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Old August 24, 2014, 04:56 PM   #1
condor bravo
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Trail Boss powder for rifle loads

The following is presented as a general discussion for using Trail Boss powder with rifle loads and is not a reply to other posts. Most forum discussions on the subject of TB powder relate to handgun loads.

I have never used Trail Boss powder with handgun loads but have used over 20 lbs with rifle loads, about all with cast bullets, calibers all the way from 25-20 to the big mags (.458 win, .416 rem, 8mm rem, .375 H&H, all four of the Rem Ultra Mags, most of the remaining lesser mags and standard calibers). Results could hardly be better for indoor range shooting and not getting beat up with recoil. No doubt some will take exception to my TB loading procedures, so first just read and then take any follow up action as desired (like immediately going to the next post or start using TB with your rifle loads—starting with reduced loads of course).

I started with the usual recommendation of a reduced load by loading a .30-06 case three quarters full with TB and using a 150 gr cast bullet, which, when fired, was about like a 22. Working up next to the junction of the shoulder and case neck (about where the bullet will be seated to), the recoil was about what you would get from a .222 Rem. Weighing charges turned out to be a complete waste of time.

After more experimenting I no longer start with reduced loads and, regardless of caliber, fill the case to the shoulder/neck junction and fire away. .45-70s all the way to the Ultra and lesser mags, standard cartridges, and down to the .25-20. Unlike reports regarding handgun cases, fired cases come out clean and with hardly any odor (again as reported with handgun loads). Primers are not the least bit flattened and any pressure signs are lacking. Recoil from the likes of .458s compares to that of a standard .243.

CAUTION: The following paragraph includes suggestions directly contradictory to the powder manufacturers instructions/warnings . USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Neither the writer, The Firing Line, nor the staff of TFL assume any liability for any damage or injury resulting from use of this information.
Something has been said that compressing the powder would result in fracturing the granules and raise pressures. NOT SO. Due to faulty case sizing resulting in chambering difficulties, I had to pull bullets from some 80 rounds of 8mm Rem Mag cartridges, all of which the TB had been compressed to some extent. There was absolutely no fracturing whatsoever and the powder was of course reused.

The only failure has been with a 160 gr bullet and the 6.5 Swedish Mauser, rifling twist 1 to 8, where the bullets all keyholed. On the other hand the 160s were fine with a 6.5 Rem Mag with a 1 to 9 twist. There isn’t that much of a difference between the two case sizes. The only difficulty lies in my powder source maintaining a supply of TB.

Now imagine how you can impress your shooting friends who may be thinking that you are firing round after round of full powered .458s or .416s with nary a flinch or painful expression. A true Charles Atlas to be sure. Note that the factory loaded .416 Rem Mag is just slightly more powerful, at the tradeoff for higher pressure, than the .416 Rigby.

Last edited by Brian Pfleuger; August 26, 2014 at 10:40 AM. Reason: warning added, removed gratuitous redirect
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Old August 24, 2014, 07:41 PM   #2
g.willikers
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Just for reference, here's Hodgdon's chart for reduced rifle loads with Trail Boss:
http://hodgdon.com/PDF/Trail%20Boss%...oads%20R&P.pdf

From your results, what you're doing must be in agreement.
Sounds like fun and a good way to get more use from your rifles.
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Old August 25, 2014, 04:09 AM   #3
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Using TB in rifles for reduced load is not new. I have used it in rifles and hadgns with good results., altho never with the intention of trying to impress others with my prowess of shooting big boomers. Hodgdon/IMR states that 100% of case volume is a max load so anything over that(any compressed load) is above max and should be posted here with this warning........http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=147679
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Old August 25, 2014, 10:43 AM   #4
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G.willikers hit on the bottom line. More use from your rifles and more fun doing it.
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Old August 26, 2014, 10:38 AM   #5
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I've been using TB for awhile as well in my 30-30. Just use the same common practices any other time and it works. I def won't be eyeballing a charge no matter what the powder.
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Old August 26, 2014, 10:49 AM   #6
Brian Pfleuger
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Under most circumstances, I would agree but in this case the instructions from the powder manufacturer specifically call for "eye-balling" the charge. Trail Boss has SO much bulk that it's impossible to cause problems by using too much, unless you get to compressing charges which should never be done unless specifically indicated by IMR/Hodgdon.
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Old August 26, 2014, 03:34 PM   #7
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The non-compression issue for Trail Boss powder is intriguing but remains a mystery. To check my own powder weights as set by the “eyeball method”, I compared three of the larger cartridge weights against Hodgdon’s max loading weight table with the following results (8mm Mag also included for information purposes):

