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Testing the StaBall Match and StaBall HD Smokeless Powders

Bill Gabbard

smokeless powders lined up on camo background

It isn’t every day that you get to try out some new powder! When Hodgdon’s Aaron Oelger told me that he was shipping me samples of the new Winchester StaBall Match and StaBall HD, I immediately started my research on the Reloading Data Center on Hodgdon’s website. The new StaBall Match has a burn rate similar to the extremely popular Hodgdon Varget, while the StaBall HD’s burn rate is close to Hodgdon Retumbo. Both powders are ball type powder which provides easy and consistent metering, are highly insensitive to temperature changes and have copper fouling additives. These properties should help them fill in the void created by the currently unavailable Enduron line of powders from Hodgdon’s IMR lineup.

I started with the StaBall Match. My research turned up the fact that it was listed for one of my favorite varmint rifles, the 204, and two more rifles that I was currently doing load development for, a 270 and a 308. To round out the test I decided to throw in a 6.5 Creedmoor for good measure.

First up was my “Truck Gun” a Remington 700 VSSF II in 204. I built loads around 4 different bullets that had done well in this rife as well as other 204 rifles - a 32 gr Hornady V-Max, 32 gr Nosler Varmegeddon, 40 gr V-Max and 40 gr Nosler Ballistic Tip. All four loads produced groups of less than 1 inch. The 32 gr Varmegeddon and the 40 gr V-Max both were under one-half inch with the 32 gr V Max barely over the one-half inch mark.

Read More: Best Calibers for Deer Hunting

Using a Savage Impulse Predator in 6.5 Creedmoor I took a completely different approach. Instead of trying to mimic pet loads, I picked bullets off my shelf in 5 different weights and loaded them with mid-range loads from the Hodgdons’s website. This did not work out quite as well as the 204 but I still had groups under the one-inch mark with two loads and a third load producing a 1.5-inch group.

Next up was the 270 Winchester. For the 270 I took a third approach to the powder test. I had recently pulled out my old Winchester Model 70 XTR that I killed my first deer with more years ago than I can to admit and went to work with it. I had recently mounted the original scope, an old Redfield 3x9 Wideview and zeroed it in. I had a box of 130 gr Sierra Gamekings with just a few bullets left over from a previous project, so using this bullet I loaded 5 different charges of StaBall Match. I used one set of loads to finish zeroing in the scope and the other four showed definite promise. Two of the groups were under 1 inch with one just over half-inch at 0.564. The two groups that were over one inch each had two shots touching and a flyer, these could be contributed to the old scope having no parallax adjustment, a possible bullet seating issue, or possibly the old shooter.

The last rifle I tried with the StaBall Match was a new Bergara Hunter 308 that my wife bought me for Christmas, and I was still in the load development process for when the new powder arrived. Since the Match had several listings for the 308, I thought I could work on this article at the same time I was doing load development for the new rifle. I tried bullets of three different weights for the 308. A Barnes 130 gr shot a group of 2.1 inches, but 2 were touching. Sierra’s 150 gr Pro-Hunter turned in a 0.873 group, and a Barnes 165 gr TSX may have just completed my load development by shooting a 0.392-inch group. Not bad for a lightweight rifle.

StaBall Match is indeed a versatile powder. Four different calibers and a mismatch of methods on how the loads were selected, yet every caliber tested shot groups of less than one inch. Two of them had groups of less than one-half inch.

guns that are used in testing

Best group for each rifle loaded with StaBall Match:






204 Ruger

CCI 450


Nosler 32 gr Varmegeddon FB Tipped


6.5 Creedmoor

CCI 200


Hornady 130 gr ELD-X


270 Winchester

CCI 200


Sierra 130 gr GameKing


308 Winchester

F 210


Barnes 165 gr TSX


CAUTION: All hand loads should start at least 10% below published maximums and increase while watching for signs of excessive pressure.

