Submit a question to the Ballistic Experts in our Lab

Dear Labby Q&A

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

If you would like to submit a story related to shooting, hunting, or handloading, we would like to read it. Please submit your story here. If it is accepted, your story will be printed on our site, with your name in the by-line.

Submit your Story

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Letters To The Editor

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Free Trial Subscription to
Handloader or Rifle Magazine

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Blackhorn 209 in Bottlenecks

By Bob Shell.

In the past, I have used this propellant in applications that it wasn’t designed for. It is a type of black powder substitute for some but not all black powder weapons. Since it is hard to ignite cap & ball guns and 209 don’t mix. Also small cartridges especially with light bullets perform poorly with 209. Most blanks do better with other propellants. With the insanity going on many smokeless powders are difficult to get. I have walked into a few gun stores and saw bare shelves where the powder usually resided. With that thought in mind, 209 can be looked at as an all-around powder. While it isn’t perfect it will work in a broader range of guns than anything else I have tried. In a pinch perfection isn’t what we are looking for but a chance for survival. With the broad spectrum of calibers I have worked with this is the closest to the perfect all around propellant. Real small rounds such as the 25 and 32 ACP sizes it won’t do very well and may not work at all.

I have used it with success on such diverse rounds as a 12 gauge and 45 auto. We have shot quail with this powder and it functioned a Benelli semi-auto. Shooting a 1 oz. slug 209 works fine producing about 1,000 FPS which would be perfect for home defense. Therefore, to explore other possibilities the idea of modern bottleneck rifle rounds occurred to me. Why not try it in such offerings as a 22-250, 243 and 30-06. The 30-30 and other similar common rounds would be a good testing ground. The idea is to develop a load powerful enough to be useful at closer ranges that you might need in a pinch. Of course, velocity will be less than a standard load but if it is accurate enough at 25 to 50 yards with decent velocity then we can consider it useful. Some of these loads should work well at a hundred yards and perhaps a bit beyond. At the time of this writing powder is extremely difficult to get anywhere and some private sellers are selling it online for two or three times the going price. Unfortunately there are sleaze bags taking advantage of the situation. For your information, I checked with a couple of distributers to see what powders of any kind are available. With smokeless powders, over 95% are not available while black powder and substitutes including 209 are almost 100 % available. In honesty the 209 is more expensive than the other brands since it is tubular and hollow it is more difficult to make. That should give those who reload something to think about though for an emergency cost isn’t a factor. You do use less 209 because it such a low density which will help with cost for the economically minded folks. In a real pinch you can use black powder and Pyrodex in rifles but keep in mind that they are corrosive and you velocity will drop even more. I have done this and for emergency purposes, it will do. In small bore guns the barrel will be fouled up after a few shots something to keep in mind. Use compressed loads in all of the rounds used.

shell209in0672It is a very low-density powder so compressed loads will be the order of the day. In fact, the jug that I received is the standard size for 8 LBS but only 5 will fit in there. I hope that the powder situation will improve but one should be prepared and learning to use alternate powders is one way to improve the ammo situation. Most of the stand byes will not work as well but will do in a pinch. For instance you can use small amounts of pistol powder in a rifle. You will lose much of your velocity but at closer ranges it may do ok. You just have to be careful not to use too much as that may cause dangerous pressure spikes. For example, you can use a small amount of Unique in a 30-06. You will get some useful velocity and accuracy. In fact, with cast bullets it is an excellent choice. Blackhorn 209 is meant as a high performance propellant for certain muzzle loading arms mainly in-lines. It is somewhat difficult to ignite so conventional cap locks and flintlocks won’t work well with it. Surprisingly it meters pretty well in my powder measure considering the size of the grains. Real small capacity rounds don’t do very well with it as velocity is low but for larger cases it works well. I have been successful on making in work and function in a 45 ACP and a 12 gauge semi-auto. My loads in the shotgun have been good enough to harvest quail. I see some promising possibilities in using it for modern bottle neck cases. Like all black powder and their substitutes, it is recommended not to have airspace between the bullet and powder so all of my loads will be compressed. In addition, the idea is to see how much velocity we can safely get out of this propellant. Accuracy is also a consideration along with function in a semi auto. The 30-06 produces enough velocity with a hunting bullet to make it useful. It is in the same area as a 30-30 load which will enable game to be harvested at 100 yards or so. Of course 30-30 bullets can be used to produce the same results as the 30-30.

