Performance of Alliant's New BE-86 Pistol Powder
August 05, 2015
Alliant recently introduced a new pistol powder to handloaders, BE-86, that offers high performance for a wide range of calibers. Alliant has load data for just about all common handgun calibers: .32 H&R Magnum, .327 Federal Magnum, .380 Automatic, 9X18 Makarov, 9mm Luger, .357 SIG, .38 Super, .38 Special (and +P), .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, 10mm Automatic, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 Automatic (and +P) and .45 Colt.
BE-86 is an extruded flake powder with a flash suppressant that meters well in automatic powder dispensers. Alliant lists its burn rate between Unique and Power Pistol, which puts it in the class of a medium burn rate pistol powder. It looks like its sibling, Power Pistol, with the addition of small whitish flakes.
Alliant's BE-86 data shows high velocities compared to their other powders for many calibers. Some handloaders want the highest performance from their handloads, and select powders based on their ability to deliver speed. There are usually several powders that will meet this criteria, and new offerings are always welcome. BE-86 was tested for its velocity performance in the .45 ACP, 10mm, .40 S&W, .38 Super and 9mm Luger and compared it with other powders that produce top velocities.
Some BE-86 data is not bullet-brand specific, and lists them as simply FMJ or JHP, so I scoured other loading manuals that used the same type of bullet at a similar overall length. It's important to match load data from the same type of bullet, because jacketed, plated and lead bullets can produce different velocities with the same load. The same bullet in the loading manual was used when possible, such as Hornady or Nosler, but some substitutions were made.
Most test guns had 5" barrels, which were: .45 ACP — Para Ordnance; 10mm — Clark; .40 S&W - Para Ordnance; .38 Super - Colt. The 9mm Luger was fired through a 4" Glock. The published load data from the .45 ACP, 10mm and .38 Super were from 5" barrels. The published data for .40 S&W and 9mm were from 4" barrels. The exceptions were Sierra's .40 S&W data which was from a 5" barrel, and Vihtavuori's .38 Super data which was from a 5.5" barrel.
I used CCI large pistol (300) primers in .45 ACP Winchester brass, Winchester large pistol (WLP) primers in 10mm Starline brass, Winchester small pistol (WSP) primers in Remington .38 Super brass, and Federal small pistol (100) primers in Winchester .40 S&W and 9mm Luger brass. I worked up to the maximum published charge weights and report the velocities from those maximum loads. Velocities are the average of a 10-shot string fired over a Shooting Chrony chronograph at a distance of about 10 feet.
Performance from the standard pressure .45 ACP loads was very close to its published values and differed by no more than 11 feet per second (fps) in every instance. The 185 grain bullets clocked at 1068 fps, and the 230 grain bullets clocked at 934 fps, which are a little faster than most factory loads for these weights. Silhouette produced significantly higher velocity with the 185 grain bullets, achieving nearly 1200 fps (wow!), but a little less velocity than BE-86 with 230 grain bullets.
The +P 185 grain BE-86 load added nearly 100 fps to the standard pressure load, averaging 1161 fps, which is similar to most factory +P ammunition. However, it was not quite as fast as the standard pressure load with Silhouette. There were signs of high pressure in the primers with both of these loads; both had significant primer flow in the test gun.
The +P 230 grain BE-86 load averaged 946 fps. This is on par with CORBON's +P JHP offering. However, it was only 12 fps faster than the standard pressure load. Some folks might wonder why this BE-86 +P load isn't significantly faster than the standard pressure load? Also, why does the +P load use less gunpowder (6.9 gr) than the standard pressure load (7.1 gr)? This seems counterintuitive.
It is mostly due to differences in cartridge overall length. The JHP bullet is seated deeper in the case (1.210" vs. 1.265" for the FMJ) and this raises pressure. More pressure, but with less gunpowder, does not necessarily mean more velocity. Compare this with the 185 grain bullet data, and note that the +P load adds more gunpowder and also seats the bullet out a little farther. This guarantees more speed.
BE-86 pushed the 165 grain bullet at 1363 fps, a little faster than expected. That equals 681 ft.-lbs of muzzle energy. Not bad. Power Pistol did even better at 1435 fps, yielding 754 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. Both of these are hard-hitting loads.
Velocities with BE-86 in the .40 S&W were very high. The 135 grain bullets moved along at 1447 fps, which is about what you would expect from high performance ammunition from boutique ammunition manufacturers in this barrel length. The 180 grain bullets produced an impressive 1140 fps. The loads with Silhouette and Power Pistol also produced outstanding velocity. Silhouette was not quite as fast as BE-86. Power Pistol was only marginally faster.
Thirty-eight Super shooters will also like BE-86. It delivers the high advertised velocities. The 115 grain bullet exceeded 1400 fps, and the 130 grain bullet clocked at 1292 fps was right on the heels of the Super's advertised velocity in the "old days" of 1300 fps. Power Pistol also produced high velocity with the 115 grain bullet and was 50 fps faster than BE-86. Vihtavuori's N105 was a solid 100 fps faster than BE-86 with the 130 grain bullet. This powder always produces impressive speeds for this cartridge.
This new powder produced very impressive performance in the 9mm Luger. It pushed the 115 grain bullet to 1285 fps and the 124 grain bullet to 1203 fps. That's about as good as it gets for the 9mm at standard pressure. In fact, the BE-86 loads were close to +P ammunition from DoubleTap that ran at 1305 fps for a 115 grain bullet and 1257 fps with a 124 grain bullet that I've fired through this same barrel. BE-86 was faster than the other two powders tested, Power Pistol and AutoComp, which are also known for their high-speed capabilities in the 9mm.
BE-86 joins the ranks of high performance powders that can produce impressive velocities for some handgun cartridges and will be welcomed by the speed-freaks among us. Recorded velocities for these five calibers were nearly always a little higher than published velocities. BE-86 produced higher velocities with some loads than another recently introduced powder, CFE Pistol, which was reviewed here.
BE-86's reduced flash should appeal to shooters who like the performance of its sibling Power Pistol, which has a reputation for impressive, albeit distracting, fireballs. BE-86 does not require large charge weights for its impressive performance, and that will help keep recoil down for faster follow-up shots and a more pleasant shooting experience overall. Alliant's new powder has a lot going for it.
The author is not responsible for mishaps of any kind which might occur from the use of this data in developing your handloads. It is the user's responsibility to follow safe handloading guidelines to develop safe ammunition. You use this data at your own risk. No responsibility for the use or safety in use of this data is assumed or implied.