Newbie reloader question- which powders?


April 27, 2003, 04:54 PM
OK guys, I'm just getting into reloading. I've been acquiring equipment and I'm almost there.

Now I have a powder question. First, I HATE dirty loads, especially in a revolver, so I want powders that are relatively clean. Second, I am going to start with .357mag but I will start w/ .38spl almost immediately and I may move to .45acp relatively quickly and if I buy a .44spl,.44mag or .45LC revolver soon (very possible) I'd like to reload those immediately.

Well, I don't have a lot of room so I don't want a ton of components around. I'd like to limit things to three or four maximum containers of powder. So what powders are clean and will give me maximum versatility (light, medium and heavier loads for .357, .38spl, .45acp and one of the big bore revolver calibers)? Ideally I'd love to only buy one or two types to start with, though I realize that may be unrealistic. I do certainly want to be at 3 or less and 4 is the absolute max I'd consider. So, preferably with one or 2 and with no more than 3 powders which can I buy for maximum versatility? Remember again that these need to be relatively clean.

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April 27, 2003, 05:18 PM
I've used Hodgdon with great success,Universal clays seems to burn very clean and works with an assortment of calibers.I also use Accurate #5 and #9 powders for 40sw,45apc and 44mag.They also seem to burn clean.

April 27, 2003, 05:42 PM
Ditto on universal clays

In addition you might want to stay away from lead bullets if you dont like dirty loads. Lead is much dirtier than jacketed.

Desert Dog
April 27, 2003, 06:37 PM
AA#5, AA#7, AA#9

W231, W571, W296

April 27, 2003, 07:14 PM
You should give Unique a try. It's a good all around powder.

April 27, 2003, 07:25 PM
Clays is as clean as you are going to find for 38 and 45acp, probably 44 special and 45 colt too. Universal is a good medium/heavy 357 powder, +p 38, and heavier 44 and 45 loads.

April 28, 2003, 07:01 PM
WW231 is clean, efficient, and can be used to create loads from very light to light-magnum levels. Look to Winchester booklets in gun shops or their website for truly wide-ranging load levels from one powder.

If I want the hottest loads, I step up to WW296. Most everything else gets loaded with WW231.

Other pistol powders I've used and enjoyed are Bullseye (similar, but doesn't allow loads nearly as hot as 231), Blue Dot, and Herco. Blue Dot's good for hot 9mm and warm .44M, but not as clean as 231.

When my shooting buddies held a Flash Contest (handguns at night with the range lights dimmed :what: ) I won with a 2" Dan Wesson fueled with a heaping-helping of Blue Dot, light crimp, pushing 180gr JHPs.

April 28, 2003, 07:13 PM
I shoot all that you mentioned with the exception of .45Colt. I'd recommend Clays and Universal Clays, both by Hodgdon. Add Hodgdon H110 or Lil'gun for heavy magnum loads in the .357,.44 or .45Colt. AccurateArms#2, #5, and #9 would fill similar niches. Winchester 231 and 296 are another option. There are probably a dozen suitable combinations. I prefer the Hodgdon powders for various reasons.
Chaim, you'll find that the use of jacketed bullets will be the biggest factor in creating a clean shooter. Lead bullet lube will create more smoke and soot than the powder choice will. Clays is nearly the cleanest powder on the market, but couple it with a lead lubed bullet and you'll see more soot than you would from a combination of a "dirty" powder like Alliant Unique coupled with a FMJ bullet. A solid crimp will also improve the burn, leaving less residue.

April 30, 2003, 01:10 PM
Despite Bacchus's endorsement of Unique, I have found it to resemble 4-F mixed with possum fat. You can't go very wrong with Bullseye, and another good powder is Red Dot. I have some friends who shoot 231, and they seem to like it. You have stated elsewhere that you intend to download, so stay away from Hogdon stuff -- it is "by the book or nothing". The most "economical" (loads per pound) would be Red Dot, I think. Economy generally isn't a big deal, but if you compare Bullseye, Red Dot, and H-110, you will quickly see that the Bullseye and Red Dot have a significant advantage over the Hogdon. The powders that take 10 or 12 grains is just like paying twice as much per pound for the powder compared to Bullseye and Red Dot.

April 30, 2003, 02:18 PM
Unique ... 4-F mixed with possum fat

Strangely, I found Unique the most accurate shooting powder in my Colt 45 autos. A hundred rounds fired with lead bullets cleans up with a little Breakfree and a couple patches.

April 30, 2003, 02:45 PM
Unique was re-formulated (recently perhaps) to be cleaner burning. The container I've got even says "cleaner burning" or something like that on it.

I think it's as clean as Bullseye.. I just stick to bullseye cause I use less to get the same velocity for practice loads.

April 30, 2003, 07:43 PM
Thanks for the update on the changed Unique. Honestly, guys, it left a dirty black greasy scum on my wheelguns. It was some old Unique, though. I'll try it again, because there are some good loads that recommend it.

