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Old January 6, 2022, 11:35 AM   #1
Shadow9mm
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fast burning powders for 38spl

So I tested some bullets in ballistics gel the other day. One of the guns used was a Ruger LCR with a 1.87in barrel. One thing I noticed after firing is the front of the block had a bunch of powder stuck in it. However it did not when firing the same load out of a 6in barrel, or a 9mm factory round.

The powder in question is power pistol. An I am getting what I consider to be acceptable velocities with this load. However It has me curious how much faster I would need to go to get a full clean burn in this short of a barrel.

I do have HP-38/231 which is a bit faster.

I see 2 powders listed in my manual that seem to be a fair bit faster burning listed in loads for 158g.
clays
titegroup

Anyone have experience with either of these in 38spl? or any other fast pistol powder reccomendation. My shop carries hodgdon, accurant, and alliant for the most part.
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Old January 6, 2022, 11:57 AM   #2
Jim Watson
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What "block?"

What is your objective, do you want a particular velocity, do you want cleanliness, everything at once?
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Old January 6, 2022, 12:20 PM   #3
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Other than an intellectual exercise, why does it matter?
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Old January 6, 2022, 12:33 PM   #4
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What "block?"

What is your objective, do you want a particular velocity, do you want cleanliness, everything at once?
The ballistics gel block. Got one from clear ballistics.

I don't have a particular velocity in mind. I have tested HP-38 and Power Pistol in this gun. At max charge weight velocities were between 726 to 806fps with 158g SWC with power pistol performing the best of the 2.

My main goal is to tinker with some faster burning powders to try and get a full clean burn in this short little barrel.
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Old January 6, 2022, 12:42 PM   #5
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The fastest powders I've ever used have been Bullseye and Win 231 and I doubt you'll get even them to give a 100% burn in a barrel less than 2 inches.
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Old January 6, 2022, 12:43 PM   #6
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Other than an intellectual exercise, why does it matter?
Its somewhere between intellectual and OCD for me. Seeing all that un-burnt powder told me my load was not ideal. Also seemed a bit wasteful to be just throwing powder down range. The 38s are mostly a plinking round for me out of my 357, but I have the 38 snubbie I have been tinkering round with. Kind of just want to see if I can optimize a round for it.
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Old January 6, 2022, 12:47 PM   #7
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The fastest powders I've ever used have been Bullseye and Win 231 and I doubt you'll get even them to give a 100% burn in a barrel less than 2 inches.
If you don't think bullseye would get the job done, they clays my be my best bet to try. fastest I have ever tried was W231
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Old January 6, 2022, 01:11 PM   #8
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I’d give Clays a try, I’ve found compared to Bullseye it tends to burn cleaner in same situations load wise. At least my guns stay cleaner, never paid attention to how clean a target stays, this just didn’t seem like anything to be concerned about.
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Old January 6, 2022, 01:21 PM   #9
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I’d give Clays a try, I’ve found compared to Bullseye it tends to burn cleaner in same situations load wise. At least my guns stay cleaner, never paid attention to how clean a target stays, this just didn’t seem like anything to be concerned about.
I didn't ever pay attention to it either. But it was kind of glaringly obvious after I pulled the trigger. Kind of like looking down a barrel with a bore scope. Ya almost regret doing it cause now your worrying about things you never thought about before.
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Old January 6, 2022, 02:07 PM   #10
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To get best velocities in a handgun, it is likely that you will be using a powder that is not fully burned by the time the bullet leaves the muzzle.

Yes this is not "efficient", but it is normal. It also tends to result in more muzzle blast (this is not always true as some powders have a flash suppressant and some do not).

Sometimes this also starts getting to the point where you start noticing more than desired powder residue in the gun.

If you are content with a little less velocity, you should be able to go with a faster burning powder that will use less powder. If you are content with more of a "mid range" load, you can push this even further to get a low cost per round load with significantly less cost, with very clean burn and with very reduced muzzle blast.

It is all just a choice.

