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Heavy duty hunting loads for the .45 Colt: and the perfect new sixgun in which to use them.

[ILLUSTRATIONS OMITTED]

Before looking at hunting loads for the .45 Colt, we need to once again try to dispel the age-old myth of .45 Colt brass being weak. There was some basis for this idea, however, it should have ended more than one half-century ago. The original .45 Colt cartridge case was certainly weak compared to today's brass. It was of the balloon head, or folded head, variety with a very narrow rim. It was not at all unusual for this rim to pull off when fired cartridges were being resized. However, all of this ended in the early 1950s with the advent of solid head .45 Colt cartridge cases.

There exists such a wide range of revolvers accepting the .45 Colt great care must be used in assembling loads and choosing which sixguns will safely accept them. SAAMI sets maximum standards for cartridges, however, this must be set at a level safely usable in the weakest common denominator. For the .45 Colt, this is the Single Action Army. In ranking the various .45 Colt sixguns now in production from the least strongest to that capable of a handling the heaviest loads I would list the following order: Colt Single Action Army, Smith & Wesson Model 25 & 625, Freedom Arms Model 97, Ruger Blackhawk, Ruger Redhawk, Custom five shooters built on the Ruger Blackhawk, and Freedom Arms Model 83.

The .45 Colt can be used successfully with every handgun powder offered today. While Unique remains my favorite powder, it is followed by H4227 and, for the heaviest loads, either H110 or WW296. With the .45 Colt, H4227 is almost magical being able to provide excellent accuracy when others will not. In fact, an axiom with me is "When all else fails, try H4227 before giving up." I have one 4-3/4" Colt New Frontier that is a mediocre performer except with Lyman's 454424 and 20 grains of H4227, a combination which turns out to be capable of one-hole groups. My brass of choice is Starline's excellent .45 Colt brass with either CCI's 300 Standard or 350 Magnum primer being used for ignition. Standard primers are for standard loads and Magnum primers for magnum loads.

The Keith bullet has long been the bullet of choice for the .45 Colt. Keith originally designed his bullet, Lyman's 454424, with three equal diameter full-caliber bands, a large square-cornered grease groove, and a deep crimping groove. Lyman no longer offers this bullet having replaced it with 452424, which is not a true Keith bullet. That's the bad news. The good news is threefold. The original Lyman Keith mold is not all that difficult to locate at gun shows or on the Internet, and we also have two currently produced RCBS .45 Colt Keith bullet molds with 45-255KT being a virtual dead ringer for Lyman's old 454424 and 45-270 SWC, a slightly heavier version expertly designed by Dave Scovill. These are both excellent bullets.

Ray Thompson designed several gas-checked bullets for Lyman in the 1950s. His .45 Colt 260-grain gas-checked is often the answer for barrels prone to leading or for high-velocity loadings. With 20 grains of 2400 this load clocks out at just over 1,300 fps in a Ruger Blackhawk and is a tack driver.

When I began reloading the .45 Colt in the mid- 1950s, no heavyweight bullets were available. Today, NEI's two great Keith-style plain-based bullets, 310.451 and 325.454, weigh in at approximately 300 and 325 grains. My favorite load for either of these is 21.5 grains of H110 or WW296 for 1,200 fps. An excellent gas-checked version, in fact my most used 300-grain bullet for heavy .45 Colt loads, is one designed by Dick Casull for Lyman (454629) for use in the .454 Casull. This 305-grain flamose bullet over 21.5 grains of H110, is a favorite in my 7-1/2" Ruger Blackhawk, Freedom Arms 4-3/4" Model 83 Perfect Packin' Pistol and it also shoots superbly in Ruger's Redhawk.

Cast Performance Bullet Co.'s wide range of gas-checked, hardcast, LBT bullets are just the ticket for heavy hunting loads. Weights run from 265 grains up to 360 grains with all showing excellent accuracy when heavily loaded in a Ruger Redhawk. A heavyweight bullet weighing 300 grains or more traveling at 1,200 fps will totally penetrate most animals on broadside shots making them excellent for hunting large critters. For hunting deer-sized animals my choice is the aforementioned Thompson bullet load, or a jacketed hollowpoint of 240 to 260 grains in weight over 24 grains of H 110/WW296 for about 1,250 fps from a 7-1/2" Ruger Blackhawk.

The .45 Colt could easily be described as the most versatile of sixgun cartridges. It has been wrongly pronounced legally dead by so many "experts," and resurrected so many times, it is probably finally here to stay.

IMPORTANT NOTE: THESE LOADS ARE DESIGNED FOR THE STRONG RUGER REDHAWK AND BLACKHAWK OR FREEDOM ARMS REVOLVERS! NOT FOR USE IN COLT SINGLE ACTIONS AND CLONES, S&W M25 OR M625, OR REPLICAS OF THE 1866 AND 1873 WINCHESTERS! IF YOU'RE NOT SURE, DON'T DO IT! BACK OFF 10 PERCENT AND WORK UP LOADS CAREFULLY! STOP AT THE FIRST HINT OF TROUBLE! BE RESPONSIBLE!

CAST PERFORMANCE BULLET CO.

(503) 556-3006 FAX

(503) 556-8037

WWW.CASTPERFORMANCE.COM

LYMAN

475 SMITH STREET

MIDDLETOWN, CT 06457

(860) 632-2020

WWW.LYMANPRODUCTS.COM

NEI HANDTOOLS

P.O. BOX 370356

EL PASO, TX 79937

(915) 772-0259

WWW.NEIHANDTOOLS.COM

RCBS

605 ORO DAM BLVD

OROVILLE, CA 95965

(800) 553-5000, WWW.RCBS.COM

GALCO LEATHER

2019 W. QUAIL AVE.

PHOENIX AZ 85027

(623) 434-7070, WWW.USGALCO.COM

SIMPLY RUGGED

P.O. BOX 872676

WASILLA, AK 99687

(907) 357-6521

WWW.SIMPLYRUGGED.COM

RUGER'S 4" .45 COLT REDHAWK

Thank you Ruger! Last year Ruger offered a Ruger Redhawk in a 4" version for the first time since the Redhawk arrived nearly 30 years ago. The first chambering was .44 Magnum and now the .45 Colt version has been added.

