What motivates a change in powder?

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I worked up some loads using Varget and will be testing them soon to tweak a little for accuracy.

I also have H4350 that I could use for the same cartridge and bullet weight.

I’m not asking for advice, what I am curious about is what motivates you to try different powders? I’m certain that lack of accuracy in the first powder or lack of availability are the two main reasons. What are your other reasons?
 
You nailed 2 of the 4 reasons I consider.

#'s 3 & 4 are temp sensitivity and then range of function.

Range of function is kinda subjective but if you look at load chart ranges, you can see "ranges" as you progress across caliber size and bullet mass.
It's probably able to be charted and several overlap quite a bit.

I.e, on 300 win mag, h1000 and rl15 and h4350 from smallest to largest bullet have ranges where they run out of room for adjustment range. They get to crush load at a certain velocity estimate or pressure cap faster or slower. Almost like a vin diagram.

Perhaps not the best empirical explanation but I try to find a middle ground with room to adjust the load during testing.

I tend to pick a bullet I'm interested in and then, down select by temp sensitivity, then by availability, then by range, then load testing is what it is. Hard to fight physics.
 
First things I consider for powder choice are:

1. "What do I already have the most of"
2. "What do I know is likely to be in stock in the future"
3. "What powder am I already using so I can stock it in bulk"

Now, for most loads I have a few powders that fit the bill. H1000, 4064, Unique, LilGun, those types. So usually I'll try to start load development with those. Now, to the question about a change in powder, my goal is that once I have a good starting load, I go back to the book, and ask the same questions but making sure the answer is a secondary powder. Then I'll try to do it a third time.

My goal through the development process is to find 1 load in a primary powder that works really well, somewhere near the 3/4 range of the scale. (For instance, if the book data for 4064 says 60-70gr, I'd love my accuracy node to fall around 67.5). That way I have a large margin of safety, and when I work on load B and C, the ranges usually overlap in velocity. That gives me a lot more ability to tweak the powder charge so that I can get closer to the same velocity and the same POI.

If everything goes well, I'll wind up with three loads from different powders that all come close to the same POI so that I'm well insulated from shortages.

That said, I keep probably 30ish types of powder around for development and testing since sometimes I'll throw a wrench in my process and start based on recommendations for a given caliber or model of firearm. So I'll have a lot of the 1 pounders of those, while my primaries are bigger jugs.
 
Considering availability, in the last few years, my choices, or change in choice for powder, is driven by
- what is available in quantity.
-what works, with good accuracy (not necessarily sub MOA, but field accuracy),across the cartridges I shoot.

7x57, 30-06, 35 Whelen, 458 Win Mag. Basically H4350, Varget, R-15, AA2230.

Nothing fancy, not top velocity, nor MOA, but accurate and reliable.
 
A combination of what @Datchew and @Rez Exelon said.

I primarily look at what choices I have in hunting bullets. Next run theoretical ballistics data to determine what the theoretical velocity I need for bullet optimum performance. Select from the powders I have on hand that allows the best decrease and increase in powder weight. Make some test loads, together with some factory loads and head to the range with the chronograph, checking the velocities and accuracy of the factory loads then compare those results to my reloads. And repeat until I get a satisfactory accurate reload recipe.

Back at the reloading bench I go through the list of powders in the reloading manuals (plural as not all manuals list the same powders nor the same powder weights for the same grain bullet), then do everything again until I have an alternate powder. Usually my second choice powder will either be a few feet per second slower or faster yet still hitting the POI of my primary recipe.

This allows me to continue to buy in bulk the same 2 powders. To cut reloading costs I try to use powders that I can use to reload multiple calibers and/or shotgun gauges; ie. 700X, 800X, Titgroup, Blue Dot, IMR4064, RL 7, RL 15, Unique, H110, H335, IMR4227, and W236. These powders cover my complete arsenal so if I run out of two or 3 of these powders I can still reload.
 
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... in the reloading manuals (plural as not all manuals list the same powders nor the same powder weights for the same grain bullet).....

That's a good point that I'm guilty of leaving out. My workbench drawer where I keep my manuals pulls out right at desk height, and so when doing my research I can open 4-5 at a time and have them side by side to compare their recipes. Then, when in doubt, I'll shift to the lower side of the powder charge for extra safety.
 
Save time by using the vast amount of information available online.

I start by searching my usual shooting forums on what works best for a specific caliber and bullet weight. Usually there are two or three powders that work best and are most popular with experienced reloaders. And you may come across a relatively newish powder worth trying as well.
CFE-223 for 35 Whelen is an example.

I use mostly H-4350 (30-06, some 6,5), RL-17 (9.3X62, 338WM, some 6.5CM, some 308,).
Also Benchmark (308 150s /gas & bolt practice) and TAC (223/5.56).
 
I will change a powder because 1) A new powder becomes available that gives me better velocity while producing same size or smaller groups. 2) Another powder will give me better accuracy. 3) The old powder becomes unavailable.

The powders I use must be temperature stable.
 
I had an issue with copper fouling after shooting some Barnes solid copper bullets. The amount of time and effort it took me to remove it led me to try some of the copper removing powders like CFE 223. The increased velocity was an added bonus.
 
Thank you guys for your responses. I can see how it is advantageous to have:

-powders that cover several cartridges

-alternate powders, predefined in the event you can’t get your primary powder

-knowledge of which powders cover the above two scenarios, allowing you to buy in bulk

-I would think simple curiosity and a desire to tinker probably has reloaders reaching for a different powder, I believe that was mentioned above as well.

Temperature sensitivity is something I will have to look into. It has not been a factor for me yet, but an early season antelope trip, Africa or a prairie dog town in July would make the temperatures more relevant.
 
