Choosing The Right Gunpowder – Reloading Part 2

The powder shelf at the gunshop can be really confusing. Powder cans only tell you vaguely what they are for in most cases, and reloading mauals can give you a number of options for one bullet weight, seemingly that have no relationship to one another whatsoever. All of these powders can be used for most common handgun calibers, and the Trail Boss can be used for low powered rifle loads as well. Before you go to the store to buy powder, check the reloading manuals for your caliber. A printed manual is nice to have, but the powder manufacturer websites can get you started.

These powders, and many more, can be used for many common rifle calibers such as the .30-06 Springfield. Is one better than the other? It depends on your bullet weight, your barrel length, and what type of action is on the gun. In general, if it is in the reloading book or manufacturer website, you are good to go. Just follow the charge weight for that specific powder exactly.

IMR (Hodgdon) and Accurate (Western) make some powders that have the same number. They are thought to be interchangeable.

But if you look in the Hornady manual, the max loads for the two brands are far enough apart to matter. Make sure you are using the right numbers for the right powder.

Also beware that not all bullets of the same weight are the same size. Hornady claims that their GMX bullets can be used with standard load data. If you look, the lead-free GMX is much longer than a standard 165 grain bullet, which means it extends down into the case, potentially compressing a powder charge.

Hornady shows the GMX under the same specs as their other 165 grain bullets in the Hornady manual, but only these powders were apparently tested for this caliber. The Accurate Powder manual doesn’t list the GMX, because they have not tested the longer bullet with their powder charges.

Also beware that M1 Garands and M1A/M14 rifles cannot be loaded to the same specs as a normal .30-06 or .308. Nor can they use some standard powders, like 4350. The Hornady manual has a specific data section for the Garand based on the original government issue M2 ball ammo.

The popularity of new young and female shooters, as well as the popularity of sound suppressors, has led to a boom in reduced power loads for standard rifle calibers. Accurate Powder has come up with a bunch of download data for their 5744 powder which is not position sensitive in the case.

Hodgdon’s Trail Boss powder now also has published loads for reduced power in most rifle calibers. This powder is unique in that it has a hole in the center of the powder flake, making it bulky so it fills more of the case with reduced charges. This is from the Hodgdon website for .30-06.

Part 1: How to Get Started Reloading

Hodgdon Powder (Hodgdon, IMR, Winchester)

Western Powders (Accurate, Ramshot)
Alliant Powder

The most intimidating piece of reloading your own ammunition is the choice of a gunpowder. At $20-$30 per pound, powder is not the most expensive component in the whole operation, but it is the one that can get you in the most trouble if you don’t get it right. Powders can have a name, like Varget or Bullseye, or they can have numbers, like 4064, 231 or N150. Don’t worry, there is no guesswork to choosing the right gunpowder for whatever caliber you are trying to reload. But it is easy to get confused as to which is the best powder for a particular caliber and bullet. Some powder and bullet combinations will work better in your gun than others, but as long as you stick to the parameters in your reloading manual, including the authorized online manuals, you will end up with ammunition that is within the acceptable tolerances for your firearm. Right now gunpowder is almost impossible to find, but if you know where to look, you may find a powder that is less common, but that will work for your caliber and bullet. This article is primarily about brass cased centerfire rifle and handgun ammunition. We will get to shotgun reloading later.

First we should start with who makes gunpowder. There are currently only 3, or you could call it possibly 4, enterprises that make all of the consumer brands of powder. The most prolific is Hodgdon, located in Shawnee Kansas. They make and import not only the Hodgdon powders, but also the IMR and Winchester brands. Western Powders, based in Montana, manufacturers two brands of gunpowder, Accurate and Ramshot. And the third is Alliant Powder, which is owned by ATK, the parent company for Federal Ammunition and several other brands in the shooting world. A fourth that is currently available through retailers is actually the gunpowder division of Lapua ammunition, called VihtaVuori, and that brand appears to be being imported by Hodgdon right now, though it is a distinctly different factory and brand at the high end of the price spectrum. VihtaVuori is more expensive than the American powders, but right now you can at least occasionally find it.

Fortunately, Hodgdon and Western are relatively small companies and you can actually call and get someone on the phone if you have questions. I have been unable to get anyone on the phone at ATK, but it could just be that they are tired of telling people that they have no powder to sell right now and after this crisis passes, if it passes, they will be easier to reach. The problem right now is finding any powder at all, except competition shotgun powders which don’t seem to be in such high demand, probably because Joe Biden claims everyone should have one. For the record, the government is not the culprit in the powder shortage, at least not directly. And the powder companies are indeed shipping powder. Check your local dealers, because they get it first, long before the internet merchants. The powder companies are all small companies and they just can’t keep up with the demand right now, but you can find powder, and because of the wonder of the internet and smartphones, you can stand in your local gunshop, Cabelas, Bass Pro, whoever has something, and find a bullet and powder combination that is going to get you sending projectiles downrange, and that is all that counts.

