Picking the right powder


April 5, 2010, 01:45 PM
I would like to know if any of you use a specific source when it comes time to choosing a powder for any given round you intend to load. The problem I have is that I apparently chose a less then ideal powder to load up 45 ACP (Red Dot). IIRC, I chose it because it was listed for several bullet sizes and maybe another caliber I intended to eventually load. I now know there are ideal powders used for specific bullets (AA2230 for .223's,) and firearms (IMR4895 for Garands). My Speer #14 makes very little mention about the process of chosing a powder except occasionally (e.g. When giving the basic info about a cartridge they may suggest a fast burning powder if you're going to work up light loads). So how do you all go about picking out a powder?

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Gadzooks Mike
April 5, 2010, 01:52 PM
Let the scoffing begin, but I use the Lee book mostly. It has more information about more loads per caliber than any other single source I've seen. I also use Lyman and Hornady books, but the Lee book is what I depend on the most. If I could only have one book, that would be the one. The Lee book doesn't say use this or that, but it does give enough information that you can figure it out for yourself.

April 5, 2010, 01:57 PM
First there is no ideal powder for any caliber.
It certainly isn't AA2230 for .223, and it isn't IMR4895 for the M-1.
Although those are both very good choices.

As for Red Dot in the .45 ACP?
Nothing wrong with that either is that's what you have.

I pick a powder based on several load manuals.

For rifles, I look for one that is near the top of velocity listings without being a compressed charge.
That will insure good load density in the case, and generally will result in something that will be fairly accurate without a lot of load development.

For Magnum handguns, the usual suspects are all there is. (2400, H110, WW296, AA #9, etc)

For standard calibers? I have used Bullseye, Red Dot, and Unique far too long to remember how I selected them.

But it was probably because there wasn't much else in the loading manuals back then.
And the fact I used Red Dot in shotguns and had it on hand.

You could do worse.


April 5, 2010, 05:11 PM
Check out Loadbooks' "One book, One Caliber" series.

They list data from all of the major powder and bullet manufacturers all in one spot. It's a good place to start.

Marlin 45 carbine
April 5, 2010, 06:45 PM
actually RDot is a great powder for cast slugs in not only .45 but other pistols. it's also low flash makeing it good for rounds fired at dusk/night with either cast or jacketed slugs. it's peaky though so when loading to max measure carefully.
there are surely better powders for hi-pressure cartridges but low pressure it's fine.

April 5, 2010, 07:44 PM
Red Dot and the 45acp go together like pancakes and syrup in my opinion.

Why do you think not?

Arkansas Paul
April 5, 2010, 07:54 PM
I try to find the highest velocity with the least pressure and start there.

April 5, 2010, 08:01 PM
A good rule of thumb, as far as I'm concerned is to first choose a powder that will overflow the case if double charged. That's for safety.

Fast powder for light loads
Medium burning powder for medium loads
Slow burning powder for heavy loads

For the .45 ACP, I find Unique, AAC #5, Power Pistol, HP-38 all seem to work well.

April 5, 2010, 08:48 PM
For pistols I try 2, 3, or 4 (sometimes more) powders in a certain burn rate and see which one is the most accurate. If 2 or 3 are accurate, I start culling them by other criteria. Clean, dirty, PF numbers, smoke, felt recoil, etc.

Red Dot is a good powder. It's fast, and peaks quickly, but very clean and usually accurate.

Like rc said, you could do worse........a lot worse IMHO.

April 5, 2010, 08:57 PM
First there is no ideal powder for any caliber.
and it isn't IMR4895 for the M-1.

Heresy! :D

After reading all the informercials in Gun Magazines, and trying powders on my own, I have found three gun powders that cover the entire pistol spectrum with perfection: Bullseye, Unique and 2400.

If I had to go with one, it would be Unique.

Red Dot is not bad, I have used it in 44 Spl, it shot well.

Redneck with a 40
April 5, 2010, 09:24 PM
I look for high velocity and low pressures. I also want a powder that won't be compressed. IMR 4895 really works well in my .308 bolt gun and I use it for my .223 rounds. For 40 S&W, I like Unique, gives the velocity I'm looking for, fills the case, and pressures are not excessive.