Blackhorn 209 left casings darkened.

Blackhorn 209 left casings darkened.

The 223 is so popular that 209 should be tried in it. With the small case, I don’t expect a lot but am going to try some heavy 75 to 80 grain bullets. With the 55 grain bullets they ejected but the bolt didn’t always come back far enough to pick up another round. The heavier bullets worked perfectly. The rifle used was a mag change model which is capable of utilizing four different calibers. Barrel was 16” and the velocity while lower than standard 223 would none the less be useful for some work. With the 77 grain bullet a fast twist would be required to stabilize it. With the mild velocities encountered, most cup and core bullets should work ok for most situations. That is one of the advantages of these loads is standard cup and core bullets will produce good results. They will not come unglued as possible with high velocity loads. Thin-jacketed varmint bullets should be excellent defense ammo. Your ES and SD are a result of the compatibility of the powder and bullet. I am working on a piece explaining that in detail.

.223 Remington

55 gr. FMJ: 21 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity 2110 fps. Comment: Extreme Spread – 110 fps

77 gr. Hornady HP: 20 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity 1863 fps. Comment: More consistent.

The 22-250 is fairly common and since it has more capacity than a 223 the heavy bullets might work fairly well. Like all of the rounds, being tested results will be similar in similar cases such as the 220 Swift. The 100 grain is an unusually heavy bullet for a 22 and you would need a barrel with a fast twist to stabilize it. The velocities displayed by the 22-250 would be useful for deer given good bullet placement and a twist fast enough to stabilize a 100 grain bullet. The 100 grain has a high sectional density hence it should have a lot of penetration.

.22-250 Remington

55 gr. FMJ: 30 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity 2829 fps. Comment: OK

100 gr. Specialty: 27 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity 2204 fps. Comment: Nice

Another round that is common is the 243. I am trying a heavily compressed load with a 100 grain flat base bullet. Like all of the other rifles tested though some velocity is lost it will still harvest a deer sized animal at moderate ranges. A 100 grain bullet in the 243 has decent sectional density which would enable it to provide adequate penetration. Since the velocity is fairly low bullet shape and jacket thickness are not as important as it is in higher velocity loads. Round nose bullets would work great since they have a propensity to expand at lower velocities and give adequate penetration. This will be true in any of the calibers tested.

.243 Winchester

100 gr. Trophy Bond, 38 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 2440 fps. Comment: High ES.

The 270 Winchester has been around for many years and is common and well known so it would be appropriate to list a couple of loads for it. For some reason the 130 grain load wasn’t consistent which goes against most of the other loads tested in the 270 and the other rifles. Typically most of the loads were consistent. The nice thing is since the pressure is low top grade cases are not necessary. I used brass that was fired several times and it performed well. I just did the routine checks which included checking for splits and case length.
.270 Winchester

130 gr. Speer Grand Slam, 45 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 2249 fps. Comment: High ES

150 gr. Hornady SST, 42 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 2265 fps. Comments: Nice

The 7 mm -08 started out as a wildcat but was later adopted. It is a 308 necked down with no other changes. It is a good hunting round giving good ballistics with very moderate recoil. Bullets from 100 to 175 grains are usable and anyone who makes ammo does the 08. There is a good selection of lightweight rifles available many at inexpensive prices. This is just another example of a rifle that can be useful with 209. Those velocities are enough to harvest a deer at closer ranges or it is very adequate for home defense. If you use a cartridge similar to the listed ones results will be similar. A 260 Remington would give results similar to the 7 mm 08 given similar bullet weight and sectional density and barrel length.

7mm-08 Remington

140 gr. Sierra BT, 37 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 2132 fps. Comment: Fair

175 gr. Hornady, 36 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 1966 fps. Comment: Very Consistent

The 7 mm Remington magnum has been around for over 50 years and is justly popular so it would make sense to try some 209 in it. The velocity obtained with the 139 would be similar to a 7 X 57 or 7 mm 08 with standard loads.

7 mm Remington Magnum

139 gr. Flat Base, 59 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 2665. Comment: Consistent

The 30-40 Krag has been around for over 120 years and there are still a fairly decent number of rifles still in use. I used a cast bullet in this test but a jacketed one can be substituted.

