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I am going to be building some rounds for my .38 S&W. and my powder choices are: N320, Titegroup, Bulleseye, or W231.

I just finished off 50 rounds using W231, and they were dirty to the extreme. Lyman's 50th states the load range is 2.1gr to 2.4gr. These were 2.0gr, so a bit under charged. My question is, given the following powders and recommended load ranges, which would most likely be the cleanest?

N320, 2.2gr to 2.4gr
Titegroup, 2.0gr to 2.2gr
Bullseye, 2.1gr to 2.4gr
W231, 2.1to 2.4gr

Granted these are tiny charges and by design pretty anemic. However, I want to keep them within recommended ranges. These will be shot out of a Iver Johnson Trailsman 66S. The pistol was manufactured in the early 1960s (1961-1964). My father bought it new and probably never shot a box of rounds through it.

So, staying within the recommended charge ranges, which of the powders listed above will I have the most luck with.

P.S., the 2.0gr W231 load pushed a 150gr cast RN a whopping 460 fps. Would another 0.3gr make the load that much cleaner?

Oh yes, these are range poppers and will not be CCW ammunition. :)

Grumpy
 

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I'm not familiar with N320 or Titegroup, so that leaves Bullseye or W231. A case could be made for increasing charge weight for W231 to 2.2 gr and trying it. Before doing so, you could try loading 12 rounds with 2.0/W231 and the same projectile, but adjust the seating die so that you apply more crimp. An adjustment of 1/8 to 1/4 turn should be enough. If this doesn't improve the cleanliness of the burn, it's time to bump up the charge weight.
It's been my experience that Bullseye burns cleaner than W231. I'm not a fan of W231 for a number of reasons, so given a choice between it and Bullseye, I'll usually go with the former.
If you can lay your hands on any, you might try IMR 700X, with appropriate data. I've found it to be very clean burning at all power levels in .38 Special and .45 ACP.
 

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SUpposedly, TG is "cleaner at the high-end" - but I've never seen that as true.
I use a lot of Titegroup, so I know firsthand how much soot it produces at low to moderate levels. Great performance, you just have to clean off a bit extra carbon. The 2.0gr load of W231 was leaving flakes of soot in the chambers and in the barrel. Obviously, the cases were not expanding enough to seal the chamber. Hence the post.

Grumpy
 

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I didn't know anyone chambered anything in .38S&W as late as 1960 but there was probably a bunch of surplus ammo still around back then so what the heck?

BE is one step cleaner than the Holy Black-so what if it isn't corrosive, it's always sooty and I'm not sure plain old soap and water would work as well on it!

My experience with Titegroup is limited to .45 ACP and I didn't like it. .45 ACP is really a shortened, rimless, smokeless version of the .45 Colt BP cartridge...it should push, not "snap" and I found even light loads felt wrong to me. But it wasn't anywhere close to as bad to clean up after as BE so it has that going for it. How it will respond in the .38S&W is unknown but it probably won't be as clean as it is even in relatively light .45 ACP loads.

Push the W231 up some. I use a lot of HP-38 and it is great for low power loads and it is never as sooty as BE and it does clean up at higher pressures. I have a lot of confidence in HP-38 and would say for economy and if your powder measure is accurate enough go to the high end...even the high end in that cartridge isn't that high and remember, a high percentage of handgun fatalities are from people shot with 380 ACP's so yeah, if that little .38 belly gun is what you have, use it! That's one thing about some of those old .32 and .38 S&W hammerless and/or top break revolvers-they were diminutive and truly concealable.

They also had tiny sights that made hitting anything or anyone outside of spitting distance progressively more challenging!

I presume you're shooting lead bullets and IIRC you've given me some tips on the little .38 in the past but just to make sure you are using .361 diameter bullets.

