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Old October 9, 2011, 10:56 PM   #1
Join Date: February 16, 2011
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gun powder differences

Hello all, I've searched for this first but alas, no luck. I am new to reloading and am enjoying it immensely. The first thing i did was read abc's of Reloading and was very impressed with it. The only thing I am not really understanding is the differences with all the types of gunpowder.

What do all the numbers mean?(IMR 4064)
How can you tell how fast it burns compared to others?
Is one manufacturer better than others?
My Speer manual lists 8 powders for .223, How do you pick one?
Are they made with specific applications in mind, I.E. hunting, target, etc.
Is there a comprehensive list somewhere that answers all of these?

I started with 24 gr. of IMR 4064 in rem. .223 brass with rem. 55gr sp/wc and CCI primers. Worked quite well with zero issues but I find I have a lot to learn concerning powder. If someone would be so kind as to point me in the right direction I would be eternally grateful.
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Old October 10, 2011, 01:39 AM   #2
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What do all the numbers mean?(IMR 4064)
How can you tell how fast it burns compared to others?
Is one manufacturer better than others?
My Speer manual lists 8 powders for .223, How do you pick one?
Are they made with specific applications in mind, I.E. hunting, target, etc.
Is there a comprehensive list somewhere that answers all of these?
Do not know, it is their way of identifing the mix of powders so that they can duplicate it over and over.

A comparitive burn rate chart can be found at

No it's not the mfg that is better but the purpose (application) for which the powder is made. There are only two plants in the US that mfg powder and they do not sell to consumers. Hodgdon does not mfg powder but repackages it under the IMR, Hodgdon and Winchester label. Alliant the same as well as all the others. My favorite rifle powder is make in Australia and sold by Hodgdon as H-4895.

By trial and error, you could ask around here for advice but each rifle, rifle chamber and barrel is different and different results can be obtained from different combinations of components and rifles.

Yes they are made for different general applications and no one powder is good for all applications.

Hodgdon puts out a annual manual that costs $8.99 that has load data as well as information on the powders they market and a burn rate table. Cabela's usually carries it, but you can try Midway USA and see if they have any copies left for sale.

Good luck and welcome to our mad (crazy), mad world.
Si vis pacem, para bellum

Last edited by Jim243; October 10, 2011 at 01:50 AM.
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Old October 10, 2011, 01:47 AM   #3
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I'm pretty new as well but I can answer some of your questions and help you get better advice from other members.

For your 2nd question, check this chart... powder burn rates

As far as picking a powder for a cartridge you must figure out what you're looking for in the ammo you create. You may want to provide more information for the other guys to help you out... what type of shooting you're doing (hunting, plinking, range practice, bench shooting), the type of weapon you're reloading for (barrel length, AR or Bolt-action, rifling twist rate), the bullet weight you've chosen to use and the primers you have.

Certain bullet weights and rifling twist rates will help determine your powder. Shorter barreled rifles would see better results with a faster powder. You should also look for a powder that comes closest to completely filling the cartridge.

I think the more experienced hand loaders will have much more to add but I think you will hear a great many responses that you must try a few different combinations of powder, primer, bullet weight to perfectly match the application you are using your rifle for.

(edit to add: Jim243 beat me to the reply)
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Old October 10, 2011, 02:25 AM   #4
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What do all the numbers mean?(IMR 4064)
The number can be considered to just be part of the name.

How can you tell how fast it burns compared to others?
See posts above for powder burn rate charts. Just don't take them as absolutes.

My Speer manual lists 8 powders for .223, How do you pick one?
The powder that gives the highetst velocity at the lowest pressure with the highest loading density will usually be near the top of the 'best' list. Since that info isn't readily apparent, try Ramshot TAC or Hogdon Varget.

Are they made with specific applications in mind, I.E. hunting, target, etc.
Bullets are specific to the application, but powders typically just launch the bullets. With experimentation you find the bullet/powder/primer/case combination that your rifle likes. I am willing to sacrifice velocity for accuracy when working up a load.

