Author Topic: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns  (Read 626 times)

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Offline M1A4ME

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Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« on: September 19, 2017, 07:08:05 PM »
Another thread on self defense loads got me to thinking about powders.

I know not everyone would carry their loads for self defense use.  That's okay.  I do.  My 9MM and .40 S&W handguns have my loads in them.  My 1911 has 30 plus year old Federal 230 grain FMJ, but I'd carry my loads in it if I didn't have all those boxes of hardball.

For me, the most important things for the 9MM and .40 S&W loads has been reliability and group size.  Yes, according the reloading manual the bullets should be moving pretty fast, but I've never run them on a chronograph (didn't own one till a few months ago, still haven't used it).  And the bullets are hollow points, but this thread is about powder.

I would agree, under some conditions, muzzle blast/flash, or reduced muzzle blast/flash that is, could be important - when shooting in low/no light conditions.  The only handgun I've ever fired at night was a snub nosed .357 magnum and it lit the area up like a flash of lightning.

I've never shot my self defense loads at night.  I use a slow burning powder (reliability and group size are excellent) and I bet the muzzle flash would be spectacular.  Probably not a good thing.

Has anyone here specifically tried different powders for the reason of reducing muzzle flash in low/no light conditions?

If so, did you choose a powder based on that and what powders did you try? 

What powder did you settle on? 

If you found different powders worked better for different weight bullets, that would be good to know, to.

I'm not looking for specific load information.  I believe in working that up myself.  I'm just wondering what powders have proven to have less muzzle flash in the dark.

Oh, one other question.  How did you compare powders/muzzle flash to determine what worked best for you?

Thanks for a good discussion/information exchange.
Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.  So, if you see me walking the dogs with my SIG 556R, its okay.

Offline 1SOW

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2017, 11:11:36 PM »
I 8) also load my 9mm SD cartridges.
I chose my powder based on the speed listed as "effective" for the specific bullets by numerous tests from several reliable sources. 
124 GDHP and 124 XTPs. over VIT n340 loaded to attain 1150-1160 fps = STD velocity Speer GD factory load (available on the Speer site).  Mine chrono'd "that speed" out of my shorter bbl Sig 239 pistol. A CZ 75 showed 1200 fps +/-  a skosh.  This required near max loads for n340. 

I haven't tested the n340 muzzle flash at night.  I do know the n340 isn't known as having much smoke or flash. It also gives a relatively soft recoil and good accuracy in my Sig. 
I have competed at night a long time back.  Using Win 231 and shooting near a white wall was "blinding" for a moment or two.  The background for your target plays a big part in the flash impact with many powders AND a flash/gun light.
I personally wouldn't intentionally use a powder known to give a bright flash and lots of ejecta.

Offline copemech

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2017, 01:50:36 AM »
Be very careful or your thread will get locked out for bringing up the topic and asking for general opinion on loads.

Offline M1A4ME

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2017, 06:25:08 AM »
I'm not asking for load date (how many grains of what powder you use for the bullet weight you use).

I'm just asking about experiences with muzzle flash with different powders.

I have Bulls Eye (fast burning powder) but really haven't used it for much of anything but lead practice loads for .38's and .45's.

I recently bought some fast burning pistol powder (WST??? or something that sounded similar - haven't seen the 1 lb. can since I set it on the shelf in the garage a few months back) to experiment with when I get back to reloading again now that the weather is cooling down.

I know that a load that shoots very well in another gun may not shoot well in mine, that's why I'm only interested in what powders to try.  I'll work up the loads myself.
Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.  So, if you see me walking the dogs with my SIG 556R, its okay.

Offline painter

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2017, 07:23:40 AM »
I've used AA #7 and Unique for SD loads based on published velocities. I haven't chrono'd them, nor have I fired any in low light conditions.
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but not the ability.

Offline Wobbly

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2017, 08:56:59 AM »
Be very careful or your thread will get locked out for bringing up the topic and asking for general opinion on loads.

I don't believe this is true. The OP has stated...

Quote
I'm not looking for specific load information.  I believe in working that up myself.  I'm just wondering what powders have proven to have less muzzle flash in the dark.

It's as much what you ask as how you ask.

 ;)
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Offline Wobbly

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2017, 08:59:51 AM »
In my experience, background reading, etc, etc... the 2 powders that come to mind are VV N340 and Alliant BE-86. I'm sure there are others.

 ;)
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Offline IDescribe

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2017, 09:31:16 AM »
I have Bulls Eye (fast burning powder) but really haven't used it for much of anything but lead practice loads for .38's and .45's.

I recently bought some fast burning pistol powder (WST??? or something that sounded similar - haven't seen the 1 lb. can since I set it on the shelf in the garage a few months back) to experiment with when I get back to reloading again now that the weather is cooling down.

In terms of low flash, Silhouette is supposed to be very low flash.  BE-86 was created and marketed specifically to be low flash.  And both of those will allow you to drive bullets pretty fast. 

The N300 series is the same compound through the range, and so low flash through the range, though I would suggest that the smaller the charge, and the faster the burn rate, the lower the flash, so at their respective maximum velocities with a given bullet, N310 and N320 are going to be lower flash than N340,N350, 3N37.

I know you want to focus on flash in the thread, but you do need to think about velocity.  SD bullets are engineered to perform optimally at a particular velocity range, and the commercial loads using them by their manufacturer are going to be loaded in that ideal range.  If the bullet is traveling too slowy, the bullet won't expand the way it's designed to.  If velocity is too fast for the bullet, the bullet may expand too quickly, which decelerates the bullet too quickly, and you don't get the penetration you want. 

