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Old May 9, 2012, 04:53 AM   #1
Pond, James Pond
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Choosing a single powder for multiple calibers. VV

The ins and outs of reloading; powder and bullet choice, and how they affect the end product's characteristics are still a somewhat dark art to my eyes.

However, I'm learning and slowly bits are falling into place as far as my understanding is concerned.

I am trying to choose a powder to reload with. I am trying to use only one, mostly for cost reasons. Where I live, only one brand of powder is available: "Vihtavuori", so please confine any suggestions to this brand.

If it is unknown to you, then please use the relative burn rates I have provided as a guide.

I want to reload .44 Mag and .38 Spl.

For the time being these will be 240gr and 158gr bullets respectively. Rounds will be for range use mostly. For SD/HD I’d use factory loads. I may later load some 310gr lead bullets for woods duty in .44, if I can get hold of them…

For .44 Mag I have powders suggested by Vihtavuori (V) and Lyman's 49th (L):
N105 (V)
N110 (V) (L)
N320 (V)
N340 (V)
N350 (V)
3N37 (V)

For .38 Mag I have powders suggested by Vihtavuori (V) and Lyman's 49th (L):
N320 (V) (L)
N340 (V)
N350 (V) (L)
3N37 (V)

In my Lyman’s manual, here are the relative burn rates for each with the next relative brands as a position out of a hundred, 1st place being fastest burning:

16th International
17th N320
18th PB, IMR

32nd Power Pistol, Alliant
33rd N340
34th SR-4756, IMR
35th 800X IMR
36th 3N37
37th N105
38th No.7, Accurate
39th Longshot, Hodgdon
40th N350
41st True Blue, Ramshot

46th Enforcer, Ramshot
47th N110
48th 4100, Accurate

Sorry for the lengthy post.
However, I don’t yet understand how burn rate will manifest itself in felt recoil or accuracy and where the acceptable cross over for the needs of a light .38 and a heavy .429

You choice and why?
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Old May 9, 2012, 09:33 AM   #2
Brian Pfleuger
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I've only used one VVH powder so I can't speak to that exactly but I'll point out that restricting yourself to one powder doesn't really save money in the long run.
It saves up front, sure, you can buy one bottle instead of two. After that though, you use that single bottle faster and buy it more often than you would separate bottles.
If loading a 38spl and 44mag uses a total of 40gr (15 and 25gr, just for example), you get 175 pair out of a 7,000gr bottle. If you buy two bottles and you load one with 38 at 15gr and one with 44mag at 25gr, you still get 325 pair out of two bottles rather than 175 out of 1 bottle.
Same, same.
6 of one, 1/2 dozen of the other.
Distinction without a difference.
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Old May 9, 2012, 10:53 AM   #3
bossman
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Well, a few things to ponder on. Which will you be shooting the most 38 spl 44 spl or 44 mag. Lean toward the one that performs best for the caliber you will be shooting the most. Are you going to be shooting lead or jacketed, lead is great for light target loads.

The 38 spl 158 gr 358 dia Lswc is perfect for target loads. A lot of 44's are 240 gr, you may check and see if you could find a 200 gr or 220 gr bullet to get a little closer to the 38 158 gr. on bullet weight.

I think you should go with a mid range type of powder, the slower powders are for real thumpers and are used to get higher velocitys for people who want max numbers out of the big bores. Whatever you decide to go with make sure you can find load data for the bullet and powder. For bullets 429 dia jacketed .430 dia lead. For the 38 .357 dia jacketed .358 for lead.

On trying to find just one powder it important to decide if you want light to mid range target loads or high velocity hard hitting loads.Higher velocity doesn't always mean better accuracy. Light plinking loads are much easier on the shooter when going out to shoot a lot of reloads. I would think just looking at a burn rate chart N 320 will be better for the 38 and N 340 for the 44 but both should work. Good luck and hang in there it will soon start to make sense.
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Last edited by bossman; May 9, 2012 at 11:08 AM.
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Old May 9, 2012, 11:05 AM   #4
black mamba
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I have not used VV powders, but based on my 35 years of reloading experience along with the burning rate and bulk density info I would choose N340 for my single powder. Hopefully you can get it in the more economical large jugs (4-8 pounds).

I narrowed it down to N340, 3N37 and N350 based on burn rate, then chose N340 because it was the bulkiest of the three, making it better on case fill. The burn rate makes it economical to use in lighter loads, but still can give 1,100+ fps loads for hunting or self defense.

But between these three, if only one of them comes in the larger jugs at a cheaper rate, then I would take that one.

If none of the three powders are available in larger, less expensive jugs, then I would choose two powders, N320 and N110. N320 will maximize your target loads, and N110 is a great powder for the heavier loads.
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Old May 9, 2012, 01:37 PM   #5
Jim Watson
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I think it false economy to try to load cartridges as far apart as .38 Special and .44 Magnum with the same powder. Efficiency and performance would be limited in one or the other.

