“Factory” Low Recoil .45 ACP Loads?

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If we live long enough everything, and I do mean everything — changes. This was brought home to me dramatically with an e-mail we received from a reader. He related he was about to turn 67 and found he had lost a lot of muscle mass. Tell me about it! I’ve got 6 years on him. He also said 30 years ago he could handle his S&W and Ruger Flat-Top .44s as well as his Lightweight Commander. He wanted to still be able to carry his Commander, however he found himself barely able to handle 200-grain cast bullets at about 825 fps — with the emphasis on barely.

There was a time I was like the second baseman who plays every game. Now I’m more like the pitcher. He can only throw that hardball so many times and then he needs several days rest. I have no doubt the problem related by the reader is widespread. What can be done about it?

The question for us was could we come up with low recoil .45 ACP loads that would also be accurate and function perfectly. Most current factory loads for the .45 ACP tend to higher muzzle velocities, and I don’t want to shoot 300 +P loads in one session. Would it be possible to tone these down (even the “standard” loads) and still have reliable performance?

Looking For Loads

First I went to the loading bench with WW231 as my powder of choice. Trying 4.0, 4.5, and 5.0 grains with 185-grain JHPs and a variety of 200-grain bullets I found 4.5 grains was the lower limit for perfect functioning and 5.0 grains yielded 720 to 800 fps. For my test guns, since the query was about comfortable loads in the Colt Lightweight Commander, I went with my 45-year-old Lightweight Commander and a 5″ Kimber Custom CDP II with an alloy frame. I found the 200-grain loads over 5.0 grains of WW231 quite comfortable, and felt like I could shoot as many rounds as I wanted to without having to spend several days resting my hands.

While I don’t want to get into the argument concerning carrying handloads in a self-defense pistol I felt factory loads should be an option. I carry handloads in the field but factory loads on pavement. Would it be possible to come up with factory low recoil .45 ACP loads, which would reliably function in a standard 1911 or Commander — without replacing the recoil spring?

To this end I contacted Tim Sundles at Buffalo Bore and Mike McNett at DoubleTap. Both men agreed to see what they would come up with, although they were skeptical about the possible results. Both men also went the extra mile, and I thank them both for their willingness to work with us.
By John Taffin

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