HS-6

HS-6 is a fine spherical propellant (for) pistol and shotshell. In pistol, 9mm, 38 Super, 40 S&W and 10mm Auto are some of the cartridges where HS-6 provides top performance. In shotshell, HS-6 yields excellent heavy field loadings… Identical to Winchester’s discontinued 540.”

Bottom line: Still evaluating.

Pros:

  • Good amount of load data.

Cons:

  • Very dense powder (a grain takes up little space) making double or even 3x charges possible.

Density (per Lee dipper chart) 14 grains/cc

Redding 3BR Pistol Insert

pistol_insert_number ≈ 5.44 * Grains – 1.8

Grains Thrown ≈ 0.33 + 0.184 * pistol_insert_number

Pistol Insert # Grains Thrown 10x Throws (Grains)
20 4 41.2
40 7.7 77.8
46 8.8 ???
50 9.5 96.0

Red Dot

Alliant Red Dot a classic (introduced 1936) shotgun powder, with secondary use as a handgun powder.

Bottom Line: Still evaluating

Manufacturer’s load data.

Pros:

  • Nice feel when metering in Redding 3BR – no hangups

Cons:

  • Higher variation than ball powders in Redding 3BR
  • Lots of static cling.

Density (per Lee dipper chart) 7.1 grains/cc

Grains Thrown ≈ 0.0854 × Insert + 0.3

Insert ≈ (Grains – 0.3) / 0.0854

Pistol Insert # Grains Thrown 10x Throws (Grains)
40 3.8 37.8
45 4.1
50 4.6 46.1
48 4.3 43.9
70 6.3 ???
80 7.1 72

Notes:

Trail Boss

Trail Boss (IMR or Hodgdon) is especially made for large cases. It is my unqualified recommendation for the best first powder to try when getting into reloading handguns (ideally a popular revolver cartridge). But it has features you will never outgrow.

Bottom Line: 👍 Fantastic for light loads, especially in large magnum or black-powder-era cases. Very safe and easy to work with.

Manufacturer’s load data portal.

Pros:

  • Safe. Bulk makes double-charges easy to spot (all published loads I’ve seen will literally overflow if double-charged).
  • Excellent case-fill may promote accuracy.
  • Acceptable accuracy when working quickly with an old-fashioned dipper, because variations in volume have less impact.
  • To work up a load with an unknown cases, 70% case-fill to start, 100% case-fill MAX. Safe with nearly everything (not OK for 50BMG, but yes for 458 Win Mag). No really, it is officially that easy

Cons:

  • Lots of static cling because it’s light and fluffy.
  • Limited to light loads only, unlike some classic light powders (e.g Bullseye) it can’t also be used for “duty” level loads.

Density (per Lee dipper chart) 6 grains/cc

Lee dipper Grains Actual (measured) Nominal (chart)
0.5cc 2.0 2.3

Notes:

“Lipstick” 45 Colt

The ACME Bullet Company line of “Lipstick” bullets are a lovely bright red. ACME claimes they are cast with 92-6-2 alloy then coated and baked three times with Hi-Tek, prior to sizing. When I ordered from Grafs the bullets came in a wooden box. While obviously inexpensive it was much nicer than I expected! It would be very much at home as an ammo box in any Cowboy kit.

Cartridge: 45 Colt

Brass: Starline, nickel plated, new.

Primer: Rem 2½ Large Pistol

Powder: Clays 4.6gr (per Modern Reloading 2nd edition by Richard Lee, page 581, start at 4.6 gr for 777; max 5.9gr @ 931fps and 13100 CUP 1.6″ OAL)

Bullet: ACME (.452)200gr RNFP bullet with “NLG” coating

Crimp: Heavy Lee factory crimp

45 ACP GlowAmmo

Glow Ammo reloading kits are literally glow-in-the dark stickers that you put on the back of bullets, to see them in flight. It sounds silly. But it really works at dusk or an indoor range! You can get some really cool slow-motion video with just an iPhone.

