Author Topic: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression  (Read 28280 times)

Offline Driftwood Johnson

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A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« on: December 24, 2007, 05:58:06 pm »
Howdy Pards

I just posted this on a different forum, and thought it might be useful here too.

I took a few photos that may make the process of figuring out the correct amount of powder for any particular bullet a bit simpler. This is the method I use, others may use a different method.

The simplest way I have found to do this is to make a little wooden ruler. I made this one from a wooden Q-Tip. This first photo shows a 250 grain PRS Big Lube bullet with the little makeshift ruler. The pencil mark on the ruler marks off the distance from the base of the bullet to the crimp groove. This equals the distance the bottom of the bullet will sit from the case mouth when the bullet is seated and crimped in place.



Here is an alternative method using a caliper. Sorry, the caliper is a little bit out of alignment, I was trying to juggle it with one hand and the camera in the other hand. But you get the idea.



After locking the calipers at the setting in the previous photo, I used them to scribe a mark on the side of the case.
The bullet has been positioned next to the case with the crimp groove even with the case mouth. Notice how the mark on the case lines up with the base of the bullet.



OK, here is the important photo. The little ruler is being held with the pencil mark even with the case mouth. The charge of powder in the case is covering the bottom of the ruler by about 1/16". No, those are not my manicured nails, I asked Mrs Johnson for some assistance in this photo. I took the photo from this angle so the top of the powder charge is visible. The angle makes the alignment a little bit unclear. When you have these things in your hands you can peer at it from any angle to see what you want. This amount of powder is the appropriate amount for this particular bullet, the powder will be compressed by about 1/16" when the bullet is seated and crimped. If one used the caliper method to measure the distance from the bullet base to the crimp groove, the depth extension at the bottom of the caliper can be used instead of the little ruler. But it is probably easier to peer into the case with the little ruler. Once this amount of powder has been determined, any method the shooter prefers can be used to reproduce it. The charge can be weighed, and an appropriate dipper can be used to reproduce that weight of powder. A powder measure can also be set to dispense the same amount of powder.



Here is a photo of everything lined up, from right to left. This particular powder charge is 2.2CC of FFg Goex. The charge in the Lee dipper has been leveled off with a piece of index card. The same charge is in the empty case, the bullet is next to it, and a loaded round is all the way over on the left.



I loaded my Black Powder rounds for several years this way. Now I have a Lyman Black Powder measure mounted on one of my progressive presses. The Lyman measure is set to portion out the same amount of powder as the Lee 2.2CC dipper.

However, if I use a bullet of a significantly different shape, I will recalculate the amount of powder needed.

Hope this is of some use.

« Last Edit: May 01, 2012, 09:24:10 am by Driftwood Johnson »
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Offline Pettifogger

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2007, 06:33:45 pm »
Great shots and sure to be a help to beginning BP shooters.  I came up with a slightly different way I set up my press for BP.  What I do is take a fired case and run it into the belling die to slightly bell the case.  (On a Dillon, this is the powder station.)  The bullet will then slip in and out of the case with just finger pressure.  I then fill up the measure and start adjusting the powder measure until when I put the bullet in the case with VERY light finger pressure I get the desired amount of distance between the case neck and the crimp groove.  I know a lot of newcomers want to know some precise amount of powder to put in the case.  I don't think I have ever weighed any CAS pistol or rifle ammo.  Everything is done by volume, by eye.

Offline Driftwood Johnson

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2007, 07:53:36 pm »
Howdy

Read the instructions that come with your Lee dipper set. The correct way to use them is to scoop out the powder and then level it off with a card. No tapping, no settleing, just scoop and level it. I don't tap it or let it settle in the case either. The bottom line is, whatever you do is OK, as long as you do it consistantly from load to load. But I do as the instructions say, I scoop it, level it, then pour it in. It is also important to be consistent in the way you scoop. Pour your powder into something deep enough to scoop through. I usually pour out about 1/2 pound of powder into a coffee mug. Then I dredge the dipper through the powder exactly like scooplng out some ice cream. Just be consistent, dipper full to dipper full so you are always dipping the same amount.
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Offline Adirondack Jack

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2007, 09:48:20 pm »
Driftwood, good job ole pard, but as usual yer using yer engineer's brain.

