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A MAJOR FEATURE ARTICLE THAT WILL BE SOMEWHAT CONTROVERSIAL
Those that voraciously disagree with the word ĎLONGí in the phrase 45 Long Colt............donít e-mail me.....my spiritual brother (for almost a lifetime), and dear friend, John Taffin, has been trying to change my position for decades....and John may be correct, as all of you may. But in this, I am unrepentant...why? Because among other reasons, I have a full box of 45 Short Colt ammo produced in 1883 and that got me to really investigate! Not Schofield...but ď45 Short ColtĒ Ammunition.....(230 grain bullet/hollow base/28 grains B.P.) People back then called them LONG or SHORT Colts when making purchases......so do I today.
My loads are mine, in my guns......you dear reader are on your own in reloading. Like any reloading information mine can not be taken directly...using sound and proven reloading practices is essential. I say this because I am giving information on some loads from my guns that are above SAAMI specs for pressure, loads that John probably would never want in his home, let alone in his guns.
There are 1892 action rifles and there are 1892 action rifles, age is the thing. And they can be as different in strength as granite and sand stone...they can look the same, feel the same, some will take the pressure of heavy loads, others will not. Itís up to the owner to find out where his Ď92 is on the age and strength question. Also there are Marlin and Winchester actions less strong than the 92s, they are in the 94 class...and then there are the 1873 reproductions (the originals didnít come in 45Colt), but Iíll give some guide lines on all of these...thatís all they can be....GUIDELINES.
It was always interesting, but puzzling to me while reloading and working with guns during my 35 year period before 1985. (Yes my reloading experience is now well over 50 years and I have reloaded ammo on three different Continents, in many, many countries). Why was a leveraction never chambered in the 45 Colt round from a major manufacturer before 1985? It was from the 1850s to 1985, almost 130 years before Winchester finally put out a Ď94 action levergun chambered for the round. Lots of folks have written about reasons for this...and some of them have been correct...some not even close.
But the research I did back in 1984/85 for my first book on leverguns shows that the 45 Colt handgun round was a proprietary round developed and patented by Colt for the Army. And Colt never gave permission to other companies to chamber any guns for it. That included S&W, Winchester, and later Marlin....so the 44-40 became the revolver/rifle classic. Colt did sell 45 caliber handguns to the public early on when U.S. Army orders slowed...but wouldnít let other manufacturers chamber for it. Thatís not being critical of Colt, itís a fact of history....so by the time the patents and design copyrights fell into public domain two decades plus later....the 44-40 and 38-40 class of rounds dominated. And then rather large cased calibers followed to make the leveraction rifles very potent long arms. So these big rounds created no profitable reason to go to the 45 Colt handgun rounds in rifles, after the 45 Colt patents were expired. Rounds like Winchesterís 45-65...and Marlinís 1881 leveraction in 45-70 eclipsed the need for the 45 Colt in rifles.
By the way, for those that are a little picky, and have noticed I have been calling the 45 Colt round just that, not the long Colt......thatís because we must be historically correct for all the fanatics. The term Ďlong Coltí came into being when the Army played around with the shorter round in 45....to fit the Schofield S&W total ejection revolver. And why do you suspect S&W didnít just chamber the S&W revolver for the Colt round? I have heard all the reasons, the S&W couldnít take the pressure of 40 grains of black powder and the 255 grain bullet...the action of the S&W was too short for the longer Colt round....also even if S&W did make the cylinders longer the ejecting system could not completely extract them. Wrong on all counts.
All of that fails as reasoning when you take into account S&W could have made their guns to any design they wanted....and certainly the modern repos in 45 long Colt contain the pressures, and eject very well.....now before someone yells about the older guns being made of weak steel...even wrought iron of that day was really mild steel. The gun steel of the day was fairly strong...we had learned how to carbonize steel even back then. The reason for not shooting smokeless powder in real black powder single actions...is because of smokeless powderís pressures and very fast peak burning curves, especially with pistol powders... plus the age and long use of original S&Ws obviously would have weakened them.
I have no doubt the S&W 45 Schofields back then would have easily contained the pressure of 40 grains of black..so with minor changes S&W could have done it. So why didnít they chamber for the 45 Colt round? It was still proprietary to Colt, during the Armyís testing time of the Schofield. Also the S&W revolver was designed around a short 44 case, why redesign the gun and change tooling and manufacturing process, when you can just change the caliber and chambering and use a short 45 case.
