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One powder to rule them all?

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OK, maybe not BAMM loads, but hear me out...


A thread over on the other wire got me looking into Alliant Extra-Lite for multiple calibers. I'm lazy, unorganized, cheap as hell, and I can't leave good enough alone, so I wanna fix what ain't broke and try a single powder to load most of my ammo at reduced rates.


Based on some boozy research, here's what I'm going to start with:

.38 SPL - 1.8gn behind 105gn TCFP (I can hear the farts now)

.45 Auto - 3.4gn behind 230gn RN

.45 Colt - 3.0gn (?) behind 205gn RNFP (This is a throw-the-dart guess, so we'll see what happens. Squib rod has fallen in and is awaiting orders)

12ga - 9.2gn behind whatever wad and shot I can cram in there


For reference, here are my current proven loads (same projectiles as above):

.38 SPL - 3.0gn Titegroup (~80PF)

.45 Auto - 4.0gn WST (~170PF)

.45 Colt - 5.2gn Titegroup (~170PF)

12ga -- Ain't nobody got time to load 12ga


Alliant doesn't publish any data for this powder aside from 12ga, so it will be an adventure. This stuff supposedly burns faster than Clays and is fairly bulky.


I'll update with my findings, but it may take some time -- see note above about being lazy.


Cheers, Pardners.

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Just curious.  Why would a person that reloads want to use only one powder???  Pick powders that provide the best performnce in each cartridge. Changing powder isn't  a big deal.  I have about 20 different powders in stock and after developing loads I use about 6.
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Loading only one powder isn't really the goal. I agree it doesn't matter how many different powders one uses. This is more about trying something new and discovering things that haven't been widely published. You know, for fun. However, if I find something that works, it's a bonus to save a little on powder and stocking fewer containers.


Extra-lite is supposed to be very clean (though I've heard the same about WST and Titegroup that I don't find to be true). A lot of it has to do with pressure curves and chamber sealing. Nonetheless, if my guns are cleaner, that's another bonus.


It's just for fun, and I thought y'all might be interested to see the results.

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I have used WST in all the cartridges you listed, including .38 special.    IMHO, It's absolutely the finest target powder in .45 auto and 12 gauge.  It's OK in .45 Colt (and Cowboy .45 Special).  Have never tried it in a BAMM load, and never will (too fast for anything but plinker loads in mil rifles).   


Clays or Clay Dot will also run right with it.  As mentioned, Red Dot also.  And those two/three will be slightly cheaper to load.


Good luck, GJ



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WST and Titegroup are clean in my loads, when loaded to at least 11,000 PSI chamber pressure.  Titegroup really smokes up cases below that pressure.  WST leaves some unburnt granules below about 9,000 PSI.  Both continue to work as propellants, and at lower pressures than some other "Cowboy" powders.
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As for a quess on what you will get with your "wishing for" loads, here's my guesses (mostly in comparison with what Clays will do)


.38 special - will be real squibby until you get to at least 2.2 grains.

.45 auto -  gun with factory springs will probably start cycling reliably at about 3.2 grains, and make 160 PF around 3.4 grains

.45 Colt - squibby below 4.2 grains, and possibly will peak the pressure out before you get to 900 FPS (not that you need to push it that far)

12 gauge - If you load Win AA hulls with 7/8 ounce of shot and a commercial wad, probably 14 grains of powder will be needed to get a sufficient stack height for decent crimps.  You could lighten things up with appropriate card wads to build height, if you are patient enough to stack up components.  This will be one that you will find you still don't have time to load.


Let's see how this works out once you start loading and testing.  Be real careful when putting together the cartridge loads.  Use your senses (and other resources) to to to keep an eye on either very low pressures, or rapidly climbing pressures.  A real fast powder like Extra-Lite can create problems with small changes in powder or bullet.  Small charges of Bullseye (also a very fast powder with high nitroglycerin content) have been reported to be complicit with Secondary Explosion Excursions (blow-ups), but have been pretty thoroughly debunked since the 1970s when the reports were commonplace.


Probably most important - check chamber/cylinder and barrel after any unusual firing for a squibbed bullet or other obstruction or failure.  You'll be working with no recommended minimum starting charge, so squibs are quite possible.


Glad it's your guns, not mine.  This research project sounds like more work than I would want to do (when there are lots of more technical supported powders out there), and no one's called me lazy in years.  :D


Good luck and be careful, really.  GJ

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Initial tests went better than expected with .45 Colt. I need to keep working it up, but it was much more consistent than I expected. I'm guessing the sweet spot will be around 3.7-3.8gn for ~160PF. There was still plenty of sooty blow by, and I didn't check accuracy yet.


