View Full Version : Help Identifying Old Powder

02-24-2021, 11:45 PM
Mods, if this is the wrong section for this post please move it with my apologies.

I have come into some older powder that Id like to identify. I was given a bag full of a couple hundred hand loaded .38 Specials. The boolits are about 125gr and powder charge is about 3.9gr. The powder in question is dark grey with small circular granules with a tiny perforation in the center. They look like dark miniature Trailboss granules. Does anyone recognize it?278458

02-25-2021, 12:14 AM
The times I have came in to large numbers of military ammo like this I pull it a part subtract 10 % of the powder charge and work back up . with some ones hand loads only the primer case and bullet should be used unknown powder should not used with supply's the way they are now a few hundred small primers is a great deal .

02-25-2021, 07:59 PM
I can only make a guess that it might be an older version of Herco. Other perforated disc powders were Hercules Sharpshooter and Lightning, which had grain diameters of .075, and thicknesses of .017 and .030. It is doubtful that it is either of those powders, as they were intended for rifle use only. Another possibility is a version of Red Dot, with a perforated grain, but that powder was not available to the open market, and most likely only used in factory shotshell loads.

All this info was gathered from an older Complete Guide To Handloading, by Philip B Sharpe. If you intend to use it , I would treat it like Bullseye or Red Dot, but probably just throw it out to be safe.

02-25-2021, 08:18 PM
I have saved unknown powders for my Tomatoes.
For a couple hundred rounds 3.9 x 100 = 39 grains hmm not worth it. Saying that, I have shot off some 38 SPL in a 357 mag just to reuse the cases. Got them from an old reloader who passed on, so I trust his loading "somewhat" If peace of mind is what you need then recycle the powder to the garden.

02-25-2021, 08:26 PM
In my opinion 39 grns of an unknown powder from someone else’s reloads is good for fertilizer and nothing else! Not worth messing with. First off I wouldn’t even consider shooting someone else’s reloads and less I was absolutely sure of the person doing the reloading. Let alone trying to salvage the powder. Based on the information you provided in your OP you’re not even stating you know who did the reloading or if that person even had a clue as to what they were doing. Why would you even consider taking a chance? Like I said just my opinion for what it’s worth

02-25-2021, 09:14 PM
Looks like Universal, BUT I agree with Poppy. Pitch the powder.

02-25-2021, 09:54 PM

I concur unless you're desperate for powder toss it.

You can go to the link above and type trail boss next to the product name


02-25-2021, 10:18 PM
I would download and shoot it I do not waste and there are time proven methods for working up loads , this comes up time and time again and its the same us who say use experience and work up a load and those who scream lawn fertilizer ( I hate mowing a lawn what a waste of time ) so its your choice and look through the site for all the threads .

02-25-2021, 10:40 PM
Looks like IMR PB from the photos here: (click on the Sample detail & download section)

02-26-2021, 12:02 AM
Maybe flintnfire can do it, but I couldn’t work up a safe, reliable and accurate load and then have any left to shoot, so it’d be a waste of time. Not hard to replace a little powder, can’t ever replace lost time. I also doubt that it’s much of a fertilizer, doesn’t break down like black powder does, maybe wrap it in paper and use it to start a campfire.

02-26-2021, 07:24 AM
I’d dump it in the yard/driveway at night and light it up with my grandson by my side!

02-26-2021, 12:58 PM
I have been waiting for someone to notice the math 3.9 x100 is not 39 grains , but even 390 grains is not a lot , but on steves reloading data just glancing down the list for 125 grain 38 special I see only 2 listed that top out at 3.9 grains other loads that low to middle range .

I did not see where he stated that was all the powder or not , if so he pulled down the loads and was wanting to reuse it , I have lit powder off , makes a nice pattern on concrete , but in times of shortage and if I have a large amount I would work something up with it , as has been done by people on this forum .

