Powder puff

I decided I should make some low power loads in .40 S&W for new shooters that are recoil sensitive. “Powder puff” loads. After exploring lots of options I came up with these as the best possibilities. From Hodgdon:

135 grain bullet over 4.0 grains Hodgdon Clays => 940 fps with 127 PF
180 grain bullet over 3.0 grains Hodgdon Clays => 727 fps with 131 PF

Typical factor loads are in the 180 to 190 PF range. So this should be about 70% of the recoil of factory loads.

The difference between power factors of 127 and 131 with equal weight bullets is probably undetectable in your hands. But because the 127 PF load is with 135 grain bullets versus the 180 grain for the 131 PF you get a much different recoil impulse. The lighter bullet is going over 200 fps faster and that means the recoil impulse is much shorter and hence will feel sharper. So, the 180 grain load looks like the winner. That nice because I have lots of 180 grain bullets around.

But I don’t have any Hodgdon Clays powder. I started looking online. Nothing.

[Heavy sigh.]

So what other options do I have and do I have any powders that could come close to this? I have an older version of the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading and they list Bullseye powder for a mild load.

180 grain bullet over 3.9 grains Bullseye => 800 fps with 144 PF.

I have some Bullseye powder left over from my explosives experiments with it about 1996 or ‘97. This would be a good opportunity to get rid of it. This isn’t as good at the loads with Clays but it is still less than 80% of a factory load.

I loaded up 20 rounds Saturday and went to the range to see if it would cycle my gun and if it was accurate. I used some 180 grain Rainier truncated cone FP bullets I had won at a match this summer. I have had problems with the accuracy of Rainier HPs once I went beyond about 7 yards so I was a bit skeptical of these too.

The ammo cycled and fed well in two different guns. The accuracy wasn’t great at 7 yards but it was far better than new shooters can manage. And I don’t have them shoot beyond that distance anyway.

Today I loaded up 180 rounds using some nickel plated brass I had laying around. I used the nickel plated so I could easily keep track of it being “special”. I’ll load up the remaining 300 Rainier bullets in that configuration in the next couple of days.

It turns out the loaded ammo looks particularly pretty. Barb said it looks like Christmas:


I suppose it does. We have Powder Puff Christmas ammo.


12 thoughts on “Powder puff

  1. Green dot… Always around, at least for me. We keep a few 40 lb. fiber drums on hand for SFX work, but it also does pretty well for cast bullet loads. I have loaded everything from .22 Hornet to 30-06, and .380 ACP to .44 mag with green dot and cast bullets.

    It’s not the best for everything, but is nearly always acceptable. For .44 mag mid range cast, it is much better than merely acceptable… Also for 30-06 and 150 to 180 gr cast plinker loads.

    It is slower than Hodgdon Clays.

    For .40 S&W with 180 gr cast, somewhere between 5gr and 5.5 should do you. Start low and work up as always. And be sure to ask Alliant to verify, I’m just some guy on the internet!


  2. Might I suggest you look into Wolfe Publishing’s “Load Data” Section at riflemagazine.com? They also produce “Handloader” magazine (either paper or electroninc). I’ve been a subscriber of theirs for many years. I just looked at the .40 S&W loads and they have about 800 different loadings with a myriad of powders. The price for the subscription is quite reasonable.
    In case you wonder, I have no association with them other than being a very satisfied customer. That copper and nickel does look good together. 🙂

    Happy Shooting

  3. I worked up a load using 165 gr Berrys bullets over 3.9-4.0 gr Titegroup which delivers 843 fps for about 260 Ft-lbs. This is compatible with my CZ in 9-Mak and in the heavier Glock is quite manageable.

    • If the bullet weights are different one can have the same PF but much different energies. But you are correct in the PF calculations and your conclusion.

  4. One more link and I’ll shut up…

    This is where the post that started me on Green Dot in my cast pistol loads came from.

    See post #38 in this thread, he’s using 4.9 gr in the .40 S&W for a longer barreled revolver and jacketed 180’s- You’re likely going to go up a bit for functioning an auto pistol, and generally cast will run lower pressure than jacketed for the same weight.


    Note frequent mention of “Nobody but some shotgun loaders buys Green Dot, so it’s cheap and always around”.

    • Thanks.

      But I didn’t find what I was really looking for. What are the minimum loads and the approximate velocities associated with the loads?

  5. Most trap clubs will have clays, universal and other shotgun powders in stock. Almost always in stock at my club. However, they are usually in 4 lbs or 8 lbs containers. Used to be about $100.00 per 8 lbs. Now run a good $140.00 per 8 lbs.

    • I don’t often go to trap clubs. But at least around here I’ve never seen any mention of powder for sale.

      That said, I got an email from someone who gave me a lead on some Clay’s and I will be picking up a pound on Saturday.

      Thanks anyway.

  6. Pingback: Powder puff load report | The View From North Central Idaho

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