Alliant Black MZ Range Test & Review

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[ This post was written by Dr. Jim Clary, Mary Clary and Jon Clary. ]

Black MZ was introduced at the 2011 National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers (NASGW) in Reno, Nevada in November 2011. As such, it was a bit late for most folks to consider hunting with it during the 2011 seasons. We received our supply of Black MZ shortly after the 2012 SHOT Show in Reno, Nevada and began testing as soon as we returned home.

Most everyone who has read our articles knows that we have been pellet shooters for years. I think that is one reason the folks at Alliant wanted us to test out their powder. They wanted us to explore another option for hunting here in the west.

Black MZ is a citric-based powder, as such; it is less hydroscopic and should be cleaner burning and less corrosive than most other black powder substitutes. With that in mind, we ran tests during our dry season with the humidity at 10% and during our monsoon season when the humidity reaches 80%+. We experienced no difference in ignition and cleanup was easy under both conditions.

We used Thompson/Center’s Hunters Black Powder measure to determine volumetric values and then weighed each to calculate the grain equivalent by weight. Ten grains of Black MZ by volume equals 8.8 grains by weight. We weighed all charges to provide consistency in our tests. In case you are wondering, we burned over two pounds of powder over a six month period. For the velocity values, we fired five rounds with each bullet through our Chrony, throwing out the high and low numbers and averaging the three in the middle. With all that shooting, we managed not to shoot the Chrony.

CVA OPTIMA PISTOL TEST RESULTS – 14” Barrel

Range elevation – 5,232’ : Air temperature – 75F: Humidity – 10%. Shot with a Harris Bipod

80 gr. Black MZ
Mean muzzle velocity: 1,291 fps with 260 gr. Harvester Scorpion PT Gold
50 yard accuracy : average three round group size – 1 1/8″
100 yard accuracy: average four round group size – 2 1/2″

80 gr. Black MZ
Mean muzzle velocity: 1,310 fps with 250 gr. CVA AeroLite
50 yard accuracy : average three round group size – 1 1/4″
100 yard accuracy: average four round group size – 2 3/8″

90 gr. Black MZ
Mean muzzle velocity: 1,374 fps with 260 gr. Harvester Scorpion PT Gold
50 yard accuracy : average three round group size – 1 1/2″
100 yard accuracy: average four round group size – 2 1/4″

90 gr. Black MZ
Mean muzzle velocity: 1,392 fps with 250 gr. CVA AeroLite
50 yard accuracy : average three round group size – 1 3/8″
100 yard accuracy: average four round group size – 2 1/8″

95 gr. Black MZ – mean muzzle velocity: 1,425 fps with 260 gr. Harvester Scorpion PT Gold
50 yard accuracy: average three round group size – 1 5/8″

95 gr. Black MZ – mean muzzle velocity: 1,451 fps with 250 gr. CVA AeroLite
50 yard accuracy: average three round group size – 1 1/2″

CVA ACCURA RIFLE TEST RESULTS – 27” Barrel

Range elevation – 5,232’: Air temperature – 85F: Humidity – 80%+. Shot from a Excel front rest with rear bag.

100 gr. Black MZ – mean muzzle velocity: 1,845 fps with 260 gr. Harvester Scorpion PT Gold
100 yard accuracy: average four round group size – 1 1/8”

100 gr. Black MZ – mean muzzle velocity: 1,749 fps with 260 gr. Harvester Scorpion Funnel Point
100 yard accuracy: average four round group size – 1 1/4”

100 gr. Black MZ – mean muzzle velocity: 1,640 fps with 270 gr. Harvester Saber Tooth
100 yard accuracy: average four round group size – 1 1/2″

100 gr. Black MZ – mean muzzle velocity: 1,716 fps with 300 gr. Harvester Scorpion PT Gold
100 yard accuracy: average four round group size – 1”

100 gr. Black MZ – mean muzzle velocity: 1,680 fps with 300 gr. Harvester Scorpion Funnel Point
100 yard accuracy: average four round group size – 1 3/8”

In addition to our accuracy and velocity results with the Black MZ, we found the following to be significant:

  1. The velocities with each test load were very consistent, with variances averaging less than 30 fps. For best results, you want to make sure that you heavily compress the charge each time.