Is there a comprehensive list somewhere that answers all of these?
Not that I'm aware of, but there's much info to be gleaned from searching and reading forums like this one.
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Old October 10, 2011, 08:30 AM   #5
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There are really four types of common powders. Flake, Ball, stick, and hybrid.

Among those three types are three different formulations, single base, double base, and triple base.

So now you are up to twelve types of powder right?

But none of the above really matters, what really matters is choosing a powder with the burn rate that is acceptable to the rounds you reload.

There are a lot of regular powders for regular cartridges, IMR4064 is an old standby because it has darn near seventy years of data supporting it and it has a burn rate acceptable for a use in a wide variety of cartridges.

The onslaught of Magnum cartridges created a demand for slower burning powders so Dupont released IMR7828 in the 1980's (IIRC).

How do you pick which one is best? You don't, you just pick the one you will use. If you weigh each charge a stick powder like IMR4064 is just fine. If you want to throw each charge with a dispenser then Ramshot TAC is probably a better choice (TAC is almost even keel with 4064 as far as burn rate goes, but it is a ball powder so it meters like water).

So, you can get good accurate ammo from darn near any acceptable powder (there are exceptions to this of course). But while some folks try every powder under the sun looking to maximize accuracy or velocity or both, I just want ammo that has acceptable accuracy (around 3/4 MOA is where I call it good 'nuff) at the farthest range I'm going to shoot it.

IMR4064 is a great powder for starting off reloading most rifle cartridges. It is very versatile and is my go to powder for 308 accuracy loads. Good luck reloading, and always be safe. It is more fun to shoot than pick shrapnel out of your body.

Machine guns are awesome until you have to carry one.
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Old October 12, 2011, 12:50 AM   #6
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Hello, Rocky.223. If your really interested in learning about smokeless powders..get the book Propellant Profiles by Wolfe Publishing..They usually have ads for their books in Handloader or Rifle magazines. This lists nearly all powders available, including black.
To learn about the IMR numbers, and their history..try and find a copy of Phill Sharpes Complete Guide To Handloading..Usually can be found at the better gun shows..This was written in 1949..some loads a bit dated..but the basics never change..a wealth of information.
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Old October 12, 2011, 01:18 AM   #7
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burn rate is relative to each manufacturer. they pick one powder as their benchmark and then compare the burn rates relative to that powder. you cannot reliably compare burn rates btw powder manufacters. some charts like the ones above try but you CANNOT reload based on these.

Tried and tested data is the only way to reload.

As for 'how to choose a powder'. Just read the descriptions on the website. When i first started i was trying to get Vihtavouri N-140 but couldnt find it when i went to a store - so i just bought ADI's AR2206H after a quick search on my iphone. It's very close to AR2208 (also known to americans as 'Varget') and has so far produced the best accuracy out of anything ive tried - it was luck.

Just pick one off a description you like and just go from there.
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Old October 12, 2011, 01:42 AM   #8
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Forget the powder burn rate chart. You can't load from it and powders behave differently in different cartridges. An example is Alliant 410. Where it sits on the chart listed in post #3, you might think it a decent powder for large case magnum handgun cartridges. Alliant though will tell you it is NOT recommended for such purposes. Another on the same chart is ADI 2205. According to the chart, it is faster burning than IMR 4227 and there are a couple of powders in between it and IMR 4227. ADI 2205 is the same powder as H4227 which is listed as slower than IMR 4227. The same factory makes both and the only difference is the label. To make things even more confusing, current IMR 4227 is actually H4227. The original IMR 4227 was discontinued by Hodgdon's when they acquired the IMR trade name.

Last edited by DWFan; October 12, 2011 at 01:50 AM.
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Old October 12, 2011, 01:47 AM   #9
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yep, exactly what DW said - burn rates are a load of bull. Just read the descriptions and email the manufacters if need be - they respond very fast.
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Old October 12, 2011, 01:48 AM   #10
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if you want a definitive answer on what to try - go for Varget or AR2206H - you won't go wrong with those and both can be used in a very large range of cases.
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Old October 12, 2011, 08:52 AM   #11
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What do all the numbers mean?(IMR 4064)

It's simply the manuafactor's label indentifier for the product, the numbers acually mean nothing to us.

