April 18th, 2017

Powder Column Height Varies with Case-Filling Methods

powder drop tube

Most of us assume that if we weigh our powder carefully (down to the tenth of a grain or less) we can achieve a uniform powder fill from case to case in our handloads. Weighing does ensure that the weight of the propellant in each case is the same, but is the column of powder the same by volume each time? “Not necessarily” is the answer. An interesting experiment by our friend Boyd Allen demonstrates that the manner in which you place kernels in the case can make a significant difference in the height of the powder column within the brass case.

Using a Gempro 250 scale, Boyd measured exactly 30.6 grains of Vihtavuori N-133 powder. He then inserted this powder in the same cartridge case multiple times. (The case has a fired primer in place.) But here is the key — Boyd used various filling techniques. He did a slow fill, and a fast fill, and he also experimented with tapping and drop tubes. What Boyd discovered was that you can start with the exact same weight of powder (in fact the very same set of kernels), yet end up with vary different fill heights, depending on how you drop the kernels into the case. Look at the photos. Despite variations in lighting, the photos show the same 30.6 grains of powder, placed in the same cartridge, with four different methods.

Using funnels with long drop tubes packs kernels more tightly, creating a shorter powder column. That allows you to get more propellant (by weight) into the case.

powder drop tube

Boyd Explains the Procedure Used for his Experiment.

EDITOR’s NOTE: So there is no misunderstanding, Boyd started with a weighed 30.6 grain charge. This identical charge was used for ALL four fills. After a fill the powder was dumped from the case into a pan which was then used for the next fill technique to be tried. So, the powder weight was constant. Indeed the exact same kernels (of constant weight and number) were used for each fill.

Boyd writes: “I used the same powder for all fills, 30.6 gr. on a GemPro 250 checked more than once. All fills employed the same RCBS green transparent plastic funnel. The fast drop with the funnel only overflowed when it was removed from the case neck, and 15 granules of powder fell on the white paper that the case was sitting on. The fast-funnel-only drop with tapping, was done with the funnel in place and the case and funnel in one hand, while tapping the case body with the index finger hard, many times (about 20 fast double taps). My idea here was to “max out” the potential of this tapping technique.

The slow drop with the funnel and 10″-long .22 cal. Harrell’s Precision drop tube, was done by holding the scale pan over the funnel and tapping the spout of the pan repeatedly on the inside of the funnel about 1/3 down from the top, with the scale pan tilted just enough so that the powder will just flow. Many taps were involved, again, to max out the technique.

Again, to be clear, after each case filling, the powder was poured from the case back into the scale pan carefully. You may notice the similarity between the fast drop with the drop tube, and the funnel only with tapping. Although I did not photograph it, fast tube drop and tapping (combined) improved on tapping alone, but only to about half as far down the neck as the slow with drop tube. Due to the endless possible permutations, I picked four and left it at that.

I believe that I can make the rough judgment that the scale pan funnel and drop tube technique, which involved a longer drop period, and probably less velocity at the top of the tube, left more room in the top of the case neck than the slow drop from the measure with the same drop tube. You have both pictures, so you can make the comparison.” — Boyd

Does Powder Column Height Variance Make a Difference?
Boyd’s experiment proves pretty conclusively that the method of dropping a given weight of powder can affect the height of the powder column in the case and the degree of powder compression (when a bullet is seated). He showed this to be true even when the exact same set of kernels (of constant weight) was used in repetitive loadings. This raises some interesting questions:

1. Will subsequent cartridge transport and handling cause the powder to settle so the variances in powder column height are diminished?

2. If significant inconsistencies in powder column height remain at time of firing, will the difference in fill level hurt accuracy, or result in a higher extreme spread in velocity?

3. Is there any advantage (beyond increased effective case capacity) for a tight (low level) fill vs. a loose (high level) fill?

