Trail Boss, a Misunderstood Powder?

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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. 
https://www.hodgdon.com/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.

WARNING!!
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.

B.E.Brickey

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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.

Jim

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SavvyJack posted this 18 January 2019

 https://castbulletassoc.org/forum/thread/blown-guns-at-sass-matches/

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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.

Jim

 

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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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shootzem6.5 posted this 10 April 2020

In 2013 i was using 4.5 grs under 195 gr home cast Kieth style swc`s and getting exceptable  accuracy at  50 ft. in my s&w m58.  Also used it in a Tuarus 357 3.0 gr under a 125 gr cast lrn and 3.0 gr under a 158 gr lrn. It burned a little dirty, These were all minimum loads. I also remember trying it in 222 Rem with 55 gr cast, i think with 8 grs, because 10 grs filled the case to almost full, no room for the bullet! The pistol load data comes from a Hogdon download from that year. There was also fact sheet from ChuckHawks .com, same year.Hope this helps.

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Gunslinger posted this 10 April 2020

I have used TB sucessfully in 3 different cartridges using heavy bullets. 30/06,308 and 35 rem with magnus 200gr rnpb bullets.Accuracy was around 2 inches for 35 rem at 100yds for 5 shots,velocity was around 1250 fps.I'dhave to look @ my records for powder charge.

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Bohica793 posted this 10 April 2020

5.5 grains TB under a 454194 is my standard fun load in 45LC.  Pleasant and accurate in both pistol and rifle.

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45 2.1 posted this 10 April 2020

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.
When Trail Boss came out, one of my friends called their powder tech's and asked them if it was a remake of the hundred year ago bulk powders..... he got a yes answer.

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SavvyJack posted this 10 April 2020

When Trail Boss came out, one of my friends called their powder tech's and asked them if it was a remake of the hundred year ago bulk powders..... he got a yes answer.

 

How interesting....now which 100 year ago powder?

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45 2.1 posted this 10 April 2020

There were two types of bulk powder to replace blackpowder by volume.... one for shotguns and one for rifles. Do NOT use the old shotgun bulk in a rifle. But which one my friend says he could not get the tech to say any more about along with the statement from the tech saying he shouldn't have said even that. That is all we found out...............................

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RicinYakima posted this 10 April 2020

Having shot as much DuPont bulk shotgun as anyone alive today, I think,  the principles are the same. With shotgun shells and loading with an Ideal pocket tool, you measure the volume and drop it in the case. Put a over powder hard wad in and required felt wads and gentle press to the bottom of the case. DO Not compress! Add shot and over wad and roll crimp on using only hand pressure. All this compressing shot shells only started with "progressive" burning powder. Trail Boss has the same warning.

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SavvyJack posted this 11 April 2020

There were two types of bulk powder to replace blackpowder by volume.... one for shotguns and one for rifles. Do NOT use the old shotgun bulk in a rifle. But which one my friend says he could not get the tech to say any more about along with the statement from the tech saying he shouldn't have said even that. That is all we found out...............................

 

There were three.

Dupont Shotgun
Dupont Rifle No.1
Dupont Rifle No. 2

 

     

                                                                                                      My powder sample

It is my belief that Dupont manufactured the first smokeless powder used by Winchester in the 44-40. John Kort dissected several cartridges and found what he thought was Dupont No.2. He experimented with this powder, about April 2013, which he discovered to be as advertised by replicating such loads. Directly replacing black powder per volume, 17gr of Dupont No.2 was a "BULK" powder for the 44-40, produced 1,300fps but pressures are unknown to me. Looking at published loads in the 1930's, the 44-40 rifle loads that replicate 1,300fps show 10,000cup with certain powders like 2400 and Unique and possibly Sharpshooter and Lightning powders using the 200gr JSP. It has been reported that today's IMR-4227 has the same burn rate but yet 17gr (less volume) only produces 1,127fps @ 10,643psi (12,500cup). My tests using 19gr of IMR-4227 gave me 1,296fps with a 427098 @ 11,000psi (13,000cup) better replicating early smokeless powder loads in both velocity and chamber pressures. Better yet, 22gr with a Winchester JSP (.4255") gave 1,386fps @ 12,035psi (14,000cup).

