Just One… A Handloader’s Nightmare

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By Tank Hoover

Ol’ Skeeter Skelton had a cruel, almost annoying quirk he let slip every now and then. He had a habit of torturing his friends by asking, “If you could only have one gun, what would it be?” Many took to the challenge, and started rattling off guns, eliminating them through the use of cognitive thinking. Just as many got frustrated, almost coming to blows, to be asked such an insulting question. Most of us probably fit in the second camp, rather the first, as the mere thought (nightmare!) of owning just one gun is hideous, scary and down right crazy. Relax! I’m not going to ask you such a question — about guns.

Since imitation is the highest form of flattery, I got to thinking. For you handloaders out there, if you were forced, at gun point, to pick just one powder to satisfy, and fulfill all of your shooting needs, what powder would you pick? Does the mere thought of just one powder make you feel queasy? Is your face turning red and your blood pressure about to burst a gasket in your pumper? I know! It’s a sick, torturous question to ask, but a fun one indeed.

We’ll need a powder not only loading our handguns from .30 to .50 caliber, but what about rifles? Is there a powder pulling yeoman duty for our handguns and rifles? Me thinks there probably is one.

Some Clues

The powder I have in mind is responsible as the main ingredient for one of the most famous handloads of all time. The recipe called for 22 grains of this smokeless accelerant. It was originally developed when Col. Townsend Whelen contacted Hercules Powder, stating he wanted to drive a 45 grain .22 Hornet bullet in excess of 2,400 fps in Springfield training rifles. It’s a favorite among .410 shotgun shooters too. I use this powder to duplicate Black Powder loads in my Sharps .45-70. I also use it in calibers ranging from .22 Hornet to .45-70. It has a great relationship with cast bullet loads too. If you’re still stumped, turn in your handloader’s card and start reading about the history of hand loading.

What’s this do-it-all miracle powder? Why good old 2400! While Hodgedon H110 and Winchester 296 are usually at the top of the hit parade for maximum loads, its only drawback is it can’t be loaded below 10 percent of maximum charge for danger of detonation. That is, when there’s too much air space in the cartridge case, too much powder is ignited at one time, causing pressure to spike rapidly, rather than the slow, steady pressure curve these powders are known for. Not the case with 2400, it can be used from moderate to maximum loads without this fear, giving it a versatility of uncommon usefulness.

A Recipe Card

Load data is nothing more than a recipe of sorts. Just as salt and pepper are considered master spices in the kitchen, I consider 2400 my master powder in the handloading room. I keep pounds of the powder around!

Starting with sixguns, 2400 does a stupendous job! When using 2400 in the .32 H&R with bullets in the 90-100 grain range, it will give around 1,200 fps in Ruger’s mighty-mite Single-Sixes. Stepping up to the historically hyphenated .32-20, 2400 — when combined with the classic Lyman 311008, a flat-nosed 115 grain cast slug — will give you all the ear piercing, super sonic speed you need, that will ruin any varmints day.

A favored load of mine, and true sixgunner classic, is the .38 special loaded with 2400, with the time-honored Keith 358429. My guns run around 1,260 fps when stuffed with this iconic handload for large frame magnum guns. With .38 specials littered everywhere at most gun ranges, and given the length of the classic Keith bullet, my magnum motives are filled cheaply and nostalgically. Keith bullets must be crimped over the front driving band when loaded in .357 mag brass. I’m happy and content shooting Elmer’s version in easily obtainable .38 spc. brass.

You can’t think of .44’s, either Specials, or Magnums, without thinking of Elmer and 2400. His hot-loaded .44 specials were the catalyst in developing the .44 Magnum. They both used 2400 as their fuel.

Lastly, the old war horse, .45 Colt, shows an affinity to this powder too. My favorite hunting load uses this powder over the classic Keith 454424 bullet, and is a deadly combination I can vouch for firsthand, many times over.

Great For Rifles

When it comes to long guns, 2400 is great for mid-range shooting of cast bullet loads. When cheap and fun is the name, 2400 is the game! You already know of the history of 2400 and the .22 Hornet. I use a lot of 2400 in the .30-30, .308, .30-06, .358 Win. and .35 Whelen. While not getting top velocities, I am getting around 2,000 fps, give or take, with these loads. Perfect for punching paper and preparing a person for good familiarization of the gun used, and basic marksmanship. Plus, kids love shooting these tamed down loads, and my wallet likes it too!

Lastly, I like using 2400 in my Shiloh Sharps as a black powder substitute. I know “Duke” Venturino is cringing at this thought, but when you want to shoot the clean, easy, lazy way, without having to soak your brass, or blow down your barrel to soften fouling, 2400 is the ticket. Just 24 grains of 2400 pushes my cast slugs from 400-500+ grains just under 1,300 fps, perfect for duplicating the BP velocities, without the mess.

Other Ideas?

Speaking of black powder, it would and could be the one powder choice for many people! In fact, I’ve been known to congregate with such folks from time to time. Unique would be another contender for the one punch powder choice. Red Dot could be another pinch-hitter of the hit parade. Think about it, you handloaders out there. What would you do if you could only have just one powder to satiate your handloading needs?

Relax! At least I didn’t limit you to just one gun.

That’d be just plain cruel, eh?

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