Hodgdon Titegroup – Ultimate Reloader

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We recently tested Berry’s .357 125 grain FP-TP bullets over Titegroup from Henry’s Big Boy Revolvers. Happy with the performance, we decided to take a closer look!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=/W7bOiTbceTw

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About Hodgdon Titegroup

This fast-burning handgun powder is ideal for many different handgun cartridges, particularly at modest velocities for target shooting and practice. Titegroup is made here in the USA, which greatly helps availability as it’s not being shipped from a foreign country. It is also less position sensitive than other pistol powders, making it ideal for action shooting.

From Hodgdon:

As the name implies, this spherical propellant was designed for accuracy. Titegroup’s unique design provides flawless ignition with all types of primers, including lead-free versions.

Unlike pistol powders of the past, powder position in large cases (45 Colt, 357 Magnum and others) has virtually no effect on velocity and performance. Cowboy Action, Bullseye and Combat Shooters should love this one!

Titegroup has it all – low charge weight, burns clean, mild muzzle report and superb, uniform ballistics.

Made in the USA. Available in 1 lb. and 8 lb. containers.

Burn Rate Analysis

As can be seen on the burn rate chart, Hodgdon’s Titegroup falls into the category of fast-burning powders. These powders are best used for target competition but are also often suitable for a wide range of handgun cartridges. 

Under the Microscope

Rather than a typical microscope, we relied on a macro lens to get a close look at four different powders: Titegroup, CFE Pistol, Trail Boss and Varget. I decided to include Varget, a popular rifle powder, simply because many handloaders are familiar with it.

(L to R): Hodgdon Titegroup, CFE Pistol, Trail Boss, Varget

Described as a spherical powder, Titegroup resembles both other flattened spherical powders and some flake type powders. The individual kernels are quite small. Both Titegroup and CFE Pistol flow very nicely through a mechanical powder measure, dispensing charges so consistent that it wasn’t necessary to use a powder trickler. The Titegroup produced extremely tight standard deviation figures in our big bore handgun loads. 

(L to R): .38+P, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, .45 Colt

A word of caution about the use of fast-burning, compact powders like Titegroup in large handgun cases – they can easily hold a double or perhaps even triple charge! This is an extremely dangerous possibility and can easily destroy even a strong revolver. My procedure for loading handgun cartridges is to work with batches of 50 cases. I’ll charge all 50, and while they’re in the loading block I’ll use a flashlight to visually make sure they’re all holding the same amount of power. 

Sadly, Trail Boss is no longer available. Its unique shape, looking like a little doughnut, makes it quite bulky and pretty well eliminates the possibility of a double charge. This was great from a safety standpoint and I miss it. Here at Ultimate Reloader, we are hanging onto our last bit of Trail Boss in case it turns out to be an ideal choice for some future loading project. 

Results and Handloads

After seeing how well Titegroup worked in the Henry .38 Special/.357 Magnum Big Boy revolvers with the new 125 grain Thick Plate Berry’s bullets, I decided to try it in three of my favorite big-bore handgun cartridges— the .44 magnum, .45 ACP and the good old .45 Colt. 

I loaded five different cartridges and we tested six different handloads. I loaded all ammunition on my home bench using Lyman’s Brass Smith All American 8. This big turret press has become a favorite of mine for loading both rifle and handgun cartridges.

With room for eight dies, I can set the press up for two different handgun cartridges, each with four dies; or for one handgun cartridge and two different rifle cartridges. I weighed all powder on Lyman’s Brass Smith metal reloading scale after dispensing it with their Brass Smith powder measure

.38+P Results—Henry 4” Big Boy Revolver

Interest in a more powerful version of the .38 Special started in the 1930s when gangsters were out-gunning police departments during prohibition. The .38+P is just a .38 Special loaded to higher pressure and producing greater velocity. This load was very easy to handle in the Henry Big Boy 4” revolver. Even today, 38+P self-defense ammo is often carried by those who favor compact revolvers such as Smith and Wesson’s 5-shot J-Frames for concealed carry. Loads like this, using plated bullets, allow for economical revolver practice and easy cleanup afterwards.  

.357 Magnum Results—Henry 4” Big Boy Revolver

Things perked up considerably by using a 7.5 grain charge of Titegroup for the 125 grain .357 magnum load. The 4” Henry Revolver produced an average muzzle velocity of 1187 fps and the 20” Henry lever action rifle produced an average muzzle velocity of 1589 fps. This is over Berry’s recommended maximum of 1500 fps. We saw no damage or undue barrel fouling as a result of exceeding the 1500 fps, but recommend that the “speed limit” be observed for best performance with the Berry’s bullets. 

.44 Magnum Results—S&W 5”629 Revolver

This 5” Smith and Wesson 629 is a real favorite of mine and often accompanies me afield. The .44 Magnum is a powerful cartridge, and sometimes full-power loads are just a bit too much of a good thing! For decades, I’ve been using handloads with a 240 – 255 grain bullet at about 900 – 1000 fps as a lower-recoil alternative to full power magnum loads. These lower velocity loads are easier on both the shooter and the revolver. Brass life is also excellent with the lower-powered loads. 

