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Velocity testing part one: Fg vs FFg vs FFFg

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megasupermagnum

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It was raining all day today, so did not get to do the testing I had hoped for. Finally about 6pm it slowed to a mist, and I got out for an hour and a half. I tested the 9 gauge SXS comparing powder grades. I controlled every variable I could. I swabbed the barrels between every shot. I used only one measure, and I used brand new powder bought about the same time. All three grades were red bottle Goex. The chronograph was set exactly three feet from the muzzle to the front of the unit. The load I used was my powder measure set to 100 for both powder and shot. From previous testing I know this throws about 98 grains of Fg powder, and about 569 grains of shot. I used only one kind of wad, a .050" thick layered card stock I cut with a 21mm punch. I used three wads over the powder, and one over the shot. I took eight shots total with each grade, four shots from each barrel.

The results:

Powder grade - average velocity - extreme spread
-------Fg-------------863 fps------------29 fps
-------FFg------------972 fps------------62 fps
------FFFg-----------1149 fps-----------187 fps


I'm sure there is a person or three ready for an "I told ya so". I am honestly blown away how much difference there really is. So here I am with emperical data saying I was wrong. Now I know. There is definitely a velocity difference between each grade. Is it a huge difference, I don't think so, but it is there. As Goex powder gets finer, velocity gets higher. The velocity variation increases as well. I ran a damp patch through the barrel on every single shot to keep fouling from effecting the results. A purely anecdotal observation I made was that fouling between Fg and FFg is pretty much the same, nothing to write about. FFFg on the other hand definitely had more fouling, and it was a crusty fouling. It would in no way be detrimental to your shooting, and if you wipe every so often it would not matter at all. If you used particularly stiff wads, it might be a bit tougher to ram down.

After finishing that test, I knew I did not have time to test different wads. I decided to try a few anyway just to see. I started by going to five cards over the powder, and found almost no velocity change from the first test. I then went the other extreme, and only used a single .050" card over the powder. This made a huge difference. The load was still the same exact 100/100 load, using Fg powder, the only thing I varied was how many cards I used over the powder. With only a single wad over the powder, the average was 713 fps, with an ES of 252 FPS. There was a single shot that was up around 850 fps. If we discounted that, the average would be under 700, but ES still rather high, although more reasonable. I was surprised by this. I knew there would be a minimum amount of wadding needed, but I figured a sturdy card like this would do better. Hopefully in part two I'll be able to better show how many wads are needed to get a reasonable amount of sealing. I had planned on testing thin overshot cards, but I now know that would be a waste of time. I will probably do this test tomorrow, weather permitting. Instead of my sxs, I will be using my 12 gauge single barrel. The reason for this is that I can test not only the .050 cards, but also 1/8" thick nitro cards, wool wads, and a modern plastic wad (Federal 12S4) as well.

After seeing the results today, I think in the distant future I will have to do a part three as well with pattern testing. I know that Fg has always patterned better than an equal volume of FFg for me. My question is will equal velocities pattern as well. I know from testing in the past that small differences do not. For example 80 gr of FFg and 120 gr (volume) of shot does NOT pattern as well as even 100gr of Fg and 120 gr (volume) of shot.
 
Mega, (for short)

Good timing and thank you. I was just looking up dram equivalent loads for my 20 gauge. It looks like I want 2 1/2 dram equivalent, 1200 fps, for a good 3/4 oz rabbit load. I suspect I will get that velocity with 2 1/2 drams of FFF Goex but maybe not with FF. Also, I ordered 18 gauge wads from Log Cabin. The fiber wads and the thin card wads fit just right but the .125 wads are too large. I can get them down but it takes a real effort to get them started. 20 gauge fiber wads are on my order list. I can see burning up quite a bit of powder and shot finding the right load.

CK
 
Thanks for the testing.
Your findings support my unscientific findings.
My evaluating revolves around rabbits and birds ability to make a rude gesture after the smoke clears!
On patterns, I don't get to hung up on them short of doughnut patterns and or needing a bedsheet size plate to catche the shot!

Whilst you highest velocity wont necessarily extend range it will have marked effect on game within muzzleloader ranges.
 
Mega, (for short)

Good timing and thank you. I was just looking up dram equivalent loads for my 20 gauge. It looks like I want 2 1/2 dram equivalent, 1200 fps, for a good 3/4 oz rabbit load. I suspect I will get that velocity with 2 1/2 drams of FFF Goex but maybe not with FF. Also, I ordered 18 gauge wads from Log Cabin. The fiber wads and the thin card wads fit just right but the .125 wads are too large. I can get them down but it takes a real effort to get them started. 20 gauge fiber wads are on my order list. I can see burning up quite a bit of powder and shot finding the right load.

CK

If you take a thin knife, you can split nitro cards in half quite easily. Then ram them down one half at a time, they go down much easier.
 
Thanks for the testing.
Your findings support my unscientific findings.
My evaluating revolves around rabbits and birds ability to make a rude gesture after the smoke clears!
On patterns, I don't get to hung up on them short of doughnut patterns and or needing a bedsheet size plate to catche the shot!

Whilst you highest velocity wont necessarily extend range it will have marked effect on game within muzzleloader ranges.

It isn't as huge a deal as the modern ammo manufacturers would have you believe. I'll quote numbers from the KPY shotshell ballistics program to compare.