How can you tell how fast it burns compared to others?

Burn rate chart. But, other than a casual interest, that means nothing to a reloader, our loading manual tells us if a powder/case/bullet combonation is right, it's not something we sit back and decide "I want to try a power that's two steps faster/slower next time." (Ditto if about choosing FLAKE, BALL, TUBULAR and SINGLE or DOUBLE BASE.)

Is one manufacturer better than others?

NO. If so, that would have taken over the market long ago and be left standing alone. What determines "better" is how well it matches our weapon and our load.

My Speer manual lists 8 powders for .223, How do you pick one?

Start with what ever produces the highest speeds. The books give us options because this isn't quite as precise as watch making, we can't possibly presume anything about what will work 'best' without trying it.

Are they made with specific applications in mind, I.E. hunting, target, etc.

No. To put it in familiar terms, that would suggest there is a better choice of gasolines for driving around town or taking a long trip.

Is there a comprehensive list somewhere that answers all of these?

No. I've been reloading since '65, never even heard of most of your questions.

Only those with little experience are likely to suggest any "favorite" powders while having no idea of what you will be loading. And, even if we did, firearms, rifles anyway, are so variable that seeking info on others best loads is an excercise in self delusion.

Have fun, it's worth pursueing!

Last edited by wncchester; October 12, 2011 at 08:59 AM.
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Old October 12, 2011, 09:04 AM   #12
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Which powder?

Try the ones listed in your manual*. Start at the start load. Follow their recipe. Work up. You'll find that they have done their homework, so you don't have to.......

*Note the type of firearm the manual writers used to develop their loads: my Speer manual (#13) used a 22" barrelled Ruger 77 MkII bolt gun.... trying to duplicate their results with a 16" barrelled AR might be an excercise in futility.........
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Last edited by jimbob86; October 12, 2011 at 09:10 AM.
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Old October 12, 2011, 09:19 AM   #13
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IMR powder was originally manufactured by DuPont.
IMR is the abbreviation for "Improved Military Rifle"
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Old October 12, 2011, 09:35 AM   #14
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To make it simple, what you want is to have the power to continue pushing the bullet until it leaves the barrel, at that instant, the powder is completely burned. Meaning its all burnt up when the bullet exits the muzzle.

A good example is the M14 rifle with its 22 inch barrel. When loaded with 4895 pushing the M118 173 grain bullet, there is no muzzle flash when fired at night.

Our problem is determining that powder and how much. It depends on caliber, bullet weight, barrel lenght, etc etc. and then adjusted to our mail goal of ACCURACY.

None of us can tell you what that powder, bullet combination, is for your gun. All guns are different, even the same gun & caliber from the same manufactor.

Then we have enviormental concerns. One powder might work in you rifle perfectly at 60 degrees, 600 fl elevation, with X humitidy. Then it works different at 20 degrees at 10,000 feet, with Y humitidy.

Whats the answer? Is there an answer? Of course, but it might not be practical. The Best case would be to try every powder you can get, then change bullets, not just weights but brands. Same with the case and primers.

We know, even those who reload for everything, that this is not practical.

What I recommend, and what I do when starting to load for a new round or rifle, is to check with as many reloading manuals as I can find. Most give you an Accuracy Load. Compair the Accuracy Loads from the different manuals and get an average to try in your rifle. Then tweek the load to get the best accuracy you can get for your rifle.

Some one said, I don't remember if it was on TFL or some other site, that Shooting is nothing more then a means to play with their real hobby of re-loading.

Re-loading, and testing loads, in my opinion, is half the fun in shooting.
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Old October 12, 2011, 10:31 AM   #15
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Oh yeah boy!!+1 for all of the above!! You find powders, and the loads recommended by bullet companies, for their bullets in their "Loading Manuals".

And by the way, the feeling I get when I finally put together a Case, Primer, Powder, Bullet, configuration that shoots under a quarter inch, out of a mere factory rifle,,..........I get all warm and fuzzy inside!!
Thanks for coming!
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