Versatile Powders: W231 Load Data

Winchester W231 and Hodgdon HP-38 are examples of highly versatile powders - Image copyright 2013 Ultimate Reloader
Winchester W231 and Hodgdon HP-38 are examples of highly versatile powders – Image copyright 2013 Ultimate Reloader

Being able to use a single powder for multiple applications is a great benefit. This standardization can allow you to keep your powder measure loaded with the same powder, make bulk powder purchases more equitable, and generally make your life easier. One great example for pistol loaders is Winchester W231 and Hodgdon HP-38 (the same powder branded differently). I have used this powder for many different cartridges and load levels- it meters great, is super-versatile, and is a great bulk-buy in 8 lb canisters.

To show you just how versatile this powder is, I wanted to share some load data with you all for some of my “standard loads” (non-magnum).

Note: This load data is for reference only. Always cross-reference with manufacturer’s load data. Ultimate Reloader is not responsible for errors or possible issues you may have when using this load data. Use at your own risk.

W231 standard loads

Did you notice something about this load data? All of these loads use the same exact charge weight! So I can actually change over cartridges and not even have to mess with the powder measure! This brings a whole new meaning to “standard loads”. This kind of “Sweet setup” may or may not work out for you- you’ll have to make sure your autoloaders are “happy” with the bullet weights and charge weights used, but in my experience these loads work really well.

One powder, 4 different cartridges, and one charge weight. That’s handy! I just hope I don’t run out of W231/HP-38. 🙂

Have you guys found good powders other than W231 and HP-38 that you can use in multiple applications? Please share!


29 thoughts on “Versatile Powders: W231 Load Data”

  1. I’ve been using 231 behind cast bullets in .45 ACP and 38 Spl. for many years. It’s one of the best metering powders I’ve ever used. My RCBS powder measure will throw charges of 231 that are very rarely 1/10th gr. off. Good stuff.

  2. Great idea, thanks for spreading the word.

    I love the concept and have been trying to find a way to incorporate it in my loading/reloading. I first read of it in an article by Clint Smith, Director of Thunder Ranch. I wonder if you have found significant differences in the way various powders meter as I have?

    I have found success with CFE-223 and Bullseye so far but that’s it as for single powder use but not for same grain weight loads across multiple platforms.

    The issue for me at this point is how accurately various powders meter. I have been experimenting with four different pistol powders: Bullseye, Blue Dot, 231 & Unique for four different pistol calibers: 9MM, 10MM, 40 S&W & 45 ACP. I use a Dillon powder measure for progressive loading and a Lee Perfect Powder Measure for manual drop loads. I use a Hornady Lock & Load (digital) bench scale and a Lee beam scale. I have found both scales to be accurate and reliable to within 1/10 of a grain as advertised. In contrast both powder measures depend on the type and coarseness of the powder used for their accuracy.

    The end result for me is that the fine grained ball powder Bullseye meters right on the money and is consistant while the three flake powders: 231, Blue Dot & Unique vary through both measures with Unique being the worst. Over five 10 drop tests Bullseye averaged right on the money with occasional but not frequent drops +- 1/10of a grain while both 231 & Blue Dot averaged +- .2 grains with occasional individual drops between +- .3 grains. Unique rarely repeated the same drop twice and while the average was close to Blue Dot and 231 the numbers written down were all over the place.

    This was a disappointment as careful reading of loading manuals by Alliant, Hornady, Speer, Lyman, Hodgdon, Lee and numerous other sources led me to believe Unique would be a great choice with good load range.

    I have taken a leap of faith and ordered 4 lbs of Power Pistol as several articles read plus company advertising state it is a finer grained powder that meters very well compared to most flake powders. Coincidentally, the only rifle powder I currently use is Hodgdon CFE 223 for the same reason as well as its copper fouling free properties which I have found to be absolutely true. While not nearly as experienced with rifle powders as pistol I have been delighted to find both the performance through my AR, M1A and even my M1 Garand to be more than adequate for my purposes with accuracy better than my old Marine eyes and metering properties I like. I have not tried it in my Springfield ’03, M1 Carbine or USMC M40A1 and with the possible exception of the M40A1 I probably won’t this year.

