Low or No Flash powders


March 10, 2013, 08:21 AM
Are any powders used in reloading (especially pistol powders) low or no flash?

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twice barrel
March 10, 2013, 08:49 AM
Hodgdon Universal was reported to be a low flash powder in 40 S&W. Much depends upon how much of the powder is consumed in the barrel which will vary upon barrel length, projectile weight, and loading. I know my Titegroup loads had more flash than my Universal load did.


March 10, 2013, 08:55 AM
I think the muzzle flash (size, intensity and duration) may depend on whether flash suppressant is used on the powder or not.

I belonged to an outdoor range that allowed 24/7 access and we did some low light (almost no light) comparison tests with reloads and we found several faster burning than W231/HP-38/Universal powders did not produce enough muzzle flash to be an issue (Bullseye, Clays, WST, Titegroup, W231/HP-38, Universal). Muzzle flashes were more visible as small reddish to orange flashes viewed from the side but to the shooters, it was not bright enough or long enough flash to diminish the constriction of pupils to blind the shooters. If we could make out the targets/stands, we were able to engage the targets and point shoot as sights were difficult to see.

I volunteered at an indoor range where our defensive shooting instructor also taught local PD/SD/SWAT members and he arranged low light shooting stages for some of us to do point shooting exercises with factory ammunition and FMJ/JHP muzzle flashes were comparable or bit larger than reloads we tested. The objective of the low light shooting exercise was to duplicate night defensive shooting situations and we focused on the targets and not on our sights to perform point shooting (even though we had night sights installed).

Although I have not done any low light shooting with AutoComp, many claim that it is WSF with flash suppressant.

March 10, 2013, 10:42 AM
I have found W231/HP38 to have a low flash in 9, 40, and 45.

Ramshot Silhouette is supposed to be flash suppressed, and I have loaded some 9 with it that agrees with that assessment.

March 10, 2013, 11:02 AM
Silhouette is stated as suppressed. I've shot several loads under low light and most have been without much if any flash. I use AA#5 , WSF, and hp-38 quite a bit and haven't ever noticed a flash. I think at max charge there would be more, but as said earlier the biggest thing is to not have unburnt powder exiting the barrel.

Dave P
March 10, 2013, 11:50 AM
To minimize flash, you need to burn all the powder in the barrel. I think the flash is mainly from un-burnt powder igniting in front of the gun.

For reloaders, QuickLoad will tell you how much powder is burnt in the barrel. So you can get a choice of powders to use. Faster powders should produce a smaller flash.

March 10, 2013, 11:56 AM
Muzzle flash would be burning gas, not unburnt powder wouldn't it?

I've never seen anything unburnt make a flash. If it's unburnt.....well, its unburnt.

March 10, 2013, 11:57 AM
I like W231 for my 40 9 mm 38

March 10, 2013, 12:06 PM
I think the flash is mainly from un-burnt powder igniting in front of the gun.

^^^^^ I agree ^^^^^

Having a good match of powder to the barrel length has large impact on how much flash you'll see. Slower burning, "magnum-type" powders like No 9, 296, Blue Dot, 3N37 and such will burn considerably more powder outside of the barrel, in front of the muzzle, than a faster burning powder.

Now having said that, I've done a whole lot of shooting on our indoor range with the lights dim, or even completely out. Even with No 7 in a Commander length 38 Super nothing I've shot ever left eyes adpated to the darkened conditions so spotty I couldn't see afterwards.

If things were that dark, it was time for a flashlight to come out.

March 10, 2013, 12:17 PM
VV N310.

Shooting a 9mm carbine the night before last and not so much as a spark left the end of the barrel.

March 10, 2013, 12:29 PM
Yes, carbines behave differently.

But I've seen big fireballs from "value pack" .223 Winchester from an 18 inch AR made during the Clinton ban and had no flash suppressor. None of us liked standing next to him on the line in the class, either. The muzzle blast was brutal, even standing shoulder-to-shoulder next to him and behind the rifle. We saw the fireball, even in daylight.

I've experienced similar conditions shooting a 9x23 handgun in a shoothouse right next to the walls. It felt pretty brutal.

March 10, 2013, 01:37 PM
I run across this scenario when I shoot factory and/or military 223 ammo out of my Contender handgun instead of my reloads in which I use a tad faster burning powder with lighter weight bullets.

It is from gas still burning violently and expanding, not from unburnt powder.

March 10, 2013, 01:49 PM
Parasite, your right about the gas being the part that is creating the flash, but the powder granules burning(gassing off from the energy exchange) are what creates that gas, so unburnt granules coming out of the barrel , some are still "burning" and thus creating the gas. If I put that correctly.
Mostly the unburnt stuff coming out the barrel indicates the powder was burning longer (farther down and then out the barrel) than necessary and it isn't the correct powder for the job.

March 10, 2013, 02:08 PM
I guess we're splitting hairs here but I just don't think unburnt powder granules igniting the moment they come out of the barrel is the cause of muzzle flash.

It is from already ignited powder that is still burning violently and still producing vast amounts of gas in high pressure, hitting zero pressure of the atmosphere as opposed to a faster burning powder in which the gas pressure curve is well on its way down when the bullet exits the barrel.

I've experimented with many different powders in a 223 handgun and there is a world of difference in report and flash between 4198 with a 40gr bullet and 335 powder with a 55gr bullet especially out of a short barrel.

March 10, 2013, 02:28 PM
Yes, this is splitting hairs.

I would consider unburnt powder to still be unburnt powder, up until the point it has changed to something else.

If it's in the process of burning, but you really don't want to call it "unburnt powder", just wait .010 seconds.

Bad Andy
March 10, 2013, 04:27 PM
All Accurate Arms pistol powders are flashless. One of the reasons I only use AA#7 for my CCW loads. AA#7 was specifically designed by the Israeli Military for use in their 9mm carbines (UZI) loads. Flashless.

March 10, 2013, 06:12 PM
I did not know that. I have two bottles of different AA powders that I've never tried. I may have to work them into the next batch.

Matt Dillon
March 11, 2013, 09:29 PM
Is that universal clays?

Marlin 45 carbine
March 11, 2013, 09:55 PM
red dot is low flash. power pistol throws a ball of fire for sure. in my 9mm and .45 carbines though it's hardly noticeable

March 11, 2013, 10:51 PM
Personally, in handgun calibers I don't mind flash one bit.

March 11, 2013, 11:57 PM
Thanks for all the input folks. I guess the question comes down to PF (Power Factor) perhaps to determine powder burn in a 4 inch barrel. Is there any information regarding PF to reducing flash?


March 12, 2013, 12:50 PM
I think the flash is mainly from un-burnt powder igniting in front of the gun.

It is from the gases generated by the powder not having enough oxygen available to actually burn to stable compounds.

Smokeless does not 'burn' in the conventional sense of reacting with oxygen.

It breaks down from a solid to a lot of high temperature, high pressure (if confined) gas.

There is just not enough oxygen in the powder to carry the gasses through to stable compound, so when they hit the atmosphere they react with the oxygen (and even some nitrogen) to form final stable compounds.

twice barrel
March 12, 2013, 12:57 PM
"Is that universal clays?"


Its Hodgdon Universal which is one of their three "clays" powders.


March 12, 2013, 01:47 PM
AA#9 No appreciable flash in my full house 357. #5 in a 38 a about the size of a golfball out a Jframe-

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