After Exploring for 2 Years, It's Time to Settle Down

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DMW1116

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After taking what was available component wise, I'm trying to narrow down the best combination of price/performance for various calibers I reload. I have a few powders, primers, and projectiles I like and plan to start stocking up whenever I find them available. Feel free to throw in any you like as well.

CFE-Pistol and W231 cover all my pistol needs adequately. I have one load for one pistol that uses HS-6, and in a pinch, that powder would work in all my pistol applications as well, though it generally gives up some accuracy in revolver rounds. W231 works in my 30-30 target loads too.

I'm not as settled on rifle powders. Each one has a shortcoming. I've tried IMR 4064, CFE 223, TAC, H335, LeveRevolution, and Shooters World AR Plus. Each works on a couple of categories but misses in a couple more. If I had to choose a couple, they'd be TAC and H335. That covers all my 223 and 30-30 needs but would require some development in 308. Covering everything with one powder would likely lead to IMR 4064, expensive and rare though it is.

CCI small rifle, small pistol, and #34 7.62 NATO primers cover everything I've tried. Winchester equivalents are also fine. This is the most limited component in terms of variety and just plain availability in general.

Projectiles include Hornady, RMR, Gallant, and Acme cast in both pistol and rifle, and Hornady, RMR, & Sierra rifle projectiles.

I don't think I'll be able to get things as simple as I'd like, but I should be able to get down to two powders and 3 projectiles for pistol and similar for rifle calibers. The ability to overlap pistol and rifle powders in the 30-30 is helpful.
 
As far as rifle cartridges go 308 is pretty much a scaled up 5.56 so TAC should work about as well there. Personally I try to get one propellant that works best for eack caliber I reload. If something overlaps into a reasonably good substitute all the better. Otherwise it's always a compromise IMO.
 
Back around the late 80's I took an inventory of what I had and started a similar quest. I made a spreadsheet of sorts listing calibers and what I considered optimal bullet weights for each. I chose the most popular weights based on caliber, like 55, 100, 130 - 150, 139 - 162, 150 - 165...and so on.

Since I was looking for minimal powders to cover the gamut I listed the ones which would cover the broadest variety of loads by caliber. Initially what I ended up with for handgun was Unique and AA-9, and for rifle H4895 and H4831. Of course primers were the one thing that was more or less unique to loads being handgun or rifle, large or small, but they were cheap enough at the time as to not be a big issue stockingback a brick or two as needed.

I have since added at least one or two powders to that list but try to still keep things simple. While the original four didn't do everything the best, they would load everything I have, and produce decent velocities and accuracy. Plenty good enough for putting game in the freezer. There is also SOME load data listed in one or more manuals for the bullet weights I chose per caliber.

Like I mentioned, they might not be the absolute best, but they will cover a range of calibers and common bullet weights from 9mm to 454, and from 223 up to 45-70. Just really depends on how low you want to keep your inventory.
 
Limitations have limitations. What happens when your supply of narrow down powder disappears or becomes unavailable in the marketplace? I like to have a variety of loads that work besides my go to. Not that anyone wants and over abundance of powder of different types.
 
A very broad topic - what cartridges do you load? You mention 223, 30-30 and 308. I like Varget in 223 and 308. I do not have a 30-30.
Hand guns - I load most stuff between 38Sp and 500S&W. Snub-nose to 8 3/8" barrels, bullet weights between 125gr and 500gr.
So, for handguns - Unique, 2400, IMR4227 are the ones I use most of.
 
Limitations have limitations. What happens when your supply of narrow down powder disappears or becomes unavailable in the marketplace? I like to have a variety of loads that work besides my go to. Not that anyone wants and over abundance of powder of different types.

You mean like it has been since I started reloading two years ago?

I have 2 or 3 good options for each caliber. Now I’m looking for where the cheapest components of those overlap with other loads. The point is to be in a position where a component shortage isn’t a problem next time.

I have not tried TAC in 308, which is evidently a large gap in my coverage. I also want to try AR Plus in 30-30 for full power jacketed loads.
 
A very broad topic - what cartridges do you load? You mention 223, 30-30 and 308. I like Varget in 223 and 308. I do not have a 30-30.
Hand guns - I load most stuff between 38Sp and 500S&W. Snub-nose to 8 3/8" barrels, bullet weights between 125gr and 500gr.
So, for handguns - Unique, 2400, IMR4227 are the ones I use most of.

For rifles it’s 308, 223, and 30-30 both cast and jacketed. In pistols it’s 9mm, 38 Special, and 357 Magnum. I need to explore 38 Special more, as the first load I tested shot really well and I haven’t moved past it yet. I’m not a fan of 2400 simply due to cost. For accuracy in full power 357 loads I haven’t see anything that beats it. A 158 grain XTP near Hornady’s max charge will outshoot my 22 target pistol half the time.
 