So S&W made a round that could be used in both the Colt single action Army and the Schofield...the problem was the 45 Colt round was too long for the original Schofields. And that created a logistics nightmare for the Army, and also many complained about the decrease in power. But because of the Schofield handgun the 45 Short Colt was born...and many other types of handguns on the market in the mid 1880s thru and into 1900s, were also chambered for the short round...because they couldnít for the Colt full size round. When the patents ran out on the Colt 45, the need for the short Colt chambering was no longer there. Short ammo was made right up into the late 1930s....at the start of the 2nd World War it was dropped from production and never really brought back except for short runs...till now and Cowboy Action shooting gaining popularity in the last few years...of course they call it the Schofield load...thatís nostalgia as far as Iím concerned, not history. Black Hills makes a really fine Schofield load....and it is the berries as a small game load in my 45 Colt chambered rifles. Even in the new Legacy 454 carbine.
And there are two ways to look at any reality, both are true and interlinked....1. The reality of who and what we think we are inside us, and the real world as it really is outside of us...all around us no matter what we see....the problem is what the great Apostle Paul said... ďwe see thru a glass darkly...Ē Part of what he meant (I submit this is only part of it for the Theologists reading this), part of the interpretation of that, is we see thru our own internal emotional filters...so we donít see clearly. I for one am guilty of that...why?????....Iím human. So even this whole question of long Colt or Colt is up to our filters...personally I think you should call it what you like...there is just not enough things that make us happy in this world... lets keep the ones that do.
Back to guns.....the 45 long Colt in a strong 1892 action...made of modern steel will contain the same pressures that the Winchester Big Bore action will contain and even a bit more....50,000 cup..easily. (My article on the new Legacy/Puma 454 carbine is posted on www.gunblast.com(My article on the new Legacy/Puma 454 carbine is posted on www.gunblast.com But I still feel that it is not designed in a way that it will take a long sustained use of the full pressure of the 454 loads at 60,000+ lbs. So donít go there with even a modern Rossi, Browning, or Winchester 92. I have tested the new Legacy(Rossi) Puma in 454....there are changes in the little carbine, good changes...the most noticeable is what they have done to try and keep the loading tube from shearing the muzzle holding screw...and the change in how you load....much like lever 22RFs. I still think they are going to have problems...I hope not...it is a small packable rifle, that gives the bottom end power of a heavy loaded 45-70.
If Legacy truly has a 92 action that will take 454 full pressures over a sustained high number of rounds fired...like 10,000 of them...then they have made some changes to the steel and the design we donít know about...in my tests now over one thousand heavy pressure commercial and in handloads, the 454 Legacy has performed wonderfully. I actually thought with full loads it wouldnít sustain even that. But Iím now glad I can say I was wrong.!
Something has changed..I know a very late model, carbon steel built Browning/Winchester 92, will not take more than a few hundred rounds of 454 pressures before it gets a beginning case of bolt set back. My 1990s 45 Colt Rossi model Ď92 with 24 inch octagon barrel also didnít do well at the 60,000 lb. Level of pressure. One Winchester was so bad, the mortises on the bolt itself had to be peened back in place, and the steel bolt blocks had to be given Mig Weld lines up the front of them, and ground and refitted to regain action tightness. In our case, I was reloading 45 long Colt cases to 60,000+cup. When a modern Rossi...a Christmas present from my children and wife three years ago, is loaded to a top end of 50,000 cup....no damage has occurred after thousands of rounds.
Because of the changes in todayís steels (since the discoveries during the 2nd WW, I would worry about any converted old 1892 Winchesters to 45 long Colt) modern Browning, Winchester, Legacy and Nave Arms, are made today from excellent steels and will take magnum pressures...Remember the first 357 magnum S&W rounds were rated at 47,000 psi. We tested original 1935 first run ammo in 357 revolvers last year and they gave well over 1500 fps from an S&W N-Frame 8 inch+ revolver...so the pressures had to be up there. The modern 92s no matter the caliber will easily take magnum handgun pressures. Certainly they take hot 44 magnum pressures without problems, so they will take the same in reloads with the 45 long Colt. Iím sure most know by now that friends John Taffin, Brian Pierce, Jim Wilson, Jim Taylor, myself and others have killed the big lie that 45 Colt brass is weaker than 44 magnum brass...or any other type. So 45 brass at these high pressures is not a problem.
So where are we.....? Modern 92s, factory chambered in 45 long Colt can take 50,000+ cup loads. But I wouldnít trust custom rebuilt old 92 actions in 45 long Colt to be able to sustain those top pressures, unless I knew the date of the action, and it was at the very least well after the 1930s. Also I have found that some of the heavy loads I use daily in my Ruger S/As in long Colt, are too warm for the early 1980s Winchester 94 actions in 45 long Colt. I have blown extractors, loosened ejectors, on them. Now that is my warm loads in the Rugers. Most folks donít load that high...and I can understand that.
