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Trail Boss from IMR (now owned by Hodgdon) is a new powder developed by the Australian company ADI, Ltd for the low velocity cast bullet loads favored by the Cowboy Action Shooting crowd. This powder is unique in a several ways; first it seems to be insensitive to its position in the case. Tilt the gun up, or down and velocity stays consistent. Using 50% or more of the case capacity surely helps with that.
It’s also a bit more expensive than powders like Alliant or Hodgdon. The can of Trail Boss I found was $1.54 / ounce. The last can of Unique I bought was $1.25 / ounce, making Trail Boss about 23% more expensive. Fortunately like other fast powders it goes a long ways. Depending on the caliber you can easily get 1,000+ loads from that 9 oz can.
It’s very bulky for its weight, using approximately 78% more volume by weight than Unique. It’s so bulky the common Hodgdon can only holds 9 ounces of Trail Boss.
Mike Venturino reported in GUNS magazine that even with a double charge Trail Boss won’t reach proof load pressures. That may well make this the safest powder available. With most other powders, especially spherical powders, double or even triple loads will fit inside the case without spilling over.
To illustrate how bulky Trail Boss is I filled various cases with H110, Trail Boss and Unique to see just how case filling this powder is. This is not load data, it is simiply how much powder will fit in each case.
It’s a rather odd looking powder, almost like Cherrios. Each grain is very thin, the grains are like a small disk of construction paper with a small hole punched in the middle. I’m sure IMR designed it that way to increase the bulk without increasing the weight.
It’s certainly a light, fluffy, powder. The slightest draft that doesn’t disturb spherical powders will blow Trail Boss across the bench.
38 Special, 4.0gr Traill Boss, Leadheads 168gr Keith, 1.506" OAL, WSP primer, Federal brass, 4" Ruger GP100
44 Special, 5.0gr Traill Boss, generic 240gr LSWC, 1.500" OAL, WLP primer, Starline brass, 4" S&W M29-2
45 Colt, 5.0gr Traill Boss, Black River 255gr LSWC, 1.650" OAL, WLP primer, Federal brass, 5.5" Ruger Bisley
Each of these went into one hole approximately 1" across shooting hand held over the chronograph at 20 feet. I was more surprised by the velocity these loads churned up. It seems IMR might be underestimating the velocity of their loads, something not often seen in powder companies load data. As expected with low pressure loads the primers showed no signs of flattening at all. Cases came out a bit sooty, but not more than I get when shooting any cast bullet. Trail Boss doesn’t seem any dirtier than most other powders, and cleaner than the old Unique.
All in all Trail Boss seems to be a decent step forward for shooters. It may not be a terrific breakthrough, but it can easily remove the dangers of double charging and do away with erratic results due to the powder position in large cases.