Exploring different pistol powders


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bds
September 5, 2010, 04:03 AM
Early this year, I was trying to reduce my pistol powder stock to 2, maybe 3 powders thinking I would narrow my choices down to one of each - Fast (Bullseye), Medium (W231/HP38) and Slow (WSF) pistol powders on the burn rate chart.

I have used HS6, WSF, Universal Clays, W231, Red Dot and Bullseye in the past and HP38, Promo and Green Dot recently with happy results. After reading many confirming threads/posts about several different powders, I decided to put the powder reduction on hold and try some more powders starting with Clays, WST and N320 for these reasons (Since W231/HP38 is my reference powder, I wanted to start out with comparable burn rate powders):

Clays: Probably voted the "cleanest" powder and I wanted to see how clean it burns.
WST: Many voted as "THE" 45ACP powder, so it will go head-to-head against my W231/HP38 reference load.
N320: Some claims it to be the "end all" faster burning pistol powder, so I have high expectations for this powder.


While looking up the load data for these powders, I wondered:

1. What made you settle with a particular powder among comparable burn rate powders? Was it accuracy, recoil, metering ability, attainable velocity/PF, clean burning, cost, availability, etc.?

2. Many posted that although a particular powder is dirty burning (i.e. Unique), they will remain loyal to the powder - Why? Is it shooting characteristics (accuracy/recoil), availability of load data or other factors?

3. For many years, I have stayed away from large flake powders thinking if it meters poorly, it must not be accurate. My recent testing with Promo proved me wrong (even 0.2-0.3 gr in charge deviation produced fairly accurate shot groups). What are your reasons for liking a large flake powder?

4. There is a strong following behind TiteGroup/Power Pistol. If you like these powders, what are your reasons? Why do you prefer these over other powders?

5. Why do some powders rarely get mentioned or suggested? (American Select, Herco, Auto Comp, etc.)

Looks like my next batch of powders to try out will be more slower pistol powders starting with Unique, Power Pistol, N330.

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glockgod
September 5, 2010, 05:53 AM
Pistol calibers I presently handload:9mm-45ACP-38 Special-357 Mag-44 Mag
Unique does'em all.It may not be the best choice for some-but Unique will work in all of them.

ironhead7544
September 5, 2010, 06:08 AM
Unique pretty much covers any practice and some hunting loads. WW296/H110 works for heavy loads. I do use some other powders for specific accuracy loads.

1SOW
September 5, 2010, 10:59 PM
BDS: re #1, YES to all except cost and availability for n320. Because of the small amount of powder needed for 9mm "light" loads, cost is not that much more, but availability is poor. It's NOT a good choice for hot loads.

edit to add: With 9mm light loads (1/2 case powder) n320 is not positional; n320 chronos about the same from 100 deg to 40 deg; meters like ball powder. At a 130PF n320 puts out less than half the soot of Win 231 with the same 130PF light load.

P.S. I have read about and discused with shooters who say IMR 700X will shoot like n320 at light loads. I plan to try it out. Just over half the price of n320 and available locally.

SuperNaut
September 5, 2010, 11:11 PM
I've been using Titegroup for the past few weeks and I like it a lot. It meters like water and it burns clean. It is cost effective and the burn feels like 700X, seems a bit hotter though.

