Loaded Fun With 231


Tank buys Winchester 231 by the 8-pound jug it’s so handy!

I’ll admit, lately I find myself going back to the classics, powder wise. Namely, the Herculean powders: 2400, Unique and Bullseye — which were first manufactured by Hercules. These stalwarts are now dispensed under the name Alliant Powder.

However, there’s a relative newbie compared to the above group of powder lore, and one I find rather useful, it being Winchester 231. It also goes by the alias Hodgdon HP-38, but they’re the same powder, coming from the same spout. Rest assured, it is indeed a mighty fine powder no matter what guise you use.

Versatile Without Being Hostile

I use good ol’ 231 from .32 H&R to .454 Casull, and everything in between. It’s clean burning characteristics are appreciated, especially with powder coated cast bullets, and is quite accurate and no slouch in the velocity column in my handloads.

Here are some of favorite 231 loads:

The RCBS 98 grain SWC is a wonderfully accurate bullet in .32 H&R when loaded with 231.

.32 H&R

One of my favorite slugs for the .32’s is the RCBS 98 grain SWC, which is basically a baby “Keith” bullet. Loaded over 4.0 grains of 231, most guns will clock between 950-1,000 FPS for a mild shooting, mid-level, accurate load, depending on barrel length.

The MP-Molds 8-cavity 140 grain radiused flat-nose is made for Powder Coating since it’s sans lube grooves.


For years, I was never a big 9mm shooter until I started noticing all the range-brass laying at my feet whenever I went shooting. This free offering had me dusting off my 9mm shooters for some good, cheap shooting fun.

My favorite mold is a MP-Molds 8 cavity, which drops a 137-grain radiused flat-nosed bullet designed for Powder Coating, so it has no lube grooves. Loaded over 4.5 grains of 231, I get around 1,100 FPS for a wonderfully cheap plinker, packing plenty of authority.

The Keith 359429 from Lyman is a classic for .38 Special loads.
Loaded with 5.5 grains of 231 will give you 900 FPS of fun.

.38 Special

Who doesn’t love a .38 Special? The .38 is arguably the most popular revolver cartridge in existence! Everyone has one, right? For punching paper, nothing beats a full wadcutter for perfectly punched holes. 4.2 grains of 231does the trick, for about 900 FPS.

A 158-grain, or the famous Keith 170-grain SWC, loaded over 5.5 grains of 231, will reward you with around 950 FPS for a nice load.

MP-Molds makes the finest copy of the .44 Keith I’ve ever seen or shot!
Weighing in at 265 grains, it gets the job done!

.44 Special

I’ll admit my favorite .44 Special load is Skeeter’s classic 7.5 grains of Unique and a 265 grain Miha “Keith” slug. But my next favorite is the same bullet loaded over 5.5 grains of 231 for a dandy paper puncher, or the perfect load for beginners. Velocity is an easy cruising 750 FPS. A great training load too, for when the dreaded “flinches” have crept into your trigger press.

The .45 Auto Rim on left and .45 ACP on right both use 6.0 grains of 231 for roughly 900 FPS.

.45 ACP/AR

My favorite bullet for the .45 ACP is a TC cone design by Lee in their 6-cavity mold. It is accurate, cycles perfectly and the 6-cavity mold makes lots of bullets, fast! For the .45 Auto Rim, you can’t beat Lyman’s 452423 “Keith” for tradition, performance and looks. It just feels right shooting this slug in a revolver. I use 6 grains of 231 for both with excellent results.

The classic .45 Colt gets Lee’s 255 grain radiused flat-nose for a classic load of 900 FPS using 8.0 grains of 231.

.45 Colt

The .45 Colt has it all! History, versatility — and it’s my favorite cartridge. Using Lee’s wonderful 255 grain radiused flat nose loaded over 8.0 grains of 231 will duplicate the old black powder load of 900 FPS, without the mess. It’s clean burning and one of the most consistently accurate loads I shoot.

Using RCBS 270 SAA and loaded over 12.4 grains of
231 gives us 1,300 FPS for a dandy .454 Casull load.

.454 Casull

Lastly, we have Dick Casull’s baby loaded with 231. Using an RCBS 270 SAA designed by Dave Scovill, I use 12.4 grains of 231 for just over 1,300 FPS for a mild (it’s relative, right?) and accurate load. My slugs drop out at 285 grains from WW alloy and are dynamite on steal rams at 100 meters.

As you can see, Winchester 231 is mighty versatile. For you handloaders, make sure you always keep plenty on hand. Keep your powder dry, your lead hot and your guns clean. Good ol’ 231, with Powder Coated cast slugs, will help you out on the last point.

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