Manuals reducing loads over time.


January 31, 2013, 09:57 PM
I have been saying for years that ammo companies have reduced the power levels in some calibers of handgun ammo and the publishers of the re;loading manuals have also reduced their loads. Tonight I was reloading some 38 Specials and I noticed the differences in the various manuals.

These are the top loads for the 38 using a 125 JHP bullet and Unique powder. All from various volumes of the Speer manual.

1970 Vol. 8 - 7.5 grains

1974 Vol. 9 - 5.9 grains

1987 Vol. 11 - 5.8 grains

1998 Vol. 13 - 5.6 grains

The biggest drop occurs between Vol. 8 and Vol. 9, from 7.5 to 5.9. That's a huge reduction. Then it continues to drop until the 1998 publication which is the last one I have on hand. I don't know what the most recent Speer manual lists as a top load. Might be be down to 4 grains by now.

I have used that 7.5 load and it barks but seems OK in the guns I tried it in. I generally load 7 grains with a 125 for my carry 38s and this is stout but within reason. This is the max load from my 1977 Sierra manual.

That 5.6 as maximum is a joke. That's barely a gallery load. By the way, the 5.9 and 5.6 loads are designated as +P. What a hoot! The 7.5 load required no special warning but these pipsqueaks apparently should concern us.

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January 31, 2013, 10:02 PM
Speer used to start at what Lee calls a max load, I prefer Lee's Modern Reloading anyway. It's cheaper, and reads well, too. there's sections on casting, bits of history, just a great book.

January 31, 2013, 10:10 PM
Lyman's #49 list Unique at 6.0 grains as the max for .38 special. Firearm used is a universal receiver, is this a single shot break barrel? If it is then maybe that's how they got 16,700 c.u.p. It does seem week though.

January 31, 2013, 10:12 PM
My neighbor loaded up close to 1000 rounds on a single stage press and then got a new reloading manual and about freaked to find out that he had loaded them over the max load of the new manual. He was about at about a medium charge in his old book.

January 31, 2013, 10:31 PM
I have heard of this and was told it's because the powder is now manufactured to tighter tolerances, I am not positive as I am a new reloader and all my powders are new.

January 31, 2013, 11:42 PM
The basic idea is that they used to adjust their load data for the oldest, weakest guns of a given caliber in common use. Now they adjust their loads based on the strongest, greediest lawyer they can imagine.


January 31, 2013, 11:50 PM
Post 6 has the right answer. Nothing matters more than liability.

February 1, 2013, 12:03 AM
Yes, lawyers probably have an input into load data but testing procedures have gotten better and less expensive so the data today is better and real.

Also, powder is being made in different locations than before and the powder may not be the same as before.

It probably will not be long before cost effective pressure testing will be available to the hand loader.

February 1, 2013, 01:49 AM
I've noticed the same load reductions in my Lyman manuals from the 44th (1967) to the current 49th (2008) editions. Not only the lower max loads, but also a narrower range.

February 1, 2013, 01:50 AM
Could this possibly be due to compositional differences?

February 1, 2013, 02:03 AM
I'm far from knowledgeable on this subject, but I seem to recall something about SAAMI reducing .38 special and a few other calibers several years back.

February 1, 2013, 03:27 AM
give it a rest. no matter how you feel about what the max load was and is now the loading companies ain't going back to the old max.

February 1, 2013, 04:19 AM
Lawyer loads.

February 1, 2013, 06:01 AM
...Also, powder is being made in different locations than before and the powder may not be the same as before...

If the powder is not the same, they give it a different name. Old Unique or old 2400 is the same as the new stuff. Batch to batch there is some variance but not enough to cause serious harm.

February 1, 2013, 06:25 AM
I was under the impression that we can thank the polymer and light carry guns for that. Strongest and weakest. I don't know If I'd be comfortable using 67 load data for an newer LCR. It serves it's purpose but you can't argue that it would hold up like a security six.

February 1, 2013, 10:31 AM
The publishers recognise that as we get older we become more recoil sensitive.

February 1, 2013, 10:50 AM
Was looking at a circa '60 manual last week and was amazed at how much more powder was allowable for max load. Like above--everything is liability conscious today.

