The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Skunkworks > Handloading, Reloading, and Bullet Casting

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old September 21, 2012, 11:56 AM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: August 27, 2012
Posts: 321
Slow Vs. fast burning powders

If you are working up a load and you want to reach higher speeds, is it better (less dangerous) to work with slower burning powders? Should new reloaders try to work with slower/faster burning powders? Why?

How do you know if your powder is relatively slow or fast? Are all powders rated for their burn rates? Where can this information be found?

Are there other indicators in a load receipe (speed, pressure level, barrel length, charge weight/per FPS, soot level, etc) that are evident of a slow or fast powder and which you could use to judge powder burn speed?

rajbcpa is offline  
Old September 21, 2012, 12:19 PM   #2
Senior Member
Join Date: May 19, 2008
Location: Fayettenam
Posts: 1,086
1st off here is a burn rate chart

I will give it a try and answer some of your questions to the best of my knowledge.

I reload mostly for accuracy and secondly for economy. I use the powders that work best for my weapon and my application.

If I were to give advice to a new handloader about powder it would be this:

1. Never try reduced loads
2. Follow the manual on minimums and be careful around the maximum
3. Pick a powder that has a known reputation for that caliber, when in doubt go with a medium speed powder.

As far as visual indicators there are several. You can read about them in any handloading manual. But if you brass is smokey or the primers a flat those are both signs of pressure or problems in your load.

Get a good handloading book or better get 2. Get one from a powder manufacture and one from a bullet company. There are some real good books out there on handloading.

hope that helps some

The two most abundant elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.
Sam06 is offline  
Old September 21, 2012, 12:40 PM   #3
William T. Watts
Senior Member
Join Date: January 20, 2010
Location: Central Arkansas
Posts: 1,070

Good advice, after you have the books read them from cover to cover. I would recommend ABC's of reloading or one of the others such as Sierra, Speer, Hodgdon, Hornady etc. Welcome to the TFL forums.. William
William T. Watts is offline  
Old September 21, 2012, 12:57 PM   #4
Senior Member
Join Date: December 28, 2006
Posts: 3,438
How do you know if your powder is relatively slow or fast? Are all powders rated for their burn rates? Where can this information be found?

All of those answers can be found in any good reloading manual. In most cases slower burning powders will give you the fastest velocities. They also will generally fill the case more resulting in a much less chance of double or overcharging. Because of this, they are not the most economical because you get less rounds from a pound of powder. Speed not only kills, it costs more. Since you appear to be new to reloading, I too suggest purchasing and reading at least one good reloading manual before you attempt to stuff bullets. Stay away from max loads until you get the basics down pat and do not deviate from published loads. Any other questions, be sure to ask. We all were newbies once.
buck460XVR is online now  
Old September 21, 2012, 01:19 PM   #5
Senior Member
Join Date: July 28, 2007
Location: Central Ohio
Posts: 10,982
I think this bit is very important: try to NOT read too much in to burn rate charts because they are general in nature. This is easily proven in that if you find different sources for these lists of powders (from fastest to slowest) you'll see how some of the powders jump around a bit in the list.

The burning rate of these powders is sometimes altered over time and certainly a minute bit is possible from lot to lot.

And simply finding something in the burning rate chart/list tells you NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING about how you can specifically use that powder. You cannot safely extrapolate load data between powders, between cartridges or even between bullets weights in the same cartridge with accuracy. There has never been any load data listed with a burn rate list or chart. For load data, you need a published load data source and better yet, you need THREE of them to cross reference to ensure you aren't reading someone's misprint, typo or just plain nutbar load.

Looking at a burn rate chart can give you an idea of a powder you may wish to look in to for further investigation. And if you end up with a can of powder you know little about, a burn rate chart can give you a first-look idea of how it might be used.

I've looked at burn rate charts a number of times over the years I've been loading. If I was instructed 5 minutes from now that I'd never, ever, EVER, the rest of my life ever be allowed to look at another... I wouldn't lose a wink of sleep over it.

Now if you took my cool-whip containers or told me that I couldn't put cut-up squares of paper towel in my tumbler, we'd be fighting. Take away my burn rate list/chart? Meh, I don't even care.

Indeed, a slower powder is required to safely and properly get velocity out of a larger, heavier load. .380 or 9mm would NOT be a good example. .357 Magnum is a fine example.

