The .270 Without H4831

Is It Possible?

The combination of Hodgdon H4831 and the .270 Winchester is as common as french fries and ketchup, and works so well many handloaders never bother to experiment with any other powder. To tell the truth, they aren’t exactly wrong. My loading notes indicate I’ve handloaded for 14 .270s over nearly 40 years, and almost every rifle shot 130- to 150-grain bullets at high velocity with good-to-excellent accuracy when loaded with H4831. So why change?

Well, in a way we already have. The original H4831 was a World War II military-surplus powder for 20mm cannons. After the war, a young salesman named Bruce Hodgdon started marketing mil-surp powders, at first the IMR4895 developed by DuPont in the 1930s for the .30-06’s new 152-grain military load. Hodgdon packaged both 4895 and the slower-burning H4841 in everything from paper bags to small kegs at really affordable prices, helping to make handloading the popular pastime it is today.

The supply of mil-surp H4831, however, ran out in 1973, and Hodgdon started selling newly-manufactured H4831 made in Scotland. In 1974, I found two dust-covered cans of the old powder in a hardware store in Culberson, Mont., priced at $2.25 apiece. This was the middle of the first American “oil crisis” and the price of most smokeless powder had gone up to near $4 a pound. I’d just started handloading for the .270 and thought I’d lucked onto a lifetime supply of cheap powder—of course burning it all up within a year and having to buy new H4831 at $3.95 a can.

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