Sunday, July 27, 2008

Unique Gun Powder

44-40 responds to Unique powder loads very well

Unique the everlasting powder
Unique came out about 1900 during the dawn of smokeless powder. Many people still used black powder for almost everything. Like any new product smokeless powder took a while to catch on. Unique was brought out as a shotgun and pistol powder. Back then there were no magnum pistol cartridges such as the 357 or 44 magnum. It would of course be great in 38 & 44 special calibers. I don’t imagine it was used in as a rifle propellant at least not at first. Filling a rifle shell with it would effectively destroy a rifle if not the shooter. Later on when someone discovered that it could be safely used as a reduced load propellant in a rifle. Like any new product it took a while to discover the usefulness of Unique as a propellant. As it turns out it is probably the most flexible powder ever brought out.

Closeup of Unique a flake powder

I have not used much Unique in shotguns as don’t load a lot of them. However in a 12 gauge with 1 & 3/8 ounces of shot it would be great. It can also be used in other 12 gauge loads as well a slug loads with good effect. It’s also a great powder in the 20 gauge with many loads. Its also good with 3 ball loads in a 12 gauge.
In pistols I have used more kegs of Unique then I can count. Anything from the 32 S & W long to the 45 Colt accepts this powder. In 38 and 357 magnums it is one of the best from target to near full power loads. 5 grains with a 158 grain semi wad cutter is one of my all time favorite loads. It’s accurate and consistent in any 38 gun that I have shot it out of. Velocity runs about 800 to 850 depending on gun used. In a 357 case I add 1 grain. It is an excellent reduced load powder in the 41 and 44 magnums. 7 grains in a 41 with a 210 grain or 8 in a 44 with a 240 grain slug makes a good working load. The 45 Colt likes it as a cowboy load using 6 grains with a 250 or 8 with a 200. Since Unique is a flake powder it ignites easily even with some airspace. It also takes up a lot of room for its weight another feature making it a good reduced power load. With the light weight bullets it will propel them to near max velocities in those calibers. It works well in the 45 Winchester magnum with full power loads and a light bullet such as the 185 or 200 grain. With the heavy bullets and max loads its better to use a slower burning powder. For many years it had a reputation for burning dirty with real light loads but it has been cleaned up in recent years making a great powder even better. Its burning characteristics have changed little over the years which makes life easier as you can depend on its consistency. It does produce smoke but with cast bullets some of the smoke is produced by the bullet lube being used. I have used many of its contemporaries over the years such as 700 & 800 X as well as PB, Herco and others. While they work fine I just have a tendency to pick up the can of Unique when it comes to that type of reloading. Honesty compels me to say that I have some great loads with Red & Green Dot as well. All the flake powders ignite easily and properly used make fine loads. Some don’t respond well if you under load them too much. That is especially true with Blue Dot.

The 44 special Bulldog responds to various unique loadings

In rifles with cast bullets it’s almost impossible to beat. I have used it in everything from a 222 Remington to a 375 Weatherby. With the right load combination it produces excellent accuracy combined with a light report. At 100 yards I have shot many a group of 1 inch or occasionally less. Velocities average from 12 to 1600 feet per second in most cases. It also produces excellent results with light weight jacketed bullets at reduced velocities. Even with standard weight jacketed bullets at reduced velocities it works well. It will shoot a light weight bullet up to about 2000 feet per second or so depending on the gun and bullet. It is not suitable for a full load in any rifle even the 22 Hornet. Trying to hot rod it will get you in trouble pronto. If you get a max load and try and stretch it even by a grain the pressure may spike dramatically. Such an incident will ruin a rifle. There are dozens of powders better suited for full loads. Unique is for reduced loads and it shines in that area.

