Starting powder for 9mm and 38sp with lead slugs?


February 25, 2005, 04:22 PM
Experts, I need your help!

I'm still waiting for all my reloading goodies to arrive. Dies are in the mail. The press is in the mail. I haven't bought some things like calipers yet. But I have ordered slugs. Based on this here thread (, and because the idea of a 45 pound flat rate box makes me giggle like a school girl, I've ordered these bullets from KeadBullets (

9mm 125gr RN
38sp 158gr RN (to be loaded in 38sp, not 357)

Now I need to get powder and primers to go with these.

These are to be combat practice loads, so I don't need super accuracy (heck, I'm just going to be shooting paper plates at 5, 10, and 15 yards). I sure would prefer loads that don't cause too much leading, and it would be a big plus if the loads are in the middle of the pack (not wimpy, not especially hot).

I've shot a lot of WWB 9mm 115gr. My carry round is Gold Dot 124gr 9mm. I'm happy with both of those rounds, but can lead bullets be driven as hard as the copper jacketed bullets in these rounds? I've never shot a lead bullet in my life, so I'm very green here.

I'd love to use the same powder for 9mm and 38sp, but that's not a requirement. I don't plan on making any 357 loads any time soon.

I sure like cheap. Cheap is good.

I don't know if the things I'm asking for are incompatible with each other.

I'll be using my brand new, previously owned, just-won-on-ebay-at-one-third-retail-price (yay!) Uniflow to measure the powder.

Given all that, can you suggest a powder for me to start with? Thanks!

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February 25, 2005, 04:36 PM
I recommend the surplus (actually brand new) AA#2 that bartlett reloaders has. Their stock number is #102. $54 for a 6 lb 4 jugs and pay $5 hazmat fee...that's $9.20 per lb before shipping, which is pretty cheap with UPS ground. Doesn't get any cheaper then that and 4 jugs will last you forever!

Go here:

And here's the link to the reloading data for AA#2:
(click on "per powder" when you go here; for some reason you get more detailed information)

If you think you may load some .357 mag in the future, pick up a jug of AA#9 as well. Between those 2 powders, I load everything from 9mm up to .500 S&W. Only other stuff I buy is the AA1680 for reloading .357 Maximum.

Happy Trails!

February 25, 2005, 04:38 PM
Well - I used to cast for both and load - like a lot!! Note, my load data is presented as only a record of useage - NOT a recommendation. Have to say that as a disclaimer!

9mm - 5.5 grains Viht N-340 and a 125 always worked very well - reliable cycling always - not a whimpy load but IIRC not a max. careful tho with seating depth on 9mm's ... easy to go too deep and up pressures. N-340 tho is not cheap!!

In 38spl ... I used the Lyman cast 158 SWC ... great bullet. Tho also used RN's as well of same weight.... also Lyman. For gen useage the ol' fave Bullseye load is well adequate .... 2.7 grains for most folks but 2.8 also safe IMO. I also used another load using a Brit powder .. N-80, a Nobel ICI powder, shotgun powder actually .... and 3.3 of that was a good target load.

There are other 9mm loads of course - just that I ain't used em - others will fill that gap I am sure. However - do treat 9mm loads with care - high pressure round - easy to over do it. Oh and with 38 - beware the double charge - always check cases after charging, in good overhead light.

Could well be you could get away with Unique for all use - most cals have a load using that. Just haven't browsed my load books to check.

The Bushmaster
February 25, 2005, 09:44 PM
Have you read a manual or two, at least two times yet? Get one and do it. Most of your questions will be answered.

February 25, 2005, 10:38 PM
Unique user here, good results in both calibers.

check your load books :cool:


February 25, 2005, 11:13 PM
I've always used CCI primers, but others work also.

Before going crazy with purchasing powder (even on sale :D), understand you'll get a around 1000 rounds (7 grain loads) to over 2000 (3.5 grain loads) per pound. I'd make sure you really like a powder before buying more than a pound of it. For what you are trying to load, there are many powders that would work well. I've used AA#5, Unique, Green Dot, Win 231, and probably other powders over the years for what you're trying to do. I'd try to match the powder type to something that will work well in your powder measure. Any of the powders I listed should work easily with most powder measures.

To control leading, for a good starting point, use bullets that are hard cast (most commercial lead is) and limit the velocity to below 1000 fps. You'll hit .357 mag pressure levels before the 158 grain bullets should start leading and you'd notice the recoil. Full power 9mm 125 grain loads might lead; try it, if it leads too much, lower the velocity. I'd definitely avoid +P 9mm loads with lead bullets.

February 25, 2005, 11:14 PM
I don't reload for 9mm, but I'll second Unique for the .38 special and lead bullets

February 25, 2005, 11:48 PM
I'll throw in Universal for a recomended powder, but any of the ones mentioned would be good.

February 26, 2005, 05:26 PM
If you are going with lead bullets you will likely want to keep the velocity below 1000 fps to avoid leading the barrel. That would mean a small dose of fast burning powder. The usual choice here would be Bullseye. Just a wee bit is needed, which meets yr criteria of staying on the cheap.

