TESTED: Hodgdon’s CFE Pistol Smokeless Powder

If you’re looking for a versatile powder for revolvers or semi-auto handguns, CFE Pistol certainly deserves your attention. That’s the powder that’s front and center in this story!


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About Hodgdon’s CFE Pistol Powder 

CFE means “Copper Fouling Eraser” and the powders in the CFE line have chemical ingredients that retard jacket fouling. This allows shooters to clean their barrels less often. CFE Pistol was introduced in 2014. 

From the Hodgdon CFE Pistol product page: 

This spherical pistol propellant was designed for competitive shooters and handloaders seeking the perfect powder for target or self-defense loads.

CFE Pistol contains our Copper Fouling Eraser ingredient, originally used in military propellant, which greatly deters copper fouling and contributes to longer periods of top accuracy with less barrel cleaning time.

CFE Pistol provides optimum performance in cartridges like the 9mm Luger, 38 Super, 40 S&W, the 45 ACP and many more.

Available in 1 lb. and 8 lb. containers.

Although it is advertised for the 9mm Luger, 38 Super, 40 S&W, and the 45 ACP, I was pleased to find extensive load data for other cartridges such as 38 Special, 357 Magnum, 44 magnum, 45 Colt and more. 

Burn Rate Analysis

CFE Pistol is a “medium-fast” pistol powder on the burn rate chart. It falls right next to Winchester Auto Comp, burning faster than Alliant 2400, yet slower than Alliant Unique or Hodgdon Universal.

Gavin has loaded for many of the cartridges below. I loaded for 44 mag and 45 ACP and found two solid loads. I was amazed at how many calibers CFE Pistol has a track record of great performance with.

*Above data is from Hodgdon’s Reloading Data Center.

Though Hodgdon’s chart above shows 12.0 grains for 44 magnum, I wanted to drop it down to 11 grains so it would be a little easier to shoot in my Smith & Wesson 629. I’ve not only hunted with this pistol, but carried it as a bear gun.

Under the Microscope

We compared several powders under the Wi-Fi 400x microscope.

It was interesting to compare the sizes and styles of the various powders.

Trail boss, for example, is designed to be as bulky as possible so as to take up more space and prevent overcharging. CFE Pistol and Alliant-2400 both measured 0.016” inches in diameter, smaller than HP-38 and over half the length of Hodgdon Trail Boss. This is very small for an extruded powder. 

Loading and Range Test

I chose two big-bore handgun cartridges for CFE Pistol loading and shooting— the 45 ACP and 44 magnum. The 45 ACP is known for working well with CFE Pistol powder while the 44 magnum is perhaps a more unusual application. I used Hornady XTP hollow point jacketed bullets in both loads.

45 ACP 

I used a 230 grain Hornady XTP (jacketed hollow point) bullet, 6.8 grains of CFE Pistol and a CCI large pistol primer, in mixed brass. This load is near the top of Hornady’s recommended loads. It functioned flawlessly through my 1997 vintage Kimber 1911 using Chip McCormick magazines.

Testing 45 ACP at the range with CFE Pistol powder.

I noticed that the load seemed to burn cleanly and left little residue on the gun. The load produced good accuracy, reasonable recoil, and averaged 892 fps. I consider a 230 grain bullet at nearly 900 fps to be a pretty stout 45 ACP load and would not hesitate to rely on this load for self defense. 

44 Magnum 

I loaded a  240 grain Hornady XTP over 11.0 grains of CFE Pistol with a CCI large pistol primer in Federal brass.

Smith & Wesson 44 mag 629

I sought a mid-level 44 magnum load—powerful, but controllable while shooting double action. This load fit the bill and delivered excellent accuracy! It produced an average of 1155 fps, with a tight SD of 12 fps. I am pleased with the results from my 5” Smith and Wesson Model 629. 

All loads were assembled using RCBS carbide dies mounted on a Lyman Brass Smith All American 8 turret press.

Using the turret press was faster than using a single stage press. It was especially convenient to have all the dies for both the 44 and the 45 on the press at the same time. As expected, the spherical CFE Pistol flowed easily through Lyman’s Brass Smith powder measure, delivering consistent charges. 

Other CFE Pistol Highlights: 

Mr. Bullet Feeder: Unboxing, Setup, Loading 9mm

WARP SPEED! Loading 9mm on the Dillon RL 1100 with Mr. Bullet Feeder 

Dillon Square Deal B: Overview and Loading 45 ACP

Reloading .357 SIG for the GLOCK 20

9mm 147 gr Subsonic “Magic Load,” Hard to Believe!

What is Hodgdon CFE Pistol Best Suited For? 

Hodgdon CFE Pistol burns relatively quickly, falling between Hodgdon Universal and Alliant 2400 in burn rate. The burn rate is very similar to Winchester’s Auto Comp powder. As a spherical powder it flows through mechanical powder measures very nicely, dropping accurate powder charges. This makes it a good choice for progressive reloading presses. True to the name,  CFE Pistol slows or even eliminates copper jacket fouling in barrels. 

Concerning limitations, CFE Pistol is neither an exceptionally fast or slow burning pistol powder, so in some cartridges it’s not as well suited for very light loads or magnum loads calling for heavy charges of slow burning powders.  Its small size also makes it easy to accidentally overcharge in certain cartridges. 

CFE Pistol Cartridge Lineup (L to R): 9mm, 38 special, 357 mag, 40 S&W, 10mm, 44 mag, 45 ACP, 45 Colt

Hodgdon CFE Pistol is best suited for cartridges producing the middle range of power (non-magnum pistol loads in most calibers including 500 S&W). This includes the majority of mainstream handgun rounds including the 9mm, 38 Special, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP. It’s also useful in somewhat reduced loads for the 357 and 44 magnum cartridges.  

Get CFE Pistol

You can find Hodgdon’s CFE Pistol powder at Midsouth Shooters Supply or buy directly from Hodgdon. As of April 2022, Midsouth Shooters supply shows the 8 lb jug priced at $205.05 and a single pound of CFE Pistol at $29.29

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Guy Miner


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