Bullets, and their differences, are not included in this article, but keep in mind that your bullet is ultimately going to be the decision maker as to which powder you eventually select. Hornady, Speer, Sierra, Barnes, and Nosler are some of common brand names of bullets you will probably start with, and every one of them publish a hardbound or spiral reloading book specifically for their bullets. We have always been a Hornady shop so we generally have the Hornady manual at the bench, and you will probably buy and settle on a favorite as well. But even if you have a hardbound manual these days, the gunpowder websites will most likely also be a resource. All of them have great reloading data on their websites, but some are easier to use than others.

The Western Powders offer PDF manuals for both Accurate and Ramshot powders. These are periodically updated, but a call to the company with questions may be worth it if you have a bullet that is close but not exactly what is listed in their manual. For instance, they do not list Hornady GMX bullets , and though the GMX bullet can generally be used with standard reloading data, the bullets don’t have any lead, so they are longer. This can mean increased chamber pressure with exactly the same load used with a shorter bullet that does contain lead. Give Western powder a call if your bullet is not on the list. They do pick up the phone and will answer any questions you have.

Alliant Powders has some of the most iconic names in reloading. Unique, Bullseye, Herco, the Reloader line and the [COLOR] Dot powders have been the source of pet loads for generations, but these days their website is probably the most cumbersome to use of all the powder manufacturers. The Alliant reloader guide has mostly Speer bullets in it, because they are also owned by ATK, so if you aren’t using Speer bullets you have to assume you are, because again, they don’t pick up their phone right now. When it comes to a 230 grain full metal jacket .45ACP bullet, you are pretty safe using the Speer data for pretty much any identical bullet, but it always feels better to see your actual bullet listed there. My peeves on the Alliant website are two, that you have to guess at what abbreviations like GDHP mean, (presumably some type of hollow point), and they only give you one load and a projected velocity for each bullet. There is no starting or max load information, and they don’t even tell you what type of gun or barrel length was used to send your GDHP downrange at 1,120 fps. It’s kind of lame.

Hodgdon has the most useful reloader guide of them all. Instead of having to limiting your choices to one or a half dozen bullets, once you pick a certain caliber the Hodgdon manual gives you upwards of a dozen bullets with over a dozen powder choices for each bullet. Every line of data comes with a starting load and a maximum load, along with expected chamber pressures and velocities. And because Hodgdon covers not only their extensive line of powders, but also Winchester and IMR, there is a pretty good chance you will find a powder that is actually available to buy right now. The Hodgdon website also works on your smartphone or pad, so you can take it with you to the gunshop and match up a bullet/powder combination from what is on the shelf.

For instance, right now Natchez has available for order, and I can tell you from recent experience that they have had a steady supply of powders available off and on for weeks. If I look a the Hodgdon data, I can use that powder for 30-06 with 200 grain and heavier bullets. If I then go over to Midsouth Shooter Supply, I find that they have a very affordable Speer 200 grain bullet and even a pack of 500 Sierra MatchKings, both in 200 grain. The hardest thing to get right now is primers, but I scored 5,000 Russian Large Rifle Magnum primers on Natchez last week. If you look around and you are persistent you’ll find components enough to get you through summer competition season, or World War Z, whichever comes first. As I write this, Midsouth has 50BMG primers . You just never know what you will find when. And don’t forget to check for Vihtavuori powders. Their reloading data is on the Lapua website, and a lot of those powders are coming up for sale.

Don’t let the nomenclature of gunpowder confuse you. We measure gunpowder the same way we measure bullets, in “grains.” One grain is 1/7000th of a pound, and we use special scales when we reload to tell us exactly how much powder we are about to put into our bullet cases. The names of powders are specific. 35 grains of Varget will result in a completely different amount of chamber pressure than will 35 grains of Unique (the latter would blow up most any gun and the former is a fairly light charge). But don’t worry about buying a brand that “sounds good” instead of something that is just a number. If you look at the powder burn rate chart on the Hodgdon website, Winchester 231, IMR 7625, Hodgdon HP-38 and Accurate #2, VihtaVuori N320 and Unique all have burn rates in the same zone, and though they aren’t interchangeable, you could probably get comparable results from all of them for a given pistol caliber, if you have the right data. Pet loads are great, and you can find a ton of pet loads for given guns on the internet, but don’t let discussion board “experts” turn you off from buying a powder that might work for the bullets you have. The experts are at the powder companies, and if you can find a powder to buy, with data right there on the data sheet, buy it, and quick. If you find one that doesn’t have data listed for your caliber, , call them and ask if it can be used for your application. I called Accurate about the 6.8SPC the other day and they are emailing me a data sheet that is not on the website.