My ammo used for target practice is high volume and tends to be mostly "mid range" using close to the fastest burning powder that will do the job. My ammo loaded that could be used for things like Self Defense in a 38 Sp is close to optimum (or possibly just a tad faster than optimum). For IHMSA, I actually use a powder (WC 680) just a tad bit slower than optimum for velocity because it seems more "cast bullet friendly" and less finicky than my other choice (H110).
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Old January 6, 2022, 02:54 PM   #11
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My 66 and 586 (4 & 6" barrels respectively) love 3.7 Bullseye with MBC 158LSWC
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Old January 6, 2022, 03:01 PM   #12
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Anyone have experience with either of these in 38spl?
I do. A lot.

Power Pistol is an intermediate burner. And although it likes to burn - ignites easily, energetic - it will run "under-spent" under the right conditions - just as you described. Sometimes the best way to get a propellant to burn more thoroughly is to increase the charge weight. Now I'm not suggesting you do this. That is a decision you have to make for yourself. All I'm saying is that underloading can cause incomplete burns; and increasing the charge weight can be the solution.

The 1.875" bbl forces a lot of compromise when tailoring ammunition for it. I'm not sure "a full clean burn" is going to happen with Power Pistol through such a short barrel. Granted, I've never run tests like what you're doing. I do however, prefer to craft ammunition that runs consistent and clean - even if that means giving up some velocity. The "best of both worlds" road becomes very narrow with a <2" barrel. Comparatively speaking, long barrels are easy to load for

Quote:
To get best velocities in a handgun, it is likely that you will be using a powder that is not fully burned by the time the bullet leaves the muzzle.

Yes this is not "efficient", but it is normal. It also tends to result in more muzzle blast
This is true. ^^ Especially with snub barrels. It becomes a matter of what characteristics you're looking for and where you're willing to compromise.

HP-38/W231 is faster than Power Pistol and is an excellent choice for 158 grain bullets in 38 Special. This is among the most tried and true combinations in all of hand loading. You will get a cleaner burn. But you may not get the velocity you're looking for. You've rather implied that you're looking for other propellants. I don't think you realize how lucky you are to have both Power Pistol and HP-38/W231. Your desired end result is a bit vague (maybe just trying different things and learning?), but you should be able to get as close as possible using one of these two propellants. Yes, I am a huge fan of both.
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Old January 6, 2022, 03:10 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Nick_C_S View Post
I do. A lot.

Power Pistol is an intermediate burner. And although it likes to burn - ignites easily, energetic - it will run "under-spent" under the right conditions - just as you described. Sometimes the best way to get a propellant to burn more thoroughly is to increase the charge weight. Now I'm not suggesting you do this. That is a decision you have to make for yourself. All I'm saying is that underloading can cause incomplete burns; and increasing the charge weight can be the solution.

The 1.875" bbl forces a lot of compromise when tailoring ammunition for it. I'm not sure "a full clean burn" is going to happen with Power Pistol through such a short barrel. Granted, I've never run tests like what you're doing. I do however, prefer to craft ammunition that runs consistent and clean - even if that means giving up some velocity. The "best of both worlds" road becomes very narrow with a <2" barrel. Comparatively speaking, long barrels are easy to load for



This is true. ^^ Especially with snub barrels. It becomes a matter of what characteristics you're looking for and where you're willing to compromise.

HP-38/W231 is faster than Power Pistol and is an excellent choice for 158 grain bullets in 38 Special. This is among the most tried and true combinations in all of hand loading. You will get a cleaner burn. But you may not get the velocity you're looking for. You've rather implied that you're looking for other propellants. I don't think you realize how lucky you are to have both Power Pistol and HP-38/W231. Your desired end result is a bit vague (maybe just trying different things and learning?), but you should be able to get as close as possible using one of these two propellants. Yes, I am a huge fan of both.
Yes, mostly just trying to learn things and do some tinkering. I love power pistol and HP-38. But it gave me some though in regards on how to go about getting a full burn and playing with some faster burning powders.
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Old January 6, 2022, 03:23 PM   #14
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I've run a lot of Bullseye and W231 in several .38 Spl. with barrel lengths running from the 1 7/8 S&W M60 to an 8 3/8" S&W K38 Masterpiece. I only run cast bullets in my handguns and all require cleaning, mostly from the burnt bullet lube. I've noticed very little unburnt powder in and of the guns mentioned but possibly it's because I put a fairly firm crimp when I seat the bullets. Just habit from the necessity of firm crimps in magnum loads in my .357 and .44 mags.