    I’m sure my tests are not lab quality but I’m also sure I repeated them enough times for the conclusions to be worth considering. It was tedious dropping each powder in single mode on a progressive press and then weighing each one, then repeating each test on a manual drop measure to be weighed again on two different scales and recorded. It was disappointing to find my investment in three flake powders subject to question and slows down my use of those powders. While I like Bullseye its range in some calibers is limited and reloading date the same. I also like and have had good on range performance with Blue Dot in 10MM and don’t worry as much about its weight variations as the others because reloading data allow greater total grain weights making small variations less significant. I’m not sure I will continue use of Unique or 231 unless in a caliber that allows higher grain weights and that I don’t mind the slower process to insure safe loads. I hope Power Pistol lives up to its hype, I normally wouldn’t buy 4 lbs at a whack of anything but that’s the only quantity that was available and in these times it makes more sense.

    Dale Swanson
    North Las Vegas, NV

    1. Though I have been at this game a long long time…I’m trying to open up to new ideas and products.

      Here’s one example….scope mounts and rings. I moved over to the higher end scopes a long time ago. There is no room for a marginal scope no matter the applicaton. Years go when I ran a gun shop…I was amazed at guys that would shell out the money for a upper end rifle..then would cheap out on optics. I did sway many into the concept of buying lower end rifles and moving up in the optics area. I have been moving over now to the upper end scope mounts and rings plus checking for alignment etc…it does make a difference!! $300.00 for mounts and rings? Yes. And bedding.

      I got hooked into using Unique long ago and is still somewhat of a dirty burning powder howbit much less than Unique use to be…God it was a dirty burning powder but it was and still is a very utility powder and a very decent overall powder.

      I guess the question always needs to be ask…what is your intented use for pistol shooting. When I was into hunter pistol silhouette…accuracy was critical…so…did we use other powders besides Unique? Depended. Blue Dot at times. Remember we were knocking over ram silhouettes at 100 meters with a scoped high power pistol…usually 44 mag but the 30 Herrets were coming on strong. There were those that even started using the 32 H & R Magnum with good success. I would never ever attempt this…so just for info sake…just say’n. There were those that experimented with duplex loads….mixing two powders together then reloading. THIS I ALWAYS THOUGHT WAS NOT VERY BRIGHT!! So I knew who did duplex load and competed several slots away. It was still alittle spooky. However I will admit….those 30 Herrets with duplex loads kicked our hinny’s! Point is…if you are shooting at 10 to 20 feet (Or Less)…it really doesn’t matter what powder you use. It then becomes what is economical and that a selected powder will not mess up the reloading process because of clogs/etc. I will probably always use Unique just because it works and works well and is economical. I guess nowadays…it is getting down to what you can find powder wise and I do want to try other powders.

      I always say…Don’t complicate it too much. If it works….stick with what works for you. If accuracy is not acceptable to you…switch it around til you find what works for you. Everyone has a different threshold of acceptance for whatever shooting experience you are into. Hunting accuracy is forgiving….one inch or less MOA is honestly not bad howbeit I would not settle for that and I’d be obsessed til I had that rifle accuracy down to well “below” 3/4 MOA. Practicing for self defense is close range work. Reactive shooting and within acceptable range….20 feet or less….accuracy is what…six inches? Shooting for hits and of course….it is point and shoot not aim and shoot. Aim and shoot you of course would want 2 inches or less…less is better. At ten feet….I really can get 2 inch accuracy with pointing and shooting. That took thousands and thousands of rounds of reactive shooting practice I assure you.

      Good luck and be safe.

  3. Old habits can be hard to break…and I guess with me…if it works for me…I ten to stick with a method or productto make things simple.

    I use Unique for all of my pistol and for now…my shotshell reloading.

    45 ACP….40 S&W….and 357 Magnum. I use the Lee disc powder throw. 6 grains of Unique for all three and switch powder throw from one charging die to the other. 9mm and 38 Speical…I use the same powder throw and simply install the powder throw onto the charging die of either/or.

    Yes..I have been looking into using TiteGroup or Tite Wad powders but….until this hoarding is over…I’m gonna have to stick with the Unique. It is a good overall powder and very utility.

