Author Topic: .45 Colt (Original BP vs Smokeless)  (Read 446 times)

Offline Doug.38PR

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.45 Colt (Original BP vs Smokeless)
« on: April 18, 2019, 12:30:00 am »
I have wondered when the transition from BP to Smokeless came about on the frontier and military. 

My recent experience with BP as being noticably much more powerful than most if not all handloads (SAA safe that is).

Tonight I came across an interesting comment from 1899 from Texas Ranger John H. Rogers when he was stationed in Orange, TX.   He implores the state adjutant general ?not to send any more smokeless pistol cartridges.  They don?t penetrate,? he wrote.


Offline Coffinmaker

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Re: .45 Colt (Original BP vs Smokeless)
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2019, 05:01:46 pm »

Wow.  Good question Doug.  I have to admit, I'm not enough of a history buff to have a definitive answer.  I do know BP ammunition was loaded for the commercial market well into the 20th Century.  I don't believe ???? BP ammunition was seen in the military after WW I. 

It is my understanding the Military went to all smokeless procurement shortly after the turn of the century however .... the military would have used up existing stocks for training ???? Or surpluses it off.

I really don't have definitively good answers for this one.

Offline Don Kenna

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Re: .45 Colt (Original BP vs Smokeless)
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2019, 08:43:44 pm »
I know that some smokeless powder .45 Colt ammunition was purchased by the government in the early 20th Century specifically for the Colt Model 1909 revolver (actually a military grade New Service).  The cases for these had larger rims than those made previously, in part for more reliable extraction in the Model 1909, and in part to prevent their use in Colt SAAs.  I would very strongly suspect that smokeless powder .45 Colt cartridges with lighter charges were procured by the government for use in Colt SAA revolvers early in the century, but I don't know that for sure.  I'm pretty certain that at least some military issue Colt SAAs were still in use in the Philippines as late as 1913, when combat operations there largely ended and Model 1911 pistols began to become more generally available.  I think it's a pretty safe bet that black powder .45 Colt cartridges were still being used in that conflict just because they were available.

The .45 Colt cartridge loaded with black powder is indeed very potent.  I?m occasionally bemused by those who state they want to use "light loads" in their Colt SAAs and indicate they will therefore use black powder.  It's generally accepted that .45 Colt loads using 40 grains of black powder did exist, but the Army quickly decided it didn't want anything to do with them.  Neither did most civilians.  The reason usually given for adopting 35 grains of black powder under a 250-grain bullet as a standard maximum load is that the early iron-framed Colt SAAs couldn't withstand continued use of the heavier load.  While that's very probably true, I think another significant factor must have been that the shooters couldn't withstand continued use of the 40-grain charge.

I very much like shooting Colt SAAs and clones thereof with black powder loads, but I have found the standard 35-grain .45 Colt load (I use Swiss 1-1/2 or 2F) produces unpleasant recoil, at least for me.  I found it quite accurate, however.  I did try 35 grains of Swiss 3F, and of course the recoil approached the level of "violent."  For match shooting, I've switched to a Colt Frontier Six Shooter--.44/40, of course--using a 33-grain load of Swiss 1-1/2 under a 216-grain bullet.  Even that has an "attention getting" recoil.  In the 19th Century--or even now, for that matter--if I had to stop a particularly large and mean assailant--human or otherwise--I'd rely upon a black powder loaded .45 Colt to get the job done.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2019, 08:18:44 am by Don Kenna »

Offline Doug.38PR

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Re: .45 Colt (Original BP vs Smokeless)
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2019, 09:48:40 pm »
I know that some smokeless powder .45 Colt ammunition was purchased by the government in the early 20th Century specifically for the Colt Model 1909 revolver (actually a military grade New Service).  The cases for these had larger rims than those made previously, in part for more reliable extraction in the Model 1909, and in part to prevent their use in Colt SAAs.  I would very strongly suspect that smokeless powder .45 Colt cartridges with lighter charges were procured by the government for use in Colt SAA revolvers early in the century, but I don?t know that for sure.  I?m pretty certain that at least some military issue Colt SAAs were still in use in the Philippines as late as 1913, when combat operations there largely ended and Model 1911 pistols began to become more generally available.  I think it?s a pretty safe bet that black powder .45 Colt cartridges were still being used in that conflict just because they were available.

