Target loads in .45 Colt

  • Last Post 25 January 2017
45ACPete posted this 15 June 2016

Loaded 50 rounds yesterday--Saeco 200g SWC (H & G 68 clone) w/6.0g Unique.  I've had good results with this load before although I may have previously used powder from a newer can of Unique.  Anyway, this older can produced two squibs which didn't reach the target at 50 yds.  The remaining 48 rounds all did OK--my scores averaged 82 per ten shot string on the standard NRA 50 yd target--using a two hand hold.  There was a fair amount of unburned powder on the cement froor of the range when I finished.  What do you think?  Powder showing its age?  Or just too skimpy a load for those cavernous cases?

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Duane Mellenbruch posted this 15 June 2016

Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook, 4th edition shows start load for a similar bullet as 7.5 grains. Looks like an excessively reduced load.

Edit  This data reference is for the 200 gr RF not the 200 gr SWC.

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onondaga posted this 15 June 2016>45ACPete

Checked and verified, page 285, 4th Ed.Lyman cast bullet handbook. The minimum load for a 200 gr cast SWC in 45 Colt is listed as 8.6 gr Unique for 918 fps.  Your load at 6.0 gr Unique is dangerously unsafe. You may even have bullets stopping partway in the barrel with that light of a charge.

If you are concerned with the ignition of low volume charges in the 45 Colt, use H. Titegroup recommended loads as Titegroup is Hodgdons easiest and most dependable igniting powder with low volume charges in high volume cases. Hodgdon specifically markets Tightgroup for this purpose and it does extremely well in light charges. Titegroup is definitely the easiest to light of all Hodgdon pistol powders.


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M3 Mitch posted this 15 June 2016

Maybe it's Uncle Rickover's influence on me, but I make it a point when loading to have:

  1. The one and only can of powder I am using at the time on the bench, with all others under the bench

  2. The one and only manual I am using is open to the page showing the load I'm doing.

For example I have loaded “softball” .45ACP for decades with 3.5 grains of Bullseye and that same H&G 68 200 grainer.   But, if I am actually loading it, I have the book open and verify that it is indeed a listed, tested load. The same as having a printed procedure open when doing work in a nuclear plant. Because the consequences of an error can be severe.

Just sayin'. Not to preach to you, just trying to re-enforce the idea of doing things the right way, so we all keep our old guns undamaged, and more significantly don't get hurt in a blowup!

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Ed Harris posted this 15 June 2016

If you want to load light gallery loads in the .45 Colt below 800 fps for cowboy shooting, the faster powders such as Bullseye, Red Dot, 700-X and WST give better results, about 5.5-6.0 grains as a start load. Trail Boss is also good at the same charge level.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Larry Gibson posted this 15 June 2016

45ACPete   Obviously the 6 gr load of the older Unique gave inconsistent ignition. If that load was consistent before with newer Unique then the same load with the older Unique is obviously “too skimpy". I have tested (pressure, velocity and accuracy) numerous loads in the 45 Colt for low end just barely legal CASS competition.

I found that even the new Alliant (not so “new” anymore) Unique is not suited for such low level loads with cast bullets lighter than 230 gr. No dangerous pressures were observed with such loads it's just that they gave very inconsistent ignition/burning. I went down to 4.5 gr Aliant Unique with 185 - 205 gr cast bullets. Never came close to sticking a bullet in the barrel (revolver or closed breach test gun) but the internal ballistics (psi ES) were very poor when measureable. At the very low end the psi's were not even measureable. The external ballistics (fps ES) and on target accuracy (25 yards) also verified that Unique was not really suitable fore such loads.

As mentioned the faster powders are better suited for use with the 200 +/- gr cast bullets in the 45 Colt. VVN320, Bullseye and Red Dot worked better than Unique in my tests.

Still, even those faster powders do not perform at their best in the large 45 Colt case under 200 gr or lighter cast bullets with charges less than 6.2 gr. That is why the 45 Schofield and the 45 Colt or Schofield cases trimmed to 45 ACP length and used in 45 Colt or 45 ACP cylinders has become very popular in CASS competition. In those smaller capacity cases cast bullets of 155 - 200 gr can be pushed efficiently at 400+ fps. It makes the 45 cal revolvers almost as competitive as the 38 SPLs......almost......Some CASS shooters do successfully use such light loads of Unique though.    Let us note that accuracy is not the essential need in a SASS/CASS load; low recoil is.  Such loads as used are “minute of CASS steel target” out to max range of 25 yards used for handguns in SASS/CASS matches.  Those steel targets are generally generous in size.  The better SASS/CASS shooters not only have low recoiling loads but also have accurate loads.....AND, their revolvers are zeroed for those loads.  However, if you are target shooting, especially out to 50 yards on the NRA target then consistent accuracy is the need as you obviously know. 

