What Types of Gunpowder Are Best for Handguns and Rifles?

Reloading ammunition is a common practice among gun enthusiasts in the United States, with a rich history dating back hundreds of years. Most people reload their ammunition for budgetary, availability, or use-specific reasons. Although bullets and primers are essential to this process, the gun powder is arguably the most crucial component of reloading ammunition.

Depending on the type of weapon, the ideal fit of gunpowder might vary between different weapons, like handguns, shotguns, rifles, and more. Understanding your needs and the requirements of ammunition for your weapon of choice is an important first step towards this journey.

If you are looking for powder for reloading ammo, you might come across multiple types and brands, with each product offering a distinct advantage related to its composition. It can be challenging to make the right choice. However, this handy guide is designed to answer some of the most common questions about gunpowder types. Keep reading to find out how best to choose gunpowder for reloading. 

Burn Rate

The choice of gunpowder for handguns and rifles depends on the burn rate of the smokeless powder. The burn rate determines the degree and duration of pressure generated during the chemical reaction. It is essential to consult your reloading manual to see what burn rate suits your weapon best according to the maximum charge listed for different cartridges. The burn rate varies inversely with the change in maximum charge. Although slow burn rates allow for a higher maximum velocity, they might be inefficient at low charge weights.

Shape or Physical Form

Flake, extruded, and spherical are the three most popular forms of smokeless gunpowder. Smaller weapons like pistols are most compatible with spherical, small flakes. These ball-shaped powders are also suitable for use in shotguns.

However, in most cases, there is no clear distinction between ball-shaped powders and small flake gun powders. Choosing a spherical shape of powder granules eliminates the risk of squib loads, whereby the cartridge receives little to no powder during reloading.

Charge Weight

Charge weight refers to the amount of gunpowder needed for each cartridge reloading. You can obtain nearly 1000 reloads from a pound of smokeless gunpowder. However, the amount of powder required for each refill depends on the type and capacity of the casings used for your weapon of choice. For instance, pistol cartridges might need a lot less gunpowder as compared to a rifle. Your decision of choosing a gunpowder type should vary accordingly.


The accuracy of gun shooting depends more on the shooter than the type of powder used in loading cartridges. You should consult your weapon manual and load chart to see what suits your weapon best. For instance, something that might work for a pistol might not work the same for a rifle. It’s always advised to do the right amount of research when it comes to ammo. You don’t want to mess anything up internally.


Although there are many brands and types of gunpowder available online, the right choice of the powder depends on several factors, some of which have been described above to help you decide. It is important to know that different weapons like pistols and rifles have varying requirements, and the one-size-fits-all strategy does not work in ammunition reloading.


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