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August 3rd, 2022

Changing Primer Type CAN Alter Pressure and Velocity

Primer Wolf CCI Federal Muzzle velocity FPS reloading

We are often asked “Can I get more velocity by switching primer types?” The answer is “maybe”. The important thing to know is that changing primer types can alter your load’s performance in many ways — velocity average, velocity variance (ES/SD), accuracy, and pressure. Because there are so many variables involved you can’t really predict whether one primer type is going to be better or worse than another. This will depend on your cartridge, your powder, your barrel, and even the mechanics of your firing pin system.

BE SAFE: Be cautious when changing primer types. Glen Zediker recommended decreasing your load ONE FULL GRAIN when changing to a different primer type, one that you haven’t used before.

Interestingly, however, a shooter on another forum did a test with his .308 Win semi-auto. Using Hodgdon Varget powder and Sierra 155gr Palma MatchKing (item 2156) bullets, he found that Wolf Large Rifle primers gave slightly higher velocities than did CCI-BR2s. Interestingly, the amount of extra speed (provided by the Wolfs) increased as charge weight went up, though the middle value had the largest speed variance. The shooter observed: “The Wolf primers seemed to be obviously hotter and they had about the same or possibly better ES average.” See table:

Varget .308 load 45.5 grains 46.0 grains 46.5 grains
CCI BR2 Primers 2751 fps 2761 fps 2783 fps
Wolf LR Primers 2757 fps 2780 fps 2798 fps
Speed Delta 6 fps 19 fps 15 fps

You can’t extrapolate too much from the table above. This describes just one gun, one powder, and one bullet. Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) as they say. However, this illustration does show that by substituting one component you may see significant changes. Provided it can be repeated in multiple chrono runs, an increase of 19 fps (with the 46.0 grain powder load) is meaningful. An extra 20 fps or so may yield a more optimal accuracy node or “sweet spot” that produces better groups. (Though faster is certainly NOT always better for accuracy — you have to test to find out.)

WARNING: When switching primers, you should exercise caution. More speed may be attractive, but you have to consider that the “speedier” primer choice may also produce more pressure. Therefore, you must carefully monitor pressure signs whenever changing ANY component in a load. In his books, the late Glen Zediker recommended decreasing your load ONE FULL GRAIN when changing to a different primer type, one that you haven’t used before.

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
July 24th, 2022

Sunday Gunday: TX Lady’s Krieger-Barreled .308 Win F-TR Rifle

F-TR Tracy Slayton Self F-TR Krieger Barrel Chamber Chiller

Texas action pistol and 3-Gun competitor Tracy Slayton Self has taken up the F-Class game. Last summer On Facebook Tracy posted a nice training session with her Krieger-barreled .308 Winchester F-TR rifle. You can watch her shooting video HERE on her Facebook page. She used a battery-powered, Chamber Chiller fan unit to cool the barrel.

F-TR Tracy Slayton Self F-TR Krieger Barrel Chamber Chiller

On her Facebook page, Tracy posted: “Very, very windy day today but pulled off a 444/450 18X which is a High Master score. My Krieger barrel is the bomb and my Kahles scope allows me to see that target at 600 yards clearly. My Chamber Chiller really cools my barrel down in between matches and my Stiller action is as smooth as butter.”

F-TR Tracy Slayton Self F-TR Krieger Barrel Chamber Chiller

Click Photo for short video of Tracy’s shooting session, with shots called on audio:

F-TR Tracy Slayton Self F-TR Krieger Barrel Chamber Chiller

F-TR Tracy Slayton Self F-TR Krieger Barrel Chamber Chiller

Match-Winning F-TR .308 Win Load INFO

Texan Tracy Slayton (featured above) did not supply her .308 Win load data for this article. However, we’ve got something even better! For our readers who compete in F-TR, we obtained .308 Win F-TR load information from top F-TR shooter, Peter Johns. A U.S. Navy veteran, Peter won the 2020 Berger SW Nationals F-TR title, after finishing second at that same event in 2019. Here is Peter’s load profile, a very good place to start for any .308 Win F-TR shooter…

F-TR .308 Win Match Load and Reloading Methodology

Loading for .308 Win F-TR — Do What Matters
Peter told us: “My loading technique has evolved almost full circle from where I started. I went from the basics to doing every step a person could conceive. Then I decided to start testing all the different steps to see what didn’t matter or made things worse. I am now back to almost no steps in my reloading process.

I don’t clean brass anymore. I just wipe the case off, lube, size, prime, and load. I anneal when I feel the necks getting inconsistent when seating the bullets. I pre-load all my ammo for matches. I tried seating them at the match but I didn’t find it to matter on the score card and it takes my focus away from conditions.

Peter Johns Berger SW southwest Nationals F-Class F-TR McMillan stock rifle champion winner

Peter’s 2020 SWN-winning .308 Win load consists of Berger 200.20X bullets, Lapua Palma brass, Federal 205M primers, and Varget powder. Peter revealed: “The Berger 200-grainers are running in the mid-2600 fps range. I have tried them much faster but found the best consistency at this speed.”

Peter measures powder to the kernel and also weighs/sorts other components. He runs Berger 200.20X bullets slightly off the lands in a 0.170 freebore chamber. Notably he tests a variety of powders, ascertaining each barrel’s particular preference: “In the last few years I have tried N140, N150, H4895, and Varget. I think they are all good powders for F-TR and the 200.20X bullet. This year I was using Varget. At the 2018 SWN I placed 4th with H4895, in 2019 SWN I got 2nd with N140. I find what powder my particular barrel likes best. I also test CCI BR4 and Fed 205M to see which my rifle likes best. This year I was using Fed 205M. I have been using Lapua Palma brass and it seems to last forever.” Peter full-length sizes with a Redding bushing FL die. He seats his Berger bullets with a Wilson inline seater.

.308 Berger Bullets Available Now at Midsouth Shooters

Top-Tier .308 caliber match bullets remain is short supply. But thankfully there are some good options at decent prices. Recently Midsouth Shooters received a large selection of Berger match bullets, and you’ll find many .308 caliber options for Palma rifles and F-TR rigs. Here are some of the deals available currently (as of 7/24/2022):

Berger .308 Caliber 30 F-TR match hybrid bullets midsouth available

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July 19th, 2022

Long-Term Powder Storage — What You Need to Know

Western Powders Blog SAAMI Storage

SUMMARY: Powder can have a very long shelf life. You need to watch for changes in smell and color. A reddish tinge, almost like rust on the powder, is a bad sign, as is a foul odor, not to be confused with a normal chemical smell. Either of these signs indicate it is time to dispose of your powder by means other than shooting.

Ever wondered about the stability of the propellants in your reloading room? There are some important things you should know about powder storage, to ensure consistent powder performance and safety. Western Powders (which has been acquired by Hodgdon) published an informative Q & A series entitled Dear Labby: Questions for our Ballistics Lab . Here are some excerpts that pertain to powder storage and shelf life. Worried that your powder may be too old? Western’s experts explain how to check your propellants for warning signs.

Proper Powder Storage

Q: I live in southern Arizona where it is very hot. I am told powders will become unstable if stored in an area not air-conditioned. My wife says no powder or primers in the house. Can powder be stored in a refrigerator? What about using a fireproof safe? I would appreciate your ideas. — M.C.

Lab Answer: SAAMI guidelines are pretty clear on issues of storage. They recommend storing smokeless powder in containers that will not allow pressure to build if the powder is ignited — ruling out gun safes and refrigerators.

CLICK HERE to Read SAAMI Guidelines for Powder Storage (PDF)

In their original containers, the lifespan of smokeless powders is quite long, even in hot, arid climates. In fact the lifespan is typically longer than the average handloader would need to store them. Stored safely in a garage or outbuilding, your powder should last years. If you see the powder developing a reddish tint, or giving off a foul odor, it is time to discard it.