If there are any “gotchas” when it comes to powder, they are very few. The M1 Garand and M1A/M14 are quirky with pressures and if you look in the Hornady reloading manual the Garand even gets its own page, but if you can’t get any 4895 or 4064, don’t worry. Other powders can be made to work in the Garand. You can get an adjustable gas plug that is DCM legal for $35 at Midway and use whichever powder and bullet you want. We hope to have a full article about that coming soon, but just beware that the powder company manuals don’t talk about it. Another gotcha is related to primers. Right now, grab whatever primers you can find. Like rimfire ammo, there are very few actual manufacturers of primers in the world, and right now the supply is extremely depleted. You might not get the exact primer that was used for the load data, so it is a good idea to again, call the powder company and ask them what to do. They are more than happy to help you. One other thing to note about powders is that Accurate and IMR have several powders that are the same numbers, like 4064 and 4350. Don’t assume that they are interchangeable because they are not. Always consult your reloading manual or manufacturer website data.

The nice thing about firearms is that they are generally made to an agreed upon “standard.” This is called a “SAAMI” specification, which stands for the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute Inc. When you look up a recipe in a reloading manual or on a powder manufacturer website, it has been crafted and actually tested to work within the specifications for the performance of a certain caliber in any standard firearm chambered for that caliber. It will conform to pressure, velocity, and energy specifications in the same range as if you had bought factory made ammo. You have probably asked yourself, “why the heck do we need all of these calibers?” at some point. The answer is that we don’t, but somewhere along the line someone said “hey wouldn’t this be neat” and a new caliber was born. The SAAMI board votes on whether to accept the new caliber into its canonized specifications for commercially chambered calibers, and once that caliber is set, it is set, and named. For instance, .223’s real name is .223 Remington, because it was developed by Remington. A 30-06 is really .30-06 Springfield, and a .270 is really .270 Winchester. Your standard reloading data will give you the performance of all of those calibers and other commercial calibers with a tolerance of error for chamber pressure that is built into the rifles according to the same SAAMI specs.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about “downloading” cartridges from the original specifications. Both guns and ammo are expensive, and you don’t necessarily have to buy another gun if all you want is a lighter shooting gun. The important thing is don’t try this alone. Many powders are very sensitive to making sure that the case is mostly full, and if the case isn’t full it could result in an unsafe condition, which could hurt someone and your gun at the very least. Never stray from what the reloading manual says, and that isn’t just lawyer advice. It is the only advice. Only a fool with extra guns and extra limbs and eyes concocts reloading recipes without manufacturer specs. If you have only two eyes, two arms and guns you care about keeping, don’t risk any of the above for some bright idea. Fortunately we do have some great downloading recipes, and Accurate Powder has a specific powder, 5744, made specifically for this purpose. Their reloading data is due to updated soon with more information from this powder that is not position sensitive, but feel free to call the company with questions and free data sheets in the meantime. For handguns, Hodgdon makes a powder under the IMR brand called Trail Boss that is specifically for reduced powder loads using cast lead bullets. Most handgun calibers have a Trail Boss load on the Hodgdon website, and now you can find loads for many reduced powder rifle calibers like .308, .30-06, and even .300 Win. Mag. Just whatever you do, don’t take a recipe from an internet forum and use it without checking it with the powder company first. It is a disaster waiting to happen.