April 5, 2010, 09:31 PM
I like the Lee book too, because it lists the charges by weight and by volume. I look for a powder that fills a higher percentage of the case, both for safety, and because I seem to get better consistency from powders that fill the case more.

Though, like Slamfire said, if I could only have one powder to cover all my handgun reloading, it would be Unique.

April 5, 2010, 10:08 PM
After running out of Unique one time, I now use Universal Clays - works well in everything I have from 32 SWL through 357 and 20 and 28 gauge

Ala Dan
April 5, 2010, 10:22 PM
While Bullseye, Unique, and 2400 are good for most
handgun applications; I like Hodgdon's Universal Clays. Why~?
Because we all know that Unique is a very flithy burning powder,
and that 2400 leaves a lot of unburned grandules even in magnum
loadings. Also,we know that Bullseye should be used CAREFULLY;
and only in light handgun loads. Finally, I have had great success
with Universal Clays and as a back-up Tite-Group or AA-5~! :scrutiny: ;)

April 5, 2010, 11:15 PM
If I had to get by with only one pistol powder for all my handgun loads, it would be either HS-6 or AAC#7.

Both do well in moderate loads, which I use a few of, and both are great in +P and +P+ loads, which I load literally by the thousands.

While they aren't as nearly as good as H110 in the magnums, they're acceptable even there.

April 5, 2010, 11:26 PM
I've read that it's "dirty". My opinion is that the rounds I loaded with Red Dot were liked much better by my 1911 than the ones I loaded with 700-X. Whether it is ideal for 45 ACP or not really isn't what I was driving at...what I'm trying to figure out is how to determine the most ideal powders for a given cartridge. I know it will almost always be arguable whether any one specific powder is the "best" for a given cartridge, but there's no doubt that there are some powders that are generally conceded to be ideal for a given cartridge. I want to find out how to know which ones are ideal for a given cartridge. When you go to a reloading manual and it lists 12-15 or more powders, some of those will be considered by most to be excellent choices, and others will generally be thought of as less than ideal...that's what I've been mulling over.

RC said..."For rifles, I look for one that is near the top of velocity listings without being a compressed charge.
That will insure good load density in the case, and generally will result in something that will be fairly accurate without a lot of load development." This is great advice I think, but I don't have the luxury of time or money to invest in experiementing with a wide array of powders, and was hoping there was a resource that was reliable that was based on years of reloading experiences by many shooters and manufacturers.

April 6, 2010, 01:08 AM
Alabama2010, faster burning powers (Bullseye/Red Dot) give more "snappy" recoil and slower burning powders (HS6/WSF) give more of a "push" recoil. W231/HP38 are happy median for pistol powders.

I usually use Bullseye/Red Dot for shorter barreled compact pistols and HS6/WSF for full-length 1911/full power loads, but have successfully used all of above for 9mm/40S&W/45ACP loads (the difference being the "snappy vs push" recoil depending on the burn rate of the powder).

FYI, It's been mentioned on previous threads that 700X, Ramshot Zip and Green Dot have similar burn rate as W231/HP38, which are my "go-to" and accurate match load powders (easy to meter, consistent powder charge, clean burning and plenty of load data for most pistol calibers).

April 6, 2010, 01:39 PM
Redneck with a .40,

What is your objection to "heavily compressed powder charges???"

I've used them for decades in some of my most accurate rifles and pistols. :confused:

April 6, 2010, 01:50 PM
I use only Unique and Bullseye for all of my pistol reloading. The only thing I use Bullseye for is .45 ACP, because that was what all the "pros" advised me to use, about 50 years ago.

I've thought about converting my .45 loads to Unique, thereby reducing my pistol powder inventory to one powder ;), but the performance of Bullseye gives me no reason to abandon it after all these years. :)

April 6, 2010, 02:05 PM
So how do you all go about picking out a powder?


"Eanie.. Meanie, Mynnie, Mo... catch a..."

RC & Walkalong explained it well.