Clumps in Powder Container

Q: I ordered some of your Accurate 1680 powder back about in December. I just now opened it … and it is full of clumps. My knowledge tells me that means moisture. Am I wrong? I just now broke the seal and it has been stored in a ammo can with desiccant packs around it and a dehumidifier running 14-16 hours a day. I can’t imagine this being my fault, if this does indicate moisture. I don’t know if the pink part on the label is suppose to be red or not, but it is definitely pink, so if it was red I am wondering if I was shipped an old container? I hope that this isn’t bad and I am stuck with it…

Lab Answer: All powder contains a certain amount of moisture. When the powder is stored or during shipping, it can go through temperature cycles. During the cycling, the moisture can be pulled to the surface and cause clumping. Clumping can also be caused by static electricity if too dry or the powder has limited graphite content. You can break up the clumps before metering and they shouldn’t be a problem. This will not affect the powder performance, so your product is fine. Accurate 1680 labels are designed in Pink. As a side note, specification for testing powder is at 70° F and 60% humidity.

Shelf Life and Packaging Dates

Q: Does powder ever get to old to use and what identifying marks does your company put on the canister for when it is made, You have helped me out a while ago when I asked about keeping my cowboy shooting under 950 fps and it works great less stress on the hand and the recoil is very minimum. — R.B.

Lab Answer: On one pound bottles, the number is on the corner in a silver box. If the powder was poured today, it would read 012815 followed by a lot number. The whole number would look something like 012815749. Eight pound bottles have a sticker on the bottom with an obvious date code. The lot number appears above the date.

Western Powders Blog SAAMI Storage

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June 30th, 2022

Bloody Disaster — Loading Pistol Powder in Rifle Case

Varget Kaboom TiteGroup Hand injury reloading fingers accident

This is a grim tale. A man almost lost the use of his right hand, and did suffer terrible injuries to his fingers. All because he picked the wrong bottle of powder off the shelf. We have run this story before, and we will continue to run it every year, as a caution to our readers. This mistake is easy to make, but the consequences can be dire. Always, always double-check your powder labels before you start the hand-loading process. If you don’t, you may not have a hand to load with next time…

Similar Labels, Disasterous Consequences
The shooter, Denny K., was assembling some rounds for his brand new 7mm-08 Savage hunting rifle. He thought he was loading with Hodgdon Varget. Instead he had filled his powder measure with Hodgdon TiteGroup, a fast-burning pistol powder. The labels are similar, so the mistake is understandable. But the results were devastating. Here’s what 41 grains of TiteGroup can do in a 7mm-08:

Varget Kaboom TiteGroup Hand injury reloading fingers accident

Posting on the Firing Line, in a thread entitled “Lucky to Be Alive”, Denny writes:

“This is the hardest post to post. I know if I had read it a week ago my comment would have been: ‘You have no business reloading’. I had everything perfect, except pouring the wrong powder in the powder measure. I type this slowly with my left hand, embarrassed but … possibly saving someone else a tragedy or, like me, a long drive to the Emergency Room and surgery to save my finger.”

CLICK HERE for bigger, more graphic photo of injury.
Varget Kaboom TiteGroup Hand injury reloading fingers accident

The Still-Sealed Bottle of Varget
Denny did not initially comprehend exactly why the kaboom happened. He thought maybe his new Savage rifle was at fault. Then, on his return home, he discovered something…

Denny wrote: “The seven-hour period it took to go to ER, transport to Trauma Center and surgery made me think it was a Savage rifle issue. Brand new rifle, new brass, triple-checked loading data. The next day I was humbled when I realized the Varget powder was still sealed.

I knew what powder to use. I thought [Varget] was what I used. Not until the following day did I realize the Varget was still sealed.”

At that point, Denny realized what caused the accident — “operator error”. He knew he had to warn others about using the wrong powder: “I knew I needed to share my mistake, even though it is embarrassing, just to remind people. I’ve been reloading for 30 years…”

Editor’s Comment: Denny was not a novice reloader. His experience demonstrates that this kind of mistake can be made by any hand-loader, even one with decades of experience. Be safe guys, take your time when you load your ammo. Remove powders from measures after your loading sessions (pistol powders can look very similar to rifle powders). And by all means CHECK the LABEL on the jug. As the TiteGroup label says: “A little goes a long way.”

It’s not a bad idea to separate your pistol powders from your rifle powders, or perhaps even load for pistol in a separate part of your workshop.

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June 21st, 2022

Keep Your Cartridges Cool During Hot Summer Months

Heat Map USA color chart

Today, June 21, 2022, is Summer Solstice! This means today has the longest period of daylight of any day of the year. And July is right around the corner. That means “peak heat” summer conditions. It’s vitally important to keep your ammo at “normal” temps during the hot summer months. Even if you use “temp-insensitive” powders, studies suggest that pressures can still rise dramatically when the entire cartridge gets hot, possibly because of primer heating. It’s smart to keep your loaded ammo in an insulated storage unit, possibly with a Blue Ice Cool Pak if you expect it to get quite hot. Don’t leave your ammo in the car or truck — temps can exceed 140° in a vehicle parked in the sun.

Ammo cool storage

Bosch Insulated tool caseTo learn more about how ambient temperature (and primer choice) affect pressures (and hence velocities) you should read the article Pressure Factors: How Temperature, Powder, and Primer Affect Pressure by Denton Bramwell. In that article, the author uses a pressure trace instrument to analyze how temperature affects ammo performance. Bramwell’s tests yielded some fascinating results.

For example, barrel temperature was a key factor: “Both barrel temperature and powder temperature are important variables, and they are not the same variable. If you fail to take barrel temperature into account while doing pressure testing, your test results will be very significantly affected. The effect of barrel temperature is around 204 PSI per F° for the Varget load. If you’re not controlling barrel temperature, you about as well might not bother controlling powder temperature, either. In the cases investigated, barrel temperature is a much stronger variable than powder temperature.”

This Editor had the personal experience of 6mmBR hand-loaded ammo that was allowed to sit in the hot sun for 45 minutes while steel targets were reset. The brass became quite warm to the touch, meaning the casings were well over 120° on the outside. When I then shot this ammo, the bullets impacted well high at 600 yards (compared to earlier in the day). Using a Magnetospeed, I then chron-tested the sun-heated ammo. The hot ammo’s velocity FPS had increased very significantly — all because I had left the ammo out in the hot sun uncovered for 3/4 of an hour.

LESSON: Keep your ammo cool! Keep loaded ammo in the shade, preferably under cover or in an insulated container. You can use a SEALED cool pack inside the container, but we do NOT recommend H20 ice packs. And don’t have the container do double duty for food and beverages.

Powder Heat Sensitivity Comparison Test

Our friend Cal Zant of the Precision Rifle Blog has published a fascinating comparison test of four powders: Hodgdon H4350, Hodgdon Varget, IMR 4451, and IMR 4166. The first two are Hodgdon Extreme powders, while the latter two are part of IMR’s Enduron line of propellants.


CLICK HERE to VIEW FULL POWDER TEST RESULTS »

The testers measured the velocity of the powders over a wide temperature range, from 25° F to 140° F. Hodgdon H4350 proved to be the most temp stable of the four powders tested. [NOTE: New Alliant Reloder TS 15.5 has also proved very temp stable in AccurateShooter’s range tests.]

Precision Rifle Blog Temperature Stability test hodgdon varget H4350 Enduron IMR 4451

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May 15th, 2022

Sunday Gunday: 20 PPC Pistol — Great for Varmint Adventures

varmint 20 ppc rampro pistol John Seibel
varmint 20 ppc rampro pistol John Seibel

This week’s featured firearm belongs to John “SnakeEye” Seibel, founder of the VarmintsForFun website. In recent years, John has become a “true believer” in the little 20-Caliber cartridges. He says this light-recoiling 20 PPC, Rampro-actioned pistol is perfect for a quick shot on a critter, taken from the front seat of his truck. John tells us: “A long-range pistol is an ideal truck gun in my opinion. It stows in a small area and doesn’t take up the room a rifle does. Just keep ear protection near by at all times! I’ve taken varmints as far as 400+ yards with this 20 PPC pistol, so why would you need a rifle?”

