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Mixing Powders

Discussion in 'Reloading' started by DanaT, May 30, 2009.

  1. DanaT

    DanaT Pharaoh

    OK. I know mixing powders isnt recomended and highly warned against. I am not intending to do it. This is more of a thought experiment / discussion than anything. Please leave uninformed doomsday scenarios out of the discussion.

    So, I was thinking (scary at times) that why would a blended (mixed) powder not work? In fact, is it possible that some of the hot factory loads (light magnum loads, double tap ammo, etc) maybe using some sort of blend? The reason why I think that blended powder may be a benfit is "area under the curve". A fast, powder has a very steep pressure curve initially and then drops off. A slow powder rises more gently but has a longer pressure curv

    To make maximum velocity at any given pressure, the optimum burn rate would be a square wave where the pressure went up veritically to the maximum pressure and was flat at the maximum pressure the entire time the bullet was in the barrel (this can be calculated). Now, near "vertical" rises are accomplished with fast powders. To keep the pressure at maximum (a flat horizontal curve) as long as the powder is in the barrel, a slow (or very slow) powder is needed.

    Wouldn't a blended mix theoretcially solve much of this or at least have more of a chance than a homogenous powder? Of course, one problem is that smokeless powder needs enough pressure to burn well. However, maybe the fast powders would help ignite slow powder in the blend?

    Again, this is a discussion more on theoretical applications. If people never ask questions, knowledge is never expanded.

  2. Myke_Hart

    Myke_Hart Handloader

    Dec 5, 2007
    Mount Eden, KY
    I like how your are thinking but...

    IMO....The problem is you would have some grains burn faster than others, IE the faster powder burns faster than the slower powder. So what would probably happen is the slower burning powder would just blow out the muzzle as flame or flash and not have a chance to build any pressure. The powder that would catch would probably cause all kinds of unreliable pressure changes causing wild velocity spread between shots.

    Powder companies use coatings, grain size, extrusion, and all sorts of methods to slow down and speed up powders, but they do not mix different powder grains.

    Myth busters would be your only chance at testing this thoery you have. Submitt it to them and see if they take it. They love gun myths.
    Last edited: May 30, 2009

  3. Arc Angel

    Arc Angel Deus Vult!

    Sep 20, 2003
    Penn's Woods
    :thumbsup: I love to see the natural selection process at work. It's really cool to watch Mother Nature cull the herd!

    You go, guy! :cheerleader:
  4. DanaT

    DanaT Pharaoh

    Did you not read my initial statement? Its a thought experiment.

    How do you think gun powder was ever invented? How do you think that smokeless powder was every invented? In fact, how do you think many of the world’s advances are invented? By grumpy know-it-alls that want to keep the status quo?

    About 100 years ago there were people toying with natural selection trying to actually fly when the world knew it wasn’t possible. Ever fly?

    I am sorry to have offended you superior genetic makeup but obviously natural selection will take care of me. But why do you feel the need to be derogatory in a discussion that you added ZERO to?

  5. Myke_Hart

    Myke_Hart Handloader

    Dec 5, 2007
    Mount Eden, KY
    Dana, don't feed the trolls. They like the attention! :rofl:

    Sorry angel.. I know your your not one.
  6. Tier1Mike


    Feb 4, 2009
    New Orleans metro area
    at the risk of being attacked as well-- I must admit, I too have pondered this topic. Although, let me say this: I have been reloading since 1981 and I HAVE NOT & WILL NOT try it. There is no data to support this endeavor. I would bet that certain combinations are feasable, but think of the Pandora's Box of problems if manufacturers published some data such as this. People would then be trying all sorts of experiments. Thats when natural selection would kick in! :phew:
  7. DanaT

    DanaT Pharaoh

    I think that this would be the hardest part of actually doing this. The test set-up would have to be good enough (precise and fast enough data acquisition, say 44khz) to gauge the ignition event.

    Then there would be so much experimentation with different mixtures that it would be hard. The combination would have to be chosen as to have all the slow powder done by the end of the barrel (and then what length barrel would be picked) and have the flattest possible pressure curve.

    I think, that on a different, yet related note, it would be great if we had tons of strain gauge data (the complete curves) from loads available for analysis. By simply integrating the area under the pressure curve, it would be easy to determine the optimum powder for any given bullet powder combo (actually bullet/powder/primer/brass/seating depth/crimp/etc combo). Integrating the area would also be the answer when mixing powders. Basically, to get maximum velocity the maximum area under the curve is needed (a half square wave the maximum area but not obtainable).

    The idea of mixing is simply to find a combo that may produce greater area under the curve without exceeding maximum pressure.