  2. We were able to fire successive rounds without swabbing the barrel and the bullets did not “climb”… they remained on target. This is a major plus for hunters who want to be able to quickly load a second shot in the field.

  3. After our tests, we wanted to find out how many rounds we could fire before it became difficult to load. We fired six shots, and then another four, before it took more than the normal amount of pressure to seat the bullet. In fact, the “fouling” was most pronounced four inches from the muzzle…. Once past that, the bullets loaded easily.

  4. There was no crud ring forward of the breech plug, which is common in many other black powder substitutes. As such, it was always easy to seat the bullet/sabot properly.

  5. The powder did not clump. It flowed smoothly in both low and high humidity.

  6. Cleanup was incredibly easy. We ran a bore brush down the muzzle to break loose the small amount of residue, followed up with a couple of moist patches and then some dry patches, and we were done. Ok, we used a few more than a couple; but, we are finicky with our guns. Seriously, cleaning up after shooting Black MZ is as easy as cleaning a gun that you have been firing with smokeless powder.

Because of its easy cleanup and resistance to moisture, we would suspect that Black MZ will become very popular with the SASS – Cowboy Action shooters.

In our opinion, Black MZ lived up to all of its advertising claims and is an excellent black powder substitute. However, you have to be careful where you buy. Cabelas is selling it at $31.99 for a pound, claiming that their regular price is $34.99, while Grafs is getting the normal price of $21.99 for the same one pound container.

[ Editor’s Note: Jon Clary is Doc’s son who lives in New Zealand and assisted in these tests on his recent visit home. He is also an avid outdoorsman and shooter. ]




Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Duck Squad

    I’ve always used 777’s 50gr pellets with my inline, but last year I talked with several people who are now using loose powder (like this stuff). Does anyone know if there is a significant difference in performance between the two.

  • Crusty

    Why not use black powder?

    I use Swiss & can’t for the life of me figure out why I would want to use any substitute. It smells great. I know I won’t damage my antique firearm. I don’t have to worry about trying to convert charge weights.
    And boiling water cleans it out.

  • Zermoid

    Hehehe I’m with Crusty.

    Few things I didn’t see mentioned:

    Does it create alot of smoke?

    Is it safe for antique firearms? (Since you only listed ‘new’ firearms)

    Will it ignite reliably with a flintlock, or do I have to prime with real black powder? (which kind of goes back to Crusty’s comment)

    Can it be cleaned up with hot water and soap, or do you need solvents like a centerfire?

    Was the fouling always 4″ from the muzzle with both guns? Strange if it was.

    Wish you had tried patched round balls too, some of us still like the old traditional patch and ball, and the grease on the patch might affect both the powder and the fouling.

  • Zermoid

    Oh, and you should always check Graffs first, they are usually the cheapest, and they don’t gouge you for shipping costs either.

  • http://www.backcountrychronicles.com Dan

    Thanks for the review. Looks like I need to give the Alliant powder a try. I live in a dry climate like you do, but I still notice a loss of potency over time with Pyrodex and 777, especially with the pellets.

  • John L

    I assume from the tests and data that this is not suitable as a substitute for FFF in cap and ball revolvers such as my Ruger Old Army in stainless steel.

    Is this correct?

    I have not found any info from Alliant on its use – from their data sheets.

  • Russell Jones

    Do you have any load data for pistols in particulat the 1851 Navy Colt revolver??
    Russell

  • Russell Jones

    The 1851 Navy Colt I referred to was a Black Powder Cap and Ball revolver, how many grains of Alliant MZ is needed ??

  • Russell Jones

    Further to my Navy Colt, the calibre is .36 cal