Perspectives on Pistols for the Varmint Hunter

by John Seibel
I decided to try my hand at shooting varmints with a pistol one day when I grew tired of wrestling a rifle around in the truck for a quick shot. Many times when traveling around on the farm you’ll spy a groundhog or fox that usually isn’t more than 200 yards away. A single-shot pistol like the Thompson Contender could fit the bill. With its compact length, around 20 inches, a long-barrel pistol can lay on the truck’s passenger seat for easy access. I usually keep my two leather brick-style sandbags laying beside the console and seat. I have a box made from hard rubber that I lay across the top of the door. I then lay the two bags on top. This makes a nice platform to rest the pistol’s forearm. I like to use a forearm that is at least two inches wide. That lets the gun lay steady—almost like you are shooting from a bench rest. For the shooting hand, I prefer a pistol grip with finger grooves and a slight overhang or flare for the web of your hand.

As for optics, I tried long-eye-relief pistol scopes but they lacked the magnification you need for long-range target shooting or varminting. Those pistol scopes have really long eye-relief because they are designed to work with the pistol held at arm’s length. When shooting at the bench or from a truck that’s not what you want. By the time you find the target and get your eye in the exact location, the varmint has moved on or died of old age! After much fiddling around with pistol-type scopes, I finally decided to use rifle scopes on my long-range pistols. The minimum I use is a 4.5-14×40. Eye relief on a Leupold 4.5-14x40mm is about 3.5 inches at 4.5 power. Field of view is better with rifle scopes too and it’s easier to acquire your target. For this type of shooting a light-recoiling caliber is essential or you will have scope-eye bad! I currently have three long-range pistols and use them to shoot 17M4, 20 PPC, 22 BR, and .223 Rem. The featured gun may be the most accurate of my pistols, and your editor thinks it’s the most handsome of the three.

varmint 20 ppc rampro pistol John Seibel

The Rampro Pistol Project — Working with John Illum
A couple of years ago I called John Illum of Rampro about building the ultimate long-range pistol. It just so happens that John was a big time long-range pistol shooter. I told him that I wanted a gun that didn’t recoil badly and wouldn’t torque when fired. As I am a quadriplegic, with no grip in my hands, the gun had to handle well under recoil so I didn’t drop it. Recoil had to be straight back–no twisting.

Well Illum listened to me and came up with a gun that performs just the way I wanted. Illum suggested a rear grip stock of his own design. It has a 2.25″ wide forearm and a rear grip with a slight palm swell that fits your hand perfectly. Another nice feature is the finger grips. It has an extended overhang or “beavertail” that fits comfortably in the web of your hand. Of course it had to be walnut! I chose Rampro’s STP small action with a PPC bolt. His bolt uses a Sako-type extractor. The action is a single-shot. Being right-handed, I chose a right bolt, left port configuration. This works really well in a pistol. You can load with your left hand and see the round laying in the action–that’s what you want in a pistol without a safety.

Gun Specifications
John Illum’s Rampro actions are chrome-moly steel. Commonly you’d see them blued, but I had him put a brushed nickel finish on the action and rings. From a few feet away it looks like stainless. The trigger is Illum’s own design set at 8 ounces, and there’s no creep that I can detect. The action has Remington barrel threads and will accept Remington type triggers. One neat thing is that the action was milled with an integral recoil lug (much like the current Surgeon Action). And the bolt is milled all in one piece–no soldered-on handles. My only gripe with this bolt handle is that it could be a tad longer, but it still is manageable for a single-shot. You’ll also note how slick and streamlined the scope rings are. Illum made those as well. His rings mount to the action via two screws from the inside of the ring, a very elegant set-up for sure. (I currently have a 6.5-20x40mm Nikon scope on this gun. If I had to do this project over again the only thing I would change would be installing a 30mm scope because I like ‘em!).

The barrel is a PacNor Super-Match heavy taper with flutes milled by John Illum, who did all the gunsmithing on this pistol. Twist rate is 1 in 12 inches, with an 11° crown, polished to a mirror finish. The barrel was bead-blasted on the exterior to cut glare. I had Illum cut a 20 PPC minimum-spec chamber, with a .237″ neck. That way I don’t have to turn necks on the Lapua Brass (220 Russian necked down to .204). This is a varmint gun–there’s no need for turned necks. [Editor’s Note: Rampro is no longer in business. However, John tells us “I haven’t had any problems with the action so far. If I did, most competent gunsmiths could fix them easily.”]

Handgun Handling Tips
If you want to shoot a long-range pistol but have never have shot this kind of gun before, try to find a mentor — someone with a gun like this who can school you a bit in the correct technique. The first thing you notice is that you have no comb or cheek piece to help align your head and neck. And getting used to the optics takes some practice. Most people fit a pistol-type (long eye-relief) scope, but these can be awkward to use, and somewhat frustrating at first — the field of view is very restricted. Move your head very slightly and you can lose the sight picture completely. You can solve that problem by using a standard rifle scope, but that will put your head very close to the eye-piece — just three to four inches. With that arrangement, if you don’t hold the gun correctly … POW instant scope-eye!

Now once you get the hang of shooting a long-range pistol you will find it can be just as accurate as a rifle. But there is a trick to shooting them. Shooting a long-range pistol is a whole new world — you need to hold it just right. If you don’t let the gun roll back a little (i.e. if you grip too hard) you will get vertical stringing. I hold my hand against the back of the grip to guide the gun but let it almost free recoil. Looking at how compact the pistol is, you might think “Hey, this would make an ideal ‘walking-around’ varminter.” Well, that’s not really the case. For real precision shooting a solid benchrest type set-up is a must. You can attach a bipod to a long-range pistol, but you would need a flat surface. A fence-post top would work pretty well without a bipod if you carry a small light bag. Overall though, this type of pistol works best as a sandbag gun. For a walking-around gun, you’d be happier with a rifle I think.

Load Development and Accuracy
When I built this gun, Hornady had just released the 32gr V-Max (see footnote), a good match for my barrel’s 1:12″ twist. I choose the 20 PPC because of the very good Lapua brass (220 Russian parent case). I figured teaming Lapua brass with the little .204 bullet would offer excellent accuracy combined with very low recoil. My expectations were fulfilled. The brass proved to be excellent and the PacNor loved the little V-Max pills.

I tried quite a few different loads and most powders that I tried worked very well. These included: H322, Benchmark, AA 2460, and Reloader 7. Amazingly, with just 14″ of barrel, all of these powders delivered impressive velocities–ranging from 3914 to 4074 fps. I settled on 48 Harrell’s clicks of Accurate Arms (AA) 2460, which drives the 32gr V-Maxs to 3995 fps.

With AA 2460 the gun will shoot in the low 3s at 100 yards consistently — as long as I steer the gun right, which takes some practice. I think groups in the low 0.3″ range is excellent for a non-benchrest factory bullet. Despite having no buttstock to grab, recoil on my 20 PPC pistol is very minimal — it just rocks back into your hand. The main problem is to keep the scope from smacking you, since I used a rifle scope with short eye-relief. Muzzle flash and noise are tolerable but DO NOT shoot one of these without good ear protection. Your ears are very close to the muzzle.

I also have a 20 PPC rifle built on a BAT action with a Richard’s #008 laminated stock cut down in size. That gun’s 1:9″-twist Lilja barrel lets me shoot the Berger 50gr LTB bullets. In the wind, these perform quite a bit better than the 32s. My two favorite loads for the 50 grainers are: a) 26.0gr VV N135, CCI 450 primers, 3615 fps; and b) 27.3gr Hodgdon Varget, CCI 450s, 3595 fps. The BAT 20 PPC also shoots really well with the 40gr V-Max, pushed by N135 and Fed 205M primers.

Pistol Action Legal Issues
One important thing to remember if you build a pistol is to make sure the receiver came from the factory as a pistol and was titled as a pistol. Rifle actions are illegal to use as a pistol. Yes, that’s a nonsensical law, but it’s still on the books. You can use factory pistol actions such as the XP 100.

If you want a new custom action such as a BAT (my favorite), you can order it as a pistol action and when you get it, register it as a pistol. Note, in some states there may be additional fees, waiting periods, or restrictions for pistol actions (as opposed to rifle actions). Check your local laws before ordering the action.

