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Thread: Fast vs. Slow powder

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Fast vs. Slow powder

    After reading Richard Lee's Second Edition of Modern Reloading, I am somewhat reluctant to continue shooting boolits powered by fast shotgun or pistol powders. He makes some compelling arguments against this practice. At the other end of the spectrum is using a slow powder and reducing it by about 20% and going from there. I've shot cast boolits in handguns for a long time but am relatively new to the cast boolits in rifles. What do you think?

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    Shooting 11.5 of Unique in my 30/06 with 160 gr. - 200 gr. cast bullets has never created a problem for me. I'm not talking about 50 rounds, I'm talking about thousands of rounds. I know many people who shoot similar loads without a problem.

    ???????????????

    Ben

  3. #3
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    I have never read the 2nd edition. Uniique was marketed many years ago as working in Pistol, Shotgun and Rifle loads. Yes, double charges are possible, yes SEE exists, gratefully common sense does also. Gianni
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

  4. #4
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    Judge as far as powders I use mostly 2400 -- AA5744 -- Imr4198 -- and IMR3031 --- for me I like to feel the load --- As an example in 30-30 with A 160gr. Lee boolit g/c 16.5grs. of 2400 feels like a light load (light) easy to shoot --- Whereas a load of 22grs. of AA5744 gives the feeling of power . They both shoot well and give good groups. Note -- 22.5 will punch clean holes thru a 3/8s steel plate at 75yrds.

    With the 7.62x39 I like 19.9grs. of IMR4198 and a g/c 160gr. boolit ---- (power)

    with the 7.5 Swiss I like 29 to 35grs. of IMR3031 with a 200gr. g/ced boolit --- (power)

    With 7.62x54R --- 16 to 18grs. of 2400 with A 185gr. boolit is a light load

    If you use any of these loads start lower and work up looking for signs of pressure just for safety's sake and in general its a good rule of thumb.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    Fast, medium and slow burning powder all have their place in cast bullet shooting. Which type is best depending on a variety of circumstances.. velocity, bullet size, alloy temper and others factors all come into play.

    Up to about 1.7 to 1.8 K fps fast powders like Unique, 2400, 4759 and 4227 are all very, very good. Go above that velocity ceiling and most often you will be better off with a medium or slow burning powder.

    Handloading like skydiving can be a very dangerous activity. How safe or how dangerous depend on the common sense and attention to detail of the person involved.

    I have never read Lee's book and it is not on my "to read" list.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    I suspect Lee's caution comes from the potential for double charge. As you alluded to, reduced loads with slow powders run the risk of a SEE -- the question is -- how low can you safely go in a large case with a slow powder (I would feel nervous about anything below the min recommended charge weight, but I have no experience here). I know that many folks like using Unique or Bullseye in reduced rifle loads, but to my way of thinking, it would be pretty easy to miss a double charge in a large rifle case even with reasonably careful inspection prior to bullet seating.

    This is why I like SR-4759. Its bulky enough that a double charge is quite obvious (a double charge over-flows the case in .30-40 or .303). In the '06, I doubt it would overflow the case, but it would be pretty obvious upon casual inspection that you have way more powder than you intended. I've not had any experience with 2400, but I suspect the story is similar. Also, its plenty fast enough that you don't really run the risk of SEE and you don't need fillers. I guess you could theoretically run into a SEE with 4759 if you only put a very few grains in a large case, but again, casual inspection of the cases prior to bullet seating should make it obvious that you have a problem.

    Unique may work for some folks, and I'm sure accuracy is outstanding -- 4759 fits my needs with plenty of margin for error and accuracy is plenty good for me.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master Maven's Avatar
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    Question

    JBAC, Richard Lee makes a compelling case for using only certain brands of primers in the Lee Auto Prime too, but have you ever read about a problem other than one caused by user error? C.E. Harris and Frank Marshall, Jr. have long advocated using light charges of pistol and shotgun powders (Harris' 13gr. of Red Dot & 16gr. of 2400 in .30cal. rifles; Marshall's load of 13gr. of Unique works beautifully in the .45-70), but I've never about any blown-up rifles or shooters, barring double or triple charges. In this litigious era, we'd have certainly had that kind of news presented ad nauseum, probably with misinformed comments from Chuck Shumer, et al. As for me, I'll continue to use pistol and shotgun powders with care and "non-recommended" primers in my Auto Prime because I don't see a problem with either practice.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Ricochet's Avatar
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    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by 4570guy View Post
    I suspect Lee's caution comes from the potential for double charge.
    Not at all. He shows pictures of bullets fired into his swimming pool (by his son standing on the diving board) from a .30-06 rifle. One was fired with a load of Red Dot similar to Harris' "The Load." Though the nose was nearly undamaged indicating a low impact velocity, the rifling was severely stripped from the rapid acceleration through the freebore before it hit the rifling. The second bullet was loaded to a higher velocity, as attested by the rather mushroomed nose, with a larger charge of slow burning rifle powder, and hadn't stripped the rifling because the early acceleration was gentler. He's advocating the use of rifle powders for cast bullets for good accuracy at higher velocities, as many of us do. He also includes a Swiss article with a formula for estimating loads for a particular reduced velocity compared to a known load with a jacketed bullet. What he's saying to do is to look at the load tables in his book for the same weight bullet as you plan to use, find a powder near the center of the table where they're ranked by muzzle velocity for maximum charge, and apply the formula to get your desired lower velocity.
    "A cheerful heart is good medicine."

