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Old January 18, 2012, 10:27 PM   #1
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Extruded VS. Ball powder

Or single base vs. double base (nitro) powders. I loaded both types for years but none of the expensive (non-digital) powder measures I bought over the years (Hornady, RCBS, Redding etc) would consistently drop the extruded powders to meet my fussy requirements. It had to be dead nuts on dropped from the measure so I didn't have to hand weigh each one. The Redding expensive one would drop ball powders right on target every time so I made up my mind to go with ball powders (double base).

Now I read and also found out first hand (when using ball powder) that if you don't want a rifle barrel full of unburned powder you have to get the pressure up near the maximum loads. It always held true that when I got to where the primers started to flatten and then backed off to where they didn't the powder would burn nice and clean and give some really nice groups also.

I would imagine this is not news to the pros in this forum but for the new guys I thought I'd throw this out. My favorite ball powders ended up to be Winchester 760. Now they have a slower powder 780. Winchester powders are now supplied by Hodgdon according to Winchester's website.

I don't reload anymore but I used to enjoy it.
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Old January 18, 2012, 11:10 PM   #2
William T. Watts
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I agree

I don't like them, with that said I make an exception for W231 for my 1911 A1. I have several double base powders I've (tried ) over the years, excessive fouling really turned me off. I use only stick powders now I.E H4895 & IMR4895, IMR4064, IMR and Hodgdon 4831 and IMR7828 for the various calibers I load for. I do have two unopened canisters of RL 15, the down side I have several partial canisters of 748, 760 and a nearly full canister of RL 15 which I will likely sprinkle on my lawn... William

Last edited by William T. Watts; January 19, 2012 at 12:15 PM.
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Old January 18, 2012, 11:55 PM   #3
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I didn't like the fouling either until I got the pressure higher (within safe limits in the manuals). Then the stuff burns clean.

BTW, the powder used in the Hornady Superperformance ammo and sold by Hodgdon is spherical.
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Old January 19, 2012, 12:03 AM   #4
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I don't care for ball powder because it doesn't compress well.
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Old January 19, 2012, 01:21 AM   #5
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Wouldn't know about that. I never compressed loads.
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Old January 19, 2012, 09:40 AM   #6
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The only rifle ball powder I have extensive experience is AA2520. (Ignoring H110/W296 in the 44 Mag) When AA2520 was $64.00 a keg I could not pass by a bargain.

I have tried AA2520 in most of my cartridges, shot kegs of it in .223, 308 and 30-06. If other rifle ball powders are like AA2520, I prefer stick powders.

AA2520 will shoot outstanding groups and it meters well. Those are its advantages.

However, one lot was so chalky that I got bridging in my .223 dillion powder horn. Ball powders will also gum up the powder bar, tiny particles sliding between the powder horn and bar, jamming the mechanism.

It leaves a lot of residue in gas mechanisms. I have a lot more filth to clean out of the AR bolt, locking lugs, and M1a gas piston after using AA2520. Based on the residue alone, I am surprised the military ever used the stuff.

Radical point of impact changes when switching from ball (out to 300 yards) to stick at long range. I clearly saw the settling on target with wild shots at the start and it took as much as five shots before the group stabilized with stick. I never had that probably going from 4895 to 4064 or 4350, all stick powders, but going from ball to stick, I did. This is a limiter as I have favorite long range loads with stick powders, but switching after using ball is a real risk as my sighting shots are wasted as the barrel settles.

IMR 4895, a stick powder has a wider sweet spot, able to shoot X ring accuracy in 308 with a 168 from 39 to 41.5 grains.

I also believe ball powders are peaky. They go from zero to blowing primers in an instant.

Better metering means virtually nothing in terms of standard deviations and extreme spreads over my chronograph screens. All of my pistol ammunition is thrown, flake powders have SD’s and ES’s LT or equal to the ball powders. In my rifle testing, I found most of the loads I shot with AA2520 were weighed, but the SD’s and ES’s are not better than the stick powders. At least with 308 sized cases and up, the throw variance of IMR 4895 is worse than AA2520 but it does not seem to effect group size out to 300 yards.

I weigh my long range charges because they are max and it might make a difference on target. I cannot think of a long range shooter friend who does not weigh their loads.
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Old January 19, 2012, 09:53 AM   #7
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Tried H380 years ago. It has the most round kernels of any powder I have ever little ball bearings. Meters though any powder measure like a dream. It broke my heart. I never found a load using it that any of my rifles liked. I still have that container sitting in my powder cabinet, since about 1980. What a beautiful powder. Such a shame...
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Old January 19, 2012, 10:44 AM   #8
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Excellent info Slamfire. I just completely switched to all ball powders so never had issues going to extruded and back. And I'm surprised about the load variations of the extruded powder not having any effect on groups etc. Maybe I made my life more difficult instead of less by using the ball powders. In any case I made my "choice" work pretty darn good once I learned how to eliminate the fouling problems.

I also had good luck with H414, my second favorite powder. Much better then with the H380.
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Old January 19, 2012, 11:32 AM   #9
Marco Califo
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Ship those powders to me

I will dispose of them safely if you pay the shipping.
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Old January 19, 2012, 12:19 PM   #10
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I know I am getting old and set in my ways. For the last 8 years (been reloading for that long), each and every rifle round (6,000) has been weight and measured by hand. At first with balance beam scale and trickle charger and then by digial scale/dispenser (RCBS LoadMaster 1500).

So the question of a cut grain of powder never came up nor being off by even a 10th of a grain. I never paid much attention to if the powder was double base or single base. Just used what worked best for the bullet and case I was using.

I would have sworn that I used only extruded powders for rifle, untill I did a little research today and found out that H-335 is indeed ball powder which I use often for 55 grain 223's.

But since my powders of choice for rifle are H-4895, IMR-4350 and IMR & Hodgdon 4198 the issue never came up

I can understand if you are having difficulty with your powder measure and these powders, but I feel more comfortable knowing each and every round is correct by weighing each and every load.

But that is just me. (some sort of OCD I guess)
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Last edited by Jim243; January 19, 2012 at 12:25 PM.
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Old January 19, 2012, 12:21 PM   #11
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Ball powders seem to be consistent in that they are very frequently inconsistent. They tend to have a very narrow range of burning efficiency and will respond oddly when ever they so choose. As a general statement they are not looked upon favorably by the bench rest community. As an example, I had worked up a load for a hunter class rifle with AA2520 that delivered 1/4" groups at 300 yes here on the Eastern shore(80-85*, humidity about 65%, "0" altitude-sea level). At around 2000' and 68* in PA the groups at 100yd were on the order of 3/4". A quick cleaning of the barrel and return to stick powder returne to the expected levels of accuracy. This type of burning behavior is too typical of ball powders, along with sometimes odd deposits , and fouling. A quick skim of loading manuals shows the difference between starting loads and tops loads is very narrow, demonstrating the narrow range of function of most ball powders. Handguns on the other hand tend to work very well will most ball powders and produce top velocities, provided you get them burning properly.
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