Future Trends in Varmint Hunting — Plenty of Twenties

I think these sub-caliber rounds, both 20s and the 17s, are the future of recreational varminting, at least out to medium distances. The Twenties offer low recoil, excellent accuracy, and components keep getting better and better. The bullet-makers are finally making high-quality bullets in appropriate weights. Compared to something like a 22-250, I’ve noticed that my 20 PPC rifle has a lot less noise, a plus when you want to be quiet around other people and varmints.

The flat trajectory is another big advantage in the field. With the 20 PPC, zeroed at 100 yards, I can pretty much hold dead center and get hits out to 300 yards or so without touching the scope to add elevation. [Editor: The same is true with the 20 Practical cartridge, basically a .223 Rem necked down to .20 Caliber. It has proven very accurate and easy to tune.]

The 20-Caliber cartridges we have now, in particular the 20 PPC and 20 BR, are very well-refined. You don’t have to do a lot of tuning or tinkering to have a very accurate, effective varmint-slayer. In fact, if I could dream up a signature “20 VFF” (Varmints For Fun) cartridge it would basically be the 20 PPC. In truth, nearly any of the popular 17- or 20-Caliber cartridges will perform well if you start with top-quality brass. The sub-calibers have less recoil and burn less powder, and there are very good components for most varmint and target-shooting applications. To me it seems that these small calibers work so well because of good components, low recoil, and efficient cartridge designs (particularly in the VarTarg and PPC cases).

varmint 20 ppc rampro pistol John Seibel

WARNING: For your own safety, ALWAYS reduce all starting charges by 10% and work up carefully! Ambient temperature changes, powder lot variations, and differences in barrel friction can result in significantly increased pressures.

20 PPC LOAD MAP
Bullet GR Maker Powder Charge Primer Case Velocity
fps
Barrel
Twist
Comments
32 Hornady
V-Max
H322 27.6 Rem 7½ Lapua 4000 Lilja 1:12 WarrenB Form Load
32 Hornady
V-Max
AA 2460 29.5 Rem 7½ Lapua 3995 PacNor 1:12 SnakeEye
Pistol Load
32 Hornady
V-Max
H4198 25.1 CCI BR4 Lapua 4222 PacNor 1:12 A. Boyechko Load
39 Sierra
BlitzKing
H322 26.0 Rem 7½ Lapua 3700 Lilja 1:12 WarrenB Load
39 Sierra
BlitzKing
VV N540 28.8 CCI BR4 SAKO 4064 PacNor 1:12 D.Moore, Low 2s
40 Hornady
V-Max
VV N135 27.8 Fed 205m Lapua 3950 Lilja 1:9 SnakeEye Load
50 Berger
LTB
VV N135 26.0 CCI 450 Lapua 3615 Lilja 1:9 SnakeEye Load
50 Berger
LTB
Varget 27.3 CCI 450 Lapua 3595 Lilja 1:9 SnakeEye Load

Footnote: When first manufactured, the small Hornady 20-Caliber V-Max bullet was actually 33 grains, not 32 grains as sold currently. I still have some of the 33-grainers. I’ve observed no functional difference between the 33s and the current 32-grainers.

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Hunting/Varminting, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
May 7th, 2022

Guide to IMR Enduron Powders — Temp Stable, Reduced Fouling

IMR Enduron Powder 4166 4451 7977

Have you tried IMR Enduron powders yet (IMR 4166, 4451, 4955, 7977, and/or 8133)? We’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen. IMR’s line of Enduron extruded powders offer excellent temp stability, reduced copper fouling, and good load density for many popular cartridges (such as .223 Rem, 6mmBR, .308 Win, .30-06, 300 WSM to name a few). Some of our Forum members have reported excellent results with IMR 4166 in the 6mmBR, Dasher, 6.5×47 Lapua and .308 Win. One member wrote: “in my 6.5×47… 4166 gives speeds and accuracy pretty much exactly the same as Varget.” And other shooters have observed reduced copper fouling with Enduron series powders, so IMR’s Enduron anti-fouling chemistry does seem to work.

IMR now offers five (5) Enduron powders: IMR 4166, IMR 4451, IMR 4955, IMR 7977, and IMR 8133. Shooters looking for good alternatives to hard-to-find extruded powders should definitely check out the Enduron line-up. Precision shooters will find an Enduron option well-suited to most popular precision cartridge types. For example, IMR 4166 is a good replacement for Hodgdon Varget (commonly used in the .223 Rem, 6mmBR and .308 Win), while IMR 4955 is a fine substitute for H4831 (favored by F-Open shooters for the .284 Win and 7mm WSM cartridges).

enduron IMR Powder Hodgdon extreme

The Enduron Line-Up of Five Powders

IMR now offers five Enduron powders that cover a broad range of burn rates. They are suitable for a wide variety of cartridges, from small varmint cartridges all the way up to the .338 Lapua Magnum.

IMR Enduron Powders

IMR 4166 possesses the fastest burn rate in the Enduron lineup. It is the perfect burn speed for cartridges such as .308 Win, 7.62mm NATO, 22-250 Rem and 257 Roberts. A versatile, match-grade propellant, IMR 4166 is comparable to Hodgdon® Varget.

IMR 4451 is a mid-range burn speed powder, ideally suited for cartridges such as .270 Winchester, .30-06 and 300 Winchester Short Magnum. This powder is comparable to Hodgdon H4350.

IMR 4955 is a medium burn speed powder, falling in between IMR 4451 and IMR 7977 in burn speed. It provides top performance in big game cartridges such as 25-06, 280 Remington and 300 Winchester Magnum. This powder is comparable to Hodgdon H4831.

IMR 7977 is a slower burn rate in the Enduron family. Loading density is perfect for magnums. This is a true magnum propellant yielding outstanding performance in .300 Winchester Magnum, 7mm Remington Magnum and .338 Lapua Magnum. IMR 7977 is comparable to Hodgdon H1000.

IMR 8133 IMR Enduron 8133 is the slowest burn rate in the Enduron family. Loading density is perfect for the very large magnums, including the 6.5mm and 7mm magnums. This is a true magnum propellant yielding outstanding performance in 6.5-300 Weatherby, .264 Win Mag, 28 Nosler and .300 Rem Ultra Mag, among other cartridges.

IMR Enduron Technology powders are sold in one-pound (1 lb) and eight-pound (8-lb) containers through quality retailers including Graf & Sons, Midsouth, and Powder Valley. Check frequently for current availability as these will sell out quickly after arrival. Also check your local sporting goods dealers for recent powder shipments.

IMR Enduron Powders 4955 4451 4166 7977

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
February 20th, 2022

Sunday GunDay: .22 PPC for 300m Prone Competition

.22 PPC Rifle 300m prone

The 300 Meter .22 PPC — Smaller Caliber for Less Recoil

By GS Arizona
[This article originally appeared in Precision Shooting Magazine many years ago, but we are reprising it because the .22 PPC remains a notable cartridge for many disciplines, from benchrest to silhouette.]

I’ve spent the past few years pursuing the largely solitary pastime of 300 Meter shooting in the US. While it is a hugely popular sport in Europe, with thousands of competitors in each of various countries and overflowing national championships, in the U.S., 300 Meter shooting is simply a forgotten discipline. As an example, consider that the entry at the USA Shooting 300 Meter National Championships held at Fort Benning did not reach 20 competitors in [years past]. For those not familiar with the discipline, the 300 Meter ISSF target has a 100 mm ten ring, 200 mm 9 ring and so forth. That’s a 3.9″ ten ring at 328 yards for those of you who may object to the metric system, electricity and other intrusions upon a well settled universe (which ends at the dragons). [Editor’s Note: GS Arizona was a championship-class prone shooter, in both rimfire and centerfire disciplines, who had a popular online Blog, which has been closed.]

300 Meter Basics
300 Meter matches can be either three-position (prone, standing, kneeling) or all prone. Being of that age at which limbs aren’t limber and the mid-section obscures one’s view of the toes, I shoot prone matches only and leave the 3P to those for whom the term “shooting athlete” doesn’t produce an automatic smirk from the better half.