Agree with Brian, after you get a can of powder for each to start, the cost is thereafter the same.

It even depends on what load level in each calibre.
.38 Special midrange wadcutters - N310
.38 Special standard semiwadcutter - N320
.38 Special heavy load - N350

.44 Magnum full power - N110

I guess you could settle for .44 Special - .45 Colt equivalent loads in .44 Magnum cases and gun so as to use the same powder as .38 but there is no real cost savings and you would not have the full capability of the gun.
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Old May 9, 2012, 02:15 PM   #6
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I have used vN-340 for .45 ACP bowling pin loads, and it worked very well ... but was hard to find and expensive when I did find it. Data was not common for it either.

I have gone to Power Pistol, which I first picked because it was of similar performance in .45ACP and being an extruded powder like the -340, meters very nicely. I now use it for 9mm, heavy .38's, and .45 ACP ...... there are .357 and .38 spec loads for it (and -340) as well, but I don't like that little bit of powder rattling around in the case like a BB in a boxcar, preferring loads that fill at least half the case.....

I think that "one powder for everything" makes as much sense as "one tool for everything" ....... "If your only tool is a hammer ..... " .... there will be plenty of ruined screws.... IF much of anything at all gets done, it won't be done well.................
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Old May 9, 2012, 02:25 PM   #7
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It will always be a compromise. For example, Unique has always been the 'all around' powder for just about any cartridge. It is cheap and economical... but you can't get to Magnum level loads with it. Close ... but no cigar. For my shooting, I could stick with Unique and be fine as I certainly don't need 1300+ loads (No Dinosaurs around here).

That said, one usually keeps a can of say 2400 around to get to the Magnum level loads. Therefore two general purpose powers will do it.... I have around 15+ different powders sitting on my shelf for testing purposes. Just added another one a week ago, a pound of AA#9.... Part of the fun is finding that elusive perfect load ... gotta be out there somewhere .
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Old May 9, 2012, 02:38 PM   #8
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Never having used VV powder, I approached it a little differently but came up with the same answer as Black Mamba. My reasoning was: my choice of a single powder from the ones I know would be something like Unique or Universal. 340 is the closest to those in burning rate even though it seems a bit slow for soft 38 loads. I would by a pound of that and see how I liked it. If it worked fine in both I would but it in bulk, and if it didn’t do well in one of the calibers I would either go ahead and stock two powders or try something else. By the way I like the idea of keeping less powders in inventory, but I’m not close to getting down to even single digits.
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Old May 9, 2012, 03:08 PM   #9
Pond, James Pond
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Thanks for the input, advice and words of encouragement.

I've taken on board the comments about choosing only one powder, but this is something I'm going to try for now. Mostly it is cost.

Most of the VV range are about €85 per kilo. That is about $50 per lb.

Between buying all the gear, and now trying to source the likes of bullets at €0.20 a piece, I don't want to buy more than I need.

My point of view right now is Vihtavuori list those powders as choices for both .38 and .44.
If they are all recommended options, then I should be able to buy any one of them and use it for both calibres. As you can see, my problem is which one.

Perhaps later I may expand to two distinct choices my reloading needs, but right now, I'll be happy to reload and shoot without loosing my eyebrows to a resulting mushroom cloud!
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Old May 9, 2012, 03:48 PM   #10
griz
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That's about twice what we pay here, so I see your concern. Can you get 330? I ask because it is listed on the charts as very near Universal, but I don't see it listed as one of your options. Good luck, Griz
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Old May 9, 2012, 04:21 PM   #11
Misssissippi Dave
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Since you are not looking to get the hottest load possible you probably would be better off with 340. If you want to get your bullets to move a little faster and have a little more recoil then 350. You can load .44 Special type loads in the Mag case if you wanted to. You would have to start at the mid range for powder for a 44 special and work up. You would then stop at the lowest range for mag loads. The reason you start at the mid range is because the mag case is longer then the special case is and you will need a bit more powder since there is more room in the case to get about the same pressure. I have known a few people that just loaded .44 mag up with .44 spcial Plus P load data and came out pretty close to what you would expect out of a .44 special using mag cases. It also saves a little powder. Here powder is the cheapest component to reloading and not near what you have to pay.
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Old May 9, 2012, 06:16 PM   #12
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Well, if you can only have one brand of powder VV is what you want to be stuck with, it is the very best. I have used quite a bit of VV powders in 357, 45 Colt, 45 ACP and 9X19. For your 44 Mag N110 is hands down the best for full power loads. It has given excellent performance with full power 357 for me and hot 45 Colt. For medium power loads N350 will give good results. It excels in my 9mm. For the 38 Special N320 is the way to go, although N340 has given better results for me in 45ACP than N320 but with increased powder charges. The competitive shooters over on the Brian Enos forum swear by N320. N320 could also be used for light 44 Mag loads too. N110 and N320 would cover all of your needs for those two cartridges.
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