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Good Handgun Metering Powder

2527 Views 29 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Charlie98
What are your choices for a good all around handgun powder? Something that meters well for an autopress, used to load multiple calibers.

I'll use it for .32 H&R, .327 Federal, 9mm Luger, .357 Magnum, .45 ACP, and .45 Colt. Loads will be lowend to midrange for training purposes but I'd like to get some volume filled in each case.

Right now I'm thinking about trying Power Pistol and True Blue.


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I like WST (Winchester Super Target) for my light to warm loads in 38 and 45. Meters well, good energy with low charge weights, and extremely clean burning. Been using it for about ten years, and can't find any reason to switch. A keg goes a long way! :D
papajohn said:
I like WST (Winchester Super Target) for my light to warm loads in 38 and 45. Meters well, good energy with low charge weights, and extremely clean burning. Been using it for about ten years, and can't find any reason to switch. A keg goes a long way! :D
I'm going to have to whole heartedly agree. I don't know exactly all the cals you can use WST in, but I use it in my 45ACP loads and it meters so consistent! It's a great powder as well.
Sounds like good advice to me.

WST is highly reflective and has fairly good bulk so it's easy to see in the case.

Power Pistol would be kind of out of its element in the lighter loads.

The case filling powders would be the flake types. I dispense these very well in the Pro Auto Disk and not so well in others. Powder charges below 3.5 grains are inadvisable on the Lee Pro measure using the largish flake type powders.
Although it probably doesn't meter as well as WST, I might recommend Unique (a flake powder, not a flakey powder... ;) ) It's versatility trumps the small issues it has with metering in a volumetric measure like my Hornady on my Hornady progressive.

Because you would not typically load Unique to absolute maximum loads, a small variation in charge weight isn't that big of a deal. In fact, I do load a max load of Unique under the 230grn FMJ in my .45ACP loads, but I've found if you are consistent with your method when loading, the charges I get are close enough for Government (that is to say, 1911 Government ;D ) work.

I have worked with WST in the .45ACP and .380ACP, the jury is still out, however. I haven't reached the velocity I want compared to similar loads with Unique. Load development is ongoing. I will say WST is the only powder I use in my 12ga reloads and it works stellar in that respect.
35remington said:
The case filling powders would be the flake types. I dispense these very well in the Pro Auto Disk and not so well in others. Powder charges below 3.5 grains are inadvisable on the Lee Pro measure using the largish flake type powders.
I'm having an issue with Red Dot and the Lee ProDisk, even though I'm above 4gr for a charge.

Classes are getting bigger/more often, so I'm needing to restuff 1,000 cases of various calibers much more often and I'd rather not spend time with a powder that drops a good charge once, then fills the flash hole on the next nine cases.

You shouldn't have problems with Red Dot in charges of 4 grains and above. That is the single most common load I make for the 45 ACP.....4 grains, that is.

What issues are you having? Is the measure mounted to the press? How do you use it?
Oops, sorry...I'm using the 0.41 hole on one disk, for a load of about 3.1gr, not 4.1gr like I was thinking.

What is happening is the powder just makes a pile up on top of the disk and pushes out a couple of flakes here and there. I'm getting full movement of the disk, hopper is open. Even running the Auto Disk up and down manually with that disk is sketchy.

I was thinking about putting less powder in the hopper but then I realized this can be an excuse to buy another type of powder.

Another recommendation I've gotten is for W231. There appears to be all sorts of loads listed for that powder, across a wide spectrum of calibers. I'm told it meters very, very well.

Oooh. Just plain flat don't go that low with the Lee disks using a flake powder of that dimension. You're asking for a squib sometime. About one throw in sixty will be light due to powder bridging in the too small disk hole when the three grain vicinity of Unique is used, and the powder granules are very similar in size to Red Dot.