You mentioned temperature sensitivity so I’ll chime in, as I think it’s really an overblown issue.

Powder choice is usually driven by what I have on hand; and Reloader 22 is what I always stock up on….. yes Reloader 22 is “temp sensitive”

But I load .270win, .257Wby,30-06, .300Win, .300Wby, .375H&H & .470ne(woodleigh hydros); all with Reloader 22

I’ve hunted with this powder from -7F to 110F and never witnessed a change in point of aim or any other ill affects.

Same with IMR3031 in .470 & 30-30

In the words of Ken Owen….
“It’s a hell of a lot more temperature stable than the cordite these rounds were developed with! Just don’t leave your ammo on the truck dash in the sun and you’ll be fine.”
 
Deewayne, Thanks for your thoughts. I do hear/read a fair bit about temperature sensitivity. I really don’t know much about it. Where I have always hunted, it has been between -20 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit and with factory ammo.

I’m guessing it’s significance probably depends several factors.
 
I worked up some loads using Varget and will be testing them soon to tweak a little for accuracy.

I also have H4350 that I could use for the same cartridge and bullet weight.

I’m not asking for advice, what I am curious about is what motivates you to try different powders? I’m certain that lack of accuracy in the first powder or lack of availability are the two main reasons. What are your other reasons?

Bullets matter too, and that drives powder choices. Two extreme examples would be a Nosler Ballistic Tip and a Barnes TTSX bullet.

The Nosler BT has a fairly narrow velocity window to get it to frange predictably without it being dust. The Barnes also has a fairly specific impact velocity to get it to open optimally.

So that might dictate a particular powder to achieve that killer combo of velocity and accuracy with that bullet. As two examples, Reloder 15 and 19 are notoriously accurate at 100% loads or compressed loads, provided that the velocity that is produced is appropriate for the bullet you've selected. If in this example the load is going too fast and bullets are zipping through, you might select a powder like IMR4064 or 4350 to slow the bullet down at a given case capacity that achieves good accuracy.

The other reason is powder burn rate in relation to your barrel length. You may switch powders because the math says there is quite a bit of unburned powder leaving the barrel, pushing you to a faster burning powder so that energy is converted to velocity on the bullet within the limited length of your barrel.

This is surely worthy of debate by many reloaders, but there are a handful of powders I actually use and for that reason I don't own 30 powder types.

4350
4064
RL15
RL19
3031
4895
4831
Varget

If I can't do it with those 8 powders, I probably don't need to do it. Those powders work for my 243 all the way up to 500Jeff/500NE.
 
Wars and money, but mainly money! Through extensive handloading I've found IMR powders to be generally most consistent, but there are some cartridge/bullet combos that just love RL and even the newer dual-based powders by Western/AA/and their various diff brand names TAC, et. al. AA for small bores, IMR for mid-bores, and RL for big bores (Accurate, reliable). *I agree that some of the latest RLs can work wonderfully in midbores, wringing a lil more V (and sometimes w/ no appreciable P increase) out of 50ish-60ish gr capacity mid bores (257/6.5/7/30 std & mags). More dual-base AA-style powders can also be loaded into smaller varmint and DG cases (i.e. 458 WM,/416 Taylor, all the .22 centerfires-and the results are impressive.) Temp sensitivity has been an issue in past hunts in TX and Africa (in extremely hot weather), but (heavy handloads) must be tested under similar (i.e. your 96F +summer days in the US). Worst-case scenario-you have to back off 0.5-2 gr with your favorite-performing powder! As the T increases, the P may as well in select, more conventional powders, so there's not much of a performance difference in hot climes (other than proper rifle functionality by toning it down a bit.) Primer selection can make a difference too. ;)
 
Varget is a great copy of IMR 4320 I believe-i believe it may have been discontinued as of 2020. My 416 Chatfield-Taylor's powder of choice!
 
Varget is a great copy of IMR 4320 I believe-i believe it may have been discontinued as of 2020. My 416 Chatfield-Taylor's powder of choice!
Varget is produced by Thales Australia (ADI) and is AR2208 rebadged. IMR 4320 is slightly slower burning. IMR 4064 is very close to AR2208/Varget
 
Availability..
so this is, for a Canadian a major deal breaker, we get spurious availability here.

the paradox is that many of the very excellent new powders are used less,as people stay with their recipes. So the new powders are even sometimes discounted, but at least readily available.
I used RL7/15/19/22, Varget, H414, H4831 for years, until supply dried out

the roundabout replacement, often with a gain in speed were:

LIL-Gun--> CFE black
RL15/Varget--> CFE223
H414-->STABALL 6.5
H4841-->H100 v
RL22--> still looking, but not really using much
 
I worked up some loads using Varget and will be testing them soon to tweak a little for accuracy.

I also have H4350 that I could use for the same cartridge and bullet weight.

I’m not asking for advice, what I am curious about is what motivates you to try different powders? I’m certain that lack of accuracy in the first powder or lack of availability are the two main reasons. What are your other reasons?
Aside from the 2 main reasons that you listed, velocity and multi use in different cartridges with a couple of different bullet weights and or types. Although, for my pet cartridges and their bullets, the multi use function is not a priority.

I have some powders, driven by availability that may not be top performers in any one cartridge, but work good enough with published data for a few others that I have.

I definitely appreciate the temperature insensitivity, copper reducing agents, and lower flash types. But, did not specifically seek those types out. Some of those qualities just happened to come with whatever powder, that I decided to try in whatever cartridge bullet combination.

If I have information from a trusted source, about a powder that does extremely well with a cartridge and bullet combination, I will give it a try. If I can locate it, and have specific interest in the cartridge and bullet.
 

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