The StaBall HD has a burn rate comparable to Hodgdon’s Retumbo, a staple for use in magnum calibers. I built loads for 5 rifles in calibers that require a slower burning powder - 25-06, 6.8 Western, 270 WSM, 7MM Remington Magnum, and 300 Winchester Magnum

For the 25-06 I had my friend, and winner of last year’s Factory Varmint Rifle Match, bring his very accurate Remington 700 Varmint Special. I loaded three powder charges using two bullets - a Speer 100 grain Hot-Cor and a Hornady 117 BTSP Interlock. Two of the three loads with the 100 gr Speer were just over one-half inch with the third just over one inch. The Hornady 117 interlock produced a best of 0.530.

Next up was a Winchester XPR in Mossy Oak DNA chambered for 6.8 Western. The 6.8 really liked the StaBall HD. Using two powder charges each with a Hornady 150 gr SST bullet and a Berger 170 gr Elite Hunter, three of the four loads turned in groups of less than one inch.

Read More: Dying Calibers That Still Kill

The only rifle of the test that failed to produce a group of less than one-inch was a Browning A-Bolt Stainless that usually shoots 150 gr Hornady SSTs into half-inch groups. I loaded three charges of StaBall HD using the 150 SST with the best group being 1.310. I had plenty of room left to play with the powder charge, so I just didn’t hit the sweet spot with my three loads.

Following a trend of doing different things with different rifles, I pulled out a Remington 700 ADL Synthetic from the late 1990’s chambered in 7MM Remington Magnum that hadn’t been fired in several years. For the 7 Rem Mag, I loaded three rounds each for 4 different bullets. I used Hornady’s 154 SST, Hornady’s 162 ELDX, and 2 different 180 gr Bergers - a 180 Hybrid Target and a 180 VLD Hunting bullet. Three of the four produced groups of less than an inch while the fourth was 1.052. pretty impressive for a hunting rifle.

At the time of this writing Hodgdon listed the StaBall HD for only one bullet weight in 300 Winchester Magnum 190. The only 190 gr bullets I had on hand was a piece of a box of Hornady 190 BTSP Interlocks. I loaded 4 sets of bullets with mid-range loads and warmed up a mid-nineties Remington 700 Sendero. It was apparent that the 190 gr bullets like it hot, because as each load got hotter the groups got smaller. The last two were under an inch with the 78.0 gr charge producing a group 0.367 to shoot the smallest group of the test for the StaBall HD.

the 300 grouping

Best group for each rifle loaded with StaBall HD:






25-06 Remington

CCI 200


Hornady 117 gr BTSP


6.8 Western

CCI 250


Hornady 150 gr SST


270 WSM

R 9 ½ M


Hornady 150 gr SST


7MM Rem Mag

CCI 250


Berger 180 gr VLD


300 Win Mag

R 9 ½ M


Hornady 190 gr BTSP


CAUTION: All hand loads should start at least 10% below published maximums and increase while watching for signs of excessive pressure.

Like the Match, the HD version of the StaBall Family proved its versatility. Four of the five rifles tested shot groups of less than one inch, with several approaching the half-inch mark and one going well under half.

308 grouping

A fellow working the reloading section of a big box outdoor store once told me that I probably only need one powder, Varget. He didn’t understand how many calibers I loaded for, nor did he know how many combinations of powder, bullets, primers, and seating lengths I was willing to try in my search for accuracy. I don’t think there is such a thing as one powder that will do it all. Hodgdon with their StaBall Match and StaBall HD powders have however developed powders that cover a wide range of calibers. I tested nine different calibers, ranging from 204 Ruger to 300 Winchester Magnum and eight of the nine shot groups of less than one inch. While some of the rifles had heavy barrels, all are factory hunting rifles with hunting scopes. I made two trips to the range, one with each powder. Every load had a three-shot group, with no second chances or extra shots. There were more calibers that these powders were listed for that I did not test and plenty of bullets that I didn’t test. If you run across either of these in your hunt for powder, you might want to give them a try. Based on the results of this test I intend to keep some of both on hand!

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