By Tank Hoover
If ‘Yer Favorite Powder Is Missin’ Try TITE-WAD Instead …
Variety is the spice of life and there’s always more than one way to skin a skunk without getting sprayed. Just as there are many ways to get a bullet to do what we want it to, but with different powders.
With panic in the air, and hoarding being the norm in our industry, it seems, many times our favorite powders just aren’t on the shelves. Here is where we need to get innovative, without blowing ourselves and our guns up, when it’s time to feed our favorite guns. Don’t be a big chicken! The sky is not falling, if your pet powder is missing from the shelves of your favorite gun shop! There are alternatives!
For the casual, or beginner handloader, you can’t beat good reference materials such as handloading books. Get all the books you can, from different sources. Handloading books suggest different powders with the loads shown, with the company’s bullets, for that particular caliber. They are full of load data. You know you are hooked on handloading when you can study these cook books with enthusiasm, as you compare powders, measurements and bullet weights to get an idea of what is right. You can never go wrong by having too many handloading books. I dare say there is no such thing as too many.
Many powders are duplicated, that is, they may have different labels, but they are poured from the same spout at the factory. H110 and Winchester 296, and HP-38 and Winchester 231 are cases in point. For me, price dictates which I will buy when at my local “fix” shop.
For the more experienced handloaders, a smokeless powder burn-rate chart is our best friend, and guide, to making sensible alternative choices. Burn rate charts always start with the fastest burning powders and progress to slower burning powders. These are usually posted in your handloading book, or can easily be obtained via the Internet. Sometimes making different choices allows us to stumble upon a better load than our original one. The basic rule is to find the powder you normally use and then look for powders on either side of it. Say your powder is number 43 in the burn rate chart. If you go faster, i.e. 42, 41, or 40, you will use less powder than your standard one. Start low and work up slowly is the cardinal rule to trying new load data. Re-check your reloading manuals for a possible reference point.
When going the other way, 44, 45, 46, etc., you can start with your usual powder charge of your original powder, and work up slowly. The aid of a chronograph is invaluable during the process. Using a three-pronged approach, with accuracy being the most important, with speed and pressure being the guidelines, it’s actually very interesting to do your own load development. Know the pressure signs for each of your guns. Starting low and slow as you progress is key. Many powders from different companies have almost duplicate burn rates. Don’t get pigeon-holed to just one powder company. Try ‘em all out.
Lately I’ve been using faster powders and lighter home-cast slugs just in the name of conservation. With prices going up, and availability sketchy at best, I like mean, lean, efficient handloads when punching paper. With 7,000 grains of powdered propellant per pound of smokeless powder, I want as many loads as possible for my practice loads. When I can get twice as many loads, or more, from a pound of powder, at approximately the same speed from a faster powder, it only makes sense, and makes me and my wallet happy! So what if the loads are a bit slower? The paper target doesn’t know the difference.
A New Powder?
I’m waiting for the powder companies to come out with TIGHT-WAD powder, named after guys like me, who want 6-7,000 loads per pound of powder, to do our shooting at reasonable velocities, for any caliber we shoot.
Those white-coat lab guys are always coming up with new recipes for good ol’ smokeless, but when availability is the issue, sometimes the old standbys are often overlooked. Bullseye, Unique and 2400 come to mind. As I get older and am prone to being a sentimental sap, I relish using these condiments the greats of our addiction used. Legends like Elmer, Skeeter, Phil Sharpe and the Bobs, of Hagel and Milek persuasion. If you haven’t, look up these fellas and read what they wrote. You’ll be glad you did, as you walk in their footsteps and experience their findings first-hand after reading about their innovative experiments. Then enjoy duplicating their loads for yourself.
Who said history wasn’t historical and stuff? It’s always good to know your roots and background whenever beginning a forward journey. No truer words can be said as you lay your foundation to experimenting with alternative powders. So don’t be a big chicken! Try something new! If your favorite powder is missing from the shelf, the sky is not falling! Rather, a opportunity is being made to try something new!
Check Back Each Wednesday For More Think Tank Articles