Steve C
April 6, 2010, 02:14 PM
Most of my loading is for handgun. I've bought lots of different powders and don't turn down a good deal when I can find it. Last one was an unopened 4# keg of Green Dot from '98 for $30. Burning it now in 9mm with MB "small ball".

I select which powder to use mostly by burn rate matched to the velocity goal of the ammo. I have some favorites for particular cartridges. For top magnum loads with heavier bullets in the .357 and .41 mag its 2400, for cast bullets in either of these its Unique for light jacketed bullets its Blue Dot. For military ball and defense ammo equivalents in the .45 its Unique, target ammo its one of the faster powders I have on hand like Red Dot, Green Dot, AA#2, W231. For factory +p in the .38 spl its either Unique or W231. For jacketed 9mm defense equivalents its Power Pistol or Unique.

Redneck with a 40
April 6, 2010, 11:22 PM
No objection to compressed loads, I have found that my compressed .223 loads with IMR4895 are not as accurate as ones that are not. Also, in my .308, 4895 fills the case right up to the bullet, but not compressed. These load's are giving me very good accuracy at 44.5 grains.

April 6, 2010, 11:34 PM
Okay. I thought that you had a concern about compressing the charge. We're on the same page. :p

April 6, 2010, 11:38 PM
The more I reload (having done it for 15 years) the less powders I try. I pick something clean and cheap and deal with it. When I began I tried everything and every bullet. Now I pick one and go shoot.

April 6, 2010, 11:49 PM
When I began I tried everything and every bullet. Now I pick one and go shoot.
Is that like dating vs marriage? :D

JK - back to OP.

April 7, 2010, 12:09 AM
I'm relatively new to reloading, but I use several loading guides and then check the powder comparison charts for similar powder speeds/pressures and research that bullet-powder combo if possible.

I also read the various forums for opinions and experiences and judge by poster and number of posters.

I'd be shooting a lot of Win 231/HP38 if it wasn't so dirty with light loads.
Everyone values certain powder characteristics. Pick powders for your needs.

With handgun, I look for:
clean shooting at low velocities, light recoil and muzzle flip, reasonable accuracy, low-no muzzle flash/smoke. Things like position and temp sensitivity might matter too. If powder XYZ shoots dirty, check the powder comparison charts and research a similar powder.

I found a good powder for my 9mm needs & preferences second try.

April 7, 2010, 12:33 AM
I'd be shooting a lot of Win 231/HP38 if it wasn't so dirty with light loads.
Published "starting load" should give you clean burning loads. Are you loading below the "starting load" charges?

For me, W231/HP38 is one of the more cleaner burning powder I have used at 10%-5% below max load data. If I want lighter loads, I use Bullseye/Red Dot, but they are not necessarily cleaner burning.

I clean my barrel with each shooting session, so how clean/dirty a powder burns has little consideration for me - accuracy/slide function does.

April 7, 2010, 07:41 AM
bds makes an excellent point. Some powders burn clean at 10, 000 to 15,000 PSI while others have to get to 20,000 or 25,000 PSI, and still others need much more pressure to burn clean. (Numbers picked out of the air, but you get the point)

April 7, 2010, 12:20 PM
When selecting a powder for a new cartridge, I look at several manuals. They often give a brief rundown on the loads and powders that performed the best for them in their trials. Some books also give the "Accuracy" load. These powders suggested in the manuals are a good place to start. They have done the work, and it will save me lots of time and effort in making a good choice.

The next thing that often is the deciding factor for me is availability. Some powders I never see on the shelf, and some are only available at times when you happen to hit the store the day of delivery. Unique has been the one pistol powder that has been always available here in this area. I first used Unique at the advice of the guy I bought the equipment from. Yes, he was a reloader and also a store owner.

Which brings me to another great source of good information. Reloaders. Jusk ask.

At times cost may be a factor. If you want to save some money on plinking loads, a faster burning powder that requires less weight per round will make your $$ go farther. The same can be said about the price per pound of various powders.

Like others have said, I like to choose the rifle powder which gives the highest velocities. Not that I am going to load to that max, but it will give a fast load at reasonable pressures. Generally this is one of the slower burning powders listed for the cartridge.

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