Cleanest burning powder.. ever: VihtaVuori N-320. Starting for bullet 125gr 3,8gr.
(on how to pronounce vhitavouri powder name)
Vihta is pronounced like that animal rights group PETA...pee-tah.
Vuori is pronounced like jury...vur-eee.
That's about as close as I can come to a description.
(re: best powder for 9mm)
I use Power Pistol.
It depends what you want from a powder.
low flash for nighttime shooting
Meters [powder measure based on volume] well
Works well with other cartridges you may load.
There are some odd properties:
Power pistol looks and smells like Bullseye, and the only way I can tell them apart is with density.
800X has large flakes that have burned holes in paint it landed on.
H110 smells good when it burns.
I use Power Pistol, because it gives the most power in loads I develop. There are more powerful powders based on what load books say, but the difference is small.
We have talked this to death. BUT the 127 gr 1285 fps is as good or slightly better than the 357 Mag, 125 gr at 1250 fps (fired from the 2 1/2 inch bbl) and this load has been found to be one of the best ,if not the best, load in a handgun to stop the fight!
I will concede this is a +p+ load, but it works and makes my 15 shot 9 a 15 shot 357!
124gr seems to be the "optimal compromise" [sic]. It is light enough to expand reliably (higher velocities), but heavy enough to provide adequate penetration. More importantly, many European handguns achieve their best accuracy with loads that mimic M882 NATO (124gr at @1,200 fps). 9mm 124gr +P defensive loads are comparable.
Shaun is correct that law enforcement favors the 147gr weight, but they are mostly shooting 147gr +P+ loads. You will not be able to afford (or even necessarily find) a steady diet of these.
Depending on the model, 147gr loads may or may not even function in your pistol. Older models will not always feed these loads, and the earliest 9mm designs will not fully stabilize the bullet.
My personal philosophy: Shot placement is so important that I would rather carry a 124gr load that groups well.
I wrote to Sierra and Asked if 1336 fps was too fast for their 124 gr JHP bullets to expand properly. They wrote back that I was at the upper limit, but ok.
For 124gr fmj, 4.6gr of W231 works nicely. Very clean burning, does about 1100fps.
AA#7 and HS-6 are excellent choices and if you like to spend money for powder, few are better than V-V 3N37.
The answer to this question depends on what level of performance you want and what type of bullet you will be using. Steve C is correct, Power Pistol has more flash than any sane person would want for a defense load, so I don't understand why it gets loaded in NATO spec ammo. But, it does.
If you need a NATO type load and want clean, I couldn't disagree with anyone’s choice because that performance range is within the reach of most of them except very fast burners. Universal Clays makes sense.
If you want to replicate a very good +P defense load that is clean with low flash, that's another matter. If you look to the guys that load 9mm major for IPSC, the choices will shrink rapidly. Not that you want to go to that extreme, but say for a good 124 gr. JHP load, AA#7, HS-6, WSF, V-V 3N37, or just make it easy on yourself and get some Ramshot Silhouette. Clean, very low flash with very good velocity potential. The closest rival to V-V 3N37 we have, and at a price that's easier to swallow.;)
Universal Clays is all I use for 9mm anymore. It leaves a bit of bluish black discoloration by the rim and that’s it. IME it's very accurate too.
If you look on the label for Ramshot Silhouette powder it says "NATO standard 9mm powder". I do not see this claim From Alliant for Power Pistol or Bullseye powder.
Alliant makes the claim in their load guide, and I believe the statement Ramshot makes is an indicator of performance and not a claim that it is used by our military. But, it should be! Silhouette is treated to keep flash as low as you're likely to get. It's a spherical powder that meters better and the performance potential is about as good as it gets and IS used by guys loading 9mm Major. Power Pistol doesn't quite get there. It's been a few years, but I learned that Cor-Bon uses AA#7 in their +P loads, though Alliant claimed it was Power Pistol. It's easy to understand why Cor-Bon would use #7. At the velocity they achieve flash is very low and if you try that with PP and fire at night, you'll think you're shooting a mini flamethrower. Not good for the troops, but what else is new? Supposedly, the military version has a flash inhibitor. The last thing you want is an inconsistent powder charge and it is extruded flake, anyway.
