Working with Powder

  • Know your powder!  There are many powders to choose from for good reason – they have different burn rates, temperature characteristics, cleanliness, and availability. Burn rates affect pressure curves.  Temperature sensitivities result in differing velocities, especially when going from sub-zero winter temperatures to scorching summer heat.  Some powders are cleaner burning than others in a given load, which results in less fouling and less frequent firearm cleanings.  And, while there may be a desire to use a single powder across multiple calibers and loads, published load data and best performance often dictates that multiple powders are required in your personal inventory.
  • There are many powder combinations listed – which is best?  Picking the “best” powder for a given loading depends on your application.  A lightweight target load with a soft bullet and low velocity may require a completely different powder than a magnum or +P load to be safe and accurate.  A general rule is that the most accurate loads tend to fill the cartridge with powder, with a tradeoff that this is likely your least economical load.
  • Are “cleaning powders” effective or a gimmick?  Powders like CFE223 are proven to reduce copper residue. YES they work.
  • Don’t pass the block!  An all-too-common practice is to pass a loading block full of primed cases under the powder measure to fill the cases with powder (it’s even featured in a popular reloading company’s instructional video).  Don’t do it – load each case individually, pulling empty primed cases from one loading block, filling a single case by hand under the powder measure, and then placing the powder-filled case in a separate reloading block.  This practice will significantly reduce the chance of a double-charge of powder or empty cases.  Visually inspect all cases and periodically weigh the thrown charge to ensure consistency.
  • How many cartridges per pound of powder?  How many cartridges can I load from the powder I have left?  For the math majors, there are 7000 grains in one pound of powder... just divide 7000 by the amount of powder in grains for your load.
  • Are separate loads required for shorter barrels or pistol caliber carbines?  While standard loadings from the reloading manual will work across these ranges (unless otherwise indicated), the reloader can optimize for their particular firearm.  A general rule is that faster powders produce more optimal results in shorter barrels and slower powders produce more velocity in longer barrels.  Unburnt powder from an improperly formulated short barrel load will cause a fireball in front of the barrel that does nothing for accuracy and consistency of follow-up shots.  Follow published data to avoid over-pressure situations and squib loads.  Be sure to label any barrel-length optimized cartridges so they’re not inadvertently used in the wrong application!