Reloading Safety – Powder Tips

Know the powder types for reloading safety

Know your powder type for reloading safety.

You’ve decided to give reloading your rifle ammo a try. Well done! You’re joining an exclusive group of gun aficionados who enjoy hand-loading as much as they enjoy shooting. If done with an eye on reloading safety, you’ll maximize the accuracy of your shot, save some money and have a good time reloading.

Last time, we covered reloading safety in some detail. This time, we’re going to take a look at powder types and consistent measuring when reloading.

Let’s be clear from the get go, while reloading is perfectly safe, you MUST pay attention to published load data from reliable and respected sources when measuring or weighing.

Before getting started, it’s important to understand that some powder and bullet combos are better suited for your rifle than others. Staying within the constraints of your reloading handbook will ensure your ammunition is appropriate for your firearm.

Powder Types

Here’s what you want to look for when considering gun powder for reloading:

  • burn rate
  • density
  • granule shape (ball powder, flatten ball powder, flake powder and stick powder)

Since the granules are part of the powder manufacturing process, their shape will affect burning qualities and metering. These are the most common types of granule shape.

  1. Ball powder – Spherical granules, small in size. Extended storage life in loaded cartridges. Decreases erosion of rifle barrels when fired. May leave a denser fouling in rifle barrels.
  2. Flatten ball powder – Nearly identical to the ball powder, but ever-so slightly flattened.
  3. Flake powder – Shaped in the style of tiny disks, it is known to be harder to meter properly because it can get stuck; throwing density off.
  4. Stick powder – Most commonly used with rifles. Shaped like small extruded cylinders. You either like this type of powder or you don’t.

In the end, the powder you choose to use depends heavily on your choice of bullets. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an old hand at hand-loading, if you stick with powders that are in the same family you will have no trouble packing rifle cartridges effectively. And remember, at no time should you mix two powders – whether different types, brands or basis.

Smokeless powder is not an acceptable substitute for black powder or a black powder alternative.

Measuring the Powder

  1. First things first, ALWAYS refer to the reloader manual, both print and approved online versions, for the latest load data information before beginning.
  2. If you can, use a digital dispensing system that measures and weighs powder charges. Automation removes that possible human inconsistency and keeps charge loads even.
  3. If measuring by hand, make sure to use the powder scoop or funnel that comes with some of the powder or die sets. These are meant specifically for a certain cartridge.
  4. If using a powder drop or powder measure, check the amount of powder dispensed every 10-20 rounds by measuring the powder on a scale.  Adjust as necessary.
  5.  Know the weight of the bullet you are using so you don’t surpass the optimal max charge for it.

Safety First

In all honesty, following the reload manual is going to answer any number of questions. If you still aren’t sure, contact the manufacturer or your local gun supplier. Safety first.

Other posts in this series on reloading:

Image credit: “Powder Samples” by I, Arthurrh. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –
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About Bret Smith

I am a long-time lover of all things outdoors. Whether hunting, shooting, fishing or just hiking and camping, I take every opportunity to enjoy nature and share it with others.

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