Mixing GunPowders in a Single Load: Touched by an Angel or Pandora's Box?

Kai Sandoval

First off, yes the concept is borderline insane, and EVERY powder manufacturer lists not to do it, so there's something to keep in mind with this. If you undertake the practice, you are completely in your own, I'm not advising anyone do this, and I accept no responsibility if you engage in the practice of mixing powders and blow yourself into Dante's Inferno. I'm simply relaying my experience and research with the subject.

Now that that's out of the way, let me share some background:

One fine Saturday afternoon, while rushing to crank out a few dozen rounds for a range trip, the idiot that I can be on occasion (hey, don't judge, I don't see any of you jokers batting 100 all the time) forgot to empty my powder dropper of ball powder meant for my 223 Rem loads, and ended up tossing about 2 ounces of extruded powder for my 308 Win/6.5 Creed loads on top of it. Yes, completely stupid move, and all my fault due to rushing around instead of paying attention.

I admit this, get off my nuts.

Anyway, you know that itchy feeling in the back of your skull you get when you know something really bad just happened, even if you don't immediately know what it is? Yep, got one of those moments just then.

So I empty out the dropper into my powder dish just to double check myself, and realize I just created about 4 ounces of "ah sh!t, sh!t, sh!t!". For those of you unfamiliar with what that equals to, you're looking at about 40x 308 Win/6.5 Creedmoor loads or 75x 223 Remingtons! Not exactly numbers you want to be losing.

Rather than just toss my newly created powder mix of madness in the trash (hey the stuff is still super flammable, Mary) I dump the pile into an empty powder container (YES, I marked the crap out of it and duct taped the lid on), and shuffle it to the back of the ammo cabinet. I figure I could use it for some gnarly M80 type noise makers sometime. Anyway, I load the rest of my cartridges WITH THE PROPER POWDER ONLY in the dropper, and finish out a pleasant afternoon sending lead downrange.

Fast forward a few weeks, and it's time to fire form some new cases. Now typically I just use a cheap ball powder with a medium load up and pill. But as I reached for the jug of normal fire powder, I happened to see the can of WTF dust sitting temptingly in the back, quiet and serene, cooing inaudibly to the mad scientist part of my brain (I'm pretty sure that's how Satan tempted Eve).

Before I go on, and just so we're all on the same page, I prefer to liken this situation to a meeting a lady looking like Kate Upton on a Friday night who's really into you and wants to follow you home; you find out she was just broken up with, dreams of babies, has a history of anger management problems, and a deep love of alcohol. Fatal attraction 101. You know you shouldn't, every instinctual survival alarm is going off in the fight or flight section of your brain, buuuuuut you still go for it. Any guy with his head firmly on his neck instead of in his a$$ knows the whole ordeal will result in consigning yourself to the 7th circle of hell, but that little masochistic voice in the back says "YOLO bro, have some fun". So you do.

Again, get off my nuts.

Anyway back to the story at hand: So I pull that little canister of chaos out and proceed to figure out what in the hell I'm gonna do. Now, by any reloading manual you come across, 36 grains is barely a starting load for the vast majority of powders for 308 Winchester, and for the two powders in the bottle of KYAG mix (that's Kiss Your A$$ Goodbye), that was the listed minimum for a 150 grain BTSP pill. Deciding I have a deep fondness of my rifle, not to mention my fingers, face, torso, and life in general, I opted to go for 35 grains, in hopes for just a little extra bit of "maybe" cushion. Loaded the cartridges up to normal COAL for the bullet, and headed to the range.

To be clear, I'm not particularly concerned with dying, but I have to admit, my anal orifice was rather puckered turning over the prospect I was entering into at that moment. Saying a quick prayer to the Dear Lord asking for forgiveness for all the mistakes I've made in my life (hey, you never know), planting the reticle squarely on the bullseye, and resolving to die like a Klingon with my eyes wide open (Star Trek: get into it!), I squeeze off the first shot.....

BOOM! Round sets off, no mule kick from the rifle, and the target has a new peep hole a hair north of dead center at 250 yards! Ejecting the brass (without having to torque the bolt), on visual inspection: no flattened or cratered primer, no split neck, no pressure signs at the head, and I was still breathing with all digits intact! Holy crap!!!

To say the least, I was thrilled! To say the most, I was thanking God and every angel in heaven for finding me worthy of remaining alive on Earth instead of dead being blown to Neptune, and without having evacuated my excretory organs involuntarily!

Okay hardest part was done, the "wonder if". But the placement of that new pill window had me curious if it was pure luck, or if there was something to this "accident". So I load up another (yes, I had planned to do it again, if I survived the first round. I was fire forming 20 cases!), touch it off, and then a third. I'll be damned if I hadn't clover leafed the red! Now you have to understand, I had already been hole-punching sub-1/2MOA with my previously worked up loads with match bullets regularly at 250 yards, but to do this with a cheapie BTSP bullet riding a powder mix that would have Caligula questioning my sanity, there HAD to be an explanation.

After fire forming the rest of the rounds, wishing I had been at a PRS competition instead of my range spot, I hit the research hard.

 Come to find out, mixing powders, or "duplex loading" as it's formally known, isn't so strange or new an occurrence. Black powder, F-Class, and magnum loaders have been doing it for decades, though most often it involves stacking 5-10 grains of fast ball powder next to the primer, and then tossing a slower powder on top to the point of compression, or in the very least, throwing in a filler to get full case capacity. Some loaders have supposedly even created "triplex" loads, or 3 different powders stacked, but that revelation has been noted to be closer to Rasputin than Freud. And most often, the mix consists of stacking the two powders one on top of the other, rather than a homogenous mix, or "equal distribution" throughout. To date though, I have been unable to find hard data on which powders in which proportions have previously been experimented with safely, I'm sure for liability reasons.

To recap, I'm not advocating this system of senility, but considering the fact it has been done before, by reputable shooters, and keeping in mind my own experiences, there may just be something to this "accidental" amalgamation. Granted this is usually the sort of thing best left to professional labs and EOD teams, and again I'm not saying "try this out", but it's certainly a subject that may be worth pursuing? The uncertainty was a hell of a rush for me!

Keep the faith up and the lead flying my friends!