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Ball vs. stick powder

This is a discussion on Ball vs. stick powder within the Ammunition forums, part of the M14 M1A Forum category; Just started reloading for my M1A and I couldn't have done it without hours spent on this forum. I started reloading with IMR 4064 and ...

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Old April 30th, 2009, 04:46 PM   #1
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Ball vs. stick powder

Just started reloading for my M1A and I couldn't have done it without hours spent on this forum. I started reloading with IMR 4064 and Federal primers. I also picked up some BLC(2) and CCI magnum primers. I just started using the BLC(2) and I am getting much more consistent power throws with it. I am considering switching to ball powder because is seems easier to use. What are the disadvantages to using ball powder vs. stick powder?

Thanks to everybody for the wealth of information found on this forum.

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Old April 30th, 2009, 04:58 PM   #2
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One advantage to ball powder is that it meters easily & uniformly in Progressive presses. I tend to use extruded, (stick), IMR's 4895 & 3031, because I use a single-stage press, and charge cases with powder by hand, individually. If my powder thrower sticks, I know, invariably, that the charge is off. If smooth, it is accurate. (I still weigh every 5th or 10th charge to double check.)

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Old April 30th, 2009, 05:07 PM   #3
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IMHO, arguing the merits of weighing charges, of the 'accuracy' of stick vs ball, is a tempest in a teapot. If you don't weigh your cases, weighing your powder is a waste of time. Stick powder can 'bridge' in your measure, so open up the throat. Ball powder burns cooler, all else being the same, so it doesn't work as well for tracers. IMR 4895 and4064, or Win 748, H380, will all be well received by your M14. HTH, dave

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Old April 30th, 2009, 05:52 PM   #4
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I don't know what powder measure you are using but in most hand operated 4064 is one of the crunchy powders. Try some Varget or go with the ball pwder. I use a digital measure and ball is sometimes harder to measure because it is so fine and the last tenths are slow coming.

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Old April 30th, 2009, 09:14 PM   #5
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It depends on what you are reloading for... if you are an accuracy shooter you will want to find the best powder your rifle likes. If you are like me, trying to reload basic ammo that will function and fire, that .2grn difference between charges isn't that big of a deal, not in the long run.

I had a hard time accepting that, too, I have always been very cautious on powder charges, particularly with rifle loads but it was pointed out to me that a .2grn difference in a 42grn load of IMR4895 is only a .5% variance. If you are really pushing the pressure envelope, I might be more careful, maybe... but then, I don't do that (anymore!)

Actually, you bring up a good question (ball vs stick) and maybe another one... Why is stick powder (i.e. IMR4895) so dang big? Hodgdon makes H4831 and H4831SC (Short Cut,) why can't they make IMR4895SC? Case volume, perhaps?

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Old April 30th, 2009, 10:42 PM   #6
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I load the powders that make the best accuracy in my rifles. Ball or stick it doesn't matter to me. Hand loading your own ammo is about taking the time to do it right and saving money is my secondary consideration.
The powder measure I use is a Harrell's Premium measure which is one of the higher end powder measures and a longer drop tube to help settle larger powder charges in the case. Measures like the Harrell's have no trouble keeping loads to within tenths of a grain, especially with a ball powder or very short stick powder. Its a Benchrest quality powder measure..and portable.
Ball powders do meter lots better than a stick powder like a 4064 type powder for sure. If I am working with a stick powder and looking for consistency, I set the measure to a few tenths lighter on purpose and then put each charge on a digital scale and trickle in the last few tenths.
Ball powders, I set the Harrell's measure before I begin to load and check it against the digital scale and don't look back. Harrell's measures are accurate to the tenth of a grain and very repeatable with ball powder and some shorter grain powders. Long stick powders give most powder measures some variation.

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Old May 1st, 2009, 09:03 AM   #7
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When I first started loading match ammunition I was told not to use ball powders. The reason at the time dated back to early ball powder in the 40's, 50's and maybe the 60's. It would foul the barrel and the gas system with hard fouling and more than extruded powders. I stuck to that advice for a long time but later found out the newer ball powders are usually made cleaner for autoloading firearms. BLC(2) was originally a Winchester powder called "Ball C" and used in WWII to load Winchester loaded 303 British ammunition. Early ball powder had no flash retardant. Winchester helped develop 7.62x51 using ball powder and that's why such long flash hiders were made for early 7.62 firearms Ball C powder was modified at least 2 or 3 times to become BLC(2). The changes were mainly to reduce fouling and some to reduce flash. The fouling became even more of an issue with the M-16 but more recently due to good flash hiders the military doesn't always require flash retardant powder.

Most ball powders do burn cooler than extruded powders but not all. Ball powders are all double base while extruded powders can be single or double base. Double base powders usually can have more "energy" but many can produce too much gas for auto rifles. The cleanest ball powder I've ever used is Ramshot TAC. It's a lot cleaner than some of the older ball powders and cleaner than a lot of older extruded powders.

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Old May 1st, 2009, 05:32 PM   #8
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On another forum, a Palma Team member described some of the experiments the Palma Team went through.

At the time, and maybe still, all Palma Team ammo was loaded on a Dillion Progressive. They shot different types of powder. Apparently they sent cartridges off to a pressure lab.

Ball powders gave the most consistent velocity and pressure. But were not the most accuracy.

The powder that gave the best accuracy at 600 yards, it held within 3 inches at that distance, was IMR 4895.

The Palma Team criteria of 3 inches at 600 yards is half the USMC were using on their match M14ís. The Armorers told me their rifles had to shoot 3 inches at 300 yards.

So maybe M14 accuracy is not as sensitive to powder choice.

I knew people who got their HM using the ball powder AA2520. For a time in the 80's that was a very popular powder for M1a shooters.

I have shot AA2520 and IMR4895/AA2495 and shot excellent groups with both. I just prefer the stick powders because there is less fouling in the mechanism, and the stick powders seem to be less "peaky".

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Old May 2nd, 2009, 09:02 AM   #9
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AA2520 is one of my favorite powders for the 308. Meters very well.

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Old May 4th, 2009, 08:44 AM   #10
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Stick powders are less variable over temperature as a rule.

I've also never seen that weighing charges or "crunchy" powder measure operation makes even a subtle difference on a target.

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Old May 4th, 2009, 09:31 AM   #11
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Stick powders burn hotter---they should be used, over cooler burning ball powder, it you need to light tracers.

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