30-40 Krag

165 gr. Cast bullet, 38 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 1568 fps. Comment: Nice

Since the 308 is universally used it will be included in this test. I used a Springfield Armory SAR 4800 to see how it would feed and cycle this ammo. I shot 150’s and 165’s and except for the first two shots cycling was perfect.

.308 Winchester

150 gr. FMJ, 36.5 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 1907 fps. Comment: Consistent

165 gr. Hornady Interlock, 36 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 1930 fps. Comment: High ES

30-06 Loads all using Blackhorn 209. I used military cases because since they are older and don’t possess the quality of newer cases if a problem crops up it may show more readily with these pieces of brass. Bullets used will be the plain cup & core because hi-tech bullets will not give any advantage because of the lower velocities encountered. Also long tapered boattail bullets will take up more space so cutting down on the powder charge, reducing the velocity. With that thought the more blunt and short the bullet the better. After tapping down powder level was ½ the way up the neck for both the 165 and 180 grain slugs. While I am not going to use a lot of cast bullets a couple might be instructive in a couple of ways. Velocities are similar to full power 30-30 loads so would be useful for the same type of hunting. There is a school of thought that a lot of power is needed for deer size animals. I would say that if you have a bullet of some weight and velocity and possess some hunting skill your hunting will be successful. A little research reveals that a lot of large game has been harvested with lower power rifles and cast bullets and that formula still works. Naturally the long range shots will be ruled out but most big game is shot within 200 yards many much less. At woods ranges, I would feel comfortable hunting with many of these loads. Since these loads are relatively sedate round nose bullets may be more desirable. They would be more likely to open up at low velocities and this would apply to all of the calibers. The 30-30 style flat nose would be ideal as a bullet with a high ballistic coefficient would have no advantage at these velocities and ranges.
.30-06 Springfield

150 gr. Privi FMJ (Garand), 48 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 2198 fps. Comment: Fed Ok

150 gr. Privi FMJ (Bolt Rifle), 48 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 2314 fps. Comment: Consistent

165 gr. Hornady Flat Base, 44 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 2204 fps: Comment: Decent

165 gr. Horn. FB (Garand), 44 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 2198 fps: Comment: Fed Fine

165 gr. Cast FP, 44 grains of Blackhorn209, Velocity: 2182 fps: Comment: High ES

180 gr. Rem. Cor-Lokt, 44 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 2137 fps. Comment: Nice Load

200 gr. Speer Flat Base, 44 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 2052 fps. Comment: Nice

The 30-30 has been around for about 120 years and is very common and it works ok with 209. The velocity isn’t very fast by today’s standards but in a pinch will do ok at close range. You are giving up 5-600 FPS with the 209 but it beats throwing the bullet.

.30-30 Winchester

165 gr. Cast, 25 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 1606 fps. Comment: Consistent

165 gr. Spitzer, 25 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 1565 fps. Comment: Ok

The 300 Winchester mag has been around for over 50 years and is one of the most popular magnum rounds and is well distributed. With that thought in mind some load data with 209 would be useful in an emergency. Heavier bullets should be impressive in this caliber. This load is in the area of a full power 308 which would make it quite a good hunting load.

.300 Winchester Magnum

180 gr., 62 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 2469 fps. Comment: Nice

The 303 is another common military rifle with many still in use. Like the Krag I used a cast bullet with good results.

.303 British
165 gr. Cast Gas Check, 33 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 1869 fps. Comment: Very Consistent
Another oldie is the 32-40 Winchester. It is on the small side for deer but with a 170 grain flat nose enough velocity is produced to make a fairly decent close range hunting load.

32-40 Winchester

170 gr. Hornady, 23 grains of Blackhorn 209, Velocity: 1541 fps. Comment: Accurate

I have a good feel for this powder and the larger the case the more power you can get. I have worked with a lot of obsolete rounds such as the 11 X 60 Gras and the 43 Spanish. The ballistics are impressive for these old rounds. It works ok in a 45-70 but in a 45-120 it is a beast. With a 500 grain bullet I obtained over 1700 FPS and more than a little recoil. I never had any loads that produced excess pressure but I imagine if you took a 378 Weatherby case and necked it down to a 22 pressures might be too high. I have no intentions of trying that out. I have used it in small cases such as a 9.4 Dutch and while it works ballistics are rather pedestrian.