The second powder I believe to have been used would be Laflin & Rand's Smokeless Sporting Rifle Powder...also using 17gr for the 44-40. Both Dupont and Laflin & Rand bulk powders appear to be "blonde" in color. This powder was only available for a year or less when taken over by Dupont.

What I believe to be the third powder used by Winchester was Laflin & Rand's "Sharpshooter" or at least Dupont's "Sharpshooter" by 1903. Both powders were perforated disc or very thinly sliced tube powder. Although a "bulky" powder, it was not a bulk powder but was also specifically advertised as a black powder replacement and noted as such on the powder cans "For Black Powder Rifles". Ironically 19gr of Dupont and Hercules Sharpshooter, by 1914, was noted as a High Velocity load. Sharpe's 1937 handloading manual notes 19.6gr of Sharpshooter produced 20,000cup. However, Sharpe also notes that 17.3gr of Sharpshooter (1937) with the JSP produced 1,305fps(normal factory velocity) @ 14,000cup (maybe 12,000psi) and 14gr producing 1,260fps but does not list pressures but would certainly be less than 14,000cup. It has been said the 2400 has a similar burn rate. If so, Lyman's 49th lists 18gr of 2400 with a Speer 200gr SJHP (#4425) @ 1,380fps and 14,600cup. 20gr of 2400 with a Speer 200gr SJHP #4425 @ 1,638fps and 19,000cup. My results differed as expected showing 1,300fps with only 16gr @ 9,000psi (maybe 11,000cup) and 1,672fps with 20gr of 2400 @ 15,618psi (maybe 18,000cup).

My testings with Trail Boss
Published 6.4gr max with an Acme Magma bullet produced 900-1000fps @ 7,224psi with great plinking accuracy but also did well out to 200 yards but may not retain enough energy for harvesting game.

However, a caseload were the bullet sits on top of the powder like black powder, held 9.3gr. This load gave me 1,250fps but at a cost of 15,182psi which could be close to 18,000cup.

Thus the burn rate vs velocity doesn't match very well when comparing Trail Boss to early Dupont bulk powders or even later bulky powders used for high velocity loads.

In 1913, Dupont introduced SR80 (Sporting Rifle). It was a granular type powder. similar in appearance to Dupont No.2 smokeless powder but was faster burning and was not a "bulk" type powder. It's burning rate was in the same range as Sharpshooter. Sharpe's 1937 does not list chamber pressures for this powder.

“Sharpshooter” and "SR80" fueled millions of .44-40 smokeless factory cartridges up until at least the 1950’s (SR80 was discontinued in 1939) when ball powders began appearing on the scene. Winchester switched to a ball powder similar to the old W630 which also has a similar burning rate to 2400. Remington continued to use “Sharpshooter”. I recently dissected some Winchester Super X cartridges and discovered the same type ball powder with a 12.8gr charge. Winchester last offered this load in 1978, then in 1979 Winchester began using a disc shaped pistol powder of which I weighed at 8gr. This is when the advertised velocity dropped from 1,310fps down to 1,190fps.

My "go-to" powders that seem to equally replicate velocity and pressures and most importantly accuracy are;

1. 25.8gr of Reloader 7 with a 220gr lead bullet @ 1,361pfs and 12,000psi (est. 14,000cup). Factory standard velocity loads. (1894-1978)

2. 24gr of IMR-4227 with a 200gr JSP @ 1,590fps and 18,000psi (est. 22,000cup). Factory standard High Velocity loads. (1903-1938)

These are the only two powders that give the greatest accuracy, retain energy (out to 200 yards and greater) and produce the least pressures in my tests.

https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/powders/modern-smokeless-powder


https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/powders/smokeless-powders-transition-years

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SavvyJack posted this 11 April 2020

Oh, I meant to point out that early Dupont Rifle No.1 smokeless powder in the red keg "dead stag" logo was a different powder than the later Dupont No.1 in the can that had the Laflin & Rand "Flag in Wreath" logo.

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SavvyJack posted this 13 April 2020

previous post greatly edited

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