For rifles it’s 308, 223, and 30-30 both cast and jacketed. In pistols it’s 9mm, 38 Special, and 357 Magnum. I need to explore 38 Special more, as the first load I tested shot really well and I haven’t moved past it yet. I’m not a fan of 2400 simply due to cost. For accuracy in full power 357 loads I haven’t see anything that beats it. A 158 grain XTP near Hornady’s max charge will outshoot my 22 target pistol half the time.
Look at older powders if you're trying to cover a broad range.
For your cartridges I would buy a keg of IMR4064 and a pound of Leverevolution.
For handgun I would not focus on CFE-PISTOL because it's not ideal in 38/357 or cast/plated rifle.
A keg of Universal and a pound of 2400or H110 would completely fill your needs for pistol.
I started it like this. Then I went on a test everything phase. Now I wish I had stayed with the minimal powders.
I was forced to add in H1000 for my Magnum rifles And 4350 for heavy 22-250.
 
I’m in a similar reduction and have been for a couple years. I’ve learned I have to accept families of powders to avoid feast and famine. Categories in order of preference are

Fast Rifle: Varget, IMR3031, CFE 223
Slow Rifle: IMR7977, Retumbo, H1000
Fast Pistol: Universal, CFE Pistol, Tightgroup
Slow Pistol: 2400, H110, AA#9

As others have pointed out, sometimes things don’t come back. IMR7977 is rumored right now.
 
I’m in a similar reduction and have been for a couple years. I’ve learned I have to accept families of powders to avoid feast and famine. Categories in order of preference are

Fast Rifle: Varget, IMR3031, CFE 223
Slow Rifle: IMR7977, Retumbo, H1000
Fast Pistol: Universal, CFE Pistol, Tightgroup
Slow Pistol: 2400, H110, AA#9

As others have pointed out, sometimes things don’t come back. IMR7977 is rumored right now.
And I just got in the 7977 bandwagon. Have 1.5 pounds left.
 
I load 9, 45acp and 223.
My keep it simple approach -
The 3 main powders here are W231, Titegroup and H223.
I do keep "backup" powders - Bullseye, Unique, WST and Trailboss.
I use 1 bullet for 9mm (1 recipe), 3 for 45acp (2 recipes) and 2 for 223 (1 recipe).
 
Oh, for the olden days.
Time was, I loaded everything handgun with Clays or Universal.

Rifles got 3031. Period.

I had good loads for everything I shot.

Then, I decided to look for something better.

Now I have more than 30 different powders. I don't think I can shoot any better, and nothing is any deader than when I had 3 powders.

Sigh...
 
For pistol it's AA#5 and Power Pistol.
For rifle Hodgdon has it covered with H4895 (fast), H4350 (medium) and H4831 (slow). Maybe some Varget too.
For primers whatever you can find.
 
I got burned on No 7 for nine. Someone here recommended HS-6 but can’t find that either. Otherwise I did well during the period where nothing at all was available. The point is you never know. I think the DWM is on to something. It would work for me with a couple caveats.
 
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Limitations have limitations. What happens when your supply of narrow down powder disappears or becomes unavailable in the marketplace? I like to have a variety of loads that work besides my go to. Not that anyone wants and over abundance of powder of different types.

So you absolutely have a good point, and as gas been seen recently. To somewhat counter that initially after I decided on powder types, I purchased bulk containers. That gave me plenty to last for a good long while. As the years have passed, when I used them down, I repurchased as I got down to around three pounds of each. I also added a couple of others to help maintain those original powder types.

I picked up one pound jugs of the different powder and have used it for hunting and target loads. In the meantime I worked up loads for everything so I could make sure I could get the accuracy and velocities I really wanted. As such I used up the original large jugs and replaced with not only the same types but added another couple like Bullseye and Magpro of which both will also cover a multitude of different calibers.
 
For .223, 30-30, and .308, TAC can provide reasonable results. I use it almost exclusively for .223/5.56 loads with bullets from 40 gr thru 77 gr. For 30-30, I have a preference for LeverEvolution, it gives higher velocities and good accuracy (for an iron sighted old Winchester Model 94 that my son has). I also use TAC exclusively in my .308 PSA gas gun, with 125 gr Speer TNT’s and 150-155 gr bullets. It is not a tack driver, and the TAC loads work as well as anything. My bolt gun Savage 10T prefers IMR-4064 and Nosler/Sierra 168 gr match bullets, so that is what it gets.
I tend to buy any powders that I can use that I find for a decent price. Recently the local Sportsman’s Warehouse had Ramshot X-Terminator for $24.99 per pound (limit one per day). It is identical with Accurate 2230, which has given me decent results in my .223 (both AR’s and bolt guns) so I bought a couple pounds. Likewise, they have offered CFE-Pistol for the same price recently, so I also picked up several pounds.
I find that most pistol powders provide sufficient practical accuracy, so am less concerned with what I get, Win 231/HP-38, Titegroup, Unique, Power Pistol, CFE-Pistol all have worked and I recently grabbed a 4 pound keg of Ramshot Zip ($25 per lb) and expect it will work fine for .38, 9mm and .45 ACP.
The OP’s rifle cartridges are similar enough that he could get by with a single powder with reasonable accuracy and performance. But, if he were to add others, like .243 Win. .270 Win or large capacity magnum cartridges, he would have to add a slower burning powder to his list.
 