So I would put the very upper limit on pressure in these fine model 94 Winchester and Marlin leveractions at 40,000+ cup...the same as the 30-30 class of top pressures for deer, black bear, and hogs. Use top 45 Colt loads for hunting and such, but lesser loads for fun, small game, pests, and varmints. They work really well on any size feral dogs or good sized Ďyotes.
Remember a medium load of 1600 fps for a 300 grain bullet from a 45 long Colt rifle at acceptable pressure with the right powders...and that can give 1700+ lbs of muzzle punch...!!!! Even a simple low pressure load that gives only 1000 fps with a 300 grain cast bullet gives over 660 ft.lbs of muzzle energy...so the Winchesters and the Marlins in normal actions give plenty of power. And in the lower 48..(lower 48 states) one could wonder why you would need more power than the standard Marlins and Winchesters in 45 long Colt. I like the 92 actions because I love the rifles....and having the potential of extra power when and if needed also helps...but itís the actions I love. At the right range even Moose in the Minnesota regions will fall to 1700 to 1800 lbs of muzzle energy...with the right bullet.
Since few of us get to hunt moose in the lower 48, it is a moot question. But it will put elk, large wild boar, and big black bears right out of this life.....swiftly....When the right bullet is placed right, like in any hunting with any caliber....
Cast Performance (link on front page of Sixgunner.com), produces a WFN in 45/300 grain that is a killer with excellent accuracy. I thought the large meplate would slow penetration in large animals.....but at a simple 1700 fps it went stem to stern in a good size, tough old boar pig...(250 lbs on hoof).
I was sitting on my duff wondering why all of a sudden the ants were finding certain parts of my anatomy so fascinating...when I heard him coming and grunting and complaining, like his boss gave him a hard time at work. Ants forgotten, I lifted the Win/94 in 45 long Colt....300 grain WFN (wide flat nose) loaded to about 1500+ fps giving around a 1500 ft.lbs.or less of muzzle punch. He broke cover at 65 long paces...I was even with his chest, so I put it there...it traversed his entire body and exited after going thru his left hip joint (back leg joint socket). Kelly Brost owner of Cast Performance Bullets with his wife, the other half of the ownership....makes them right. It is an art to get the right lead/tin/antimony/ mix to have cast bullets penetrate so well at such velocities, and yet still expand at lower velocities....but obviously it is an art Kelly knows well.
I once whacked one of our famous and tough old jack rabbits (the Arizona type made from bailing wire, hard tack, and Ĺ inch leather strips) with one of Kellyís 275 grain 45 slugs at around 2000 fps muzzle velocity. I know I hit him at right under 100 paces...even with recoil I saw bits and hunks go everywhere....but when I got there, I found nothing that resembled a rabbit of any kind..though there was a lot of very small pieces of fur and such over a six to seven foot circle. By the way thatís somewhat close to 2700 lbs of muzzle energy.
A better comparison indicator for me, of where a handloaded round is in the scale of killing ability...is to compare itís standing against other rounds without the over rated muzzle energy figures. If you multiply the velocity times the bullet weight, and then divide by 7000 (number of grains in a lb, itís the old Keith method) you get a better picture of actual power/killing levels compared to other rounds. 2000 X 275 div 7000 = KS(Killing Scale) of 79 for this 45 long Colt load from the Rossi 1892. A 44 magnum Ruger revolver with a 275 grain (same nose shape) cast WFN bullet at 1400 FPS velocity reaches a level of KS 55, and thatís a heavy handgun load thatís harvests larger medium game very well.
A 30-30 with a 170 gr bullet at 2200 FPS gives a level of power ranking at KS 53.4... ahh yes dear reader, the 44 mag from a long gun really does have more power at 100 yards than a 30-30/170 commercial load. Of course the 44 mag/275 gr. load above from a rifle, at basically the same velocity as the 275 gr./45 long Colt from a rifle has the same killing level potential as the 45 long Colt. There are difficulties with all measuring methods of bullet energy and killing ability since so much more is involved than just velocity and weight...but this works for me when we are comparing the same bullet shape/content and construct with changes in weight or velocity.
The neat thing about this method is you can take the down range velocities all the way out to your longest range and compare them with the down range velocities of other rounds, calibers and see the changes compared to each other. The 45 long Colt at 100 yards has slowed to 1600 FPS and the killing level has dropped to almost KS of 63 from 79. Where the 30-30 load has dropped to 1930FPS to a KS 46 from 53.4.....that should make a few yell Ďfoul...canít beí, but it is! And from my use of these 45 loads in the field for years on large game....I can tell you it is.....! As many gunwriters have stated over the years, a 44 mag or heavy loaded 45 long Colt fired from a rifle is more powerful than a 30-30 at 100 yards....actually they are more powerful than the great 30-30, at a lot further than 100 yards.....
