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reducing powder charge question

This is a discussion on reducing powder charge question within the Reloading forums, part of the Firearm Forum category; My question is to the "Gurus" here, and relates to PISTOL cartridges. Specific: .38/.357/.45acp/.45colt I have read AND been told that it is not good ...


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Old March 8th, 2017, 04:40 AM   #1
 
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reducing powder charge question

My question is to the "Gurus" here, and relates to PISTOL cartridges.

Specific:
.38/.357/.45acp/.45colt

I have read AND been told that it is not good to "load down" a cartridge.
I have read AND been told that it is "perfectly okay to load down" a cartridge.

So WHICH is it ???

Further explanation...
I do just fine with normal load data.
Everything is GTG on that front.

BUT..... I want some VERY low recoil Target loads.

Example: I want to load below the min. Gr recommended to get down around 500fps+/- in .45acp

Maybe I am missing something, but WHY is less powder a bad thing ???
I mean, what happens when you do that ??

I know guys who have loaded .45acp down til it barely cycled the slide AND you could literally WATCH the bullet fly all the way to the target.


I hate to be dense about this, but I really don't want to blow the slide off my colt, or the cylinder in my Rugers.



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Old March 8th, 2017, 07:26 AM   #2
 
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Nobody knows ???
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Old March 8th, 2017, 07:26 AM   #3
 
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In a nut shell a light charge (under what the minimum charge listed is) can act the same as an over max charge. It can and probably will increase pressure, how much.....that's hard to say. It has to do with case volume and charge density. A light load leaves a lot of empty space in the case and when it is ignited the empty space gives the charge just enough time to build up more pressure before the bullet is sent down range.

Personally I never go below any book recommendations.



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Old March 8th, 2017, 09:43 AM   #4
 
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Please read a reloading manual. We will be glad to help answer any specific question you might have afterwards. You will learn about load density, burn rates, pressure spikes, and a nasty phenomenon called detonation. There is a reason pressure tested load data has both starting and maximum information. Basically the deal is that if you want more power than what your gun offers, it's better to buy a larger caliber than to hot-rod your reloads. Conversely, if you desire less recoil than what your gun delivers with standard target loads then it's time to buy a smaller caliber gun. The .32 S&W Long was a popular center-fire target round for years for precisely that reason. Please be safe and follow published data, not just what you hear or read online. Damage to your guns and body are possible when you stray from tested loads.
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Old March 8th, 2017, 10:17 AM   #5
 
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The sky is not falling. You can download until the bullet sticks in the barrel. In fact when you fire-lap a barrel you want a low power load. Now it does depend on the powder. You don't download H110/W296 for example. Say you want to shoot .357 cartridges at .38 special pressures, just use .38 Special data. Or .44Mag, use .44 Special data. For .45 ACP you can look at .45 Auto Rim data (same cartridge with a rim) as it is meant to be fired in a revolver and not a semi-auto (doesn't have to cycle the slide). Light bullet, light powder load makes for light recoil load.

I never understood why reloading manuals don't at least give data for 'low/mid pressure' loads (.44 Magnum, .357, .41 Mag, etc.). Just checked a random manual and lowest velocity listed was 1200fps for .44 Mag which we 'know' isn't the lowest velocity you can get to in that cartridge. Most of us aren't out to pick the fastest, heaviest load possible for a cartridge and like to load down.

Use the manuals. That is what they are there for... But you can certainly make educated decisions based on knowledge gleaned for you own loads.

Last edited by rclark; March 8th, 2017 at 03:52 PM.
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Old March 8th, 2017, 03:40 PM   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rclark View Post
...I never understood why reloading manuals don't at least give data for 'low pressure' loads (.44 Magnum, .357, .41 Mag, etc.). Just checked a random manual and lowest velocity listed was 1200fps for .44 Mag which we 'know' isn't the lowest velocity you can get to in that cartridge. Most of us aren't out to pick the fastest, heaviest load possible for a cartridge and like to load down...
Yes, it would be nice if the manual publishers would create and test some 'medium velocity' magnum rounds. I, like many others, have had to create my own mid-range loads for .357 and .44 Mag. I started with the lowest listed charge of medium-fast powders, and worked down as I tested them. I did find that AA #7 makes a pretty good mid-range load for .44 Mag with 240 gr plated bullets.
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Old March 8th, 2017, 06:36 PM   #7
 
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GONRA sez do NOT "download until the bullet sticks in the barrel"
in blowback or modified blowback semiautos. KABOOM!
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Old March 8th, 2017, 07:51 PM   #8
 
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OP, it's hard to glean from your post how much actual reloading experience you have. The answer is complicated and yet very simple. In short, yes you can download certain cartridges with certain powders, but certainly not all cartridges with any powder.