I don’t actually see any training value in the product. The bullets are still fast. So in the best-case you only perceive an instestanious-line tracing from the muzzle to the target. …which isn’t actually more information than you get by watching the sights or muzzle at the moment the trigger breaks… And as the shooter the muzzle-flash and recoiling gun generally block out bullet’s flightpath. But more importantly regular bullets leave holes where they hit … it’s not a mystery where the bullet went, or how it got there. Having one more distraction doesn’t make calling shots easier.

That said, I highly endorse this product. It works. It’s safe and affordable. It’s fun. It’s educational — even if that knowledge isn’t practical. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll get the chance to use it on a 600 yard range at dusk and learn something I couldn’t see any other way.

Cartridge: 45 ACP

Primer: Rem 2½ Large Pistol

Powder: TiteWad 3.5 grains (source, I used a different primer)

Cartridge Length: 1.2130 – 1.2175

Bullet: 185 Grain Hornady XTP.

Velocity: Nominal 750, unmeasured

Notes: These had a pretty good glow effect. The XTP bullets have a very flat base, which helps the GlowAmmo adhere. GlowAmmo recommends a fast powder, and TiteWad is about the fastest I can find.

45 “Cowboy” Special

45 Cowboy Special (or sometimes just 45 Special) is a 45 ACP case, with a 45 Colt rim. The 45 Colt rim is smaller than the rim on a 45 Auto Rim. This lets it feed in many cowboy-action guns and use common 45 ACP load data. The smaller case-capacity means better performance with light loads, which is why I am interested in it.

Factory Ammunition

I found a source for factory “American Cowboy Ammo” .45 Special. Specifications: “180 Grain Round Nose Flat Point” at 475 feet per second. I disassembled a loaded round and the bullet weighed 183.5 grains actual, over 4.4 grains of mystery powder. Unfortunately the factory rounds would not reliably chamber in my Ruger Blackhawk 45 ACP cylinder. I believe they were hanging up on the bullet nose. Only about half would fit in an EGW chamber gauge. Rounds that fit would not always chamber. Everything chambered fine in a 45 Colt cylinder.

Firing Record on 3/7/2017 at Sunnyvale Rod & Gun ~ 55℉ outside

Firearm 5.5″ Ruger Blackhawk with a 45 Colt cylinder

LabRadar Series: 68

Velocity: 485fps avg (555,513,526,472,576,347,450,435,488)

Spread: 576 – 347 = 229fps

Std Dev: 69.45 fps (9 shots)

Approximate Drag Coefficient: -0.64 fps/yard

Notes: Very light recoil, very quiet report, but significant unburned powder. Power Factor ~90 or only double the recoil of a .22lr.

Hand Loads

After firing the factory ammunition I uniformed the flash holes on the brass.

Bullets: 165 grain DEWC from Matt’s Bullets (Seated Flush by using an expander die, taper crimp in separate step.)

Primer: Rem 2 1/2

Powder: 0.7cc (Lee Dipper) Trail Boss

Brass: 1x Fired

Firearm 5.5″ Ruger Blackhawk with a 45 ACP cylinder

Velocity: 764fps

Spread: 784-748.5 = 35.5fps

Std Dev: 13.44 fps (6 shots)

LabRadar Series: 71

Notes: Clean burning. Clean holes. Mild recoil, but not recoil-free (~125 PF).


165 grain DEWC from Matt’s Bullets, seated flush, taper crimp. Fired in a 5.5″ Ruger Blackhawk with a 45 ACP cylinder. Velocity in feet per second.
Avg Vel Spread StdDev N Charge Primer LabRadar # Notes
766 799-747=52 20.5 6 3.0 Red Dot Rem 2 1/2 S97 Smelly
764 784-748.5=35.5 13.44 6 0.7cc Trail Boss Rem 2 1/2 S71 Accurate and good holes
591 615-546=68 30.4 5 0.5cc Trail Boss Rem 2 1/2 S99 Smelly
517 554-494=60 32 3 2.0gr Clays WLP S98 “Crackling” burning powder in air. Some holes were not clean. Some shots were silent with no hole, but clear bore.
411 6 3.1 3 1.5gr Clays WLP S100 No crackeling
580 603-551=52 16.9 12 2.0gr TiteWad (3BR #18) WLP S104 Unburned powder in case
467 480.5-452.5=28 14 3 1.5gr TiteWad (3BR #15.25) WLP S105 Unburned powder in case

The “Geezer Load”

While looking for very soft-shooting 45 ACP loads, I saw “The Geezer Load” recommended a few times.

