38 special and 357 magnum powder


January 10, 2004, 10:39 PM
I just bought a Ruger Blackhawk 357 mag, 9mm convertible. What powder do you guys suggest?

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Mike Irwin
January 10, 2004, 10:44 PM
For light to moderate .357 Mag. loads, Winchester 231 is a great powder.

For fullpowerer .357 Mag. loads, Winchester 296 is a great powder.

January 10, 2004, 11:01 PM
Apart from Mike's Winchester powder suggestions ... and going by your subject line ..

.38 spl .... light loads can use Bullseye, the fastest powder .. and towards slightly slower you can use Red Dot .... not as good metering tho as Win powders I am sure Mike would agree. Even dirty ole Unique will do .38 loads too!

.357's ..... I like Blue Dot lighter loads ..... again not the cleanest powder perhaps .. and onto the full loads .. probably H-110, Vit N-110 .... 2400. Much slower powders.

But be sure .. consult reliable loading data before trying any of these ... and work up your loads .. standard safe practice.

January 10, 2004, 11:04 PM
I use Bullseye in most of my .38 spl loads. In the .357 my favorite is H-110.

January 10, 2004, 11:52 PM
I use AA#5 in 38's and H-110 or Blue dot in 357.

January 11, 2004, 09:20 AM
Ok, it is a 357 with a conversion cylinder in 9mm, so you can shoot 9mm, 38 Special, and 357 Magnum.

Bullseye and W-231 (or HP-38) can be used in all three calibers for light to medium loads.

Unique and AA#5 can be used in all three calibers. These would be the slowest powders and allow top velocities in 38 Special and near top ballistics in 9mm. For 357 Magnum, you can get within about 200 feet per second of top velocities.

Blue Dot and AA#7 would allow you to get the most out of the 9mm, but not really that much more than Unique or AA#5.

2400 and W-296 (or H-110) will allow you to get the most out of the 357.

If I had to pick just one powder, it would be Unique. It is a jack of all trades, unfortunately, it is a master of none. For ease of use, stick with the spherical powders, they meter beautifully. I finally settled on W-231, AA#5 and W-296 for my handguns. Until I got a S&W model 29. In the 44 Magnum caliber, Unique does seem to do the best with mid-range loads.

As for primers, use standard small pistol primers except for W-296 or H-110, these do require small pistol magnum primers.

January 11, 2004, 09:34 AM
I would also second the recommendation for Unique if you're looking for something appropriate for all 3 calibers.

January 11, 2004, 09:55 AM
will do eveything you could want in 9mm & .38, and will handle all but the heaviest bullets in .357 quite well. It also meters very consistently and works fine with standard primers, which would allow you to buy one type for all your 'mid-bore' loading chores.

The others mentioned are also good overall, and yes the slower powders are the way to go for 'blast & scorch' magnum loads. W296 has given me fine service in this department.

January 11, 2004, 10:12 AM
As always work the loads up from manuals and the data on the powder manufacturer web sites. That being said, I have found HERCO to be very versitle. I have used an older Sierra manual and an older Speer manual along with Alliant's site to work loads up. Herco works well in all three calibers listed. Byron

Ala Dan
January 11, 2004, 05:06 PM
Greeting's All-

I use a lot of Alliant "Bullseye" in light .38 Special target
loads, and a LOT of "Unique" for mid-range .357 magnum
load's; and I'm experimenting with Hodgdon "Universal
Clays" for the heaviest of magnum load's.

*FootNote- as noted previously, Alliant "Unique" is a
flakey powder; thus it won't meter through some powder
measures uniformly.

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

January 11, 2004, 06:29 PM
I use Bullseye for 38Special and H110 for heavy bullet 357mag loads.

I've played around with Unique and 2400 in both as well. If I had to go with only one powder, I'd choose Unique or maybe 2400 if those 38's were +p. Unique is probably your best bet for a "do it all" powder in those three calibers.


Matt Dillon
January 11, 2004, 07:20 PM
Folks, I'm still looking for a powder for my primed 357 magnum cases. I have a good amount of Unique, but I tried to load up a few boxes a couple of months ago, and got a huge variation in dropped charges from my old Redding powder measure.
I was looking at ~6.8 grains of Unique behind a 158 grain lead bullet, but I couldn't find a way to measure this load uniformly. I hate to think about weighing 1000 cases. Does anyone have any ideas? I was considering trying one of the Lee powder dippers to see if it got close to this load. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance for your advice and help, Richard Dillon:confused:

Mike Irwin
January 11, 2004, 07:26 PM
Try tapping the powder measure several times with a wooden stick or the handle of a screwdriver before throwing the charge.

That may help the situation.

I know of one person who uses an old electric razor taped so the side of his powder measure to vibrate the powder. He fills the measure, lets it vibrate for 10 or so minutes, then lets it run while he's trowing charges. He says that it helps.