Some fast burning powders such as Bullseye and 700-X have been know to cause detonation when loaded too lightly. Some people however say detonation is a myth and the documented kabooms were the result of double charges (which are also a risk when dropping light charges).
Some slow burners such as H110 require magnum primers to ignite reliably and load data must be followed to stay within safe pressure ranges. Most reloading manuals (and even right on the bottle) warn against downloading more than 10% from max charge.

There are others here who can explain much more eloquently than myself. Basically, if you want reduced loads for your handguns, there are possibly ways to achieve yours goals through proper component selection. A powder like TrailBoss would be an excellent option for your 45 LC and possibly ever the 38 if you're using lead cast bullets and don't mind a little smoke.
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Old March 8th, 2017, 08:40 PM   #9
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medicineman, Downloading .... smokeless gunpowder likes to have chamber pressure in excess of 15k psi for a uniform and clean burn. If you try to download a cartridge that is using a slow burning powder, a couple things may happen .... you may go well below the 15k psi minimum and get a dirty burn with erratic velocities and poor accuracy. You could also create a squib where the bullet gets stuck in the barrel. If you use a mid burn rate powder, chances are you can download but switching to a fast burning powder is a much better option. Fast burning powders create a fairly high instantaneous pressure, which makes for a clean burn and uniform velocities yet are still within the designed operating pressure limits.

So the direct answer is yes, you can download but you better pay attention to powder burn rates, minimum chamber pressures, and slide thrust. 500 fps from a 45 ACP is unreasonable. First, you must create enough energy to cycle the slide (slide thrust). You can use a reduced power recoil spring but it still needs enough tension to drive the slide home and chamber a fresh cartridge. I found about the minimum reliable velocity is 600~650 fps with a 185 gr bullet .... a real soft shooter. You will need a 10 lb recoil spring and depending on other factors, you may find your pistol will not cycle with these reduced power loads. For these soft loads, you need a fast burning powder such as Bullseye or W-231. Powder such as Unique are great for full power loads but do not deal well with lower chamber pressures.

38 Specials with 148gr LHBWCs are the most accurate with 3gr of Bullseye .... in fact it is probably the most accurate 38 Special load in the world. This load produces a MV of about 720 fps from a 6" barrel, has very low recoil, but it burns a bit dirty because chamber pressure is about 10k psi. You can get by with lower chamber pressure in revolvers because there is not a "slide thrust" issue and because the skirts on hollow base bullets will spread and form an excellent seal in the bore.

It is quite common to download 357 Mags to 38 special velocities. This reduces recoil tremendously and eliminates the huge muzzle flash. Just use 38 Special load data from your reloading manual when loading 357 Mag cases. Follow bullet seating (COL) recommendations for 357 Mag ammo with the same bullet. You can load virtually any bullet from 110gr to 158 gr.

45 Colts are kind of in a class of their own because max chamber pressure is rated at only 14k psi .... lower than minimum pressure for most powders. It's best to use "book" loads for this cartridge, however most powders will burn dirty with a lot of soot. Lighter bullets help reduce recoil but they also reduce chamber pressure, which is already quite low.
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Old March 11th, 2017, 08:09 AM   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Owly View Post
OP, it's hard to glean from your post how much actual reloading experience you have. The answer is complicated and yet very simple. In short, yes you can download certain cartridges with certain powders, but certainly not all cartridges with any powder.

Some fast burning powders such as Bullseye and 700-X have been know to cause detonation when loaded too lightly. Some people however say detonation is a myth and the documented kabooms were the result of double charges (which are also a risk when dropping light charges).
Some slow burners such as H110 require magnum primers to ignite reliably and load data must be followed to stay within safe pressure ranges. Most reloading manuals (and even right on the bottle) warn against downloading more than 10% from max charge.

