Unique vs. Clays


John C
May 27, 2006, 02:19 AM
I've been reloading now for about two years. Started with shotgun shells, and then migrated to pistol rounds.

I've only used Hodgdon's Clays powder, largely because I had most of a 4 pound jug left over from shotgun shell reloading. I've reloaded .38 spl, .45 acp and light .44 mag loads (to spl velocity) with it. I like it alot.

Now that I'm looking to branch out into other powders, I picked up some Trail Boss for .44 mag and .45 colt, 2400 for heavier .44 mag loads, and Bullseye for .45 acp.

Many people speak highly of Unique as a powder. The literature states that Unique can be used for pistol, some rifle, and shotgun loadings. When I look at the burn rate charts, I see that Clays and Unique are near each other.

My question is, how good is Unique?

I've read that as a larger flake powder, it's prone to bridge in powder measures. Clays, being a smaller flake, is supposedly less prone.

Also, I've read that Unique burns rather dirty compared to Clays.

Am I missing out on a great powder?


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Steve C
May 27, 2006, 02:52 AM
Clays, just plain "Clays" is a fast buring powder, listed at number 5 on the burn rate chart and isquicker than Bullseye at number 7 according to Hodgdons chart. Universal Clays and Unique have similar burn rates (#22 and #21) and are considered a medium burn rate powder in handguns.

Unique is great for medium powered and cast bullet loads in the magnum cartidges and one of the best to reach maximum velocities in medium pressure cartridges like the .38 spl and the .45 acp. As one, if not "the" oldest powder in continued production, there is load data available for Unique in just about every caliber there is. The current production of Unique has been improved to be cleaner burning. Unique needs sufficient pressure and it burns very clean but can be a little dirty with low powered loads. If I had to I could load ammo for every caliber and guage I own using published data on Unique.

May 27, 2006, 07:21 AM
Good post Steve!

May 27, 2006, 09:57 AM
I use a fair ammount of clays,I find it to be very uniform in large caliber cases that have more volumn than you really need with medium loads. Medium loads for the 44mag and 45acp. Aparently clays gets real "peaky" when aproaching max loads. In other words as preasure climbs you will suddenly get a spike with just slightly more powder. Not a powder you would use if trying to get hottest safe loads.
Unique is a very useful powder,works well for about anything that comes to mind. Its performance can be topped by other powders if your goal is the hottest load in many calibers. 296 or h110 will top it in .357 and 2400 will top it in 44mag. For a general all around powder to have on your loading bench for general use it is very satisfactory and quite ecconomical. Other than pistol it is a great powder for most cast bullet rifle loads 30 cal up to 45/70.
The lighter unigue loads will be very dirty and even the mediun/heavy loads are fairly "dirty". It is a fairly easy to clean soot like dirt that more or less wipes off cases and guns so it doesn't bother me much.

May 27, 2006, 10:25 AM
I use Hogdon Clays for loading .45 ACP, mostly with light target loads. For these type of laods, I find Unique is dirtier. Univeral Clays and Unique are pretty similar and give you a wider range of uses, but I stil like Clays better for my .45 target loads.

May 27, 2006, 10:29 AM
Although I prefer Universal clays for many of my loads, Unique works just fine too. Some complain about it being dirty but if a load performs for me I don't mind a little soot. Some people just like to complain and others quote what they've heard from some source or other.! Don't try to use it for something it's not intended for. Don't try to use for really light loads and a firm crimp helps also.
It's been around for quite a while and will be for here for a long time more.

May 27, 2006, 03:28 PM
I would suggest you look into Hodgdon Universal as well. its cleaner than Unique. Unique has more size to it easier to spot double charge case may even overflow. both Universal and Unique are versatile.

I hear Alliant now has a Clay dot powder made in the USA sold in 8 lbs jugs some people mentioned its interchangeable data wise with Hodgdon Clays. Hodgdon gets its Clay products from ADI in Australia.