The 165 grain among other cast bullets are a natural with Unique

Since I don’t have any control over anyone using this data I can’t be responsible for its use. Like any loading data approach it with caution and common sense.
Here are some loads all using Unique
222 Remington 10 40 grain Speer velocity 2676 accurate
22-250 10 40 grain Speer velocity 2328 nice load
22-250 12 40 grain Speer velocity 2603 accurate
22-250 14 40 grain Speer velocity 2858 22 Hornet velocity
220 Swift 10 40 grain Sierra velocity 2243 accurate
30-30 10 110 grain Speer velocity 1561 ok
30-06 10 110 grain Speer velocity 1281 accurate
30-06 15 130 cast velocity 1799 ok
8mm Mauser 15 165 grain cast velocity 1740 accurate
300 H & H mag 7 86 cast velocity 1326 ok
300 H & H mag 10 86 cast velocity 1666 fair
300 H & H mag 10 173 cast velocity 1209 accurate
300 H & H mag 20 100 Speer Plinker velocity 2264 accurate
300 H & H mag 20 110 Speer velocity 2105 good load
300 H & H mag 20 110 milt rn velocity 2206
300 Winchester mag 20 110 grain Speer velocity 1918 minimum load
375 Weatherby 20 250 cast velocity 1570 accurate
45-70 15 300 grain cast velocity 1265 ok
458 magnum 17 296 grain cast velocity 1311 accurate
458 magnum 15 500 grain cast velocity 1039 consistent

As you can see it is useful in a lot of rifle applications. Some of the larger caliber loadings would take a deer at woods ranges.

The 9mm Jap shoots well with Unique

32 Long Colt 77 grain cast est vel 750
38 TC 9” barrel 6 150 grain cast swc velocity 951 accurate
357 magnum 5.5 125 grain Speer velocity 663 very slow
357 magnum 5 141 grain wc velocity 897 accurate
357 magnum 5 150 grain swc velocity 816 favorite load
357 magnum 6 158 grain swc velocity 1043 working load
357 magnum 7 158 grain cast velocity 963 Colt Python
357 magnum 7.5 158 grain cast velocity 1165 leading
357 magnum 7 158 grain cast velocity 1150 Ruger
401 Power magnum 7 185 grain cast velocity 876 slow
401 Power magnum 8 185 grain cast velocity 1031 better
401 Power magnum 9 185 grain cast velocity 1106 accurate
44 magnum 10 180 grain Sierra velocity 1190 pleasant
44 magnum 8 235 grain cast velocity 1027 accurate
44 magnum 10 240 grain cast velocity 1200 Contender
45 auto 8.5 185 grain Sierra velocity 981 mild
45 auto 8.5 185 grain Hornady velocity 1040 accurate
45 auto 8.5 200 grain cast velocity 1141 stout
45 auto 230 grain cast velocity 768 ok

The 44 Special and 10.4 use Unique quite well in fact the 10.4 case is made from the 44 special

I have designed some lightweight bullets for self defense. The 38 and 357 magnum uses a 75 to 115 grain. In the 44 magnum the bullet can weigh anywhere from 115 to 140 grains. The 45 Colt uses a 125 to 155 grain while the 454 Casual uses the same weights. The lighter weight bullets work best with Red Dot and the heavier ones prefer Unique to produce the high velocities desired with such a load.

The 444 Marlin and shotshells loaded with Unique

These are just some of the loads that I have and still use. For small game a reduced load rifle is just the ticket. The lead bullets won’t destroy much meat and the noise isn’t very loud. Good for campsite food where legal. For instance a 170 grain 30 caliber lead bullet launched at 1200 feet per second or so can be effective at 100 yards or so. Those types of bullets have much more killing power then their ballistics may indicate. The secret is the penetration achieved. Lead bullets have a well deserved reputation for achieving deep penetration due in part to that they don’t expand. The other part of the formula is high sectional density. High sectional density contributes in large part to a high ballistic coefficient. Of course if your rifle is sighted in for a full power load then you will have to adjust the sights or scope.

The 455 Webley is a good candidate for Unique

Unique works well in blanks as well. Depending on blank and noise wanted 10 to 15 grains works fine. In the 30-06 15 grains works fine as does 12 in a 30-30 blank. Other flake powders work well also due to ease of ignition. In small blanks such as the 223 or 38 special I generally use Red Dot. The loads for both are 7 X Red Dot. Flake powders ignite easily and take up a lot of space making them ideal to make blanks.
Bob Shell

The 30-30, 30-40 and 303 British are capable of excellent accuracy with Unique and cast bullets


RK said...

It would be most useful to know the barrel length of the firearm for each of the loads tested. Thanks.

Pawpaw said...

There's a reason they call it Unique. I don't think that any reloader's bench is complete without at least a pound of Unique on the shelf.

Anonymous said...

Robert, 185 grain hollow point metal jacket in 45 ACP using unique powder, 7 to 8 grains of powder ok.

Scott said...


Thanks for a very informative and interesting article. I am planning on trying some of these loads in my 44.

Anonymous said...

I too have been using Unique for more than 30 years. I want to try it in my .30/30, with a 150-170 gr. lead bullet. I will try your recomendation.