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Old 09-27-2018, 06:35 PM
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Default I'm sure this is a dumb question

But,,, I have been watching reloading videos and it seems that no handgun brass gets close to being filled with powder. My question is, with so much empty space in the brass, why don't they just make the brass shorter along with the ability to shorten the operating systems on the guns ? IF this is so dumb I apologize but I tend to be over practical sometimes and didn't even know how to begin searching for an answer. For example, .38 special seems to have a LOT of empty space. Maybe I just need my eyes checked.
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Old 09-27-2018, 06:40 PM
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A lot depends on the type of powder used some are more bulky than others.
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Old 09-27-2018, 06:50 PM
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The answer to your question can be a looooong one, but I can give you a short two-part answer that may cover your curiosity.

Most are the way you say (especially low/medium pressure revolver rounds) because they were originally built and evolved a long, LONG time ago from black powder cartridges. Part 2 is that when something is established (say .38 Special), you cannot change it and expect success.

A perfect example of my second point is .45 GAP. They took a well known and loved round (.45 ACP) and they shortened it, upped the pressure a bit and they basically made the .45 ACP better, except for that pesky "it's been this way for a hundred years and we have a million guns already so chambered..." and the .45 GAP was a dismal face down in the gutter failure.
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Old 09-27-2018, 06:58 PM
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Default For cartridges that originated....

....back in black powder days the black powder filled the case nicely. With the advent of smokeless powder, it took less powder to do the same (or better) job. Powders have different variables such as density, burn rate, chemical composition, etc.

A full load of a fast powder like Bulleye will barely fill the bottom of a .38 case.. Whereas a load of bullky powder such as Trail Boss can fill a case to the bottom of the bullet.

Cartridges like the 9mm, .45 ACP, .40 S&W etc. were all designed with smokeless powder in mind, consequently, the cases can be much smaller.

There have been shorter versions of the .38 case, but they and the guns they were shot in were designed for much lower pressure. As cartridges developed, about a tenth of an inch was added to the cartridge to keep it from chambering in an older gun for safety reasons.

For instance, the .38 Special and the .357 magnum are exactly the same cartridge. But since the magnum is loaded to a much higher pressure, it's a tad longer than a .38 Special cartridge to keep them from being shot in a .38 pistol.

Interesting to note that people like Elmer Keith and Philip Sharpe looked at the .38 Special cartridge and thought that it was capable of much greater performance than it was being used for. So they started loading up .38 Specials to higher pressures. To the point where the guns began to fail. The end result was the .357 Magnum with its own gun designed to shoot it.

No question in reloading is silly.
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Old 09-27-2018, 07:04 PM
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Thank you all,,, I understand now.
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Old 09-27-2018, 07:06 PM
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First god created heaven and earth, then he created the .45 Auto Rim for PeterJ. He never intended PeterJ to have his smokless target loads way down in the bottom of .45 Colt cases.

Seriously, .38 Special cases are long for two reasons. First, so they would not chamber in the .38 Long Colt revolvers that preceded them. Second, .38 Special was offered in both smokless and black powder loadings. Black powder is bulky. .44 Special cases are long so they would not chamber in antique .44 Russian black powder revolvers.

Hercules designed Red Dot to burn nearly as fast as Bulleye but still fill the space in plastic 12 gauge target wads. A second .45 ACP target charge will over flow the case making the error obvious. If air space really bothers you then you could load Red Dot in .38 Long Colt brass.

Edit to add: I'm a slow writer but I'll leave this up despite the duplication.

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Old 09-27-2018, 08:51 PM
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As stated above, smokeless powder calibers developed during the period of black powder had large case capacity so both propellants could be used. The 30/30 round, for example, was named such by Winchester as it was initially loaded with smokeless powder but designed to be reloaded with 30 gns of black powder in the areas where factory ammo was scarce and shooters almost always reloaded their fired brass. They are still very popular. And there is another reason that I like large case capacity.