Me, I don't use Unique. I'm not a big fan of Hercules/Alliant powders because of the measuring problems and also because they're not as clean burning as other powders. That's in handguns.

I am, however, a BIG fan of Red Dot in 12 gauge shotshell loads, and have used a lot of it over the years.

Ala Dan
January 11, 2004, 07:44 PM
Greeting's Richard-

I have the same problem with an R.C.B.S. "Uniflow".
I have made a powder baffle to ride on top of my
powder while in the hopper; but I haven't had the
opportunity to try it out.

I like "Unique" really well, but it does leave the
weapon very nasty when done.

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

Brian Williams
January 11, 2004, 08:50 PM
I have been using 231 and 2400 but have been reading alot about Lil' gun.

January 11, 2004, 08:55 PM
I like LIL'GUN for 357 mag and 38 Special in 158 gr.

H110 = W296 is second place

AA#9, 2400, N110, third place

All other pistol powders will work, just not as well.

January 11, 2004, 10:40 PM
I use Unique (not as dirty as some folks say, improvements made over the years and way cleaner than Federal American Eagle loads) for 9mm, .40S&W, .38spl, .357 magnum and .45 auto. I do hand weigh each charge, so form of powder is not a factor. Unique is one of the most versatile powders on the market, also, one of the safest. If you have a double charge, it is readily apparent.

January 11, 2004, 10:57 PM
I'm playing with Power Pistol. A little flashy, but promises to burn more consistently in the lighter loadings than Blue Dot and be capable of near nuclear loads. I believe it was originally developed for the 9mm - small case volume and high pressure.

January 12, 2004, 03:19 AM
Power Pistol is my favorite for short cases 25acp, 32acp, 32sw, 7.62x25mm, .380, 9x19mm, 9x23mm, and 45acp.

Power Pistol is my second favorite [behind 800X that does not meter worth a hoot] for 40 sw and 10mm.

LIL'GUN or W296/H110 work best in long cases like 32sw long, 32-20, 38sp, 357 mag, 44 mag, and 45 Colt.

Snorkel Bob
January 12, 2004, 07:49 PM
Anyone use H108 at all? It should work pretty well for some neat 357 loads, but was curious is it could be use for 38 special at all. I have a feelings its too much for that cartridge though

January 12, 2004, 08:07 PM
WOW! Great replies thanks to all. I think I may try a pound of either Bullseye or Unique. I just ordered some Lee dies, 8 boxes of different weight bullets so the 800 rounds should keep me busy for a day or so. A friend that used to shoot 38 Spec. and 357 Mag gave me around 1000 cases for each. Thanks again!!!!

January 12, 2004, 08:09 PM
I tried to load up a few boxes a couple of months ago, and got a huge variation in dropped charges from my old Redding powder measure

Well, how did they shoot? If the accuracy is good at 50 yards, and velocities are not too far out of whack, who cares about weight vs. volume discrepancies when metering?

IME, Herco did not do as well as Unique using 125-gr bullets in .357 Mag. It still shows slightly greater promise with more "conventional" bullet weights, and worked great for me in .40 S&W. It approaches 296 with some loads, but without the need for Magnum primers (my most recent goal for .357 loads).

Edit: I like both Unique and Herco over Power Pistol and 296/H110/LilGun, etc. because they both produce a lot less flash.

January 12, 2004, 08:44 PM
I gave up Unique when I discovered AA#5. I use it in all three loadings with good success.


January 15, 2004, 09:36 AM
I use Universal Clays for my 38 Special load. This powder burns extremely cleanly.

For my 357 Mag. loads, I was using H110 until I discovered WC820 mil-surp powder. WC820 burns about 13% faster than H110, and loads have to be adjusted accordingly, but it burns slightly cleaner, and costs way less (I paid $64 for an 8 lb. jug of it).


January 15, 2004, 10:13 AM
I don't have much experience with .38SPL and .357 mag but I did load about three hundred each for a friend recently.

With the .38SPL, and pushing a 125 gr. lead flat nose we used Hodgdon Tite Group and with the .357 mag, pushing a 158 gr. copper plated flat nose, we used Unique.

Honestly, we couldn't find a load with either that printed well.

Two things I will say: Tite Group burned fairly dirty and blackened the cases quite a bit. Secondly, on the reverse, the Unique burned quite clean.

January 15, 2004, 10:25 AM
Not trying to hijack the thread - just hoping to expand on it.

I'm a little surprised that no-one mentioned IMR-4227. I have seen the manuals recommend this as an accurate load but I never had any real success with it. By not seeing any other posts about it, was that everyone else's findings?

I have been using 2400 in .357 and .44mag for several years. I like its performance but I do have problems with unburned powder clogging up the extractors on my S&Ws. I use standard Winchester Small Pistol primers and am considering trying something like CCI 550 magnum pistol primers to see if that helps. Do any of the other powders mentioned here (like H-110) burn better than 2400?