Caliber-------- Hodgdon Max------ Eyeball Weight------ Bullet Weight
.30-06------------ 19.0-- --------- 18.0------------------- 150
.375 H&H --------- 26.3----------- 25--------------------- 235
.416 Rem Mag----- 29------------- 27--------------------- 350
8mm Rem Mag------N/A------------ 26--------------------- 170

N/A: not available

The eyeball method seems to work pretty well, BUT WORK UP YOUR OWN PERSONAL POWDER WEIGHTS WITH YOUR SCALE.

Has anyone out there actually come across Hodgdon’s/IMR’s reasoning for not compressing TB? Is there a proven, hard core reason or is it Just a baseless general safety warning? The only reason I have come across, as stated earlier, is that the granules might be broken up (and, I assume, present more surface area for burning resulting in an increased burn rate). The broken granule theory, in the 8mm, Mag incident I spoke of earlier, simply did not reveal any deformed granules.

TB is a fast powder. One burn rate table lists TB as number 19 from the top, and another table shows even a smaller number from the top.

Does anyone out there have an actual answer for not compressing other than just don't do it?

Last edited by condor bravo; August 27, 2014 at 03:09 PM.
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Old August 26, 2014, 03:57 PM   #8
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I use trailboss extensively for my 45Colt and have made quite a few reduced 308win loads. On the 308 I fill to the shoulder and use a cheap 150gn boat tails. So far they have been decently accurate with little recoil. I use these as practice loads in a Ruger American 308 compact for my wife and daughter. I use a lee powder measure to set the charges right where I want by volume. I don't see much reason to risk compressing the loads as these are meant to be light loads anyway and the few extra FPS really don't justify the risk if it does exist.
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Old August 26, 2014, 04:04 PM   #9
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I seem to recall that IMR's official reason had to do with broken kernels effecting the burn rate.

It's a little hard for me to imagine that this is a problem in modern, high-pressure cartridges, as 100% loads burn before the bullet has even left the case in many cartridges and pressures are only around 50% of the SAAMI max. It doesn't seem as though the energy is there to make a problem, no matter how the stuff burns.

In any case, I just sent an email to IMR/Hodgdon asking for clarification and guidance. I will report their response.

I load Trail Boss in a number of rifle and both semi-auto handgun and revolver cartridges. Especially in the rifle and semi-auto handgun cartridges, it would be fantastic to be able to go beyond 100% load density.
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Old August 27, 2014, 08:39 PM   #10
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Last summer I began experiencing split cases in once fired 38 special brass using Trail Boss mixed with Penn 125 grain cast bullets. My experience with straight wall pistol cases and splits is they start at the case mouth and go down about a third the length of the case in the rare instance I encounter one. This was very different.

The split started about where the base of the bullet had been and went down to where there appeared to be anneal marks. Enough cases split to really catch my attention. None of them split upwards to the case mouth. Never seen this before or since.

I went back to check my notes and loading set up. I had loaded around 50 each at 5.1 grains, 5.2 grains, and 5.3 grains of Trail Boss. I had noticed nothing unusual with the 5.1 and 5.2 grains. I only fired a cylinder full of the 5.3 grains when I noticed the case splits on extraction.