Lemme give ya a bit of unsofisticated hillbilly science to make it even easier. ;)

I take a brand new wood pencil and hold it alongside the bullet such that the crimp groove is at the end of the pencil, and then I place a thumbnail right at the base of the bullet and nick the pencil with my nail. Now I take a ruler (or eyeball it) and make a second mark on the pencil 1/16 to 1/8 inch closer to the end of the pencil from the first mark (depending on the round.  I use 1/8 on real long rifle rounds, 1/16 or even a bit less for real short stacks like .32) .  This second mark gets extended all the way around the pencil using a knife on the pencil while rolling the pencil  on the bench) and shazaam I got me a reference stick.

I don't care how, but fill up a case with enough powder so when ya rest the pencil on the charge the line is at the case mouth, and either adjust a measure or find or make a scoop to toss that amount and yer good to go.
  In my shop, I use a LEE Perfect to toss charges (I ain't telling you to do so, because it is a plastic measure, but I do it and don't sweat it because it is an old, well seasoned measure that's never ever cleaned and is well coated with graphite that tends to dissipate static.   Nobody but me is in my shop, so if I ever do blow myself up I won't take nobody with me.....  I set the measure to toss the correct charge and make a note in my loadbook for next time I load that same bullet so I can dial it back in).

This is NOT difficult stuff.
Warthog, Dirty Rat, SBSS OGBx3, maker of curious little cartridges

Offline john boy

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2007, 10:46:12 pm »
Here's a neat trick too:
*  Take a Dremel cutting wheel and cut a slit down both sides of an empty case. 
*  Make sure the slit is long (past where the base of the bullet would be normally seated)
*  Insert a bullet into the case - with a shorter seating depth than normal
*  Insert the slit case with the bullet into the chamber and carefully move it so the bolt or breach block closes on the rim
*  Gently remove the case and (A) measure the COAL - this is the distance that a given bullet is chambered so it is in the leading bore cut

*  Leaving the bullet in the slit case, hold it up to the light so you can look through the slits and see 'day light'
*  Measure the distance from the case rim base to the bottom of the bullet in the case - (B) this is your case capacity for this given bullet
And (C) = (A) - (B) ... is the seating depth of the bullet

Make an Excel spreadsheet  by each bullet you use for A - B - C 
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Offline Athena Jake

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2007, 11:28:50 pm »
I took a few photos that may make the process of figuring out the correct amount of powder for any particular bullet a bit simpler. This is the method I use, others may use a different method.

Hope this is of some use.

Yes this is very helpful.
Seeing something in action is good for us "concrete learners"  ;D

And you may pass long my compliments to your assistant.

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Offline Cuts Crooked

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2007, 09:24:05 am »
Driftwood, you do know that this one is gonna end up in the Dark Arts forum don't you? :) 8)
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Offline Deadeye Dick

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #7 on: December 25, 2007, 10:16:29 am »
I hear a lot about drop tubing the powder. Does anyone normally do that for 44 or 45 cal. rounds? Is it really necessary?
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Offline Pettifogger

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #8 on: December 25, 2007, 11:37:49 am »
I hear a lot about drop tubing the powder. Does anyone normally do that for 44 or 45 cal. rounds? Is it really necessary?
Deadeye Dick

Complete total waste of time with handgun and small caliber rifle rounds.  Drop tubing is useful for long range in large calibers where extreme accuracy is needed.  (I.e., 1,000 yards)  Drop tubing for pistol rounds for 7 yards is absolutely unnecessary.

