308 Winchester H4895 Reduced loads, 168 SMK and 150 Pro-Hunter

308 Winchester H4895 Reduced loads, 168 SMK and 150 Pro-Hunter

H4895 is the first powder Hodgdon introduced.  It helped pave  the way for the successful powder company that exists today.  Often thought of as an extremely versatile powder due to the wide range of cartridges it can be used in, it is also the slowest powder that Hodgdon sells that can be safely used for reduced rifle loads.

I was so impressed with the reduced H4895 loads I tried in my 6.5 Creedmoor that I wanted to give 308 Winchester a try.

Before we get to work, let’s recap why you might want to reduce loads.  Reduced loads could be beneficial because they allow for:

  • Less recoil for young shooters.  You can download a rifle for a young shooter to kick less with less muzzle blast.  Get a lightweight 308 Winchester hunting rifle, download it, and as your kid grows, change over to full power loads.  Maybe it is a better option than the horrific blast associated with muzzle brakes?
  • Less mirage than full power loads.  For shorter range shooting, you can fire more rounds before you pick up mirage from the barrel.  I fired the 50 rounds shot in this post in about 20 minutes with no noticeable barrel mirage- impressive!
  • Short range plinking.  The reduced loads run cooler.  If you are shooting varmints or plinking at closer ranges, the reduced loads will be easier on your gear.
  • Practice from alternate positions, especially with lightweight hunting rifles.  If you shoot heavy guns and pick up a hunting rifle, you know how much more they beat you up.  With reduced recoil loads, a hunter could work on offhand, positional, and field expedient shooting positions at short to moderate ranges with his actual hunting rifle without worrying about developing a flinch.

This is the rifle I used for testing and evaluation, my trusty old olive drab 308.  This customized Remington 700 has been used in posts for years. The rifle contains the following parts from Brownells:

The stock shown in the image is a Konohawk K2.  The rifle switches back and fourth between the Konohawk and a McMillan A5. Glass is a Schmidt and Bender 5-45×56 PMII.

If you go to Hodgdon’s website, you’ll find two technical documents about reduced loads for rifles, one related to H4895 and the other IMR Trail Boss(a bulky powder that safely makes even lighter loads).

According to Hodgdon, H4895 is the slowest burning powder they offer that can be used to safely reduce loads.  They recommend starting at 60% of the maximum load and working up from there, click on this link, and take a look at the documentation on their website.  DON’T TRY THIS WITH OTHER POWDERS OR CARTRIDGES THAT YOU CAN’T FIND H4895 DATA FOR, YOU’LL GET INJURED OR KILLED!

WARNING: The loads shown are for informational purposes only.  They are only safe in the rifle shown and may not be safe in yours.  Consult appropriate load manuals prior to developing your own handloads.  Rifleshooter.com and its authors, do not assume any responsibility, directly or indirectly for the safety of the readers attempting to follow any instructions or perform any of the tasks shown, or the use or misuse of any information contained herein, on this website.

I selected two bullets that I think represent the 308 Winchester well, the Sierra 150 gr. Pro-Hunter and 168 gr. MatchKing.  The Pro-Hunter is an outstanding all around hunting bullet, while the MatchKing well known to the competition circuit.

I’m using Lapua 308 brass and CCI 200 primers for all loads.  Brass was neck sized with a Redding titanium carbide Competition Bushing neck die.  Charges were dropped with a Harrell’s Culver Classic powder measure and bullets were seated with a Redding Competition seater die.

Looking at the Hodgdon website, I decided to start each load at 60%, and work up in 10% increments until I shot a full power load.  That would give me a 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100% load.  To calculate the load, I multiplied the maximum load on Hodgdon’s website by the percentage (for example 60% would be .6 x max load) and rounded to the nearest tenth of a grain.

The results are shown in the table below.  Note I calculated the actual percentage the charge weighs (%MAX) in relationship to the maximum listed load.  This accounts for any rounding errors.

Target distance was 100 yards.  All shooting was done prone, from a bipod with rear bag.  Muzzle velocity data was obtained with a MagnetoSpeed barrel mounted ballistic chronograph.  For the 168 gr. SMK I fired 5-shot groups for all charges.  For the 150 gr. Pro-Hunter, I fired 5-shot groups for the 60 and 70% loads and 4-shot groups for the remaining loads.  This was due to a limited supply of brass from the lot I was firing.

H4895 continues to prove a solid performer.  Average group size for all 150 gr. Pro-Hunter loads was .746″ (.713 MOA) and .870″ (.831 MOA) for the 168 SMK.  For the 150 gr. Pro-Hunter velocities ranged from 1,933 to 2,915 feet/second while for the 168 gr. SMK velocities ranged from 1,856 to 2,776 feet/second.

Recoil reduction on the 60 and 70% loads was excellent and the rifle was an absolutely pleasure to shoot.

If you’ve been thinking about giving H4895 a try with reduced loads, I would definitely take a look at it!