    I wouldn't say that definitively. When I look at some powders (especially flakes) there are different size grains. Also, just by looking at the powders I can't tell the difference between AA7 and AA9. In fact, from memory the TAC powder and true blue look the same from a eyeball look. I am not talking about measuring size with a microscope just eyeball. How do we know that AA7 is simply not a mixture of AA5 grains and AA9 grains? Really, we don't know that commercial powders are homogenous.

    Also, I am not sure that commercial cartridges use homogenous powder mixtures. For example, where did McNett get his extra special powder when developing the initial 10mm loads for DT? He was playing around and I suspect that he initially played with commercially available powders. Just a suspicion though.

  8. DanaT

    DanaT Pharaoh

    I agree that the amount of combinations is one of the biggest problems for the home reloader without safety/test equipment.

    One of the underlying assumptions with commercial powders is that relaoders work in the linear range of the powder meaning that adding more powder increases pressure in a linear manner (as opposed to exponential or higher order powers). With mixing, powders could be operating is a safe range with one mixture but changing one component slightly could make a non-linear change.

    Also, a challenge with different size powders is keeping a uniform mixture. Small grains will tend to settle to the bottom and large grains will go to the top (seems counter-intuitive as intuitively the "bigger heavier grains" should fall but trust me this not the case, it has to due with packing density). This means that while reloading in the powder hop, the mixture could be changing during a session.

    But, again, this is more of a discussion of the possible gains and limitations of the idea. And as can be seen, just starting a discussion is getting pros/cons out there. I know a lot of these things, but without questions/back and forth many times things that are known are not observed.

  9. If I recall, Elmer Keith experimented with 'duplex loads" combining a quick powder with a slower one in order to get the slow burning powder ignited more quickly. He did this in 44, special, 38 special, 44 magnum, and 357 magnum.

    I'm not encouraging this but just saying it has been done before by experienced people.

    All the Best,
    D. White
  10. Myke_Hart

    Myke_Hart Handloader

    Dec 5, 2007
    Mount Eden, KY
    By mixing grains I did not mean the grain size, I guess I should have said different speed powders. IE HS6 with Bullseye. Roughly the same size but different speed powder. Usually all grains have roughly the same burning speed.

    All type 06 FFL holders (manufacture of ammunition) have access to powder company offerings that are not commercially available, including custom powders. IE Most ammo manufacturers are not using commercial powders but custom powders made just for them. Because of this it makes your theory unnecessary since you can get a custom powder made at the speed you need for your load. Just apply for an 06 FFL first at a cost of $30.

    Now back to the thoery....
    The problem with mixing powder speeds/grains, is that there is no way to tell if the mix is mixed thoroughly as all the grains might look the same. If one powder grain is slightly heavier than the other type it may seperate and your batch might be fast on top and slower as you get to the bottom of the can.

    Now if you could bond the two grains together so that each double grain is bonded together and you would not have to worry about getting more of one powder than the other. You might have something that would work safely.

  11. Myke_Hart

    Myke_Hart Handloader

    Dec 5, 2007
    Mount Eden, KY
    In this use, i guess you could put a small bit of fast powder to get some slower powder to ignite without having to use a magnum primer.

    You could drop like 1 grain of bullseye and 8 grains of H110 on top of it.

    I could see that working because you are not mixing the powder your are layering it and you can gaurantee the amount in the mix.

    I wonder if it worked. I have a feeling it didn't.
  12. Myke_Hart

    Myke_Hart Handloader

    Dec 5, 2007
    Mount Eden, KY
    Looks like duplex and triplex loads were experimented with in the early 60's with .454 casull.

    Using disks inbetween the different powders.

    And apparently might still be down with black powder loads to clean up fowling by helping to catch large black powder loads.

    They keep mentioning that it is unpredictable if the powders are allowed to touch/mix.
  13. 380Seecamp


    Mar 10, 2007
    Duplex loads are used by some black powder shooters. They use about 10% 4759, 5744, Unique, or other smokeless powders with their BP loads.

    I've never felt the urge to try this, however.
  14. _The_Shadow

    _The_Shadow Ret. Fireman

    Jul 23, 2007
    Southeast, LoUiSiAna
    The powders are already blended and shaped by the factories to provide specific given results. Some powders are avalible to Handloaders others are only avalible to Commercial Loaders.

    Live within the limits, Be safe!
  15. GioaJack

    GioaJack Conifer Jack

    Apr 14, 2009
    Conifer, CO

    I've been shooting black powder a long time... on the national level... and I've never seen anyone mix smokeless with black powder. That's not to say it hasn't been done, there's always someone out there who thinks they have too many fingers or eyes.

