by Bob Shell
My overview of the best reloading powders for use while making ammo.
Apache Junction, AZ -(AmmoLand.com)- There are about 200 types of reloading powders available for reloaders which covers everything. And there are new powders coming out almost at a daily basis it seems.
That complicates the situation, as many reloaders are not sure which powder they should use. A reloading manual helps but other problems arise. One of the most vexing problems is availability. It is annoying to work up a load then you can’t find that specific reloading powders.
Another aggravation is working up a nice load then the powder is discontinued. The only way to avoid that is to stock up and hope you have enough to carry you through. Gun powder will last for many years if properly stored but it is still a pain.
So I have a criteria for selecting my favorite reloading powders. First it has to be available and been produced for some years. That should eliminate the fly by night brands. Sometimes a gun powder will come out but if not popular will be discontinued even if it has some merits. That is why one of my criteria is a history of production.
A reloading powders that has been in production for years is usually a good gun powder and well liked. That lessens the chance that it will be dropped. It has to be flexible as I reload a lot of calibers some obsolete and odd.
The gun powder doesn’t necessarily have to be the best for all of the ammo applications, just good enough be useful. There may be a different selection criteria for someone who loads different rounds. An example would be someone who loads small rounds only, then their selection would be different than the following recommended reloading powders. On the other hand someone who loads giant rounds necked down to a small caliber would be looking at very slow burning propellants.
4198 Reloading Powders
Powder works both well and as a bonus works well in straight cases such as the 45-70. If you want a top velocity in the 45-70, a case full of 4198 and a 400 grain bullet will not disappoint. Other straight cases from the 32-40 and the 38-55 to the 458 work well with the 4198 reloading powders. Some of the obsolete rounds such as the 11 X 60 Mauser works well with it but care is needed to avoid an overload in such old guns. For reduced loads in such rounds as a 30-06 the 4198 will work ok just be sure not to underload it. Either brand of 4198 can be used for reduced loads in rounds such as the 308 and 30-06. It would do well with light bullets in those if you want fast moving bullets in the 100 to 110 grain range.
However, do not attempt to use 4198 reloading powders in producing high velocity loads in those rounds with heavier bullets. That could cause dramatic and dangerous pressure spikes.
322 Reloading Powders
Selecting just five powders is very difficult as I use many different gun powders, some for a specific use.
For instance if I want maximum performance in a lever gun with a bottleneck case such as a 30-30 I will go to Hodgdon Leverevolution Smokeless Powder as it seems to be the best for that purpose. While it works in other rounds I have never seen it outperform others in that regard.
Another favorite is Hodgdon Powder H322. It does a good job in quite a few rounds including the 223 and most straight wall cases.
With lighter bullets it does well in the 308 and 30-06 among similar rounds. The 30-30 with the Sierra 125 grain bullet works well with H-322. The 7.62 X 39 uses 322 to good effect. Like the others there are other good powders with similar characteristics that I use.
4895 Reloading Powders
Many of the rounds I load are military cartridges dating from WW l to WW ll. They are middle powder capacity rounds including things such as the 7.7 Jap, 303 British, 8 X 57 Mauser and many others that are similar. Either IMR or Hodgdon 4895 reloading powders are an excellent choice.
The 4895 gun powder works well with most bullets weights giving good velocity and accuracy.
In the 308 and 30-06 military rounds with a 150 grain FMJ is a top performer in both military velocity and accuracy. In the straight wall cases 4895 reloading powders works well especially the larger ones with the heavier bullets such as a 458 Win with a 500 grain slug.
One of my all-time favorite loads with 4895 powder was the 22-250 with a 50 grain bullet and 36 grains which I used for years sending groundhogs to pasture rat heaven.
While there are other good powders if I had to choose one it would be 4895 reloading powders.
4350 Reloading Powders
With a couple of the larger military rounds with heavy bullets another old timer shows its mettle. In addition for the 30-06 with 165 grain and heavier then my favorite powder is 4350. I have used IMR 4350 Powder, Hodgdon 4350 and Accurate Arms 4350 Reloading Powders and I like all of them.
While they are similar powders, they are not the same powder. So if you work up a heavy load with one brand, and you then switch brands, it might be a good idea to drop off a grain or so until you establish how the new brand powder will react.
For the common magnums such as the 7 mm and 300 mags 4350 reloading powders will do a good job especially with the lighter bullets. With heavy bullets it will work, but there are better choices. With a couple of the larger surplus rounds such as the 7.5 X 55 Swiss and the 7.62 X 54 Russian 4350 is a good choice with the heavier bullets. You will get good velocity and are able to keep the pressures down a bit. These are well built guns but they are not getting any younger so higher pressure powder loads should be avoided. The 6.5 X 55 Swedish will work well with 4350 reloading powders also, especially with heavier bullets. Another use of 4350 gun powder is in some of the other military rounds, especialy if you want to keep the pressure down.
In a 8 X 50 Lebel you can fill up the case and use a standard weight bullet and not worry about excess loads. There should be little or no airspace which will aid in powder burn and shooting consistency.
4831 Reloading Powders
There are a lot of magnum rounds in use today and one of the best reloading gun powders is the 4831 powder type. Both Hodgdon 4831 and IMR 4831 produce it, and there are some differences so like the others if you start with one brand it is best to stay with it as switching brands will probably make a change in the loads.
For such rounds as the 7 mm Remington and 300 Winchester, it is among the best. You get good velocities and accuracy with most loads including heavy bullets. Using a heavily compressed load gives good results in a 30-06. Going to obsolete rounds H-4831 is my favorite powder in the 6.5 Daudeteau. I have used it in 3 rifles with a 160 grain and I always get good results. Since it is a conversion from a black powder design low pressures are desirable. I get good velocity and accuracy as well. In a 270 with a 130 grain bullet it is a top choice. The 25-06 and similar rounds also benefit from this powder.
If you have some round such as a 30-378 or something similar then you might need something slower, but personally I don’t see much use for such rounds. There are several ways to make reduced loads. One way is to use a powder that is so slow that it can’t build up enough pressure to stress an old rifle. An example is the 45-70 types of cases in black powder guns. A case full of 4831 reloading powder won’t generate excess pressure, but make sure there is little or no airspace as that will cause inconsistency and can be dangerous in some instances. The load may not be the most consistent but depending on the round and components it can be pretty good. While not the best option reduced loads, using 4831 gun powder can be used in some bottleneck cases, but again care should be taken if you want mild loads. A 308 case can’t hold enough 4831 powder to generate serious pressure especially with light bullets.
Never Enough Reloading Powders
With the reloading work that I do, five powders wouldn’t completely cover everything. At the time of writing this I am involved in an extensive test of the new IMR Enduron Powders. They are improvements over the established types as they are not heat sensitive and may be more consistent from lot to lot. In addition, I have found that they produce more velocity then many of the older powders sometimes by a fairly significant margin. There are no signs of excess pressure but as always care should be always used when working up loads. There are other interesting developments in the powder industry and I try to keep up with them.
These are all great, well tested and established reloading powders. I recommend every one, but with the aforementioned new gun powders on the horizon, if I had to redo my favorite rifle reloading powders five years from now, it might be a completely different list…
Reloading Powder Resources:
- Books on Reloading Powders : http://tiny.cc/wzmmay
- Reloading Powders For Sale : http://goo.gl/V61oYF
- Reloading Powder Tools: http://tiny.cc/bzmmay
About Bob Shell:
A Custom Reloader of Obsolete and Antique Ammo, Bob Shell, writes about the subject of Guns, Ammo, Shooting and Related Subjects. For more information, visit: www.bobshellsblog.blogspot.com.