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Pistol versus Rifle versus Shotgun Powders

  • Now that we have a solid understanding of powder characteristics and variables, let’s look over some important information that you need when reloading. This information will help you select the right products for your needs and give you a better understanding for the basic composition of a cartridge.

Pistol Powder

  • Handgun powder is going to burn faster, giving off the most energy in the shortest amount of time and distance. This is needed because the barrel of a handgun is shorter, so the explosion needs to be completed in about six inches. If you use a slow-burning powder in a handgun, you will likely have a bright flash at the end of the barrel. This flash might look impressive, but that visual explosion is wasted energy.

Rifle powder

  • Because of the long barrel and increased power demands, rifle cartridges need a powder that burns slower, completing the explosion through the entire barrel and delivering consistent pressure from start to finish. If you use fast-burning pistol powder in a rifle, it will make too much energy at the beginning, giving off high pressures in the chamber. This brings the risk of damaging the gun. Slower powders push the bullet evenly down the barrel and keep the pressure down while utilizing the most energy. 
Shotgun powder

Shotgun powder

  • When choosing a shotgun powder, you will find that there is a lot of variety, largely changing based on the shot load. In general, heavier shot loads will require a slower burn rate, as it takes longer to sufficiently accelerate a heavy shot. If a fast-burning powder is ignited behind a heavy load, it could lead to excessive pressures, damaging the firearm and potentially causing injury. At the other end of the spectrum, a slow-burning powder behind a light load, such as a bird shot, may not give enough power for sufficient energy and velocity.


Largest Gunpowder Brands


  • When you start looking for reloading powder, one of the first things you’ll probably notice is that there are three companies that distribute the majority of powder throughout the country. There are other distributors and brands operating under different names, but if you purchase powder, there is a very strong chance it came through one of the following three companies.





  • The history of Alliant Powder dates back to 1872 when they were known as Laflin & Rand. They later became the Hercules Powder Company, which was one of the most respected and trusted names in ammunition at the time. Their products included items for rifles, shotguns, and handgun cartridges as well as muzzleloading applications.
  • Today, Alliant provides many different powders that can be used for different purposes. They are a member of Vista Outdoor Inc., a global company that oversees numerous brands including Federal Premium Ammunition, Blazer, Bushnell, and Speer.
  • Hodgdon Powder



  • Hodgdon Powder is arguably the most successful powder company in the U.S.A. Founder Bruce Hodgdon purchased 50,000 pounds of surplus gunpowder after World War II and began selling it to other gun owners who were interested in reloading.
  • The Hodgdon company now provides a wide range of smokeless and muzzleloading powders. Even the product that started the company, known as H4895, is still produced and sold. Based in Kansas, Hodgdon regularly creates innovative and technologically-advanced powders that meet the needs of many different shooters and reloaders.
  • Western Powders




  • Focusing primarily on powders for outdoor sports, especially big-game hunting, Western Powders is a brand that provides excellent products as well as reloading data, shooting accessories and gun care supplies. Based out of Montana, it has been a leading powder distributor since 1972.
  • Their powder brands include Ramshot, which offers a full range of powders for hunting and marksmanship, Accurate, which is focused on shooting precision, and Blackhorn 209, which creates low-residue powder for muzzleloading. 

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    Choose the Right Powder for Safety, Precision, and Quality Results


    • With the right information, you can load the perfect cartridge for your specific shooting sport. You need all the right components, including bullets, cases, primers, and powders, so always make sure you are loading each and every cartridge with the right product.
    • When you understand the specifics of powder, you are far more equipped to become a high-quality reloader! BestPowderSupplier