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Now you have the press and dies…what now? Choices, choices…part 1

Posted by Duane Wessels on

These posts will deal with pistol reloading only, specifically 9mmp.


Right, you have your press, you have dies, and you have a scale and vernier. You have read up about reloading…you are ready to start!


Now you have to choose your powder, primers, bullets…hmm we have a few choices now, let’s start with powder choice…


Here in sunny old SA, we have one brand available to us and that is the local guys over at Somchem otherwise known as Rheinmetall Denel Munition.  Somchem manufactures a variety of powders for handgun reloading: S121, MP200, MS200, S221 and some others but these 4 are the most popular choices. Which one is right for you?


First off consult the Somchem manual or website.


Let’s pick a powder for 9mmp. Somchem list the above 4 choices for 9mmp. Now, which one and why?


Let’s start with S121…the so called devil’s brew. This poor old powder was blamed for many a negligent reloading mistake. When I started everyone warned me of S121, so bad that the same bottle of S121 is still in my safe. BUT any powder can cause kabooms if you do not follow safe reloading practices! S121 is a double-base spherical powder also known as ball type. This loads more consistent in volume based powder dispensers.  S121 is also cheaper and used to be more bang for your buck. S121 is a very fast burning powder that creates a higher pressure spike.


But the S121 of today is not as hot as it used to be. Seeing others reloading recipes I think S121 has lost a bit of steam. It is still cheap but recent loads I have seen seems to indicate that a few more grains is needed to get the same velocities it used to achieve, there also seems to be a bigger batch variation. So you might need to rework your load with a new batch…this being the main reason I do not use S121.


It is however the most popular choice with sport shooters today and do not let the doomsayers get you off this powder; it is safe to use as long as you follow safe reloading practices.


Next is S221, this is a powder that is also a double-base spherical powder / ball type. This powder is a slower burning powder. This is mostly used by sport shooters chasing major factor in 9mmp and it aids in getting compensators working. Being a ball type it is also easier to use in volume based powder dispensers. Plus it is also cheaper. I have no experience with this powder and cannot give you pro’s or con’s on this powder.


Next is the very popular MP200. This is what Somchem calls a fast burning powder, faster than S221 but not as fast as S121. This is an extruded double-base flake powder. This is not ideal for loading in a volume based powder dispenser but it is done daily by thousands of reloaders. The fact that is a flake powder makes it not run as smooth in the dispenser; it can stick a bit and cause a load variation, not much but it can. Nothing to worry about in pistol loads. This powder is known to dirty your gun quicker but this more due to the fact that it needs to be loaded to the max to create enough pressure to burn clean. Loading to the max is not always required or recommended.


MP200 is seen as a safe powder to start out with. A very popular choice.


Next is my powder of choice, MS200. MS200 is a double-base flake powder. It is a very fast burning powder and creates a high pressure spike. Being a flake powder it can cause variations in volume based powder dispensers but as said above not a problem for pistol loads. MS200 burns very clean and does not dirty your gun as quick as MP200. From my experience it is also very consistent from batch to batch. I have never needed to adjust my load when changing to a new batch.


Being a very fast burning powder I also get my required velocities with a not too big charge. It is also a popular choice among sport shooters.


The above will hopefully assist you in your powder choice but there are more factors involved, bullet seating depth, bullet type….this will be covered in the next article as well as primer choice.


So in closing….

S121, ball type, very fast burning powder – not the devil it is made to be.

S221, ball type, medium burning powder

MP200, flake type, fast burning powder – can be dirty.

MS200, flake type, very fast burning powder


And as always, follow safe reloading practices!

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