CFEBLK Powder Testing First Thoughts: Guest Post

| May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Dellet from forum, ?the leading premiere media outlet where you can learn any and everything about the 300 Blackout caliber?shares his thoughts on the new CFEBLK powder released by Hodgdon after many hours of loading and testing.

Starting from the beginning.

The first thing I noticed when I opened a one pound jug was that it looked like they shorted me a half pound of powder. It’s not quite that bad, but seemed that way.

By comparison a sized empty case holds 24.5 grains of H110/296. The same case holds 26.3 grains of CFE BLk. It’s a very dense powder.

It meters well, my Vintage RCBS powder measure was set up to throw 21.3 grains of 1680. I loaded it with CFE and weighed it. Basically 22 grains, I dropped ten charges and weighed them on a Gempro 250.
21.98, 21.98
21.90, 21.94
21.88, 22.08
21.98, 21.98
21.96, 22.00

Starting with heavy supers where I have questioned their load data pressure claims before.

175 SMK
19.5 grns
Rem. 7 1/2
2.215 COL

No chronograph readings, I was shooting at night at very short distance. I was interested in seeing the flash suppression qualities. I am happy to say that from a 24″ barrel there was no flash when suppressed. A 16″ had very minor flash. I did not shoot without the suppressor.

A sub sonic load was louder than I am used to for a bolt action.

Primers showed some flattening, more than I would have expected for only 37,400 psi.

For subs I was again interested in flash suppression and noise.
8″ barrel
240 SMK
11.5 grn
Rem 7 1/2

First round had a fairly large flash, next two were just a few sparks, noise was moderate.

In order to get a fair trial for powder burn, cleanliness and blow back. I pulled my trigger group and stripped my bolt. Brass fresh from the tumbler (well maybe 6 mos ago)

I chose a load from the on line load data. I dropped the charge .3 grn because I wanted to test velocity in both an 8″ pistol gas system and an 18″ carbine. I did not want the 18″ to go super( :lol: ). Five shot groups for both barrel lengths.

208 Hornady Amax
11.2 grn
Rem 7 1/2
2.255″ COL

8″ barrel pistol gas
771 fps
774 fps
813 fps
800 fps
881 fps

18″ barrel carbine gas
1007 fps
801 fps
848 fps
896 fps
892 fps

The 8″ barrel pistol gas in a word was uncomfortable to shoot without ear protection. Not quite 1680 loud, but considering the amount of snow on the ground to absorb the noise it was slightly obnoxious. I almost quit after two rounds.

The carbine gas system was not so bad, cycled and locked back with no problem. Considering the low velocity this is encouraging.

I did not do the same detail cleaning on the carbine, so I only have a pic of the pistol gas components. This is the results of five shots. Not impressed would be the word of the day. I did not take a picture of trigger group, it was actually still very clean.

The table I shoot from is white, there was a fair amount debris on the table from the ejection port. Considering I was using a brass catcher, I would call it possibly excessive.

Here is a target at fifty yards. It looks about like you would expect given the velocity spreads. The left side group that is marked was the 8″ barrel, unmarked 18″. One of the top two holes of the 18″ barrel was a flyer by me, the other was I am sure just the load.

Suppressor used was TBAC Ultra 9

All in all for first impressions, I would say disappointment is the word best describing the experience. For a powder that was hyped as cleaner, quieter, less flash and any other thing you would expect in a powder specifically blended for a cartridge, it came up more than short.

In all honesty I do not shoot enough 1680 as a sub powder to compare the two without loading and shooting them side by side. I will say that it has all the qualities inherent to 1680 that drove me to work hard to find a substitute. It’s hard an the ears and eyes. Did I forget to mention that gas proof goggles might not be a bad idea when shooting this powder?

It will be a very good powder for carbine length systems and probably lighter bullets.

Next step for me is to load some like I think they should be loaded, instead of the given data.

There is a possibility that the chronograph readings are not accurate. It was reasonably overcast when shooting, with plenty of snow. I have had trouble before with sunny and snow being too bright. A couple of known loads were within reason. I would of expected more velocity in 10″ of barrel. More shooting will sort that out.

If I’ve missed anything or something you think I should try ask and Ill see what I can come up with as a test.

Almost all loads for this powder call for it to be compressed, some quite a bit. Always let your loads stand for at least an hour and re measure the COL. If they are growing, you have too much compression. This powder does not compress easily.

More testing

Spent a little more time with CFE today, learning the quirks of the powder.

I have probably written it off as a short barrel/pistol gas powder. It is just too loud for me and there are to many better choices.

In a carbine gas I think it has some real potential. The added burn time, longer dwell really tames the noise and cuts down on the amount of powder blow back. There is very low port and muzzle pressure. Still a fair amount of gas.

I wanted to see how light of a bullet that could be cycled, I run an 18″ 1/10 twist carbine gassed rifle, port size is .110″ with a M16 Lmt enhanced BCG and a JP heavy/tungsten captured spring using the heaviest spring. I set this rifle up for hot supers, I’ve done a lot to slow down the bolt speed as much as possible.

The fun news is that with this setup I was able to have full function shooting Hornady 150 fmj #3037 bullets when suppressed. This might end up being a very good powder for carbine gassed guns.

Now for the bad news.

Still struggling with high spreads.

Right now my feeling is that this is a powder that needs to be compressed. The initial loads in the original post were by the book. 208 Amax, 11 grains at 2.260″. ES in the hundreds. Accuracy in the inches at 50 yards.

I seated the 150 fmj’s at the cannelure. 11grn 2.040″ COL. Although I had lock back on empty, I had possibly the highest ES/SD numbers in recorded history. An ES of 353, SD 133. The group on the right of the pic below is much better than those numbers indicate. It is only fifty yards, I am quite sure at 100 I would measure it in feet.


The group on the left, starts showing some promise.

Back to the Hornady 208 Amax. 11.5 Grains 2.195 COL.

I started this load like I do many. I always record where the bullet will touch the powder. In this case, with 11.5 grains in the case, bullet seated on the powder, COL is 2.220″. I put .025″ compression on the powder.

Last week’s load of 11 grains at 2.255″ had an ES just over 200 fps.

This week 11.5 grains at 2.195″ had and ES 56, SD 21. There was one odd round that had a very low velocity. when I discounted that as a possible loading error the ES dropped to 24, SD 10. these are numbers that are a reasonable to start with. The change in the group from last week to this reflects that. Again 5 shots at fifty, for reference that is a 1″ dot.

I am feeling a little better about the powder and will try to run a couple more loads this weekend. I need to drop some speed, these were cracking at 25 degrees. It is somewhat encouraging tho.

Another day of testing

Another round today and almost there, ready for fine tuning.

Still at 50 yards, back to the original powder charge of 11.2 grains.

208 Amax
11.2 gr. CFE BLK
2.185″ COL
Rem 7 1/2 primer
LC converted 1.350″

1067 fps
AVG 1050
56 ES
16 SD

11 shots, 1″ dot, flyer was all me.

Original load, Hodgdon data.
208 Amax
11.2 CFE BLK
2.255″ COL
Rem 7 1/2
LC converted 1.350″

892 fps
AVG 888
ES 206

5 shots 1″dot (unmarked)


The powder is growing on me in a carbine gas system. I really think the answer seems to be 100-110% case fill to get reasonable spreads.

A little more tuning on this load and it will be time to stretch it out.

One other tidbit is my last shot has continued to be an anomaly. It is likely bolt speed and compressed powder moving the bullet forward due to moving faster on an empty mag.

For me this powder was very expensive fertilizer until I started getting the bullet down into the powder.

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