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    Good job Ricochet --- Pretty much covers the slow powder versus fast powder for lead boolits ---- Mag_01

  10. #10
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    In the last 6months I have been loading more and more of my rifles with slow powders as I am shooting longer ranges(300 and up) and I'm finding the slower powder gives me better results.All powders have thier place and I have a place for all of them,short range plinking,long range or power.The best thing about handloading is you can taylor the ammunition for your needs. Pat

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Thanks for the explanation Ricochet. Sounds like I need to look through the book

  12. #12
    Boolit Master Andy_P's Avatar
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    I shoot all my cast bullets in the 1200-1800 fps range. The faster powders burn cleanly, but never give velocities near the top of that range at acceptable pressures. I've found that there is a "tipping point" where a powder becomes too slow to ignite properly in the desired velocity range due to the pressure falling below the point required for complete ignition.

    For example, in the Snider (577 Snider), Unique works great up to about 1100 fps (480gr slug), and slower powders take it to about 1250 fps, but H4227 doesn't ignite reliably at the low operating pressure of the Snider, so the operating range of powder burn rates would end somewhere below that, say at about Aliant 2400.

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    .............In any of the old full power military cases with most any cast boolit a stupendous load is 10.0grs of Unique. Not very exciting describing the load as it's so dang simple. Gets the job done at a medium velocity. Cheap, simple, easy and accurate.

    Yes you can double, triple, or quadruple the charge. Just don't be a bonehead in ANY step while reloading and you too can avoid the resulting excitement.

    .............Buckshot
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  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Not having read the Lee material in questiion, I am at a loss to figure out what his objection is to fast powder. What does his swimming pool shooting prove about accuracy.

    Take a look at the winners of various cast bullet matches held by CBA and you will see a strong predominance of fast powders. The current issue carries an article by the winner of the National Military Scoped match detailing how he loads his ammo. He uses 2400.

    The notion that fast powder don't produce fine accuracy at the speeds most of us shoot cast bullets is just plain nonsense.

    Now if Lee is talking about accuracy above the 1.7 - 1.8K fps level then perhaps he has a point. I think most folks who mess with cast bullets come to the conclusion that when you get to this level of pressure, a slower push on the bullet helps to maintain the integrity of the bullet, as opposed to a hard slap from faster powders. Of course, the alloy temper is a big factor in this.

    The bottom line, for me at least, is swimming pool shooting is a poor substitute for target shooting. All of the theory and off range shooting in the world doesn't mean squat, if the the bullets don't land close to each other on the target at real world shooting ranges.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master Ricochet's Avatar
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    There's nothing in there about theory. Just pictures showing the rifling badly stripped with the Red Dot load, and cleanly engraved without stripping with the slower rifle powder load at a higher velocity.

    Results are what counts, of course. YMMV. "The Load" is a pretty heavy load of Red Dot for cast bullets. I think the fast burning powders are great for light loads. Not for faster loads, which is Mr. Lee's point. Develop your own loads for your own purposes and use what works best.
    "A cheerful heart is good medicine."

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Chargar Sir,
    What Mr. Lee was trying to discover with his 'swimming pool' tests was the maximum compressive strength of his boolit vs the maximum chamber pressure that they would tolerate. He really came up with some fascinating conclusions.
    Stay safe
    Calvin

  17. #17
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    Andy P, nice avitar! Gianni
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

  18. #18
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    Don't use Red Dot if your shooting fish or bullfrogs.
    The way is ONLY through HIM.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master in Heavens Range
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    The best "swimming pool" testing is done with full wadcutters. There you can see just where the maximum velocity is with that powder for that weight of boolit, and/or how much powder volume constrains the situation. If the stripping is more than 75 percent throughout the length of the boolit, then that is where I personally draw the line. It is surprising to see the very obvious results when using revolters. The boolit has that large jump from the cylinder to the lands which shows the results emphatically. The process does indeed teach a whole lot, and very quickly too. ... felix
    felix

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    While I don't use terms like "compressive strength", I don't think I said anything contrary to the notion that if you push the pressure to high for a given alloy, bad things will happen to the bullet.

    How that pressure is administered to the bullet is a big factor. Fast powders do it..well fast! and slower powders do it..well slower. When the pressure gets to a certain point with any given alloy the bullet will roll snake eyes. That is the point when a slower powder some into it's own.

    Now none of that is very scienctific and did not require swimming pool shooting. Just some observations from almost 50 years of punching holes is targets with cast alloy bullets.

    Now, just what is theory. If you make some observations and translate that into some kind of general rule that becomes a theory.

    Now, I have not read the book, some some gentle soul has offered to send me one, so I will read it. I am just responding to the original post whereby some fellow doesn't want to use fast powders because of something he read in the Lee book.

    My whole point is, the blanket conclusion about fast powders not being a good thing is dead wrong. As I read this and other boards I run accross all kinds of folks who have read all kinds of stuff and have taken it as holy writ. At times I get the idea thre are many folks who spending more time reading and playing on the Internet than shooting.

    All of the notions picked up from reading need to be checked out on the rifle range. The target is the ultimate decider of what is truth and what is rot. Over he years, much of what has been written and accepted as truth, has been proved to be rot, by the members of this board.

    When somebody makes a decision to do or not do something with cast bullets because of what he read somewhere, my first response if..Have you checked that out at the range? As long as you are not doing something dangerous, it is a good thing to put the notion to the target test.

    When a fellow has punched enough holes in targets, then he has earned the right to talk about what he "knows" and not just pass on something the "read" and then thinks he knows.

    I am not trying to put anybody down... I am just trying to advance the the idea that personal experience has far more value than second or third hand hearsay experience.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check