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Posted: 8/30/2015 11:20:11 AM EDT
Slower powders, such as for .50 cal, etc - seem to cost as little as half as much as powders suitable for calibers such as .223.  I am assuming this is a supply/demand price basis, and the slower powders are a closer representation of true cost+profit to market.  And that prices for items like H335 are basically more a reflection of true cost + (well... supply shortage price inflation).  

But maybe I'm being unfair, hence the question.  Is there a significantly great cost to produce 1 lb of a typical small arms rifle powder, than there is to make slower burning large caliber/magnum powders?
Link Posted: 8/30/2015 11:25:56 AM EDT
Link Posted: 8/30/2015 11:52:59 AM EDT
So a burn chart lists VV 20N29 as the slowest burning powder their is. It lists at $238 for an 8# jug. VV N310 which is listed as the third fastest powder, is listed at $107.60 for a 4# jug.

Jump over to Hodgdon. US869 lists at $148.10 for an 8#er, and 50BMG lists at $165, also for an 8#er. Titewad, which is the 6th fastest burning powder on the chart, lists at $127.75 for an 8#er.

So just from my quick look, the slower powders are actually more expensive than the faster ones. The supply and demand is large for faster powders, but they are making much more. The supply for slow magnum powders isn't as much, so they are making less. More product with a big demand will increase prices, but less product, with even a slight demand, which of course it has, will also cause prices to rise.

Link Posted: 8/30/2015 12:01:20 PM EDT
There shouldn't be a huge difference in cost to produce most powders.  Single base powders should cost pretty much the same to produce whether they're fast or slow, and the same is true for double base powders.  The production technology has been improving steadily over the years, so production costs appear to have tracked below inflation.

It looks like many powder manufacturers "batch" produce their products, so they depend on market projections for how much to make at any given time.  I've noticed the lower prices on the ultra-magnum type (.50 BMG) powders too, and I'm pretty sure it's due to batch production and some inaccurate projections for demand.

Smokeless powder starts with a nitrocellulose base - this is made by boiling a cellulose source material (cotton, paper pulp, etc.) in nitric acid.  The nitrocellulose is then dissolved in an organic solvent like acetone.  Additives, stabilizers, dies, etc. are then blended in to set burn rate and energy content.  Double base powder has nitroglycerine added to it; nitroglycerine acts as a solvent for nitrocellulose, so it is very thoroughly integrated in the resulting material.  At this point, the material is an organic polymer material that can be produced in sheets or extruded.  Spherical powder makers use various different processes to create spheres of controlled diameters.  Since this polymer material is inherently prone to static electricity buildup, almost every powder made is tumbled with graphite to drain static charges.  

The most important point here is that grain size and shape are more important than almost anything else in determining burn rate, because the grains burn from the outside in.  So slower powders tend to have larger grains, which may have coatings that control how quickly each grain ignites.  Between variable amounts of fuels added to the material and the potential for use of deterrent coatings, there shouldn't be much of a difference in powder production costs, but those slow powders should be slightly MORE expensive to make...

(Reference: Chapter 4 of The ABC's of Reloading by Dean Grennell (edited by Bob Springer) copyright 1974)
Link Posted: 8/31/2015 10:50:59 AM EDT
No, super magnum powder can be a LOT cheaper. Just look at WC870 powder, originally designed for 20mm vulcans. People sell them for 48 per 8# cans, which is a LOT cheaper than anyone else. However they will not work well in anything but 50BMG, with similar load data to H870
Link Posted: 8/31/2015 11:54:05 AM EDT
Link Posted: 8/31/2015 5:42:35 PM EDT
Well, some talked about doing duplex loads on those WC870 powders, but without a good load data and tests (Quickload won't simulate duplex loads), the only way to know how safe it is is to shoot it with a universal receiver and pressure gauge to see how it responds.
Link Posted: 8/31/2015 5:44:09 PM EDT
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Well, some talked about doing duplex loads on those WC870 powders, but without a good load data and tests (Quickload won't simulate duplex loads), the only way to know how safe it is is to shoot it with a universal receiver and pressure gauge to see how it responds.
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Or just use something that is property suited for your needs. Instead of pulled powder that may or may not be what is advertised.

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