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First Test of Hodgdon CFE 223 - Beware

This is a discussion on First Test of Hodgdon CFE 223 - Beware within the Ammunition forums, part of the M14 M1A Forum category; I've been running some ladder tests with a few powders in my GAP .308 Crusader, trying to develop the best accuracy load I can for ...


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Old April 20th, 2012, 02:04 AM   #1
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First Test of Hodgdon CFE 223 - Beware

I've been running some ladder tests with a few powders in my GAP .308 Crusader, trying to develop the best accuracy load I can for it. One of the powders I tried this week was the new CFE 223 from Hodgdon and it gave me a some trouble with high pressures; in fact it was the worst pressure problems I've ever had with any load I've ever put together.

Using a Sierra MatchKing 168gr bullet, Hodgdon lists a minimum load of 46.6gr and a max of 49.0gr. I started at the minimum and added 0.3gr for each successive round until I got to 49.0, then I made up two more rounds with 0.2 more grains each. This is the same procedure I've used for every other powder in this gun. All tests have been run using virgin Lapua brass from the same lot, segregated by weight and neck wall variations. I have been using Federal 210 Match primers in my tests with this gun, but since CFE 223 is a ball powder, I also made up another series of rounds using a hotter primer, in this case CCI #34.

I started with the batch using the CCI primers. The velocities were pretty close to those listed in the Hodgdon data at first. As I got to within about half a grain of the max, the primers were starting to flatten out, but nothing extreme - no puckering around the firing pin or anything like that. I noticed that the gun was kicking like a mule, but I put this off to the higher velocities this powder is supposed to give - that and the fact I'd put quite a few rounds through a couple other .308 guns before I got to the GAP and I was getting a little tender in the shoulder.

After I fired the first round at 48.7gr (0.3 under the book max), the case didn't come flying out of the gun when I pulled the bolt back like it usually does. When I fished it out of the action I noticed it had blown the primer out - the first time I've ever had that happen, even counting the AR guns which are notorious for that with hot loads. Needless to say, I didn't fire any of the hotter rounds. I pulled the magazine out of the gun and the primer fell out onto the table.

Then I started on the rounds with the Federal primers. I didn't blow out any primers, but the round at 48.4gr showed a little sooting around the edge of the primer and the round at 48.7gr was even worse. Once again, I stopped at that point.

I've loaded a lot of rounds with a lot of powders over the years, more than I could ever remember. Many of those loads were using 'military' cases like LC, IMI, and PMC - the ones where you're supposed to watch for high pressures near the max because of less case capacity. No matter what brand of case I've used, I've never had a powder that gave me pressure problems at the max book loads, much less under the max. The other powders I've tested in this gun have not shown any problems even when I went 0.4gr over the max (4064, 4895, Varget).

I guess I'll pull apart the 20-30 rounds I didn't shoot (I made more than one round at each weight) and start again using smaller increments and staying away from the max. Or I might just reserve this powder for use in the high-volume .223 guns - at medium charges.

I will say one thing about the CFE 223. It did have the higher velocities it advertises. It's hard to get the SMK 168s over 2800 fps with any other powder and I was getting speeds of 2890+ before I quit. If that means a lot to someone, this might be the powder to try. For me, I'm a little gun shy at the moment. A few extra fps isn't worth the worry to me.

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Old April 20th, 2012, 04:23 AM   #2
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With other powders how fast can you get the 168s before you blow primers?

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Old April 20th, 2012, 06:19 AM   #3
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Thanks for the info. I was debating if I should give the powder a try. I will wait till more information becomes available.

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Old April 20th, 2012, 11:16 AM   #4
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Bamban, with the other powders I haven't had any blown primers or other pressure signs. I've been stopping at 0.4gr over the book max - just an arbitrary number I pulled out of thin air. The primers are getting flat but that's about it. No craters around the firing pins, extractor marks, or anything like that. And the primers are not as flat as some of those I get in guns like my 7 mag, either.

With Varget my top velocities at 0.4gr over max were right at 2800. With IMR 4064 they were about 2818, and with IMR 4895 they were down in the mid 2700s. (The 'max' I used were all from the Hodgdon website except for IMR 4895, and that was from the Lyman book.) The 4895 is some military surplus I scored a bunch of from Widener's several years ago.

Three considerations: First, it's been my experience that virgin brass usually gives lower velocities than once-fired brass that has been sized to fit the gun's chamber. Secondly, it's hard to get solid reliable velocity numbers when you're only firing 2-3 rounds at each charge weight. And third, the size of the gun's chamber is going to come into play here, also. The GAP has a pretty tight chamber.

Angelonm, in all fairness to the CFE 223, I don't see why it wouldn't work just fine if you carefully worked up your loads. The only reason I was alarmed is because it's the first powder I've ever used that gave me pressure problems when I was under the book max. In years past I've shot plenty of loads at or near the max without any workups and never had any problems (as foolish as that might have been, that was pretty much my standard practice for 20+ years). I guess I've been lucky. If I had done that with this powder, who knows how bad it might have been. Or if I had been using a gun that wasn't as strong as the custom GAP.