noylj
September 5, 2010, 11:30 PM
Of the powders I have used, and not just heard about, my 3 powders would be AA2 (or 231/HP38), Unique, and 2400.
Of my light target loads in .32 S&W Long, .38 Special, and .45ACP, AA2 just noses out 231. When I want a Mil ball equivalent, I find Unique and 231 work great. Unique then works great in .38 Special standard, .44 Special, mid-range .44 Mag, .45 Colt, 9mm, .38 Super, .40, and 10mm Auto. 2400 works for standard/full power loads in .44 Mag and .45 Win Mag.
Cleanliness is something I never even considered in over 30 years of reloading until I hit the internet and started reading about what other people use.
Always concentrated on accuracy and velocity. Never used any powder that got the gun so dirty that I had to clean it before I wanted to or had any effect on accuracy. I never even considered smoke (with lead bullets) until I did some action pistol and bowling pin shooting about 15 years ago.
Once I look at accuracy and functioning, what more can I ask of a powder?
The "cleanest" powder I ever saw was PB. I was working up max loads in a High Power, using new cases to compare case expansion to factory loads and the cases using PB came out of the gun with an inside that was just as shiny as when new. Could not believe it, nothing on the inside.
A note of warning: I have found in my guns (.38 special, 9x19, and .45ACP) that TightGroup, Clays, and N310 have shown some severe pressure swings with just a 0.2gn increase in powder. I have some bulged brass that was about 0.3gn below max in the loading manual and my "best" accuracy was just about 0.2gn below where I got the bulged brass. This was mostly in my S&W M52 .38 Wadcutter gun, but also noted it in 9x19 and .45ACP load work-ups. Obviously, others aren't getting this, but I am and just want to warn people to work up those powders carefully. Before any one asks, it was the load and not an over-charge or other loading error.

jr_roosa
September 6, 2010, 12:12 AM
Bullseye for target loads
Power Pistol for max loads
VV-N110 for 357 mag

-J.

Oyeboten
September 6, 2010, 12:40 AM
Be nice if one could get 'Sample Packs' containing like one ounce each of various Powders to try out...like Hickory Farms used to do with 'Cheese'...

bds
September 6, 2010, 12:46 AM
Thanks for all the info and I am taking notes.

Mind you, I am not in search of "perfect powders" but looking to broaden my "powder awareness" and possibly change out my stock of powders based on range tests - like many, for me, accuracy is the final judge.

Since I field strip and inspect/clean all of the pistols shot after a range trip, how dirty a powder burns is of little concern for me.

Please share your experiences with particular powders as many others not familiar with particular powders will appreciate your comments.

OK, going back to taking notes. :D

Be nice if one could get 'Sample Packs' containing like one ounce each of various Powders to try out...like Hickory Farms used to do with 'Cheese'...
That would make things easier for some of us ... like a choice of 5-10 powder sampler.

evan price
September 6, 2010, 01:07 AM
If I had to cut back to a minimum of pistol powders I could live happily with Titegroup, Promo and Accurate #9.

Promo, only because it loads to Red Dot data and is much cheaper. I use a lot of Promo for cast loads in rifle calibers, and for wadcutters.

Titegroup can be loaded in anything from 25 acp to 454 casull. It won't give you full Magnum performance, but that's what the #9 is for.

I like Titegroup because it is a flattened spherical powder, so it flows like water in my powder measures. It is a low-bulk/high energy powder so a little powder does the job. And it's is inexpensive to boot. Plus it is very insensitive to where in the case the powder is- up front or in the back- so low-charge loads ignite well.

The drawbacks are that it is a low bulk/high energy powder so double or even triple charges are possible if you are not careful. It has possibly the highest percentage of nitroglycerine of any double-based powder on the market so it burns very hot. It also likes to be loaded up at the high end of a charge to be the cleanest burning.



I would advise any new loader to start with Winchester 231 or Hodgdon HP38 (same powder) because it is a ball powder, it is easy to find data for, and it can be loaded for almost anything in target velocities.

RhinoDefense
September 6, 2010, 01:15 AM
Hard to answer based on the lack of cartridges you load but...

1. What made you settle with a particular powder among comparable burn rate powders? Was it accuracy, recoil, metering ability, attainable velocity/PF, clean burning, cost, availability, etc.?
Pressure curve for the most part. Forgiveness is a nice safety factor.

2. Many posted that although a particular powder is dirty burning (i.e. Unique), they will remain loyal to the powder - Why? Is it shooting characteristics (accuracy/recoil), availability of load data or other factors?
When I say a "dirty" powder it means it doesn't burn completely in the barrel. If it leaves flakes in the barrel, it's a dirty and inefficient powder. People wipe their butt after they poop and clean guns after they shoot. So amount of soot left behind is really not an issue for a majority of the people that shoot. There are competitive shooters that shoot a few thousand rounds a day and I can understand that. To the average Joe B. Shooter, save it.

