Canister vs. Non-canister powder

by Erik  

If you are new to reloading choosing a powder can be tricky. You are best off choosing one of the more popular powders on the market before you try powders aimed towards a special caliber or gun. NEVER MIX POWDERS! There are many factors that go into designing a powder including things like burn rate, temperature, pressure, and many others. By mixing powders it effectively eliminates any baselines created by the original manufactures. Bottom line, it's a recipe for disaster.

Here are some things you should know about gun powder. There are two main types of powder produced by manufacturers:

  • Canister Powders
  • Non-Canister Powders

Reloading powders are considered "canister powders." This means they are sold in canisters of 1,4, and 8 pounds. Larger quantities can be purchased as well but it's usually hard to find dealers selling anything larger than 8 pound tubs. Canister powders are usually designed to cover a wide range of uses. You will see some powders marketed as "magnum powders" which are geared towards loads like .44 magnum, .357, etc. This does not mean it won't work for other calibers such as .45 Long Colt, .45-70, or other long cartridges. It simply means the burn rate, pressure, and flash are tuned to work with magnum loads in general. Some reloading powders (more than less) will burn a little smokey compared to non-canister powders leaving your chamber and barrels just a little more dirty.

Non-canister powders are usually only available to large manufacturers and sold in 5 ton increments. Non-canister powders are designed for 1 specific caliber and specification. A load for 115 grain 9mm would be a DIFFERENT non-canister powder than a load for 147 grain 9mm. Using canister powders, reloaders usually use the same powder for different bullet weights just different amounts. Non-canister powders are usually different and use different amounts for different bullet weights of the same caliber. Remember that because non-canister powders are designed for VERY uniform components (bullets, cases, and primers) they are perfected more so to speak. This results in slightly better accuracy, less muzzle flash, and a cleaner burn.

This isn't to say hand loads cannot be as accurate as factory loads, because they can and even more so. Factory ammo is produced very quickly with (generally speaking) high quality control and for the time to produce it's generally a little higher quality than reloads.

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