We don’t know the answer to these follow up questions. This Editor guesses that, if we tested low-fill-height rounds vs. high-fill-height rounds (all with same true fill quantity by weight), we might see meaningful differences in average velocity. I would also guess that if you fired 10 rounds that exhibited quite a difference in powder column heights, you might see a higher ES/SD than if you shot 10 rounds loaded with a very consistent powder column height (either high or low). But further testing is needed to determine if these predictions are true.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 6 Comments »
November 1st, 2015

High-Quality Powder Funnels from 21st Century Shooting

21st Century Powder Funnel

21st Century Shooting produces a high quality powder funnel, that is very “user-friendly”. The top section is precision ground and polished for a smooth flow. The center has a see-through tube so you can watch the progress of your powder dropping into the case. At the bottom of each funnel is a black case adapter that seats securely yet won’t get stuck on the case. There are five different adapter sizes — the smallest fits .17 Rem to .223 Rem, while the largest fits big magnum calibers. We use the mid-sized, #3 adapter most often. This fits 6mmBR, 6.5×47 Lapua, and .308 Win family of cases (.243 Win, .260 Rem, 7mm-08, .308 Win). Additional adapters are $5.99 each. There are three tube lengths available: 3″, 6″, and 10″. So, if you need an extra-long drop tube (to help fill PPC and other small cases), 21st Century has you covered.

accurateshooter.com field tested gearThe 21st Century funnels are priced by size. The 3″-long model is $29.99, the 6″-long model is $31.99, and the big 10″-long model is $34.99. Prices include one (1) adapter. These high-grade funnels will help you load faster and easier, with fewer spilled kernels. We use these funnels and they do work well. The appropriate collars fit your .223 Rem, 6PPC, 6mmBR, Dasher, 6XC, .260 Rem, .284 Win, and .308 case necks just right — not too loose, not too tight. Kernels flow smoothly through the tube without sticking to the sides. The aluminum top section does not seem to attract a static charge so you don’t have to waste time brushing kernels off the funnel after use. We like this product. For high-volume precision reloaders, these funnels are worth the money.

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading 1 Comment »
March 3rd, 2014

Midsouth Introduces Line of Value-Priced Reloading Products

Midsouth Shooters Supply Reloading FunnelWe like Midsouth Shooters Supply. For 44 years, this outfit has offered very competitive prices, quick shipping, and a real commitment to customer satisfaction. Midsouth has also been a strong supporter of this website since the very beginning (when we were just getting started). The guys at Midsouth are real shooters, who use the products they make and sell.

We’re pleased to report that Midsouth Shooters Supply is introducing its own line of value-priced reloading gear. You’ll find a wide selection of Midsouth-brand products: ammo boxes, load trays, powder funnels, bullet pullers, media sifters, vibratory tumblers and more. And Midsouth is even offering its own branded tumbling media (corn or walnut) and liquid brass polish. We think you’ll find the pricing on all these products to be extremely competitive. Here are a few examples:

Midsouth Shooters Supply Reloading Tumbler Kit Tumbler Kit
(Tumbler, Separator, Media, & Brass Polish)

Price: $72.93

Item: 038-502024

Midsouth Shooters Supply Reloading Box Hinged-Top
50-Round Ammo Box
222/223 Rem

Price: $1.72

Item:038-502004 (Red)
Item:038-502005 (Clr)

(100-round boxes are also available for $2.52)

Midsouth Shooters Supply Reloading Funnel Powder Funnel Set
(Two Funnels plus inserts)

Price: $4.64

Item: 038-502029

Permalink Hot Deals, New Product No Comments »
June 14th, 2013

Precision Powder Funnels from 21st Century Shooting

21st Century Shooting produces a high quality powder funnel, that is very “user-friendly”. The top section is precision ground and polished for a smooth flow. The center has a see-through tube so you can watch the progress of your powder dropping into the case. At the bottom of each funnel is a black case adapter that seats securely yet won’t get stuck on the case. There are five different adapter sizes — the smallest fits .17 Rem to .223 Rem, while the largest fits big magnum calibers. We use the mid-sized, #3 adapter most often. This fits 6mmBR, 6.5×47 Lapua, and .308 Win family of cases (.243 Win, .260 Rem, 7mm-08, .308 Win). Additional adapters are $6.99 each. There are three tube lengths available: 3″, 6″, and 10″. So, if you need an extra-long drop tube (to help fill PPC and other small cases), 21st Century has you covered.

