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Summer in Maine is mostly an opportunity to repair the products of Maine’s aggressive winters. When we moved into our home fourteen years ago, our view was of surrounding woodland and distant lakes and mountains. This spring, however, my wife and I were greeted with soil shift over granite ledge that changed the topography of our once flat yard into a rising and rolling hill. Two weeks of putting up with an irritating old guy on a skid loader and yard was converted to a slightly downward sloping and very barren plain.

We sowed grass seed, fertilized the soil, then nurtured and tended the aspirations of the new lawn. Twice daily we doused the earth with water until the yard was covered with bright green to the approximate density of follicle fuzz on an African elephant. Only time, sweat labor and significant contribution to the the bottom line of Scotts Company LLC will determine the outcome. Still, there is something about smell of damp black earth, the persistence of heavy physical labor and success in result that is very satisfying. In some ways firearms are similar.

Purchasing a firearm is only the beginning of a long and branching process. Progress requires acquisition of specialized knowledge, skill advancement and refinement and objective measurement of result; marksmanship, handloading, bullet casting, metallurgy, machine operation, chemistry, physics. Then there are the firearm applications of: recreational shooting, competitive shooting, self defense, profession, and hunting. Lots to learn, lots of work, lots of satisfaction. When people suggests firearms are for troglodytes, that is only because they do not understand the subject.

Back on topic

The 45 Colt, in concert with the Ruger Redhawk or Blackhawk is a favorite cartridge. It can be soft loaded for plinking and paper target practice, it can be bumped up a bit for self defense and it can be top loaded for hunting deer, hogs and black bear. Both the round and revolver have been covered many times on Real Guns. So why am I writing about this combination yet again? See opening comments, it is a never ending process.

There are approximately 128 0.451″ to 0.452″ bullet types in production, comprised of cast and jacketed. Weights range from 135 grain specialty defense types to 360 grain hard cast, although the latter is probably more suited to the 454 Casull and 460 S&W. Approximately half have a cannelure for use in revolvers with a roll crimp, the rest are slated for auto loading pistols with a taper crimp. That does not mean that some can’t be adapted to the applications of the other.

Four bullets were initially selected. One of my favorite plinkers, below – far left, is a Speer 200 grain jacketed hollow point which is no longer in production. There is a similar Speer item made, but without a cannelure which is preferred auto loader applications, and it has a thinner jacket to expand at lower velocity as might be anticipated with the 45 Auto. Hunters Supply offers a 200 grain hollow point cast bullet and Sierra offers a Sig Sauer designed 200 grain JHP Match, both with cannelures. In the case of the latter, the cannelure is shallow and intended to lock the jacket to the lead core to maximize weight retention and expansion in 45 Auto applications. The other three bullets pictured below are standard 45 Colt selections that are tough enough to use for hog and deer hunting.

Bullet Type Bullet
Length “


Speer #4477 JHP 200 0.548 0.280
Sierra Sports Master #8820 JHC 240 0.641 0.340
Hornady HP/XTP #45200 JHP 250 0.662 0.350
Speer #4481 JHP 260 0.680 0.380
Measurements actual, not nominal

It was the lack of good 200 grain or lighter conventionally jacketed bullets for self defense applications that led to addressing the conversion of bullets produced for the 45 Auto. These 45 Auto bullets would typically be designed for a taper crimp and, therefore, would not have a cannelure. They are typically inexpensive and available in bulk quantities. They do not require stout handloads to perform as intended and are therefore easier on the ears and wrists to shoot. Three bullets of this type were selected and  cannelures were cut to accept a roll crimp to prevent bullets from pulling under recoil.

After sale cannelures are engraved through a knurling process. In this case, a CH4D cannelure tool I purchased one or two hundred years ago was used to do the honors. It doesn’t take much more than 0.010″ of displaced material to provide roll crimp gripping surface, which will not cause bullet imbalance or alter the bullets aerodynamic properties. Bullets pictured are lightly scored to illustrate cannelure placement.

Bullet Type Bullet
Length “

Position “

Remington Golden Saber BJHP 185 0.534 0.210
Remington JHP 185 0.558 0.210
Speer Gold Dot JHP 185 0.535 0.210
*Seating depth

Left, one of the Remington bullets with the cannelure fully formed. The knurling tool provides adjustment for placement and depth of cannelure as well as the position of pressure lever to assure the least eccentric movement while knurling.