January 15, 2004, 10:32 AM
Grump, I have always used 158 grain bullets, jacketed or lead. Jacketed bullets have produced very good 25 yard groups . I use Herco in 40 and 32 H&R Mag. I worked up my own data. I have a Ruger Single Six in 32 and from a rest at 25 yards, I had 5 in one hole and the 6th just out side using Hornady 85 gr XTP. Herco is my all around powder.

Matt Dillon
January 15, 2004, 10:45 AM
Folks, as I mentioned earlier, I have ~1000 primed and readied .357 Magnum cases ready to load with 158 grain lead SWC bullets, and have a good quantity of Unique powder, but my problem is that Unique meters so poorly, and I don't look forward to weighing each charge! It may be worth my time to bite the bullet and buy a pound of a powder that meters better rather than spend a month of Sundays measuring out each charge of Unique.
So, what powders have you found that meter well and would be suitable for the .357 Magnum? I'm not looking for flaming meteors, but rather, a medium to soft load, perhaps something ~11-1200 FPS, something suitable for the 158 grain Lead SWC bullets, or perhaps for some 125 grain round nose bullets. These would be for target or plinking. I have some barn burners that I have loaded using H110 and Hornady XTP bullets for hunting. I'm looking for something to plink and shoot at paper with.

Thanks in advance for all your help!:confused:

January 15, 2004, 11:05 AM
Once you hit the 3gr mark and above, Bullseye has metered well for me. I've also had little problem with 2400. The only times I've used Unique through a powder measure, it worked fine for me.

When I used Bulleye for 357mag loads and a 158gr bullet, I used somewhere around 6grs. It's not a barn burner, but it's hotter than a 38+P. I used about 13-14gr of 2400 for the same bullet. Either worked well as a range plinker.


Mike Irwin
January 15, 2004, 12:09 PM
Matt Dillon,

Tell Miss Kitty to run down to the corner gunshop and pick you up some WW 231, AA 5, or AA 7.

Any one of those three powders should do exactly what you want with excellent results.

Brian Williams
January 15, 2004, 01:01 PM
get some 231 and put in 6.5 to 6.9 grs and stuff them 158 LSWC in, No problem

Lotsa great loads for 357 here

January 16, 2004, 04:02 PM
Tite Group burned fairly dirty and blackened the cases quite a bit.


I use Titegroup a lot - a lot. One thing I've learned about it and you can see this if you check the Hodgon site is that in general (there are exceptions) a TG load runs at a lower pressure than any of the other suggested Hodgon powders. This is especially true for 45LC and at least 2 of the 38 spl and 357 Mag loads.

Lower pressures can mean that the brass case doesn't expand enough to fully seal a cylinder chamber. IMO this is probably what is causing the case blackening you are experiencing.

January 16, 2004, 06:26 PM
That makes sense, Werewolf...danke, danke danke.

January 17, 2004, 08:31 PM
Just to be a little different, my favorite 38sp load is a 148gr WC powered with IMR 800-X. More accurate in my snubbies than it has a right to be. Not quite as accurate with a 158grSWC, but still very useable.

For the 357, I have a load of H110 that will shoot right at an inch at 100yrds with my contender, but I've also worked up a few loads with 2400 that were pretty close.

January 17, 2004, 11:59 PM
After testing several brand name drum type powder measures, I found the Dillion bar type powder measure to be much more consistent with Unique, Bullseye, Bluedot, Greendot and Titegroup than any of the others. I tested charges in the 3gr to 8gr range.

Tony Mig
January 18, 2004, 08:23 AM
I'm new to reloading, and I only load .38 / .357's, and the only powder I've used so far is Bullseye. I loaded my .38's with 3.6Grs. with a 158Gr. LSWC, and the .357's with 6.5Grs. with the same bullet.
I've found that the Bullseye burns a lot cleaner than any of the factory ammo I was using, and the .38 loads are far more accurate. I'm extremely happy with this combination.
The .357's were somewhat of a surprise, using Bullseye I thought they would be whimpy, but they had plenty of power & velocity. The accuracy wasn't as good as with the .38's as they tended to go just a little high and right, but overall it's not a bad combination.
I use the Lee powder measure, and all of my powder dumps have been very consistent with Bullseye.

I do plan to get a bottle of 2400 to try in my .357 loads as I understand this slower burning powder with offer better accuray behind the 158Gr. SWC's I'm casting and using, but for now I couldn't be happier with the Bullseye.

George S.
January 18, 2004, 11:41 AM
I just picked up some Rainier 125gr copper plated flat points to try with my Ruger GP100. Like others, I'm having some difficulty with Unique metering consistently. I'm using 5.7gr from the Rainier load data sheet but checking about half the metered loads, they seem to run anywhere from 5.6 to 5.9. These amounts are probably workable but not what I would think to be consistent for target use.

