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Old October 2, 2011, 05:45 PM   #1
Join Date: January 10, 2011
Posts: 65
Did my first reloads today... Question about powder.

As suggested to me on this forum I picked up The ABC's of Reloading and have been examining it for a week or two now, along with a few other books. I have been looking for an inexpensive starter kit for reloading 357 Magnum & 44 Magnum. Today I picked up a bunch of used stuff from Craigslist for $75, see list of items below.

There was 13 brass and bullets for the 7x57 Mauser (I don't have a gun of this caliber). I looked up some reloading data online for my powder and assembled the cartridges towards the mid-lower end of the power spectrum. Overall it was a good experience, I learned how to install and adjust the dies (which was my biggest worry) and that went well. I already had a set of digital calipers to which I made sure the case and cartridge dimensions were within the specs of my books. I have gained confidence in this today and look forward to a future in reloading.

My question is, as a beginner who doesn't know anything about different powders... what would be a suggested powder to start working with for 38 Special, 357 Magnum, and 44 Magnum? Would the same powder work for 45 ACP? Once I do some reloading and gain some more experience I can start examining other powders.

Here's what I got today:

RCBS Partner Press
Lee 357/38 Carbide 3-die set
Lee 7x57 Mauser 2-die set
extra decapper pins
case lube
Blue Dot powder
some primers
kinetic puller
a cheesy plastic scale
300 used 357 Magnum brass in plastic boxes
some 7x57 Brass & bullets
reloading block
some other small items that I can't identify
Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading.
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Old October 2, 2011, 06:03 PM   #2
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You've got the books. Read them twice.

Invest in a good balance beam scale. Exact powder charge is important, and a scale you cannot trust is a serious safety risk!

No single powder will give optimum performance in all the cartridges you mention. If you want to start out with only one which will give good performance in all of them, I'd suggest Hercules Unique. You can't get maximum velocity out of your high pressure cartridges (.357 & .44 Mag), but it will work well for everything you have at at moderate pressures and velocities.

I'm sure others will mention newer powders and I cannot comment on them. Personally, I've never found a reason to move away from Unique since it does everything I want for my moderate handgun loads. Possible exception is that I now use Winchester Super Field (WSF) for my 45 ACP loads.
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Old October 2, 2011, 07:09 PM   #3
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Welcome to the group !!
What "mkl" said, plus 231WW will work in all of those with the same limitation of top end performance. I have found Bluedot works fine in 357 and 44 Mags as well, but I would be careful of the can that you picked up in this deal if it has been opened - you don't know that the prior person really had BD in it. I primarily use 231 in 38 Special and 45 ACP.
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Old October 2, 2011, 07:23 PM   #4
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BlueDot data for 125 grain bullets in 357 has been discontinued. Do not load that combo with Blue Dot.
Keep your manuals current-older manuals may have obsolete data. Keep a well maintained, reliable powder scale.
I use Titegroup powder for light loads in 357 and 44-quite sure it's listed for use in 45 acp. It's very consistent for me and makes for cheap loading.
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Old October 2, 2011, 08:06 PM   #5
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While Blue Dot is easily identifiable , and my favorite revolver powder , I would never use any 'pre-owned' powder if it came in an non-factory sealed container.
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Old October 2, 2011, 08:13 PM   #6
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Unique will do what you want to do in the .38/.357, .44 magnum and .45 auto.

I can't imagine a pistol caliber loading bench that doesn't have a pound of Unique.
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Old October 2, 2011, 09:54 PM   #7
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I would concur with most of what everyone else said...

Unique will serve you well in the handgun calibers you are loading for, for moderate velocity loads. If you want Magnum performance, look at W296.

I would dump the powder out in the flowerbed or yard... I don't use powder that I don't know where it came from or how it was stored/handled. Same with primers.

The standard for balance scales is the RCBS 5-0-5 (actually made by Ohaus.) Worth every penny.

The Partner press is pretty small; I have the RS3, which I think is the next step up. It's barely big enough for some of the cartridges I resize (.30-06 and .348WCF come to mind) but it soldiers on even after 25 years of use and abuse. The Partner will work very well for your handgun loads; if you start to load a lot of bottleneck rifle cartridges, I would start looking for something a little bigger.

As another poster mentioned... read those manuals! I have 5 of them to cross-reference my loading data, they are worth their weight in gold (or at least gunpowder!)
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Old October 2, 2011, 11:38 PM   #8
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Welcome to the asylum! You're off to a great start and you've gotten some great advice. Read all you can, ask questions to clarify, and be very careful. This is serious stuff!
Oh yeah, have fun!
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Old October 3, 2011, 01:53 AM   #9
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You did well for $75. You did well to study up and learn to adjust dies and all.