21st Century Powder Funnel

accurateshooter.com field tested gearThe funnels are priced by size. The 3″-long model is $24.00, the 6″-long model is $27.00, and the big 10″-long model is $31.00. Prices include one (1) adapter. These high-grade funnels will help you load faster and easier, with fewer spilled kernels. We use these funnels and they do work well. The appropriate collars fit your .223 Rem, 6PPC, 6mmBR, Dasher, 6XC, .260 Rem, .284 Win, and .308 case necks just right — not too loose, not too tight. Kernels flow smoothly through the tube without sticking to the sides. The aluminum top section does not seem to attract a static charge so you don’t have to waste time brushing kernels off the funnel after use. We like this product. For high-volume precision reloaders, these funnels are worth the money.

Permalink Gear Review, New Product 2 Comments »
May 11th, 2011

Stolle Panda Drop Port Conversion by S&S Precision Rifles

The Drop Port is a great feature for benchrest shooters. You can run a bolt without an ejector, yet your cartridge will extract smoothly and reliably each time you pull the bolt back. Stiller’s Precision Firearms pioneered the Drop Port design, and Jerry Stiller offers this as a popular option with his Cobra, Viper, Python, D-Back, and Diamondback actions. The Drop Port is amazing in its simplicity (watch video below). As you pull the bolt rearwards, the fired case slides downward into a funnel. As it tilts nose-down, the case rotates free of the six-o’clock extractor, falls nose first down the funnel, and finally exits through a hole in the bottom of the stock. Gravity does all the work.

S&S Panda Drop Port Conversion
Until recently, if you wanted a Drop Port, your only option was to purchase a Stiller action or engineer a conversion yourself. Now the owners of Kelbly Panda actions can enjoy drop-port functionality via a conversion performed by S&S Precision Rifles in Texas. The folks at S&S will mill a slot in the bottom of your action, and then install a drop funnel in your stock. The conversion work is done so well you’d think the Pandas were originally made as Drop Ports by Kelbly. Drop Port conversions will be available for popular small match cartridges including 22 PPC, 6 PPC, 6mmBR, 6BRX, 6 Dasher, 6.5 Grendel, and 30 BR (plus other wildcats in the BR family).

Conversion Will Be Costly — New Actions Are Best Candidates
This conversion will not be cheap. Because Drop Ports require a six o’clock extractor, you’ll probably need a replacement bolt for your Panda. S&S is in discussion with Pacific Tool & Gauge to provide these bolts. You can probably resell your existing bolt, but the upfront conversion cost could approach $400 with new bolt and labor. S&S hopes to announce firm pricing in 4-6 weeks. Don “Stick” Starks, S&S’s lead gunsmith, also cautions that this conversion is most cost-effective with Panda actions that have not yet been installed, or which are set up with pillars (as opposed to glue-ins). Stick explained: “If your Panda is already glued in, then we have to remove the action, mill the port, install the funnel, and then re-bed the whole thing. That’s going to substantially increase your cost. It’s more logical to do this on a Panda that has not yet be put in a rifle.”

In the video above, you can watch S&S Precision convert a Stolle Panda action to a Drop Port, and then see how the converted Panda functions. The rifle is a 30BR owned by FORUM member Truckincars, who also created the video.

Permalink - Videos, Gunsmithing, New Product 2 Comments »
July 10th, 2010

Precision, Caliber-Specific Funnels Make Reloading Easier

Aluminum Satern powder funnelHaving a quality funnel helps you get carefully-measured powder charges in your cases, with no spillage, every time. If you’ve tried cheap, plastic funnels you know that they can rock on the case mouth. Also, if the fit isn’t good, some kernels end up on your bench, instead of inside the case.

