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Old May 5, 2019, 03:53 PM   #1
flintlock.50
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Clean Powder for .38 spl target loads

I've used 3.0 gr of Bullseye to push 148 gr wadcutters for many years. Although Bullseye gives very good performance, man is it dirty! My gun and my hands leave the shooting range looking like they've been wallowing in a coal bin. Any recommendations for a clean burning powder for light to medium .38 spl loads?
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Old May 5, 2019, 04:17 PM   #2
Nick_C_S
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Right up my alley

Bullseye is a fantastic propellant for your application. It is however, "residuey" as I phrase it. For that reason, I have phased out Bullseye from my inventory; but would use it again in a heartbeat, should the need arise.

The most common "clean substitute" - if that's a fair way to put it - for Bullseye is Winchester 231 (a.k.a. HP-38, in the Hodgdon label - same propellant). W231 is a fine powder and is well known for its clean burn. I bought my first # of W231 in 1984 and haven't been without it since. Yes, it's that good.

AA#2 is also another great choice. Runs really clean too. It's a super-fine powder and so its metering consistency is astounding - better than any other. I have gotten incredible Standard Deviations (and accuracy) using AA#2 to push my 148 DEWC's through my 4" Model 67. It's great stuff. If you turn it down too far, it'll leave behind a lot of grainy partially spent stuff - but it's not "dirty."

N-310 is really clean stuff too. But it is expensive - about twice that of other propellants. Also, it's super super fast. So it would only be suitable for your target wadcutters; and little else. I've never used N-320 but it's a little slower and thus, likely more versatile. Since it is also a single-base propellant (like N-310), I suspect it's a clean burner too.

Others may mention TiteGroup. It does run clean. But it also runs really hot and I believe it is much better suited for plated bullets than lead slugs. Lead prefers cool burners - like W231
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Old May 5, 2019, 04:39 PM   #3
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The new improved and cleaner burning Red Dot , the new cap is red .
AA #2
700X
Titegroup
HP-38

If you are shooting conventionally lubricated bullets some of the dirt is the burning lubricant . It produces some " Gunsmoke " and coal soot . Give plated or coated bullets a try and see if that helps clean up the loads .

It may not be so much the powder but the bullet lubricant , especially a beeswax based lube...yes they are good lubes but that might be the culprit .
Gary
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Old May 5, 2019, 04:44 PM   #4
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I'll second Unclenicks recommendation for win231/ HP-38 or AA#2

Also, try plated or powder coated bullets just for fun
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Old May 5, 2019, 05:13 PM   #5
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Win 231 is a very good choice. For target loads I prefer it above all others. Both of my Bill Davis guns would shoot "one holers" with 231 and a cast bullet at 25 yards.
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Old May 5, 2019, 06:42 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikejonestkd
I'll second Unclenicks recommendation…
I think you got me confused with Nick C S. You have to watch out about doing that or you may give him a fat head.

CAUTION: The following post includes loading data beyond or not covered by currently published maximums for this cartridge. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Neither the writer, The Firing Line, nor the staff of TFL assumes any liability for any damage or injury resulting from the use of this information.

Flintlock.50,

Hands down, the cleanest powder I've ever fired in 45 Auto was Trail Boss. Since you cannot compress it without raising the pressure, you'll have to seat a DEWC148-grain wadcutter about a tenth to an eighth of an inch out of the case mouth and crimp into the bullet to fit about 3.4 grains in to get to around 750 fps with a 6" revolver. If you are going for a hollow base wadcutter, you'll have to go further out as you will have a hard time getting any powder up into the base cavity.

As a second approach, realizing that a lot of the mess made by Bullseye is its graphite coating flying around everywhere, try one of the non-graphited fast powders. I would look at Hodgdon Clays. About 2 to 2.2 grains is where I like target velocity (750 fps-ish). The max is just 2.5 grains with this very quick powder.
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Old May 5, 2019, 06:58 PM   #7
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American Select with 125 grain plated bullets is the cleanest powder I've ever tried. The spent cases looked unfired. But it might be a totally different story with exposed-lead bullets, I don't know. (I have used it with 158 grain lead bullets, but never shot many at a time and didn't notice whether it was dirty or not)
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Old May 5, 2019, 07:35 PM   #8
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Interesting to hear that. It's exactly what I experienced with Trail Boss. I was using new Starline brass and after firing the insides of the cases still looked shiny and new and without a trace of smoke, carbon, or anything else. Glad to know of another one.
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Old May 5, 2019, 07:48 PM   #9
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Alliant Sport Pistol is a powder that I've been using for about a year and I am impressed with every aspect of it. Works well in .45 ACP, .40 S&W, 9mm and .38 Special and it is clean and priced right.
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Old May 5, 2019, 10:53 PM   #10
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While experimenting with lead free primers I discovered they can make even Uniqe powder shoot cleanly. The primers I use are Fiocchi lead free. They cost about one cent more per round in case you're concerned about the cost.
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Old May 6, 2019, 10:29 AM   #11
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May have to try some, Thanks
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Old May 6, 2019, 11:20 AM   #12
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Wbbh,