This was my first experience using Hodgdon’s Titegroup in the .44 Magnum, and also my first time loading Berry’s 240 grain plated target hollow point. That bullet is rated for a maximum of 1850 fps, so it could be quite useful from a rifle as well.  I loaded the .44 to two different power levels using six grains and nine grains of Titegroup. 

The 6.0 grain load was very easy and fun to shoot from the heavy revolver. At just under 800 fps, it was comparable to many 230 grain .45 ACP loads. The 9.0 grain load produced considerably more velocity, recoil, and muzzle blast. It was also fun to shoot and still less powerful than full power .44 Magnum ammunition. This load, one full grain under Hodgdon’s listed maximum, averaged 1,067 fps and had a tight standard deviation of just over 10 fps. That impressed me. A 1000 fps to 1200 fps 240 or 250 grain .44 load is quite useful too. I didn’t do any serious accuracy testing with these loads but noticed that I was hitting our steel targets regularly with the more powerful load.

.45 ACP Results—Kimber 5” 1911

This 1997 Kimber was my duty sidearm for most of my law enforcement career. This included patrol, detective, SWAT, and firearms instructor duty. Most of the ammunition shot from it has been 230 grain “hardball” at 800 to 850 fps. Hodgdon specified a load of 4.8 grains of Titegroup. This averaged 809.9 fps with a very impressive 8.5 fps SD! The pistol felt great and functioned well with this load. I did tinker with the overall loaded cartridge length to get reliable feeding using Berry’s 230 grain hollow point.

Berry’s 230 Grain .45 ACP Bullets

The plated bullet is an interesting projectile designed to open up on impact. It can be used for defensive purposes as well as target practice. For reliable expansion, I recommend loading the .45 to higher velocity. My 230 grain duty ammo produced 915 fps from this 5” 1911 and expanded well in actual use. 

.45 Colt Result—Ruger Blackhawk 4.6”

This old three-screw Ruger Blackhawk has cylinders for both .45 ACP and .45 Colt. I used the .45 Colt cylinder for this article. I also have a couple of much older revolvers chambered for .45 Colt—a Colt New Service and a Smith and Wesson. They’re not as strong as the Blackhawk and I load the .45 Colt conservatively out of deference for the older guns. 

For decades, Hornady has produced a line of soft swaged lead handgun bullets. They’re for use at modest velocity, perfect for target shooting. Take for example Hornady’s 255 grain flat point “Cowboy” bullet, intended for use in cowboy action shooting. It’s the traditional weight for the .45 Colt and shoots to the point of aim with my older fixed sight revolvers. The Ruger Blackhawk has an adjustable rear sight, which allows me to accurately fire a variety of different bullet weights at different velocities from it. 

This was my first experience with using Titegroup for the .45 Colt and I am impressed. You may note that the 6.2 grain load produced almost exactly the same muzzle velocity as did the 230 grain .45 ACP load, differing by only .3 fps! This made me smile as a very long time ago, the .45 ACP was designed to emulate the power of the .45 Colt revolver load. I was surprised and pleased with the very tight SD figure of 7.2 fps, even better than we saw with the .45 ACP. 

Shooting these 810 fps loads from the Ruger Blackhawk was a very satisfying experience. The gun felt great in hand, recoil was easy to manage and accuracy was good. I can easily see this becoming my new “standard” .45 Colt load. An added benefit is the powder burns cleanly and leaves very little residue on the firearms, making cleanup a snap. 

Conclusion

Titegroup has become a new favorite powder of mine for everything except maximum level magnum handgun loads. I’ll stick with slower-burning powders and magnum primers for those maximum velocity loads. 

(L to R): .38+P, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, .45 Colt

This fast-burning powder is similar to well-known powders like Hodgdon Clays, Alliant Bullseye and Ramshot True Blue. It did well in all the cartridges we used and extremely well from the big bore handguns. The very tight SD figures particularly impressed me. I have no doubt that Titegroup performs well in many other handgun cartridges. 

I thoroughly enjoy shooting my handguns, semi-auto and revolvers alike. A pound of Titegroup can charge a large quantity of handgun cartridges. One pound equals 7,000 grains by weight. If you are loading a 5.0 grain charge, that’s 1,400 cartridges from a pound of gunpowder! 

Titegroup also burned very cleanly, particularly when using Berry’s plated bullets. I noted that the guns were very clean after a shooting session. This seems to be an ideal powder for modest velocity ammunition for target practice, casual plinking, competition, and perhaps small game hunting. 

After shooting up the ammo for our video, I’ve been busy loading up more .38, .44 and .45 cases with Titegroup! 

Get the Gear

Hodgdon Titegroup Smokeless Powder at Midsouth Shooters Supply

CCI #300 Large Pistol Primers at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Berry’s .38/.357 125 Grain Flat Point-Thick Plate Bullets

Berry’s .44 240 grain Target Hollow Point Bullets

Berry’s .45 230 Grain Hybrid Hollow Point Bullets

Hornady .45 Cal. 454 255 grain FP Cowboy Bullets at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Hornady .44 Magnum Unprimed Pistol Brass at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Hornady .45 ACP Unprimed Pistol Brass at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Hornady .45 Colt Unprimed Pistol Brass at Midsouth Shooters Supply

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Thanks,
Guy Miner

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