I have some W231 but I haven't been able to find a load for the Rainier 125gr plated bullets in .357 mag. Anyone have a suggestion?? I'm using CCI500 primers for the .357/Unique load.

Would also like to find a .38 special load to try for these same bullets. I usually buy .38 spl 148gr TMJ reloads from Miwall for $58 for a can of 500 so it may not be worth the time and effort to re-set my dies and load those again.

January 18, 2004, 11:49 AM
I am in the same boat. I purchased some ranier bullets and all they have on there load data is for 357 mag not 38 special. I have a one book one caliber book but it doesn't list Ranier.

Mike Irwin
January 18, 2004, 02:30 PM
Lead bullet and copper plated lead bullet loading information is pretty much interchangable.

Pick a load on the lower to middle end of the loading spectrum for a lead bullet and work up from there.

January 19, 2004, 12:26 AM
I was told that the jacketed produced more pressure than the lead. Is this correct?

Mike Irwin
January 19, 2004, 03:47 AM
Jacketed bullets do produce more pressure than lead bullets.

But a copper plated bullet (electro wash plating) is not the same as a jacketed bullet. The plating isn't nearly as thick or as hard as a standard jacket.

Any jump in pressure caused by the plating is going to be minimal.

January 20, 2004, 04:35 PM
Jacketed bullets do produce more pressure than lead bullets.

NOT always so, according to Winchester. They are one of the few to print pressure data with their reloading charts. Lead bullets listed in their reloader's guide frequently call for less powder than the same weight in jacketed, at roughly the same top velocity, and the same or more pressure than for jacketed.

This is not *always* the case. Check your data. Theories about powder makers posting lower charge weights for lead bullets, in the interest of avoiding excessive leading, are sometimes not worth the paper they are printed on.

Mike Irwin
January 20, 2004, 11:03 PM

You're right, sometimes lead loads produce more pressure, sometimes the same pressure, sometimes less pressure than jacketed loads.

Lyman also prints some pressure data with their lead loads, and all three are true, but what seems to be most true is that lead loads produce less pressure.

Lots of theories as to why, most revolve around the fact that lead obturates to the bore more completely and faster.

What I would be interested in seeing, though, and which no one to the best of my knowledge really offers, are pressure over time curves for lead vs. jacketed.

I'm still going to work with the rule of thumb that lead produces less pressure than jacketed bullets.

January 20, 2004, 11:15 PM
Pretty much on your page there Mike ... only exception might be with very oversize lead bullets ... in autos ... where no benefit of being ''sized'' by a revo chamber throat. Then pressures could possibly go high in excess of jackets.

Mike Irwin
January 21, 2004, 01:31 AM
I'm certain I could get pressures to go up by driving a bowling ball through a .45 barrel, Chris.

Doesn't mean I'm going to try it, though. :rolleyes:


January 21, 2004, 08:50 PM
Bowling ball through a 45 barrel? Sounds like something Clark should investigate. :evil:

January 22, 2004, 01:07 PM

I think Unique is indeed the master of the mid-range load, in .357 mag, .45 ACP and AR, .44 spec. and .44 mag.

Matt Dillon,

Re metering problems with Unique. Do you have the small or large rotor installed? You should be using the small rotor.

Are you running the rotor arm "smartly" up and down through a full stroke so that you get a distinct "clack" at the end of each stroke? This serves to settle the powder and make for a much more uniform throw. Hope this helps.

Matt Dillon
January 22, 2004, 02:59 PM
I only have one rotor for this old Redding powder measure. It is so old, that the box in which I received it had an address on it without a zip code. I do "rap" the handle at the top and bottom of each stroke consistently so that the consistent vibration hopefully leads to the hopper emptying fully. Thanks for your reply, and we're open for any suggestions.
By the way, do you have any load recommendations using Unique in a .357 mag with 158 grain lead semi wad cutter bullets? I have ~1000 cases primed with Magnum primers and with your encouragement, I may try again this weekend to load 50 or so rounds, then weigh ~20 of them to see how consistent the load is.
Thanks again, Richard

January 22, 2004, 03:26 PM
My outdated Speer # 11 shows 5.5-6.0 grs. Unique for 970-1034 fps with the 158 SWC. Start with the lowest load and you should be fine. I don't think the magnum primers will make much difference. The Speer #11 shows both normal and magnum primers being used.

January 22, 2004, 04:41 PM
Does anyone here consider =/- 0.2 grains with Unique in pistol charges to be excessive? My chono tests have shown that much variation (0.4 gr total spread) is not a problem--the fastest loads are not always the heaviest charges, and vice-versa.

Like I said, if it shoots good, who cares about 0.05-gr charge weight repeatability? I get just as much velocity range with ball powders as I do with Unique.

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