3. For many years, I have stayed away from large flake powders thinking if it meters poorly, it must not be accurate. My recent testing with Promo proved me wrong (even 0.2-0.3 gr in charge deviation produced fairly accurate shot groups). What are your reasons for liking a large flake powder?
It's not so much accuracy and consistency, it's forgiveness, although accuracy is the product of uniformity. Usually I discount a powder due to a secondary con usually metering being the other one. Take 800X in the 10mm. It's a good powder but two epic failures: meters like crap and the pressure curve is not stable and is very unpredictable. In the lab I've had a 32,400psi load rear it's ugly head into a 42,300psi load with absolutely no measurable change in primer, brass, bullet, powder lot, powder charge, OAL, et al.

4. There is a strong following behind TiteGroup/Power Pistol. If you like these powders, what are your reasons? Why do you prefer these over other powders?
I don't like TG. Leaves too much soot on the front sight of the pistol and makes shooting with a FO sight harder after time.

Power Pistol is an OK powder, but it's a member of the Bullseye family and has a lot of muzzle flash, much like Blue Dot.

5. Why do some powders rarely get mentioned or suggested? (American Select, Herco, Auto Comp, etc.)
Well, AutoComp just plain sucks for the published data Hodgdon puts out. AC, or SMP 224 as it's known to the OEM trade is OK but not using "handloader" data. It's great when loaded to a specific pressure point.

Powders I like for general auto pistol and revolver cartridges are:

WSF, HS6, #5, #7, #9, #2400

But I have some niche powders that I use in one load and only one combination. Like 6.3gr Universal Clays loaded with a Hornady 158gr XTP and standard primer. If a .357 magnum won't shoot that load accurately, it isn't the ammo. It's the gun or the shooter. Likewise 9.2gr of Longshot in the 10mm with a 170-180gr bullet is a scary accurate load in the 10mm Automatic. Those two powders I keep in inventory only for those two specific loads. If I didn't load that caliber and bullet combination, I'd never stock those powders.

ljnowell
September 6, 2010, 01:17 AM
Generally, over cleanliness, I look for a powder that meters well.

Oyeboten
September 6, 2010, 03:56 AM
I am loading .45 Colt, and, .38 Special, and I prefer to avoid low bulk Powders where I have to tilt the Case under a Lamp to even see the little dab it has in it.

I am not liking huge Air spaces in the Cartridge.


So, for me, I will be looking to bulkier Powders.


I like "UNIQUE" so far, if now having learned to to use oversmall charges of it which have large air spaces.

bds
September 6, 2010, 09:44 AM
Hard to answer based on the lack of cartridges you load but...
I load for 38 Spl, 357 Mag, 9mm, 40 S&W, 45 ACP.

RidgwayCO
September 6, 2010, 10:57 AM
Accurate Powders: #2, #5, and #9
Hodgdon Powders: Clays, Universal Clays, and H110
VihtaVuori Powders: N320, 3N37, and N110

If I had to, these are the three from each manufacturer that I'd use. So what do I have the most of? IMR Trail Boss and VV N340 (go figure)...

Full disclosure: I'm not a fan of Alliant's offerings (they've always measured poorly for me with the exception of Power Pistol, and it has a lot of muzzle flash), and I haven't tried any of the Ramshot pistol powders. From what I've read, I could be missing the boat there.

Walkalong
September 6, 2010, 11:33 AM
Plus it is very insensitive to where in the case the powder is- up front or in the back- so low-charge loads ignite well.

Titegroup will burn clean no matter if it is back against the primer, or forward against the bullet. What it does not do well, is give consistent velocities depending on its location in the case. In that regard it is fairly position sensitive. Average at best.

I use AA #2 in light .45 Colt loads because it burns completely and gives very consistent velocities regardless of where it is in that huge case.

I am not liking huge Air spaces in the Cartridge.
In general that is smart thinking, but my light .45 Colt load is an exception to that. I wish there were more choices in "bulky" powders. Right now TB is about it, but I suspect we will see more powders somewhere between TB and the usual suspects.