February 1, 2013, 11:01 AM
I think it's a combination of the two. Liability plays a big roll in just about all products manufactured today. The powders are not the same as they were 30-40 years ago. The powder manufacturers have stated that formulas have changed over the years. Everything from "Cleaner Burning" to "Higher Velocity" formulas have changed our powders of old and the data that was used for them.

February 1, 2013, 11:04 AM
first of all if you take a load from a 1970 loading manual it probably wasn't pressure tested at all other then to look to see the primers were flattened , the cases ejected hard or the bolt didn't open very easy. so they really didn't know what pressure a load was giving. now you add the pressure they actually had with todays modern eguipment some of the loads were probably scary.

maybe some of the loads are dictated by lawyers but do you blame them. I don't because all you have to do is look at the various reloading sections and see some of the loads mentioned. there is some scary loads being given out that just because it was safe in one gun does NOT mean it is safe in another gun. never mind the fact that what little difference you might find isn't going to make much difference in the field or anywhere else for that matter.

you see any number of people asking for favorite loads and you get the impression they might not even own a loading manual let alone they should have a least two and more is even better. if you reload and looking for a good load it is pretty easy to do on your own.

a few years back "Shooting Times" had a series of articles by Ken Oehler on pressure testing. they are a good read and should be read by every reloader.

February 1, 2013, 11:21 AM
I see that question asked on this website more than one can count! Most of these folks must really be new, thats one of the first things I did when I decided to reload, in fact, I bought 3 books to get started. Endure I guess.

February 1, 2013, 01:04 PM
I've read in numerous places to use a manual that was current with the age of the powder you're using. I have powder from the mid 90's, so I use a mid 90's manual. They work together. Chronograph what you make, if it's a lot off the manual speed, start changing the load.

February 1, 2013, 04:14 PM
I have loaded powder from the early 1970s along with recently manufactured powder and both loads perform exactly the same. I can detect no difference in older and newer powders of the same name. Liability concerns would prevent them from making changes to the powder without changing the name.

February 1, 2013, 05:35 PM
Powders do in fact vary from lot to lot. The differences are small, but real. The changes over time can add up to enough differnce to cause a problem, at least in theory.

Lawyer's concerns are probably part of the issue, but I suspect another cause is at least partly involved. Newer guns are being built to closer tolerences than were possible 40-50 years ago. Closer tolerences in barrels and chambers leads to increased pressure and velocity. Meaning you need less powder to get the same speeds

A loading manuals max load in 1970 might be perfectly safe in a 1970 gun, but you might get the same velocity, and pressure with far less of the same powder in a 2012 gun.

Forget about the book's max loads when loading. It is the velocity you are getting that is important. If a max load of powder "X" is supposed to give you 1,000 fps, then you stop adding powder when your chronograph shows 1,000 fps. It doesn't matter if it does it at 7.5 gr of powder, 5.6 grains or anywhere in between.

February 1, 2013, 05:51 PM
Besides one other note on Unique, it has been changed in the last couple of years to burn cleaner. The powder charge was also effected by this so if you have older Unique don't use the newer data etc.

February 1, 2013, 07:18 PM
Forget the 'charge' differences, look at the velocity of a given load. Pick the velocity you want and buy the powder that will allow it safely. If you reload a lot of different loads/calibers invest in a chronograph.

Today IS the golden age of reloading. There are enough different powders out there now that if you can't find one to suit your your fancy you are just not looking. Heck, there's even a powder that cleans your gun WHILE you shoot it!

And as a side note, pitch all those old manuals or put 'em on the shelf. A friend of mine built a custom 25/06. Carefully loaded his ammo and we went to the range. First shot kicked him pretty good and I saw a jet of smoke from the action. When he opened the bolt and ejected the round, I saw something but he fired again before I could stop him. He ejected the second round and I got him to look at the brass. The primers were FALLING out of the case!

He stopped right there and called me when he got home and we compaired loads from my new manual with the manual he was using FROM THE 1960's!! The load he was using was max in his book and several grains OVER max in my book!

Again, pick the VELOCITY you want and find the powder that will give it to you SAFELY!

