June 29th, 2019

Stick, Flake, and Ball — Do You Know Your Powder Properties?

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener’s Reloading & Shooting Supply recently published a helpful introduction to reloading powders. Widener’s online Guide to Smokeless Powders shows the various types of powders, and explains how the differences in powder kernel/flake size and shape, and burn rate affect performance. We recommend you visit Widener’s website and read the Powder Guide in full.

Take a close look at these illustrations which show the key differences between the four main powder types: extruded (stick) powder, ball (spherical) powder, flattened ball powder, and flake powder.

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Burn Rate Basics

Widener’s Guide to Smokeless Powders also has a useful discussion of Burn Rate (a confusing topic for many hand-loaders). Wideners explains: “While a gun powder explosion in the cartridge seems instantaneous, if you slow it down you will actually find that each powder has a different ‘burn rate’, or speed at which it ignites.” This video shows powders with two very different burn rates. Watch closely.

Different burn rates suit different cartridge types notes Widener’s: “In general a fast-burning powder is used for light bullets and low-speed pistols and shotguns. Medium-rate powders are used for magnum pistols, while high-velocity, large bore rifle cartridges will need slow powders[.]

It should be noted that burn rate does not have a standardized unit of measurement. In fact, burn rate is really only discussed in comparison to other powders; there is no universal yardstick. Specifics will change by cartridge and bullet types[.]”

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March 17th, 2019

Vihtavuori Explains Powder Grain Shapes

Vihtavuori loading propellant reloading powder N133 N150 N140 N550 ball flake stick extruded perforated powders

POWDER GRAIN SHAPES — What You Need to Know

The shape of powder grains has a profound effect on the performance of the powder charge, as it concerns both pressure and velocity. There are multiple powder shapes including flake, ball, and extruded or “stick” (both solid and perforated).

All Vihtavuori reloading powders are of the cylindrical, single-perforated extruded stick type. The differences in burning rate between the powders depend on the size of the grain, the wall thickness of the cylinder, the surface coating and the composition. Cylindrical extruded powders can also have multi-perforated grains. The most common types are the 7- and 19-perforated varieties. A multi-perforated powder grain is naturally of a much larger size than one with a single perforation, and is typically used for large caliber ammunition.

Other types of powder grain shapes include sphere or ball, and flake. The ball grains are typically used in automatic firearms but also in rifles and handguns. The ball grain is less costly to produce, as it is not pressed into shape like cylindrical grains. Flake shaped grains are typically used in shotgun loadings.

Vihtavuori loading propellant reloading powder N133 N150 N140 N550 ball flake stick extruded perforated powders

Web thickness in gunpowder terminology means the minimum distance that the combustion zones can travel within the powder grain without encountering each other. In spherical powders, this distance is the diameter of the “ball”; in flake powder it is the thickness of the flake; and in multi-perforated extruded powders it is the minimum distance (i.e. wall thickness) between the perforations.

The burning rate of powder composed of grains without any perforations or surface treatment is related to the surface area of the grain available for burning at any given pressure level. The change in the surface area that is burning during combustion is described by a so-called form function. If the surface area increases, the form function does likewise and its behavior is termed progressive. If the form function decreases, its behavior is said to be degressive. If the flame area remains constant throughout the combustion process, we describe it as “neutral” behavior.

The cylindrical, perforated powders are progressive; the burning rate increases as the surface area increases, and the pressure builds up slower, increasing until it reaches its peak and then collapses. Flake and ball grains are degressive; the total powder surface area and pressure are at their peak at ignition, decreasing as the combustion progresses.

So how does the shape affect pressure and muzzle velocity? In general, it can be said that powder that burns progressively achieves a desired muzzle velocity at lower maximum pressure than a powder that burns neutrally, not to mention a degressive powder. As grain size increases, the maximum pressure moves towards the muzzle, also increasing muzzle blast. Muzzle velocity and pressure can be adjusted by means of the amount of powder or loading density, i.e. the relationship between the powder mass and the volume available to it. As the loading density increases, maximum pressure grows.

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Vihtavuori loading propellant reloading powder N133 N150 N140 N550 ball flake stick extruded perforated powders


This article originally appeared on the Vihtavuori Website.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip No Comments »
November 10th, 2016

Widener’s Guide to Smokeless Powders

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener’s Reloading & Shooting Supply recently published a helpful introduction to reloading powders. Widener’s online Guide to Smokeless Powders shows the various types of powders, and explains how the differences in powder kernel/flake size and shape, and burn rate affect performance. We recommend you visit Widener’s website and read the Powder Guide in full.

Take a close look at these illustrations which show the key differences between the four main powder types: extruded (stick) powder, ball (spherical) powder, flattened ball powder, and flake powder.

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Burn Rate Basics

Widener’s Guide to Smokeless Powders also has a useful discussion of Burn Rate (a confusing topic for many hand-loaders). Wideners explains: “While a gun powder explosion in the cartridge seems instantaneous, if you slow it down you will actually find that each powder has a different ‘burn rate’, or speed at which it ignites.” This video shows powders with two very different burn rates. Watch closely.

Different burn rates suit different cartridge types notes Widener’s: “In general a fast-burning powder is used for light bullets and low-speed pistols and shotguns. Medium-rate powders are used for magnum pistols, while high-velocity, large bore rifle cartridges will need slow powders[.]

It should be noted that burn rate does not have a standardized unit of measurement. In fact, burn rate is really only discussed in comparison to other powders; there is no universal yardstick. Specifics will change by cartridge and bullet types[.]”

Permalink - Videos, Reloading, Tech Tip 2 Comments »