So the next time someone states the 44 mag and 45 long Colt from rifles only has an advantage over the 30-30 under 100 yards...show him the error of his reality. But remember bullet drop with the larger calibers, is more than the 308 calibers ....But that never bothered me....mainly because I started rifle shooting without scopes and learned how to compensate....scopes were far from being seen, much less using them, when we were boys. (Some like to say so was smokeless powder, but Iím not that old).
Pushing a 335 grain cast WFN at 1800 fps is around top end for a 1892 action for me. That puts the KS at almost 86! So this gives a good picture of what a so called lowly 45 long Colt can really do. What a lion killer that 335 grain 45 long Colt load would be. The Win 94s and Marlins in 45 long Colt can push a 330 to 340 grain cast bullet to 1600 FPS and a KS of 76 and thatís no sleaze...because 40+ caliber bullets of this weight will penetrate incredible distances thru animals, with great disruptive force to tissue and bone. Except for upper bullet weight limit, because of bullet length and the less powder room in the 44 mag case and the 45 case....I see little difference in both up to 300+ grains. As long as shape, material of the bullet construction, and the velocity are the same. The slight differences in B.C. (Bullet Coefficient) make little down range differences between the two. Going to bullet weights of 325+grains and higher, begin the power level changes in favor of the 45 over the 44 mag...but as said is that potential power really needed in normal hunting in the lower states...Alaska yes, Africa fine...and itís nice to have the potential if needed.
The 1873 Repo..ONLY repos
Personally I think they are beautiful, the actions are as smooth as glass on most, but they are weak because of the three part toggle bolt/action design. And pressure must stay around the original 14,000 cup (a little higher than PSI). Small deer at short ranges are my top limit on game size with these smooth but weal linked rifles...about what I would do with a 45 acp from a 14 inch T/C barrel. There are a number of importers on todayís market..but the 73s are all around the same strength...even the so called Iron Frames (which are soft machining steel) it is the design that is at fault. Too bad they canít manufacture a stronger design, and keep it that smooth. The Henry Rifle Company is putting out a 44 magnum cosmetically looking 73, the internal system is NOT the weak three part toggle system....but I have not tested one yet....!
I basically stay with the old reloading manual levels of pressure for the 45 long Colt in reloading the modern repo Ď73s. Bullseye is too fast, my 6 grain load for example, under the Keith 255/260 cast bullet (cast not jacketed) at 800 FPS from a 7.5 inch 45 long Colt revolver has a nasty Ďfast peakí pressure, and only1000 fps from the 20 inch rifle barrels.
Even though it is fine in modern Colt type thumb-busters, the pressure cycle for me and mine is wrong. 5 grains of Bullseye under 300 grain cast bullets would go around 820 fps from the 1873s at 13,000 cup, but I still stay with slower powders. Unique is always hard to beat in situations like this, 7 grains and 13,000 cup will give over 900 FPS from my rifle. But not surprisingly, good old 2400 runs turns in a stellar performance...at 12.5 to 13 grains and still around 13,000 cup...but because of itís slower pressure rise/burn rate, 1110 FPS is the top velocity load for my 73s. Substantially above a 45 acp 230 grain at 800 FPS...or even the new hot loads of 165 to 180 grains over 1000 to 1100 FPS.
If I wanted to build a decent medium game load to 100 yards with the 73s...I would start with 165 to 180 grain bullets and 12 grains of 2400 (jacketed bullets) and work up very carefully. I have no doubt I could reach 1250 to 1300 fps with the 165s, probably safely....but why take chances with these expensive beauties? Stay at old factory level loads...and buy a Ď94 or Ď92 for heavy work.
Marlins and Winchesters....1894 designs...
Winchesterís 94 chambered in 30-30 will take 40,000 cup. I am sure the Marlin and Winchester leverguns in 45 long Colt will also...especially since both easily handle the 44 mag round in the heavy commercial loads. The case rims on the 30-30 and the 45 long Colt are close...the 45 long Colt WW brass I have measures .510 at the rim and the 30-30 R-P nickel brass measures .500. The body of the 45 brass is the same as the 45 acp brass .475, though the body at the case head of the 30-30 brass is much smaller, the taper causes about the same Ďbackthrustí with the same pressure loads as the larger rimmed 45 brass..
