There is an old Indian legend that says when all else is gone, still will remain the coyote. I would expand upon that and say still will remain the coyote and the .45 Colt. No other sixgun cartridge has ever been pronounced dead so many times. No other sixgun cartridge has so many devoted followers. Since doing the first Taffin Tests on the .45 Colt over six years ago, we have seen the disappearance of the Smith & Wesson Model 25-5 in .45 Colt, but the Colt Single Action Army is back once again and doing well; the Colt Anaconda is the first double action .45 from Colt in over fifty years; Ruger has introduced the Vaquero in both blue and stainless with the first chamberings in .45 Colt; Smith has come back with a clone of the 1988 five-inch heavy barreled stainless .45 ACP, this time in .45 Colt; and both Cimarron and EMF are importing totally upgraded single action replicas that are dead-ringers for the 19th Century Colt Peacemakers with the premier chambering being in, what else, the .45 Colt. In addition, EMF is importing a Bisley replica and Cimarron has the New Thunderer, a short-barreled Single Action Army with a Colt Lightning style grip.

The .45 Colt is now approaching its one hundred and twenty-fifth birthday and is the oldest living centerfire sixgun cartridge. It started as a blackpowder cartridge and today still enjoys tremendous popularity even as it was originally intended, loaded with black powder. The only difference now being it is used for cowboy action shooting rather than on cattle drives and shootouts on Main Street.

At the other end of the spectrum, the .45 Colt is the favorite handgun hunting cartridge of any number of shootists and sixgunners when loaded with heavyweight bullets and used in strong modern sixguns such as the Ruger Bisley, Colt Anaconda, or Wesson .45 Colt.

Awhile back I chanced upon some old original balloon head brass and have been experimenting with the 1870's loading for the .45 Colt.

Lachmiller's 255 grain conical bullet is a deadringer for the original and using 40.0 grains of Goex FFFg blackpowder ignited by a CCI #350 Magnum pistol primer with it quickly showed me why the old .45 Colt had such a great reputation. This old load clocked out at 981 feet per second!

My `modern' blackpowder load, assembled in the new solid head Remington nickle-plated brass, which is stronger but has less case capacity than the balloon head or folded head variety, consists of RCBS's 255 grain Keith bullet over 38.6 grains of Goex FFFg for 950 feet per second from a five and one-half inch barrel with the capability of grouping in one-inch at 25 yards. This load figures prominently in future hunting plans. When using blackpowder in the .45 Colt I strongly recommend the use of SPG lube to cut down on fouling.

My reloading of the .45 Colt started with the Lyman #310 Tong Tool, graduating to a Lyman All American press with All American dies in the late 1950's. By the mid 1970's I had discovered carbide and had my first set of RCBS .45 Colt dies. These have been in continuous service for two decades and have loaded thousands upon thousands of heart warming .45 Colt loads. Just this past month I received a set of Lyman's .45 Colt dies and they exhibit the same attention to quality as the RCBS veteran dies. Could you even begin to imagine a reloading bench without the familiar green and orange boxes from RCBS and Lyman?

Ten years ago much of my loading for the .45 Colt consisted of 300 grain bullets at 1100 to 1200 feet per second for use in the Ruger Blackhawk or Freedom Arms Casull revolver. This load still takes up a lot of the working time of the RCBS RockChucker or Dillon, but I find myself shooting some milder loads quite a bit more often.

For utility loads, loads in the 875 feet per second to 1,000 feet per second category, I find myself mostly using the 255 grain semi-wadcutter machine cast bullets from Bull-X or Oregon Trail. Favorite loads, all assembled with Winchester-Western brass and CCI #300 primers, are 8.0 grains of WW231 for 925 feet per second; 7.5 grains of WW452AA at 950 feet per second; 8.5 grains of Herco giving 900 feet per second; and 12.0 grains of WW540 for 925 feet per second. All of these loads will group right at one-inch shooting from a rest at 25 yards with my Smith & Wesson Model 25-5 .45 Colt.

The heavyweight bullets, 300 grains and above, are still the bullet of choice for the handgun hunters that I run with that prefer the .45 Colt. These are for use only in heavy duty sixguns such as the Ruger Blackhawk or Bisley, Wesson Firearms .45 Colt, or Freedom Arms Casull. For those that cast their own, RCBS has a fairly new mold, #45-300 SWC that has proven to be superbly accurate with 21.0-22.0 grains of H110 for 1100 to 1200 feet per second muzzle velocity. NEI's 310 and 325 grain semi-wadcutter Keith bullets are excellent designs as is LBT's 300 LFN and all shoot superbly at 1100 to 1200 feet per second.

