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American Handgunner Jul/Aug 2010 - Page 68
John Taffin HANDLOADING Blast From The Past Part Deux: SAGE ADVICE FROM THE HANDLOADING GURUS Sectioned .45 Colt brass shows difference in balloon head construction (left) and modern solid head brass. LOADING WITH OLD #2400 he past two decades or so, mainly since Hercules #2400 became Alliant #2400, there has been a mild debate over whether #2400 is hotter than it used to be. That is, can a smaller amount of powder of the “new” #2400 give the same results as the original amount of “old” #2400. Several of us have come up with a conclusion it takes about 6-percent less #2400 today as it did before the change; if such a change actually occurred. Other factors could also be considered such as heavier brass, better primers, even tighter barrel/cylinder gaps. Only if one has excellent recordkeeping from say 20 years ago, along with a well preserved amount of then-produced #2400 and the same sixgun, same brass, same primers, and same powder scale could we really come to a definite conclusion one way or the other. Gary Reeder recently told me he purchased an estate with lots of reloading equipment and old powder. He was kind enough to give me a very old can of Hercules #2400. I can’t date this can perfectly but I do know I have been using #2400 for more than 50 years and not only is this can’s label different, removal of the lid reveals a pull up spout much like we find on a box of kitchen salt … I’ve never seen this before. Since #80 (from the same estate sale) was discontinued in 1939 it’s posContainers for sible this can of #2400 #2400 down dates back to that same through the years. era. It’s at least older than the 1950s, and since the label appears to have a pre-war look I would say the powder in question may well be at least 70 years old. T Old and New #2400 loaded in modern .45 Colt brass and fired in the Ruger .45 Colt Blackhawk fitted with Herrett’s stocks. LeT THe GAMeS BeGin F ince I now had a can of very old #2400 in what appeared to be good condition, it was my plan to run it against the latest #2400 and see just how much difference there really is. Reloading manuals have certainly changed in their recommendations for #2400 in both the .44 Special and .44 Magnum down through the years. Elmer Keith’s original load for the .44 Special in balloon head brass only was 18.5 grains of #2400, first reported by him in 1936. In the Speer Manuals from 1962 and 1970 the top load is 18.0 grains of #2400. Phil Sharpe also recommended the Keith .44 Special load in his book in 1937. With the coming of solid head brass Keith lowered the charge to first 17.5 and then to 17.0 grains. The Keith loads of 18.5 grains and 17.0 grains are 26,682 psi and 24,873 psi respectively according to the Speer laboratory. A look at Lyman Manual recommendations for the .44 Magnum and #2400 (over a 50 year period) shows 23.0 grains in 1960, down to 22.0 in 1970, up to 23.4 for 1982 to 1992, and then down to 20.6 in 2002, which still remains today. 68 s old Vs. New or my experimenting I decided to try both the really old #2400 and new #2400, in balloon head and solid head brass, in .44 Special and .45 Colt and also R-P brass to check both types of #2400 in the .44 Magnum. I especially wanted to check Keith’s .44 Special and .45 Colt original loads with old powder and old brass. However, not knowing exactly what I had, I used only very strong sixguns for this experiment, all Rugers. A look at the chart with loads fired through the 71/2" sixguns shows no difference with the .44 Special load using both powders in balloon head brass. Muzzle velocity for the former clocked out at 1,229 fps while the new version came in at 1,228 fps; no difference whatsoever. Switching to the .45 Colt and balloon head brass the same charge gave 998 fps and 1,030 fps for difference of only 3 percent. Transferring to modern brass and dropping the Keith load to the recommended 17.0 grains revealed a gain of 4.5 percent from 1,136 fps to 1,192 fps. For the .45 Colt 18.5 grains of both powders in modern brass gave 1,027 fps and 1,071 fps for a gain of 4 percent, new powder over old powder. When it came to shooting groups in both cases there was virtually no difference in the results from the two powders. Of course, only modern brass is available for the .44 Magnum and using Keith’s original load of 22 grains gave 1,356 fps for the old #2400 and 1,436 fps for the new #2400 for an increase of 6 percent, which is exactly what we have come to as a difference in Hercules and Alliant — maybe. This was a most interesting experiment and full results are in the accompanying chart. A word of caution here: do not assume old cans of #2400 are still usable. In this case the old stuff works fine, but that may not always be true. We did this under very controlled circumstances, using well-built modern heavy sixguns. I’d say don’t try this unless you’re well versed in such things! * Go to www.americanhandgunner.com Web Blast to see John’s complete loading data! WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • JULY/AUGUST2010