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Varget vs Shooters World Precision powder comparison
These two powders are incredibly similar, so we broke the testing down to the following criteria: Powder characteristics, metering, grouping, temperature sensitivity, how clean the powder burns, and flash difference.
To perform these tests, we've used the following components for a .223 build from Brownells.
Varget vs Shooters World Precision Characteristics
Varget Powder Shape and characteristics
Varget has a long track record of being a favorite among hand-loaders for its temperature stability, quick ignition, and clean-burning after effect. The powder itself is an extruded powder that produces high velocities. Moreover, the actual bulk density we found, when testing 3 different lots, was 0.890 grams/cc, 0.892 grams/cc, and 0.897 grams/cc. While the dimensions of each granule, we found them to have a diameter from 0.031" to 0.036" but most were 0.034". The length was approximately 0.060", however, varied from 0.058" to 0.062"
Shooters World Precision Powder Shape and Characteristics
Precision also has a track record of having similar characteristics to Varget. The powder itself is an extruded propellant. The bulk density from two lots ranged from 0.885 grams/cc from an older lot to 0.889 grams/cc of a newer lot. The diameter of each granule we found to be 0.026" and did not vary much. From the majority, we found very few that were 0.027" on our end. However, we did find the length to fluctuate between 0.050" to 0.060", but the majority were 0.055"
We also found the color characteristics to be widely different. If you ever used Varget, you know it has a green tint to it. Whereas Precision has a darker black look to it.
Why is the color important?
The color of powder can be important on many different accounts, but mostly because of its anti-static and flow properties. Usually, when graphite is added to the powder, it has a darker appearance. Moreover, having graphite on the granules of powder like precision actually can help with metering.
When testing the two powders, we wanted to first see how they performed in volumetric throwers, because those usually can have problems with some extruded propellants.
We started by collecting data from 10 throws of Precision and 10 throws of Varget then weighed them on a separate scale. It is important to note that we have used a Redding competition volumetric powder thrower for these tests along with the RCBS Chargemaster 1500 scale which measures to 0.1 of the grain. We figured regardless of which equipment we used for this test, the main goal is to show because of the makeup of powder, one might meter better than the other in a variety of powder dispensers. Results may vary from different types of volumetric powder throwers. However, the Redding competition, Harrel classic, and Hornady Lock-n-load Benchrest we experimented with had very similar results as below. With a better scale like the A&D FX120I, there wouldn't be much of a difference between the powders if you have a trickler hooked up with the scale itself. Moreover, we figured this would be a more accurate test with the equipment since it seems to be what most hand-loaders are using by measuring the powder to 0.1 of the targeted charge weight.
After the targeted charge weight was dispensed from the volumetric powder throwers, we weighed them to confirm that it was not overthrown, constituting a pass or overthrow in the results below. All charge weights were weighed on an RCBS Chargemaster 1500 which is accurate to 0.1 grains.
Redding competition volumetric powder thrower
As you can see, the difference is very minimal. We did, however, experience better metering with Precision through an RCBS Chargemaster. Given the shape and size of the powder, along with its flow properties, we believe that's why it ultimately metered better than Varget. Given that you don't use the McDonald's straw trick, and use the powder thrower right out of the box with no modifications, the slightly larger granules of Varget tend to bind up at the very end of the trickling process, that ultimately dropped a few more granules of powder into the pan during the final trickle stage. If you are a seriously anal about consistency, most hand-loaders like everything to be within 0.02 grains of their desired powder throw. As a result, that might cause some problems for those individuals. With Precision, because of its shape and characteristics, we witnessed no over trickling once the process of the final trickle of powder was completed. Moreover, don't get me wrong, measuring to the 0.02 of your desired target weight isn't a must. I've personally shot some fantastic groups by measuring to the 0.1 grain of my targeted charge weight. It's just a personal preference for some people.
One might ask what's an easy fix to over trickling? Use a McDonald's straw. That's the easiest method to help prevent over trickling. If you're not sure what it exactly is or how to use the straw method, check this out: Straw method.
In conclusion, we found that Precision has an advantage over Varget when it comes to metering.
Now, for this test, we intentionally used once fired brass. If you are curious why, brand new brass tends to be near the minimum specs. As a result, hand-loads in new cases would most likely have more pressure than a once-fired resized casing, giving us false and misleading readings in our load development. For the following, we used a L.E. Wilson full length bushing die along with the L.E. Wilson seating hand die and arbor press. We shot 5 round groups from 100 yards with our Brownells build. We found that 77 Sierra Match Kings with Jagermann brass and CCI Small Rifle Primers seated .005" below case head, shot out of a White Oak 18" .223 Wylde barrel with a 1/7 twist worked best. The weather conditions when the tests were performed are as follows: pressure was 29.93", humidity 76%, elevation 1050 feet, 65 degrees Fahrenheit on October 5th, 2019.