On of my favorite pistol powders has been discontinued. It's reasonable bulky, burns super clean no matter where it is in the case, actually tends to give higher velocities powder forward instead of losing 20 to 30%, but does not like to be compressed, and isn't bulky enough for some apps. Nothings perfect.

For plated bullets:

Light loads in .38 & .357 brass. Clays & Competition.

Light loads in .45 ACP for a revolver. WST.

Light loads in .45 Colt. AA #2.

Best overall powder for .45 ACP. N320, AA #2, AA #5, N310.

Best for .41 & .44 Mag. N110, AA #9

Just to name a few.

Lead bullets are a whole nother list, starting with W-231.

I also use other powders including Unique, N330, N340, W-231, Solo 1250, 700X, Universal,....

I can't trim my stock down much. Not going to try. :)

ljnowell
September 6, 2010, 12:31 PM
forgot to add:

45acp---AA#2, Bullseye, Power pistol
45colt---AA#2, 2400, power pistol
357 -----AA#2, 2400
9mm----Power pistol, Bullseye

My most accurate 45acps were loaded with 700x. However, it meters about as well as mud, so I quit using it. I have found 5.3-5.5gr AA#2 to be just as accurate, but maybe a little more messy. I believe accurate lists max at 5.5, or used to, but i have worked the load up to 6gr in my own gun, and found it to burn very clean above 5.8. I will typically load to that point, over max, because it is proven safe in my gun, and doesnt exhibit any more recoil or obvious problems than 5.3 gr. Do this carefully, or not at all, because I am not saying its safe in your gun, only mine.

newrugersafan
September 6, 2010, 01:01 PM
44 Special-- Power Pistol and Unique ( prefer Unique " Skeeter Load " )
44 Mag --2400 and IMR 4227 ( prefer IMR 4227 in max loads )
45 acp-- Bullseye
40 S&W--Power Pistol
9mm-- Power Pistol
357-- 2400
380--HP38
If I had to I could get by with 2400, Power Pistol and Bullseye

SuperNaut
September 6, 2010, 07:00 PM
My most accurate 45acps were loaded with 700x.

Mine too, I love 700X. I just haven't figured out a way to make it meter better.

Walkalong
September 6, 2010, 07:15 PM
I used 700X for lead in .38 Spl and .44 Spl for years. Despite not metering all that well, it shot great. Still does. W-231 and lead was better in .45 ACP.

45Fan
September 6, 2010, 07:17 PM
I've had good luck with clays and universal clays in my .380 and .45 acp loads, H110 seemed to be the go to powder in the .44 mag, and so far, it has been nothing less than excelent (with the exception of not metering well at all in my lee powder thrower). I have been tempteg to try Trailboss, looks like it it pretty flexible, and might even work for a reduced load in some of my rifles.

SuperNaut
September 6, 2010, 07:33 PM
Walkalong, of the four powders you listed for jacketed/plated .45 ACP (N320, AA #2, AA #5, N310) which do you prefer?

zxcvbob
September 6, 2010, 07:35 PM
Has anyone found a good powder for loading .38 S&W? (PB might be worth a try if it's as clean as NOYLJ says) Herco was a minor disaster. International was better but still filthy and inconsistent. Think I will try American Select next. I may not be crimping tight enough.

Walkalong
September 6, 2010, 07:45 PM
which do you prefer?

N320 is hard to beat for all but hot rod .45 loads. AA #2 will do almost as well for less money. N310 is tough to beat for light loads, although WST is very good as well. WST is what I use for light loads with plated 185 Gr bullets in my 25-2. Works better than N310 with the cylinder gap thing going on. AA #5 is for full bore .45 loads. For lead in the .45, W-231 is very tough to beat.

SuperNaut
September 6, 2010, 08:00 PM
Thanks! I'll check out AA#2 next - cheap and good always catches my attention!

ljnowell
September 6, 2010, 08:18 PM
Thanks! I'll check out AA#2 next - cheap and good always catches my attention!

I havent found a better fast burning target powder for .45acp or 357 mag. It truly is a great metering powder.