We have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding gunpowders and loads that will work in your guns. Every gun has pet loads and favored bullets that will always shoot better, and working these loads up takes time and patience. Don’t let yourself become intimidated by self proclaimed internet gurus who make all of this sound like an advanced science to be perfected only by the elite. They all likely started on a single stage press with a bag of empty .45 ACP shells, a Lee powder scoop and dies, and a can of Unique, and there is nothing with you starting that way too. This IS advanced science, and all of the factors they will speak of, from chamber pressure to seating depth to bullet choice to powder burn rate to powder particle shape to primer selection to primer seating depth to case and bullet concentricity to ugh, enough already… DO MATTER, but they are not critical when you first start out. Hand loading (the proper name for reloading) can be an incredibly exacting science, but it is all discovered by trial and error. For powders, even though it may seem to you like there are a lot of them right now, for an individual cartridge there really aren’t that many. If you are new to reloading and waiting to take the next step, call around to your local gun shops and sporting goods stores and see if you can get your hands on some powder, bullets and primers. We’ll be back soon with our next installment on how to actually get going, but if you are in a hurry just search around Youtube. There are plenty of “how do I do this” videos that will take you through step by step. As long as you resize your cases, trim your brass on bottleneck cases, seat your bullets to the correct depth, don’t use magnum primers when regular primers are called for, and make sure you have the right powder and charge weight for the cartridge you are making, your reload will work fine, and you’ll actually have ammo to shoot again.

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Leslie December 6, 2018, 4:20 am

    The use of black powder guns offers hunters the opportunity to bag a game or two through sheer skill and patience. This gives hunters a feeling of satisfaction that cannot be overstated.

  • chuck January 8, 2018, 1:43 pm

    the reloading manual I trust most is lyman. I have been reloading sence the late 60s and haven’t had any problems yet. I have loaded a lot of different calibers, pistols and rifles. I also like nosler manuals. lee is my least trusted manual. (example), some of their loads are listed as min. and max loads the same. try loading a 380 by lee and see how hot it is. some of the old powders still make good accurate loads to.
    this is my openion and i’m stickin to it lol

  • A Wagner May 22, 2017, 11:04 pm

    Just curious if GA has a kickback relationship with all the online stores. In the few articles I read it appears they are trying to be very helpful. The articles are well written and informative. And, they recommend in nearly every paragraph to shop online. Natchez, Brownells, Midway, Midsouth, etc. I didn’t see one mention of a LGS (local gun store/shop). As a LGS owner, it’s a struggle to keep up. But even when I sponsored an online forum I got flamed for “advertising” until I pointed out that I was a “paid advertiser” supporting the otherwise free site. Meanwhile, every forum thread was littered with recommendations to visit non-paying vendors like Academy, Gander, and a dozen online sites (Powder Valley, Brownells, etc).

    While I appreciate a good deal as much as the next guy, if LGSs had more business, they’d do more volume, and could charge less. We charge less than Academy (the local, regional big box store) on most stuff and way less than some admittedly high priced LGSs. Likewise, the articles mention getting help from Brownells tech support. Well, we can do one better. I can help you build your AR right in front of you! Just please buy the parts from me! Don’t bring me a box of shit from Brownells and ask me to help you. I had a guy buy $1000 worth of startup reloading stuff from Academy and then walk into my store and want me to answer 20 questions about reloading…for free. It’s a package service, guys. Buy local when you can.

    Incidentally, my other enlightenment to the online shopper is that when you’re out begging for support for your local kids baseball team or FFA or Boy Scouts or selling extremely high priced GS cookies or sausage or popcorn or whatever, call Brownell’s or Midsouth or Natchez first since that’s where you’re spending your money. Your LGS funds local events with money spent by the locals. When you shop online first, you diminish their ability to support youth activities, veterans, cops, firefighters, or whatever. Foster your local relationships. Shop online when there isn’t an alternative. Or ask them to buy some cookies.

    In that same spirit, if you’re valuing the information on GA, and you plan on shopping online, click their sponsors links. As a former sponsor of websites, I can say it’s a two way street. Sponsors continue supporting when they know their efforts are appreciated. So click on the advertisers links on GAs site if you’re shopping online. We stopped sponsoring when we realized there wasn’t any reciprocation.

    • John McNeeley October 9, 2018, 12:42 am

      Hey man, I just read your comments on the DGA website. I appreciate your honesty and your efforts as an LGS. Where are you located? If you are near me, I would love to come see you.

  • Powder Burns January 27, 2016, 3:08 pm

    I can,t speak for anybody else, I,ve had no problem buying all the powder, primers or bullets that I want. My only complaint is with Prices, which are ridiculous. You people need to stop drinking the Funny Juice and stop watching Fox News.

    • Brandi June 5, 2016, 4:11 am

      If you look at the date this article was written you’ll see that it was during the “shortage years”. So, yes, at that time, finding anything ammo related was often extremely difficult or impossible altogether. The only reason I own a .40S&W handgun today is because it was the only caliber available at that time and reloading supplies were non-existent.