I use the .61 cavity for right around 4 grains of Red Dot, and the system works very consistently, throwing accurate charges despite the powder geometry. Red Dot will give you more velocity per charge weight than anything else in 45 ACP and many others, if the charge weight is suitable. The don't go below recommendation of about 3.5 grains means the .57 cavity for around 3.7 grains is as low as you should go. Using a HG 68 type SWC in the 45 ACP loaded to 1.250" and 4 grains in wildly mixed cases averages around 780 fps for a nice mild target load. The .71 cavity dispenses around 4.8 to 4.9 grains and with the Lee 230-2R this averages a bit over 850 fps using wildly mixed brass. I call that my "heavy ball" load as it duplicates the velocity of military ball; or, at least, the 45 ACP military ball that I was able to chronograph.

That's too heavy for 380 (3.5 grains and above) and most standard velocity .38's but is fine for others.

Humor me and put the .61 cavity in there, and throw ten charges, weighing each one. See how consistent they are with Red Dot. Be sure not to jostle the measure between throws it the same way every time. One of the three I own is mounted on top of a Pro 1000 progressive and I periodically take a case sans bullet from the seating station and weigh the powder. The Pro does well in consistency when the minimum charge weight is exceeded. The 3.5 grain minimum, that is.
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I'll check it out for giggles tomorrow or Friday. I know that Red Dot is boringly consistent out of the Perfect Powder Measure, for .357 and .45acp.

My results were about opposite of yours, about 1 in 30 throws gave me a correct charge, the rest having just enough flakes to cover the flash hole...if that much!

The wrench in the works is the .32 H&R right now. I really would like to have a few hundred .327 Federal on hand.

"My results were about opposite of yours, about 1 in 30 throws gave me a correct charge, the rest having just enough flakes to cover the flash hole...if that much!"

I wouldn't call that "opposite" at all, but rather exact confirmation of what I was saying! You're skating well below the minimum, and a little more will cause the occasional light charge.

More yet and the problem is avoided completely.

Keep in mind my minimum is specified while the powder measure is mounted atop a die which is mounted on a press that is bumped and jostled as the press moves and vibrates, sizing, charging, priming and seating all on the same press. This makes the powder cavity fill more often than on a "static" mounting where only powder is dispensed. This explains why my 3.0 grain charges give occasional squibs and why yours gives squibs almost every time.

If you're dispensing powder on a static mounting I'd go further and call that .61 cavity the minimum size. Four grains Red Dot, in other words. A nice load for the 45 ACP and a 200 SWC.

Use that cavity when checking. Don't go lower in charge weight.
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Hmm, Jon or 35Remington, can either of you guys explain how these disks work, roughly, such that this bridging of big powders is happening? I'm using a RCBS Little Dandy, which has fixed volume cavities, sort of like these Lee Disk measures, but I'm wondering if I'll have the same problems when I start loading for .380, etc. I'm going to start loading for .38 special, as well, and I might start with 9mm.

So the has a round solid steel cylinder with a fixed volume cavity milled into it. You rotate this cylinder 180 degrees to drop a charge--cavity open straight up to cavity open straight down--and there's a wiper of sorts to separate the two. Very simple design.

Is the cavity just too small relative to the flakes, here, such that any static attraction they may have or something like that combined with the small cavity just makes it so they won't fall into the hole right? I'm wondering if I'll have to worry about this. Obviously I'll check it out...

I used to only load for .45 Auto as far as pistols I might be loading for four pistol calibers pretty soon here :-X
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planeflyer21 said:
Another recommendation I've gotten is for W231. There appears to be all sorts of loads listed for that powder, across a wide spectrum of calibers. I'm told it meters very, very well.
I have no experience with the .32/.327, but I've used W231 in all of the other cartridges you mentioned, among others. Although not optimum for that big .45 Colt case, I used it with lighter loads with success. I've burned a ton of it in the .45 ACP, the .38 Special, and the .357. Don't tell anyone but I've used it in the 9mm too.

If flows through powder measures like water and is an excellent powder for progressives like the Dillons. I often tested my Square Deal by dumping 20 charges and it was not uncommon to have the total of all 20 rounds less than 1/10 off. Maybe I'm living in the past, but it's my go to powder for a number of handgun cartridges when I just want to go shooting and am not concerned about top level loads.

It's mostly the small diameter of the charge hole versus the shape and size of the powder granules.