Around 1995 I became an adherent of the "slower bulkier handgun powders (actually fast rifle powders) that fill the case" philosophy, particularly in .38 Special and 44/40. I kept that philosophy until my preferred powder (Hodgdon H4227) was discontinued in favour of the Aussie AR2205 (same powder but with a special coating to lower temperature in .223 for the Aussie Armed Forces) when Hodgdon's parent company also gained a financial stake in ADI and demanded to know why both "identical" powders were being made.

AR2205 just was not as accurate in my pistols, especially at 50 yards which is a stage in the match I regularly shoot my 686. By accident I discovered Tightgroup powder, a very fast pistol powder where charges fill much less of the case. I think there is a reason that Hodgdon chose this name for this powder as it has proved to be accurate in almost every load and caliber I have tried (the exception being 230 gn LRN in .45 ACP. But I still can't find a load that'll shoot as well as 200 gn PFP bullets in that calibre).

I still play around with "large amounts of slow powder" loads now and then and it is nice to have the case capacity to do this.
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Old 09-27-2018, 08:54 PM
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The idea behind the .45 ACP was to get the same ballistics as the old BP .45 Colt revolver cartridge in a short case for use in an automatic pistol. It was fairly easy to do that as smokeless powder is much more efficient than BP, and it doesn't take much to get .45 Colt BP ballistics from a short case.

The .38 Special was originally designed as a BP cartridge, and that is the main reason the .38 Special case is as long as it is - so it can hold about 18 grains of BP. It didn't stay a BP cartridge very long, but surprisingly BP .38 Special factory loadings remained in production until the mid-1930s. You can handload .38 Special cases to provide full .357 Magnum performance, but it is not a good idea to fire such handloads in a .38 Special revolver.

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Old 09-27-2018, 09:05 PM
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"The 30/30 round, for example, was named such by Winchester as it was initially loaded with smokeless powder but designed to be reloaded with 30 gns of black powder in the areas where factory ammo was scarce and shooters almost always reloaded their fired brass."

Not quite - the .32 Winchester Special cartridge, quite similar to the .30-30, and also made for use in the Winchester M1894 rifle, was the one which supposedly could be loaded with BP if necessary. The .30-30 cartridge was always intended to use smokeless powder only, and factory loads always used around 30 grains of smokeless powder (similar to the old Hercules Hi-Vel #2 or IMR 3031). So the .30-30 designation meant .30 caliber with 30 grains of smokeless powder. The .30-40 Krag was similarly named. Original smokeless powder .30 U. S. Army (.30-40) cartridges used 40 grains of smokeless powder. At least nominally. None of my references state exactly what weight of smokeless powder was used in the early military loadings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but handloading manuals usually call for around 40 grains of IMR 4895 with the original 220 grain bullets.

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Old 09-27-2018, 11:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterJ View Post
But,,, I have been watching reloading videos and it seems that no handgun brass gets close to being filled with powder. My question is, with so much empty space in the brass, why don't they just make the brass shorter along with the ability to shorten the operating systems on the guns?
Many reasons they don't just shorten the cases including backwards compatibility. Shortening the case creates a different cartridge and it changes the performance and pressures generated.

That said, not all cases do not fill when loaded like the 32 ACP, 380 ACP, 9mm and even the 40 S&W. Large revolver cases, some which began as black powder cartridges have over 100 years of guns to service. They all need ammo that fits their needs.
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Old 09-28-2018, 07:52 AM
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I'll just add that there is no such thing as a dumb question. If you have a question and don't ask, that is dumb.
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Old 09-28-2018, 08:40 AM
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This is one of the main reasons Trail Boss powder was invented: It's bulky
a) To allow the Cowboy shooting fans (and everyone else) a way of accurately shooting large soft bullets at low pressure out of antique
or replica guns while filling up the case almost or completely.
b) Prevents a double charge by overfilling when that happens so you notice.
c) Possibly gives one an extra "authentic" black powder era feeling

Some of us have also toyed with fillers of various sorts and mostly come away feeling the effort is not worth it at least for revolver rounds.
Vihtavouri has also come out with a cowboy powder (Tin Star) but it is rare and expensive.
Trail Boss works great for what it is designed for.
Don't expect top velocity. Do expect uniform velocities.
Check it out if you are so inclined.

