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Thread: Alternatives to "Standard" Pistol Powders

  1. #1
    Boolit Master 35 Whelen's Avatar
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    Alternatives to "Standard" Pistol Powders

    As we’re all aware, the craziness that’s happened in the last several months has made reloading components somewhat scarce, especially powder. I’m a fan of Alliant powder probably because I’ve been using it for so long and am very familiar with it and its applications with regards to shotshell and handgun loading. I use LOTS of Unique, but haven’t been able to find it anywhere and my 4 lb. keg is almost ¾ empty and I have but one 1 lb. bottle. As such, I began thinking about alternative powders for handgun loading.
    Alliant has quite a few specialty shotgun powders and I wondered if any of them would work for handgun. I did a little research and decided that e3 was probably similar to Bullseye or Red Dot and the 20/28 seemed very similar to Unique. I called a local guy who sells powder out of his house and he had some of both, so I bought a pound of each to try in my .44 Specials.

    I started with some informal testing of e3 in my 4 ¾” Uberti .44 Special with the intent of comparing it to Bullseye and Red Dot. I only tried three loads but the results are as follows:

    Powder........Charge............ Bullet..........Velocity

    Red Dot_______4.0______ 170 gr. RNFP_____612 (12.8% vel. difference)
    e3___________ 4.0______ 170 gr. RNFP_____702

    Red Dot_______4.7______ 250 gr. SWC______689 (A little over 9% vel. difference)
    e 3___________4.7______ 250 gr. SWC______764

    Bullseye_______5.5_______250 gr. SWC______810 (6.625% vel. difference)
    e 3___________5.5_______250 gr. SWC______864

    Next was some testing with my 5 1/2” Blackhawk Flat Top .44 Special. In it I tested 20/28 alongside Unique. As I suspected, and much to my satisfaction, the 20/28 is very similar to Unique in its burning rate, but is slightly smaller flakes which seems to meter somewhat more easily.

    Powder........Charge............Bullet............ ..Velocity......... Extreme Spread

    20/28________ 6.5______260 gr. SWC (a)_____892__________Unknown (2.7% vel. difference)
    Unique________6.5______260 gr. SWC (a)_____868__________Unknown

    20/28_________7.5______260 gr. SWC (a)_____981____________24 (2.5% vel. difference)
    Unique________7.5______260 gr. SWC (a)_____957____________20

    20/28_________6.5______260 gr. SWC (b)_____863____________28 (3% vel. difference)
    Unique________6.5______260 gr. SWC (b)_____837____________44

    20/28_________7.5______260 gr. SWC (b)_____946____________30 (3% vel. difference)
    Unique________7.5______260 gr. SWC (b)_____919____________57

    20/28_________8.0______260 gr. SWC (b)_____994____________58 (2.7% vel. difference)
    Unique________8.0______260 gr. SWC (b)_____967_____________25

    Bullets: (a)- NOE 429421 .430” ACWW; (b) RCBS 44-250KT .430” ACWW Both lubed with Ceresin Scarlet
    The last test was with one bullet and load in my Colt Gov’t Model, Series 70 45 ACP. The bullet was from a SAECO #130 mould, of ACWW. Weighed 200 grs., sized ,.452”, and lubed with a homemade soft lube.

    Powder.........Charge............ Bullet.......... Velocity.......Extreme Spread

    20/28_________6.5_______200 gr. SWC_____1020____________46 (VERY accurate load) (1.1% vel. difference)
    Unique________6.5_______200 gr. SWC_____1009____________45

    All loads were chronographed with a CED Millennium 2. Temp. 54° F

    So as can be seen here, 20/28 is for all practical purposes, Unique, only a hair faster burning. BTW, none of the loads showed any signs of pressure. When time permits, I hope to more thoroughly compare e3 to Bullseye and Red Dot.


    35W
    Last edited by 35 Whelen; 12-11-2017 at 10:29 PM.
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  2. #2
    Boolit Man
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    Great experiment. Thank you for sharing!!

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Thanks for the research. I have noticed that those two powders are more likely to be in stock when everything else is gone. Because there is no published metallic reloading data, and they are relatively new. A few years ago I mistakenly bought a jug of International Clays, thinking it was Universal Clays. At the time, Hodgdons didn't have any listed pistol data, but I did find a 2006 manual that had loads for it in 38 special, 44Mag, and 45Colt in the Cowboy loading section. Made a bunch of 38's but that still left 3 pounds worth which I am now using in shotgun loads.
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  5. #5
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    I've loaded 20/28 in the .38 spl and found the same as you, it's a hair faster than unique. In the .38 if I go 2-3 tenths of a grain less than Unique I get the same velocities. I shoot sporting clays with a 20 ga. so I use quite a bit of 20/28.

    Ps. My guess on E3 is it's faster than BE more like 700x.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    How clean burning was the 20/28 compared to Unique?

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    If you can find Promo, I think it is a direct substitute for Red Dot by weight
    but not by volume, IIRC.