PR MAN
September 6, 2010, 11:28 PM
I have used Hodgon HS-6 in 40S&W as well as 9MM. It is very economical and accurate.

Hondo 60
September 7, 2010, 12:11 AM
Started using Titegroup for .38 spl & .357 mag about a year ago. Why titegroup? Cuz that's what they had at the store.

I've found the accuracy is pretty darn good & there's not much recoil even though it's a very fast burning powder. (I expected a lot more) And finally a lot of posters here say it's clean burning as well.

The only other handgun powders I have experience with are Universal & AA5. Universal seemed to be a little harder to measure consistently & AA5 packs quite a wallop in my 357s.

I'll be reloading 45 Colt here shortly & plan to use up the Universal for that. Although I'll be experimenting with Titegroup & AA5 as well. (gonna use up what's on hand)

zombie44
September 7, 2010, 08:16 AM
I reload 38spcl, 357, 44spcl and 44 mag. Powders I've used - 2400, AA#9, Blue Dot, Bullseye and Unique.

2400 is my fav so far, AA#9 has a similar load in 44 mag so I could probably drop that one. I get odd results with Blue Dot sometimes and it's smoky, still like it for some reason :uhoh: Bullseye is very economical to use, but hard to eyeball the cases for a under/double charge. Just started using Unique, tried it with 38spcl and had good results.

Pilot
September 7, 2010, 08:28 AM
I just got back into reloading and am using Clays, Titegroup and W231/HP38 right now for all my pistol needs. Titegroup is new for me and I like it so far. I am shooting a target velocities and am only reloading for .45 Colt and .45 ACP as I lost all my dies in my last move, and slowly rebuilding my collection. :rolleyes:

budman46
September 8, 2010, 11:47 AM
bds,
i'm with noylj. the three he recommends aren't the newest powders...most of which i haven't tried...but because these have performed so well for me from .32acp-.44 mag.

of course if you run into a real bargain... :rolleyes:

budman

Ozarkrick
September 8, 2010, 11:56 PM
I reload all of your listed calibers, plus a few more (380, 9MM, 38, 357, 40, 41, mag, 44spl, 44 mag, 45acp, 20 ga) and have bought them all (hs6, bluedot, 2400, reddot, greendot, promo, titegroup, hp38, bullseye, AA2, 296/110, longshot, WSF, herco, clays, universal clays, 700x, 800x, and more that I can't remember. Of all these powders, the most accurate accross the board with the broadest application (lead or jacketed) is UNIQUE. I wish it was not true - this is an old powder that should have been forced into retirment by some new high-tech powder. yup its a little dirty, not always the highest velocity, meters so-so, looks plain. There seems to be an accurate zone for just about every major caliber with Unique. Sells for $98 per 8 pounder. Rant over.

bds
September 9, 2010, 02:01 AM
Thank you all! Really appreciate all the information posted! I feel like I am at a smokeless powder buffet. :D Like me, I am sure others not familiar with powders mentioned are taking good notes as well.

As recommended by many, Unique is definitely one of several slower pistol powder on my list to try along with AA #5 plus others. I have never considered pistol powders slower than HS6/WSF, but I am going to think about that before my next powder order.

Yes, I do agree on certain powder/bullet weight/charge hitting that "sweet spot" resulting in tack driving burn consistency and accuracy.

lwknight
September 9, 2010, 02:36 AM
I vote:
Bullseye for all light plinking pistol cases and up to medium loads in autoloader lenght cases.
WSF for medium to heavy loads in autoloaders and light to medium loads in revolver cases as long as the bullet is not real light like 125 grains in a .357 ( it just don't work)
WSF seems to be the most scaleable powder I've found for 9mm even with 115 grain bullets.

Unique is a little fluffy for autoloaders but very versitile in revolver types. I think not much good for rifles where you want max velocity.

2400 and 4227 will cover your heavy to magnum loads. I prefer 296 for my magnum loads.
I just like the big boom and impressive muzzle blast . LOL

Just my thoughts on reducing inventory diversity.

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