Caliper measurement of the case brand (Federal I think) shows the seating depth I used allowed the bullet to just touch the powder at 5.1 grains, slightly compress the powder at 5.2 grains, and compress the powder about a tenth of an inch at 5.3 grains. Since then I always check to be sure I never compress Trail Boss and advise others I have a personal reason to suggest not to do so.
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Old August 28, 2014, 06:02 PM   #11
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Thanks for the input. I had somewhat of a similar thing happen with bullseye powder and military 38 cases. Bullet seating caused the cases to bulge considerably where the bullets were seated. Upon firing cases would split at the junction between the base of the bullet and the lower half of the case but not extending to the mouth nor the base. My guess was that with the round not fully supported by the chamber wall, a weak area existed at the bullet base and gas pressure split the case at that location (hope that makes sense).
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Old September 3, 2014, 03:18 PM   #12
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Overcharge .38 Special with Trail Boss powder

Finally a real live incident to report relative to overcharging Trail Boss Powder. I came across the following incident relative to an overload of Trail Boss powder in a .38 Special. Vulcan Bob reported in the Smith & Wesson forum that he had thrown powder charges of TB in .38 Special cases but became distracted and upon returning to the reloading chores, overlooked performing a visual check of the powder levels.

Later at the range, all started off well until one round fired like a .357 Mag. Returning to the reloading bench he pulled the remaining bullets and found one round that had only about a half charge. The problem, of course, was powder bridging in the measure when charging the cases. One case, due to bridging, received only a half charge while the next one received a charge and a half as the bridging cleared itself. Of course it cannot be determined whether the high pressure was due to fractured powder granules or the higher pressure generated by an overcharge case (like can happen with a charge and a half of many other powders).

Bob then experimented with his powder measure and determined that bridging would occur every so often. I’ve had some bridging occur when charging rifle cases but this is easy to determine since the result is an excess spilling of powder (since the normal powder charge almost fills the case). The problem stems from using a powder charging tube with an orifice that is smaller than what could be used for the case. Using a larger charge tube should fix the problem.

Since I have not heard from anyone who has actually seen fractured powder granules by pulling bullets from compressed charges, I'm more inclined to think of the hazard as simply overcharging, and using that terminology, rather than breaking up the powder due to compression resulting in more surface area.
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Old September 4, 2014, 02:07 AM   #13
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I would classify TB as a flake powder. It also is rather slower to fill a given volume than most powders given its deliberately 'fluffy' nature. This requires a somewhat different reloading cadence compared to standard powders. The powder drop time should be extended. That is the only significant difference I've found in technique with this powder.
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Old September 4, 2014, 11:09 AM   #14
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Quote:
Since I have not heard from anyone who has actually seen fractured powder granules by pulling bullets from compressed charges, I'm more inclined to think of the hazard as simply overcharging, and using that terminology, rather than breaking up the powder due to compression resulting in more surface area.
Seems to me, if an overcharge can only be achieved by compressing the load, whether or not the granules are fractured or not is a moot point. The hazard, regardless of what terminology you wish to use, is because you put more powder in the case than case capacity. IMR/Hodgdon say that 100% of case capacity(volume to bottom of seated bullet) is a max load, ANY load more than that is an overcharge.......period. Overcharge a case by accident or on purpose, the results will be the same. Difference is, one is a mistake, and one is just foolishness.
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Old September 4, 2014, 11:11 AM   #15
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No response from Hodgdon/IMR.
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Old September 4, 2014, 05:21 PM   #16
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I filled a fired .45 acp case to the brim with TB and then used a dowel rod to compress the powder with as much weight as I could put upon it. Expecting the compression to reduce the powder to half a case, it hardly settled 1/8 of an inch, if that. Examination of the powder did not reveal a single deformed granule. Weight of the powder was 8 grains, and no, I certainly would not want to shoot that if a bullet could be seated. We're still hoping to hear from Hodgdon on this whole issue.
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Old September 5, 2014, 08:32 AM   #17
buck460XVR
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Quote:
Originally posted by condor bravo:

I filled a fired .45 acp case to the brim with TB and then used a dowel rod to compress the powder with as much weight as I could put upon it. Expecting the compression to reduce the powder to half a case, it hardly settled 1/8 of an inch, if that. Examination of the powder did not reveal a single deformed granule.