It is also a unique looking powder consisting of lil donuts.
At first I decanted some from a big jug into this canning jar:
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Old 09-28-2018, 08:54 AM
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If you are interested in things like this, and enjoy reading, Hatcher's Notebook, by Julian Hatcher, and numerous older reloading books have LOTS of information on this very subject.

Have a blessed day,

Leon
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Old 09-28-2018, 12:20 PM
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Aside from the many excellent responses already given, some cartridge/load combinations do get close to 100% fill, or even compressed charges! And that's even ignoring super-slow loads of big-bore magnums, and itsy-bitsy cartridges that need to be filled close to 100% just to ensure that you're working with a manageable volume of powder.

For instance, if I'm remembering my Lyman's 50th correctly (I'm at my desk, and the book is down on my reloading bench, where reloading books belong) max charges of Alliant Power Pistol under a 147g lead bullet in 9mm are compressed. Even normal charges of less-bulky powders still fill 9mm cases pretty well.
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Old 09-28-2018, 04:58 PM
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Asking questions is a part of learning, my friend. You selected an excellent resource in which to ask questions. The collection of knowledge on this forum is astounding, and it is great these guys choose to share.
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Old 09-28-2018, 05:47 PM
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When reloading and not being sure about something,if you don't ask because you're afraid to look dumb well,let me tell you;I'm sure I would rather look dumb to a few others than look at others with but one eye!
Sir,asking is the right thing to do when in doubt.
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Old 09-28-2018, 07:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nemo288 View Post
. . . Trail Boss works great for what it is designed for . . . Don't expect top velocity. Do expect uniform velocities . . .
I am a big fan of Trail Boss, high bulk, no double charge possibilities, very good performance. Mike Ventouri just published an article in Handloader magazine about Trail Boss. He outlines an experiment with proper published volume of a popular low bulk powder in a large caliber revolver. Firing 3 rounds - first upward, second level, and third towards the ground. The first two fired and the last one with the powder laying against the back of the bullet lodged in the barrel. Same load, much different results. Another article on Trail Boss published by Handloads.com is worth reading. IMR Trail Boss

It seems that whenever one reads about the destruction of a fine revolver, one very likely reason is a double charge, but with Trail Boss you do not have to worry.
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Old 09-28-2018, 08:10 PM
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Default Especially.....

Quote:
Originally Posted by stansdds View Post
I'll just add that there is no such thing as a dumb question. If you have a question and don't ask, that is dumb.
Especially when contained gunpowder is involved.
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Old 09-29-2018, 02:45 AM
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The only problem with Trail Boss is that it is somewhat more expensive to use than most any other propellant. Its price per pound is generally higher than any other, and it takes more powder per cartridge vs. something like Bullseye or Unique.
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Old 09-29-2018, 03:43 AM
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The cost of the powder per cartridge has never bothered me much.
Just going from jacketed to cast bullets can cut the total cost in half.
I don't normally seek out Vihtavouri powders but during the last big shortage there were some warehouse clearances
of some of their more obscure powders so I got some like N105 and Tin Star (N32C) at reasonable prices.
N105 might be the best powder ever made for the 44 Special delivering outstanding velocity at the standard pressures.
Case fill is about 75%.
I'll admit I like experimenting a bit out in left field.
Tin Star is not as bulky as Trail Boss but at the time I got it there was no Trail Boss to be had.
I have not played with it much since getting a big jug of Trail Boss.
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Old 09-29-2018, 11:18 AM
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I dont think I saw this covered so I will add, pressures, especially in handguns, are directly related to the volume of the case & burn speed of the powder. Cartridge cases/calibers were designed around powders of the day, hence why 38sp & 9mm are so close in performance though case volumes are dramatically diff.
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Old 10-04-2018, 09:33 PM
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I load my 44cal 240gr lead cast bullets in 44 special cases. Better performance over the longer 44mag cases. Same with the 38/357 cases.
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Old 10-05-2018, 04:20 AM
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I prefer to push the bullet down into a magnum case with target loads and save burning the ends of my chambers
as opposed to firing special brass in magnum chambers.
Special brass belongs in special revolvers. JMHO.
This is also what wadcutters are for.
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Old 10-12-2018, 03:03 PM
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Default With all of the different....

