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oldandnew.jpg (6393 bytes)Okay, I’ll admit it, when it comes to  unnecessary spending to make a gun look better, I get in line with everyone else. I think  I mentioned in the first part of this series, the Ruger was not going to win any slick  finish awards. The ejector rod housing is one of the sore points, sort of whittled out of  a piece of aluminum with a dull pocket knife, then colored with a half empty magic marker.  That’s the standard part on the bottom if you missed it.

Qualite’ Pistol and Revolver produce several  nice pieces for the Ruger Blackhawk: ejector rod housings, standard and custom grip  frames, crescent head ejector rods, and gunsmithing services. You can buy the hardware  directly from Qualite, or go to an outlet like Brownells, probably getting  a better deal on price and delivery. $28 from Brownells, $38 from Qualite.

done.jpg (4863 bytes)The new piece is installed by removing the single retaining screw  and  the  housing, swapping the ejector rod and spring from the original part  into the new housing, and reinstalling the new assembly back in place. We’re looking at  about 30 seconds worth of effort. Actually I changed mine out during lunch, between bites  of a hamburger. And if you pick up a burger from the right place, you’ll probably get just  enough oil for the housing assembly.

Is there a downside or a risk to making this  change ? Absolutely. The housing is now the nicest part of the gun and eventually I’ll be  driven to have the whole thing quality refinished, if I can find a service that won’t  round off all the corners and lose the stamps. Of course a nice dark blue wouldn’t look  right with those rough rosewood grips, so maybe a nice presentation grade walnut would  look good. But then I’d be financially so far into the gun, I’d have to get it rechambered  for the .475 Linebaugh to make it all worthwhile. I really haven’t actually given it any  thought.


I spent a lot of time reviewing existing data in current  and past reloading manuals, as well as more informal data available from other sources.  First it seemed there was a significant difference of opinion as to what levels of  pressure and performance the .45 Colt cartridge and firearms could withstand. After  further research I found the big variations in loading data and performance could be  mostly attributed to guns receiving special treatment; tightened dimensional tolerances,  or custom cylinders, and were up to handling hotter loads.

Most mainstream reloading manuals have two handgun  sections for the cartridge; one for standard Colts and older handguns in good condition,  the other for heavy frame and cylinder firearms such as current model Rugers and Thompson  Center Contender/Encore. The more recent the manual the slower the powder for loads using  heavier bullets. In early manuals, powder recommendations might be 2400, No.5, No.7 and  Unique, more recent publications extend into No.9, Win 296 and H110. Loads in the standard  section are typically in the 14,000 c.u.p. range. Loads in the higher intensity load  section move up to 25,000 c.u.p.

There were occasions when data from independent sources  documented very high velocities, while powder types and charges remained very similar to  mainstream reloading manuals. At times, the high velocities were explained as the result  of using better sealing and oversized cast bullets, and pushing pressures up into the  30,000 – 35,000 c.u.p. range. In other cases, the revolvers used in testing were  blueprinted, or dimensionally optimized at cylinder gaps, chambers and throats.

There was one last category of information. Extraordinary  results were being reported, but examination of the loading data revealed it to be the  same information appearing in conservative reloading manuals. Reminds me of the time I was  able to get 4,200 fps out of my Weatherby with 250 grain bullets, right up until I moved  the chronograph electronics away from the blast from the muzzle brake. So I put this  category of .45 Colt loads in the “magic bullet” classification, and set them  aside for future investigation.

Within the data, one reason for the resurgence in  popularity of .45 Colt cartridge becomes more obvious. At the heavier end of the bullet  range, the .45 Colt will deliver about the same velocity per grain of bullet weight as the  .44 Magnum, only at approximately 38% lower chamber pressure. Not unlike those old British  double rifles, using low pressure cordite loads, to throw very large diameter heavy  bullets, with significant consequence to whatever was on the receiving end.

Not valid load data – c.u.p.  reference only
Cartridge Bullet Powder Charge Velocity c.u.p
.45 Colt 250 gr JHP AA#9 15.1 950 14,000
.45 Colt 250 gr JHP AA#9 17.8 1300 25,000
.45 Colt 260 gr Keith H-110 27.0 1491 33,000
.45 Colt 300 gr JSP W296 23.0 1193 25,000
.44 Mag 300 gr JSP W296 22.5 1187 40,000

But why stretch the limits of the .45  Colt, when it would seem easier to just move up to the .454 Casull. This change would kick  the 300 grain bullet velocities up from 1200 fps to 1500 fps, perhaps even a greater  spread for lighter weight bullets. The downside of selecting the .454 Casull would be: a  higher initial cost of the firearm, ammo and brass at twice the price of the .45 Colt,  some high velocity loads that push the Casull beyond the use of cast bullets, and the  Casull has significantly higher levels of recoil.

Within reason, The .45 Colt can yield a broad range of  performance from low velocity plinking loads, through high velocity hunting loads, in  moderately prices guns, with moderately priced ammo.

Initial Load Data and Baseline  Information

wpe4A.jpg (4805 bytes)Guns are not perfect and dimensions vary from  one to another, within the same brand and model. Some of these variations mean nothing, in  terms of ballistic performance, others mean a great deal. As an example, the difference  between a .003″ and a .006″ cylinder gap in a gun designed for high pressure  loads may be a variation of 100 fps in muzzle velocity. I thought it might be good to note  some of these dimensions as a point of reference.

A telescope gauge and accurate digital  caliper were used to take chamber and throat measurements. Not the most critical  measurement tools, but certainly more than accurate enough for this purpose. The numbers  indicated are an average of six readings, however, the actual variation was less than  .0005″. In fact, when making other checks such as cylinder runout, cylinder to bore  perpendicularity, etc. the gun held very tight tolerances.

wpe51.jpg (5871 bytes)Cylinder gap was measured by loading the  cylinder to the rear of the frame and inserting a feeler gauge between the cylinder and  barrel. The dimension was between .005″ – .006″ as the .005 was not an extremely  tight fit, however the .006″ gauge would not pass through the gap.