May 27, 2006, 07:09 PM
Unique is prolly the most versatile powder going, it works great with lead or jacketed, has very good bulk density, while having a 'middle of the road' burn rate, and it still uses less powder per load than most powders.
In .45 it's the most accurate powder I've tried. (While being somewhat dirty.)
While there are many other powders that can do what it does, and do it cleaner (And meter better.), they aren't necessarily more accurate.

John C
May 28, 2006, 01:26 AM
Thanks, fellas.

I'll have to try it out.


May 28, 2006, 12:12 PM
It's important to realize that the original question was regarding Hodgdon Clays.

Some answers given cited Universal Clays, which is a Hodgdon powder in the "clays" line, but is different. Hodgon lists Universal at #22 on the powder burn rate chart, and Clays is #5. There is also another powder in the Clays line called International.


May 30, 2006, 02:24 PM
One can hardly go wrong having a jug of Unique in your powder stockroom. It is indeed one of the most versatile powders out there. The only drawback is that it doesn't meter very reliably and it does have a tendency to bridge. I tap on the measure stroke and tap again on the dispensing stroke and that works well for me.

John C
May 30, 2006, 10:41 PM

Yes, that's one of my concerns, the propensity for bridging and difficulty metering.

As an aside, I've often wondered about the "versatility" of Unique. Is it because it's an old powder, and back when they're weren't many choices people expirimented out of necessity? I realise I was mistaken with my comparison between Clays and Unique, but in the case of Universal Clays and Unique, which are very similar, would it be possible to work up a whole bunch of rifle data? I guess what I'm saying, is Unique a jack of all trades but master of none? Have modern powders eclipsed it?


June 3, 2006, 02:50 AM
I realised after paying 25.00 bucks for a box of 44 magnum it was time to get into reloading,I have 2 9mm a 40 calibre a 1911 45acp and a grizzly 44 magnum,i wanted to find a powder that would work in all my calibres i was reloading,and noticed that unique would work with the bullets i was using and even tho it is a little dirty,i gotta clean my guns after i shoot any ammo.i've reloaded over 2000 rounds so far in the last couple of weeks and it actually shoots fairly well.

June 3, 2006, 07:46 AM
"I guess what I'm saying, is Unique a jack of all trades but master of none? "

I think that is a pretty good summary of Unique. I like to keep a pound of it on the shelf because you can use it for anything. However, I don't know of anything where it is the best possbile powder to use. But, I consider it a staple. Over the years I have used it in a whole bunch of different cartridges from cast bullets in rifles to all the standard handgun calibers. If you are one of the guys that wants to keep your powder selection to a minimum, this wouldn't be a bad choice.

June 5, 2006, 05:17 PM
I pretty much agree with 444. It can be used with almost any handgun/shotgun load, and light rifle loads but it's not often the #1 pick. I really like it for midrange .357 mag loads, I prefer it for .45LC and I've used it in many instances when I've run out of my go-to powder. It's pretty forgiving and there's lots of data available.

June 5, 2006, 09:46 PM
One more thing about Unique- when you're doing a load and you're not sure of the combination, you can pretty much always come out with a good, safe, accurate load. Plus, Alliant gives forth with a wider variety of load data than just about anybody. Want to load 200gr .357s? They have data to work with.
While I use mostly WST nowadays, there's always something to load with Unique. It is my regular for major-power .357 competition loads.
The newer, "cleaner burning" version is indeed a bit cleaner than the older stuff. Even so, it can still leave a flake under an extractor once in a great while.

June 5, 2006, 10:35 PM
Personally, I think Power Pistol is a better all-around powder than Unique. It's very clean burning. Extremely accurate at light, moderate, and full power loads. Extremely forgiving. Only problem is it's loud and flashy.

Universal should not be used in cartridges that generate more than about 25,000 to 30,000 PSI. Right around loads that would be 35 to 40 KSI if the powder were less temperamental, Universal starts spiking in pressure to ridiculously high levels.

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