April 30, 2003, 09:32 PM
Back when I was doing a lot of shooting, I used Unique for my .45 ACP loads, with very good results. Winwun, if you were shooting lead bullets in that revolver, you might take a critical look at the lube on the ubllets, unless you had good results with the same bullets and other powders.

May 2, 2003, 04:59 AM
You have described Hodgdon Universal Clays; recommend.

May 2, 2003, 05:15 AM

Which reloading system did you go with? I am getting my Dillon 550b soon and will start with w231. The local range where I shoot will supply it, however, in Maryland did you know that there is a 4lb per day limit? No joke....I laughed when they told me that...typically Maryland!

I am also getting a good starting supply of brass...I just won a ebay auction for 500 pcs at a good price, much better than

What bullet are you going to start with?

Mike Irwin
May 3, 2003, 01:19 AM
Two powders are perfect for your needs, and which are the two that I use for reloading .38 and .357.

Winchester 231

Winchester 296.

I use 231 for .32 Long, 9mm, .38 Spl. light to medium .357 Mag., light to medium .41 Mag., 10mm, .44 Spl., and .45 ACP.

I use 296 for medium to heavy .357 and .41 Mag. loads.

In my opinion, these two powders are the most versatile combination available today.

May 4, 2003, 02:25 AM
Which reloading system did you go with? Well, since right now space is at a premium I just got a Lee Hand Press. I figure it should do for handgun loads for a few months and might be ok for some rifle rounds in a pinch. Then after I move (actually I'll probably buy it soon, but I won't set it up until I move), probably in a few months, I'll probably set up a Lee Turret press, though I still may go with a RCBS or Lyman turret press.

... in Maryland did you know that there is a 4lb per day limit? I didn't know that but it doesn't surprise me. Aren't some powders (most powders) sold in 1lb and 5lb tins? Gotta love MD.:rolleyes:

I am also getting a good starting supply of brass...I just won a ebay auction for 500 pcs at a good price, much better than Well, I decided to go w/ my own "once fired" brass so I ordered 4 boxes of ammo (I forget which brand) online for either $7 or $8 and change (one price was .45acp the other was .357mag and I ordered both so I don't remember which was which) and I still have one box of Win White Box .357 that was $11 or $12 at Bass Pro that I'll shoot up for my brass.

What bullet are you going to start with? Ranier 158gr "plated" bullets. I don't remember if I bought the 500 pack of hollow or flat points, they were only about $2 different so I think I went w/ the hollow points (why not for .4 cents, thats $0.004, more per bullet).

BTW, anyone know how these "plated" or "electroplated" bullets compare to plain lead or to regular jacketed bullets?

May 4, 2003, 07:45 AM
Chaim, I have found those "Plated" bullets to be totally unacceptable, as are cast. They are cast and then plated. They have the common problem with cast, rather than swaged, bullets, and that is, they have bubbles, or voids in them occasionally, too often to be acceptable, IMHO. Out of a group of 6, there will invariably be a "flyer" or two due to the out of balance bullet because of a bubble in it. I use exclusively the 110 Win HPHBMJ and bought in bulk are about a nickle each, which isn't bad. You can sometimes get the Remington 110 for a little less, but it isn't as accurate as it is a FB rather than HB, thereby decreasing its length, thereby decreasing its stability in flight. The HB aspect is a biggie. The Lee turret press is nice. Changes are a "snap" and adjustments are nil.

May 4, 2003, 08:35 PM

OK, so once I use them up I guess I shouldn't buy more. Is that the only problem though? With the electroplating will they at least be about as clean as jacketed rounds or is the plating so thin that they won't even have that advantage and still end up being as dirty as lead? For inexpensive rounds what is the best way to go? I do want to limit my use of unjacketed lead bullets as much as possible (though I will use it occasionally). I hate when I shoot a few hundred rounds of cheap ammo out of my revolvers and my hand is black and oily from the powder and apparently lead bullet and lube.

May 4, 2003, 09:48 PM
I completely and totally disagree with Winwun on his appraisal of cast bullets and plated bullets. Quality cast bullets can and have been just as accurate as any jacketed bullets for me, as well as several state champion level bullseye shooters that I have known. If they will shoot sub 3" at FIFTY yards they are plenty accurate for me. I have done it myself, and seen it done HUNDREDS of times with CAST bullets.

Piddle poor cast bullets maybe, but not with good quality cast bullets or quality plated bullets, you will not see one in 100 flyers. Unless a benchrest commando, are you really good enough to tell when one is 1" out of the group at 25 yards that was not your fault? Lets be realistic here, you are not that good, nor am I.

More championships have been won than there are words in this post with lead bullets..........

Mike Irwin
May 5, 2003, 01:45 AM
Plated bullets are just fine.

I've shot quite a few thousand of them. No muss, no fuss, no troubles.