Unless the 38spl are flush seated wadcutters, that little dab of Bullseye may wander around in the case causing wide spread in velocity (between shots with muzzle tipped back first, or tipped forward first). In that event you might try TiteGroup powder. This is a bit slower burn than Bullseye.

Get a good scale, a set of calibration weights, and a good reloading book (like Speer #13).

Be safe - shu

Jim Watson
February 26, 2005, 05:35 PM
Get the book. Books. A real loading manual like Lyman or Speer and the Hodgdon "annual" are good, and all the powder companies print free literature.

That said, I load all .38 Special with Winchester 231 and it is ok for 9mm, too. Or Hodgdon HP38 which they get from St Marks just like Winchester does.
Titegroup does all right, too and is about the least expensive powder by the pound.
24 pounds of powder to start out with? No.

February 26, 2005, 05:39 PM
This is a great bunch of advice, Thanks!

I like Unique: It's what dad taught me to load with, and it's always worked fine. It takes a lot of it, too, which makes a double load easier to recognize (or in 9mm, just plain impossible). It doesn't appeal to the cheap side of me as much as the powder, though. I

I've heard of some safety rules for reloading. Don't drink, don't smoke, don't put your thumb in the press linkage (I learned that just today, as a matter of fact), etc. One rule I've heard of is to beware of any powder that is "just like" some other powder. This seems like a good idea, especially for a newbie like me. Only one reconstructive surgery would spend all the money I saved from buying cheap powder and then some.

So does #2 powder, which "is the very same powder sold today by AA as #2 Improved," fall under the surplus powder safety rule? Or is it ok, since it's not "just like," but is said to be "the very same." I gotta tell ya, I love the price of that stuff. I'd love to try a pound of AA #2 Improved, and if I like it, stock up on a whoooooole bunch of that foreign powder. Which of you would use the AA #2 Improved charts for the #2 powder, and which of you would think that's more risk than you'd like to take on just to save some greenbacks?

February 26, 2005, 05:56 PM
I have used Winchester 231 for both .38 and 9mm loads for years (as well as 45ACP). It is a small ball powder that meters very accurately. The load is similar (please read your manual, not my word for it) at around 4.5 grains for both calibers, so a pound (7000 grains) goes a long way.

You may want to reconsider cast bullets for your 9mm. The cost difference isn't huge, and in my experience, 9mm cast bullet loads start losing accuracy above 900 fps. If you download your practice rounds to get better accuracy, you end up with a different point of aim than what you have in your factory rounds.

Also, in my experience, the 9mm almost requires a factory taper crimp die, and crimp as a separate operation. The 9mm case is slightly tapered over the full length of the case. The taper is essential to proper feeding (again, in my experience). The 38 can use the standard roll crimp just fine.

February 26, 2005, 07:04 PM
I use Unique for my .38 Spl, 7.62x38R Nagent, and 9mm loads with Remington primers. I ran through 1 LB in just over a month without problems in any of those calibers and very accurate........

February 27, 2005, 09:47 AM
Hi Wayne,

Well, when I received the AA#2 and #9 from, I was very cautious working up the first few loads, starting in some cases below the starting load and working my way up in very small increments. After verifying that the powder did in fact load to the specs advertised, now I just load it normally.

February 27, 2005, 11:47 AM
I also like AA#2, and I like good deals. But at least try a pound of it before you buy enough for 42,000 rounds. (That's 24 pounds divided by 4 grains) If you didn't like it then you would have $200 of powder just sitting there. Well, I guess you could send it to Maxinquaye and me. :D

Ala Dan
February 27, 2005, 01:14 PM
Three handgun powders reside in my loading cabinet; and they are in
order of preference:

A) Hodgdon's Universal
B) Bullseye
C) Unique

I normally use three times more of A, than I do of B and C.

Black Snowman
February 27, 2005, 02:26 PM
I like Universal and Tite-Group. Tite-Group has very small carges and so a double charge is possible but if you check them you can definately tell you've got twice as much as normal :)

I've tried the #107 from GIBrass but it's a very bulky flake powder that can bridge in some powder measures. It's also a bit dirty and leaves unburnt flakes.

I've found an extremely accurate and inexpensive load for it though with 124 gr Rainier plated bullets. But then I sold my 9mm . . . I'm using it up with 45 ACP and 40 S&W loads for my autos. Can't run it in my S&W revolver because it gets in the works and just about locks it up solid.

In the future I'll be getting Tite-Group in bulk. Clean, low flash, meters well, versitile, inexpensive. In fact I have 4 lbs on order with Graf and Sons right now. Some people say it's loader than other powders. I can't tell with my hearing protection on. If that's a concern then Universal is probably the better alternative. Only thing that Tite-Group does better is the low cost and maybe slightly cleaner.

February 28, 2005, 07:02 AM
I use 5.5-5.6gr N340 both for 9mm with 124gr jacketed and .38 with 158gr. The .38 load is pretty stout, 5.6gr N340 is the listed max for a 158 gr Speer HP. 9mm is also on the upper range, but both work just fine for me in my CZ-75 and S&W 686 with various bullets.