Thanks from angelonm
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Old April 20th, 2012, 12:39 PM   #5
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Thanks Tex, I already have about 5 different powders that i use. W748,IMR4895,IMR4064, AA2230 and A2520. I was not in a rush for anything new. I was intrigued with the copper fouling reduction that the powder was noted for. I think ill take a wait and see stance.

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Old April 20th, 2012, 12:51 PM   #6
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I can't say about the copper fouling, but based on the amount of black on my patches, the CFE223 burns noticeably dirtier than the other powders. I was cleaning the bore between powders and the dirtier patches were immediately apparent.

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Old April 20th, 2012, 08:44 PM   #7
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There are some newer powders out there right now... I think I'll just stick with the tried-and-true stuff. Yes, yes... I know "Nothing ventured, nothing gained;" but as much as I want another M1a... I don't want to buy another to replace the one I had!

...but I appreciate you posting your findings, Tex!

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Old April 22nd, 2012, 09:32 PM   #8
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I'm usually the same with new powders, Charlie. I'm still stuck on the stuff I started with back in the 80's. Heck, I just tried my first loads with Varget. But I was intrigued by the higher velocities and lower fouling they were claiming with this powder. Mainly I was thinking about my semi-auto service style guns so I don't know why I was testing it in a bolt gun.

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Old April 24th, 2012, 02:25 PM   #9
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Interesting info.

Thanks Tex!

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Old April 24th, 2012, 07:58 PM   #10
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That's why we "work up loads". Nothing says the max load listed in any manual is going to be safe. I believe all the manuals have something like; "watch out for pressure signs as you work up and back off if any pressure signs are encountered". You encountered pressure signs so you should "back off. Nothing wrong with the data or with your loads. Just different components used by Hodgdon from what you used.

Larry Gibson

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Old May 3rd, 2012, 02:43 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexIndian View Post
Angelonm, in all fairness to the CFE 223, I don't see why it wouldn't work just fine if you carefully worked up your loads. The only reason I was alarmed is because it's the first powder I've ever used that gave me pressure problems when I was under the book max. In years past I've shot plenty of loads at or near the max without any workups and never had any problems (as foolish as that might have been, that was pretty much my standard practice for 20+ years).
IME books are only good for telling you the velocities for which to try and aim for and be wary of (and only some books - the Hodgdon website is pretty good in this case), and chambers/barrels/cases/primers will be the determining factor of the details with respect to the exact powder charge. After getting a chronograph a while back, I sometimes wonder how I ever worked up loads without it. The fact that you got over book max velocity (of 2828 ft/s) without pressure signs still gives you some room to work with, and I would be happy with the results you got.

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Old May 3rd, 2012, 07:09 PM   #12
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Thanks for sharing your info with us.

Your experience confirms that CCI #34 primers can create unexpected pressure problems with certain powders. I can't recall where, but I recently saw a chart showing the velocities from several powders and several primers. What caught my attention was that with some powders, there wasn't any apparent difference in velocity between the CCI "military" primers and other primers; however, other powders showed a significant difference with the CCI military primer always showing the higher velocity.

I was experimenting with Vihta Vuori N-135 and getting velocities out of an 18.5" barrel that were higher than several sources suggested should come out of a 22" barrel. RAMMAC was nice enough to run my chronograph data through QuickLoad and he had to boost the burn rate of the powder to match the velocities I got. The implicit chamber pressure was over the limit. I was using CCI #34 primers and believe that was the contributing factor.

I've only experience one pierced primer and that actually was a factory load (+P+ though). Scared the daylights out of me too!

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Old October 21st, 2012, 06:10 AM   #13
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TexIndian....thanks for your testing/info on CFE 223

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Old October 21st, 2012, 09:23 AM   #14
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Cool

Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Gibson View Post
That's why we "work up loads". Nothing says the max load listed in any manual is going to be safe. I believe all the manuals have something like; "watch out for pressure signs as you work up and back off if any pressure signs are encountered". You encountered pressure signs so you should "back off. Nothing wrong with the data or with your loads. Just different components used by Hodgdon from what you used.

Larry Gibson

I'll agree with the above. The fact that the primers are somewhat flattened, felt recoil is more, and the fact you had a blown primer, are all indications of high pressure. The fact that you did not seem to be reaching your desired FPS, shows that the combination of powder and components are not exactly compatible. Ahh, the quest of keeping bullets supersonic continues. Dozier

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Old October 21st, 2012, 01:06 PM   #15
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I've been able to get 2800 with Reloader 15 out of my 24" Savage 10. Pressure signs just starting to show. Winchester cases and Winchester large rifle primers.

The bullets were Hornady A-Max 168's

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