What powder to start with?


January 1, 2013, 01:09 PM
I am just entering the hobby of reloading, and will be ordering some basic equipment in the next few days. I plan to only be reloading pistol ammo, starting with the two calibers I shoot most often, 40S&W and 38 Special. To keep it simple, I am hoping for a recommendation for an easily found powder that will do the job. Ideally I would like something that is bulky so that if I accidentally overcharge a cartridge it will be obvious by how full the cartridge is. Any recommendations would be most welcome.

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January 1, 2013, 01:14 PM
Unique is a versatile powder and all time favorite. Usually to be found locally here which is more than I can say for many others. Some say it doesn't meter well. but I have not found that to be true.

When dropping powder, use a loading board and drop powder in enough casings to fill the board, then take the board under the light so you can see into the casings and look at them all. You can easily see any that are too full or for some reason not enough or empty. Then seat bullets. You will never have a double charge nor squib if you will follow this recommendation.

January 1, 2013, 01:30 PM
Another vote for UNIQUE.
It fits your wants about as good as any powder out there.

January 1, 2013, 01:39 PM
W231 is good for those, and is easier to meter than unique,

January 1, 2013, 01:43 PM
W231 is good for those, and is easier to meter than unique,
+1 For W-W 231 (Hodgdon HP-38 is the SAME powder), for your loads listed. I also like Hodgdon's HS-6 for a clean/bulk load..Bill.

PS: vito, you guys going to get a carry permit law this year?? Hope so+hope they recognize ours..HA HA..

January 1, 2013, 01:45 PM
Unique isn't the most consistent for me as far as dropping from a powder measure, but anything up to .3gr variance doesn't seem to matter much for me. I typically stay at or below 90% of max charge weight so a .3gr variance isn't likely to give me an overcharge.

January 1, 2013, 01:51 PM
W-231 or Unique are hard to beat to start with. Many will work of course, but these are proven, versatile, generally easy to find an accurate load with, available most places, and more forgiving than some.

January 1, 2013, 01:55 PM
W231 is a good versatile powder and well suited for 40 S&W.

January 1, 2013, 01:59 PM
HP-38/Win231 is a great powder to start and stick with. Shoots great, meters well, accurate and generally low recoil.

January 1, 2013, 02:05 PM
Another good one for the 40 S&W and 38 Spl is Titegroup but I've used most of them and have them on hand.

January 1, 2013, 02:21 PM
Ideally I would like something that is bulky so that if I accidentally overcharge a cartridge it will be obviousRules out Tightgroup, which I would not recommend for beginners anyway.

January 1, 2013, 02:22 PM

Thats why it is so, Unique.


January 1, 2013, 02:29 PM
While not powder related....I would suggest using lead or plated bullets for the first 100 or so bullets. That way if you have a round with no powder ( ask me how I know ) , just the primer, it is WAY easier to get the bullet out that is lodged in the barrel.....

I'm not saying it will happen to you, but.... the learning curve with "softer" bullets is easier IMHO.

January 1, 2013, 02:37 PM
Accurate number 5 is also pretty good. Fills the case well enough to be easily seen and good velocity on both calibers

January 1, 2013, 05:18 PM
Just started using Longshot here for pistol loads and it has now replaced my trusty old Unique. Similar characteristics in that it has good case fill making easy to spot something under or over filled.

LongShot is now my "goto" powder with great versatility!

January 1, 2013, 05:27 PM
Unique definitely doesn't meter very accurately compared to many of the finer ball powders. But out of my average handgun, I hardly think I'll ever notice the difference.

Melikes cuz it's cheap and it's bulky. If it were any bulkier, it wouldn't be useable in 9mm. I use it for some of my loads in all of my handguns and even one of my rifles. I especially like it for those tall 38/357 cases.

January 1, 2013, 05:45 PM
Titegroup, cuz the fear of overcharging is just plain silly. It's like fear of guns or red meat.

January 1, 2013, 05:54 PM
Titegroup, cuz the fear of overcharging is just plain silly. It's like fear of guns or red meat.
Fear of overcharging silly for a new reloader? Ouch! Especially with a low fill powder like TG?

January 1, 2013, 06:13 PM
I too have had good results with W231.

January 1, 2013, 06:25 PM
Fear of overcharging silly for a new reloader? Ouch!

Yes. It is silly. You are supposed to look inside the case before sticking a bullet in it. A double charge of TG is easy to spot if you take the time to look inside the case.

January 1, 2013, 06:50 PM
I am just entering the hobby of reloading
Let's be honest here. As we have all done it ourselves, someone just starting to reload is bound to make newbie mistakes, regardless of how careful they may be.

I have helped set up several new reloaders over the years and had them make out a reloading checklist for their particular equipment (like a pre-flight checklist for pilots) so each reloading step can be checked off. I also had them add Quality Control (QC) steps to verify the accuracy of key steps (like powder charge weights and OAL).

