Everyday Workin’ Loads:

The .45 Colt.

By John Taffin

The sixgun chosen for the field or trail will probably be a 4″ or 5″ DA revolver or a single action with a 43/4″ or 51/2″ barrel. For duty in the field, it’s hard to beat one of these barrel lengths. I like to load them with what I call Everyday Workin’ Loads — modest loads that can handle any situation you may encounter.

John Linebaugh has been the leader in truly big-bore cartridge development with his .500 and .475 Linebaughs. But ever since I’ve known him, his everyday carrying sixgun has been a Smith & Wesson 4″ Model 25 chambered in .45 Colt, loaded with a 260-gr. bullet at 900 fps. This is about as perfect as an Everyday Workin’ Load gets. John lives in Wyoming and I’m in Idaho, and there is nothing that walks among us we can’t handle with a 260-gr. hardcast bullet at 900 to 1,000 fps. If we lived in Alaska it would be a totally different situation, but for us, anything in the lower 48 can be handled with .45 Colt Everyday Workin’ Loads.

The Oregon Trail Laser Cast 255 SWC over 8.5 grs. of Unique
used in Ruger Old Model .45 Blackhawks.

A Basis

The standard bullet for the original .45 Colt load was a conical bullet weighing around 255 grs. In the early years, I used the Lyman version, #454190 exclusively, however I have now added the RCBS #45-250FN, and I was fortunate enough to find an old 3-cavity LachMiller which drops excellent #45-255LC bullets. Some will say these bullets are obsolescent, but I still like connecting with the past, so I use them over 8.0 to 9.0 grs. of Unique for 950 to 1,000 fps.

In its original black-powder form, at similar velocities, the .45 Colt loaded with this bullet did absolutely everything, including dropping bison and even grizzly bear. I’m not likely to do either, however I still like being part of history when I shoot these.

A better choice for most situations is the Keith-style bullet, whether it be the original Lyman #454424 or the RCBS #45-255KT. When crimped in the crimping groove, the former may result in cartridges which may be slightly too long for the cylinder of some Colt SAAs. The RCBS version is just slightly shorter to prevent this. With 8.0 grs. of Unique muzzle velocities will be around 900 fps and moving up to 9.0 grs. yields about 975 fps.

Lyman and RCBS versions of the Keith and original conical
bullets for the .45 Colt.

Good Loads

Several years ago Dave Scovill basically redesigned the Keith bullet to prevent the too long overall length for cylinder rotation, while at the same time adding more weight to the body of the bullet. RCBS catalogs this bullet as #45-270SAA and it is now my most-used bullet for standard loads in the .45 Colt. With my alloys it weighs anywhere from 275 to 285 grs., the latter of wheelweights, and shoots superbly. I cut back a little on the #4227, using 18.5 grs. with this heavier bullet for right at 925 fps, and 8.5 grs. of Unique is just a little over 900 fps. Even at this muzzle velocity this heavy bullet just keeps penetrating.

The Oregon Trail Laser Cast SWC bullet for the .45 Colt weights 255 grs., and I’ve used a lot of these over the years. Loaded over 8.5 grs. of Unique, muzzle velocities run between 890 to 950 fps depending on the individual sixgun. My favored 20.0 grs. of #4227 is just over 1,000 fps. These Oregon Trail bullets are harder than those I cast, the lube is harder than what I use, and the bases are beveled instead of flat, and yet they still shoot better than we have any right to expect. I never feel disadvantaged by using Oregon Trail bullets instead of my personally cast, sized and lubricated ones. One final note, just as with .44 Special sixguns, there is a wide range of cylinder throat dimensions found in .45 Colt sixguns. I have personally measured them from .449″ all the way up to .457″, so bullets sized appropriately will give the best results.

The .45 Colt is fast approaching the age of 140 years. Old it may be, however it’s still an excellent choice for use in a Perfect Packin’ Pistol.

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