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Ball powder---myths or facts

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Old 06-05-2012, 09:26 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: The high desert of wyoming
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Ball powder---myths or facts

I have read (on this site and else where) about the evils of ball powders. Everything form they cause throught errosion, wont burn, temp sensitive ect. Is this fact or fiction? I use sevral diffrant powders and yes some are ball. I have tested the ball powder that I use (ramshot)and have not found it to be much more sesitive to temp than any of the extruded that I use. Am I missing something or is it a myth based on powders from 50 years ago? Would someone please straighten me out on this. Thanks
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Old 06-05-2012, 11:00 PM
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Location: Blackfoot, Idaho
Posts: 8,089
Re: Ball powder---myths or facts

Probably a little myth mixed with misinformation.

My ball powder experience is limited to Ramshot Magnum, and US-869.

Ramshot is too fast for my cartridge but what little I've tried it, it seemed stable from 40s to 80s in temperature.

US-869 is a very slow powder and burns like coal at lower pressures. (Similar to WC 872). 869 is also noticeably temperature sensitive and gives poor ES with out a ton of load work.

My cartridge bridges with stick powder and heavy for bore bullets and was designed for the slow burning ball powders.

Ball powders are reported to cause less abrasion on the bore than stick powders due to geometry. Makes sense to me.

Metering with ball powders is nicer than stick powder. Though my Chargemaster doesn't seem to care which it is metering. But it is faster with ball powders.

I've also used a bit of Winchester 760 which is a really nice powder.

Just my experience.
I may be the slowest guy on the mountain . . . . but . . . . I'm on the mountain!
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Old 06-06-2012, 02:24 AM
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Australia
Posts: 733
Re: Ball powder---myths or facts

I agree with most of that . One advantage of ball powders is they are chemically more stable and last longer then most other powders.
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Old 06-06-2012, 05:54 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 2,114
Re: Ball powder---myths or facts

Ball powders do tend to be more temperature sensitive than extruded ones, but that's only in the extremes for the most part.

Rifle shooters who properly test and use reloads with both ball and extruded powders easily see that ball powders don't shoot bullets as accurate as extruded ones. Lake City Army Ammunition Plant snuck some ball powder in their 7.62 NATO match ammo in the 1980's and their phones rang off the hook from the military rifle teams calling to complain about the poor accuracy of those production lots.
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Old 06-06-2012, 09:54 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Gillette, WY
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Re: Ball powder---myths or facts

As most other have stated, my best experience with ball powder is with Ramshot Magnum (I love this stuff). I use it (as do many) in my fast twist 6mm-284 w/107 SMK's. This powder provided top velocity, accuracy in the .3's & doesn't seem to care if its 35deg or 85deg outside. I haven't worked extensively with it at low temp, but preliminary findings are encouraging.

The first 3 shots I fired for accuracy with this powder @500 yds went into just under 2", with two of the dimples touching. Fluke? I don't care That tells me that, if i'm capable, the powder will do it's job.

I have no idea if it is harder on the throat of my bore or not.. it makes no difference to me. Everything comes at a price, everything. I would like to experiment with this powder some more.... maybe my 6.5WSM will like it too?
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Old 06-06-2012, 10:04 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Blackfoot, Idaho
Posts: 8,089
Re: Ball powder---myths or facts

I'm thinkin' there is a big difference between the 'modern' ball powders than the old military surplus offerings.
I may be the slowest guy on the mountain . . . . but . . . . I'm on the mountain!
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Old 06-06-2012, 11:19 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Near Mt Rainier
Posts: 225
Re: Ball powder---myths or facts

Quickload computer program has some data on the temperature that powders burn at and that is the most important part of barrel wear. Second, coated bullets, I use hexagonal boron nitride (HBN), but Tungsten disulfide and molybdenum disulfide (moly) are in wide use. The Norma site shows a reduction in barrel wear from reduced friction of molybdenum disulfide treated bullets.

Compiled by John Valentine and posted at Benchrest.com on 13 January 2005.

The following text was part of a statement made by Norma on tests carried out on Moly coated bullets. Test was in May 1995.

Firing Norma's standard match ammo ( uncoated) under controlled laboratory conditions, in the 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser accuracy invariably began to fail before 3500 rounds. Direct Quote of Norma technician ," Our experience has shown that accuracy life of these barrels consistently falls within the range of 3000 to 3500 shots". Loss of accuracy always results SOLELY from EROSION in the BORE-THROAT and at the beginning of the rifling.

"Norma has contracted an experienced independent shooter who is also a gunsmith, to conduct a barrel life test using their Moly treated 6.5x55 Match ammo. Test barrel was a Sauer 740mm (29inch). This barrel was a run of the mill sample and was not hand picked. To date ( as of May 1995 that is) this test has exceeded 5000 rounds of Diamond Line Reg. ammunition.
(the projectiles in this Black Diamond ammunition were coated by the NECO reg. system supplied to Norma for the test around 1992). see ref. Precision Shooter . August 1995 page 19. Story by Dave Brennan) There is no target evidence of accuracy loss. Further bore scope inspections performed after each 500 shots by Norma's product development technician Christer Larsson, show MINIMAL EROSION in the throat of the bore and at the
start of the rifling.
According to Norma, " Several independent experts examined the barrel ( moly test barrel) after the 5000 shot threshold was reached. Without knowing the barrel's firing history. All estimated ( wrongly) that the barrel had been fired approx 2000 times. The test shooter believes that the barrel still has 20 to 25% capacity remaining. Ref. Precision Shooter December 1995 page 12. Written by M.L. McPherson.

The sole remaining US plant producing any kind of powder is St Marks in Florida. They will make any kind of ball powder you wish to purchase. They recently hosted some folks from Swizerland (NITROCHEMIE Aschau GmbH has been a part of Rheinmetall since 1998 together with NITROCHEMIE Wimmis AG under the joint NITROCHEMIE AG) and made a run of ball powder for Blount (Alliant, Federal, Speer, CCI, Weaver, RCBS) that is 4000MR, 2000MR and some other canister grades. Why did Blount go to Nitrochemie? Because Blount was impressed with the stick powder produced by them and their formula for smokeless powder. Blount imports one canister grade stick powder, Reloader 17, from Switzerland. I commend Blount for pushing the envelope bringing new formulas and products and manufacturing in USA. My point is that there are several formulas for smokeless powder, the oldest is guncotton with the IMR series being the representative. The formulas have more to do with the temperature stability, how hot they burn, than the shape (ball or stick). The Magnum you like is produced in Belgium and imported by Western Powders. I find that Retumbo is more accurate than Magnum with 130 gr Accubonds in the 6.5 WSM (2 soon to be 3 Rifles). I like Vihtavuori N-560 with 130 Accubonds and 120 Ballsitic tips in my 6.5X284. I regularly amaze others in my group with the same velocity with N-560 from the smaller case compared to Retumbo (or Magnum) from the larger case with the same bullets. The VV N-500 series powders burn at a higher temperature and are more damaging than other powders but it will make bullets go faster.

I have sent all of my new barrels in for nitrocarburizing treatment to extend their life and protect.
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