Trail Boss, a Misunderstood Powder?

  • Last Post 21 January 2019
SavvyJack posted this 07 January 2019

 Well what an interesting topic. I keep seeing some replies to another Trail Boss topic about is it an underappreciated powder.

Well, owning a Corvette can be disappointing if you purchased it hoping to get the same performance of a Bugatti Chiron.

Lets back up just a little bit and go over to the Hodgdon website and see what they have to say about Trail Boss.

Hodgdon says that "

Trail Boss was designed specifically for low-velocity lead bullets suitable for Cowboy Action shooting It is primarily a pistol powder but has some application in rifles.

Trail Boss is based on new technology that allows very high loading density, good flow through powder measures, stability in severe temperature variation, and, most importantly, additional safety to the handloader.

That should pretty much sum it up right there for anyone that decides to use this powder for anything other than what is was designed for. Trail Boss was manufactured to be a BULK powder to fill the cases of black powder cartridges like the 45 Colt and 44-40 cartridges. It was designed as a plinking load for Cowboy Action Shooting which has a velocity limitation. It was also manufactured to help prevent double charges in those same high volume cases.

1. Hodgdon has load data for such Cowboy Cartridges on their web site.

2. I also know that there is a Trail Boss Reduced Loads PDF floating around on the net were guys that shoot stuff like 243s, 270s, 308s....what I call exotic cartridges...can load reduced loads. What these guys fail to realize is what the title of the PDF says....REDUCED LOADS!!!

The PDF claims that using such reduced loads in such rifle cartridges are fun but I don't see how if accuracy and velocity is a problem. The Cowboy shooter is typically shooting 12 x 12 type size steel plates typically no further than  25 yards. Accuracy is still important but who wants to shoot a 308 at even as close as 50 yards....and at what? Again, Cowboy Action Shooting competition has a velocity limitation for competitions

Hodgdon offers load data for rifle and pistol cartridges in their load data section of their website. However, if you can not find your "favorite cartridge" in their PDF "RIFLE and PISTOL" chart, they claim you can use a formula and stay inside safe pressures.

Here is my experience with Trail Boss in Cowboy Cartridges. I absolutely love it! 

Here is my experience with Tail Boss in my 45 ACP pistols...I absolutely love it for plinking!!!

Same with Cowboy cartridge rifles.

When using such loads in pistols and weak action rifles, I highly suggest NOT USING the PDF loading suggestion.

I shoot the 44-40 exclusively. Hodgdon load data limits a max load to 6.5gr MAX to stay under SAAMI max pressures of 11,000psi (13,000 cup). Using the PDF suggestion, I can get 9.3gr in using a Magma type 200gr LRNFP bullet like Oregon Trails Lazer Cast. There is a tad but of "spongy" compression but not crushing the donuts!

Working my way up to that 9.3gr load.....

Results from a 20" MGM barrel I use for strain gauge pressure testing.

6.4gr gave me a result of 7,224 psi with a ten shot group avg with a strain gauge.

9.3gr gave me a result of 15,182 psi @ 1,250fps with a ten shot group avg with a strain gauge.
I fear any crushing of the powder would send higher pressures through he roof!!!

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M3 Mitch posted this 07 January 2019

Thanks for this post.  I guess the "secret" of using Trail Boss is to understand what it is and is not good for, then apply it (or not) to loads where it's appropriate. 

I bought a can of this a couple of weeks ago, have not even opened it. 

If I notice worse accuracy, significantly worse, compared to Bullseye and Unique, I guess I will be disappointed with the powder, but have some high hopes that it will work well in 32-20, etc. Maybe I can get off my butt and do an accuracy comparison in that round. 

Some of this depends on if you have time and can remember to raise the muzzle before firing.  I have often found this reduces group size on reduced rifle loads like "bunny" 30-06 loads.  Having a load that is not position-sensitive is an advantage IMHO.

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Brodie posted this 08 January 2019

Jack said it very well:  "Trail boss is good for two applications: 1. Cowboy action shooting. and 2. Light reduced loads in rifle cartridges. ".  The latter should be very good as a teaching aid for younger shooters.

Why do we keep beating the drum that there must be another use for this stuff.  It works well in the applications for which it was made.  Face it .  The only other thing it might be good for is making illegal explosives with old pieces of pipe.

You can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear.


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BigMan54 posted this 14 January 2019

I seem to remember a HANDLOADER Mag article by M. Venterino on reduced loads using 5.0grs of TB in Military Cartridges.  He used a light bullet in .30 cal. Loads, last or next to last issue of 2015.

Don't have a light enough bullet mold to try them myself.

Long time Caster/Reloader, Getting back into it after almost 10yrs. Life Member NRA 40+yrs, Life S.A.S.S. #375. Does this mean a description of me as a fumble-fingered knuckle-draggin' baboon. I also drool in my sleep. I firmly believe that true happiness is a warm gun. Did I mention how much I HATE auto-correct on this blasted tablet.

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Scearcy posted this 14 January 2019

In the 2018 groundhog shoot we had 3-4 guys use TB in a variety of 3006 rifles. Most were using 6-7 grains since we were only shooting 50 yards. The RCBS 150 PB Cowboy was the bullet of choice. One guy used 14 gr of TB. That sounds like a bunch. I would work to that carefully with the TB case capacity formula.


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SavvyJack posted this 18 January 2019

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Scearcy posted this 20 January 2019

I found this Hodgdon/IMR table to be quite interesting. I used 6 gr of TB in my 3006. I am not surprised it was not very accurate. This table also seems to dispel some of the myths regarding bottleneck high intensity cartridges.



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JeffinNZ posted this 21 January 2019

Worth remembering that TB was not created for us. As Ed Harris has pointed out it is a repurposed powder originally for 40mm grenade ammo.

I wish it had the burn rate of H4227 and similar or slightly less bulk.

Cheers from New Zealand

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