Gunpowder does make good fertilizer, which is the best use for anything of which you are not certain. That, or to entertain the neighborhood kids. A tablespoonful makes a dandy flare-up poured into a metal pan or onto a flat rock and lit with a match. But make sure you water it well. All that nitrogen can over-energize your plants. I wouldn't use it on a food crop, either.

When I introduced my friend to reloading, I did some research and settled on Trail Boss. It is a voluminous powder, easy to make sure there is powder in the case and difficult or impossible to overcharge. Great to learn on.

The "cheesy plastic scale", what brand is it? Is the base light metal and the balance beam black plastic with the main weight a ball bearing? Does it have the name "Lee" on the balance beam? If so, you have a decent scale. It is hard to read (uses a vernier), but it is as accurate as any you will find. If it is electronic, I would invest in a good balance beam scale.

After you get your feet wet, for more powerful .357 and .44 Magnum loads, 2400 was recommended to me when I first started loading. It is a good powder for heavier loads. For lighter loads (down around 38 Special power levels), Unique is one of my favorites.

For what it's worth, I never use 38 or 44 special brass. Whatever power level I load, it is always in the magnum brass. It fits the chambers better (I own no 38 or 44 Special guns).

Good luck

Lost Sheep
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Old October 3, 2011, 07:05 AM   #10
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I know from experience Unique will work for 38 Special, 357 Magnum, and 44 Magnum. I don't know about 45acp, but it appears others do (how many votes is that for Unique now? ).

I've heard 2400 will work for moderate to +P 38special loads, but I've never tried it there myself. It does work great for 357mag and 44mag.

I would never use any 'pre-owned' powder if it came in an non-factory sealed container.
Agreed unless I knew the previous owner well. Otherwise, you don't know what was done with the powder, how it was treated, etc. Not likely, but the owner might have mixed another powder with it or have something totally different in the can (have heard of this!), though the latter is not likely with Blue Dot (easily identifiable).

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Old October 4, 2011, 08:32 AM   #11
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specifically tasked to your request

For those three cartridges and the "one powder" choice I most highly recommend Hodgdon Universal.
"all my ammo is mostly retired factory ammo"
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Old October 15, 2011, 04:38 PM   #12
Frank D
Join Date: October 3, 2010
Posts: 28
First reloads.....Question about powder

Sounds like you are ready to jump in..
Even though I have been reloading for awhile, I still hesitate to give specifics.
Regarding powders.. Unique, Winchester 231, and Bullseye are great for straight wall handgun calibers. By the way, Bullseye and Unique are among the oldest handgun powders. Both are made currently by Alliant (Not Hercules)
and an Alliant Load Data Book would be a great addition to your library.
Try to stick with RECENT editions of reloading manuals. Old ones often refer to powders that are outdated and unavailable.
I have had good success with the powders I mention in loading .38/,357,
.45ACP, and .44 Special. I find that light to moderate loads are most accurate.
The carbide sizing die you got is great for straight wall cases (Require no lube) and worth considering when you switch to .45ACP and .44 Mag.
When you select bullets, be VERY MUCH aware of the pressure differences between Jacketed bullets and lead (or PLATED) bullets.
Most of my loading has been for Revolvers, but in loading for semi-auto you will be wise to choose loads that are close to Factory Spec. to insure feeding and ejection in your pistol. Pay close attention to CRIMP recommendations for the various weapons. Revolver/Roll Crimp--Semi-Auto/Tapered Crimp, etc...
More than you asked !!!! Hope this helps with your starting efforts.
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Old October 15, 2011, 08:41 PM   #13
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Congrats and welcome to the addiction!
I am an old-timer (50+) with most of those years as a shooter, but only a 3-year rolader, so take what I say witha grain of salt.
All that said, I am a compulsive reader/learner, and have spent entirely too much time on this and other forums in the last five years (just ask the wife).

Here's what I have to add to the conversation:
.38 Spl is a large volume, low-pressure round.
.45acp is a small volume, low pressure round.
.357 Mag and .44 Mag are large volume, high pressure rounds.

As such, each type of round makes different demands of it's powder (slower burning/faster burning)and there is no one powder that will bring each to it's potential.

There will be some powders that will "work" with all of the above, but each will be a compromise. In most people's opinion, Unique is as close to a universal handgun powder as exists, but it does not (IME) meter well through many progressive powder measures.

If it were me, I would use W231 or Bullseye for the .38 and .45acp. Once I were a bit more confident in my skills, I would look at powders for the Magnum cartridges.

Remember that a .38 operates at around 17,000 psi, and a .357 is approximately double that. While a double charged .38/.45acp will be memorable and perhaps damaging to the hardware, doing the same with a .357/.44 Mag will likely be...downright explosive.
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