  • Neil Sea November 6, 2015, 8:04 am

    Pretty well written and only found a few things I’d have worded differently. I do feel writer was incorrect in saying Hodgdon is most useful manual. Anybody that’s reloaded much or has several manuals (like I’d recommend to ANYBODY is to get several different manuals) the Lyman #49 is the most allround useful & informative manual out there! Bullet manufacturers and powder manufacturers’ manuals only cover their companies products. The Lee manual is also surprisingly good as well. I’ve been a reloader since 1972.

  • Neil Sea November 6, 2015, 8:04 am

    Pretty well written and only found a few things I’d have worded differently. I do feel writer was incorrect in saying Hodgdon is most useful manual. Anybody that’s reloaded much or has several manuals (like I’d recommend to ANYBODY is to get several different manuals) the Lyman #49 is the most allround useful & informative manual out there! Bullet manufacturers and powder manufacturers’ manuals only cover their companies products. The Lee manual is also surprisingly good as well.

  • Judy July 16, 2015, 9:05 am

    Hey all… Let me just start by saying that I am not new to ballistics. But I am by no means whatsoever an expert. I grew up hunting, so I know how to handle a weapon and I know the diff calibers. I know when a shotgun is more appropriate than a rifle. I am also familiar with hunting with a compound bow and a crossbow. So all of that stupid “prove myself” girl crap being said… I am brand new, fresh off the farm, new to reloading. I have 2 AR15’s that I am reloading and I have no clue what powder to go with. Now, you can ask me the gambit of questions, that will probably be pretty standard to ask… But I can tell you now what the majority of the answers will be. Me staring blankly into space, scratching my head, and my butt, and repeating the same thing… “Ummm… AR15, I dunno… Where do I find that? Umm… AR15….”

    So help a girl out… I have everything else needed for the reload process. I just need the powder… So here we go…. What should I use?

    Now consider yourselves put on notice… It appears that most all of you are friendly and respectful. And are willing to help with anything you can. I like that. But, I have been laughed at, poked fun of, called every disgusting name and had every manner of vile and dispicable sexual innuendos thrown at me… I will chew you up and swallow you like a lion on a happy meal if you choose to idiots. I just need some answers. Not a date or a sparring match to find out if I can handle myself with the big boys. I assure you, I can…

    So what powder do I use?

    • wb December 29, 2015, 11:30 pm

      being new to reloading myself, i have done only a small bit of reloading for the AR-15 style rifle. i went the safe route and bought a Lyman #49 reload manual and followed the chart and instructions. if still not clear on something you can email the guys there and somebody always seems to have a solution.

    • Buzz Peterson April 20, 2017, 5:34 pm

      For the .223 Remington AR 15 I would recommend CFE 223 or Hodgson 322 or 335 all three have been most accurate for my AR 15 by the way nice to see a pretty woman that likes to shoot

    • dean June 7, 2017, 11:01 am

      3031 Is a great all around powder and have used it in 223s for years

  • Frdmftr April 27, 2014, 6:18 pm

    As what some would call a “paranoid conspiracy theorist,” I thought I would step in and point out there is nothing wrong with paranoia as long as it doesn’t paralyze you or send you off the deep end. It provides you with what is likely the worst case scenario, and then you can assume the truth is probably somewhere between there and sweetness and light. With this Marxist Mafia infesting our government, the reality is probably down near the low end of the scale.
    ANYWAY, I have a question: I’m getting back into reloading after a long hiatus, and I am wondering why Hornady does not list Unique as a powder for its 115-gr FMJRN and HP XTP when Lyman does list it for a 115-gr HP? All I have is Hornady 115-gr FMJ and XTP bullets, and Unique powder. I’m pretty sure I can use Unique for these bullets, but what is the seating depth?

    Thanks, I appreciate any information.

  • Doc September 18, 2013, 8:47 pm

    I’ve been casting and reloading since the 1950s. I had the good fortune to learn from a chemistry professor at a nearby university who had been casting and loading since the turn of the previous century. He custom loaded and custom cast for African hunters, Alaskan guides, well known target shooters, and police departments all over the nation. He wrote articles that appeared in the American Rifleman back before even I was born. I was lucky to be his ‘slave labor’ while in college and I learned so very much from him.
    His first and last bit of advice to anyone interested in reloading was: Buy the Lyman manuals and use them exclusively. If it isn’t in Lyman, don’t load it!
    I give the same advice today and have followed it for nearly 60 years.

  • alan September 17, 2013, 3:00 pm

    been reloading since 1980 and still don’t know it all, read your reloading book and pay attention to case length and trimming then worry about powder and bullets , there are a lot of people that don’t trim cases and that my friend’s is a no no

  • ron September 17, 2013, 11:10 am

    Also, readers should be aware that some Hodgdon and IMR brands use the same powder number (e.g., 4831) but there are different published load data which suggests these powders are not interchangeable for most loading, particularly near the maximum load level.