“So, here’s the scoop on the Geezer Load. Using mixed cases, with Winchester large pistol primers, and
Berry’ 185gr. HBRN bullet, a charge of 4.3-4.4 grains of Hodgdon’s Clays gives a velocity 758fps. The finished
rounds are loaded to an OAL of 1.250” and are crimped to .468”. The load is as close to 100% reliable
as it can be in my full size 1911 Government model pistols when they are run with 16lb. recoil springs.”
John Markwell

I double-checked a second source for safety. Hodgdon says that a Fed 150 Primer + Winchester brass + 185 GR. HDY JSWC + COL 1.135″ gives:

4.5gr Clays 855fps @ 14,500 CUP

4.9gr Clays 981 @ 17,000 CUP

I did: Mixed “Brass Guys” brass, Winchester WLP, 4.3 grains of Clays (first individually weighed, then #45 on the Redding 3BR), Berry’ 185gr. HBRN, OAL of 1.2650″, to match the OAL of Magtech 230 grain hardball. I used a lighter crimp. I figured that I could always seat deeper or add more crimp later if needed.

Firearm: Les Baer 5″ 1911

Date/Location: 5/13/2017 at approx 7:30 PM at Sunnyvale Rod & Gun Club

LabRadar Series: 92

Velocity: 755 fps avg (777, 713, 742, 776, 755, 739, 691, 797, 762, 733, 808, 773)

Spread: 808 – 691 = 117fps

StdDev:33.9 (12 shots)

Notes: Did cycle the the firearm, although I may try a shorter OAL next time, since with some magazines the feel of letting the slide down could have been smoother. Somewhat dirty — I will consider upping the charge for a better chamber-seal if there is gas blow-back. Power-factor looks about equal to 9mm. The spread is unfortunate. Pretty neat that my average speed was so close to Markwell’s figure.

Clays

Hodgdon Clays A very fast shotgun/pistol powder with a narrow velocity range that is optimized for clean and light-recoiling target loads.

Bottom line: 👍 so far.

Pros:

  • Bulky (low density, high case-fill, only 14 ounces in a “1 pound” container).
  • Very good metering in Redding 3BR.
  • Small charges means a can lasts a long time.
  • Load data available for different calibers
  • Clean burning and good Std Dev possible with light felt recoil

Cons:

  • Narrow range of safe charges.
  • Can’t make more powerful ammunition
  • “One Pound” can holds 14 ounces.

Density (per Lee dipper chart) 6.8 grains/cc

Redding 3BR Pistol Insert

pistol_insert_number ≈ Grains/0.0938 – 1

Grains Thrown ≈ 0.0938(pistol_insert_number + 1)

Pistol Insert # Grains Thrown 10x Throws (Grains)
35 3.4 33.3 (variable)
31 3.0 30.2
41 3.9 ???
42 4.05 ???
45 4.3 ???
48 4.5 44.9
50 4.8 ???

Hodgen Universal

Hodgdon Universal “…handles the broadest spectrum of cartridges”. Sometimes called Universal Clays. It is the “Clays” (cleaner burning) branded version of the classic propellent Unique.

Bottom Line: Good, but I haven’t found a reason to buy it again.

There’s no niche it fills for me. The flipside of being universal is that everything it does another powder does.

Pros:

  • Lots of load data for many different cartridges.

Cons:

  • Lots of unburned powder at light/starting loads.

Density (per Lee dipper chart) 9.1 grains/cc

Redding 3BR Pistol Insert

Grains Thrown ≈ 0.115 × pistol_insert_number + 0.34

Pistol # ≈ (grains – 0.34) / 0.115

Pistol Insert # Grains Thrown 10x Throws (Grains)
20 2.6 26.1
44 5.5 53.6
47 5.6 57.3
48 5.8- 58.2
50 6.1 60.4
55 6.6 66.0
60 7.2 71.1
99 11.7 116.8