With all of the different types of powder and types and weights of bullets, it makes any gun more versatile from just useful to extremely variable.

Some of those loads DO call for filling the case. Some of them call for filling more than the case capacity and result in compressed loads of powder that can be difficult to coax a bullet into the case to keep from deforming something.

Many people feel that the object of reloading is to fill the case with a powder that also does the job for which they intend. I run my 30-06 from 110 grain bullets going 1700 ft/sec to a 165 grain not too much short of 3000 ft/ sec.

I'm not a hunter but I experiment a lot and could get game from squirrels to mule deer and maybe up to elk size, depending on your confidence level. I like to load the 'gallery' rounds for easy shooting for beginners and just plinking in total comfort. People say, why not get a .22? I don't need one. When I get one it will be completely a 'fun gun'. Cheaper to shoot, yeah, but I enjoy reloading, so......

Of course they do have those tools to reload .22s.
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Old 10-12-2018, 04:08 PM
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Yup .. that's a dumb question ...
Just kidding
Your observations are not entirely true.
Often times, economic considerations take point in handgun cartridge reloading. I tend to deviate from this often held convention.
One of the best sleeper loads out there is IMR4227 behind a heavy cast bullet in 357 magnum. it's often a compressed charge load. Potent as well as accurate in many accounts.
most of my 45 auto loads tend to use powders on the slow end that do take up nearly all the space not occupied by the bullet.
even my plinking loads in magnum calibers tend to be a bit warmer than those of others as I tend toward moderate loads versus light ones. as a result, i can invest faith in virtually any random handful of ammo grabbed on the way out the door. It will likely have the authority to deal with the problem that prompted me to be less than meticulous in its selection.
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Old 10-12-2018, 10:31 PM
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Default Yeah, I kinda like........

...getting 5000 rounds of target ammo out of a pound of Bullseye, even if it barely covers the primer. What people call 'efficiency' isn't what I'm trying for. Cheap is king.

As careful as I am, if I blow up a gun I'll be singing another tune.
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Old 10-12-2018, 11:36 PM
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I agree IMR-4227 is a fantastic powder for magnums and it's by far my favorite in the 44 Supermag.
You may give up a few fps over the ball powders but gain nice stable performance over a wider pressure range
and that case filling accuracy mentioned.
Compressing 4227 is not going to result in an poorly burning conglomerated mass after a few years storage the way 296 did for me.
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Old 10-13-2018, 01:01 PM
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"One of the best sleeper loads out there is IMR4227 behind a heavy cast bullet in 357 magnum. it's often a compressed charge load. Potent as well as accurate in many accounts."

IMR4227 deserves to be more popular than it is. It's an excellent powder for lead bullet use with almost any larger CF rifle cartridge which will produce MVs up to around 2000 ft/sec with good accuracy. I have used it for .30 Carbine, and even with a compressed load under the standard GI 107 grain FMJ bullet it produces a MV only in the upper-1700 ft/sec range in my Carbine. But it still functions well. Works OK in some .410 shotshell loads also. Very short granules allow it to meter almost as well as ball powder. It was the first powder I used for full power .44 Magnum reloads back when I started reloading over 50 years ago.

Last edited by DWalt; 10-13-2018 at 01:03 PM.
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