I haven't used any of the VV powders, I find the price point an anathema to the whole point of reloading! (Okay, if I were to go hunting Moose or Bears in the far North in sub freezing temperatures I'd trust someone from Scandinavia to make a good powder for that but I live in the South and while plugging a Moose someday wouldn't be bad, it isn't on the radar right now.)

All of that said, at the tiny charge weights and given the 7000 gr per pound and the $30 or so that a box of 50 rounds costs if you could find it and most likely rounds with the wrong bullet in them (.357 diameter), perhaps the N 320 isn't too much of a bad deal...

Man, if I could find one of those little M-33's I'd love it! There's a little pre-J frame .38 S&W in the LGS but the rifling in the muzzle is so pitted and rotted out I don't think that even at $150 it's any kind of a deal even if it were safe to shoot...
 

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I have to wonder if any very light loaded powder is going to be clean. Some might be better than others which is what you’re asking.

Since you’re going to clean the the gun afterwards, anyway? Maybe SD might be a better indicator of the right powder.
 

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............ which would most likely be the cleanest?
N320, 2.2gr to 2.4gr
Titegroup, 2.0gr to 2.2gr
Bullseye, 2.1gr to 2.4gr
W231, 2.1to 2.4gr
N320 should be the cleanest of the bunch. I have burned lots of it over the years.
After having loaded and shot all of your listed choices (in 9mm) I am of the same opinion as Tom. But I've never shot them that light in a .38 case.
I also agree that 2.2 - 2.4 is a pretty light load and you need to be attentive or risk winding up with one stuck in the barrel.
 

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Either some type of filler to hold the powder back, Kapok was a popular filler way back when for small doses of modern smokeless powders in large BP cases like .45 Colt.
Or use magnum primers, especially with Ball powders. I tried using small pistol magnum primers with HP-38/W-231 in .38 Special and did notice less unburned granules.
 

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I started out my reloading journey with HP-38, W231's cheaper twin. It was fine...no issues...then I happened on a good sale on VV N320 and gave it a try. It made me sad...so much cleaner than HP-38, slightly smaller loads do the same as HP-38, and exceptionally clean. It was a long while before I could find more VV N320 at ANY price. Picked up some more, finally, just at the start of Covid shortages...and it was painful. That said...every powder that I find today is far above the price I paid for the VV N320. Given where we are, I'll buy future powders based on need. Clean cases no longer seem as important.
 

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In a wheel gun it needs to be fast enough to expand the case. I run 2.5 bullseye in my 38 special Colt N.M. and is ok but has a tight chamber. I find 320 cleaner with a revolver with load speeds. I would bump all you listed 1/2 grain for target loads in 38 special. Been there done it and still do it.
 

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I didn't know anyone chambered anything in .38S&W as late as 1960 but there was probably a bunch of surplus ammo still around back then so what the heck?
S&W produced the 33-1 until 1974 on the J frame. Starline still produces brass or at least until the current mess did. They are fun little guns. I had Simply Rugged make me a Silver Dollar holster to carry mine in and shoot cast bullets primarily. Away from home right now so no access to loading notes, but never exceeded maximum listed in Speer #10. I actually had surprisingly good accuracy with 110gr bullets kind of turned it into a .380 wheel gun.
 

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I do not know how suitable it is for 38 S&W but Vihtavuori N310 and Vectan BA10 are good powders for light loads.

N320 is a good example as it is not very clean in low power applications like 38 special target loads. I used 2.7gr N310 for minimal recoil for rapid fire or 3.4gr N310 for optimal precision with 125gr H&N wadcutters. With the Lee 105 SWC I use 3.4gr BA10, I get a large vertical spread with 2.7gr BA10. The cases are often shiny on the inside after use.

Lovex D032 can also be an option, it behaves like it is slightly faster than N320 and burns very clean except for a few weird large particles that is left behind. Lovex say that it's very similar to Accurate #2 load data. Rumors say that it was what we got in the #2 cans here in Europe previously, it would be interesting to know if thats true.
 
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