My .38 Spl./.357 Mag dies are set up to do .38 Spl. and I use custom spacers between the press and the dies when loading for the magnums so the .38s get the same crimp as the magnums.

Just a suggestion but maybe a firmer crimp might help toward not having so much unburned powder.
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Old January 6, 2022, 03:48 PM   #15
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The OP is not seeing “unburnt” powder in his barrel, he is noticing burnt powder grains outside the barrel. His powder is not a fast burning one, it’s about the equivalent of Unique. Why he wants to do this is immaterial, he asked for help. Faster powders loaded to near-max pressures will burn “cleaner” but I don’t know if they will satisfy him. He can try RedDot, Tightwad or Clays, they are all much faster than Bullseye or W231 according to Hodgdon’s burn rate chart.



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Old January 6, 2022, 04:26 PM   #16
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Ramshot Competition is the best. By far.
I’ve tried Clays and it is great too. Meters poorly. WST is good. Bullseye and 231 are both good too.
I’ve heard AA No.2 is great but haven’t tried it.


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Old January 6, 2022, 05:01 PM   #17
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I do have HP-38/231 which is a bit faster.
OK, throw some in some shells and see what happens. I think it will require a maximum load to "burn clean." Velocity, at the +P level, is pretty good, especially if you stick with a cast or maybe coated bullet.

The old but still fondly remembered Nyclad ammo had a "Chiefs Special" version factory loaded with Bullseye. They did it for "efficiency", giving up some velocity, 25-50 fps, to minimize blast and flash.

Similarly there was a gunzine writer who worked with a 2" .357 Magnum. He ended up with a below maximum load of Blue Dot as something more powerful than .38 Special but more tolerable to shoot than full charge Magnums. Not that Blue Dot would be a good choice in your case.

Jeff Cooper once mentioned a considerable overload of Red Dot as a way to "get the snubby up off its knees."
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Old January 6, 2022, 05:22 PM   #18
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Correct. There is generally almost always a few flakes in the barrel regardless in my experience. What I am referring to is the front of the block that is 6in x 6in, looked like it had been seasoned with pepper from a pepper grinder after the 1st shot.
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Old January 6, 2022, 05:37 PM   #19
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Shadow9mm, I checked my chronograph workbook to see if I had any decent data from my Smith Model 60 1.875" bbl.

Unfortunately, I have little. I rarely test with my little snubbie. All I have is data from some testing with Speer's 110gn GDHP SB bullets; which (one of the few work ups I've conducted specifically for the snubbie); and a smattering of other tests.

One test I did do that rather speaks to this topic is my chronograph testing with 125gn JHP +P loads with both AA#2 (fast) and AA#5 (intermediate). Now these are loads I developed with a 4" bbl Smith Model 67; but went ahead and chronographed them through the Model 60 just to glean some additional info.

Through the Model 60 1.875" bbl:

The AA#2 yielded 866 f/s.
The AA#5 yielded 871 f/s. 5 f/s difference.

Same ammo through the 4" bbl:

The AA#2 yielded 934 f/s.
The AA#5 yielded 967 f/s. 33 f/s difference.

And to view sideways, so to speak: The AA#2 lost only 68 f/s going from 4" to 2". The AA#5 lost 96 f/s.

My notes read (abbreviated to stay in context):
And again, AA#5 fails to impress; given the charge weight vs. the performance. The AA#2 loading had much less recoil and blast - especially in the 2" Model 60. The AA#2 is definitely a great +P range shooter.