February 28, 2005, 02:28 PM
My best experience has been with Speer 148 gr. HBWCs over 3.4 gr. Bullseye. This gives nice, slow, non-leading, accurate practice ammo when loaded flush with the case mouth and a slight profile crimp.

Take care,

February 28, 2005, 04:12 PM
This has been great. Thanks, everyone.

Next question: When working up loads with "just like" or "exactly same as" powder, how do you tell if two powders are performing the same? Do you have to use a chronograph?

February 28, 2005, 05:40 PM
Assuming you will be starting at very low end of powder charge scale ... and have a comparison to judge by then up to a point yes, chrono is invaluable. Test also thru a good condition gun if possible.

I would say tho - JMHO - this will not tell you directly about peak pressure. Thus if one powder example was somehow a much faster burner, you might get some higher pressures even if vel not up where you want.

OTOH - if you got apparently good vel figures with a lower charge than expected - it might be fair to make an assumption that in fact the test powder could be a faster version.

Overall - if you load up in increments, you should not have any dangerous situations - as ever too - inspect cases for any signs of over pressure.

March 2, 2005, 04:15 PM
I like Unique for cast bullet loads and for the 38 Spec. with the 158 grain bullet my load would be 4.5 grains. However, I usually cast my own and go with a softer lead mix for these light loads. This is because the softer bullets will obturate properly and I can go for 1000s of rounds without barrel leading problems.

Check the loading manuals for a load for the 9mm. For me I tend to use a 115 grain home cast bullet over 5.5 grains of Unique but your bullet is heavier so open a manual or two. The Lyman manual is good for this sort of research.

March 14, 2005, 01:09 AM
I got a pound of AA #2 Improved to try out, to see if I might like that cheaper-than-dirt surplus powder.

The first surprise for me was how cheap powder actually is. The powder cost me about $16, tax included, at Sportsman's Warehouse. I should get around 1600-9mm rounds per pound, which ends up being a penny a round.

That's cheap, even by my standards (I'm sure I've mentioned that I'm cheap). That removes a bit of the pressure to find the best deal on powder. I suppose when I start loading for rifle and throw 40 grains at a time instead of 4, then the cost of the powder will take on new importance. But for now, I think I'll just try a few different powders from the store to see what works good.

I'm sure that's what you all told me to do anyhow :)

I picked up the Loadbook for 9mm today. The Accurate section of Loadbook actually has loads for AA #2 for 125 lead round-nose, a load not listed in the AA handout I got at the store. Weird. Starting load is 4.1gr; max is 4.5. I made up 20 cartridges to take to the range and test in my P99:

5 @ 4.1 gr (starting load)
5 @ 4.2 gr
5 @ 4.3 gr
5 @ 4.4 gr

I didn't make up any at the max load of 4.5 gr. I don't plan on using any powder/bullet combo where I have to shoot the max load for it to work. I like safety margins.

I wrote the load on each cartridge with a sharpie, and colored the base and ends of the cases so they'll be easy to find on the ground, because I want to inspect the cases for signs of trouble. I plan to start with the 4.1 gr loads and move up, and stop when I have a load that has what feels like "normal" recoil, or if I see or feel anything I don't like.

The second surprise is that AA says that this powder may fail to cycle some guns ("use No. 5 instead"). I'll just have to find out!

Oh, I'm going to test these loads on a weekday when the range isn't busy and I can get a table at the end, away from any other shooters. I was as careful as I know how when I made up these loads, but I know I'm new at this and in the event that I made a big booboo, I'd rather I'm the only one that suffers from it. Ok, the real reason is that I don't want any witnesses ;) . If you see a guy by his lonesome at Ben Avery, searching the ground for his brass after every shot, that'll be me.

March 14, 2005, 08:04 PM
After years of using Unique, Herco, Bullseye, and Red Dot for handgun, I've standardized on Win #231 for everything from the little 9-Mak to .45 Colt, both lead and jacketed. I use the Lyman #48 and Winchester manuals. :D

March 14, 2005, 09:36 PM
I like Unique for my 9MM. 4.3 gr under Saeco 125 gr cast from wheel weights is a nice accurate load that is relatively inexpensive. Works in my Trojan, HI-Power and CZ 85. Go to 4.7 gr if shooting FMJ 125 gr. These loads are listed in Hornady and Lyman Manuals.

March 29, 2005, 08:40 AM
I finally got to shoot my test loads. AA #2 improved seems fine in my guns.

38 sp, L-RN 158, Federal no. 100, OAL 1.430", Ladysmith w/ 2" barrel:

3.6gr - OK
3.7gr - OK
3.8gr - OK
3.9gr - OK

I didn't notice any difference in recoil or noise from one load to the next. Perhaps I would have had I gone from shooting 3.6gr straight to 3.9gr. Or maybe it's just that snubby I was shooting.

9mm Luger, L-RN 125, Federal no. 100, OAL 1.100", Walther P99:

4.1gr - Cycles fine; feels wimpy
4.2gr - Cycles fine; feels wimpy
4.3gr - OK. Felt similar to WWB 115gr
4.4gr - OK. Felt like a "combat load"

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