There are others here who can explain much more eloquently than myself. Basically, if you want reduced loads for your handguns, there are possibly ways to achieve yours goals through proper component selection. A powder like TrailBoss would be an excellent option for your 45 LC and possibly ever the 38 if you're using lead cast bullets and don't mind a little smoke.
I am loading trail Boss and Unique exclusively.
Cast bullets.
Magnum primers.
5.5" Bbl .... OR SHORTER.

I have a good understanding of reloading, but still learn every day.

I am talking about "going off manual" to the low side, so data available is nonexistent or slim.
I have to wonder if the 10% applies to "below minimum".

Than kyou for your reply.
I am still gonna keep researching BEFORE trying any light charges.
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Old March 11th, 2017, 08:11 AM   #11
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iowegan View Post
medicineman, Downloading .... smokeless gunpowder likes to have chamber pressure in excess of 15k psi for a uniform and clean burn. If you try to download a cartridge that is using a slow burning powder, a couple things may happen .... you may go well below the 15k psi minimum and get a dirty burn with erratic velocities and poor accuracy. You could also create a squib where the bullet gets stuck in the barrel. If you use a mid burn rate powder, chances are you can download but switching to a fast burning powder is a much better option. Fast burning powders create a fairly high instantaneous pressure, which makes for a clean burn and uniform velocities yet are still within the designed operating pressure limits.

So the direct answer is yes, you can download but you better pay attention to powder burn rates, minimum chamber pressures, and slide thrust. 500 fps from a 45 ACP is unreasonable. First, you must create enough energy to cycle the slide (slide thrust). You can use a reduced power recoil spring but it still needs enough tension to drive the slide home and chamber a fresh cartridge. I found about the minimum reliable velocity is 600~650 fps with a 185 gr bullet .... a real soft shooter. You will need a 10 lb recoil spring and depending on other factors, you may find your pistol will not cycle with these reduced power loads. For these soft loads, you need a fast burning powder such as Bullseye or W-231. Powder such as Unique are great for full power loads but do not deal well with lower chamber pressures.

38 Specials with 148gr LHBWCs are the most accurate with 3gr of Bullseye .... in fact it is probably the most accurate 38 Special load in the world. This load produces a MV of about 720 fps from a 6" barrel, has very low recoil, but it burns a bit dirty because chamber pressure is about 10k psi. You can get by with lower chamber pressure in revolvers because there is not a "slide thrust" issue and because the skirts on hollow base bullets will spread and form an excellent seal in the bore.

It is quite common to download 357 Mags to 38 special velocities. This reduces recoil tremendously and eliminates the huge muzzle flash. Just use 38 Special load data from your reloading manual when loading 357 Mag cases. Follow bullet seating (COL) recommendations for 357 Mag ammo with the same bullet. You can load virtually any bullet from 110gr to 158 gr.

45 Colts are kind of in a class of their own because max chamber pressure is rated at only 14k psi .... lower than minimum pressure for most powders. It's best to use "book" loads for this cartridge, however most powders will burn dirty with a lot of soot. Lighter bullets help reduce recoil but they also reduce chamber pressure, which is already quite low.
And I say Thanks to you as well.

Maybe I will just go to "Holy Black" or Pyrodex..... LOL
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Old March 11th, 2017, 02:35 PM   #12
 
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As you load down, you move to faster powders. The whole myth of detonations was directed at LARGE rifle cartridges with very low charges of SLOW rifle powders, and was not about the idea of loading down, per se.
Starting load are recommended starting load and NOT minimum loads.
However, below about 500 fps, you can stick a bullet in the barrel and there is little accuracy to be gained at such low velocities (typical target velocities for centerfire is 650-775fps).
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Old March 12th, 2017, 10:32 AM   #13
 
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Down load as much as you wish , in revolvers just make sure the bullet gets out of the barrel, not stuck in the middle.
Semi-auto pistols should also leave the barrel and have enough power to eject the fired round , and feed another and cock the gun.

Very few "Absolutes" in reloading, if you are careful and use common sense.
Gary
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