The firearm used for all .45 Colt test data:

Model: Ruger Bisley
Barrel: 7.5″
Cylinder Gap:.005″

I believe the chambers in my Ruger are on the small side,  at least in comparison to dimensions I’ve seen on sites promoting the use of reamed .44  mag cylinders to achieve tight .45 Colt cylinders. I do, however, believe the RCBS sizing  dies is undersized at .472″, leaving a case head of .476″. Because there is so  much surplus case capacity, the smaller diameter isn’t noticed, but the heavy resizing has  to be tough on brass. When I get a chance I’ll call RCBS and get a more accurate fix on  what typical sizes should be. The case spec in all manuals I have access to, including the  “Handloader’s Manual of Cartridge Conversions” is .480″.

The effective barrel length of a 7.5″ Bisley is very  close to a 10″ Thompson Center single shot. The single shot 10″ barrel  designation includes the length of the chamber. All else being equal, the single shot will  typically generate higher muzzle velocity as a result of the single shot having a  closed breech and no subsequent loss of pressure to a cylinder gap. The bullets used for  this part of the development are all jacketed. There are obviously many excellent cast  bullets that may represent better choices for hunting and informal target shooting. I just  didn’t want to start off by introducing variables relating to alloy harness and  composition, bullet diameter, gas checks or copper plating. New Remington bulk brass was  used for all loads.

I do know I’m just barely scratching the surface with the  .45 Colt. There are lots of cowboy action loads for this round and, after doing some  research, I could see why this is such a popular sport. Unfortunately, I’m not that  athletic and I seem to spend my life seeing how much faster than 1000 fps I can get a  bullet to go. I’ve concluded that bullets below 1000 fps could get stuck in a semi tight  barrel, or leave the barrel and immediately fall to the ground. Note: It’s extremely easy  to ridicule almost anything once you’ve concluded you’d never have the skill to be any  good at it.

Then there’s the crazy guy with some exceptional version  of the .45 Colt. They always pose in front of a very large elephant, rolled over on it’s  side with a couple of feet sticking in the air, and 120 lbs of ivory on either side of  what looks like a toothless grin – the elephant that is. Always a .45 Colt with a custom 5  shot cylinder, throwing 450 grains of lead at, I don’t know, 1,700 fps. I’m not going  there right now either. First I’d like to get myself sorted out with the round so I know  what I’m doing.

wpe4A.jpg (5087 bytes)The bullets used in this portion of load development were, left to  right:
Hornady 250 grain HP/XTP
Nosler 250 Grain Trophy JHP
Hornady 300 grain XTP/MAG
Speer 260 grain MAG JHP

Bullet Dia. Weight Powder Grains Primer MV 50 yd  group
Speer Mag-JHP .451 260 gr Winchester 296 20.5 CCI 350    
Speer Mag-JHP .451 260 gr Winchester 296 22.5 CCI 350    
Speer Mag-JHP .451 260 gr Hodgdon H110 23.5 CCI 350    
Speer Mag-JHP .451 260 gr Hodgdon H110 25.0 CCI 350    
Hornady HP/XTP .452 250 gr Hodgdon H110 27.0 CCI 350    
Hornady HP/XTP .452 250 gr Accurate No.9 17.8 CCI 300    
Hornady HP/XTP .452 250 gr Accurate No.9 19.0 CCI 300    
Hornady HP/XTP .452 250 gr Unique 11.3 CCI 300    
Hornady HP/XTP .452 250 gr Unique 12.0 CCI 300    
Hornady HP/XTP .452 300 gr Winchester 296 21.3 CCI 300    
Hornady HP/XTP .452 300 gr Winchester 296 22.5 CCI 300    
Hornady HP/XTP .452 300 gr Hodgdon H110 23.5.0 CCI 350    
Hornady HP/XTP .452 300 gr Hodgdon H110 24.0 CCI 350    
Nosler Trophy JHP .451 250 gr Accurate No.9 17.8 CCI 300    
Nosler Trophy JHP .451 250 gr Accurate No.9 19.0 CCI 300    
Nosler Trophy JHP .451 250 gr Unique 12.0 CCI 300    

This table represents extractions and  combinations from approximately 12 data sources, including 5 loading manuals. I tried to  select those that looked repeatable and consistent from several sources, and avoided those that just didn’t look right or published pressure levels into the 40,000 c.u.p range. Some of these loads are very heavy. None are for  use in Colt Single Action revolvers or replicas. I’m only using them in a new model Ruger  Bisley. I have not fired any of these loads  as yet, and will fill in the blank columns when I get back from range testing. So this is  not “These may not be be safe in your gun” tested data, this just represents the  handloads I’ve put together, have not fired, and will be testing.

powder.jpg (14002 bytes)One of the byproducts of loading for a new cartridge is the  accumulation of powder and bullets that builds up very quickly. Unfortunately, the .45  Colt’s split personality compounds the problem.

Heavy loads use the magnum powders; Win296, H110 and No.9, while the light loads use the conventional powders such as Unique and Bullseye. I  was able to draw from my autoloader stock for the low end, but I only had a limited supply  of powder for my .44 mag. Guess I’ll be doing a lot more heavy load shooting for the next  couple of months to use all of this gunk up. Jacketed and cast bullets in .45 caliber  aren’t exactly inexpensive. It’s pretty easy to dump a couple hundred dollars into a  selection of bullets, and end up routinely using one or two routinely.

I’m going to stop here, complete the prep work and get up to the range.


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