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Old April 24, 2005, 06:56 AM   #1
StrikeEagle
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.38 Special Load

Hello!

I cast Lyman #358429 as my standard .38 Spl bullet. Mine seem to come out of the mold weighing 169-ish.

For the last 30 years or so, Lyman has suggested a max of 5.0 grains of Unique for that bullet. I've been using 4.6 grains of Unique... comfortably under max, but still feels good to shoot. Not a squibbie.

I'm setting up my Dillon to make another big run of that standard load... and of course I check the data. Whoa!! All the latest data gives a MAX of 4.2 Unique. So suddenly my pet load is seriously over the limit. I know that loading data changes from time to time... but what is this??

Unique is such a standard that I can't believe that it's changed THAT much. What do you folks make of this?

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Old April 24, 2005, 08:23 AM   #2
Russ5924
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I do believe that they changed the formula some time back. Now if you still have the old powder you may be ok???????????????????????
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Old April 24, 2005, 11:57 AM   #3
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Powder manufacturers do change formulations over time. Sometimes it's to incorporate new technologies into the powder, others it's in the production equipment. It's always best to know not only the lot number of your powder but it's year of manufacture. Call Alliant and ask. I'm sure they'll be helpful. Email also works.
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Old April 24, 2005, 01:49 PM   #4
StrikeEagle
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Quote:
Call Alliant and ask. I'm sure they'll be helpful. Email also works.
I will!

Just wrote them an email... I'll phone tomorrow. I loaded up a few with 4.2 and chronied them... 760-ish with a good bit of variation. And they FEEL weak. Ugh. :barf:

I really wanna just stick with 4.6 but uneasy with it now... especially on a progressive press. sigh

I'll let you know what Alliant says.

thank you
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Old April 24, 2005, 01:52 PM   #5
Chip 2
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That is the very same load I have used for 40+ years. I load it still with the new powder, They changed Unique to make it cleaner burning. Most reloading manuals in the past few years have lowered their max loads for legal reasons. I would almost bet if you inquired at Alliant Powder Company and ask if there is any burning difference between the old Unique and the new they would say no. I haven't checked my self because I have had no problems with that load in my Ruger Blackhawk. But if you have any doubts, by all means contact them on their site.
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Old April 24, 2005, 02:59 PM   #6
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When Alliant slightly altered the characteristics of Unique, it was for a cleaner burn. They stated that they have in no way altered the pressure characteristics of Unique and were very careful to avoid doing so. So, what are we now to believe. They goofed? With a powder that is over 100 years old and they have had plenty of time to get it right?

Or, more likely, the liability lawyers have gotten inside the brains of the folks at SAAMI. .41 and .44 Magnum rounds from the old days went up to 43,500 CUP. Then, SAAMI lowered them to 35,000 and 36,000 PSI respectively, or, around 33,000 CUP. Some powder makers refused to comply with this BS. Hodgdon and Accurate come readily to mind. Recently, SAAMI has backpaddled again and raised the level to 40,000 CUP.

Now, I am not advocating dismissing safety recommendations, But, if I had a safe and reliable track record of 30 years and was sure the powder pressure signature was the same as before, I'm not going to alter a pet handload for Hilary Clintons sake, or that of other unscrupulous liability lawyers, even if SAAMI wants to be politically correct. It is also one of the reasons +P was born to begin with!

This is why I feel it is good to collect as much load data (with pressure data) and even the older load manuals as you can. Of course, if you are changing components, or have reason to believe a powders chemistry has been altered you should go back to the CURRENT recommended minimum. This is common sense reloading. When the Powdermaker swears that they have not altered the burn rate of Unique, just made it cleaner, why are they altering their load data?
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Old April 24, 2005, 04:48 PM   #7
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Change (nothing stays the same).......

Data changes because of improved test methods, or different components ('cause primers and cases and bullets and test platforms change).
Ay?
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Old April 24, 2005, 04:56 PM   #8
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What improved test methods would those be? Alliant was using the Piezo system long before the change to Unique!

Did you catch StrikeEagles second post where he stated, recoil was perceivably weaker?
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Old April 24, 2005, 10:51 PM   #9
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Max charges in the reloading manuals go down every time a new class graduates from law school.

Whenever you start using powder from a new lot (different lot number) you should drop your charge a bit and work back up. If you work up to the same velocity with the same components, your pressure is going to be essentially the same.