If you take .357 Mag and use a fast burning powder (AA#2, Bullseye, Titegroup), you can make target level loads with a very light charge weight. They can be accurate, economical and low in recoil. But to be safe and proper, they can't run really high velocities.

When you use a fast burning powder at the top end, the pressure curve is sharp. It doesn't build slowly, it rises very quickly to a peak and can get dangerous. It's EASILY possible to blow up a magnum revolver with a too-heavy charge of a very fast burning powder. Easy.

When you use a slower burning powder (Alliant 2400, AA#9, H110), your charge weight goes up -- in many cases, it goes WAY up. But the pressure curve is much more smooth and almost linear. You increase the powder charge and the velocity increases at a (somewhat) predictable rate. And where the fast burning powder hit it's peak in velocity (and safe use!), you are 200-250 FPS faster when approaching max with a proper slow burning magnum handgun powder.

There are some powders that are so slow that you practically have to fill the case as you reach max loads. Not so with fast burners. With some fast burning and dense powders, you can put three full max charges in one case and still seat a bullet. That's an atom bomb that will destroy any handgun.

It's very good that you ask these questions. It takes some handloaders a long time to consider this subject, one that I believe is very important. Many new handloaders get a bottle of W231 or Titegroup and they want to load everything they own with it because they don't want to spend another $22 for a different powder. They simply don't realize how GOOD it is, in so many ways, to find the proper powder for the job.
Attention Brass rats and other reloaders: I really need .327 Federal Magnum brass, no lot size too small. Tell me what caliber you need and I'll see what I have to swap. PM me and we'll discuss.

Last edited by Brian Pfleuger; September 21, 2012 at 01:42 PM.
Sevens is offline  
Old September 21, 2012, 02:11 PM   #6
Senior Member
Join Date: June 17, 2010
Location: Virginia
Posts: 4,719
Now if you took my cool-whip containers or told me that I couldn't put cut-up squares of paper
towel in my tumbler, we'd be fighting. Take away my burn rate list/chart? Meh, I don't even care.

That said, how does the OP know which powders are faster than others in the reloading manual? The powders are usually listed in order Fastest-to-Slowest/Top-to-Bottom.

The lighter the bullet: usually the faster the powder and the less the case fill.
The heavier the bullet: usually the slower the powder and the more the case fill.

Happy reloaders are those who generally match 90% max pressure with near full cases of powder and 97-99% burn completion for a given bullet weight/powder type/barrel length - But that's advanced reloading taking advantage of internal ballistic programs like QuickLoad.

Pick the middle of the powders listed top-to-bottom -- and the middle of lower half of the manual's Min-to-Max range of recommended powder load for a given bullet weight and you're in safe starting territory.

Remember two things:

- Accuracy and practice are more important than velocity in most hunting situations.
- And Never reload off a burn-rate chart.
mehavey is offline  
Old September 21, 2012, 05:45 PM   #7
Misssissippi Dave
Senior Member
Join Date: December 5, 2009
Posts: 1,411
I couldn't agree more with what has already been said.

Accurate Pistol Powder did do one nice thing for some of their powders. They used a numbering system to label them. #2 is the fastest and #9 being the slowest. For light loads I like using a fast powder with a light bullet. If I wanted something that will have more energy such as for hunting I probably will use a heavier bullet and a slower powder. I find the nicest load I have done for 9 mm target shooting was using a medium weight bullet (124 Grain) and a medium burn powder (AA#5). I prefer a light load for .45. I use WST a fast burning powder with a light 185 grain bullet. Neither of these loads are intended to be used for hunting. Both are quite accurate for range use.

A long time ago, I was trying to load ammo that would have the greatest speed thinking that would be the best to use. I found most of the time as the speed goes up accuracy goes down. I no longer care about trying to get as close to the top end of what is listed for any powder. I want an accurate load and preferably a clean burning one at that. If I need to load for hunting I just use a heavier bullet and a slower burning powder. I will work the load up until it is also accurate then stop there.

Rifle loading takes on a life of its own. Loading for pistols in my opinion is much easier to do right compared to trying to load bench rest rifle ammo. This is probably why I prefer to just load pistol ammo.

A simple Google search will bring up several powder burn rate charts if you care to look for them. I haven't found very many that even come close to another one. I generally list powders as fast, medium and slow. That is plenty good enough. Finding the powder/bullet combination that works well for me is what I try to do. What I want and prefer might and probably will be different compared to many other people.
Misssissippi Dave is offline  

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:42 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2017 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent:
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.07402 seconds with 9 queries