Hodgdon CFE223 Powder

The high-volume rifle shooter’s dream come true!


Missing a prairie dog because of a copper-fouled barrel is not a life threatening event. Missing a Radical Islamic Jihadist (“RIJ”) who’s shooting at you is.

Copper fouling is the deposition of copper jacket material on the lands and grooves of a firearm’s bore. It is accumulative, and builds up in thickness with every shot fired. All of the consequences of copper fouling are negative, and some are dangerous. As copper fouling builds up, accuracy goes out the window and chamber pressures increase, potentially to destructive levels. Copper fouling is the bane of all high-volume rifle shooters, especially those wearing our country’s uniform. When the fighting is hot and heavy, soldiers don’t have time to clean barrels.

2-powder-2c

Recognizing all of this, the U. S. Army and its technology partners developed an additive for gun powder that greatly reduces the rate at which copper fouling builds up. What that additive is, and how it works, is not widely known outside the military, but Hodgdon Powder Co. figured it out because in 2012 they introduced CFE223.

CFE223 (left) is a fine-grained spherical powder that incorporates “copper fouling eraser” in its formula. While it meters well, we wanted precisely equal powder charges for each round for this testing, so all powder charges were weighed using an RCBS Chargemaster 1500 dispensing scale.
CFE223 is a fine-grained spherical powder that incorporates “copper fouling eraser” in its formula. While it meters well, we wanted precisely equal powder charges for each round for this testing, so all powder charges were weighed using an RCBS Chargemaster 1500 dispensing scale.

CFE223 is a spherical rifle propellant that incorporates in its formulation what  Hodgdon calls “Copper Fouling Eraser” (CFE). In its marketing materials Hodgdon states, “This ingredient greatly deters copper fouling. It contributes to longer periods of top accuracy with less barrel cleaning time.” According to Hodgdon, it’s the same stuff the military added to its small arms propellants to reduce copper fouling.

On Hodgdon’s website there are photos of two new AR-15 Match barrels sliced in half lengthwise to show the bores. The captions state that one barrel fired 200 rounds loaded with CFE223, while the other fired 200 rounds loaded with “other propellant.”  The former appears to be completely free of copper fouling, while the latter looks heavily fouled. Hodgdon notes that CFE223 will not remove existing copper fouling, so its necessary to start with a clean barrel.

CFE223 yields top velocities and accuracy in many popular rifle cartridges, including the 17 Rem., 204 Ruger, .222 Rem., .223 Rem./5.56mm NATO, .223 WSSM, .22-250 Rem. 22 PPC, 6mm PPC, 6mm BR. .243 Win., .243 WSSM, .25-35 Win., .250-300 Savage, .257 Roberts, .25 WSSM, 6.5mm BR, 6.5mm Creedmoor, .260 Rem., 6.5mm Swedish, .270 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., .30-30 Win., .308 Win. and many more.

A proof-of-precision target was shot, which printed a .0.605” group centered about 1.5” low. six clicks of elevation were dialed into the Nightforce SHV scope before testing began.
A proof-of-precision target was shot, which printed a .0.605” group centered about 1.5” low. six clicks of elevation were dialed into the Nightforce SHV scope before testing began.

It’s not that we don’t trust Hodgdon—heck, I’ve known the whole family for over fifteen years, and they’re all straight-talking, conservative Kansans—but the proof is always in the pudding. If anything, we suspected that Hodgdon’s 200 round claim may understate the effectiveness of CFE223, so we decided to do out own testing to see how many rounds we could fire before accuracy was significantly degraded.

I loaded 500 new Federal .223 Rem. cases provided by Federal with Sierra’s notoriously accurate 55-gr. FMJBT bullets, propelled by Hodgdon’s maximum recommended charge weight of CFE223 for that cartridge/bullet combination.

The Alexander Arms Rifle and Nightforce SHV scope used for testing (above). Our CFE223 hand loads went 334 rounds without cleaning before breaking the rim of the 2.5 MOA Tru-See target.
The Alexander Arms Rifle and Nightforce SHV scope used for testing (above). Our CFE223 hand loads went 334 rounds without cleaning before breaking the rim of the 2.5 MOA Tru-See target.

Before testing I was on a prairie dog shoot in Wyoming sponsored by Hornady and Howa, and I asked the guides and some of the guests—hunters all—their thoughts on measuring copper fouling without slicing the barrels in half. It all came down to loss of accuracy. Some folks said 2 MOA (2 inches at 100 yards, 4 inches at 200 yards, etc.) was their limit on medium to large game, while others could live with 3 MOA (3 inches at 100 yards, 6 inches at 200 yards, etc.), so we decided to split the difference at 2.5 MOA.

The test rifle was an Alexander Arms Incursion Carbine ($1,100; www.alexanderarms.com) chambered in .223 Rem. with a 16-inch chrome-moly barrel rifled at a 1:7” twist rate. Before testing the barrel was thoroughly cleaned with Barnes CR10—one of the most aggressive copper solvents we’ve tested—using stainless steel brushes and cotton patches.

Sierra 55-grain fmj boat-tail bullets were seated to the center of their cannelures and crimped using a lee factory crimp die. During load testing, Hodgdon’s maximum load proved the most acccurate.
Sierra 55-grain fmj boat-tail bullets were seated to the center of their cannelures and crimped using a lee factory crimp die. During load testing, Hodgdon’s maximum load proved the most acccurate.

We mounted a Nightforce SHV 4-14x56mm riflescope with illuminated reticle (www.nightforceoptics.com), and sighted it in at 100 yards. A 5-shot proof-of-precision target was fired, where the Alexander Arms turned in a 0.605” cluster about 1.5 inches low. The elevation dial was adjusted six clicks up and we moved on to testing. All sight-in and proof rounds fired were counted in the total round count.

We used a B27 silhouette target set up at 100 yards with the 2.5-inch diameter center of a TruGlo Tru-See splatter target pasted in the center. Once bullets started hitting outside that 2.5 MOA circle the test ended and the resulting round count was deemed the maximum endurance of CFE223 without cleaning. Called flyers (there was only one) were circled in red.

After around 300 shots, the hits began noticeably moving up and to the right, and round number 334 was the first one to partially split the rim of the splatter target. I got four more rounds into the splatter target before round number 339 hit high right about 1/2-inch outside the rim. That was the end of the test.

I have to say that the preparation and testing for this article was the most labor intensive of my career. Handloading 500 rounds of .223 Rem. took weeks of evenings, as every case was hand checked in a Lyman headspace/overall length gauge, every powder charge was weighed on an RCBS 1500 dispensing scale and every loaded round was run through a Lee Factory Crimp die. At the range, I fired ten rounds, then let the barrel cool for five minutes, which made for an all day deal. But it was worth the effort.

Federal Premium provided 500 primed, nickel .223 Rem. cases. Every one was checked in a Lyman headspace/overall length gauge and all were spot on SAAMI spec.
Federal Premium provided 500 primed, nickel .223 Rem. cases. Every one was checked in a Lyman headspace/overall length gauge and all were spot on SAAMI spec.

Our testing proved that Hodgdon’s 200 round claim is clearly conservative, as we suspected. If you’re a high-volume shooter and reloader—or if you just hate cleaning guns—get yourself a jug of CFE223. It works better than advertised! For more information, contact Hodgdon Powder Co., Dept. OT; Tel.: (913) 362-9455; Web: www.hodgdon.com

Source Article from http://ontargetmagazine.com/2016/11/hodgdon-cfe223-powder/