With a #5 lead shot, and 1.25" calculated ballistic gel penetration (a number I've found good as a minimum to be lethal on most small and medium size birds like ducks and pheasant). I'll list "maximum range" as an very general estimate that the program shows 1.25" penetration. These numbers mirror my own findings in the real world pretty well. Note: muzzle velocity was calculated based off my 3' readings.

muzzle velocity----------maximum range
Fg----874 fps----------------42 yards
FFg---984 fps----------------51 yards
FFFg--1175 fps--------------59 yards


Now, while those numbers look like a huge disparity, realize in the real world I would never be shooting those higher speeds. The FFFg load patterns so poorly, you would not be able to hit a bird much past 25 yards. As a result, I would reduce loads to get the pattern, and the velocities would be much closer together. Also consider that these might not be the loads you use. This was only a standard I chose to compare. Maybe your own personal load with Fg could be doing 1000 fps, or maybe with inadequate wadding it could be doing 650 fps. The only purpose of this test was to compare the speeds of the powder grades on a level playing field. Even a 874 fps MV has a lethal range beyond what most people get effective patterns to.
 
I think a more fair comparison would be by weighing the charges. Obviously fffg Is finer so the charge weighs more.

I disagree. I don't know anybody that weights charges for muzzleloaders, so these are the results people will see in the real world with volume measures.
 
It isn't as huge a deal as the modern ammo manufacturers would have you believe. I'll quote numbers from the KPY shotshell ballistics program to compare.

With a #5 lead shot, and 1.25" calculated ballistic gel penetration (a number I've found good as a minimum to be lethal on most small and medium size birds like ducks and pheasant). I'll list "maximum range" as an very general estimate that the program shows 1.25" penetration. These numbers mirror my own findings in the real world pretty well. Note: muzzle velocity was calculated based off my 3' readings.

muzzle velocity----------maximum range
Fg----874 fps----------------42 yards
FFg---984 fps----------------51 yards
FFFg--1175 fps--------------59 yards


Now, while those numbers look like a huge disparity, realize in the real world I would never be shooting those higher speeds. The FFFg load patterns so poorly, you would not be able to hit a bird much past 25 yards. As a result, I would reduce loads to get the pattern, and the velocities would be much closer together. Also consider that these might not be the loads you use. This was only a standard I chose to compare. Maybe your own personal load with Fg could be doing 1000 fps, or maybe with inadequate wadding it could be doing 650 fps. The only purpose of this test was to compare the speeds of the powder grades on a level playing field. Even a 874 fps MV has a lethal range beyond what most people get effective patterns to.
Don't like #5 shot. Not enough pellets for a cylinder bored shotgun past 25yds unless using 2oz. Might get 30plus yards then.

You know what, the academic approach is interest but in reality a shot gun is, no pun intended, a hit and miss affair. At some point one is going to wound and you or your dog is going to have to chase.
But thanks all the same.
 
You are absolutely correct. If I reduced powder to say 80 grains of FFFg powder, then velocity might only be 950 fps (don't quote me on that). At that point, the difference is almost nil. If I use the same exact info as above, but replace with #7.5 shot, I get the following ranges. 874 fps > 18 yards, and If you used a reduced charge of FFFg, say 950 fps > 24 yards.

You just have to find what works for you, all the powder grades work. As you can see, I prefer larger shot at lower velocity. Some people like smaller shot at higher velocity. Both ways work.
 
While hardly anybody not in the ammo manufacturing business could do it, I'd like to see pressure curves or graphs showing PSI on vertical axis and time along horizontal, so see peak PSI, avg PSI, etc.
 
I was not able to get out today. Mom called, and needed me to take a look at the brakes on her car. I just finished with that, and have stuff to do tonight. I just moved to a new city, and their shooting range is not open yet. With as dry as it has been, maybe it will be open soon. If not, I should be able to get back out next weekend.

I do have pressure testing equipment. I definitely want to try it out on my 12 gauge eventually. So many things, so little time. The equipment is not crazy expensive. I think I paid $600 or $700 for it, so you don't have to be a business to own this stuff anymore. As of now, I have never pressure tested blackpowder.

One good thing about not going today, I had another idea. I wanted to try a smaller bore to see if the difference between grades would be larger or smaller, but I don't have a 20 gauge. What I do have is a 54 caliber rifle. I hadn't thought of it before as patterns in a rifle are a complete waste of time. I think it would do for the purposes of velocity though. The good thing about this is my 9 ga, 12 ga, and 54 caliber are all percussion guns with 26" barrels.

I have compared barrel lengths before, and the differences are not huge. I have not tested any crazy long barrels. Now remember this is in a shotgun shell, not a muzzleloader, but with the same load in a Mossberg 500 with 18.5" barrel, and the same frame with a 30" barrel, I got 936 fps in the short barrel, and 970 fps in the long barrel. No meaningful change.
 
I disagree. I don't know anybody that weights charges for muzzleloaders, so these are the results people will see in the real world with volume measures.

Well of course no one weighs charges. So if you stay with the same size volume for all 3 powders it's a no brained more fffg will be in the measure than ffg.

So the only way to test accurately if fffg has higher velocity than ffg is to compare them by weight.
 
I disagree. I don't know anybody that weights charges for muzzleloaders, so these are the results people will see in the real world with volume measures.
I know many hundreds of people that weigh every powder charge. I have weighed powder charges for competition shooting. I use a digital scale for the measurements. N-SSA shooters weigh all of their loads.
 

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