IMR and Hodgdon have introduced a new powder especially for the 223 and 308, which due to its consistency will produce exceptional accuracy. Chris Hodgdon from the Hodgdon powder company was kind enough to send me a sample for testing and evaluation. The new powder was made available and started shipping in January 2010. The Hodgdon Powder Company owns IMR powders and produces their line, which they bought in 2003 and produce all of the powders previously produced with little or no changes. To me that's a good thing because I use some of the IMR brand powders and have some favorite loads made up for them. For this review we are going to test the new IMR 8208 XBR powder.
IMR 8208 XBR Powder
The new 8208 is advertised as being able to maintain their ballistics with temperatures from -40 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. That would make the powder useful in many extreme hunting and military situations. Many of the older powders are temperature sensitive which can cause a change of impact in some hunting situations. If you work up a load in 80 degree weather and hunt in 0 degree climates you might lose as much as 200 FPS in some instances. That would affect your point of impact at longer distances, something to keep in mind. Also, if you work up a load in 50 degree weather and go somewhere such as Africa with hotter temperatures it's possible to have a pressure spike whereupon this powder will eliminate those problems. I can also see some uses in such cartridges as the 458 and 444 Marlin. At a later date when I feel the need to be abused, I will test it in those offerings plus the 45-70. Such offerings as the 308 and 30-06 might also benefit from this new powder.
This extruded powder is light gray and fine grained. I ran some tests to see how consistent it is by throwing 15 charges and measuring the difference between the heaviest and lightest. The first setting was 25 grains and it got 24.8 to 25.1 in my ancient RCBS Uniflow measure. I set the measure at 36 grains for my 22-250 and the consistency was the same which aids in accuracy. That is as good as most ball powders in my measure and a couple of 1/10 grains won't impact accuracy or velocity in a typical hunting rifle. With the differences in other components such as a difference in case weight, 1/10 grain just won't make any difference. This powder comes in one and eight pound containers.
IMR 8208 XBR Powder comes in 1 and 8 pound containers
Bullets used in the 8208 powder tests
The two guns I started with are an H & R 223 single shot and a Weatherby Vanguard in 22-250 all weather model. Both rifles are known to produce excellent accuracy with other loads. The Weatherby sports a new Vortex scope 4 to 12 power which should aid in accuracy testing. The H & R is wearing a Weaver at the moment.
223 & 22-250
Some of the loads I used.
|25.5 X 8208||50 grain Rem||2967||mild high ES|
|25.5 X 8208||50 grain Rem||3257||consistent|
|26 X 8208||55 grain FMJ||3148||good load|
|25 X 8208||55 grain FMJ||2841||mild high ES|
|26 X 8208||55 grain V-Max||3239||consistent|
|26 X 8208||55 grain Sierra||3199||high ES|
|26 X 8208||55 grain Nosler||3239||high ES|
In this chronograph test using the H & R, it liked the V-Max better then either of the others though they all shot about as accurately as each other. We chronographed a few loads in the AR with an 18" barrel to see what velocity loss we would experience. Surprisingly it wasn't as much as I expected which might be a reflection on the consistency of this new powder. Also note that one grain of powder made a lot of difference, something to keep in mind when working up loads. Temperatures during chronographing were in the 50's.
|26 X 8208||55 grain Nosler||3151||ok|
|26 X 8208||55 grain V-Max||3226||nice|
|26 X 8208||55 grain Sierra||3182||ok|
|36 X 8208||50 grain Rem||3768||mild high ES|
|37 X 8208||50 grain Rem||3984||nice|
|35 X 8208||55 grain FMJ||3547||mild high ES|
|36 X 8208||55 grain FMJ||3734||good load|
|36 X 8208||55 grain Sierra||3736||consistent|
|36 X 8208||55 grain Nosler||3712||ok|
|36 X 8208||55 grain V-Max||3662||ok|
WARNING The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for which they were developed. Neither the author nor BigGameHunt.net assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data.
It shows that different brands of bullets react differently to the same load.
The starting loads were a bit mild with a high ES & SD indicating that more powder was needed to get the loads up to snuff. The powder is a little slower burning then I originally thought. As I suspected adding one grain of powder, made all of the loads more consistent and in the velocity range that they should be in. The 50 grain load in the 22-250 should be considered max and I wouldn't go much above the listed loads in the others. All guns react differently to various loads and these loads are ok in mine but might be hot in yours. I used the same cases several times though I always checked for length and chamfered the case mouth. I wanted to see if there were any pressure issues by monitoring the primer pockets. High pressures will expand them after one or two firings though I didn't have that issue with either caliber. The 223 loads were slightly compressed, though that wasn't an issue either.
For accuracy testing I used some Hornady V-Max, Sierra Game Kings and Nosler Ballistic Tips all in 55 grain. All of these bullets are capable of fine accuracy given the proper loads. We tried the AR with all of these loads plus the FMJ's that I started out with. The 55 grain FMJ's and the others grouped well in the AR. The 8208 appears to be a top choice in the 223 and a great one in the 22-250 a conclusion I drew after testing it to a decent extent. The cases and barrels were clean indicating a proper burn rate and load for these two rifles. There were no malfunctions of any kind in any of the rifles. The H & R shot all three bullets well but the Sierra seemed to be a bit more accurate then the other two, but not by much. The 22-250 also shot them well with the best accuracy going to the Hornady V max but also not by much. The 300 yard gong was no match for any of them even in the hands of a 15 year old girl who never shot before. It was chilly at the range with a slight wind from left to right approx 8-10 MPH. That had a negative effect on our shooting. Groups ranged from about 1/2" to just over an inch though that was the shooter not the ammo.
I have no doubt that if I put the rifles in my lead sled and waited for total calm the groups would have been about half the size that we obtained. I didn't do anything special with the cases to try and obtain extra accuracy. I just made sure that they were the proper length and chamfered the mouths. My idea was to see what accuracy I could obtain in a hunting rifle and situation as opposed to a bench rest match. If someone took a match rifle they could probably shoot one hole groups with this powder. I didn't notice any behavior that would cause me to think otherwise. I look forward to testing in other calibers that it is suited for.
For information on all of Hodgdon's fine powders visit www.hodgdon.com . There is also a lot of loading info on the web site.
Bob Shell has been around guns all of his life and enjoys handloading and hunting especially with obsolete guns. Life member of the NRA & NAHC, he also belongs to POMA & OWAA which are outdoor writer associations. Bob has written for various publications, as well as two books and is working on a third. He has an ammo business specializing in hard to find ammo www.obsoleteammo.com .