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Old November 10, 2013, 02:47 PM   #1
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Looking for a clean burning pistol powder

I load .32 ACP, .38 special and 9mm. Over time I have used Accurate #5, 231 and AutoComp. All have produced considerable fowling with AutoComp being the worst of the three. I am searching for a powder for these handguns that burns more cleanly. I have read some good things about Tightgroup. I would appreciate some recommendations.
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Old November 10, 2013, 03:26 PM   #2
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I load with a lot of 231 and AA5. Both are very clean when they are loaded with the right amount, with the right bullet. If they weren't burning clean ("clean" being a relative, subjective term), then they weren't loaded with the correct amount for the bullet.

Have you tried AA2? It might be the cleanest powder I've ever used, and runs in the same speed range as 231.
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Old November 10, 2013, 04:24 PM   #3
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It's the only powder brand I've ever known so I speak from limited experience, but I've often seen it written that the VihtaVuori I use is very clean burning.

I can say that after shooting a stack of .44 Mags or .38spls all loaded with VV powders, the guns were never filthy or covered in residue. Cleaning has always been nice and easy...
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Old November 10, 2013, 04:41 PM   #4
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It depends on what bullets you are using. Titegroup is *awfully* dirty with cast bullets, and its filth is particularly hard to clean off. With jacketed or plated bullets, it might be fine.

I loaded some .38 Specials with 125 grain plated bullets and American Select, and the gun looked *unfired* after shooting a box of 'em. It was spooky.

Lately I have been shooting a lot of cast lead wadcutters with Promo powder (cheaper version of Red Dot) and the gun is sooty when I am done but easy to clean.
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Old November 10, 2013, 06:01 PM   #5
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I have used the following powder for pistol rounds. They work fine.

1. HS-6. .45 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W. .357 sig

2. Trailboss. 7.62 Nagant, glue stick bullets for all calibers.

3. VihtaVuori N110. M1 carbine (not quite a pistol round but very close to .44 mag)

VihtaVuori makes very good powders. I have used their N135 for high-power rifles and N110 for M1 carbine. They tend to be 10% to 20% more expensive but they are good.

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Old November 10, 2013, 06:12 PM   #6
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IME, powders run toward the high end of their load range burn cleaner than at the low end ...... smokeless powder burns progerssively, the higher the pressure, the faster (and more completely) they burn ....

That said, the cleanest burning powder I've ever used was Vihtavouri vN340 ..... loaded at top levels with jacketed bullets in .45 ACP, I could run through a couple hundred rounds and the gun was almost not dirty enough to bother cleaning ....... running the old Red Dot at 5 grains with a plated bullet ..... you'd need to wipe your hands after 100 rounds .....
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Old November 10, 2013, 10:14 PM   #7
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You need a faster powder for those calibers besides #5 and Auto Comp.

There are many of them. See a burn rate chart.
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Old November 10, 2013, 10:21 PM   #8
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V N320 if you can find it. W231 is also a good choice for less mess when loaded right.
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Old November 10, 2013, 11:21 PM   #9
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Ramshot ZIP is a cleaner burning alternative to W231. In physical appearance it's hard to tell the difference and they are back to back in burn rate. A great choice for .380, .38 Sp. and light to medium loads in 9 x 19mm. Plus, Ramshot has good pressure rated dated for a number of different bullet styles in each caliber:
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Old November 11, 2013, 12:41 AM   #10
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Once I got to a level where W231 gave me an accurate load with jacketed bullets in 9 mm I found it to be as dirty as Winchester White box ammo was. Adding .2 of a grain of powder to the load changed that to a clean burner. You need to get the pressure up to get it to burn cleaner. Even AA2 was pretty dirty in light loads but became much cleaner when I started loading it above mid-range according to the Speer #14 manual. Some load data published these days seems to be on the light side. Speer tends to give closer speeds than some of the others I use. The loads also tend to be using more powder.

Loading lead bullet gives you added problems. Some powders don't play well with lead bullets and some lubricants create a lot of fouling no matter what powder you do use.

Loading slower powders in .45 apc and only trying to meet the minimum power factor for competition in the major category normally creates a dirty load. Faster powders most times are reaching the the upper levels to make major power factor so they burn much cleaner.

You need to consider just what you want to achieve when choosing a powder/bullet combination. Jacketed bullets shouldn't lead your barrel. They do need more powder to get them down the barrel and generally can be pushed to faster speeds than lead without many problems.

I like slower powders for heavier bullets. I won't use AA5 unless I have at least a 124 grain jacketed bullet to load. Loading below mid-range and you will get a fairly dirty burn. Mid-range and above and it gets pretty clean.