All loads:

205gn RNFP moly coated bullet (Bear Creek)

Firm crimp


Test gun: 73' Uberti rifle - 18" barrel


3.1gn Extra-lite

Avg: 625fps

PF:  128


3.2gn Extra-lite

Avg: 632

PF: 129


3.4gn Extra-lite




Stay tuned.

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Almost there! I've attained absolute minimum for PF, but I'm going to load them a little hotter to give that cushion. My goal is about 165 PF.


There is no felt recoil difference between these Xtra-light loads compared to my reference .45 Colt and .45 Auto loads, but the 1911 and the .45 Auto brass did seem a little cleaner than the WST loads. I'll compare again with the final loads.


Xtra-lite costs about 2.1% more than Titegroup, but I'm using 23% and 33% less for .45 Colt and .38 Spl, respectively.

XL is significantly cheaper than WST, and I'm using ~17% less of the XL for the same PF.


Accuracy tests will be next, but here is the latest set of data:


.45 Colt

205gn RNFP moly coated bullet (Bear Creek)

Firm crimp


Test gun: 73' Uberti rifle - 18" barrel


3.6gn Extra-lite

Avg: 716fps

PF:  146.8


3.8gn Extra-lite

Avg: 744

PF: 152.5

Note: 1/5 rounds came in below minimum PF velocity at 729 (PF 149.4). Still lots of blow by.



.45 Auto

230gn RN hi-tek coated


Test gun: Remington R1 5" (factory)


3.1gn Extra-lite

Avg: 667fps

PF: 153.5

Note: 1/9 shots came in below minimum velocity at 648fps (PF  149)





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I did weigh a few of them, and all of them came out 2-3gn heavier than the advertised weight. I figured I'd play it safe and calculate based on what they are supposed to be as long as they don't weigh less than what they should.


I know there is a procedure for it, but I've never seen or heard of anyone getting bullets bulled when they get their ammo checked. I'd much prefer to play it safe and not have to worry about my ammo, so I'm OK loading a little hotter for the peace of mind.


Mag primers could make a difference -- maybe more consistent ignition when using such light loads. The fella who turned me on to Extra-lite said to use mag primers for .38spl, but I'm going to try regular primers first since that's what I have.

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Just for your information,  I (with help, usually Jim Miller) have done the WBAS chronographing at the Territorial match in St. George, UT and at EOT for the last several years.  Every time I pull at least one shooter's bullets. Sometimes more that one at each match as the overall cartridge weight doesn't fall within the suggested range shown in the WBAS MD guide. They are ALWAYS different than what the shooter listed them as. Often 5-10 grains off. I have even had people claim to be shooting 230's in their ACP when they were shooting 200's.  Every time a match chrono's they should weigh cartridges to ensure they are shooting what they say. Sadly, sometimes shooters get their ammo from another and just believe what they are told.  This happened at EOT 5?? years ago and a shooter was DQ'd because the ammo wasn't what it was advertised as.

  I use a radar chronograph.  Unfortunately many inexpensive chronos are inaccurate so I strongly suggest when working up loads to aim for about 165pf. The chronograph results are NOT APPEALABLE and the chrono in use is the official one for that match.

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Thanks for the correction, Happy Jack. I didn't realize bullets were actually being pulled, but I'm glad to hear it. All the reasons you listed are exactly why I aim for 160-170 PF.


I was about to ask a follow-up question about which velocities are used (single lowest, highest, average, etc.), but I found the answer in the MD handbook:

"One round will have the bullet pulled and weighted.  Then, the remaining four  rounds  will  be  fired  over  the  chronograph.    The  average  velocity  of the three  fastest recorded  rounds  will  be  used  to  calculate  power  factor.    A minimum of two readings on the chronograph will be necessary to determine power factor.  If fewer than two velocities are recorded, new samples must be collected  and  the  ammunition  retested."



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  • 2 weeks later...

I think we did it. I'll probably stop here, but I want to share my final results. This was a fun and easy experiment -- no surprises. Extra-lite seems like a pretty good powder for this application.


.45 ACP

Gun: Remington R1 5"

Test: 7 shots

Primer: Federal #150

Bullet: 230gn RN hi-tek coated (avg weight of 10 bullets was 232gn -- none weighed less than 230gn)

Charge: 3.3gn Extra-lite

Avg Vel: 693fps (min 689/max 697) -- very consistent

PF: 159

Note: I'll probably eek this up to 3.4gn (GJ nailed it), but this is pretty good, and it is very consistent.


.45 Colt

Gun: Uberti 1873 18"

Test: 5 shots

Primer: Federal #150

Bullet: 205gn RNFP moly coated (avg weight of 10 bullets was 206gn -- none weighed less than 205gn)

Charge 4.0gn Extra-lite

Avg Vel: 796fps (min 774/max 828)

PF: 163

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