Another tidbit: Power Pistol is a larger flake variant of Bullseye. This is done to slow the burn rate.
AA#7, V-V 3N37, HS-6 and Silhouette are the best choices available for hi performance 9mm. Yes, I have and use them all! You can use 231 and others (a tiny bit faster, and those slower to around Unique/Universal) to get close, or to 9mm Nato spec, but they will be at max pressure whereas #7, 3N37, N-350, HS-6 and Silhouette are just getting warmed up. WSF is a contender here also, but data above NATO performance is not commonly available except with the IPSC guys over at Brian Enos' Forum, and that's pretty much the case with most of them unless you have a manual that used the former pressure limit of 35,700 CUP that is very close to the current +P max of 38,500 PSI. Most quality made 9mm pistols are designed for the former spec, but they may be under sprung to conform to current SAAMI spec ammo that has a pressure max of 35,000 PSI/ 33,000 CUP. Longshot will also get you there, but is very loud at max pressure.
Silhouette (Formerly WAP), in my opinion, was Primex's attempt to produce a competitive powder to 3N37 and the base chemistry is similar to two of Primex's (Hodgdon & Winchester) other powders: WSF and HS-6. At max charges, Silhouette loads will run .1 or .2 grains lighter than 3N37. A visual inspection of the two powders, Silhouette and 3N37, will sure make you wonder!
Those that I have recommended are all Ball-type powders that meter well, but nothing meters better than AA#7. It has the highest bulk density of any handgun powder available to handloaders at 985 grams/liter. One advantage #7 has is that it will push 147 gr. JHPs to the highest velocity. You won't see this with 9mm Major competitors because they prefer bullet weights of 115 and 124 grains to maximize the effectiveness of compensators on their pistols. A very honorable mention goes to Vectan SP-2, if you can find it. There is no current US importer. SP-8 is a very good powder and like AA#7, it was designed for 9mm. Data is extremely weak and hard to come by.
I currently have 4 lbs of Silhouette (a little less now) and will be working it out in 9mm and the .40 S&W, where it has already shown great potential. 3N37, HS-6 and #7 are already proven. #7 is Accurate, and has very low flash with 124 gr. JHPs. HS-6 is pretty much the 9mm performance powder that all others are judged by. Blue Dot will give you even higher velocity than PP, but flamethrower flash is a characteristic it shares with PP. This will be common with any extruded flake propellant at high pressure. 800-X is a powder I never use. I don't recommend using a powder that is difficult to meter when you are working towards the pressure max of a cartridge.
Along with Silhouette, I'll be using the Montana Gold (Brass Jacketed) 124 gr. JHP, CCI-500 and Win. cases loaded to 28.5mm/ 1.122".;)
This description for WAP is from Winchesters #14 reloading Guide.
"NEW WAP Winchester Action Pistol propellant is one of the two new powders introduced in 1994. After years of product development, a clean burning, low muzzle flash, low recoil propellant was completed to be factory loaded in Winchester 9mm and 40 S&W ammunition. WAP has a lower flame temperature than competitive products which extends barrel life This powder is the propellant of choice for premium factory loaded high performance ammunition. Ideal for use in competitive action pistol competition in 38 Super, 9mm, and 40 S&W."
Description for Ramshot Silhouette.
Silhouette is a double based, modified (flattened) spherical powder that performs well in medium sized handgun cases. Silhouette's low flash signature, high velocity, and clean burning properties make it a perfect choice for indoor ranges and law enforcement applications.
Ideal Calibers: 9mm, .38 Super, .357 Sig, 10mm
Bulk Density (grams/liter) 800