Winchester's 45 Colt and 45 Colt Gov't Cartridge, The Long vs The Short

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Bryan Austin posted this 11 May 2024

We have all seen the debates of the short and long 45 colt arguments. Many different answers as to the origin. 

The following discussion includes several early "OFFICIAL" cartridge names;

  • Frankford Arsenal's Colt's Revolver, Caliber .45, 30gr of black powder and a 250gr bullet
  • WRACo's  .45 Caliber Cartridge For Colt's New Breach Loading Army Revolver
  • UMC's  .45 Caliber Cartridge For Colt's New Breach Loading Army Revolver
  • USCCo's .45 Caliber Cartridge For Colt's New Breach Loading Army Revolver

1873 Military Use - When we speak of the 45 Colt and 45 Colt cartridge, 99% of us first think of the Frankford Arsenal Military cartridge along with Colt's Single Action Army Revolver. This 45 Colt cartridge was different than the commercial version which was loaded with a 250gr bullet and only 30gr of black powder. The commercial loading was too powerful for Frankford's weaker folded head cartridge case, thus the lighter powder charge.

The Frankford Arsenal 45 Colt cartridge was also short lived, lasting only a year or so before being replaced by the shorter 45 Schofield length folded head case, which was used in both the Colt SAA and the S&W Schofield revolvers. I specifically did not call the cartridge the 45 S&W Schofield cartridge because the military cartridge was loaded different than the Schofield commercial cartridge and the nomenclature did not include the commercial title. We all know that the military cartridge was a lighter weight 230gr bullet and a lighter 28gr black powder charge, loaded into an inferior internally Benet primed folded head case.

Left - "Colt's Revolver, Caliber .45"

Right - "Revolver Ball Cartridges, Caliber, .45."

1873-1883 Civilian Use - What many folks do not know, or understand, is that there were commercial 45 Colt cartridges that are different than Frankford Arsenal's military cartridge that were available to civilians that were eventually able to acquire the 45 Colt SAA. These commercial cartridges were manufactured by members of the American Manufactures Association (AMA). The AMA was a monopolistic organization that was made up of three major manufactures, W.R.A.Co., U.M.C. and U.S.C.Co.

Incidentally, it was this AMA organization that tried to put Franklin Olin (U.C.C.Co./W.C.Co. [Union Cap & Ball Company/Western Cartridge Company] out of business, or at least prevent him from manufacturing center-fire cartridges in 1899.

More than likely this is the reason that all three cartridge box labels from the AMA manufactures were nearly identical.

W.R.A.Co., Winchester Repeating Arms Company

 

U.M.C., Union Metallic Cartridge Company (post-1884 example)

 

U.S.C.Co., United States Cartridge Company

 

These commercial 45 Colt cartridges reportedly used 40gr of black powder and a 250gr bullet along with the newer solid-head external, highly competitive and patented center-fire primers, making them much stronger and more powerful than the military 45 Colt cartridges.

 

Back To The "Schofield" cases...clear as mud...

Meanwhile, at some point, and for unknown confirmed reasons...the shorter Schofield cases and lighter loads must have been, or become popular at some point. It is unclear to me as to the availability of the 45 Schofield cartridges for the S&W revolvers for the commercial market in the early years, but later post 1920's advertisements show the cartridges with a 250gr bullet and 35gr of black powder. Does the movie 3:10 to Yuma ring a bell??

 

This 1895 WRACo add shows the 45 Colt SAA and 45 Schofield revolver cartridges

Here is a later offering from REM-UMC for the .45 S&W Schofield Model revolver.

 

This 1925 WRACo add shows the official names and headstamps

 

Switching gears...the name calling...long vs short...

For other unknown reasons, it appears that WRACo, UMC and at least Peters offered what was called a 45 Colt Gov't cartridge at some point post 1920. This cartridge was of the Schofield length, but NOT of the Schofield loading. They used the early Frankford Arsenal type loading of 28, but switched to 30gr by the 1930's...but did retain the lighter 230gr bullet.

The confusing part, is that without a box to know the official name, the head-stamp on both long and short cases were the same... W.R.A.Co. 45 Colt and REM-UMC 45 Colt. However, the Peter's headstamp was Peters 45 C Gov't.

Guy Hildebrand photo

 

  • UMC 45 Colt, smokeless cartridge (250/255)
  • UMC 45 Schofield, black powder (250)
  • REM-UMC 45 Schofield, black powder (250)
  • REM-UMC 45 Colt Gov't, smokeless powder
  • WRACo 45 Colt, black powder
  • WRACo 45 Schofield, smokeless powder (250)
  • WRACo 45 Colt Gov't, black powder (30/230)
  • Peters 45 Colt Gov't, black powder (30/230)

 

This reported 1921 Winchester 45 Colt Gov't box shows 28gr powder and a 230gr bullet...replicating the 1875 Frankford 45 Schofield Revolver's military, "Revolver Ball Cartridges, Caliber, .45.", revolver load for both the 45 Colt SAA and the 45 S&W Scofield revolvers.

 

Later 45 Colt Gov't examples show as late as 1934, and reported discontinued by 1938.