After reading this study, the ignition delays (see page 8) with lead-free primers pretty much discouraged me from using them. Since they exceeded lock time for many guns, it is plenty of time for a small disturbance in aim to change point of impact, especially if your follow-through isn't dead perfect. Have you noticed any grouping issues with them?
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Old May 6, 2019, 09:16 PM   #13
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Can anyone report on their experience using Hodgdon CFEPistol powder in .38 special?
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Old May 6, 2019, 11:59 PM   #14
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I'll stick with Bullseye. In a long range session I just use a rag I keep in my range bag to wipe off the cylinder and frame occasionally.
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Old May 7, 2019, 12:07 PM   #15
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Unclenick mentions Hodgdon "Clays". That is a good, CLEAN powder for your .38 spl.
You don't need much.
On a side note; may have to try Trail Boss in my .45 Colt.
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Old May 7, 2019, 01:32 PM   #16
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3.0 grains of Bullseye is hot for a 148 grain WC. .1 below max. I don't think that's causing the crud though. Bullseye is just dirty stuff.
Tried HP38 long ago. Didn't give the accuracy Bullseye does.
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Old May 7, 2019, 09:46 PM   #17
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In my experience light loads of 231 do not burn cleanly. I currently use WST, Clays is also clean burning.
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Old May 8, 2019, 07:04 AM   #18
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Clays, Universal, among others, are clean burning in 38 and give good results.
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Old May 8, 2019, 12:50 PM   #19
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Quote:
I think you got me confused with Nick C S. You have to watch out about doing that or you may give him a fat head.
Heh

Life has handed me way too many humbling experiences over the years to get a fat head.
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Old May 8, 2019, 05:51 PM   #20
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I am a huge fan of using Trail Boss in the .38 Special. It is a low pressure round. Most powders at low pressure burn dirty. So by nature .38 Special tends to be a dirty round to shoot. I found Trail Boss and with standard bullets it burns clean. Accuracy in several of my guns is very good. Point of aim,and point of impact line up.

I will advise against using Trail Boss with wad cutters. I have tried. The results scared me. Recoil is very low. In most of my guns you get no feel of the bullet leavign the end of the barrel. You have to see the hole in the target. Also I got squib after squib. I warn against using the powder for this application as it is jut not doable in most cases to fit enough powder in the case to get the bullets to leave the barrel. I was being watchful and checked after each shot. I had to beat a few bullets back into the cylinder to get the cylinder open. What was even more scary was the fact that over half of the squibs went far enough into the barrel that another shot would have been possible. Several jammed together could lead to a bent crane or frame from having to beat the cylinder open to get the stuck bullets out.

Take some hand wipes, and some gun wipes with you to the range. If what you have is working I would leave it alone.
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Old May 8, 2019, 07:20 PM   #21
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On another forum, someone mentioned the new IMR Target is also very clean and economical.
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Old May 9, 2019, 01:46 AM   #22
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I have had bad results with aa 2, seemed awful sooty, but maybe that was just my minimal loads. I think that 231 was the cleanest I have used for low pressure loads in that round.

The point was made that graphite contributes to soot. It really does. try to minimize use of heavily graphited powders, for example, if it is just black as pitch and shines like a mirror, there is a bit of graphite on it.

If you are using the light loads, the faster powders will leave less residue since it will burn most efficiently.

Your question would be answered far more capably by sending a posted letter to either hodgdon or alliant, as well as inquiring on the website.
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Old May 9, 2019, 08:41 AM   #23
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Win 231 or Accurate #2
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Old May 9, 2019, 10:44 AM   #24
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As for dirty hands, the bullet lube on cast bullets is what makes the mess. Shoot a revolver you have dirty hands. Taint the powder getting your hands black.
On another note, a .45 auto with cast target loads gets filthy, I shot up a thousand cast in a 9 mm 1911 gun (not all thousand at once), the 9 wasn't near as dirty as the .45, higher pressures must burn it up better. It's all good, cleans up easily with Hoppes #9 or Breakfree, a little Lava soap for your hands.
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Old May 9, 2019, 12:31 PM   #25
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m&p45ACP10+1,

Something must have gone wrong with your TB loads. If it was that fallible, I don't think Hodgdon would have published a load for it. The fact you couldn't feel the recoil of the bullet leaving and got bullets stuck says low pressure. The fact you had bullets backing out despite the low recoil says little or no bullet hold (no crimp?), which helps keep pressure low. Something funny happened there.


Nick CS,

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