Offline Driftwood Johnson

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #9 on: December 25, 2007, 11:59:35 am »
Howdy

I gotta agree. There are some BP shooters who do use a drop tube for pistol rounds. A drop tube will allow a few more grains of powder to pack into the case than just pouring it in with a funnel will. A drop tube will also pack the powder ganules more tightly, probably making for a better, and more consistant burn. Those things are true. But I do not use a drop tube for my CAS 45 Colt, 45 Schofield, or 44-40 rounds. I don't feel I need that extra 'nth' degree of accuracy for my normal CAS loads. I useta just put a funnel on the case and dip the powder directly in. These days I have a BP powder dispenser set up on my press and it dispenses the powder directly into the case with out a drop tube invovled. I freely admit I am compromising somewhat on my CAS loads by not using a drop tube. I like to sit down and load 300 or 400 rounds at a sitting, and the only way I can do that is on my progressive press without a drop tube. There is no provision for using a drop tube on a progressive press unless you take each round off the press and pour in the powder for each round separately. So in the interest of production, I take the short cut and do not use a drop tube. As long as my front sight is on the target, I still hit them.

For my long range 45-70 loads, it is a different story. Each round gets the powder poured in through a drop tube. But I take a lot more pains with my 45-70 rounds than I do with my Main Match CAS loads. It takes me about 2 hours to load 100 rounds of 45-70 and I do it all on a Single Stage press, drop tube and all. I also use a separate compression die with my 45-70 rounds, which I don't do with my Main Match ammo.

It's all in how much ammo you want to produce, and how perfect it needs to be.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2007, 12:03:28 pm by Driftwood Johnson »
That’s bad business! How long do you think I’d stay in operation if it cost me money every time I pulled a job? If he’d pay me that much to stop robbing him, I’d stop robbing him.

Ya probably inherited every penny ya got!

Offline Adirondack Jack

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #10 on: December 25, 2007, 01:08:45 pm »
Gotta agree.  For main match ammo, whatever ya can do to make it efficient to load and cheap is good.

Cheap charcoal, cast yer own bullets, quick and dirty load methods, all contribute to production efficiency and the close steel don't care a bit.
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Offline Deadeye Dick

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #11 on: December 25, 2007, 05:17:52 pm »
I've not used drop tubing when loading 44 Colt before and guess I won't waste my time in the future. Sounds like rifle loads are more accurate drop tubed. Thanks to all of you who responded.
Deadeye Dick
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Offline Dick Dastardly

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #12 on: December 25, 2007, 08:44:04 pm »
Hot dang Driftwood.

Yes!  That's the way it's done.  There's not a better manual out there.  With your permission, I'd like to plagiarize your work and put it in my next Big Lube™ Bulletin newsletter.  Due credit given, of course.

I've never seen a more simple, understandable and direct presentation of just how to go about loading black powder pistol loads.

My computer was down for a few days and this is the first I've been able to get back here.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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Offline Arcey

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2007, 03:31:38 pm »
Great stuff here, can't thank you pards enough. I'm fixin to start shooting some BP in 08 (GF of course) and want to make sure I do everything just right. Happy New Year.

     Jefro,  Relax-Enjoy

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Offline Goatlips

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2009, 11:59:19 pm »
Just one small suggestion when dipping powder, instead of scraping off the excess powder with a business card, I put a rubber band vertically around my coffee cup/reservoir full of Holy Black.  Just level the dipper on the rubber band, saves your left hand for something else.   ;)

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Offline Deadeye Dick

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #15 on: April 13, 2009, 09:32:38 am »
Goatlips,
Good idea, one of the things that always bugged me was to have to use both hands to clean the excess powder off.
Deadeye Dick
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Offline Wild Bill Blackerby

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Re: A Few Photos Illustrating How to Determine Powder Compression
« Reply #16 on: April 13, 2009, 12:21:29 pm »
BTW, you have pretty hands.

You should see the rest of him, the photo doesn't do him justice... ::)
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