While Titegroup can produce very accurate loads, for many reasons (like narrower load range than most powders), I do not recommend new reloaders start out with Titegroup as IMO there are better suited powders for new reloaders like W231/HP-38.

Ideally I would like something that is bulky so that if I accidentally overcharge a cartridge it will be obvious by how full the cartridge is.
When I help set up a new reloader, I have them establish their own checklist for their equipment so their reloading practice and QC checks PREVENT overcharge/double-charge regardless of powder type used. After they develop the reloading checklist, I have them go over slowly to identify any areas where inconsistent practice/accidents could occur and have them add appropriate QC checks.

For me, simply depending on a case overfill is not sound reloading practice as not all pistol loads can be made to overfill the case depending on the bullet type, weight and powder charge used. Instead, sound and safe reloading practice should be the focus so the most accurate and reliable reloads can be produced regardless of bullet/powder used.

January 1, 2013, 07:41 PM
TiteGroup is too dangerous for a rookie to use.../ the max and min on a lot of recipes for TiteGroup are only 0.3gr or maybe 0.4 grain apart....and by looking into a case its very difficult to see 0.3gr variation of TiteGroup...

A powder I would recommend is Hogdon Universal...it has a little wider range than TiteGroup ...its readily available ...and its a higher volume powder so variations are easier to see in a case.

Attention to Detail is still very important ...and a critical skill for any reloader.

January 1, 2013, 07:45 PM
Powders that are easy for new reloaders.

W231, HP-38, AA#5, Ramshot True Blue.

January 2, 2013, 12:25 PM
I use Blue Dot for both as well as the rest of my pistol rounds. Sometimes I use Power Pistol when I run out of BD and am not heading to the LGS anytime soon.

January 2, 2013, 12:49 PM
I recommend trailboss for 357/38, it is a very forgiving powder. It also has a very large range between minimum and maximum loads.

I don't load 40, but I do load 10mm. I would try accurate #7, it has a wider spread between max and minimum loads over #5.

Throw a double charge on purpose. Take a note of what it looks like if it doesn't overflow. I found that it helps me know when I peek in a case what's good and what isn't. Of course make sure you do not load that bullet up.

January 2, 2013, 02:17 PM
If your looking for a bulky and forgiving powder that won't let double charges slip by, it wouldn't be W-231, especially for a new reloader. It baffles me why so many would recomend a faster burning powder that has the propensity to spike with very small charge variations in comparison. I understand the popularity W-231 / HP38 has gained because it does produce some economical target loads, but the OP has specifically requested a powder that is bulky and not charge sensitive to small variations.

With HS-6 your charge range with a 165 gr. jacketed bullet would be 7.4 grs. - 8.1 grs. And for a 38 spcl 125 gr. jackted 6.5 gr. - 7.2 . W231 would be 4.3 gr. - 4.9 gr.

Longshot is another good choice for .40 cal. with a charge range of 6.9 grs. - 7.8 grs., W-231 would be 4.7 grs. - 5.4 grs. But in all honesty Longshot is published as a +P powder application for 38 special. And even though I use it regularly for such, and it does fit the bill as a bulky powder, but it also produces upper end velocities rated as +P.

I have been loading with both Longshot and HS6 for a very long time, and being that I have often worked up significantly higher than published data with absolutely no indication of excessive pressures, I've concluded that published data for 38 spcl, .40 cal., and 9mm is rather conservative, and that those 2 powders are very forgiving.

Just go to Hogdon's reloading pages and take a look for yourself. There are a good deal of powders that will suit your needs.


January 2, 2013, 02:58 PM
I don't load 40 but W231 is great for .38 Special. I've used it for 148 Wadcutter loads all the way to 160 gr. SWC mid + loads. W231 is easy to meter and fairly versitile for light loads in larger caliber handguns. BTW my house gun gets 150 gr. plain based wadcutters over a stiff load on W231. Fair to good short range accuracy and a large flat meplat to deliver a lot of shock and do a lot of tissue damage, without over penetration (room to room).

Develope good safe reloading methods now, and you won't have to worry about using a small charge in a large (?) case. I have a mini-maglite that lives on my bench solely for looking into every case I've charged with powder. Simple, quick way to spot a double charge or squib.

January 3, 2013, 11:34 AM
I just got done with some load development using 231 and jacketed bullets in my .40 Glock. It tends to print way off to the right with min-med power loads. If you got adjustable sights, then it's not a issue but my gun has the rear sight pushed over to the left already and it still won't shoot to POA. Also, the average group size is much larger than with Titegroup and the groups are not round. They are strings.

January 11, 2013, 11:11 PM
Throwing my two cents again for LongShot. Have bult/shot a third batch now and the .40 180 midrange performance is cleaner than Unique with better performance.

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