May 5, 2003, 08:04 AM
Chaim, to answer your question, the plating on the ones I have used is pretty thick, but shooting 2 to 4 hundred rounds a week has given me the experience to learn to stay away from cast or plated bullets. Clean ups are easy, and results are reproducable, and handling is cleaner. Others may have different opinions, or just don't shoot enough to have experienced the bad aspects of some products. Stick with "Brand" names and beware of bargains. It's just as easy, or easier, to load a quality cartridge as it is to load a "banger". Shoot enough cast, and soon, despite clean-ups, you will notice your rifling has only one edge. You don't have this problem with a jacketed or semi-jacketed bullet.

May 5, 2003, 01:51 PM
Chaim, if you open the Speer Loading Manual no. 13 to page 41, and read the powder section which ends on p.49, you may get much more info than you expected.

May 5, 2003, 07:25 PM
Shoot enough cast, and soon, despite clean-ups, you will notice your rifling has only one edge. You don't have this problem with a jacketed or semi-jacketed bullet.

Are you saying that cast bullets will wear your rifling faster than FMJ?

chaim, I shoot .38sp and .45ACP and I only shoot lead. I was really hesitant to get into shooting lead because I was afraid of getting poisoned. A lot of reading and talking to people really turned me around.

My uncle has been shooting about 1000-2000 rounds per month for about 20+ years. He even casts his own with wheel weights. He has not been tested, but he is in good health and has a sharp mind - I see no reason to think he is poisoned.

I think - especially for the 1911 platform, that good lead bullets are the only way to go.

I can buy a box (500) of 200gr SWC hard cast and lubed bullets for $20 and thats in Northern CA (reloading stuff is more expensive here). Maybe they are cheaper in some places, but a box of FMJ around here is about $69 per 500.

I have over 1000 rounds of hard cast lead through my Valtro without cleaning - its not even that bad (I use Alliant Power Pistol)

Anyway - dont fear the lead - do some reading maybe at TFL, its not as scary as some would have you think. The only bummer is - the indoor range where I am moving for a few months will allow FMJ only :P

May 5, 2003, 09:23 PM
I use Unique for all of my handgun loads. It is the single most versatile powder on the market.

May 5, 2003, 11:10 PM
For lead bullets to wear the rifling out physics would have to be ignored. That is like saying that the butter is going to wear out the knife if you use it to often:rolleyes:

Lead is several orders of magnitude softer than barrel steel, plain and simple. You cannot even express the hardness of the two on the same scale of hardness for aplles to apples comparison.

chaim, lead bullets are never ever gonna wear your barrel AT ALL unless the lead is contaminated with something harder than barrel steel (RC 40 or so). The flame cutting associated with all loads will be present, but that is all of the wear that will take place.

May 6, 2003, 12:07 PM
As far as lead wearing the rifling out, well I know enough as a shooter and not yet a reloader to know that is false. Lead is not only much softer than the steel used in the barrel, it is softer than the copper jackets used in jacketed ammo. What I think he might have been refering to (and I'm only guessing here) is the wear caused by more agressive cleaning that the increased lead build-up in the barrel from lead v. jacketed ammo may cause wear to the rifling. As for wear from the bullets themselves, I know that many revolver shooters shoot lead for the very reason that it will prolong the life of their barrel.

As for poisoning, that isn't why I want to stay away from lead bullets as much as possible (though it is part of why I will never cast my own). Handling them while reloading won't put any more lead in my system than handling the lead sinkers I use when fishing, and in fact I'll get less since I will be handling them with latex gloves on. For me it is more because I hate when cheaper commercial ammo and commercial reloads shoot so dirty, I can't stand the oily, sooty mess you get after as few as one or two cylinders- and I've been lead to believe that this may be due as much, or even more, to lead bullets and the lube used for them than it is from the powders. So to keep my loads as clean as possible and to keep clean up easier I want to stay with jacketed ammo. Heck, even without the soot lead does leave more deposits in the barrel so you take longer cleaning and for that reason alone I'd prefer jacketed ammo which is easier to clean up after.

Mike Irwin
May 6, 2003, 12:27 PM
The organic lead in primers is a MUCH greater poisoning concern than the elemental lead in bullets.

Master Blaster
May 6, 2003, 02:00 PM
Hogdon Titegroup for light accurate target loads, its a modern version of bullseye (fast powder), with a cleaner burn.

New Unique for medium to heavier loads (its a moderate burner).

H110 for heavy magnum loads only with a magnum primer.

These three will do ya until you start reloading rifle.


John Galt
May 7, 2003, 12:06 AM
As a company, I like Hogdon. They provide lots of info and make many different powders.

I first tried Win WST, but will stick to "Clays" for the future, in my 45ACP.

I shoot 200grn SWC Lead Molly coat and use "Clays". I use a friend's Dillon 650. If you are going to reload a lot, the 550b and 650 are probably the best presses made for loading lots of pistol as well as rifle. Great for IPSC and Cowboy.

The lead bullets are far cheaper and work great for low velocity 45acp. The SWC puches a hole in paper like a hole punch.

With any cartridge, you match the burning rate to the bullet weight, velocity and barrel length. A light, fast bullet in short barrel likes a real fast powder. etc, etc. Cast bullets need to be kept under a certain velocity or they will smear the whole barrel.

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