.22 PPC Rifle 300m prone

Like most 300 Meter shooters, I shoot a 6BR as my main rifle. As used in 300 Meter shooting, the 6BR is loaded with a 105-108gr bullet, with a velocity in the 2850 fps range. There is simply no cartridge out there at this time that delivers the accuracy, low recoil and ease of loading that can be had from the 6BR. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t embark on a quixotic adventure now and then to find something better. This article is about one such search. So, if you don’t mind spending some time learning about an uphill struggle in a forgotten corner of the shooting world, pour a hot cup of coffee, get a plate of chocolate chip cookies and read on.

Getting Started–The Concept Behind the Project
The premise for building a .22 PPC was simple — less is more. Less recoil, that is, while retaining good ballistics and accuracy, should allow for higher scores. The hard part is meeting the ballistic and accuracy standards set by the 6BR. If pressed I might also admit to a desire to do something different. I made a decision early on in the project to stick to 80-grain bullets. I believe the 80 is pushing the envelope for safe and sane pressure in a case the size of the PPC; additionally, there are a number of manufacturers of 80-grain .224″ bullets so selection and testing can be more meaningful. Barrels are another consideration and all of the better barrel makers offer a 1:8″ twist .224 barrel (unlike the limited selection of 1:6.5″ twist required for 90 grain .224″ bullets).

With the basic parameters of a full-length .22 PPC case (reformed Lapua .220 Russian to be exact) and an 80-grain bullet established, a few other details needed attention. The first of these was specifying certain dimensions for the reamer maker. I chose not to change any of the essential dimensions of the .22 PPC such as headspace, shoulder angle or body taper, but there were a couple of areas that I felt needed to be different from the typical Benchrest PPC. These were neck diameter and throat length. With the outstanding quality of the Lapua brass, I elected to go with a 0.255″ neck diameter which would allow the use of unturned brass and still leave 0.002″ clearance around the neck of a loaded cartridge. The throat was specified longer than a standard PPC to allow for the length of the 80-grain bullets and avoid having the bullet go past the neck/shoulder junction.

300 Meter .22 PPC — Equipment List
Hardware
Action: RPA Quadlite, RPADefense.com.
Stock: Master Class Highpower Prone MasterClassStocks.com
Barrel: Broughton .224″ bore, 1:8″ twist, 30″ Palma contour
Rear Sight: Warner #1, Anschutz Iris, Warner-Tool.com
Front Sight: Gehmann Iris from Scott Riles
Trigger: Jewell 4 oz. one-stage
Bolt Knob: Keychain from 7-11 ($2.00)

Gunsmithing
Barrel fitting, sight, scope bases: Warner Tool Company.
Stock inletting, pillar bedding, and hardware: Alex Sitman,
Master Class Stocks.

Detours Along the Way
Like Quixote stumbling his way to his dreams, I’ve made a few mistakes. That 0.255″ neck diameter turned out to be the first. Turning brass isn’t a problem, but I was so captivated by the quality of the .220 Russian brass that I planned to skip turning or just take a light (0.001″) clean-up cut. Well, that’s fine, but as it turns out, PPC die makers assume you have turned necks and using unturned brass causes problems. The Redding Competition Seater, for instance, wanted to crimp the entire length of the neck onto the bullet. Turns out it was 0.250″ in the neck diameter of the sliding sleeve. This required reaming the sleeve which wasn’t too hard as the sleeve is made of relatively soft steel. Hand turning the chambering reamer with lots of care and oil took care of that problem. This opened up the neck to 0.255″ which might be 0.001″ more than ideal but I’ll live with it.

.22 PPC Rifle 300m proneSizing dies were another problem altogether. Forget using a non-bushing die with unturned brass–you’ll just overwork the neck to death. The Redding bushing dies worked well, though. Fired brass ends up at 0.254″ and is sized to 0.250″ in two steps (0.252″ and 0.250″) to maintain better concentricity.

I also got the throat length wrong as the base of the bullet (above the boat tail) is halfway up the neck and I want it just above the shoulder. I don’t know how I missed on that spec, but that’s what happened. As it turns out, the extra throat length hasn’t caused any problems with the Nosler 80, but it might with shorter or pointier bullets. Powder and primer choices became additional areas for demonstrating my inability to make good choices. You might think that adding a heavier bullet to an existing cartridge would be simple but it really turned into a full scale adventure.

Choice of Components and Smiths — Only the Best
Based on my previous favorable experience and that of a few friends, I ordered a Broughton barrel for the PPC, a .224″ bore 1:8″ twist, long enough to finish at 30 inches in what is generally referred to as a medium Palma taper. I haven’t been disappointed by the barrel: like all of those made by Tim North of Broughton Barrels, it is top notch. With the barrel and reamer in hand, they and the RPA Quadlite action were sent to Al Warner for barreling and then on to Alex Sitman for the stock. I can’t say enough good things about Alan’s metal work and Alex’s stock work. They have barreled and stocked many rifles for me over the years, all flawless. Alex’s Highpower Prone stock fits me like a comfortable moccasin. The trigger is a Jewell set at 4 oz., the rear sight is a Warner #1 and the front sight is a Scott Riles with a Centra aperture.

Eventually, the UPS man — purveyor of all things worth having — arrived with a long package and the real work began. Load testing and shooting can be a lot more frustrating than planning and talking to gunsmiths, but hopefully the eventual results make it worthwhile. I had a good supply of Nosler 80-grain bullets and some preconceived notions about powder and primers. Off to the loading bench.

Load Development + Accuracy Testing
Fire-forming the .220 Russian cases to the PPC chamber was a breeze: run an expander into the neck to get them to .224″, bump the shoulder 0.002″, load a caseful of IMR 4895 (about 23 grains) and insert a Nosler 77 (leftover from another project) and fire. I shot these at 100 yards while zeroing the rifle and was very impressed with the accuracy. Fouling was minimal, off to a promising start.

Once formed, I loaded the brass with Varget and the 80-grain bullets. Since Varget has given such good results in the 6BR, it was a natural starting point for this project. However, it quickly became evident that it might be too slow. While accuracy was excellent, powder fouling in the barrel was very heavy even at the highest charge tried (28.5 grains) and there was soot all the way down the shoulders of the cases. Cleaning the bore felt like patching a rusty water pipe after just 20 shots. I knew I’d never make it through a 60-shot match (about 70 shots with sighters) without cleaning[.]

Putting the .22 PPC to the Test in Competition
At this point, I took the PPC to a 300 Meter match with the Varget load. While it might not look perfect, I needed to try it. The first string was a 198 and I was able to clean the rifle immediately after firing. The second string was also a 198 but I had to fire the third string without cleaning. The effects of the fouling were evident in the last score, a 194.

While a 590 total isn’t bad for 300M, it was a bit below my average with the 6BR at this range – my home range that I knew well. More importantly, the score dropped as the group opened up in the third string when I wasn’t able to clean. At the Nationals all 60 shots are fired without a break for cleaning or additional sighters; therefore, Varget, while promising, wouldn’t work in the long run.

The next faster powder on my shelf was IMR 4895. I’d used it in the fire forming loads and if I had a lick of sense I would have tried it right away since the fire forming loads shot so well. However, stubbornly clinging to the preconceived notion that Varget was going to be a great powder for this combo cost me a month or so fooling with it. I then worked up loads with 4895 from 26.8 to 28.6 and saw that while 4895 was better suited to the case than Varget, it was still slow. The powder fouling was still occurring, though to a lesser degree. The shoulders still showed some soot, but less. I settled on 27.8 grains as a useful load and loaded 70 cases.

New Load for a New Home
At this point, I moved from Florida to Arizona causing a delay of several months in testing. The move also had an effect on the load as the hotter and drier climate in Arizona turned out to be much more suitable for 4895. Of course, I still had those 70 rounds loaded with 27.8 so I shot them in practice. Everything seemed OK but one primer (Federal 205M) pierced at the edge. I didn’t pay much attention to that as there were no other pressure signs and it was the first primer failure of any sort so far in this project. Extraction was fine, primer edges were nicely radiused and base growth was under two tenths. There was an opportunity to shoot a 500-yard prone match the following day so I reloaded the cases with the same load. At the match I pierced two more primers, this time right at the edge of the firing pin, causing two craters running into the firing pin hole. As you might imagine, all subsequent shots cratered into that area, although no more pierced.

