Hodgdon’s H4895, the Most Versatile Rifle Powder?
By Lance Robson
Hodgdon’s H4895 rifle powder has been around for a long time. It was the first publicly available powder sold by Bruce Hodgdon. Hodgdon claims H4895 is “a most versatile powder,” which may be something of an understatement.
H4895 is listed for everything from the .17 Remington to the .458 Winchester Magnum and throughout that range it has developed a reputation for providing predictably excellent accuracy. For those cartridges for which data is published it generally handles all but very heavy-for-caliber bullets. H4895 is relatively insensitive to temperature changes and produces very consistent velocities and pressures across the temperature spectrum from 0 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Like many other powders, H4895 has gone through some formulation updates over the years, so even if you have used it before, check the Hodgdon website for the most current data.
Fortunately Hodgdon does a great job of publishing extensive data for nearly all cartridges on their website www.hodgdon.com. Their technical support has been top notch over the years and a call to 913-362-9455 will often get you information about loads and cartridges not listed.
While there are other Hodgdon powders, such as Varget, that can cover the same type of caliber range as H4895, H4895 has one great trick up its sleeve that makes it stand out from any other powder. It is the most useful powder on the market for reduced recoil and lowered velocity loads. When you are looking to reduce recoil, muzzle blast and want a softer shooting load, this powder really shines. As the Hodgdon site states “It is the slowest burning propellant that ignites uniformly at reduced charges.”
Whitetail deer are by far the most common big game animal hunted in North America and most commercially available reduced recoil rifle loads are aimed at that segment of the market. Similarly, Hodgdon shows “Youth Loads” listed in the “DATA” section of their website. Hodgdon has wisely listed loads that will cleanly take a whitetail deer at 200 yards, given proper bullet placement, and all listed loads have at least a 200 yard 6” Mean Point Blank Range (MPBR). Using some examples from that page I computed the trajectories and the recoil reduction for some of the listed loads in .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum and .30-06.
All of these loads will produce a minimum of 800 foot pounds of energy at the MPBR, a figure often cited as the minimum energy needed to cleanly and consistently harvest whitetail deer sized game. Additionally, the 7mm and .308" bullets listed below have a satisfactory reputation for accuracy and for killing ability on deer sized game. (The 100 grain .270 bullet is intended for shooting varmints and small predators.) Lastly, these loads stay below or very close to 10 foot pounds of recoil energy and 10 feet per second of recoil velocity. For more on the effects of recoil go to the "Rifle Recoil Table" on the Tables, Charts and Lists page.
All of the recoil and trajectory data below was computed using a rifle weight of eight pounds, a sight height of 1-1/2” above the bore center line and a 6” MPBR. Elevations are from the aiming point.
270 Winchester - The Youth Load data shows a 100 grain Hornady Spire Point with 36.0 grains of H4895 at a 2604 feet per second muzzle velocity. That results in a 246 yard MPBR with 824 foot pounds of energy at the MPBR. The 100 yard elevation is +2.8” and the 200 yard elevation is +0.7”. The recoil is 7.3 foot pounds at a velocity of 7.7 feet per second. The maximum load data for the same bullet shows 3401 feet per second which results in 13.1 foot pounds of recoil at 10.3 feet per second.
7mm Remington Magnum - The Youth Load data shows a 120 grain Hornady Spire Point with 41.2 grains of H4895 at a 2609 feet per second muzzle velocity. That results in a 251 yard MPBR with 1062 FP energy at the MPBR. The 100 yard elevation is +2.8” and the 200 yard elevation is +0.9”. The recoil is 10.6 foot pounds at 9.0 feet per second. The Hodgdon website shows a maximum load for 120 grain bullets in the 3200 feet per second range which results in 17.0 foot pounds of recoil at 11.7 feet per second.
.30-06 - The Youth Load data shows a 125 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip with 40.5 grains of H4895 at 2615 feet per second muzzle velocity. That results in a 253 yard MPBR with 1135 foot pounds of energy at the MPBR. The 100 yard elevation is +2.8” and the 200 yard elevation is +1.0”. The recoil values are 10.2 foot pounds of recoil force and a recoil velocity of 9.2 feet per second. The maximum load for the same bullet shows 3229 feet per second which results in 17.1 foot pounds of recoil at 11.7 feet per second.
All of the above Youth Loads offer a remarkable reduction of recoil by about 40% with well over a 200 yard MPBR. One thing many will notice is that the youth loads use lighter bullets than most hunters would choose. That, in turn begs the question of how to develop a safe reduced load for other bullet weights.
Hodgdon publishes reduced load guidance for H4895 and cautions not to use any other powder for these purposes. Of the more than 140 powders marketed by Hodgdon, H4895 is the only one tested and currently recommended by Hodgdon for these kinds of reduced power loads. Note that as complete as the load data section of the website is, Hodgdon has a lot of data available which is not listed. If the caliber or bullet you want to use is not listed, call them.
To develop a reduced load, check the most recent load data on the Hodgdon website and make sure the bullet and cartridge you want to use are listed for H4895. Then take the maximum charge of H4895 listed and multiply it by 0.6 and the result is the lowest recommended charge of H4895 for that combination. For example: where the maximum load listed for a .30-06 using a 150 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip calls for 51 grains of H4895, the lowest reduced load would be 30.6 grains. Any load between 51.0 and 30.6 grains will result in uniform ignition, pressures and velocities for this cartridge/bullet combination.
Certainly, a good chronograph would help in estimating the trajectory, but for accuracy at all ranges there is no substitute for downrange results. Once you start loading these reduced loads, the only certain way to find out what the downrange results will be is to shoot the load out of your rifles to your expected maximum range to validate the MPBR and correct zero.
When I consider the ability of H4895 to load the gamut from .17 Remington to .458 Winchester Magnum, its consistent accuracy and then add in the ability to load cartridges with a very wide range of power charges, Hodgdon’s description of H4895 as “a most versatile powder” seems inadequate. If I were writing that statement I think I would have written, “H4895 is the most versatile rifle powder available.” It certainly has both my vote and a place in my powder cabinet.
Copyright 2011 by Lance Robson and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.