This seemed pertinent to me as a showcase of how moving to a slower propellant adds little to velocity through a short barreled gun. Diminishing returns - gain a small amount of velocity along with a bunch more recoil, flash, and report. Whether you actually use these specific propellants and/or bullet weights or not, it shows an important concept to understand as a loader; especially if you're loading for short barreled guns.
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Old January 6, 2022, 10:51 PM   #20
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My best loads have been with AA#2. I get more consistent velocity and normal velocity. Better than Unique powder which is near the burn rate of Power Pistol . I’d give AA#2 or Win 231 a test. I use AA data available on-line
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Old January 7, 2022, 05:54 AM   #21
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Titegroup is VERY fast burning but I have done enough attempts with this powder to unequivocally -BAN- it’s use in .38 Special at my load bench.

It just burns too damn hot. I think it’s the high nitro content. I’m not at all worried about damage to my guns… but .38 Special with Titegroup scorches my hand and loathe it.

I was taught decades back to eject cases from a double action revolver with two fingers wrapped around the cylinder through the frame while hitting the ejector rod with my thumb. Literally been doing it the same way since I was taught as a teenager. And Titegroup literally causes me pain in my hand.

This might sound ridiculous if you haven’t loaded much with this powder but I’m certain it’s real. At my bench, Titegroup is BANNED in .38 Special.
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Old January 7, 2022, 08:57 AM   #22
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I have one of those LCR pistols in 357mag.. I don't really care for it, too much recoil and not much velocity.
Try shooting that indoors or when its dark outside, you will not believe the fireballs that come from that gun out the muzzle and front of cylinder, myself, I don't think you will ever burn all the powder in 1.8 inches, no matter what powder you use.
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Old January 7, 2022, 09:05 AM   #23
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231 has always been my go to powder for .38 Special, and I really don't see anything ever changing that.

If I HAD to make another choice, though, it would probably be Accurate No. 2.
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Old January 7, 2022, 04:21 PM   #24
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Higher pressure, either from more powder, heavier bullet weight, harder bullet material, much harder crimping (as from the Redding profile crimp die, for example), or hotter ignition (spm or srp instead of a standard pistol primer, for example) all have the ability to burn the powder better. But the short barrels all fight the fact they don't allow a lot of barrel time for bullet, so small variations in ignition tend to result in more velocity variation as the location of the bullet in the barrel at the peak pressure varies and is a more significant percentage of the total with the short barrel than with even a three-inch. One fellow on another board actually had an extreme spread equal to 25% of his mean velocity n his snubby (I've forgotten the powder). I recommended he try going to Bullseye. The result was the highest velocity seen in the spread went down, but the ignition and resulting velocity were consistent and, surprisingly, the mean velocity was about the same as the slow powder because of all the underperforming, poorly ignited rounds in the mix with it. But YMMV on that point.

Of course, with higher pressure you don't want to wind up with too much pressure, so mind the load workup.
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Old January 7, 2022, 05:09 PM   #25
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Higher pressure, either from more powder, heavier bullet weight, harder bullet material, much harder crimping (as from the Redding profile crimp die, for example), or hotter ignition (spm or srp instead of a standard pistol primer, for example) all have the ability to burn the powder better. But the short barrels all fight the fact they don't allow a lot of barrel time for bullet, so small variations in ignition tend to result in more velocity variation as the location of the bullet in the barrel at the peak pressure varies and is a more significant percentage of the total with the short barrel than with even a three-inch. One fellow on another board actually had an extreme spread equal to 25% of his mean velocity n his snubby (I've forgotten the powder). I recommended he try going to Bullseye. The result was the highest velocity seen in the spread went down, but the ignition and resulting velocity were consistent and, surprisingly, the mean velocity was about the same as the slow powder because of all the underperforming, poorly ignited rounds in the mix with it. But YMMV on that point.

Of course, with higher pressure you don't want to wind up with too much pressure, so mind the load workup.
I am already using SRP as they are all I have left. I also put as firm a roll crimp on as I can without bulging the case.

As far as too much pressure, its a Ruger LCP that is +P Rated. While I do generally work up to book max, I never use +P data, just straight 38spl, so I should be ok. Work it up from start, check as you go

Hitting the gun shop tomorrow, will probably buy 1lb of clays. Its a pretty fast burning powder based on the burn rate charts.

When I get time, and its not 11 degrees out, I will get out and do some testing. Will probably try my available powders at start and max, out of both my snubbie and 6in gun for comparison.
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