I doubt very much if you could put the kind of pressure by hand with a dowel, on the powder as a regular press with compound linkage. Even so, if fractured granules were a real concern.......powder would all be shipped around the world surrounded by foam peanuts in packages marked "fragile, handle like glass" and one would have to take severe precautions when transporting loaded ammo. Obviously the compressing changes the pressure curve, thus making a relatively safe powder spike. Thing is, there is absolutely no reason to purposely overload and compress TB. It is meant to duplicate BP(which too does not like to be compressed) and give soft shooting reduced recoil ammo. If one desires more velocity than what one can obtain from TB at recommended charges, there are many other options out there that do it better and safely. As with most any other powder out there, overcharge a case, intentionally or by mistake and you are putting yourself at risk. Reloading for the general public is not about seeing how much powder one can stuff in a case and get away with it.
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Old September 5, 2014, 01:44 PM   #18
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I use TB in a lot of diff rifle cases .357 mag, 30/30, .243, 6.5x55, 25/06, 7mm RM, 30/06, .444, 45/70 & .458. I have used a lot of cast bullets but also use a lot of jacketed bullets. In most cases when I have chrono'd them velocity's were with in 100fps. I have never really bothered to weigh the actual weight of the charge, what I do is take a old unreloadable ( split neck, lose primer pocket) case in the caliber in question cut it off at the case shoulder junction solder on a handle and use it for a dipper. I have used maybe 20 lbs of TB so far, this one of my must have powders. I shoot a lot on my backyard range and its perfect for 25yds...
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Old September 5, 2014, 08:22 PM   #19
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Thanks for the input; good way to measure.the powder. I also load the .45/70 and the .458. The .45/70 is almost a .458--load the same cast bullet in both, a 360 grain one. TB is certainly a popular powder. Gun show at Ventura tomorrow; hope I can grab some before it is all gone. I guess this is hard to get anywhere. IMR didn't know the monster they were creating; just thought probably it would just be used for cowboy action shooting.

Last edited by condor bravo; September 6, 2014 at 01:00 AM.
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Old September 6, 2014, 07:12 PM   #20
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I've been using TB in large bore rifle rounds since it was introduced. I use the recommended process to establish the loads and have not deviated since there's no need to do so. It's not about velocity.

I use an aged Bonanza powder measure and give the lever 2 firm taps at the top of the cycle and 2 of the same at the bottom. I've never had a problem with over/under charges. The charges are visually verified in the block before bullet seating just because I'm old and wise.

FWIW, I did some measured charge experiments early-on with a very accurate .375 H&H. It was still accurate with TB, and suffered negligible accuracy degradation when shifted to metered loads.
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Old September 6, 2014, 08:57 PM   #21
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Thanks for the input; always interested in what others are doing with TB. By recommended way I assume by charging to the base of the bullet, what we have been calling the "eyeball" method. Lucky today and picked up two cans of TB at gunshow. There were only three cans in the whole place.
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Old September 7, 2014, 06:10 AM   #22
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Maybe this doesn't need asked, but with these Trail Boss rifle loads are all you guys using just lead bullets (or plated)? Isn't that a big deal with trail boss?
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Old September 7, 2014, 07:09 AM   #23
Brian Pfleuger
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Trail Boss powder for rifle loads

Trail Boss hasn't been restricted to lead/plated for years.

http://www.imrpowder.com/PDF/Trail-Boss-data.pdf

Last edited by Brian Pfleuger; September 7, 2014 at 10:26 PM.
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Old September 7, 2014, 11:14 AM   #24
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Nope use jacketed bullets all the time....
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Old September 7, 2014, 12:31 PM   #25
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Whenever I have cast bullets for the caliber I use those,
which means about 90% of the time.
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