I load for the Ruger and the 94s so both can easily take the pressures of my hunting loads. My hunting load is 20 grains of 2400 and the 300/310 grain cast WFN LBT bullets of Cast Performance. In testing pressures for the Ruger years ago...Hodgdon found that 18.5/2400 under a 300 grain cast bullet gave 29,000 PSI...from my tight (barrel gap closed to minimum) Ruger 7.5" barrel S/A I was getting 1180 fps. From the 20 inch Win 94 carbine, that load was going 1540 fps. Which is a medium load from a Freedom Arms (300 grainer loaded to 1500 fps) handgun. Every pig I hit with that load gave up the ghost within 50 to 60 yards with side chest shots. Using the 300 grain NEI Giles cast .452 bullet in those days, and some of the 191/Lyman 300 grainers step sized down. Rarely did those slugs stay inside these big animals with side shots. 20/2400 from the long barreled Ruger gave 1240 fps. And raised the velocity from the 20 inch rifle barrel to 1650+ fps. Not surprisingly, because of the slower burn rate 4227, with 22 grains it gives near 1710 fps from the Winchester.
16.5/2400 under a 350 grain cast bullet was fine in my Winchester giving just at 1450 fps, and what a penetrator....out of the Ruger it went 1020 fps. When reloading 340 and higher weights in the 45 long Colt case one must be careful...the length of the bullet decreases the powder room...and pressures can skyrocket. Remington years ago tested 38 special wadcutter loads with 3.4 grains of Bullseye...pushing the bullet deeper into the case an 1/8th inch at a time till it bottomed out. The 147 grain wadcutter bullet is long and takes up a lot of internal space. At the bottom of the case the pressure was so high it could scatter a Python. Same kind of thing can happen with very heavy 45 bullets. So take care, reach any load with those bullets carefully, and with good reloading practices....
I like the 260 grain Keith cast bullets in the 45 long Colt rifles and handguns. 22/2400 in my guns go well over 32,000 CUP...they give near 1370 fps in the Rugers and well over 1800 fps in the rifles. And that gives a SK of 67..which is very good. There are better elk loads...but if I was out woods loafing with this load in a Winchester or Marlin levergun, and an elk was dumb enough to stop by to say hello or wave hi out to an easy 150 yards...he would join us for the winter. Restriction on the range would be because of my older eyes not the load. These types of loads at these velocities really begin to fall groundward after 150 yards.
There is a whole world of surprises waiting the reloader using the rifle powder ReL#7 in the 45 long Colt case for rifles. (Rifle powder not #7 pistol powder) With the 260 Keith I start with 25 grains and work up. I want anybody that wants to try it...to work up slowly so Iím not giving the top load..but the top velocity from the Winchester is 1800 to top end 2000 fps. And in the Browning 1892 action it will reach nearly 2200 fps or more and a SK of 82. Go slow with mag/pistol primers, and ReL#7 and because of itís slow burn rate, it gives great velocities. H4227 is the other really good powder, but obviously not as slow as ReL#7.
Please read carefully, there is pressure and there is pressure. Any small change in bullet weight, case thickness, case length, primer type, and many others can change the pressure very quickly...and if you are playing with top loads...take care!!! The next list of loads I feel are top even in the 1892s much less the 94s. I know as I said the 94s are rated for 40,000 CUP level loads...but I would be very careful approaching even 34 to 35,000 CUP....then if it absolutely safe move up. Older but strong leverguns belong in the 25,000+ CUP levels, the new strong Marlins and Win 94s are certainly strong enough for the 30,000 to 35,000 CUP levels. The new strong 92s can go to 50,000 CUP but I would not give them a steady diet of that. DO THEY RECOIL? FROM THE BENCH SOME OF THESE LOADS WITH RIFLES WITH STEEL BUTT PLATES ARE DOWNRIGHT UGLY......
NEXT: Some very balanced rifle loads:
ALL LOADS TESTED IN MY 1892S.....WINCHESTER AND MARLIN 94S.
(Pressure levels also effected by which rifles are used)
325 JHPs and JSPs
350 grain WFN/LBT (CAST PERFORMANCE BULLETS)
AS I SAID DEAR READER I WOULD BE CAREFUL WORKING UP TO THESE LOADS EVEN THOUGH THEY SEEM WELL BELOW THE LEVEL OF THE 94S IN PRESSURE.
EVEN WITH THE STRONG 1892S...WORK UP TO THEM SLOWLY. BUT THE 45 LONG COLT IN STRONG RIFLES IS A EXCEPTIONAL POWERFUL SMALL CARRY/WOODS RIFLE..................GOOD SHOOTING.....