American Pioneer Powder

By Randy Wakeman

A lot of glossy ads have touted "American Pioneer Powder" that they have recently paid Jim Shockey to endorse, along with what they call a "premium powder": "Shockey's Gold." The background of American Pioneer powder is peculiar and, in some ways, disturbing.

Over the years, "Legend, "Golden," and Clean Shot Technologies have attempted to market ascorbic acid based muzzleloading propellants. The precursor to "American Pioneer" was Clean Shot Technologies,which was sued out of business for their patent infringement of Hodgdon's cylindrical pellet intellectual property. It seems that the old "Clean Shot" is back under a new name, "American Pioneer."

A common ad is both puzzling and nonsensical: a picture of a Thompson Omega is shown, with the claim that they shot "this rifle 5,562 times without cleaning it." Unfortunately, it looks like false on its face, the shooting was actually done with a Knight Rifle, not the depicted Omega. The purpose of such a test is unclear; you would think that a tremendous amount of ballistic and accuracy data could be obtained. It seems it wasn't; par for the course when the rifle in the ad is falsely represented as the make and model the shooting would be done with. Showing a few drops of water and an " instantly squeaky clean" breechplug after 5,562 shots is an insult to anyone who has either properly lubed or removed carbon from a breechplug. There go the claims of "zero trick photography" right down the tubes. The purpose of shooting a muzzleloader 5,562 times completely escapes me. Surely most could hit their deer (and fill several lifetimes of tags) with significantly less shots?

Well, I invested a few pesos and tried both the .50 caliber sticks compressed charges, and the FFg American Pioneer powder they recommend for rifles. The results, shot through a Thompson Encore and a Knight Disc Elite, were abysmal.

The sticks designated as compressed charges are hardly compressed; they are obviously molded. They are poorly packaged in plastic beads, had little chunks missing out of them, and were very inconsistent in weight. Not only that, the tapered sticks are larger than the .50 caliber Knight and Thompson barrels in which I used them, and shaved off powder during loading. Powder that quickly blew away with the Illinois winds and never made it down the bore.

The accuracy out of both rifles was poor, with approximately 2-1/2 inch 3-shot 100 yard groups at best. Not hard to understand if you have a chronograph, as shot to shot velocity variance was over 150 feet per second!

I followed with the same rifles, same bullets, and a pair of Hodgdon Pyrodex pellets. The group sizes were less than half of the American Pioneer sticks, about 1 MOA, and the shot-to-shot velocity change was 8-10 fps.

Next, I tried volumetrically measured charges of American Pioneer "FFg" loose powder. There was a time when "FFg" mean something as far as screen size. This stuff looks like rocks, a combination of cannon grade rocks and smaller pebbles compared to actual FFg blackpowder. As volumetrically measured, it shot even worse than the sticks, with over 200 fps velocity changes shot-to-shot and even worse accuracy.

I followed with volumetrically measured 100 grain charges of Hodgdon Triple 7 FFg. My 3" 100 yard groups became 1-1/4" 100 yard groups, or slightly better.

As far as clean-burning, so long as your barrels are lube and solvent-free, the APP is that, and it does indeed clean up easier with water than Pyrodex or Triple 7, though not nearly with the "couple drops of water" the ads claim.

Due to the very poor accuracy and erratic velocities American Pioneer produces, I'm forced to say that it is no where near ready for prime time. Pyrodex pellets remain the best "pelletized, pre-measured" option for today's in-line muzzleloaders, and Hodgdon Triple 7 is a giant leap ahead of the APP "FFg" in terms of accuracy and performance.

If you haven't guessed by now, American Pioneer has earned a clear "NOT RECOMMENDED" rating.

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Copyright 2005, 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.