Ball powder---myths or facts

Discussion in 'Reloading' started by wyomingblizzard, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. wyomingblizzard

    wyomingblizzard Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    173
    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2011
    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
     
  2. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

    Messages:
    8,853
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    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.
     

  3. Bullet bumper

    Bullet bumper Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,040
    Joined:
    May 20, 2009
    I agree with most of that . One advantage of ball powders is they are chemically more stable and last longer then most other powders.
     
  4. Bart B

    Bart B Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,483
    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    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.
     
  5. Outlaw6.0

    Outlaw6.0 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,007
    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2010
    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:D 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:D. Everything comes at a price, everything. I would like to experiment with this powder some more.... maybe my 6.5WSM will like it too?:rolleyes:
     
  6. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

    Messages:
    8,853
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    I'm thinkin' there is a big difference between the 'modern' ball powders than the old military surplus offerings.
     
  7. 65WSM

    65WSM Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    331
    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2007
    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.
     
  8. Outlaw6.0

    Outlaw6.0 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,007
    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2010
     
  9. 65WSM

    65WSM Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    331
    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2007
    I recently aquired a used 6mm PPC. I have never loaded for this cartridge. 13.5 twist barrel limited to 70gr bullets according to the previous owner. I looked up what the competitors are using with similar rifles. I used quickload and found that the N-133 powder that competitors are using in 100 yd benchrest has the lowest flame temperature compared to IMR 8208, H-322, Benchrest and some others. I also found excellent standard deviation with N-133 compared to the others when testing over a chronograph I confirmed what the experts have learned. N-133 is likely to have the longest barrel life.

    Why do we have stick powder? Why isn't all powder ball powder? The reason is because stick powder, particularly with dimpled ends can grow in surface area as it burns down the barrel, producing more gas as the volume available to the powder charge expands. Ball powder does the reverse, as the powder column expands the gases generated decreases because the burning surface area is reduced.
     
  10. Bullet bumper

    Bullet bumper Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,040
    Joined:
    May 20, 2009
    Excellent write up . I use W 760 in my 30-06 chassis rifle and it shoots very well so far but I have only started testing this new rig so time will tell.
    The link to BR central does not work for me and only links the main page.
     
  11. Fiftydriver

    Fiftydriver <strong>Official LRH Sponsor</strong>

    Messages:
    6,848
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2004
    Ball powders certainly have their place, most get into trouble when they try to use the wrong ball powder in the wrong chambering. No matter what you do, ball powders will produce more carbon fouling on average then stock powders, that is a fact.

    That said, if you load to top working pressures, ball powders do not produce excessive carbon fouling, clean the bore every 40-50 rounds and you will be fine.

    Another fact is that MOST ball powders are more sensitive to temp changes. Ramshot powders are pretty good as far as stability for ball powders, not the full equal to the Hodgdon extreme powders but in my testing as good or better then the IMR or RL lines of stick powders. Again, if used in the correct application, ball powders do just fine, used in the wrong application, you will see crazy velocity spreads.

    Generally speaking ball powders perform the best when used in chamberings that have a large capacity for the burn rate of powder being used. Most of my experience with ball powders have come with my Allen Magnum line of wildcats, specifically my 257 Allen Magnum, 6.5mm Allen Magnum, 270 Allen Magnum and 7mm Allen Magnums.

    In these instances, I was getting serious powder bridging issues with any stick powders. Switching to the slow surplus ball powders such as WC-872 and WC-860 completely solved the problem with powder bridging. When loaded in these very low expansion ratio chamberings and loaded to full pressure, the powders also burned relatively cleanly.......

    Where a stick powder will have around a 5-8% load density window on larger chamberings and still maintain efficency, the ball powders have a much narrower 3-5% load density pressure window. Reduced loads ARE NOT a good idea with most ball powders.

    As far as ball powders burning up throats, this is a myth. I have tested barrel temps with ball powders compared to stick powders and its clear that ball powders produce less bore heat. Not significantly less but they do burn cooler then stick powders. So to say they burn out throats faster then stick powders is a myth.

    Back to the temp sensitive issue. If your hunting over a wide range of elevations and temp conditions, its best to either use a chambering that you can use stick powders OR develope two loads and drop charts that will cover as many conditions as possible. I used to develope my loads in the normal temps I would be using the rifle in. For example, for summer use, I would develope a load in 80 degree temps. For a fall/winter load I would develope a load in 30 degree temps.

    Another thing you can do is simply develope a summer load and then when the temps drop, develope a new drop chart off the slightly reduced numbers. that way you only have to use one load that will be safe all the time and then just switch to a cold weather drop chart.

    For me personally, most of these rifles were big game rifles only. As such, I had no real need for a hot weather load so I just developed loads in conditions similiar to what I would be hunting in and go with it. While there is some change in trajectory with different temps, I have NEVER had a situation where I missed a big game animal because of ball powder so while its true they are more temp sensitive then stick powders, the actual difference down range is often overexaggerated in my experience.

    Used correctly, ball powders can produce extremely consistant performance, its all in the application they are used in more then anything else. As mentioned while there is certainly some facts out there about ball powder and its problems, I would also add that most of these are severely exaggerated or used in the wrong application which gives them a bad name.

    As far as conventional chamberings, I have used H-380 in my 22-250 for decades, as I have used H-414 in the 22-250 AI. I have also used H-335 and BLC-2 in tens of thousands of rounds of 223 ammo. All with match grade accuracy and consistancy.

    Again, used in the right application, ball powders are great, just like any powder.
     
  12. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

    Messages:
    8,853
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Kirby,

    Interesting post.

    I'm having major ES problems w/my rebarreled 270 AM. From what I read I gather I need to increase density a bit. I've been loading 93 and 96 grains of US-869 for 3200 and 3400 FPS respectively. ES are only fair with outliers well over 100 FPS.

    I'll be up that way next week. Maybe we can visit.

    Roy
     
  13. Fiftydriver

    Fiftydriver <strong>Official LRH Sponsor</strong>

    Messages:
    6,848
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2004
    I have never been overly impressed with US-869 to be honest. It came out with alot of hype and has pretty much failed at all its advertised positive qualities. In all honesty, I have always had better results with the surplus WC-872 and WC-860 powders as far as consistancy.

    One thing I have always found is that you HAVE to use standard Fed-215 primers, not the match version, the standard primers are noticably hotter for better ignition then the match primers.

    Another thing to watch is baring surface length on the bullets. In these extreme chamberings this can really effect muzzle velocity consistancy. Not sure what bullets your using, if your using the old Wildcat Bullets then there generally is not a problem, if your using the new versions, if you were able to get any, their consistancy is not nearly as good as the old version so that may not be helping the problem at all.

    As far as this weekend, its our 10 year anniversary so I will be away with my MUCH better half thanking her for putting up with me for the past 10 years!!!! Will not be around.