Anyways the 200 gr cast bullet (200 RFs, 185 - 205 SWCs) are the staples in my own two 45 Colt revolvers and M1873 Carbine. I mostly shoot those in the Contender also. I use Bullseye powder but since I do not compete is CASS my loads are developed for the carbine (1200 fps) and then used in the revolvers where they are quite accurate.

Since you're shooting 50 yards on the NRA target you might either up the Unique load with that lot of powder a bit or, preferably, switch to a faster powder.

FYI; the Lyman #3 CBH shows a start load of 6 gr Unique (Hercules) under a 175 gr cast bullet.  My testing of that load with a 185 gr cast bullet proved barely suitable for SASS/CASS shooting but was not what I would call “accurate".


Concealment is not cover.........

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Ed Harris posted this 15 June 2016

Larry's advice is solid. I have also found that the heavier bullets which use an increased seating depth to occupy more of the free airspace in tbe case, such as Accurate 45-259EB, perform very well down to .455 Webley velocities, 600 fps with 5.5 grains of Bullseye in .45 Colt brass, and nearly silent in a rifle with barrel of 24 inches or longer.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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45ACPete posted this 16 June 2016

Thanks to all for your comments. I guess I was thinking I could use the same load that I've used in my Colt New Service--a load (6g Unique) that raps the knuckle of my middle finger pretty solidly. But, that's with a heavier bullet and the smaller .45 AutoRim case--a different animal! I do have Bullseye, TiteGroup, Red Dot, and 700X--will try them all.

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TheMrNotSoFamous posted this 16 June 2016

I believe you'll have better success with one of the quick burners such as those given above. I use either Bullseye or 700x for my light accuracy loads. Good luck and Happy Shootin'!

Owning a firearm doesn't make you armed anymore than owning a guitar makes you a musician...words of Jeff Cooper

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Dale53 posted this 07 November 2016

When faced with the above problem, I “cheat". I put in the .45ACP cylinder in my Ruger SS Bisley .45 Colt/.45ACP convertble and shoot my standard target load which works extremely well.

Pete, maybe you could have a .45 ACP cylinder fit?

Just a thought or two...


FWIW, Dale53

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Ed Harris posted this 08 December 2016

Dale53 has the right approach.  I use .455 Webley rounds in the .45 ACP Kirst Kartridge Konversion cylinder for my Ruger Old Army and get about 700 fps with 3.5 grains of Bullseye and a 240-grain Accurate 45-240H1 bullet.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Bud Hyett posted this 08 December 2016

The .45 Colt is a separate cartridge from the .45 ACP and adding in the individual gun's characteristics will make this a separate venture. 

This is for the Smith and Wesson and Ruger pistols as a target and plinking load. I have found 8.0 grains Unique with the H&G 200 grain sem-wadcutter to be the minimal reliable load. This is with a .015 roll crimp to aid ignition. 

I load 6.5 grains Unique for the Colt SAA and New Service with the same H&G 200 grain sem-wadcutter due to strength of these guns plus not wanting to wear them out. This is again with a .015 roll crimp to aid ignition. 

There is the Elmer Keith Memorial Long Range Match near Spokane where I shoot the .45 Colt. This load is 9.3 grans of Unique with the SAECO 954 235 grain bullet and a .015 roll crimp to aid ignition.  The range is 140 yards for the first set of targets, 200 yards, 300 yards and out to 600 yards. I have found the semi-wadcutter loses accuracy beyond 50 yards and I must go to the SAECO, or the RCBS 45-235-RN in the past, to hit the target. 

Farm boy from Illinois, living in the magical Pacific Northwest

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dan l posted this 08 January 2017

I bet the cases didn't expand and had a lot of soot. More powder will not hurt a thing I shoot the same 200 SWC with Titegroup with good results above min but not max load.

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hanover67 posted this 24 January 2017

I have a Smith & Wesson 2nd model hand ejector in .455 converted to .45 Colt. I got a Lyman 45468 mold which cats .455” 182gr hollow base bullets with my range scrap alloy.  I'm planning to use 4.5gr of 700X as a starting load. I don't have any Webley cases, so I'm going to stick with the .45 Colt for the time being.

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papertrl posted this 24 January 2017

45ACPete mentioned “ Colt New Service--a load (6g Unique) that raps the knuckle of my middle finger pretty solidly."

I'm familiar with that knuckle rap! On an arthritic knuckle it hurts like heck! That's one of the reasons my 45 Colt stays in the gun safe more often than I'd like. I've tried to avoid the trigger guard by gripping lower with my little finger ending up under the gun butt. Doesn't do much for my accuracy. How did the old timers do it? I appreciate this discussion of lighter loads. 

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Bohica793 posted this 25 January 2017

My personal experience has been that 5.5 grains of Trail Boss under a 454-190 is a beautiful thing. Mild and accurate in both the Ruger SA and the Win 92.

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