Thankfully, precision, caliber-specific metal funnels are available to reloaders for about $10-$12.00. Satern Custom Machining funnels feature an aluminum top with a caliber-specific, machined brass base/neck. The Satern funnel’s aluminum body is completely static-free so powder flows into the case without bridging. Dick Saunders makes a similar, turned-aluminum funnel sized for particular calibers. Both these metal funnels make reloading easier (and they are ideal for blackpowder loading because they do not give off static electricity). As Forum member Wes notes, with a fitted metal funnel: “the possibility of the funnel sliding to the side, and spilling powder all over the place is drastically reduced.”

Satern Aluminum/Brass Funnels
Steve Satern crafts rugged aluminum funnels with brass ends. The caliber-specific sizes offer a snug fit that keeps the funnel tight on the case neck while the powder is flowing. Forum member Danny Reever reports: “If you are tired of the generic ‘fits all’ funnels falling over and powder spraying every where, try one of the Satern funnels. Sinclair Int’l sells them and they are top notch.” SMike308 adds: “I have retired my plastic funnels after buying my first Satern funnel. I now have one for each different caliber that I load for. I especially like that the Satern has the brass weight at the bottom, which adds stability to the funnel.”

Aluminum powder funnel Satern

Satern funnels are sold by MidwayUSA (6mm $11.29), Satern Machining (6mm $11.25), and Sinclair International (Item 11-9XX, 6mm $11.95). Satern Machining also offers two types of universal funnels, 22-30 caliber and 30-50 caliber. Satern’s universal funnels, along with the larger .338 to .50 caliber funnels, cost $18.45.

Saunders Aluminum Funnels
Some of our Forum members prefer the turned aluminum funnels made by Dick Saunders. You’ll need to order these direct from Saunders. Specify .17, .20, .22, 6mm, 6.5mm, .30 caliber or “all-purpose”. The Saunders funnels start at about $10.00. Contact Dick Saunders at the address below:

Dick Saunders
145 Delphi Rd.
Manchester, IA 52057
563-927-4026

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading 4 Comments »
July 11th, 2009

Premium Powder Funnels for Precision Reloading

Having a quality funnel can help you get a carefully-measured powder charge in your cases, with no spillage, every time. If you’ve messed around with cheap plastic funnels you know that they can rock on the case mouth. Also, if the fit isn’t good, some kernels can end up on your bench, instead of inside the case.

Thankfully, precision, caliber-specific metal funnels are available to reloaders for about $10-11. Satern Custom Machining funnels feature an aluminum top with a caliber-specific, machined brass base/neck. Dick Saunders makes a simliar, turned-aluminum funnel sized for particular calibers. Both these metal funnels make reloading easier (and they are ideal for blackpowder loading because they do not give off static electricity). As Forum member Wes notes, with a fitted metal funnel: “the possibility of the funnel sliding to the side, and spilling powder all over the place is drastically reduced.”

Satern Aluminum/Brass Funnels
Steve Satern crafts rugged aluminum funnels with brass ends. The caliber-specific sizes offer a snug fit that keeps the funnel tight on the case neck while the powder is flowing. Forum member Danny Reever reports: “If you are tired of the generic ‘fits all’ funnels falling over and powder spraying every where, try one of the Satern funnels. Sinclair Int’l sells them and they are top notch.” SMike308 adds: “I have retired my plastic funnels after buying my first Satern funnel. I now have one for each different caliber that I load for. I especially like that the Satern has the brass weight at the bottom, which adds stability to the funnel.”

Aluminum powder funnel Satern

Satern funnels are sold by MidwayUSA (6mm $11.29), Satern Machining (6mm $10.49), and Sinclair International (Item 11-9XX, 6mm $11.95). Satern Machining also offers two types of universal funnels, 22-30 caliber and 30-50 caliber.

Saunders Aluminum Funnels
Some of our Forum members prefer the turned aluminum funnels made by Dick Saunders.
These are sold by Russ Haydon’s Shooters Supply for $9.95 each. Specify .17, .20, .22, 6mm, 6.5mm, .30 caliber or “all-purpose”. If you have questions, you can contact contact Saunders directly:

Dick Saunders
145 Delphi Rd.
Manchester, IA 52057
563-927-4026

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading 3 Comments »