The movement of the disk under the powder in the hopper doesn't create a large enough void for the powder to become "unbridged" and fall into the hole. So it never falls in the first place or what little does fall is maybe enough to get the bullet out the barrel, but not all of the time. A jacketed bullet would definitely stick. It is not hard to imagine the flakes interlocked, in a way, in that part of the measure that is above the disk and below the cutoff valve/baffle.

There are flake powders with flakes larger than Unique/Red Dot/Herco, etc. That would be 700X, American Select, 800X, among others. Steel's flakes are so big that they don't recommend metering it....from a shotshell bushing, which is much larger in diameter and capacity than a pistol sized measure opening or rotor. Steel would be an utter disaster from the Pro Auto Disk if it were suitable for pistol loads. Some powders have flakes that curl (700X, some Solo powders), and many handloaders complain that this complicates bridging problems in small diameter cavities.

Look at the reverse of the Lee Pro Disk, which is their Perfect Powder measure. The Pro has a fixed cavity depth and a variable cavity diameter. The Perfect has a fixed cavity diameter and a variable cavity depth.

The problem with the Perfect is that the relatively large diameter opening in the cavity means that for light pistol charges the powder cavity resembles a disk more than a cavity, so the powder has maximum shear area, which supposedly increases charge weight variation. Ironically there's probably no chance of bridging should you load pistol ammo with it, and I've never had the Perfect throw a squib, even when I adjusted the cavity to absolute minimum size when I was developing some low velocity loads with cast bullets in my K-Hornet and 25-20. Charges were between 1.5 and 2 grains with some powders at the low end. This included the large flake problem whatsoever with squibs. This was on a static mounting.

Despite having theoretically more variation, the Perfect threw powder charges consistently enough that it was very usable in these small charges.

Sometimes we get overly concerned about metering and not enough about what the chronograph says. If the chrono says the loads are consistent in velocity it doesn't matter worth squat what the charge weight variation is.

Shoot it first and worry about what the scale said about charge weight variation after looking at it from the chronograph context. If the velocity variation is excessive in a small air space cartridge using relatively position insensitive powders, e.g. Unique, Red Dot, etc. then your metering is suspect assuming everything else about the load is uniform. If some cartridges are used with shallowly seated bullets and have relatively large capacity, like a 38 Special shooting one of the "tuna can" 75 grain wadcutters, velocity variation will be high even with perfect charges due to too much airspace.

Ironically Universal is lauded for its metering consistency in some measures over Unique but I have found Universal strangely and excessively position sensitive, which I don't like one bit. Given thrown charges through varied measures using both powders I find Universal has no advantage over Unique in velocity consistency, and if positioning variances are deliberately induced (powder forward versus powder rearward in 45 ACP, 38 Spl, etc.) in cases of reasonable size Universal falls flat on its face. Unique does just fine under the same conditions.

So, in this case, what price better metering?

If, however, loading the 380 with Unique and Universal through the Pro Auto Disk, Universal would pull ahead due to the 380's tiny case and the fact that charge weights approach unreliable minimums with Unique. It's hard for powder positioning sensitivity to occur in a case that has no powder room to spare.
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When I was loading with my old Lee Pro1000 that uses the disk type powder measure I was using Hodgdon Universal Clays (similar to Unique) with great success. HUC is a disk type powder and should work well in your measure. My favorite walking around load for my 45 Long Colt is this powder under a 265 cast bullet. I used this power for 45ACP also and it should work fine for any application that Unique works for with a different powder charge of course.

Mine is in use on a Pro1000 also.

The way they work: you have an assortment of disks, each disk resembling a flat plastic revolver cylinder, with six chambers around the edges. Each chamber is numbered and this number is a decimal measurement for how much of a cubic centimeter (cc) it is in volume.

On the flip side of the disk, next to each hole is a small slot that...if it were extended...would run across the diameter of the disk, but it is only about 1/3". Into this slot fits a radiused end of a flat L-shaped lever, the lever being fastened to the body of the Pro Autodisk at the elbow of the L for a pivot point. The other end of the L extends away from the assembly, having two holes drilled in it to run a ball chain (think military dog tag chain) through...the other end of the chain having a small spring. The whole chain is run through a hole in the shell plate holder on the presses ram arm, then through the holes in the L.