February 1, 2013, 08:44 PM
I too have noticed the move to reduce loads (liability) over the years. It is better to have 10,000 loaders shoot under max, than to have one old gun go kaboom.
IIRC Unique was reformulated in the early '70s (single based to double based?). Loads that shot fine for years started flattening primers, and were hard to eject. I stopped using Unique for 5 years. This could explain the sharp drop in max loads for '70 to '74.

February 1, 2013, 08:50 PM
Unique has never change in the last 100 years.

It was changed a few years ago to make it burn cleaner, but it was not changed from single-base to double base.

And the load data for it didn't change.
If it had of changed, thay would have had to re-name the powder something else.
Like Power Pistol for instance.

The changes you see in todays data has more to do with the more precise pressure transducer PSI measuring from the old Copper Crusher CUP method.

They are able to measure and see pressure spikes today that were never measurable before with copper crusher test guns.

When I started reloading, Speer for one shot tests using actual off the shelf guns.

Loads that empty cases fell out of in an old world crafted S&W Magnum from 1960 stuck cases in todays CNC miracle revolvers.


February 2, 2013, 10:49 AM
If the powder is not the same, they give it a different name. Old Unique or old 2400 is the same as the new stuff. Batch to batch there is some variance but not enough to cause serious harm.

Thank you StrawHat! I have a friend that is a retired chemist, he told me that years ago. The burn rate can only vary by a small percentage.

I also tried researching why the reduction. None of the revolvers have been safe, even the .357 has been reduced.

There is also a theory that the loads have been reduced because of older, weaker guns being out in the world. That argument loses creedence when you look at the 9mm that has been around longer then most. If anything the 9mm has been loaded hotter.

The argument that testing procedures have gotten better bothers me. Proceedures have changed. The one thing that has changed in testing is vented barrels are no longer used where they were originally for revolver testing. And this is why I think the revolver loads have decreased. We can thank SAAMI for this.

February 2, 2013, 12:14 PM
I suspect much of the change came about with the invention of digital pressure transducers now used by modern testing labs...a change from the old copper crush disks that were the norm.

While I share the dismay at 'legalese affecting all our lives, I keep in mind that it isn't the lawyer's fault that a gomer reloader got themselves 'blowed up' and then decided to sue the component manufacturers, the manual publishers and the stores that sold the idjit his reloading supplies.

Our society is full of folks looking for the winning 'lottery ticket' law suit to retire on their half-moons for their own stupidity.

February 2, 2013, 01:30 PM
Yes, lawyers probably have an input into load data but testing procedures have gotten better and less expensive so the data today is better and real.

As cfullgraf stated it is more complicated than just "lawyer loads". Better testing equipment, the inclusion of more firearms with inconsistent chambers and other manufacturing differences relating to pressure differences, and just the acknowledgement that there's a certain percentage of folks that cannot follow directions or still think they know better than the experts. You see it all the time here on the reloading forum with statements like this made by folks......"I load just over max cause I know what my guns can take, and the book loads are watered down anyway". What if the loads weren't watered down? I also believe that many bullet manufacturers no longer are giving recipes for highest velocities, but for best accuracy.....and isn't that why the majority of us reload?

Funny, while many here whine about powder companies and other load manuals watering down their recipes for legal reasons, they are also the first to scream not to use your own handloads for SD/HD due to the liability. :banghead:

February 2, 2013, 03:37 PM
Let me ask those that keep bringing up the better testing equipment theory a question. If as you say the equipment and methods are better why haven't the 9mm rounds been downgraded? How about .45acp, those loads haven't changed. Only revolver loads have changed.

February 2, 2013, 04:15 PM
9mm SAAMI= 35000 psi
9mm CIP= 34080 PSI Their measurement location is different than SAAMI

9mm NATO= 36,500 PSI .... CIP measurement. Solidly in the +P territory.

9mm has been downgraded in the US for a long time.

For a better example, look at the lawyer loads for the 7.92 X 57 Mauser. Assumed for a long time that some Barney will put them into an 1888 commission rifle.

February 2, 2013, 08:35 PM
A problem that bothers me is that Speer took IMR 4064 out of their list of powders for the 150 grain bullet in the 30-06. It's like some "educated" college grad is getting too much caffine! Anybody got any ideas?

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