The Lee Factory Crimp die that is supplied with the 45 Colt die set is not the collet type and it actually isn’t much a roll crimper either. Lee does make a collet crimp tool for the 45 Colt that does a good job of square staking the case to the cannelure, Lee# 90302 for approximately $12.

Gees, Joe, how about cleaning that brass….

Handloads with bullet weights 185 grain and 200 grain are reduced a bit in velocity to be consistent with their construction and applications; plinking and human self defense and they will expand reliably and penetrate effectively. The only company loading non-frangible 185 grain factory ammo is Hornady; standard pressure ammo, MV 920 fps, utilizing the company’s Flex Tip bullet. This is not available in component form, which is unfortunate as the comparatively long bullet length produces good accuracy with the Ruger Redhawk’s 1:16″ rifling. The 240 grains and up bullet selections are a bit more stoutly loaded, reflecting tougher jackets an use on medium size game.

Warning: Bullet selections are specific, and loads are not valid with substitutions of different bullets of the same weight. Variations in bullet material and length will alter net case capacity,  pressure and velocity results. Primer selection is specific and primer types are not interchangeable. These data represents maximum loads in our firearms and test equipment and may easily be excessive in other applications. All loads should be reduced by 3%,  and developed following safe handloading practices as represented in established reloading manuals produced by component manufacturers. Presentation of these loads does not constitute a solicitation for their use, nor a recommendation.

Cartridge: 45 Colt – Large Frame Blackhawk and Redhawk Rugers Only

 Firearm: Ruger Redhawk  Min – Max COL: 1.515 – 1.600″
 Bullet Diameter: 0.451″ – 0.452  Primer: CCI 350
 Barrel: 4.2″  Reloading Dies: Lee Precision
 Max case length: 1.285″ +0.000″/-0.020″  Groups: 3 shot

Groups shot from a sandbag

COL and Capacity   Load Data & Performance
Bullet Type Bullet
  Powder Charge
Energy Ft/Lbs
Group Size ”
25 Yds
Remington GS 185 1.575 33.5   Hodgdon HS-6 14.5 1189 581 2.7
Remington GS 185 1.575 33.5   Alliant 2400 20.5 1143 537 3.0
Remington JHP 185 1.600 32.5   Hodgdon HS-6 14.5 1184 576 1.5
Remington JHP 185 1.600 32.5   Alliant 2400 20.5 1161 554 1.9
Speer GD 185 1.575 33.7   Hodgdon HS-6 14.5 1181 573 2.0
Speer GD 185 1.575 33.7   Alliant 2400 20.5 1128 523 2.2
Speer JHP 200 1.600 32.9   Hodgdon HS-6 15.0 1180 619 1.9
Speer JHP 200 1.600 32.9   Alliant 2400 21.0 1191 630 1.8
Sierra Sports Master 240 1.600 29.2   Hodgdon Lil’ Gun 26.0 1291 888 1.5
Sierra Sports Master 240 1.600 29.2   Hodgdon H110 26.0 1266 854 1.8
Hornady HP/XTP 250 1.600 28.3   Hodgdon Lil’ Gun 25.0 1192 789 2.0
Hornady HP/XTP 250 1.600 28.3   Hodgdon H110 26.0 1203 804 2.2
Speer JHP 260 1.565 26.2   Win 296 23.5 1173 795 2.6
Speer JHP 260 1.565 26.2   Hodgdon H110 23.5 1067 657 2.1

End of story…

I am not sure who would not like the Ruger Redhawk in 45 Colt. It is strong, reliable and accurate within its practical applications. The bit of additional mass over its competition makes it a soft shooter and easier to master, even with heavy hunting loads, and it is still a comfortable carry in a decent belt holster. The grip is a bit narrow, but it is long across the palm, so recoil is spread over a meaningful number of square inches. The sight picture is crisp and the sights hold adjustment even in heavy use. The double action trigger is a good one; smooth, relatively uniform in resistance and it leads to a predictable let off.

Can I find something to grouse about? The 4.2″ length barrel makes for an excellent trail gun and defensive carry revolver. For the hunter, it would be nice to have the barrel length options Ruger affords the 44 Mag by adding 5.5″ and 7.5″ options. without having to jump to the Super Redhawk and a 454 Casull cylinder. As is, the Redhawk is a terrific revolver.