I was contemplating a switch to Hodgdon Benchmark (slightly faster than H4895) until this point. Now, repairing the bolt face and switching to a tougher primer took priority. I loaded 25 rounds with CCI BR4 primers and 25 with Remington 7.5 primers. Both of these are well known for their tougher cups which I hoped would eliminate the piercing. I like the mild flash from the Federal 205 and believe it contributes to good accuracy, but I needed a primer that holds together more than I need to cut another tenth MOA. Bearing in mind that the powder charge itself might need reworking, I took those 50 rounds to the range to test them with the 27.8 gr. IMR 4895 load as it remains best to only change one thing at a time. Temperatures were in the 100 to 110 degree range during testing as they are for a good portion of the year here in Phoenix. If the load won’t work in hot temperatures, it just won’t work at all for me.

The primer testing at 200 yards showed the CCI BR4 primers to be better suited to this load than the Remington 7.5 primers. While no primer failed out of the 50 fired, the CCI BR4 primers gave distinctly better accuracy. I fired two ten-shot groups prone (scoped) with each, the Remington-primed groups averaged just over 1 MOA and the CCI-primed groups averaged 1/2 MOA. The difference between the two was principally in the amount of elevation in the groups. Given that result, as well as previous good experience with the CCI primers in the 6BR, I settled on the CCI BR4 primers for the PPC.

Final Testing at 500 Yards–It all Comes Together
While the purpose of the 80-grain PPC is 300 Meter shooting, those matches are somewhat hard to find so I’ve done most of my testing at 200 yards on the local public range (Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix) and at 500 yards in some of the local prone matches. With the primer issue potentially resolved, I went back to the 500-yard range to make sure the load held good elevation at that distance.

Final testing at 500 yards was a complete success. I fired one group of 24 shots from the prone position. Elevation for the bulk of the group was right at 3″ (0.6 MOA), the horizontal spread was somewhat larger as the group was fired in gusty, fast-switching conditions. The CCI BR4 primers functioned flawlessly, with no sign of pressure despite ambient temperatures over 100° F. None of this should be taken as a general statement of inadequacy of Federal primers. I have used (and continue to use) the very same lot of Federal 205M primers in my 6BR and have not experienced any problems at all. Simply stated, the 80-grain .22 PPC is an odd duck and has special requirements when fired under the conditions that prevail in my area.

At this point, I’ve determined that the basic premise of a .22 PPC for 300 Meter matches is perfectly viable, even if it is quite a bit more complex an undertaking than the 6BR. Recoil reduction over the 6BR was minimal, bordering on unnoticeable, but accuracy is on a par with the 6BR, perhaps slightly better. As a nice bonus, the PPC has proven to be quite useful for the 500-yard prone matches that are a regular part of the Phoenix shooting scene and it never fails to spark a good conversation with a new friend when I’m practicing or testing at the range. Future plans include testing Berger and Hornady 75 and 80-grain bullets and Hodgdon Benchmark powder. And, after conferring with your moderator, who ran some simulations in QuickLOAD, I’ll be trying Reloder 15 soon (QuickLOAD predicts RL15 allows 100% load density with good velocity). At some point I’ll also have the reamer reground for a shorter throat and tighter neck, but probably not until time comes to rebarrel.

6mmBR Norma versus .22 PPC

For the shooter who wants a superbly accurate, easy to load cartridge for 300 Meters to 600 yards, you simply can’t beat the 6BR. Everything you need, including brass, dies, reamers and knowledge are just a phone call away. The .22 PPC, by contrast, is an uphill struggle. The chambering reamer was custom ground to my specifications to allow unturned brass, as well as a longer freebore for the 75- and 80-grain bullets that are the heart of the project. The no-turn necks also meant that the Redding Competition Seater (an excellent unit) had to be reworked to allow for the thicker neck diameter. Once those hurdles were overcome I struggled to find the best powder for this combination–and I’m still searching. Unlike the 6BR where any of a half dozen or more powders will do the job (Varget, Reloder 15, N140, N540, IMR 4895, Norma 203B, etc.) the .22 PPC with heavy bullets has proven finicky with even the most accurate powders leaving fairly heavy carbon fouling.

Despite the problems, the .22 PPC offers a bit more pure accuracy than the 6BR and also a tiny bit less recoil. Both of these things can contribute to slightly higher scores in prone matches. However, to get the most out of the PPC, one must find the time to clean between 20 shot strings–a not inconsiderable effort sometimes in the mad rush of pit changes, scoring, shooting and just plain being tired.

This rifle was initially a .223 and when that cartridge proved unsatisfactory for my purposes, I had it rebuilt as the .22 PPC you see here. I like it and I enjoy the challenge, but I would not recommend this combination as someone’s primary rifle; it can get a bit frustrating. To put it into another context, the 6BR is like a 350 Chevy, it’ll just keep on doing the job forever, no matter what. The .22 PPC is like a Ferrari, it’ll scream when you do everything right, but it takes more attention to detail and a lot more maintenance. You wouldn’t want a Ferrari as your only car and likewise, you would be better off making the .22 PPC a second rifle.

Parting Shots — The .22 PPC vs. 6mm BR
If you’re looking for a simple, accurate and reliable cartridge for 200 to 600 yards, you probably can’t improve on the 6BR. However, if you’re someone who finds the journey as rewarding as reaching the destination, then you may very well enjoy a .22 PPC for prone shooting. While I received a great deal of help in this project from friends, gunsmiths, suppliers and parts makers far and wide, I really must acknowledge the huge debt we all owe to Ferris Pindell and Dr. Lou Palmisano. Without them there would be no PPC. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants.

Copyright © Precision Shooting Magazine and GS Arizona. Reprinted by permission.
Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition, Reloading 2 Comments »
August 6th, 2021

Get Reliable Load INFO at Hodgdon Reloading Data Center

Hodgdon Reloading data Center hand loading powder

Hodgdon Reloading data Center hand loading powderLooking for a good load for a new rifle? Or perhaps you want to try a new powder and bullet combo for an existing rig. One of the best places to start for load data is Hodgdon’s online Reloading Data Center for pistol, rifle, and shotgun reloaders. Check out the Reloading Data Center at www.HodgdonReloading.com.

In the Data Center, you’ll find thousands of load recipes for pistol, rifle, and shotgun. Rifle shooters will find dozens of loads for their favorite Hodgdon, IMR, and Winchester powders such as H4198, H4895, Varget, H4350, and IMR 8208 XBR. And Hodgdon’s Reloading Center is “mobile-friendly” so it works well with smartphones and tables. Navigation is easy, and you can set the search criteria easily choosing your favorite powder or bullets. After choosing a cartridge, you can pre-select specific bullet weights and powder types. That quickly delivers just the information you want and need. You won’t have to scroll through scores of entries for bullets or powders you don’t use.

Hodgdon Reloading data Center hand loading powder
NOTE: This shows results for two bullet weights and two powder choices. With more powders and bullets selected you will get more results. The “BUY NOW” buttons link to the Hodgdon webstore.

Reloading Center is Smartphone-Friendly
Mobile users will notice that the current Hodgdon Reloading Center is “user-friendly” for smart-phone and tablet users. Controls have been optimized for touch-screens, and buttons are large and easy to use.

How to Get Started with Handloading

Getting started in Reloading? Ultimate Reloader offers a helpful introductory video that covers the basics. In addition, a recent Ultimate Reloader article reviews the types of reloading presses, plus the other gear you’ll need, from dies to powder dispensers.