The factory 4" barreled Redhawk is not only easier packin' than even the 5-1/2", when it comes to felt recoil, it wears more user-friendly grips. Instead of the smallish, smooth wooden stocks found on the other Redhawks these grips are newly designed, and very well carried out fingergroove, pebble-grained rubber grips from Hogue. These feel as if they were custom-made to my hand and they reduce felt recoil significantly. Someone really did it right!

Redhawks always had excellent fully adjustable sights with an interchangeable front sight, however, although Ruger maintained the adjustable rear, they chose a fixed front sight blade on the 4" version using a ramp style with a red insert.

With the new 4" Redhawks, in both .44 Magnum and .45 Colt, we have two great candidates for the coveted title of Perfect Packin' Pistol as well as heavy-duty, close-range hunting sixguns. The .45 Colt Redhawk is an excellent vehicle for Heavy Duty Hunting Loads and now can be carried so much easier and in fact it becomes one of the easiest packin', portable, powerful double action sixguns for those hiking, backpacking or fishing in bear country.

It is portable enough to be carried almost un-noticed in proper leather. For carrying the 4" Redhawk .45 I go with two high-quality leather rigs. When I got the 4" .44 Redhawk last year, I matched it up with a plain heavy-duty pancake style holster from Rob Leahy at Simply Rugged, capable of being worn strong side or crossdraw.

With the advent of the 4" Redhawk in .45 Colt, I added a second packin' holster, Galco's DAO, Dual Action Outdoorsman. This holster also may be worn strong side or crossdraw, has a heavy-duty safety strap reinforced at the snap fastener, and also has an adjusting screw to regulate tension. Both rigs fit either the .44 or .45 Redhawks, giving me the choice of several combinations.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The downside to the 4" Redhawk .45 Colt is loads hovering around 1,200 fps in a 7-1/2" barrel are down in the 1,000 to 1,100 fps range in the short-barreled Ruger. My old favorite loads using NEI's 325-grain Keith SWC over 21 to 22 grains of WW296 or H110 is a perfect example. It hits 1,200 fps in the 7-1/2" sixguns, but just barely cracks 1,000 fps in the short barrel. Another heavyweight bullet load for the 4" .45 Colt Redhawk is the Sierra's 300-grain JSP over 22 grains of H4227. It clocks just under 1,100 fps and exhibits superb accuracy.
REDHAWK

MAKER: STURM, RUGER INC.
411 SUNAPEE ST., NEWPORT NH 03773+B1:B8
(603) 865-2442
WWW.RUGER.COM

 ACTION TYPE: Double action

 CALIBER: .45 Colt

 CAPACITY: 6 rounds

 BARREL LENGTH: 4"

OVERALL LENGTH: 9-1/2"

 WEIGHT: 46 ounces

 FINISH: Stainless steel

 SIGHTS: Adjustable rear sight,
 red ramp front sight

 GRIPS: Hogue Fingergroove
 Rubber

 PRICE: $836

HEAVYWEIGHT BULLETS
BULLET: NEI 310.451KT 310 GRAIN

 VELOCITY (FPS)
POWDER CHARGE BARREL LENGTH
(BRAND) (GRAINS WEIGHT) (4-5/8") (7-1/2")

WW296 * 21 1,124 1,196
 22 1,175 1,211

BULLET LYMAN 454629GC 305 GRAIN

 VELOCITY (FPS)

POWDER CHARGE BARREL LENGTH
(BRAND) (GRAINS WEIGHT) (4-5/8") (7-1/2")

2400 18.5 1,190 1,273
2400 19.5 1,251 1,325
WW296 * 21 1,102 1,174
WW296 * 22 1,153 1,232

Notes: * Favorite All Around Heavy Bullet Loads
Heavy Hunting Loads. GC = Gas Check

HEAVY HUNTING LOADS

BULLET: LYMAN 454424 KEITH, 260 GRAIN

 VELOCITY (FPS)
 CHARGE BARREL LENGTH
POWDER (GRAINS
(BRAND) WEIGHT) (4-5/8") (7-1/2")

 2400 20 1,168 1,241
 2400 21 1,191 1,264
H4227 24 1,192 1,251
WW296 24 1,113 1.279

BULLET: LYMAN-THOMPSON 452490GC, 260 GRAIN

 VELOCITY (FPS)
 CHARGE BARREL LENGTH
POWDER (GRAINS
(BRAND) WEIGHT) (4-5/8") (7-1/2")

 2400 20 1,163 1,273
 2400 21 1,265 1,297

Notes: GC = Gas Check

EXTRA HEAVY BULLETS

 VELOCITY (FPS)
 CHARGE BARREL LENGTH
BULLET POWDER (GRAINS
(BRAND, WEIGHT) (BRAND) WEIGHT) (5-1/2") (7-1/2")

CPBC 325 LBT WW296 * 21 1,205 1,234
CPBC 335 LBT WW296 21 1,201 1,275
CPBC 360 LBT WW296 19.5 1,154 1,180

Notes: * Favorite Heavy Bullet Loads. GC = Gas Check,
CPBC = Cast Performance Bullet Co.
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Title Annotation:HANDLOADING
Author:Taffin, John
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Words:1709
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