded that window and saw additional information about that choice, including Case: Remington, barrel twist (1:10”), primer (Remington 9 1/2, Large Rifle), barrel length (24 inches), and trim length for the case (2.484 inches).

Then, in more detail, the window for the 75-grain Hornady V-Max load lists the recommended powders, starting loads, and maximum loads, along with estimated pressure outcomes. The lowest-pressure starting load for the 25-06 75-grain Hornady V-Max round was with 58.0 grains of Hodgdon H1000, which will produce a velocity of 3,135 fps and develop 35,300 copper units of pressure (CUP).

The highest-pressure choice for the 25-06 75-grain Hornady V-Max round came with IMR 4451 (58.5 grains), which will produce 3,781 fps and 60,300 PSI (not CUP in this case).

Of course, you can deselect various elements to narrow your search. One particular bolt gun we have chambered in 25-06 Rem. has proven it can shoot commercial 115-grain Winchester Ballistic Tip ammunition (SBST2506) into three-quarters-inch groups if the shooter does his part, and its downrange performance with a 200-yard zero gives a bullet drop of -6.0 inches at 300 yards, so we can hold top of deer — but still on the target — and expect a center hit at 300 yards.

Unfortunately, that specific bullet isn’t available in the Hodgdon tables, but the data are still useful in building a test load to create something like it. We could select a similar bullet weight, such as the 117-grain Hornady SPBT, then look at which powders we wanted to work with to get the commercial round’s stated 3,060 fps muzzle velocity. (There are other considerations besides velocity of course, such as the bullets’ different ballistic coefficients, but first things first.) Or we could buy another 115-grain bullet, such as the Nosler Ballistic Tip, then use the 117-grain powder recommendations to begin working up profiles to build our own home-brew commercial load.

We’d choose one whose maximum load had a little velocity headroom in it — such as the Hodgdon Hybrid 100V that produces 3,111 fps with a maximum load of 50.5 grains and not the highest pressure. In this case, that’s 50,400 CUP. But there are plenty of other choices if that recipe doesn’t produce the results we wanted.

Also, you can narrow your selections by manufacturer or specific powder if you have already have pet loads you like to work with.

And that’s really the value of the Hodgdon rifle-cartridge reloading table: You’re able to select proven, safe, and varied mixtures of bullet weights and powder to begin making your own tack-driver loads.

Hodgdon’s Step-by-Step Loading Help

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Midsouth Shooters Supply sells a ton of Hodgdon powders, because, of course, the company makes great products our customers love. But Hodgdon powders are also popular because the company’s experts are willing to help folks get started in the craft or guide experienced hands toward new reloading ventures. Whether you’re new to reloading or a seasoned vet, there’s always something more to learn.

That’s where Hodgdon’s Reloading Education section comes in. The company has stockpiled a wealth of information that can help take your handloading to the next level. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at Hodgdon’s online system for building top-rate rifle, pistol, and shotgun loads and give you some pointers on how to make time-saving and money-conserving choices on brass, bullets, and powders.

Click here to see the landing page on which Hodgdon begins the education process.

Select the Reloading for Beginners tab to learn the basics, from the effect of crimp depth in shotshells to reloading the .223 to matching shot type and size to reloading data.

Midsouth also recommends you spend some time learning about Safety. Click that tab to brush up on the do’s and don’ts of reloading, starting with the basic reloading precautions created by the NRA.

Then, select the Tips and Tricks tab for informative posts on key topics in the reloading community.

Here’s a sample of some of the things you’ll find on the site:

Reloaders Corner: Pressure Curves for Semi-Automatic and Bolt-Action Rifles

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The following is a specially-adapted excerpt from the forthcoming book, Top-Grade Ammo, by author Glen Zediker, owner of Zediker Publishing.

When you’re handloading for semi-automatic rifles and bolt-action rifles, it’s helpful to realize they are not to be approached the same way. Continue reading Reloaders Corner: Pressure Curves for Semi-Automatic and Bolt-Action Rifles

Setting Up for Reloading

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Getting started in reloading isn’t difficult. In fact, reloading isn’t difficult. Reloading is the best way to save a few bucks Continue reading Setting Up for Reloading