Permalink - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading No Comments »
June 13th, 2021

Beat the Heat — Keep Ammo Cool During Hot Summer Days

Heat Map USA color chart

The Summer Solstice is June 20, 2021, just a week away. And July is nearly here. That means “peak heat” summer conditions. It’s vitally important to keep your ammo at “normal” temps during the hot summer months. Even if you use “temp-insensitive” powders, studies suggest that pressures can still rise dramatically when the entire cartridge gets hot, possibly because of primer heating. It’s smart to keep your loaded ammo in an insulated storage unit, possibly with a Blue Ice Cool Pak if you expect it to get quite hot. Don’t leave your ammo in the car or truck — temps can exceed 140° in a vehicle parked in the sun.

Ammo cool storage

Bosch Insulated tool caseTo learn more about how ambient temperature (and primer choice) affect pressures (and hence velocities) you should read the article Pressure Factors: How Temperature, Powder, and Primer Affect Pressure by Denton Bramwell. In that article, the author uses a pressure trace instrument to analyze how temperature affects ammo performance. Bramwell’s tests yielded some fascinating results.

For example, barrel temperature was a key factor: “Both barrel temperature and powder temperature are important variables, and they are not the same variable. If you fail to take barrel temperature into account while doing pressure testing, your test results will be very significantly affected. The effect of barrel temperature is around 204 PSI per F° for the Varget load. If you’re not controlling barrel temperature, you about as well might not bother controlling powder temperature, either. In the cases investigated, barrel temperature is a much stronger variable than powder temperature.”

This Editor had the personal experience of 6mmBR hand-loaded ammo that was allowed to sit in the hot sun for 45 minutes while steel targets were reset. The brass became quite warm to the touch, meaning the casings were well over 120° on the outside. When I then shot this ammo, the bullets impacted well high at 600 yards (compared to earlier in the day). Using a Magnetospeed, I then chron-tested the sun-heated ammo. The hot ammo’s velocity FPS had increased very significantly — all because I had left the ammo out in the hot sun uncovered for 3/4 of an hour.

LESSON: Keep your ammo cool! Keep loaded ammo in the shade, preferably under cover or in an insulated container. You can use a SEALED cool pack inside the container, but we do NOT recommend H20 ice packs. And don’t have the container do double duty for food and beverages.

Powder Heat Sensitivity Comparison Test

Our friend Cal Zant of the Precision Rifle Blog recently published a fascinating comparison test of four powders: Hodgdon H4350, Hodgdon Varget, IMR 4451, and IMR 4166. The first two are Hodgdon Extreme powders, while the latter two are part of IMR’s Enduron line of propellants.


CLICK HERE to VIEW FULL POWDER TEST RESULTS »

The testers measured the velocity of the powders over a wide temperature range, from 25° F to 140° F. Hodgdon H4350 proved to be the most temp stable of the four powders tested. [NOTE: New Alliant Reloder TS 15.5 has also proved very temp stable in AccurateShooter’s range tests.]

Precision Rifle Blog Temperature Stability test hodgdon varget H4350 Enduron IMR 4451

Permalink Reloading, Tech Tip No Comments »
April 1st, 2021

Can’t Find Reloading Powder? 1000 Grain Bottles Coming Soon!

DOT small powder bottles

We all know reloading powder is in VERY short supply these days. And the most popular propellants, such as Varget, H4350, and Reloder 16, are almost impossible to find at reasonable prices. Thankfully, there is a new solution in the works — smaller containers. This should give handloaders a whole new way to source those precious powders needed for a day at the range. And even if the volume is limited, something is ALWAYS better than nothing, right?

The big (and small) news for reloaders is that the major powder suppliers plan to start shipping powders in more compact, easy-to-ship containers. Instead of buying a pound of powder, you will be able to purchase an efficient, handy 1000 grain container. These are light weight (just 1/7th of a pound) so they are convenient to transport and carry. And you’ll never have the problem of over supply. A 1000-grain container with load approximately 33 6mm BR rounds — that should be plenty for a day at the range. We’re blessed to have this new compact powder option thanks to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

DOT small powder bottlesThe U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently approved new smaller containers for shipment of smokeless powder. The new containers are designed to hold 1000 grains, exactly one-seventh of a pound. That works out to 2.29 ounces of powder — quite a bit less than you are getting currently with one-pound (16 oz.) containers.

Here how it works out:
7000 grains = 1 pound = 16 ounces
1000 grains = 0.143 pounds = 2.29 ounces

Many products — from cereal boxes to Snickers bars — have been down-sized in recent years. Now downsizing has come to the powder marketplace. The strategy behind the smaller containers is simple. In a market where demand vastly outstrips available supply, the smaller containers allow powder-makers to generate more revenue with a given amount of powder inventory. Will consumers accept the smaller powder containers? Probably so — 1000 grains is enough to load 20-22 rounds of .308 Winchester. In the current marketplace (with many powders virtually impossible to find), most consumers would probably prefer to get 2.3 ounces of their favorite powder, rather than nothing at all. (NOTE: The major powder suppliers will continue to offer popular powders in 1-lb, and 8-lb containers. The new 1000-grain containers will be phased-in over time, as an alternative to the larger containers).

Why the small bottles? One industry spokesman (who asked not to be named) explained: “We’ve had a severe shortage of smokeless powder for nearly two years. The powder production plants are running at full capacity, but there’s only so much finished product to go around. By moving to smaller containers, we can ensure that our customers at least get some powder, even if it’s not as much as they want.”

Why are the new containers 2.3 ounces rather than 8 ounces (half a pound) or 4 ounces (one-quarter pound)? One of the engineers who helped develop the new DOT-approved container explained: “We looked at various sizes. We knew we had to reduce the volume significantly to achieve our unit quantity sales goals. Some of our marketing guys liked the four-ounce option — the ‘Quarter-Pounder’. That had a nice ring to it, but ultimately we decided on the 1000 grain capacity. To the average consumer, one thousand grains sounds like a large amount of powder, even if it’s really only 2.3 ounces. This size also made it much easier to bundle the powder in six-packs. We think the six-packs will be a big hit. You get nearly a pound of powder, but you can mix and match with a variety of different propellants.”

Less Bang for Your Buck?
We’re told the new 2.3-ounce powder bottles will retail for around $11.99, i.e. about $5.21 per ounce. At that price, it may seem like you’re getting less bang for your buck … but hey, something is better than nothing, right?

DOT small powder bottlesCurrently, when you can find them, quality reloading powders are going for $45-$60 per pound (in 1-lb containers). At $45 per pound, you’re paying $2.81 per ounce. That means that the new mini-containers will be roughly twice as expensive as current one-pounders ($5.21 per ounce vs. $2.81 per ounce).

Along with the 2.3-ounce containers, the DOT has approved “six-pack” consolidated delivery units that will hold six, 1000-grain containers. Some manufacturers plan to offer “variety packs” with a selection of various powders in the 1000-grain bottles. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a six-pack with H322, H4895, Varget, H4350, H4831sc, and Retumbo?

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, New Product, News, Reloading, Tech Tip 8 Comments »
February 26th, 2021

Hodgdon Powder Update — Why Are There Shortages?

Hodgdon Powder report supply pricing shortage

As any handloader knows, popular reloading powders have become difficult to find. And when you do locate the powder you want, the price might be twice what you paid a year ago (or even more on auction sites). Across the nation, shooters are asking “What gives? Why are powder prices so high? And when are the shortages going to end?”

Hodgdon Powder Company (“Hodgdon”), supplier of Hodgdon, IMR, and Winchester powders*, has attempted to answer these questions with a “Powder Update” posted yesterday. Along with addressing the shortage issues, Hodgdon explains the challenges involved in increasing production in the USA and/or increasing imports from overseas. The ultra-popular H4198, H4895, Varget, H4350, and H4831 family of powders are produced by ADI in Australia**. So Hodgdon can’t ship more Varget or H4350 in the USA unless Hodgdon can get more from Australia.

In the Powder Update reprinted below, Hodgdon answers many key questions, and debunks some misconceptions. For example, Hodgdon is NOT selling its powders on auction sites such as Gunbroker. That is completely false.