    As you know, black powder is identified by it's F designation, (Pyrodex is NOT real black powder), FG being used as a cannon propellent, FFG and FFFG used for rifle, shotgun and pistol and FFFFG through 7FG for priming pans in flints. 7FG works very well for priming but only on very dry days since it absorbs any ambient moisture very, very quickly.

    Although I've never mixed smokeless powders, bases on the comments in this thread you guys are WAY over my head in the technical department... I have, on many occasions, experimented with mixing different F grades of black powder.

    The results have always been less than desirable in ignition, accuracy and fouling. Mixing FFG and FFFG is a waste of time in that there is no appreciable difference over using all of one or the other. The more you up the percentage of FFG over FFFG the more fouling you get. Adding SMALL amounts of FFFFG ends up with erratic ignition and hang fires. Adding too high a percentage of FFFFG can lead to a very unpleasant experience and turn your rifle into a paper weight. Experimenting with 7FG in a main charge is something even I wouldn't do. My parents raised ugly children... not stupid ones.

    I've enjoyed reading all of the comments and theories on this thread, it's comforting to know that there are a bunch of people out there a lot smarter than I am... otherwise we'd be on the fast track to extinction.

  16. stengun


    Nov 20, 2004
    Bugtussell, AR

    Yep, I remember reading about the duplex and triplex loads for the 454 and several other wildcats.

    GioaJack and 380Seecamp,

    I have mixed BP w/ SP before. I tried using smokeless pistol powders in my Knight muzzel loader, very light loads, and I was having ignition problems so I added about 10grs of pyrodex, then added my SP. Worked pretty good. Never got the velocity I wanted but it burned clean.

  17. fredj338


    Dec 22, 2004
    This is nothing new & in fact is practiced in 3rd world countries where powder availability is limted. Back in the day, when we had few powder choices, several handloaders blended faster powders w/ slower powders to get medium powders. In RSA for example, they have limited choices much like we did 50yrs ago, so they blend powders. The problem is getting the powders to blend equally every time.
    I personnaly see little to know advantage as we have so many powders to choose from that pretty much cover any reloading scenario. Without pressure equip. to measure results, anything accomplished would be a WAG.:dunno:
  18. Arc Angel

    Arc Angel Deus Vult!

    Sep 20, 2003
    Penn's Woods
    :) Tick, tick, tick! Being a little oversensitive aren't we? You didn't offend my, 'superior genetic makeup; (How did you know?) but, apparently, I have offended you.

    Neither am I being derogatory; I was simply using sarcasm as a device to prevent you from toying any further with your really stupid idea. This is the internet, my friend. I'd suggest you lighten up and learn how to ride more smoothly over the, 'bumps' and glitches.

    Sometimes other people will say things to you that might be couched in cynicism, but are actually meant to help or save you from yourself. This, now, being said: What do I care? Go ahead and blow yourself up! The world is full of one armed industrial pioneers!

    As I said, this is the internet; and, within reason, you should be free to experiment however you like. Who knows? You may be right; and, the rest of society will benefit although, perhaps, at your own personal expense. (That's, 'Why' they have cold water showers in laboratory hallways.)

    Just don't try to kid an older man like me with your hypothetical, 'This is just a mental exercise' rationale. I've been around the block a few times, young man; and, I know how people play the game. :supergrin:
  19. Big Sam

    Big Sam

    Jul 13, 2007

    I remember an early article on this where Dick Casull where he was experimenting with high pressure 45 colt loads and duplex/triplex loads. He blew up a fair number of guns as he climbed the learning curve. Keith and a number of others worked on similiar projects. I seem to recall that during WW2, Keith worked on duplex loads trying to improve the performance of the 50 cal cartridge.

    To be fair though, Keith, Casull and others were looking to make powders behave in ways that we take for granted now. There is a good chance Casull would have passed on duplex loads and settled on H-110 early on if only it were available when he was developing his 454. I'm not aware of any duplex/triplex loads that survived new powder intro's. I think it was mostly an idea full of empty and dangerous promises. The powders we have availble today would put tears into the eyes of any 1950's reloader.

    But we are not crazy to talk about this or understand more of how they did it. It's a great topic of conversation. It opens a window to a world long gone.
  20. DanaT

    DanaT Pharaoh

    Thank you for the compliment.

    Well, 2.1gr of Clays mixed with 6.3gr of TAC and I ended up driving a 124gr FMJ bullet at 2018ft/sec.

    assumtions about what I may or may not do