    Been looking at Hodgedon HS6 as well. Had an opportunity to buy TiteGroup and TiteWad…but I had prior commitment/s. I was tempted to buy a years worth of each of the above named powders (TiteGroup/TiteWad/Unique/ + BLC 2!!) but….I wasn’t ready to part with the hundreds and hundreds of dollars. I will regret this I’m sure. I need Nosler 168 grain Competition bullets. Have a new rifle I’m building up and not enough bullets for all my 30 cals.

    Maybe I should narrow my fireams down some….it is very time consuming…too much at time.

  4. like my Hodgon’s titegroup. Great burning powder and uses less than other powders.Very good ball powder for various calibers..

  5. There’s nothing not to like about W231/HP38. Meters beautifully, shoots clean and accurately. What’s not to like?

  6. I load 4.3 grains of 231 under a 165 gr. 40 load and just squeak in over the 125 pf floor for IDPA. That’s shooting an M&P Full size, so if somebody was shooting a 5″ competition gun, they’d get a few extra fps out of it and easily make pf. It’s a VERY soft and reasonably accurate load. I did have to put in a reduced power recoil spring (13#) to get it to cycle. Runs like a champ now though.

  7. W231 is the only powder I used for pistol calibers. So far I use them for 380acp, 9mm, 40s&w, 45acp, and 44mag. I do use different charge weights for each caliber with the exception of 40 and 45 which I use the same. I have a Hornady LNL AP and purchased additional powder measure inserts for each caliber. The insert makes the powder charge change over very easy and is very repeatable. I always verify the powder charge after changing the insert and it is always exact to where I have that insert set. The inserts cost around $8-9 each, so a relatively small investment per caliber for the added convenience.

  8. I’ve always used Unique, but now I’m willing to try another powder, if is becomes available in SoCal.

  9. I’v just switched over to “Hodgdon-Longshot” for my 40s&w ,45auto ,and 460rowland … Now if I could find a few bricks of primers

    1. I’m headed to San Diego next month….I’ll be hitting up every place conceivable enroute and while I’m there. What stores/etablishments tent to have primers. Info would be appreciated…need small container/s of powder too.

      Shipping and hazmat fee will eat up any savings online.

      Curt B.

  10. Well…I guess I was in the gamling mood this morning…tried to find and did find some info on the web about using surplus powders that Widener’s got in.

    WC867 and WC872….8lb jegs….order 6 mix/match and pay no HazMat fee…just shipping only. This breaks down to $53.04 for a 8lb jeg or $6.63 per pound. Cheap..really cheap. With things the way they are…I’m guessing it will not be hard to find a body to buy these off of me (Local res only!) if these powders do not perform. Many a person around here shooting 338’s and 50 BMG.

    Now…looking at many a post on using these two milsurp powders…and knowing that I generally use heavier bullets for my 300 WinMag’s.(180gr to 190 gr Sierra BTHP) and 168gr bullets in the 7 RemMag’s….I’m hoping these will function as desired.

    I did run across Tula magnum rifle primers a couple of days ago and ordered in 6,000. Leave it to the Ruskies!! $25.99 per thousand + Haz + shipping…!! No choice but to pay and play.

    Anyone ever use WC867 and/or WC872? I did see where these are very slow buring powders hence….heavy bullets and full loads.

    Hoping for some help here!!

  11. Do we need an article promoting W231 when it has been backordered for months? It is great. I just can’t get my hands on any and I am about 2,000 rounds from running out.

  12. I just got two pounds of Reloader #33 from Cabella’s by mistake. Can not find any data on this powder, anyone know what this powder is good for?

    1. Elmer, Alliant Reloader 33 was designed for the 338 lapua. Can be used for other heavy magnums. Google Alliant Reloader 33 for more info

  13. I want to load up a batch of 240 jhp -for my 29 s&w 6″ 44 magnum
    but I want a big flame –
    which powder available displays a good flame ?-

  14. Amazing how often you can find a charge of 6 – 8 grains of Unique shows up in so many handgun cartridges (and even in reduced loads for rifles)!

    1. Its my go to powder with 230 grain lead bullet with my 45 long colt want to be pistols. I shot a Ruger New Vaquero. It works great.

  15. New reloader here , looking for data on doing some jacketed 148gr .38 special wadcutters using w231. My book doesn’t give me specifics for 148gr jacketed , it does give 146gr jacketed info though. Wondering what my powder charge should be. Any info would be appreciated.

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