POWDER UPDATE from Hodgdon Powder Company

Hodgdon Powder report supply pricing shortageWHY CAN’T HODGDON SHIP MORE POWDER?
The current powder situation is due to a record demand for all reloading components and NOT a reduction in the supply of powder. With long-time handloaders looking to stock up and new gun owners looking for ammunition, there is an unprecedented demand for powder and other reloading components. We shipped a record amount of powder in 2020 and will ship even more in 2021. We are doing everything in our power to get the most powder into consumer hands this year. We are running overtime in our facilities, have hired additional staff and have leveraged relationships with shipping partners to add new shipping options.

WHY CAN’T HODGDON BUILD ANOTHER POWDER PLANT?
The “normal” powder demand for the United States would not support an additional plant. Hodgdon, like most companies, cannot afford to build a new production facility then have it sit idle until demand spikes.

WHY IS HODGDON SELLING POWDER TO THE GOVERNMENT?
Hodgdon does NOT sell powder directly to the government. We sell some powder to manufacturers making ammunition for our military, but that is a small part of our business.

WHY IS HODGDON SELLING POWDER TO AMMUNITION MANUFACTURERS?
The heart of our business is smokeless powder for the handloading enthusiast. Yes, we sell some powder to ammo manufacturers, but that is a small part of our business. Every day, we receive calls from potential OEM customers looking for powder to load in ammunition. We politely decline so we can focus on our long-term, handloading customers.

WHY IS HODGDON SELLING POWDER ON AUCTION SITES?
We don’t. Period. We recently began selling a limited amount of powder on our OWN websites but prioritize our shipments to our traditional sales channels to maximize powder availability at sporting goods and gun shops. [Editor: If you see Hodgdon powder on auction sites, that is listed by third party vendors.]

WHY IS THE PRICE OF POWDER SO HIGH ON THE INTERNET?
We do not set sale prices or MSRPs for the price of our powders at retail, nor do we encourage any of our retailers or dealers to sell on auction sites, but we cannot control what happens AFTER we sell to our traditional sales channels.

Hodgdon Powder report supply pricing shortage


* Hodgdon also sells certain Ramshot, Accurate, and Blackhorn powders along with Goex black powder.
** Here’s a list of ADI to Hodgdon Powder equivalents from the ADI FAQ Page:

ADI / Hodgdon Propellants Equivalents
ADI Powder Hodgdon/IMR Name
Trail Boss
AR2207
AR2219
BM2
Bench Mark 8208
AR2206H
AR2208
AR2209
AR2213H/AR2213SC
AR2217
AR2225
AR2218
Trail Boss
H4198
H322
Benchmark
8208 XBR
H4895
Varget
H4350
H4831 / H4831SC
H1000
Retumbo
H50BMG
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September 23rd, 2020

Get Hodgdon and IMR Loads from Reloading Data Center

Hodgdon Reloading data Center hand loading powder

Hodgdon Reloading data Center hand loading powderLooking for a good load for a new rifle? Or perhaps you want to try a new powder and bullet combo for an existing rig. One of the best places to start for load data is Hodgdon’s online Reloading Data Center for pistol, rifle, and shotgun reloaders. Check out the Reloading Data Center at www.HodgdonReloading.com.

In the Data Center, you’ll find thousands of load recipes for pistol, rifle, and shotgun. Rifle shooters will find dozens of loads for their favorite Hodgdon, IMR, and Winchester powders such as H4198, H4895, Varget, H4350, and IMR 8208 XBR. And Hodgdon’s Reloading Center is “mobile-friendly” so it works well with smartphones and tables. Navigation is easy, and you can set the search criteria easily choosing your favorite powder or bullets. After choosing a cartridge, you can pre-select specific bullet weights and powder types. That quickly delivers just the information you want and need. You won’t have to scroll through scores of entries for bullets or powders you don’t use.

Hodgdon Reloading data Center hand loading powder

Mobile users will notice that the current Hodgdon Reloading Center is much more “user-friendly” for smart-phone and tablet users. Controls have been optimized for touch-screens, and buttons are large and easy to use. Likewise the results are displayed in a large, easy-to read format.

How to Get Started with Handloading

Getting started in Reloading? Ultimate Reloader offers a helpful introductory video that covers the basics. In addition, a recent Ultimate Reloader article reviews the types of reloading presses, plus the other gear you’ll need, from dies to powder dispensers.

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September 1st, 2020

Can’t Find Varget for Sale? Then Try IMR 4166 Powder…

IMR 4166 Enduron Varget powder Hodgdon

Can’t find Hodgdon Varget on dealer’s shelves? then consider IMR 4166. This Enduron series powder is temp-stable and accurate. It also offers good load density and meters reasonably well. Importantly, it seems to be a good substitute for “unobtanium” Varget powder. On the official Hodgdon/IMR burn rate chart, IMR 4166 is between H4895 and Varget. Some of our Forum members have reported excellent results with IMR 4166 in cartridges that work with Varget, such as the 6mmBR, 6 Dasher, 6.5×47 Lapua, and .308 Win. One member wrote: “in my 6.5×47 … IMR 4166 gives speeds and accuracy pretty much exactly the same as Varget.” And other shooters have observed reduced copper fouling with Enduron series powders, so IMR’s Enduron anti-fouling chemistry does seem to work.

IMR 4166 Enduron Varget powder Hodgdon

IMR Enduron powder 4166 Varget RL15Where to Find IMR 4166 Powder
Powder Valley Inc. (PVI) and Midsouth Shooters both have plenty of IMR 4166 in stock right now. IMR 4166 performs well in the .308 Win (for bullets up to 175 grains) and in 6mm cartridges running the heavier (95-107gr) projectiles. IMR’s press release states: “IMR 4166 [has] a perfect burn speed for cartridges like the 308 Win/7.62mm NATO, 22-250 Remington… and dozens more.”

IMR 4166 is one of IMR’s Enduron family of propellants. Enduron powders are formulated to reduce fouling and to be stable across a wide temperature range. If you commonly use Varget, Alliant Reloder 15, Norma 203B, IMR 8208 XBR, or Vihtavuori N140, you might want to try IMR 4166. It is available right now at Midsouth Shooters and Powder Valley in both one-pound and 8-pound containers:

Midsouth IMR 4166
IMR 4166 – 1 LB. — $29.01
IMR 4166 – 8 LBS. — $208.34
Powder Valley IMR 4166
IMR 4166 – 1 LB. — $28.50
IMR 4166 – 8 LBS. — $206.00

For more information and LOAD DATA visit IMRpowder.com and navigate to the Hodgdon Reloading Center. You’ll also find official load data in the Hodgdon 2020 Annual Manual.

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August 28th, 2020

High Demand Powders — Where You Can Find Them

Reloading powder hodgdon H4350 Varget reloder 16 reloader H1000

Thanks to our Forum members, we’ve found sources for some of the most popular reloading powders for rifle accuracy cartridges. Handloaders know that powders such as Varget, H4350, H4895, H4831SC, H1000, Reloder 16, Reloder 23, and N150 are often in short supply. And it seems like Varget has been near impossible to find in recent months. As of Friday, August 28, 2020, here are some sources for many of these hard-to-find powders.

Hodgdon Varget 1-pound
Source: Powder Valley
NOTE:
Varget 1-lb in stock; 8-pounders still out of stock

UPDATE 8/29/20: SOLD OUT — Our Members got the last of it.

Hodgdon H4350, 1-pound and 8-pound
Source: Powder Valley
Source: Midsouth Shooters
NOTE:
Powder Valley has BOTH the 1-lb and 8-lb H4350 containers in stock. Midsouth has the 1-lb H4350 only.

Alliant Reloder 16 1-pound
Source: Powder Valley
NOTE:
Reloder 16 1-lb in stock; RL16 8-pounders still out of stock

Hodgdon H4831SC, 1-pound and 8-pound
Source: Powder Valley
NOTE:
Powder Valley has BOTH the 1-lb and 8-lb H4831SC containers in stock.

Hodgdon H1000 1-pound
Source: Powder Valley
NOTE:
H1000 1-lb in stock; H1000 8-pounders still out of stock

Vihtavuori N150 1-pound and 8-pound
Source: Powder Valley
Source: Midsouth Shooters
NOTE:
Powder Valley has N150 1-lb and 8-lb in stock. Midsouth has the 1-lb N150 only.

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