Stick or ball type granules for reloading?

rsh experts june

rsh experts june - Credit: Archant

Which is better to use when reloading bullets - stick or ball type granules? Expert advice on the subject of reloading...

rsh experts june

rsh experts june - Credit: Archant

Q: I have started to reload and among my other experimental projects, I wondered if you had a preference for stick or ball type granules?

Chris Parkin replies: I use a variety of different powders for the 14 cartridges I reload for, three of which are on a high-volume basis. For precision reloading projects where I specifically tailor each load for an individual rifle, I have always been keen on stick type propellants (Vihtavouri N160 or Hodgdon 4350 for example), for the simple reason that I find them easier and tidier to use with electronic dispenser set-ups. Automated powder tumblers can be very accurate, yet ball type propellants tend to bounce off the weighing pan, so I have to tidy up after each session, with probably 5-10gr swept off my bench for every 100 rounds loaded. Unchecked, these granules will enter the bearings and sensors of precision tools and cause problems.

Conversely, when bulk reloading, I prefer ball powders as they are faster to load with volumetric powder dispensers, rather than weighing instruments. They fill the adjustable internal cylinder of the measure consistently and, as long as you use one with closely fitting mechanics, you can get one charge dispensed every couple of seconds with a gently repetitive lift of the handle.

I use a lot of Ramshot TAC and X-Terminator powders for the .223 and .308 ammunition I shoot and can consistently charge cases accurately to less than a tenth of a grain. This is partly luck, I must agree, but to do this with larger kernels of powder, you will more than likely need to trickle the larger, heavier granules to obtain this sort of accuracy.

Consistent technique with any powder charger is well worth experimentation, but at the very best, my Redding and Hornady tools give me a fifth of a grain consistency. Neither is better or worse, both have benefits and as ball powders are usually double-based compounds with nitroglycerine as well as nitrocellulose, you can often use them to beneficial effect.

In a nutshell, if you use an electronic powder measure, ball powders will ‘bounce’, kernels less likely. If charging cases at high volume directly from a powder thrower, ball powders will give you far faster productivity.

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Why do I still use kernel powders then? Because I like them for certain cartridges and I have a few go-to handloads in 6.5x55 and .300 Win Mag using them that I won’t let go of easily.