Thunderbird T-322 or T-32 has been a favorite powder of top Benchrest shooters since first packaged in the ‘70’s. This was a military surplus powder (Dupont 8208) that was first used by Walt Berger for Benchrest shooting.
Walt was contacted by the folks at Thunderbird Cartridge Company to see if the 8208 that they bought had any application for Benchrest shooting. There were three lots of this surplus powder, and Walt found one to be better than the other two. He got a second opinion from Don Geraci. Both agreed that this one lot had the characteristics for which BR shooters were looking.
Thunderbird packaged this one lot as T-322, which was soon changed to T-32 because of a conflict with H-322 and GI-322. There was some 21,000 pounds of this special lot.
The other two lots were sold as Thunderbird 8208 and many found these lots to also be very good for BR use.
Thirty-plus years have passed since the introduction of this superb powder and it has become very scarce. Most of today’s supply of Dupont 8208 comes from pull down of 5.56mm military rounds. I guess that this is better than not having any, but it leaves a lot to be desired.
A New Supply
As the supply dried up, several in the Benchrest community contacted Hodgdon to see if they would produce an equivalent powder to this early 8208.
I am not sure how many approached Hodgdon with this idea, but I believe that Jerry Sharrett of Tennessee was one of the first. Hodgdon was hesitant to introduce a new powder that had a burning rate similar to some of their current offerings.
About two years ago, Lou Murdica again approached Hodgdon and they agreed to make a limited run of a powder similar to T-32. At first they said that they would produce a one-time run of 20,000 pounds.
After being well received by Benchrest shooters, and interest by the military, Hodgdon decided to add a new powder to their line of fine rifle powders.
This powder is NOT T-32, but it has properties that many will find to be exactly right for Benchrest shooting. It is packaged in a very attractive container. (Photo #1 shows a 1 lb. container.)
This powder has small extruded granules similar to the original T-32. It is light gray in color and seems to have a slower burning rate than either T-32 or N 133. It meters through my Jerry Hensler powder measure like a dream, and I don’t foresee any problem getting +/- 0.1 grain accuracy.
This new IMR 8208 XBR is made in Australia for Hodgdon and should be available by January 2010. I am betting that there will be great demand for this new powder.
I have heard that Jim Carmichel and Lou Murdica have been testing this powder with great results.
Today is October 23rd, and I have had a couple of test sessions with the new powder.
The instrument used for all of my testing is a Model B BAT-actioned /Leonard-stocked rifle with a .308 bolt face. (See Photo #2). I use this platform for both short range Benchrest as well as 600 yard competition. In the former I use a 6 PPC, and in the latter, a 6mm Dasher or 6XC. It is topped with a 36X BRD Leupold that has had its internal adjustments “frozen” by Jackie Schmidt and rests in Gene Bukys’ adjustable mounts.