02-26-2021, 09:56 PM

02-27-2021, 07:46 PM
The only certainty here is that the one measured case contained 3.9 grains. These 'attic finds' are a reason why old farts don't need to load so far into the future. I destroy boolilts by pulling down with the press with pinchers grabbing the boolit above the threads.

02-27-2021, 10:29 PM
I figured this thread would get some criticism.

Let me address a few points:
1) Yes, these are pull-downs of unknown origin. A friend bought a used revolver and was given these along with it. He was afraid to shoot them himself (for good reason) and gave them to me.
2) I would estimate there are around 300 or so in the bag so a bit over 1,000gr of our mystery powder. While that may not be a lot to some, I feel that’s not an insignificant amount of a pistol powder.
3) The powder looked interesting and unlike any I have used in the past. It got me thinking that maybe it was an older powder that was discontinued, thus giving a clue to the age of the cartridges. I know I’m not the only one who likes to try piece together a potential story as to how an older item found its way to me.

As Flintnfire stated, there are reasonably safe ways to come up with a load for it but I’m not dead set on anything. It may just end up being hillbilly fireworks but I more or less just wanted to see if anyone recognized it. Thank you all for the input.

02-27-2021, 10:52 PM
Also, I think Traffer gets the proverbial gold star for the day. After digging around a bit that is the closest image I have seen to what I have. Well done, sir.

02-27-2021, 10:57 PM
Looks like W231 (or HP-38). Just got finished staring at this powder for an hour loading some 38's at 4.0 gr's.

02-28-2021, 12:39 AM
The the images of and my recollection of W231/HP-38 show it to be is much more irregular in shape and is not perforated in the center. I’m still leaning toward IMR PB.

02-28-2021, 03:31 AM
The only certainty here is that the one measured case contained 3.9 grains. These 'attic finds' are a reason why old farts don't need to load so far into the future. I destroy boolilts by pulling down with the press with pinchers grabbing the boolit above the threads.

Hey some of us resemble that remark , not only older and loading for a future but not a old fart and you do not want to be caught in a future where you dont have as much as you may need .

I load for myself and several adult children and for the younger ones also as I have loaded for my father and brothers years ago , I will shoot anything I load and they have never had a reason not to either .

These threads always get criticism and thats what makes us all different , it always boils down to do what you know you can or work your way to that level , this forum has a wealth of knowledge and a abundance of knowledgeable caster , loaders and shooters and though we may not always agree , we continue to exchange information at times we may get dogmatic or stubborn , but this is where one asks and hopefully receives answers .

02-28-2021, 01:35 PM
Think off it this way=3.9 of Bullseye is not going to blow up a gun and that was one of the faster powders years ago. If all are 3.9? Maybe try a few out of a 27 or Ruger and decide for yourself.

02-28-2021, 04:42 PM
I have some Norma R1 and I would have to dig around for the loading data as it is I believe still listed as the fastest burning pistol powder , but it does not look like your powder . Anyway off subject I know .

03-01-2021, 03:18 AM
If powder could be shipped. I would take every grain of powder that people want to dump out. Not only fun to figure out what it is but I am YES that frugal.

03-02-2021, 05:30 PM
I thought it was Herco, without looking anything up

03-02-2021, 08:38 PM
I thought it was Herco, without looking anything up

03-06-2021, 11:40 PM
Could it be an Alcan powder? Can't find my ref data but think that some had a washer extruded shape.

Winger Ed.
03-06-2021, 11:48 PM
Does anyone recognize it?

It kind of looks like fertilizer for rose bushes.

Savvy Jack
03-06-2021, 11:55 PM
Trail Boss is a thin greenish donut while Sharpshooter is a thicker darker gray donut (Perforated Disc Powder).

Do not confuse the two.

Trail Boss is a fast burning pistol powder and Sharpshooter is a slower burning mid-range rifle powder.

Below is a charge of Sharpshooter for Winchester's 44-40 High Velocity rifle loads

Trail Boss