I admire those that are able to consolidate to a couple of powders, couple of projectiles, I can’t.

For the .223, .22-250, 243, .280, 8/08, 7mm mag and .338 WM I have only one powder that produced the best results in more than 1 caliber. RL22 won the contests in both the magnums. But that leaves me several lbs of IMR 4381 on the shelf. The .280 and 7-08 both like RL19 and I could probably get away with that for both BUT the 7-08 is slightly better with H414 so I’ll always have a supply of H414/W760 on hand. I could get by with one powder for the 22-250 and .243. But the 22-250 really shines with H380. TAC is my .223 powder.

If I had to reduce to one powder for everything it would probably be IMR4350 but I have no reason to compromise either accuracy or velocity.

So I’ll keep the “pet loads” I have along with multiple powders. Having H4895 on hand is nice because it’s pretty versatile, as well as the IMR4350.

Haven’t even tried the .243 with Superformance yet, my next project.

So for me trying to reduce to minimal powders isn’t even on my radar.

But I may evolve towards that some day although I have sufficient quantities of the above mentioned powders to last a long, long time.

I don’t even want to discuss handgun cartridge powders.
 
Tac 42.5 in 308 with 155, 30-30 26 with 170 cast, and your testing in 223 is beyond mine as I'm all over.
Ramshot Silhouette would probably do all your pistol just as well but you didn't list your cartridges. I load it in 9, 45, 38 and 357. When I rotate stock at my parents I will work up a 45 colt load but haven't done that yet.
My dad focused on ramshot powders because they were significantly cheaper at the time. Ramshot precision the 'varget" substitute is now just as expensive. The good powders are always in demand and the price follows.
 
Tac 42.5 in 308 with 155, 30-30 26 with 170 cast, and your testing in 223 is beyond mine as I'm all over.
Ramshot Silhouette would probably do all your pistol just as well but you didn't list your cartridges. I load it in 9, 45, 38 and 357. When I rotate stock at my parents I will work up a 45 colt load but haven't done that yet.
My dad focused on ramshot powders because they were significantly cheaper at the time. Ramshot precision the 'varget" substitute is now just as expensive. The good powders are always in demand and the price follows.

Love Silhouette. If I didn’t have other powders I need to use, Silhouette would probably be my only handgun powder except .357 with heavy bullets.
 
I had a pretty interesting range trip. It didn’t really clear things up but results were good.

TAC seems like it’s better for lighter bullets in my rifles. 52 grain match bullets, 55 grain soft points, & 55 grain FMJ pushed with TAC all shoot well. CFE 223 seems to take over above 62 grains though I haven’t tried any 62 grain FMJ bullets. Certainly the 69 grain RMR and 77 grain SMK shoot well when pushed by CFE 223.

AR Plus turned out to be a good match with the 168 grain A-Max bullet. Primers are low but I want to try 150 grain FMJ with it too. Only one group was really off. Lower charges did a little better. I will need to adjust the gas block as none of the loads locked the bolt back. No pressure signs, no 2 o’clock brass ejection, just some scratches from the extractor on the rim.
 
I had a pretty interesting range trip. It didn’t really clear things up but results were good.

TAC seems like it’s better for lighter bullets in my rifles. 52 grain match bullets, 55 grain soft points, & 55 grain FMJ pushed with TAC all shoot well. CFE 223 seems to take over above 62 grains though I haven’t tried any 62 grain FMJ bullets. Certainly the 69 grain RMR and 77 grain SMK shoot well when pushed by CFE 223.

AR Plus turned out to be a good match with the 168 grain A-Max bullet. Primers are low but I want to try 150 grain FMJ with it too. Only one group was really off. Lower charges did a little better. I will need to adjust the gas block as none of the loads locked the bolt back. No pressure signs, no 2 o’clock brass ejection, just some scratches from the extractor on the rim.
CFE223 worked well with 147 fmj in 308. That was my plinking fonder when I shot 308.
 
I am reluctant to use CFE 223 in my 308 PA-10 any more. It’s just given me trouble in the past. Even with an adjustable gas block, it’s setting is quite a ways off from the other loads. I do have some 150 grain FMJ I plan to try with AR Plus and H335 and maybe TAC. The first one to group under 2 MOA will be the one I choose.
 
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