  • Jeffrey September 16, 2013, 5:06 pm

    I would bet that the DHS purchases are real and if that ammo is traced I bet you it winds up in Syria!! Why would they need more ammo than active duty military?, the ammo 4 the AUTOMATIC WEAPONS! Our Govt is supplying Syrian (MODERATE) moozlum terrorists “need ammo” to shoot! So I would say all this extra ammo is for people who want to fundamentaly kill us!! Where else would .223 ammo go? And come from? Also all the other weird calibres!! I bet all this extra DHS ammo winds up in some moozlum terrorists hands!

  • Steve Laurance September 16, 2013, 9:22 am

    I started reloading in the 60’s. I mainly shoot handguns and have only had a few minor problems. One thing you should caution readers on is avoiding the Lee Loader. I started with that & had a number of primers detonate while I was seating them. There was no danger but that is just a bad way to load. I bought a RCBS Jr. shortly after and have been very satisfied with it. My measure (Lyman) is older than me & still works fine.
    You mentioned that Alliant doesn’t answer the phone very well. I sent them an e-mail question & got a great answer the same day.
    You also didn’t mention how wonderfully the reloading companies treat their customers. I used a Lee .45acp single cavity mould until it was falling apart. I sent it back to Lee & they sent me a brand new 2 cavity…no charte!

  • lawrence mitchell September 16, 2013, 8:10 am

    2000-Mr is the ticket…also 5744. Your looking for a slow burning
    Powder and use start charges.

  • JiminMaine September 16, 2013, 7:45 am

    I’ve been reloading for over 40 years. One of the thing that is interesting to me is how the loading date has changed. I’ll use the 115 Gr. 9mm as an example.1n the 1973 edition of Hornady reloading manual Volume II the loads using Unique powder go from 4.8 gr. MV 950 FPS to a Max. load of 5.4 gr. MV 1100 FPS. The 1993 4th edition lists loadeds with Unique powder from 4.7 gr. MV 1050 FPS to a Max. load of5.1 gr. MV 1150 FPS. The 2110 Eighth edition doesn’t list a load for the 115 Gr. bullet using Unique powder. You will find similar changes in other manuals from Speer and Sierra too. I called and asked about and was told it is because they now have more accurate ways to measure pressure and velocities.

    If your loading some a little out of the ordinary like 247 gr. cast bullets for a 300 BLK at sub-sonic velocities good luck trying to find loading date and Accurate 1680 powder.

  • Mario Lozano August 16, 2013, 5:42 pm

    I can use a little help on what gunpowder to use for a Marlin 1895 SBL 45/70 at 340gr and 308 Winchester 150gr lead bullet. I’m very new at reloading and just want to get right the first time. There are many types of powders in my modern reloading book by Lee, that makes me wonder if I’m going to make a mistake. I’m casting my own bullets using Lyman #2 lead. Also,I did make a purchase of Hodgdon Varget because I was told that it’ll do by a supplier for my 45/70 but according to my second edition reloading book, H-Varget is not their choice but Reloder7 was. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciate.

    • 2004done September 16, 2013, 7:53 am

      I’m noticing you have two vastly different cartridges (45 and 30 cals), weights (340 and 150), bullets (casted by you – they will vary depending on time of day (tired, in a hurry, leisurely, pot temperature – assuming you cast outdoors), mould temp, and references (Lee Reloaders’-II and your supplier). I’d go with any cartridge assembly that is in the manual you currently use, move up or down powder charge within the range of manual, and shoot, shoot, shoot. There are as many variations in rifle manufacturing (rifling, diameter, chamber length, “lead” (leed), crown design and condition), as there are in reloading – as mentioned above, which makes the various “pet loads” work for each distinct rifle used. I have three 30-30s, all identical (father’s, brother’s, and mine), with 1 slightly different load best for one of them. Having lost the R/L data that I painstakingly recorded 30 years ago, I find they ALL shoot about “better’n I can see.” with any of the three and I don’t know which one was the odd-ball. If you have to go with (in this day and age) whatever you can get, you can find a load that will meet your needs AND shoot the way you want, but not easily. The ranges of Pb, alloys, moulds, will keep you busy for years, even with only ONE type of Powder to try in one caliber. The differences in your manual-Lee created cartridges, pardon the pun, won’t be 30′ at 100 yards, it will probably be a 6″ spread at 100 yards between them (spread of shots, not point of impact). Then there’s always the trigger finger to add in variability. As you get more powders, you can vary them, but NO ONE ELSE can determine which is best for your application. Many can give a starting point, but not what’s best for you, or your rifle. Good Luck! Yeah, I know, I didn’t help at all.
      Okay, In my expert opinion, go with your THIRD load, it’s always worked for me, for as long as I’ve used it!

