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Five Different Powders Chrono'd in Two Rifles

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40 Cal
Jan 2, 2020
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As the title states, I took 2 different rifles and 5 separate powders to the range today to test performance of both accuracy and velocity. The powders tested were as follows: Pyro RS, Goex 3f, Pyro P, Swiss 3f, and 3f Hodgdon 777. The rifles were my old Investarms Hawken I've had since the 1970's, and my 15 year old Pederdoli Rocky Mountain Hawken, both in .54. The Investarms has a 28" barrel with a 1 in 48" twist. The RMH has a 34" barrel with a 1 on 65" twist. All loads used identical components, a Speer .530 ball, .020 linen patch, CCI #11 caps, and 70 grains by volume of the tested powders. The Pyro powders are 25+ years old, and both cans have been open for a looong time. 777 and Goex are about 5 years old, and came from open cans, while the Swiss was purchased this year, and was opened for the first time today. The Pyro RS had a couple of small clumps, which fell easily apart upon shaking, with no apparent loss of performance. Rifles were cleaned after every 3rd shot, with the exception of a couple were the chrono got a error reading. Also, plenty of time elapsed between groups to allow barrels to reach ambient temperature. All shooting was at 100 yards, with the chrono about 8 yards from the bench.

A couple of observations are these. Most notably, the Hodgdon 777 was terrible! In both rifles it shot horrendous "groups". It was so bad, I repeated the test with 777, and got the same results. Don't know why, just reporting the facts. Perhaps it was burning the patches, even though it was not getting significantly higher velocity than either the Swiss or Pyro P. Also, 777 had a slight delay on a couple of shots, no other powder experienced that phenomenon. 777 shoots great in my original rifled muskets using Minie balls, but i will never use it in a rifle shooting PRB's again. When my current supply is gone, 777 will not be replaced. As usual, Pyro P and Swiss 3f were nearly identical in performance, as was Pyro RS and Goex 3f. My Investarm Hawken is an accurate rifle, I just struggle nowadays to shoot it accurately with my old eyes. I do much better with the RMH, as the rear sight is further away, and it has a longer sight radius. Also notice that while groups are "minute of deer" or better with all loads other than 777, the point of impact shifts somewhat. My rifles are sighted for Swiss 3f and Pyro P. Here is my data, copied and pasted from my phones notepad. The extra 6" of barrel provided quite a boost for most loads.

Investarms Hawken .54, 28" barrel

70 grains Pyro RS


70 grains 3f Goex


70 grains Pyro P


70 grains Swiss 3f


70 grain 777 3f


Pedersoli RMH, 34" barrel

70 grains 777


70 Swiss 3f


70 gr Pyro P


70 grains Goex 3f


70 Pyro RS



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Interesting results. I expected the 777 to be the hottest as one typically reduces the load by 10%-20%, yet the Pyrodex P beat 777 in both FPS and accuracy. Good job! 👍
My belief, not based upon thorough and exhaustive scientific analysis, but upon many observations, is that regular #11 caps do not fully ignite 777 in a sidelock. In my muskets, using musket caps of course, 777 is reliable and gives a definite boost in performance. Same for revolvers, as there is less powder to ignite, and the design is basically an inline. I never have delays in sidelocks using real black or Pyro of any grade and #11 caps, but it is a recurring problem with 777. Still at a loss to explain the horrible inaccuracy in my rifles with PRB's. I can only conclude that the patches are burning up, as 777 gives good accuracy and velocity in both muskets and revolvers, where a patch is not in use. When my remaining 11 lbs. of 777 is gone, it will not be replaced.
When running tests like this and submitting the results here, ALWAYS conduct your tests with fresh powder.
Why? Part of the test was to see if age/open cans have an effect on performance. Hint, if stored properly, is does not, as I have observed over three plus decades of shooting tens of thousands of rounds over chronos in a multitude of guns, long and short. If you would like to run tests of your own using all new powders, feel free to buy a chrono, assemble all these powders, take many guns to the range, fire and record the data, and then publish those results. I saw no directive on the forum rules that I must ALWAYS use new powder to conduct tests with. Take the data, or reject it.

For those who take it, I can assure you that old powder, even in previously opened cans, when tightly sealed and stored properly, loses none of its characteristics. That is my results and my observations based on an abundance of actually doing the testing. If others disagree, please put in the effort to validate your reasoning. If you come to a different conclusion, well and good. However, I would be very cautious about using terms like "ALWAYS" and "NEVER", as they usually display limited experience, or opinions/conclusions formed from talking to two guys at Walmart, and another guy at work, all of whom are just repeating what they heard from another guy who also has no first hand experience. If you believe my information to be faulty or invalid based upon what you determine to be faulty methodology, feel free to reject or ignore it.
When running tests like this and submitting the results here, ALWAYS conduct your tests with fresh powder.
In addition to his added goal of testing older or opened cans of powder -- a real world scenario for all of us, and useful information if we are about to go on a hunt or to a competition -- I think you're being unrealistic.

Sure, if it was a powder maker or a vendor conducting tests, then comparing five new powders against five old powders against five powders that were opened years ago is a better testing protocol. That would be reasonable to expect of a researcher or somebody writing an article.

@PastorB seems to be doing this on his own time, on his own dime. Is he getting paid? If not, then how realistic are we being in demanding he spend hundreds of dollars to meet some testing protocol standards?

Kudos to him for generating this wealth of knowledge and sharing what he has found with us. I hope to follow in his footsteps, but look at various load velocities, and so we each add a little to the mix of useful information. I have two 54 cal flintlocks and a 54 caplock, and I'll start by seeing if I can replicate his results.
I would question the value of tests with old synthetic powders. They do deteriorate. Real black age doesn't matter. I looked only at the results of Goex and Swiss, they were about as one would expect. Thanks for going through all the work of chronoing these..
I’ve seen pyrodex from a new can perform horribly, and pyrodex from an old shed stored can do well. Real black is more consistent in performance for me. Try a wad or cream of wheat between the 777 and patched ball and see if it helps. I think the 777 is destroying the patch! Thanks for the testing!
When running tests like this and submitting the results here, ALWAYS conduct your tests with fresh powder.
I like his test with powder at hand. I believe it to be more representative for most of us.
The comment of 10% reduction for 777 may be a clue as to performance , as that seems to be the recomendation for use.
A bit less powder to light off woth 10 or 11 caps may be beneficial.
I concour that 777 shoots well in revolvers, at least for me and has other benefits that I like.
I have not tried it in a rifle.