Using the right powder is key when operating a muzzleloader
By Tom Mitchell
Published: Friday, August 24, 2007
Like any black powder, it goes "boom," but according to Jim Kirkland of Petro-Explo, of Arlington, Texas, Schuetzen brand black powder may give muzzleloader shooters the best boom for the buck.
Kirkland, a partner CEO of Petro-Explo, said grain for grain, shooters will find that Schuetzen powder will perform exceptionally well in any black powder shooting application, whether muzzleloading rifles with roundball or conical ammunition, black powder cartridge rifles, or "Cowboy Action" arms.
Petro-Explo also imports Swiss Black Powder, said to be the most exacting black powder in the world and the preferred powder of international muzzleloading shooting teams.
Kirkland said the loading information for Schuetzen is comparable to the well-known GOEX black powder and, grain for grain, will yield equal velocity figures and the same point of impact on targets as GOEX. However, Kirkland believes that Schuetzen powder may be a little on the cleaner side as far as powders go, and that means less fouling, and less fouling means better accuracy.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Petro-Explo was the sole importer of Elephant brand black powder, manufactured in Brazil. Kirkland said that at the time, Elephant powder was made to exacting standards and was a "very high quality" powder that gave consistent shooting results.
However, in about 1999, owners of the plant in Pernambuco, Brazil, notified Petro-Explo that the company was selling its land, primarily to take advantage of sky-rocketing real estate prices. Indications at the time were that the plant would reopen in another location, however, that never came to pass.
Kirkland said the Elephant folks sold much of the plant equipment to another company, which did begin operations in another location under the name "Diamondback."
"We had our official tester, Bill Knight of Reading, regularly test new batches of Elephant brand," Kirkland said. "After testing Diamondback powder, Bill recommended that the company change the type of wood they used to make charcoal, however, the company refused to do this. We felt the quality of their powder was not able to meet our standards, consequently we contacted the WANO Powder Co. in Germany and at the same time, Swiss Black Powder.
"WANO's Schuetzen powder is a very high quality powder. Swiss powder needs no introduction to serious muzzleloading match shooters. Seven out of the last eight international muzzleloading rifle shooting matches were won by Swiss powder teams. The top 10 international shooters use nothing but Swiss black powder. It's that good.
"When it comes to making black powder, the Germans, and their Swiss counterparts, know exactly what they're doing. But what they didn't understand was the American shooter market. We convinced them to change their packaging so the powder could be easily marketed to individual shooters."
Kirkland said there is a significant difference between Swiss and Schuetzen powders. He said Swiss powder loads in rifles must be dropped 10 to 15 percent due to the fact that Swiss powder burns a bit hotter and faster and consequently yields a higher velocity.
"If you use the same load of Swiss in your rifles as you would GOEX or Schuetzen, you will notice your roundball or conical bullets printing higher on the target," he said. "This is because Swiss gives a higher velocity. So to keep the same point of aim, you have to reduce your load with Swiss. It is also considerably cleaner that any powder on the market today."
According to the Schuetzen Web site, the recommended load, as one example, for a .50 caliber rifle shooting patched roundballs is between 50 and 80 grains of 2Fg powder. However, when using 2Fg Swiss powder for .50 caliber patched roundball shooting, the recommended load is between 40 and 60 grains.
What shooters must keep in mind is that load information is not exact for every firearm. Developing the best load for a particular rifle is up to the shooter. Remember, the most accurate loads are not necessarily the "fastest" loads or loads with the most powder. Any shooter not familiar with developing black powder loads should read "The Complete Black Powder Handbook" by Sam Fadala or a current edition of "Lyman's Black Powder Handbook and Loading Manual."
Kirkland said he realizes that shooters, especially black powder fans, may be slow to change, however, he feels that Schuetzen powder will gain a strong following of American shooters who use their arms primarily for hunting or regional shooting events.
"It's sold in every state including Alaska and Hawaii," he said. "A complete list of distributors may be found on our Web site, which is still: www.elephantpowder.com, or just type 'Schuetzen powder' into any search engine."
The 2007 Pennsylvania fall muzzleloader antlerless deer season begins Oct. 13. In addition to a regular hunting license, hunters must have a muzzleloader license and antlerless deer permit. Now is the ideal time to take that smokepole out for sighting and some serious range testing and load experimentation.
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