Hercules 2400

Reliable smokeless powder covers lots of bases
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Somewhere in my collection of reloading manuals dating back some four decades is an old Speer manual — the first one I ever owned when I began reloading .357 Magnums in earnest — with an earmarked page with a load circled for the 125-grain Speer JHP with Hercules 2400.

Every handloader has a starting point. This was mine.

Over the years, it has become a habit to update my library with new manuals to keep up with revisions. Always I’ve paid attention to any change in recommended loads using 2400, whether it was manufactured under the Hercules brand or now that it is an Alliant propellant.

The late Elmer Keith often mentioned 2400 as the propellant he used with his .44 Magnum loads, and for a long time it was my only choice for the .357 and .41 Magnum cartridges. Today, of course, I’ve also adopted Hodgdon’s H110 for magnum loads. Suffice to say both powders are proven performers.

Years ago, one of my pals loaded up a box of .38 Specials with, if I recall correctly, 10 grains of the Hercules 2400 for which the Speer manual No. 11 advised using CCI 350 magnum small pistol primers. They were pretty zippy loads.

I started using 17.0 grains of 2400 behind a 220-grain Speer soft point, the old half-jacket bullet with the top end looking like a lead semi-wadcutter. Out of my Ruger Blackhawk with the 6.5” barrel, the bullet left the muzzle at just over 1,200 fps, which impressed the heck out of me.

For the 200-grain Speer half-jacket hollowpoint, I stayed cautious and loaded up with 17.5 grains of 2400 and got about 1,300 fps, as I recall and it shot very flat. I liked those old half-jacket projectiles and never had one let me down with a jacket separation.

Somewhere back in the dark shadows of time, I came into possession of a really old can of 2400 and there was actually still a very small amount of powder inside. I never bothered to use it in a cartridge as I had no idea of its actual pedigree, but the can is something one might expect to see on the shelf of an old sporting goods Mom-and-Pop store. Once at a gun show, some guy told me there are people who collect such things — nostalgia, one supposes — but I’ve never offered it for sale anywhere because it reminds me of a time far away, when my dad and grandpa would take me along on a morning hunt, even if I was a damned nuisance.

I remembered having seen a burn rate chart for all the propellants available at the time (2018). Alliant 2400 is in the top third (#54 on a list of 163 powders), putting it slightly ahead of H110 (#63) but behind Hodgdon CFE Pistol (#42).

Full disclosure: A different burn rate chart posted in 2012 listed Alliant 2400 at #76, with H-110 at #87.

So Many Advances

Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to see the development of new propellants formulated to wring everything possible out of a particular cartridge. The choices are remarkable and my hat is off to the wildcatters who have developed new cartridges or at least new loads using some of these powders.

But always, the old reliable 2400 holds its own. Recently one Sunday afternoon while I was on the patio oiling a couple of cartridge belts, I remembered a box of .357 cases had been waiting for attention for months.

I went out to the workshop, checked on my available powder and there was an unopened pound of Alliant 2400. A quick glance confirmed I had plenty of primers and two full 100-count boxes of 125-grain Hornady XTP hollowpoints.

The cases had been wet tumbled and cleaned up just like new, then allowed to dry for a few days in a very warm greenhouse. All that was necessary was to install the dies and get to work. It was a very enjoyable afternoon, followed by a quick trip to the range to fire a few out of my 2 ½” Model 19 Smith & Wesson, which proved to be accurate enough to hit broken chunks of somebody’s clay targets left at the 25-yard berm. (I can’t do that all the time, but when I do, it’s worth writing about!)

There’s a sense of accomplishment for everybody who loads up a box of ammunition that turns out to be accurate shot-to-shot. Considering recent ammunition shortages, I also had a bit of smugness because I took a quick inventory and determined there is no reason to panic at the thought of empty shelves.

I can use 2400 in my .45 Colt, .41 and .357 Magnums and .38 Specials, and even for my .32 H&R Magnum-chambered Ruger Single Six using the 100-grain bullet.

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