I haven’t tried to count the number of canister smokless powders available in the US to handloaders, but it’s well over 100. I’ve tried only a fraction of those offered, but I’ll share my thoughts on those I’ve used enough to form an opinion based on my experiences.
Red Dot (Alliant)
I started off using this in 12 ga. shotshell loads over 30 years ago, and still use it sometimes for that even today. It works well in that application and about the only area it falls short is cleanliness, where I consider some other powders superior.
More recently I’ve been using it in cast bullet loads for large caliber revolver rounds like the 44 Special, 45 Colt, and 44 Magnum (light loads). Red Dot is bulkier than most other powders of similar burning rate, so it seems well matched to the older large case cartridges in the 44 and 45 class. The only down sides to the powder for me are it’s lack of smoothness in dropping charges of those bulky flakes from the powder measure, and it’s somewhat dirty burning. But in all fairness, most powders don’t burn very clean in light 44 and 45 handgun cartridge loads.
This is fast burning powder is bulky like Red Dot and, just like Red Dot, works well for reduced loads in large revolver cartridges. It’s marketed primarily as a shotshell powder, but I’ve used it only for light 44 Magnum and 45 Colt cast bullet loads. In those applications I find it to be a bit cleaner burning than Red Dot with similar performance. It’s a small flake powder that flows much more smoothly through my powder measure than Red Dot.
Another powder I’ve used for 12 ga. shotshell loads where it works great. Flows well through a powder charge bar and burns clean.
A very popular pistol powder that I’ve used in a variety of handgun cartridges including 38 Special, 9mm, 40 S&W, 45 ACP, 45 Colt, and even 44 Magnum. Works particularly well for medium loads in the automatic pistol cartridges as well as the 38 special. Flows nicely through a powder measure and burns reasonably clean. Also a good choice for higher pressure 45 Colt loads in suitable revolvers like some of the large Rugers.
Hodgdon’s HP-38 is likely the same as this powder, but check the latest Hodgdon loading data before using it in previous applications where W231 has been used.
I have used Unique mostly in 45 Colt loads where it is a popular choice for standard pressure cast bullet loads. It works well in the big 45, but I find it to be somewhat dirtier than some other powders of similar burning rate.
Unique’s big plus is it’s versatility. It can be used in virtually any pistol cartridge, some rifle cartridges with cast bullets, as well as some shotshell loads. It’s a somewhat bulky flake powder. and doesn’t flow as well thorough powder measures.
HS-6 is a very good and versatile powder. It works well in the 45 Auto for full power loads as well as the popular revolver round from 38 Special to the 44 Magnum. It probably works well in the 45 Colt also, but I’ve yet to try it in that cartridge.ressure cast bullet loads. HS-6 is a fine spherical powder that flows well through powder measures.
I first tried this powder in the 44 Magnum when looking for a less than full power deer hunting load. It works very well in that application. It has been produced in at least three different countries over the years, and the recommended charges have changed as well. So make sure you use the latest data from Accurate (Western Powders) if you are using a recent batch of this powder. Accurate #7 powder has very fine grains and flows very smoothly through a powder measure.
I have used this powder mostly in the 44 Magnum and the 22 Hornet. It has not performed as well as other powders in my Hornet, but with gas checked cast lead bullets it produces good accuracy and velocity in my deer hunting rifle chambered in 44 Mangum. This fine powder flows very well through powder measures.
Lately I’ve been using this powder in my 22 Hornet where it gives good velocity and accuracy. I’ve also had good results with it behind cast gas checked bullets fired from a 44 Magnum rifle. It’s a fine grained extruded powder that flows well through my powder measure.
I’ve used this very popular magnum pistol powder for full power 44 Magnum and 357 Magnum loads, where it produces maximum velocities and excellent accuracy. A great choice for loads where you want high velocity and don’t mind twisting your wrist and throwing a big flame. Has also produced excellent jacketed bullet results for me in a 44 Magnum rifle. A very fine grained spherical powder that flows great through a powder measure.
Winchester’s 296 is very similar, if not the same powder. Check the latest Winchester loading data before using it in previous applications where H110 has been used.
This is the powder I chose to use in a 223 Prairie Dog rifle, where it produced good velocity and accuracy with Sierra 55 grain bullets. It’s a fine grained spherical powder that flows well through powder measures, which was important to me since I was loading several hundred rounds for the “hunt”.
Reloader 22 (Alliant)
I used this powder soon after it’s introduction in a 7mm Rem. Magnum Load I worked up for a Colorado Mule Deer hunt several years ago. It produced good accuracy in a rifle that required several tries before shooting reasonably good groups.
There are no doubt many other fine powders among the 100+ available. And there are obviously many other good applications for the powders I commented on above. But these are the powders and cartridge combinations I’ve used enough to recommend in the applications mentioned. I’ve used other powders that have given good results for me, but I don’t feel I have enough experience with them at this time to recommend them. And there are several more that I’ve just started to work with as well.
Hodgdon Powder Company currently markets Hodgdon, IMR, and Winchester Powders. Western Powders Inc. currently markets Accurate, Ramshot, and Norma powders. Alliant Powder markets powders under their own name.
It appears Hodgdon Powder Company and Western Powders Inc. are privately owned companies, while Alliant Powder is part of Vista Outdoor who owns several other shooting related companies. All three companies appear to have a significant business presence in the US. While Alliant manufacturers at least some (perhaps all) of their powder offerings, I don’t believe either Hodgdon Powder Company or Western Powders Inc. themselves manufacture any of their powder offerings. I relay those comments only because they might be of importance to some individuals.