Case in point. I load 7.5-7.6 grains of HS-6 under 115 grain FMJ in 9MM. My 25 year old hornady manuals list 8.0 as max. My 10 year old (and newer) Hornady manuals lists 7.2 as max. Velocities have remained the same with the HS6 over the years.

In the past, my load was well below book max, today it is well over book max. so what's the difference? The older manuals were written by ballisticians. The newer manuals are written by lawyers.
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Old April 24, 2005, 11:04 PM   #10
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My first two cartridges I ever loaded were the 30-06 and the 270, around 50 years ago. I started out with Hodgdon's surplus 4831. Still use the same load today but now I use H4831 SC. I haven't dropped my charge one bit and velocities are very close to the same. Have newer rifles today. Guys, the ONLY reason the the newer manuals show a reduced load over the old ones are the lawyers out there are looking to sue someone. And there are always guys out there that are going to load beyond the maximum recommended in the manuals. When they blow grandpas old Springfield, they will sue the powder company. The older named powder don't change in their ballistics. each and every lot of a standard named powder is formulated to be exactly the same as the previous lot. Changing your brass and primors can change pressures more than useing a newer made can of 4831 or anything else.
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Old April 25, 2005, 01:06 AM   #11
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The older named powder don't change in their ballistics. each and every lot of a standard named powder is formulated to be exactly the same as the previous lot. Changing your brass and primers can change pressures more than using a newer made can of 4831 or anything else.
As far as changing brass & primers go, I'll agree to that. Using a different primer can be as significant as adding another .5 gr of powder, which can be dangerous if you're building max loads.

As to one lot (can) of powder being exactly the same as the previous one, I'll disagree here. I used to use Hercules (Alliant) powders exclusively. When I used a new can of Blue Dot to work up some stout .41 Mag rounds I noticed they were a bit weaker than normal. I contacted Hercules who said they'd had one lot that ended up being improperly treated which caused the lower than normal performance. I did get a free can of Blue Dot from them though.
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Old April 25, 2005, 06:53 PM   #12
StrikeEagle
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Thanks for all the responses!

I'm gonna stick with 4.6 of Unique behind that bullet. It's been working for me for years... so that's that.

Thanks again!
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Old April 25, 2005, 11:04 PM   #13
Chip 2
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BILLCA, Your post just varified my post about the companies formulating each lot of powder, to be the same as the last lot. Alliant admitted to you they had made a mistake on the lot you bought. They have to be the same on each lot produced. Just think what would happen if every lot of powder they made was different.
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Old April 25, 2005, 11:13 PM   #14
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BILLCA, Your post just varified my post about the companies formulating each lot of powder, to be the same as the last lot. Alliant admitted to you they had made a mistake on the lot you bought. They have to be the same on each lot produced. Just think what would happen if every lot of powder they made was different.
Chip,
The key here is that the companies do try to formulate their powders to be the same and generally they're very good at it. But to rely on them to be exactly consistent from one lot number to the next is riding the ragged edge of disaster, if you ask me. Imagine if the error had been in the other direction -- hotter/faster/higher pressures -- instead. I'm sure they QC each lot, but something can (and did!) slip past.

When working with "max" loads, it's always best to back off a bit and fire some "test" loads from a new can of powder before resuming loading of maximum loads.
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Old April 26, 2005, 10:42 PM   #15
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When you're dealng with the manufacture of a chemical compound (gunpowder) in lots of several thousands of TONS at a time, you can seldom EXACTLY duplicate the previous lot wile maintaining reasonably economical manufacturing procedures.

The powder companies do a truly outstanding job, and come very close. But the chronograph doesn't lie. When one string of cartridges chronos 1325 FPS, and the next string chronos 1400, in the same shooting session, and the ONLY thing different is the lot number of the powder, then you know the powder is the cause.

When I get a new lot of powder, I don't go clear back to the starting charge. But if I have been loading 7.6 grains, I will drop back to 7.3 or 7.4 and chrono a dozen or so rounds. If they chrono the exact same as 7.3 or 7.4 did with the last lot, I can go back to 7.6 immediately. If they chrono differently from the last lot, I will work up a new max, at perhaps 7.4 to 7.5 if faster, or 7.7 to 7.8 if slower.

For this reason, I buy the powders that I use most, like HS6 in case lots of four 8 pound kegs. (32 pounds total) Even as much pistol as I shoot it still takes quite a while to go through 32 pounds of powder.
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Old May 1, 2005, 02:53 PM   #16
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I'm still using Unique data from a 45th Lyman manual. No problems so far.
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