Casting Keith’s, Handloading & The .45 Colt …


Tank is very fond of these Ruger Redhawks chambered in .45 Colt.

For over 35 years I’ve had an addiction. It’s no big secret. I don’t even try hiding it. To the contrary, I may even be accused of flaunting it a bit. There’s no need for pity or feeling sorry for me, either. As a matter of fact, this addiction has brought me more joy and kept me out of trouble, for the most part.

Only periodic overspending supporting this habit has led to a few complications. Hey, it happens. I’ve spent most my spare money on guns, molds, powder and primers — the rest I just wasted. True story!

The .45 Colt has several molds capable of casting excellent bullets.
Left to right: LEE 200 and 255 grain radius flat-nose slugs, Lyman 454424,
RCBS 270 SAA, and LBT 320 grain LFNGC.

Hard Sale

These joyous and necessary purchases never saved me a dime casting and reloading my own ammo. It just allowed me to shoot a heck of a lot more. Loading my own ammo allowed me to experiment in every phase of the handloading process — things like using different alloys for different purposes, how fast certain alloys can be driven from what guns without leading yet still expand to some extent, the effects different primers can make, or using different head stamped brass. You name it, I’ve done it.

A custom Tyler Gun Works on top and Ruger/Turnbull Bisley on bottom
are excellent shooters in .45 Colt. You can see there’s no shortage of good .45 Colts.

The Original

The .45 Colt was the original centerfire cartridge made for the Colt SAA in 1873. Loaded with a 250-grain slug over 40 grains of black powder, it propelled the slug over 900 fps — a stout load, even among today’s standards. For that time period, it was phenomenal performance, earning the moniker “manstopper.”

Fast forward 100 years and Bill Ruger released his Blackhawk single action, eventually chambering it in .45 Colt. Its strength is appreciated by judicious handloaders. The voluminous case capacity needed for black powder could now be utilized, using heavier bullets and more efficient smokeless powder. This allowed handloaders to push bullets weighing over 300 grains in excess of 1,200 fps, making it a truly big bore thumper for large game. By varying bullet weight, it allows the .45 Colt to be used in heavier applications.

A Lyman 454424 four cavity mold has provided Tank with
thousands of bullets over the past 30 odd years.

The bullets pile up quick when using a four-cavity mold.

There’s something nostalgic whenever casting “Keith” bullets.
It just feels right and makes one feel connected.

Ready to be powder coated and sized.

Broad-Shouldered Standard

I’m about to test a lightweight .45 Colt single action for an upcoming article and needed some loads to suit the highly customized mid-framed Ruger Vaquero. Looking over my stash of cast slugs, I see some older bullets I cast clear in back of a shelf, stored in a peanut butter jar.

I probably cast these beauties over 20 years ago. They are sized and lubed Lyman 454424 bullets. Feeling nostalgic, they get the nod, only instead of my old standby of Unique, or even Bullseye powder, I go with something newer, Alliant Power Pistol. I start with 9.3 grains as a starting load. It burns clean and pushes the 260 grain slugs just under 900 fps from the short 4 1/8” barrel. I load 24 rounds.

I have the loaded rounds sitting on my worktable, next to me in a clear plastic sandwich bag with the load data inside. Periodically, I pluck a cartridge from the bag and fumble with it, looking and feeling the loaded cartridge and think about all that went into the load. I was holding years and years of experience into these handloads, starting with Sam Colt, Elmer Keith, Bill Ruger, and a host of other innovators involved in making new and improved powders and better load data.

The “Keith” slugs are loaded in Starline brass where they are crimped tightly into their designated groove, so their full diameter driving band stands proudly above the case mouth. Above the driving band, a slightly radiused bullet nose sprouts, leaving a wide nose which transmits the bullets energy, providing a large, permanent wound channel.

A custom shorty by Tyler Gun Works is a favorite.

A Vestibule of Versatility

The .45 Colt can be loaded light for punching paper with 185-grain bullets going 700 fps up to large 350-grain behemoths going over 1,200 fps in large-framed Ruger’s. This is the beauty of the .45 Colt, its versatility.

My first .45 Colt was a stainless-steel New Model Blackhawk with 7.5” barrel. Then came the dual cylinder .45s so I could shoot .45 Colt and ACPs from the same gun. This was followed by some double action Redhawks. Then came the Italian clones, followed by custom .45s. Bobby Tyler and Ken Kelly are largely responsible here. If you’re into .45s, you have no shortage of guns to shoot them in, at varying power levels.

Yesiree, if I were ever forced to choose just one cartridge to spend the rest of my shooting days with, the old war horse .45 Colt would suit me just fine, loaded of course with a good Keith 454424 bullet. Just thinking about casting, loading and shooting these slugs warms my heart.