There are powder burn charts on line where you can look up which powders are faster than others. I suggest you find 2 or more of them to compare.
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Old November 11, 2013, 09:23 AM   #11
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One pwder for those 3 rounds, I'd look at Bullseye or Unique. The old Unique was pretty sooty, but the new stuff is supposed to be better. I haven't finished my old batch yet. Bullseye was not bad but I was never satisfied with 9mm accurracy in my initial testing, but never continued development with it to its full potential. Was great for .32 acp cast bulets, and .38 cast target loads.
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Old November 11, 2013, 12:55 PM   #12
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If you want something with a comparable burn rate to 231, AA5, and Autocomp then I'd try Universal. It's going to give you a little more versatility in the three calibers mentioned, and is IME an extremely clean burning powder. But it might be the reason you're getting so much filth from those powders is that they're too slow for you, which might explain why Autocomp was the worst since it's the slowest of the bunch. If that's the case then try something faster like AA2 or International, or if you want to go faster still then look at Clays.
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Old November 11, 2013, 01:13 PM   #13
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+1 for Clays!

When the panic started I had a supply of my usual pistol powders and I had an 8LB jug of Clays for use in target 12gauge loads. Worried about the availability of powder in general, I looked at the data on the Hodgdon site and found loads for Clays in the pistol calibers that I use. After testing, I have loaded and fired quite a few rounds with good results. Clays is quick burning, making it great for target loads but not so good for heavy loads. It is VERY clean.

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Old November 11, 2013, 01:24 PM   #14
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Universal Clays would be ideal for your cartridges IF you can find any (there was a fire in Australia). Bullseye works well, as does Clays (availability).
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Old November 11, 2013, 02:01 PM   #15
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Clean for those the OP listed:

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Old November 11, 2013, 05:40 PM   #16
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I have used vitavhori n320 in several calibers and it seems very clean burning to me. Load safe, shoot safe. Hoosier
Old November 11, 2013, 06:02 PM   #17
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Hodgdon TiteGroup the cleanest I've seen and used for a long time...

However, you need to be careful with it ...often its min and max is only 0.3grain you need to be very precise in your powder drops.
My 2nd choice is Hodgdon Universal...but you need to keep it in the upper velocity range for published loads...or its a little dirty as well.
The only bullets I load, for any of my handguns is FMJ....primarily Montana Gold and a few Berry's plated in some calibers...

Clean burning is relative.../ and I clean my guns every time I shoot them anyway ...?? so I'm not sure its that big a deal...
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Old November 11, 2013, 11:01 PM   #18
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I use 231 and power pistol with good results. As others have said, the load needs to have a bit of pressure to burn cleanly. I would check the charge weights of the powders you have been using. If you can safely bump it up, I would try that.
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Old December 23, 2013, 11:18 PM   #19
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Ramshot ZIP is a cleaner burning alternative to W231.
I lucked into a pound of ZIP for about $10 so I thought I would give it a try. Here are two 45 Auto cases after firing. I never seen anything burn that clean.

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Old December 24, 2013, 03:08 PM   #20
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^^^^^^ Yep!

Don't get me wrong, W231 is a good all around powder and I have and use it occasionally. ZIP covers all of the same ground and burns cleaner. Excellent for cast lead loads in .45 ACP!

saleen322, thanks for posting that pic! Nothing quite like evidence to validate an opinion.
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Old December 25, 2013, 11:21 PM   #21
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Clays & universal

Clays has been very clean burning for plinking rounds.
Being a flake powder it doesn't lend itself to consistant drops.
Universal has been a good powder but not very clean until mid range and up.

I also have been searching for a wide range clean burning powder. I settled on True blue or zip after some good advice on this forum and a lot of other research. One major problem.... I have not been unable find a pound of either for the last six months, but still looking.
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Old December 25, 2013, 11:42 PM   #22
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mjes92, I think we're gonna have to form a reloading organization that Western Powder Co. will take notice of. Ramshot powders aren't distributed nearly as widely as they need to be and when the usual suspects are out, Powder Valley, Grafs, Natchez and Midway, things are tough all over. Accurate Powders aren't as easy to find as they used to be. A buddy on another forum and I have discussed this where we agree that Western may need to set up their own distribution branch to make up for the lack of retailers.

Glad you like True Blue and ZIP. Silhouette is also a great powder. Formerly WAP so it's made by St. Marks in Florida. True Blue, ZIP and all of the Ramshot Rifle powders come from Belgium. I load a lot of .45 ACP with ZIP and True Blue but I use Silhouette for my JHP defense loads. True Blue also works well. ZIP doesn't have quite as much juice for jacketed bullets (about like W231), but it's excellent in cast loads.
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Old December 27, 2013, 04:41 AM   #23
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For the bigger 2, Universal or SR-7625. Both are single base flake powders and burn very clean even at reduced loads.

Never loaded for the .32, but Handloader magazine is always touting Titegroup for the smaller calibers.
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