1st group: 0.432"
2nd group: 0.567"
3rd group: 0.589"
4th group: 0.423"
5th group: 0.486"
Average MOA: 0.4994"
1st group: 0.366"
2nd group: 0.456"
3rd group: 0.390"
4th group: 0.375"
5th group: 0.429"
Average MOA: 0.4032"
I'd say these are some pretty solid groups for both powders! Remember, this is just me shooting with my rifle. Results will vary based on your rifle setups and the ability to shoot consistently.
Before we started this temperature test, we warmed up with 10 rounds. The next 5 shot strings were fired within one minute and in between those strings was a barrel cool down period of 10 minutes. Each round was loaded with identical components, weight sorted by lot, annealed, concentricity checked along with using L.E. Wilson hand dies, and measured to the 0.02 grain of desired powder weight. For the powder charges, precision takes a little less powder than Varget to achieve the same velocities. As a result, we worked up a load specifically to match the same FPS to give a fair and accurate representation of both powders. Moreover, filling both cases to the same amount of powder would give two widely different results that would give misleading readings.
Why does temperature sensitivity matter?
"A change in temperature can affect the trajectory or ‘flight path’ of the bullet in two well-known ways"
1. "So long as altitude, barometric pressure, and humidity remain constant, an increase in air temperature will cause a flatter trajectory due to a lower air density (less collisions with ‘air particles’ per unit length of flight path)."
2. "The same increase in temperature also causes the nitro cellulose based powder inside the cartridge to burn at a higher rate, producing approximately four times the Point of Impact (POI) shift than just air temperature alone."
"Just how much does an increase in temperature affect the powder burning-rate? Some powders are more susceptible to temperature effects than others and will burn faster than others."
-Kestrel meters, temperature affects on zero
Now that you have an understanding of why temperature sensitivity matters; put yourself in this scenario for a second. You walk up to the range in the wintertime after just working up some unreal hand-loads the following summer. You sit down, get ready, and start sending them downrange. You look downrange and your impacts aren't hitting in the same spot previously or you flat out missed your target. Why's that? Well, due to differences in temperatures and other variables, your trajectory will change, specifically, your muzzle velocity. I know, I know, one more thing to think about when making ammo. But, that is why temperature stable powders are a must when reloading for everyday conditions. Think about it. If you are shooting in the morning with 50-60 degree weather, then later on in the day as it warms up to 70,80,90 degrees, you can start to see a major difference in muzzle velocity.
To make this test the most realistic, we took the following steps to replicate weather conditions from 30 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We first conducted the heat portion of the test by using a sous vide cooker. We placed 5 rounds in and waited till they reached exactly 100 degrees. From there, we removed the bullets from the cooker and immediately straight to firing them downrange with the Magnetospeed Sporter. We purposely fired them right away because we did not want them to vary in temperature from the outside elements, to give the most accurate representation. After completed, we then removed the other bullets from the freezer, which came in at exactly 30 degrees and were also fired. The outside conditions are as follows: pressure was 29.93", humidity 76%, elevation 1050 feet, 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
In retrospect, these numbers jumping around 60+ FPS is pretty solid for both powders being temp stable. You should also remember this is coming out of an 18" barrel with safe loads. We were chasing the best groups and not the most FPS. Your results can vary on several different factors. However, this is within the ballpark based on what you will find conducting your tests.
For testing the difference in which two powder burns the cleanest, we decided to weigh a cleaning patch before and after to show how much crap was left in the barrel that performed a 50 shot string. While using CLP, we first started by scrubbing one patch through the barrel up and down 10 times with a generous amount of CLP. After that, we then continued to pass patches through and weigh them till they came out perfectly clean. While cleaning, we had also placed another patch at the base of the barrel to catch any remains that had pushed itself out of the barrel. Each patch will be weighed on a scale that's accurate to 0.1 of a grain.
For this test, we conducted it during night time for the best results. After reviewing our footage, we concluded that neither Varget nor Precision had more or less flash than the other.
Varget and precision are both extremely temperature stable powders. In the future, I will personally continue to use both. However, I will say, whichever one is in stock, which Varget tends to fly off the shelf. Precision is a great and cheaper alternative to have in your toolbox if you don't have a bunch of Varget laying around. I highly recommend you give it a shot. pun intended.
If you enjoyed this article, please support us by using the links and code to acquire anything that you may need to make some handcrafted rockets. It supports us and ultimately helps us continue to put out content. We do not accept any monetary compensation to perform tests by any companies we write about, if we do, it is fully disclosed and will not alter our findings either to keep our integrity and not shill. All our efforts are unbiased and we try to put out the most factual data to give you the truest representation of anything related to hand-loading. A huge thank you also to our followers and subscribers. Without you, we wouldn't be able to do tests such as this.
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As always, shoot straight, be safe, and happy reloading!
Blake has been writing reloading articles for three years and helping out within the community to further enhance reloading education. In his free time, he works within the community to help out new hand-loaders by educating them on the many variables that come with this wonderful hobby. His passion is solely based on educating others so that they may pass on that information to future generations, keeping the art of hand-loading alive.
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