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The Uniqueness of Unique

2814 Views 24 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  krag96
I'm a long time reloader and long time user of Alliant (Hercules) propellants. Always said as long as I had Bullseye, Unique, and 2400, I could load any handgun cartridge, and load it well. Used a fair bit of Red and Green Dot as well. That being said, Unique has always been my go to powder. Used it in .38 Special, 45 Colt, .44 Rem. Magnum, depending on bullet weight and desired velocity, and especially .45 ACP. We shoot a lot, so commercially purchased cast lead has been the norm if for no other reason than economy, and have developed some very accurate loads with same.

Shooting cast lead with the commercial "crayon" lube and usually Lee Liquid Alox for good measure has always resulted in smoky loads, some more, some less depending on the particular round and pressure. No problem with that, just part of it. Never saw any difference between the old and new Unique either. I have found Unique gets cleaner as the pressure goes up, but never really push a round that hard anyway, if I need more power I get a bigger gun.

I say all of that to say this: I just worked up a .44 40 load, 200 grain RNFP commercially cast lead with the crayon lube, tumbled in LLA, 7.5 grains Unique to shoot out of a Colt SAA. Absolutely the cleanest, least smoke of any round I've loaded with lubed lead. This round is not high pressure by any means. Why is this combination so clean burning and smoke free? Not complaining about smoke or lack thereof on any of my rounds but inquiring minds want to know.
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One thing I've learned here in the frozen north (Butte, Mt) is that when the temps. drop below zero, Unique becomes position sensitive...particularly important in the 45 Colt case. Chronographs and a willingness to freeze your tush will tell you a lot.
Unique has a rep for being a bit dirty in certain apps. I think that the heavy bullet, combined with a nice meandering velocity, gives the powder time to burn completely. I note here that the .44-40 (1873) and Unique (1900) are more or less from the same era. A good match. Amazing that Unique works so well in more modern cartridges, only recently having been exceeded by such propellants as AA #7 and Power Pistol for a couple of examples.

You want a unique experience? Load some hot 125 grain .357s up and fire them from a snubbie in total darkness. I believe that it may have been the inspiration for the flash bulb. OK, just kidding.
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Unique has a rep for being a bit dirty in certain apps. I think that the heavy bullet, combined with a nice meandering velocity, gives the powder time to burn completely. I note here that the .44-40 (1873) and Unique (1900) are more or less from the same era. A good match. Amazing that Unique works so well in more modern cartridges, only recently having been exceeded by such propellants as AA #7 and Power Pistol for a couple of examples.

You want a unique experience? Load some hot 125 grain .357s up and fire them from a snubbie in total darkness. I believe that it may have been the inspiration for the flash bulb. OK, just kidding.
Unique is well, unique! Having burned though two 8 pounders over the years of reloading I remain a big fan!

Ricn
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I think Unique needs a higher pressure to burn cleanly. It seems to me that a magnum primer helps, too.
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I too am a Unique and 2400 guy since 1973 for my hand gun loads.
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Unique was my first powder. As an 11 y.o. I inherited my Grand fathers Bisley in 32-20. A cowboy up the canyon had 32-20's a bunch and cast and loaded. He taught me about bees wax and beef tallow loob and Unique. I still load and shoot the Bisley but the bees wax and beef tallow loob has gone. Unique gets used in most of my hand gun shooting and even as the basis for duplex BP loads in 45-70, 43 Spanish and 45-90. Unique hasn't changed except maybe cleaner. 2400 has changed a little but only at the 100%+ load range, need to back off a little with the new 2400. MMMMMMGOOD!
MMCSRET, I see in your signature line you were a Cat field service tech, I am a field mechanic for Cummins, the other big C.
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After many years in the reloading game, I have mostly avoided medium and slower powder. Mostly because I can achieve the same velocities with fast burning powder. Plus, fast burning powders are simply more economical with low energetic throw weights.
For example, with a 200 grain cast 44 bullet in a 44 mag case, I can achieve semi-magnum velocities with 8.0 grains of PROMO...
I can't remember how many pounds of Unique I have used, just for the 45 Colt!
255gr LSWC over 7.5grs Unique is my favorite. :eek:
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If I had $1 for each pound of Unique and Red Dot I have burned up over the past 50 years I could buy the Triple Lock .44 Special I have always wanted . Unique is one powder I will never be without .

Eddie
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Shooting cast lead with the commercial "crayon" lube and usually Lee Liquid Alox for good measure...

... a .44 40 load, 200 grain RNFP commercially cast lead with the crayon lube, tumbled in LLA, ...
What do you mean by "crayon" lube? I have never heard this term before. Also, do you use crayon lube and LLA both on a bullet? Thanks.
I use Unique and a 215 grain cast bullet in a 1896 vintage Winchester 1892 .44 WCF. My moderate load of 8 grains of Unique works great in the rifle.
What do you mean by "crayon" lube? I have never heard this term before. Also, do you use crayon lube and LLA both on a bullet? Thanks.
That's what I call that blue waxy lube that is on practically all the cast bullets one buys from the commercial casters. I do tumble lube those with LLA as well, a very light coat. It may be my imagination but I think I have less leading across the board in the calibers I load for.
5 grains of Unique under a 210-230 grain cast bullet and all my 41 Special guns are happy.
I do use Unique.
But try BE86, I doubt you will go back..
I do use Unique.
But try BE86, I doubt you will go back..
Can you elaborate a little on the advantages of BE86 over 'UNIQUE'?
Back a few years ago Unique was hard to find, and my old cardboard can from the 60s had finally run out (I bought it 'already old'). Rather than set up satellite smartphone alarm systems to warn me when a can became available on the internet, as people where doing who hoarded .22 ammo, I looked for an alternative. I picked Universal (clays) powder, and have shot it a lot in .44 Special and .44-40.

Universal is similar, but not the same. For some reason, there are often tiny yellow flakes left over after firing, maybe 10 flakes per cylinder. I have no clue what they are, perhaps unburned powder. It's also very smoky and dirty. When I fire you can see a big puff of white smoke. Not as bad as black powder, but it's there. And it gets all over the gun. It seems accurate, but I need to go back to Unique now.
Less Flash, far more flexibility. BE86 can do anything that Unique or Power Pistol can do, and 95% of 2400 can do
BE 86 can do anything from 380, 38 wadcutters, to full strength 44 rem, or 45 colt.
It does not mind being downloaded like unique.
You can start low, and work your way to full tilt, whereas Unique prefers full loads.
It only cost 24.00 to try.
Like I said earlier, I still use Unique in some guns because they prefer it, but 98% of my pistols run on BE86
I see BE-86 as a parallel to Unique more than a replacement. It is more specialized, even if superior in some handgun load aspects. If you load shotgun, Unique - now cleaner burning according to Alliant - is still the way to go.

Still, whatever smokes your barrel.
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