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Old March 31, 2014, 02:13 AM   #1
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Please help me understand powder differences

So, I seem to keep buying weird powders that won't work with the most widely available bullets. Finding loading information has been a pain. I currently load for .38, and I'm stocking up to start loading for .30-30.

I started loading .38 in the middle of the ammo drought, so powders were scarce. I picked up Trail Boss and some Hi-Skor 800-X. I have successfully loaded .38 rounds with both these powders.

I ran to my local place today and picked up some Lever Evolution powder and some more Trail Boss. Now I'm researching bullets online, and the most affordable .30-30 bullets (by a long shot) are cast lead. It looks like I could get about 1000 fps out of them with Trail Boss, which just seem pretty useless for anything but plinking at 50 yards or less. And while I may be able to work a load up with Lever Evolution powder it seems like a bad idea. Lead bullets don't like to go faster than 1500-1600 fps, and with Lever Evolution being such a hot powder, I think using a lighter charge of LE might result in a case that isn't full enough.

Also, there seems to be absolutely no loadings for Hi-Skor 800-X in rifle calibers. Why? I'd understand if it was a really fast burning powder, but it seems to be the opposite.

So can someone explain to me why shotgun powders seem to be ok for pistol rounds? Also, why can Trail Boss be used for everything? I know there are other more "universal" powders (Unique?), so what's up with those? What's the deal with rifle powders being so specific?

I'm thinking I'm going to have to go buy a powder specifically for .30-30 lead bullets. What the heck! Help me stop buying stuff I don't need, lol. (It's actually not that bad, I can use the 800-X for .38 rounds and I'll eventually want to load some jacketed stuff for the 30-30).
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Old March 31, 2014, 02:28 AM   #2
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beneath the surface, the intricacies of powder are a mystery to me... but I'll tell you what I do... I go to the powder manufacturer websites and list every powder I can use for each cartridge and bullet I plan to use. that way, when I go to the store, I can look at their meager selection and hopefully (yeah right) find something I can use. if there are any overlap powders I can use for multiple cartridges, they get a hash mark so I remember.
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Old March 31, 2014, 07:07 AM   #3
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Rifles rounds have much more case capacity than handgun rounds, and take much slower powders. So much so that the slowest handgun powders are still faster than the fastest rifle powders. The only overlap is around the burning speed of 2400 that can be used for magnum handguns and tiny rifle rounds such as the 22 Hornet.

Trail Boss is an exception. It was designed to take up a lot of volume to make it almost impossible to double charge big cases originally loaded with black powder. It turned out to work well with lots of cases. But when used in rifle cases the pressures, and thus velocities, stay lower than with conventional rifle powders. Powders such as Unique do somewhat the same thing, providing some useful rifle loads, but are still way to fast burning to provide a full velocity load in a conventional rifle case.

So in short, there is NO powder that will provide normal velocities in the full range of rifle and pistol cases.
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Old March 31, 2014, 10:06 AM   #4
Jim Watson
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800X is a heavy load shotshell powder, usable in fairly heavy handgun loads if you don't mind the poor metering of its large flakes. I guess you could come up with some reduced rifle loads by careful experimentation but I am not surprised you find no "recipes." It will not give you full rifle loads, it is too fast burning for standard ballistics in bottleneck rifle rounds.

I would have thought your shopping list of reasonably suitable powders would prevent the accumulation of mystery powders.
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Old March 31, 2014, 10:42 AM   #5
Misssissippi Dave
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I guess you could look at it this way. It is possible to pull a trailer (empty) with a compact pickup. Pulling a fully loaded 20,000 lb. load on that same trailer to highway speeds just can't be done with the small truck. The engine is too small and the frame is too weak. Not to mention the vehicle being too light. The case and barrel might be considered the frame of the tow vehicle and the engine and drive train the powder. You need to match both parts for the job you intend to do. Having a 10 ton truck to pull the load, but installing only a 40 hp VW Beatle motor, still won't work.

As already mentioned it is always best to take a note with you when you are looking for components to start a new load. Find the combinations of published data for the load you intend to load and the combinations of powder and bullet listed to load the round to the level you want. The data can be found in reloading manuals and on line. Check out as many as you can from different manufactures so you get as many combinations as possible.

This should make it much easier to get the right stuff the first trip out. Later you may find other combinations of components available so you can see which ones will work best with your guns.
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Old March 31, 2014, 12:11 PM   #6
James K
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Powders made for handguns are designed to provide a rapid pressure rise in order to get good bullet velocity out of short barrels. Powders for rifles are designed to provide a slower pressure rise and keep pressure up in a longer barrel to gain greater velocity. Shotgun powders will give an intermediate pressure rise so as to keep most of the pressure at the thicker (rear) part of the barrel, allowing the front of the barrel to be thinner for faster handling.

Some shotgun powders work well in handguns, but the main reason for their use in handguns is economic. Shotgun powders are made in massive quantities because of the huge demand from skeet and trap shooters and the larger volume of powder required for each shell. So, economics of scale kick in and shotgun powders are cheaper than handgun powders.

Jim K
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Old March 31, 2014, 01:08 PM   #7
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Another thing to look at is the intended operating pressures of the different guns & ammo.

Until you get to the magnum pistols (and the modern jacked up 9mm+p+ type stuff), pistols operate below 30,000psi, often far below. Shotguns also essentially operate at pistol pressures, and much less than the magnum handgun rounds.

Rifles (modern, in the last 100 years or so) operate at 45,000-55,000psi, some even slightly more.

While there is some overlap, powders designed for pistols don't work in rifles (above gallery/plinking light loads), and rifle powders are horribly inefficient in small volume pistol cases, giving inferior results over regular pistol powders, generally.

Several shotgun powders are quite usable in pistols, for the basic reason they are designed to deliver the same approx. pressures as man pistol powders.

There are exceptions to all this, of course, and there is some overlap.

One of the reasons you don't find all powders listed for all cartridges is simply that many are not even remotely suited to the usual applications.

you don't find loads for Bullseye for the .338 Magnum, and you don't find loads for IMR 4350 for the .25ACP. And while you can use those powders to shove a bullet out of the barrel, you CANNOT do it in the normal velocity range or at safe pressures, simply because of the burning charateristics of the powders.

Trail Boss is a good example, in one aspect. Cowboy action shooters use light loads, and in big (for handguns) cases, 2-4gr of fast powder is all that is needed. But in a case that will hold 30+gr of powder, that leaves a huge amount of empty space. Plenty of space for a double (or possibly even triple) charge to go unnoticed. And it is very likely that a double charge of a fast powder WILL BLOW UP YOUR PISTOL!
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
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Old March 31, 2014, 01:11 PM   #8
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LEVERevolution is great powder for use with jacketed bullets in .30-30. Using it with cast bullets would not be a good idea, except, perhaps, with gas checked bullets at fairly high velocity. For cast bullets, IMR 4759 or Accurate 5744 is good. I sometimes see a little of those on the shelf. Also sometimes see IMR 3031, which can be used for gas checked cast or jacketed bullets. It is a good, all-around .30-30 powder.
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Old March 31, 2014, 08:55 PM   #9
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Thanks for all your help, folks. I have a much better understanding of what's going on.
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