Now the disk sits atop a flat plate on the measure, sandwiched between that and the hopper, and is guided by grooves in the plate. When aligned properly, the hole you are using is resting under the drain hole in the hopper. When you work the press arm down, lifting the shell plate, and there is an empty case at that station, the case pushes up on the belling/flaring tube within the die and lifts straight up on the powder measure assembly.

The upward movement causes the L-arm to articulate, sliding the disk forward with its powder charge and deposits it down the center of the powder charging die. As the press arm is raised back up, the ball chain reaches the bottom of the stroke pulling on the other side of the L-arm, moving the disk back to the starting position under the hopper, where the next charge drops into the hole in the disk.

Large flake powder and small cavity holes cause issues like I'm having.

The brass ball chain is a weak link in the whole setup and many people (myself included) have replaced the ball chain/spring with a long spring.

Now that I've wasted all that time and space, this page has video of the whole press in operation at the top, and seven down on the right is installation of the AutoDisk powder measure:

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Not wasted time, Jon, well, at least the videos wouldn't have taught me how they worked ;D

Thanks for the education, guys! Great stuff.

Yeah, I could see how that could be a fairly reliable way to charge cases, being initiated by the press like that. And then being concerned about the powder type. I think I know what you mean, John, about the flakes interlocking and such, particularly after they pack in/down a little after a couple throws after first filling the hopper.

I guess that's why my current reloading process is a little on the slow side...I remove the cases from the press for hand priming, and then again for charging (I like to inspect all the cases visually for squib charges or double charges or anything like that) before seating the bullet.

I certainly haven't had any metering problems with the powders I've been using, but I really haven't used anything beyond W231 and Bullseye as they both give me good results. But I do have a pound of HUC like you like, MontanaMan, and have been thinking about trying some Unique.

Hmm. Speeding up the reloading process would be nice. Not sure if I'll ever be able to get over my being obsessed with triple checking things, though.
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Ryan an old friend of mine that has as many years of experience reloading as I have convinced me to go back to my old single stage rockchucker press and forget the progressives. I only used the Pro1000 for 45ACP when I was shooting competition because of the large number of rounds I was shooting each week. The Lee made it easier for me to keep up with the loading but since I no longer shoot competition I've happily gone back to single stage loading and for most of the same reasons you are doing the same thing. I too like complete control of each process and like you I insist on double checking my powder charges before seating bullets etc. I use a Lee auto prime tool to hand prime all cases and of course the fantastic Lee factory crimp die where applicable. I have a Redding benchrest powder measure that gives me incredible consistency of powder charges but when I go to stick powders I still trickle every charge. I am back to using single stage presses again and I plan to stay with them all the way now.

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I fully agree.

For any caliber at my bench, the Pro1000 is a 2-die setup...powder charge/flare, bullet seat/crimp. All loads on this press are starting loads.

Hand priming offers another opportunity to inspect the cases. It has also been my experience that, no matter how careful, a primer can still be seated upside down or sideways. It is nice to catch that before powder is dumped in on top of the primer.

Right now my students average between 200 and 300 rounds for a basic pistol class...each. With my next range session I'll have at least 16 shooters. That is a whole mess of powder charge/funnel...powder charge/funnel.

With the two-die set up I can do 400 rounds in about an hour and fifteen minutes average. .45acp's go faster than .357s, 9mms go faster than .45acp's.

Before I started using the Pro1000 I'd say "That should be enough."

Now I say "Crap! I'm outta bullets/powder/primed cases!" ;D

Heavy stuff all goes on the single stage.

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Hmm, your round output is a lot faster than mine, with my old Lyman turret press. 100 rounds per hour of .45 auto is flyin' for me, and I mostly keep the dies on the press and don't do a whole lot of changing out. I must be a slowpoke ;D

It's interesting that you can do 9mm faster than .45. I wouldn't intuitively think that the reloading process would be faster because of case size, but like I said I've never reloaded for the small guys before, although I'm going to start soon.
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