So step one of this would be to figure out what velocity you want to achieve with the bullet.  If you're going to buy, for example, Hornady 147gr XTP, you want to first look at Hornady's loads with that bullet, see that Hornady is loading them to 975 feet/sec, and you should do the same.  That will narrow your powder selection significantly, excluding powders like WST and Bullseye.  And then you're looking for low-flash powders in a particular range rather than ALL powders.

The one bullet I know of that functions well for SD that does not need slow burn rate powders so that it can be loaded to high velocities is the Barnes 115gr TAC-XPD.  It's solid copper construction allows it to expand super consistently, but also slowly, allowing it to get necessary penetration with lower velocities.  It's a different animal than the bonded jacketed JHP.  They are loaded to 1100 feet/sec, which for a 115gr bullet is a baby fart.  That's a PF of 127 in action shooting vernacular.  The recoil is exceedingly light for any load, and it has to be the lightest recoiling 9mm SD load out there.  And it's +P at 1100 feet/sec for a 115gr bullet, which tells me they're using a superfast powder, which tells me they're using a super light charge, which tells me the load itself is very low muzzle flash.

If I were trying to build an SD load with a traditional bonded JHP, I'd start with Silhouette, BE-86, or N340. 

Or if I wanted to build an SD load with a Barnes solid copper bullet, I'd start with N310 or N320.

And you'll probably need to test yourself in low light to really know where your lowest flashes are.  And of course, you're obligated to share your results here if you do.  ;)
« Last Edit: September 20, 2017, 11:01:05 AM by IDescribe »

Offline IDescribe

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2017, 09:34:55 AM »
Be very careful or your thread will get locked out for bringing up the topic and asking for general opinion on loads.

I find it hard to believe that they would lock your thread and not tell you why.  And since what you say there above is clearly not what they would have told you, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that you are once again foisting nonsense upon us.

Offline M1A4ME

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2017, 03:55:27 PM »
IDescribe, your post made me realize I had not even thought about checking manufacturer powder descriptions.

For Alliant powders their descriptions say:

BE86 has a flash suppressant in the formula/make up of the powder

Sport Pistol has low muzzle flash

Even though Bulls Eye is described as a fast burning powder they do not mention muzzle flash at all.

It appears BE86 gives higher muzzle velocities with the same bullets vs. Sport Pistol.

IMR doesn't mention flash characteristics with their new color named powders and don't list handgun cartridge data for two of them.

It appears IMR Target and Unequal will supply similar velocities to the Alliant powders listed above.

Hogdgen doesn't mention muzzle flash in their pistol powder descriptions either.  Low muzzle blast, yes, low muzzle flash, no.

They show three powders that are in the right velocity range.  CFE pistol, HS6 and Longshot.  Longshot "looks" a lot like Blue Dot for velocity, amount of powder used and description.  I know from experience Blue Dot makes my P07 sound/act like a .357 magnum.

Winchester states both AutoComp and 231 have low muzzle flash.  Can't access the reloading data for a look right now.  Something wrong with their server it seems.

Ramshot doesn't seem to list anything that will get the velocity without going to the +P load section.

Accurate Powders do list Accurate #2 as low flash but the velocities just aren't there with that powder.

Some of the manufacturers listed barrel lengths.  That helps some.

Vihtavuori powder company doesn't mention muzzle flash either.  With some of the slower pistol powders they show pretty good velocities.

Well, that's some info from the powder makers websites, but I'd still like to hear anything that can be added about muzzle flash by the folks that actually use the powder.

Thanks.
Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.  So, if you see me walking the dogs with my SIG 556R, its okay.

Offline IDescribe

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2017, 04:10:24 PM »

Even though Bulls Eye is described as a fast burning powder they do not mention muzzle flash at all.


To be clear, what I was saying with the faster burn rates is that given two powders of similar flashiness (forgive the technical jargon ;) ) where one is of a fast burn rate and the other is of a slow burn rate, the faster powder is going to produce less flash simply because it's going to have a smaller powder charge.  There's nothing inherently better with a faster burn rate powder regarding flash.  You just use less of it. 

Offline Wobbly

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2017, 08:58:07 AM »
...where one is of a fast burn rate and the other is of a slow burn rate, the faster powder is going to produce less flash simply because it's going to have a smaller powder charge.  There's nothing inherently better with a faster burn rate powder regarding flash.  You just use less of it.

But getting back to the title of the thread, no one is going to use a "fast" powder in an SD load, since a certain minimum bullet speed is typically required to jack the HP open.
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Offline IDescribe

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2017, 09:28:02 AM »
...no one is going to use a "fast" powder in an SD load, since a certain minimum bullet speed is typically required to jack the HP open.

Absolutely.  That's generally the case.  Where "fast" powders came up in my post originally was in relation to the specific example of the 115gr Barnes solid copper XPD, which functions at lower velocities than traditional bonded jacketed bullets, and is commercially loaded with a fast powder.  It's a 115gr bullet that's +P at only 1100 feet/sec.  That's definitely a fast powder. 

Going by the OP's response, it's clear he's interested in traditional SD bullets, and so back to the slower powders it is.  ;)


Offline Wobbly

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2017, 08:57:13 PM »
IDescribe, your post made me realize I had not even thought about checking manufacturer powder descriptions.


Blindingly brilliant insights like that is why we keep him on retainer.  O0
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Offline Moken

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Re: Handgun self defense loads - powder questions/concerns
« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2017, 10:50:58 PM »
I've loaded several powders and carry my own loads for SD. The powder I like the best is Longshot. I've shot them at night on our farm inside a barn and have no objectionable flash. I'm pushing 124 gr Berry's Hybrid Hollow Point SD bullet right at 1100 fps over my chrony. I run them in my 3.7" Canik Shark C and the longer barreled P120. Accuracy is very good and expansion excellent.