  • Mark July 8, 2013, 4:32 pm

    I do a lot of IPSC shooting using the SPO1 shadow and obviously do reloading as well. I use 3 single stage presses, and 2 powder measures, one for lead heads and one for copper heads. this set up works well for me because i will have 1500 cases at the primed stage this then gives me the option of whether i need copper or lead rounds and all i need do is change the powder measure. I can reload 50 rounds in 10 mins not as quick as a progressive but it does the job very well. i will have approx 1500 rounds in stock so there,s no panic if there,s a big shoot the next day that i forgot about!

  • Jack May 16, 2013, 11:32 pm

    I’ve began hand loading in 1993. A very enjoyable and educational hobby. I got into it to save money and have more control over my shooting/hunting experience. Read all you can about the subject, take your time, use common sense and the best equipment and components you can find and afford, it’s a very safe and rewarding hobby! When I started our 2nd amendment rights were under attack…but nothing like now. When the 2nd amendment was conceived ammunition consisted of black powder and lead balls both were easily manufactured…Hell, when we were kids we used to make black powder out of materials purchased over the counter at the corner drug store. We have the right to keep and bear arms…but no one said anything about ammunition. Obama and buddies know this…he studied constitutional law and knows why it is included in the constitution. Not for hunting, or even to protect ourselves from each other. It’s there to protect ourselves against government run amuck. Conspiracy theory???… I don’t think so!!! The government IS the reason for the shortage of ammo and the components needed to manufacture it. There would be no hoarding if there were no threat to our rights…period! Who owns most of the companies that manufacture ammunition and the components needed to make your own???… George Soros!

    • Administrator May 19, 2013, 9:26 am

      No he doesn’t. Why do people repeat the same moronish thing without investigation?

  • Tony May 7, 2013, 5:43 pm

    I’ve done a lot of handloading. I found both unique and universel, to work quite well for .38spl and 9mm. Never had a problem with ither.
    On the topic of government, I’m sure that if theres a way Obama and his cronies can hurt gun owners they’ll use it. It would’nt suprise me, I’m not advocating as a theory, if mr.President has’nt set up with the FBI or DHS to get guns in the hands of people in this country that should not have for the perpose of commiting crimes and doing violence. Thus giving fodder to the grabber sheep.

    • Bill Dee March 15, 2014, 8:26 pm

      I have been paying closer attention to each “speech” that the administration and its members are shoving down the throats of the AMERICAN public. They either don’t tell the truth or don’t tell the complete story OR manage to mix both into one scenario. IF the AMERICAN people would only pay attention, they would realize that the administration is only in office for their own benefit and to try to gain more POWER. None of them ever had any toys when they were kids … I mean younger kids. They definitely powt quite a bit over not getting their way. WAKE THE HELL UP AMERICA! This is OUR COUNTRY that was bought and paid for by AMERICAN VETERANS and their blood. Don’t allow any POS take this away from U.S. and our children.

  • Mike Batson May 7, 2013, 11:49 am

    I’d love to read part 1 of this series. I’m trying to get into reloading and the more I read about, the more dangerous I feel I will become. Can you post a link to part one? I thought all powder weights of comparable powders would be the same and thought all bullets we standard dimensions given a specific weight! I need to see part one to keep my gun, eyes and limbs intact! Thanks.

    • Administrator May 7, 2013, 11:59 am
    • KBSacto May 7, 2013, 3:00 pm

      I would recommend a single stage press to begin and handload pistol cartridges to start. There are many videos online at YouTube that will walk you through the basics. If you follow the charts from the powder manufacturers and stay within the start and max loads, you’ll do fine. The best way to start, in my opinion, is to find a friend that handloads and let them show you how to do it. You’ll find after a while that your concerns will decline as your experience increases. At least that is what happended to me.

      I’ve been handloading for over 5 years, and just bought a progressive loader. On that, I would not recommend a progressive for beginners. A progressive saves time, but is considerably more complicated to manage as it performs multiple operations (i.e., deprime/sizing, expanding, repriming, powder charging, seating/crimping) at each station simultaneously. There is a lot going on with each pull of the lever that can lead to elevated frustration for beginners. A single stage press does each step individually (which takes longer) but is much more straight forward to learn on.