 

 

Thus the conclusion;

Cartridge Names

  • 45 Colt, military load and commercial load, 250gr bullet
  • 45 Colt Gov't, military load, 230gr
  • 45 S&W, commercial load, 250gr bullet
  • 45 Colt Gov't,  commercial load 230gr bullet
  • 45 Auto, 230gr bullet

 

 

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fc60 posted this 11 May 2024

Greetings,

Thanks for a very interesting and educational read.

In today's world with SAAMI standardization I believe it is now called "45 Colt".

I shall continue to ignore those that call it the "45 Long Colt"

I also spell bullets with a "u".

Cheers,

Dave

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Aaron posted this 12 May 2024

Absolutely understandable and mostly due to corporate marketing. Imagine if you will, a computer historian or researcher 150 years from now trying to explain the differing USB connectors in use in the 21st century! Did they have a USB, USB-c, a USB Long, a USB thin, a USBa....

Or computer hard drives, or not.

 

 

 

With rifle in hand, I confidently go forth into the darkness.

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Bryan Austin posted this 12 May 2024

Imagine if you will...remember I mentioned Franklin Olin trying to get pushed out of business in 1899....go take a gander at any of your current, most recent box of Winchester ammunition and look at the actual manufacture...Olin Winchester LLC. Yeap, the man not only never went out of business, but purchased Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1931.

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Ed Harris posted this 12 May 2024

Great stuff!

This should be published in The Fouling Shot as an example of "what you are missing out on if you don't visit the CBA Forum!"

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 12 May 2024

This is a comprehensive history. Easily understood, very thorough, and great graphics.  

Farm boy from Illinois, living in the magical Pacific Northwest

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Bryan Austin posted this 12 May 2024

I have the ruff draft on google docs and plan on transferring it to Microsoft Word/Office in the future when I finalize the data. I tend to do things backwards.

 

I will also be adding some cartridge examples to the 44-40/45 Colt cartridge page and the 45 Colt page

 

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fc60 posted this 12 May 2024

Greetings,

When the document is complete, please port it to a PDF so all can read.

Cheers,


Dave

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linoww posted this 12 May 2024

Great bunch of information ,really appreciated you took the time.

"if it was easy we'd let women do it" don't tell my wife I said that!

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Bryan Austin posted this 17 May 2024

66 years of the 45 Colt Cartridge 

A few cartridge examples, simplified list

 

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Bryan Austin posted this 21 May 2024

I think I will just leave this current version here: If you wish to download the file, click the "File" in the upper left side and select download....then download the version you desire...PDF etc.

 

I am going to gather some actual cartridge data, but will post/share separately.

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Bryan Austin posted this 5 weeks ago

From my research from cartridge dissections and what little catalogs are available, It would appear that the 45 Colt used a 250/255 grain lead bullet and typically 40/35 grains of black powder or a specific charge of smokeless powder.

The 45 Colt Gov't, regardless of manufacture, used a 230 grain lead bullet and 28 to 35 grains of black powder. Eventually flowing over into the 45 Auto (ACP).

The 45 Schofield used a 250 grain lead bullet with black powder or smokeless powder...looking more into this.

At some point between 1919 and 1921, to maybe 1939...REM-UMC loaded a shorter cased 45 Colt head stamped cartridge with 5 grains of Bullseye smokeless powder and a 250 grain lead bullet. I can not find further details for this load. It is basically a 45 Schofield load with a 45 Colt head stamp by REM-UMC.

I am discovering that the 45 Schofield saga is a bit retarded and may take up a lot more of my time in the near future.

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Bryan Austin posted this 5 weeks ago

Been staring at me the whole time...

 

UMC discontinued all but one black powder charge (40/35/28)...now confidently assuming at least one of the previously reduced powder charges was the shorter cased 230gr 45 Colt cartridge. They do not specify which powder charge was available in 1923, but they do specify a 250 grain lead bullet and not the standard 230gr lead bullet. I have yet to acquire a 250gr black powder sample.

1923 U.M.C. catalog. I do not have catalogs 1920 thru 1922, nor post 1923 catalogs. 1933 catalogs on up do not list anything long or short cases...and all seems phased out by 1939. No mention of any short cases 250gr smokeless colt cartridges that I have samples of.

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Bryan Austin posted this 3 weeks ago

As I mentioned earlier, Peters offered the 45 Colt Gov't cartridge, as well as other manufactures. Peters is the only one that headstamped their 45 Colt Gov't cartridge as such. I also mentioned that the 45 Colt Gov't cartridge manufactured by Winchester and UMC, all were loaded (initially) with a 230gr lead bullet just as Frankford Arsenal did for the shorter 45 Colt case for the 45 Schofield revolver back in 1875.

Lets look at Peter's (price list) on how it was listed.

By April 15, 1901, Peters (price list)listed the 45 Colt Gov't cartridge only as "Colt's U.S.A. (28gr)". It was not until October 1912 that the bullet weight was listed...and listed as 230gr Lead....thus the 45 Colt Gov't load, just like Winchester and U.M.C..

Peters April 15, 1901

Peters Oct 1912
Smokeless Loads in (Red) "Sergeant" and "Snatch", the others were Kings Semi-Smokeless

 

 

Does anyone have commercial catalogs from those dates...or cartridge box photos?

 

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