Alliant Powder Company produces
some of the all-time favorite powders for handloading shotgun, rifle, pistol,
and revolver cartridges and shells.
Alliant Techsystems is the parent
corporation that owns Alliant Powder, which was derived from the old Hercules Powder Company. Hercules
was developed after the government- mandated breakup of DuPont in the early 1900s.
One of the oldest and most beloved
Hercules powders, particularly to sixgun handloaders, was called Unique. The
reason that I say "was", is that Alliant has recently made a slight change to
the formula to make Unique cleaner burning than its older namesake.
Originally developed as a powder for reloaders of shotgun
shells, Unique quickly became favored by revolver shooters as a good, all-around powder
for moderate loads. Unique, being somewhat slower than Bullseye and faster than Blue Dot, is in the burning
range that makes it just right for so many of the loads that sixgunners use
In years past, Unique was one of the standard powders to which I
turned to develop new loads for my handguns. As time passed, I more often than not used another powder of similar burning
rate instead of Unique, due to the messy condition in which Unique left the gun. it was still a good powder, but
others would achieve the same results without the powder fouling.
At the 2001 SHOT Show in New Orleans (see
article at SHOT Show 2001), Alliant announced the change
to the old powder, and assured me and everyone else that the new powder would still possess the same
qualities that reloaders have grown to love, without the dirty characteristics of
before. I was very anxious to give the new formula a try.
After receiving a batch of the new Unique from Alliant, I decided to do a
side-by-side comparison of the old and the new. I loaded a quantity of rounds of each of the powders into
new .44 magnum Starline cases (see article at Starline Brass), the only difference being that half were loaded
with the old powder and half with the new. Beginning with a clean Ruger Super
Blackhawk, I first fired the loads with the old powder, which was old enough to still bear the
Hercules brand on the container. I also fired these over my Pact chronograph
to compare velocities with the new powder. As expected, when I cleaned the revolver, I removed a great
deal of powder fouling from the outside of the cylinder and sides of the topstrap,
along with the residue left in the bore and chambers.
After firing the cartridges loaded with
the new Unique, it was immediately apparent that the gun was cleaner than after
firing the first batch. Not only was the outside of the gun cleaner, but the
bore and chambers were also. While it must be considered that some of the residue from both loads can be
attributed to the bullet lube, there was a noticeable difference between the
fouling from the old and new powders.
After firing both loads over the chronograph, there was no detectable
difference in the performance of the powders. The average velocity variations of the two loads were less
than twenty feet per second. This is very good work by Alliant, being that
the two powders were manufactured over 18 years apart.
Statistically, the old and new powders are the same.
There is no more need to worry over velocity variation than between different
lots of any other powder. The same loading data for Unique in the past can still be used.
Alliant has loading data for this and their other powders available on their
If you, like me, had stopped using Unique in the past in favor of cleaner
burning powders, give this powder another try. Unique has always been one of
the most versatile handgun powders available, and it now burns much cleaner than before. You can
buy Unique at any well-stocked gun store or mail order reloading supply company. For
reloading data or more information you can call Alliant toll free at:
1-800-276-9337 or find them online at: www.alliantpowder.com.
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