      For me, the advantages of reduced costs and custom loads make it worth the effort. I make light loads for the wives of my buddies so they can enjoy learning to shoot without as much recoil. Factory ammo is often at max loads or close to it. You can also reduce recoil by using lighter bullets. All this is possible with handloading. Most major manufacturer handguns will operate just fine with start/max loads from the powder charts. Just beware of light loads where the bullet does not leave the barrel. If you shoot another bullet into a plugged barrel, it will destroy the barrel. Taking considerable precaution in the beginning is a healthy habit, and over time you’ll better understand how easy and safe handloading is.

      • Jeff May 7, 2013, 8:04 pm

        Good advise KB, as an amatuer reloader I find it more interesting and less challenging each day. I keep a reloading manual on my bedside nightstand and find myself dreaming of ways to improve upon my reloading station. Youtube is a good source of ideas to set up your basement bunker or mancave. KB is right, be patient with youself and DON’T rush the process. It’s not worth accidently loading some “hot” rounds or rounds that won’t chamber. Invest in a good case trimmer and bullet puller, just in case.

    • Missbaysdaddy May 7, 2013, 8:13 pm

      Mike, I started out handloading with a Lee Hand Loader in 1975 and soon after I bought a Dillon progressive RL450 and things got a lot easier. I have loaded over 50,000 rounds of various calibers, 9mm, 38 Spl, 357 Magnum 41 Magnum, 45 ACP and 308 Winchester. All my guns are still intact and would you believe I still have all my fingers and toes. Go to Dillons website and check out what they have to offer. No cheap but they have a lifetime guarantee that is unbeatable.

    • John May 7, 2013, 8:27 pm

      Go the the NRA Web site for information on reloading classes. They have NRA Certified Instructors that will run you through the drill of reloading. It should be a two day course although it says just 8 hours. Our classes are two day courses with one day of book and instruction and one day of hands on, working with the hand lates, (for triming), powder measures, presses, die, etc.

      Don’t settle for anything less.

      John at

  • Paul May 7, 2013, 11:33 am

    Doesn’t the Olin Corporation make gun powder?

  • Johnny Cirucci May 7, 2013, 5:42 am

    “For the record, the government is not the culprit in the powder shortage, at least not directly.” Really? Your proof of this is? Did you know that United States Senator Jim Inhofe (R, OK) is saying otherwise? Message to Guns America Actual: gun owners have been TARGETED by our own government. There are Marxist-style draconian gun laws being enacted in Connecticut, New York, California and Colorado and more being considered in New Jersey and Maryland. This country is in BIG trouble and the 2nd Amendment is under fire. I don’t ask that you be an alarmist but I do ask that you be ACCURATE. My sense is that you are downplaying this danger to keep from losing customers and advertisers lest you come across as “radical”. That’s like a doctor telling a cancer victim to go home and take 2 aspirins and they’ll be fine in the morning.

    • jack burton May 7, 2013, 9:04 am

      I don’t believe he said that the government wasn’t a threat. He said that they were not the cause of the powder shortage. That statement is true. Ditto for primers. Here in Idaho, CCI is shipping all they can make. If you ask the guys at the factory, they will tell you that if the dipsticks would quit hoarding, there would be plenty. The powder companies are saying the same thing. Now you can say there is no proof of these statements because you do not believe anyone who does not buy your conspiracy theory. To a crazy man, his ideas look normal. Try not to come off as an illiterate twit. It gives the government more ammo for the propaganda mill.

      • Administrator May 7, 2013, 9:33 am

        Hey who you callin dipstick?

      • Josiah May 7, 2013, 1:53 pm


        Why would congress be investigating DHS’s ammo purchases if they didnt believe that there was something more to their ammo purchases (in the Billions)? Or perhaps you are the kind of person who likes to blame fearful gun owners for stocking up on things that it sees the government buying in quantities that even the military in Iraq/Afghanistan have not gone through. Conspiracy theories are not a bad thing, you may not agree with what you hear and that is fine. Maybe you should do some more homework on this issue and take your head out of the sand before you make backhanded comments regarding “Conspiracy theories”.

    • bigjet May 7, 2013, 10:49 am

      Ditto to all.
      Thanks Johnny.

  • mach37 May 7, 2013, 3:54 am

    Just for the record, my latest purchases are: IMR 4064 made in Canada, Hodgdon 4895 made in Australia; both state “packaged in USA.” Winchester 231 is still made in USA. I have a 15 year-old can of IMR 700-X made in Canada.

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