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GUNS Magazine September 2012 Digital Edition - Page 26

STORY: John Barsness PoWder reduCtioN aNd storaGe The handloader’s cornucopia of choices generates some unique problems. hirty years ago, I used four powders for all my handloading—H4831, IMR4350, IMR4895 and Unique— and could have gotten by with three, since the only reason for the H4831 was finding a few dusty cans of the last milsurp powder in a hardware store in Culbertson, Mont., for about half the going price of “new” H4831. Back then I only handloaded for five cartridges, the .30-06, .270 Winchester, .257 Roberts, .38 Special and 12 gauge. Nowadays, my loading room contains several dozen powders (including some no longer made) and the list definitely needs thinning. According to Internet chat rooms and correspondence from readers, this seems to be a common problem, even though most handloaders don’t complicate things by writing about it professionally. In the early 1950s, when the Exactly how many powders do we need? great handloading boom in America started taking off, there were turns the .30-06 into a .300 magnum. far fewer smokeless powders available. Despite ample historical evidence How did we get to be such powder showing the “traditional” velocities of addicts, when a dozen powders will the .30-06 to be quite adequate for 99 do nicely for a wide selection of rifle, percent of big-game hunting, almost every avid handloader is a closet speed shotgun and handguns rounds? demon, convinced another 100 fps will it’s true slay deer and elk more expeditiously. Well, for starters the powder Cheap chronographs help scratch this companies keep introducing “new itch, especially when they show, “All and improved” products. Unlike some those zeros!” (as my friend Stu Carty advertising claims, this is actually true. calls the 3,000 fps level). As a result In general, today’s powders produce our loading rooms overflow with higher velocities, burn cleaner, meter perfect powders for every tiny niche in more precisely and resist temperature handloading. extremes better than the powders of 50 The only way to cut back is get years ago. rational. No, we don’t have to turn The powder companies let us know into one of those grumps who claims about each and every one, and the 70-year-old IMR4350 works just as Internet spreads the word, especially well in the .30-06 as any newer wonder when some new powder supposedly powder, but we can analyze our needs T by listing all the cartridges we load for and the powders actually used. (Please don’t e-mail the editor calling me a powder elitist by suggesting IMR4350 might not be perfect. A couple of pounds sit in my loading room right now.) My wife Eileen and I load for 50some rifle cartridges, half-a-dozen handgun rounds and every common shotshell from .410 bore to 10 gauge. I recently listed the powder used for the primary load in each rifle, along with two loads for each handgun and shotgun round—a lighter practice load and a full-power load. Since we live in Montana, where hunting temperatures can vary from well below zero to 100-plus degrees, we tend to choose temperature-resistant rifle powders, one reason Hodgdon’s H4350 far outstrips IMR4350 in our handloads these days. (The other reason, of course, is H4350’s “short cut” granules run through a powder measure far more easily.) In fact, we use H4350 in 11 rifle cartridges, far more than any other powder, though all are big-game rounds. We use larger quantities of three powders—Benchmark, Varget and TAC—because they’re our most commonly used varmintrifle powders. It turns out we could load all our ammo with 15 powders and not suffer much at all. The rifle powders, from slowest to fastest burning, include Magnum, H4831SC, Hunter, H4350, Big Game, Reloder 15, Varget, TAC, IMR4895, Benchmark and Li’l Gun. Li’l Gun is also the primary powder in the .410 and 28-gauge shotshells, and the slowest-burning powder on the handgun/shotshell list. The others, slowest to fastest, are Hodgdon Longshot, H110, Alliant 2400 and Unique. Some of the powders such as Unique and IMR4895 definitely aren’t ultramodern, but they’re incredibly versatile. For certain cartridges Varget, RL-15 or TAC might work slightly better than IMR4895, but none work quite as consistently as IMR4895 in reduced loads. Today’s cleaner-burning version of Unique (a powder introduced well 26 W W W. G U N S M A G A Z I N E . C O M • S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 2

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