The heaviest practical .45 Colt cast bullet is that designed by J.D. Jones and numbered at 345.451. I call it the SSK 340. This flat-nosed slap-'em-down-and-stomp-on-'em heavyweight is superbly accurate over 17.0 grains of the new VhitaVhouri N110 for 1200 feet per second. This is one of the most accurate .45 Colt loads I have ever found. Again, use only in heavy-duty sixguns!

The bulk of my heavyweight bullet shooting is with BRP's 300 grain flat-nosed gas checked .45 bullet. Loaded over 21.2 grains of H110 for 1200 feet per second, it rivals the 340 grain JDJ .45 bullet for accuracy. Both will shoot inside three-fourth's of an inch at 25 yards from a good sixgun.

Bull-X now has a 300 grain flat-nosed bullet available for the .45 Colt with two crimp grooves to adjust the loading to fit the length of the cylinder. For use in the Colt Single Action Army or replicas from EMF or Cimarron, I use this new heavyweight with 7.5 grains of Hodgdon's Universal or 15.0 grains of their H4227 for right at 750 to 800 feet per second. If you have a sixgun that shoots low with standard loads, this bullet could be the answer as it will print higher at 25 yards then the 250 grain bullets.

The latest heavyweight bullet available to those that cast their own is Lyman's #452651, a 325 grain round-nosed bullet that should penetrate from here to breakfast and groups at one-inch with 19.5 grains of H110 for 1100 feet per second.

We are just starting to really experiment with the VhitaVhouri powders and what we see looks good to say the least. Using 17.0 grains of VVN110 with standard weight bullets of 250 to 260 grains yields 950 to 1025 feet per second for an accurate pleasant shooting load. The same powder gives exceptional accuracy with heavyweight bullets as mentioned above.

Finally this last load is only to be used in the Ruger .45 Colt Bisley or Freedom Arms or custom five-shot .45 Colt sixguns. Lyman has a 255 grain .45 Colt gas-checked bullet, #454490GC, that was designed by Ray Thompson who also brought forth the .357 Magnum #358156GC and the .44 Magnum #431244GC. It is superbly accurate and will often shoot well in sixguns that are cranky about shooting plain-based bullets. Loaded over 21.5 grains of #2400 it will do 1300 plus feet per second in the seven and one-half inch Ruger. Do Not, repeat, Do Not use this load in a Colt or Colt-style Single Action!




Bull-X 255 SWC 

7.5 gr. WW231 875

8.0 gr. WW231* 926

7.0 gr. WW452AA 893

7.5 gr. WW452AA* 947

9.0 gr. 800X 861

9.5 gr. 800X 919

8.5 gr. Unique 901

9.0 gr. Unique 964

9.0 gr. Herco* 890

9.5 gr. Herco 934

12.0 gr. HS-6 955

7.5 gr. Bullseye 932

18.0 gr. H4227 938

19.0 gr. H4227 994

20.0 gr. H4227 1029

14.0 gr. AA#7 929

15.0 gr. AA#7 1005

11.0 gr. AA#5 874

13.0 gr. HS-7 921

12.0 gr. WW540* 921

8.0 gr. HP38 875

9.0 gr. HP38 1005

8.5 gr. Universal 875

9.0 gr. VV 340N* 961


17.2 gr. VVN110 1041

Hornady 250 XTP 

17.2 gr. VVN110 928

Speer 260 JHP 

17.2 gr. VVN110 934

Lyman #454424 260 gr. KT 

10.0 gr. Unique 948

Lyman #454422 260 gr. KT 

6.5 gr. AA#N100 869 most accurate

*excellent accuracy




Lachmiller #454424LC 

35.5 gr. FFFg 836

Lyman #454424 

35.5 gr. FFFg 804 

Bull-X 255 

35.5 gr. FFFg 805

RCBS #45-255 

38.6 gr. FFFg 949 most accurate




Hornady 300 XTP 

21.2 gr. H110* 1042

Hornady 300 XTP 

18.5 gr. AA#9 1018

RCBS #45-300 

21.2 gr. H110 1122

LBT 300 LFN 

18.5 gr. AA#9 1060


21.2 gr. H110* 1209

NEI 310 KT 

21.2 gr. H110 1139

NEI 325 KT 

18.3 gr. VV N110 1230

NEI 325 KT 

21.2 gr. H110 1139

Lyman 325 gr. #452651 

19.5 gr. H110* 1109

Lyman 325 gr. #452651 

17.0 gr. VV N110 1113

SSK 340 gr. FN 

19.5 gr. H110 1162

SSK 340 gr. FN 

17.0 gr. VV N110* 1181

*most accurate