    Bill
    If it was easy, anybody could do it.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master 35 Whelen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by texassako View Post
    How clean burning was the 20/28 compared to Unique?
    It hadn't occurred to me to even check, but after the chronograph testing, I ran a dry, tight patch through the bore so I could check for leading. It was VERY clean compared to Unique.

    35W
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  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    Haven't been able to shoot or chrono any of it yet, but I was able to find Accurate Solo 1000 (labeled as a single base shotgun propellant) on local shelves and the chart says it's very similar burn rate to Bullseye; should work in any straight wall case for mild loads (don't get too overjoyed at the pricing, though, it's sold in a 12 ounce bottle instead of a full pound). Looks like another good alternative for the light loads and small cases that usually call for Red Dot or Bullseye.

  10. #10
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    the accurate version of 1,000 is not recommended for anything but shot shells.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by runfiverun View Post
    the accurate version of 1,000 is not recommended for anything but shot shells.
    More information would be helpful on this -- Red Dot is labeled as shotgun powder, too, and between us here we've probably loaded millions of small pistol rounds with it. What makes Solo 1000 unsuitable for pistols or "cat-sneeze" loads in a rifle?

  12. #12
    Boolit Man
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    Very interesting information! Thanks for posting your research.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by runfiverun View Post
    the accurate version of 1,000 is not recommended for anything but shot shells.
    Actually, I'm finding quite a few 9mm "Solo 1000" loads in the Accurate metallic cartridge load guide, though I admit it is, so far, only the 9mm for which they list loads.

    'Sifrid

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    The E3 is a very fast powder, barking on the heels of the old Norma R1. It runs darn near 10 % faster than it's older more established brethren. Use data for Clays, not Bullseye or Red Dot, stay away from hot loads, and you should be shootin just fine.
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    the new bottles i have been looking at say "not for pistol cartridges" right on the lid.
    i wish i had back all the red-dot i have shot in shotguns and revolvers.
    just about any powder between bullseye and 2400 will work in revolver and pistol loads.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Hmmm. I don't see that kind of warning on mine; it's date coded 0221112150. From the back label: "Solo 1000 is an ultra clean burning powder that is well suited for target handgun loads in .45 ACP and Cowboy Action cartridges." This same exact wording appears right now on the page for this powder.

    While I do see loadings listed only for 9x19 and .45 ACP, unless it has some very unusual burning characteristics, I don't see anything that would make this powder more hazardous in light loads than Clays, Red Dot, or Bullseye. Given it's listed as barely faster than Bullseye, I'd probably start with 15% less than a Bullseye load for the same cartridge and bullet.
    Last edited by I'll Make Mine; 04-18-2013 at 09:39 PM.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by MtGun44 View Post
    If you can find Promo, I think it is a direct substitute for Red Dot by weight
    but not by volume, IIRC.

    Bill
    It is. I asked Alliant and then bought 8lbs for $90. Stress the Weight not volume.

  18. #18
    Boolit Man TXBRILL's Avatar
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    There is also some Herco around. it was an old standby pistol powder. There is lots of data on it out there

  19. #19
    Boolit Master

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    From Ben Amonette, Alliant Powder: "We have not tested 20/28 in handgun applications but the burn speed is similar to Unique. Thanks for your note. "
    So the powder is similar and I guess we should expect close to the results of Unique. Looks like a good candidate for a back-up to Unique to me

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    One good thing that may come out of this component shortage is discovering how well some of the newer shotgun powders work in handguns.
    I figure most old farts on here are pretty bad about using what has been working well for years.
    I know that I could Get By loading everything from 38 to 480 Ruger using just Unique. Unique happens to be the powder I use the most of.

    I could probably make it till the next powder shortage using up my AA #2, #5, #7, #9, H-110, Clays, Herco, Promo, Trail Boss, Blue Dot, 231, 800X, LilGun, 571, Power Pistol, HS-6, HS-7, SR7625, and I even have some REX.
    Us old reloaders and experimenters sure can pick up lots of powders over 40 years of reloading. The 231 is probably left over from IPSC in the late 1970's. The HS6, HS7, Herco, SR7625, and 571 I think I had given to me by a relative of an old reloader who passed away.
    It is hard to find an excuse to burn up some of the odds and ends when you have other powders that work better. I have gone through some of my odds and ends a couple times by researching on them, then doing a run of say 45acp using a partial can up, just to get it off the shelf.
    I think lots of us got to using Red Dot because we had a 15 pound keg in the shop for our Trap Gun reloading. When I used my last keg of Red Dot I replaced it with Promo due mainly to expense. I still think Red Dot is as good a 12 gage Trap Powder as their is.
    E3 and 20/28 may have some potential. It might be interesting to pick up a can of 20/28 to try out. Never been a Bulls Eye fan, so I would probably skip E3. If 20/28 ends up being better than Unique, in 5 or 6 years when I run out of Unique, I might switch to it.
    That is how you end up with 10 partial cans of pistol powder. OH WELL, The wife can pass it on to someone else when I pass away. I'll keep experimenting, thats what I do.

    By the way good work on your testing.

    Bob
    Last edited by Viper225; 04-26-2013 at 08:57 AM.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check