The .45 Colt cartridge loaded with black powder is indeed very potent.  I?m occasionally bemused by those who state they want to use ?light loads? in their Colt SAAs and indicate they will therefore use black powder.  It?s generally accepted that .45 Colt loads using 40 grains of black powder did exist, but the Army quickly decided it didn?t want anything to do with them.  Neither did most civilians.  The reason usually given for adopting 35 grains of black powder under a 250-grain bullet as a standard maximum load is that the early iron-framed Colt SAAs couldn?t withstand continued use of the heavier load.  While that?s very probably true, I think another significant factor must have been that the shooters couldn?t withstand continued use of the 40-grain charge.

I very much like shooting Colt SAAs and clones thereof with black powder loads, but I have found the standard 35-grain .45 Colt load (I use Swiss 1-1/2 or 2F) produces unpleasant recoil, at least for me.  I found it quite accurate, however.  I did try 35 grains of Swiss 3F, and of course the recoil approached the level of ?violent.?  For match shooting, I?ve switched to a Colt Frontier Six Shooter--.44/40, of course?using a 33-grain load of Swiss 1-1/2 over a 216-grain bullet.  Even that has an ?attention getting? recoil.  In the 19th Century?or even now, for that matter?if I had to stop a particularly large and mean assailant?human or otherwise?I?d rely upon a black powder loaded .45 Colt to get the job done.

Swiss 3f is pretty sharp in recoil out of a 4.75 or 5.5 inch barrel.   7 inch is more pleasant to me.  35 gr of Swiss 3F behind a 250 gr

Anyway, yes it is quite powerful.  One day I was shooting using Pyrodex, forgive me, out of my 4.75 Vaquero and my neighbor on the 800 acres of woods adjoining me called my cell phone and ask if that was me shooting over there.  I said I was shooting .45 Colt with BP.  He replied  ?I was about to say:  that sounded like something a little more than a 9mm?


Offline Doug.38PR

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Re: .45 Colt (Original BP vs Smokeless)
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2019, 04:46:15 pm »
Wow.  Good question Doug.  I have to admit, I'm not enough of a history buff to have a definitive answer.  I do know BP ammunition was loaded for the commercial market well into the 20th Century.  I don't believe ???? BP ammunition was seen in the military after WW I. 

It is my understanding the Military went to all smokeless procurement shortly after the turn of the century however .... the military would have used up existing stocks for training ???? Or surpluses it off.

I really don't have definitively good answers for this one.

I believe the marines or army over in the phillippines switched back to the .45 Colt in SAA in the early 1900s after the poor performance of .38 long colt DA colt revolvers.   
I want to say the Rough Riders were adamant about having smokeless .30-40 Krag carbines.  But I don?t know if that included sidearms (or what kind of sidearm, .45 SAA or .38 DA)

Offline FriscoCounty

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Re: .45 Colt (Original BP vs Smokeless)
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2019, 04:56:12 pm »
While the original .45 Colt loading - 40gr BP, 255gr bullet - was used during the trials and may have issued some at that loading.  The Army Ordinance Department had reduced the issue load to 30gr of BP behind a 250gr bullet by early 1874.  On August 20, 1874 the Frankford Arsenal stopped production of that load and in early 1875 introduced a compromise cartridge that would work in both the S&W and Colt.  The "Revolver Ball Cartridge, Caliber .45" used 28gr of BP behind a 230gr RNFP bullet.  With minor changes, such as changing from Berdan to Boxer primers, this cartridge (now termed the M1887 ball cartridge) was the standard issue until it was replaced by the .38 Long Colt in 1892.

I have no information of what ammunition was sourced during the Spanish American war for the reissue of the Colt revolvers.  If it was existing stores, it would have been the M1887 Ball cartridge.  If not, it would have been from commercial manufacturers who did, by the way, produce BP .45 Colt ammunition with a 250gr bullet in both 40gr and 28gr loadings,
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Offline Cliff Fendley

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Re: .45 Colt (Original BP vs Smokeless)
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2019, 10:49:59 pm »
I had always thought it started with the arrival of the 45acp but I have heard and read in recent years that the shorter government loading started the terminology of "long colt" way back then. Maybe someone can verify that.
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Offline FriscoCounty

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Re: .45 Colt (Original BP vs Smokeless)
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2019, 12:03:12 am »
I had always thought it started with the arrival of the 45acp but I have heard and read in recent years that the shorter government loading started the terminology of "long colt" way back then. Maybe someone can verify that.

There are references to the .45 Long Colt cartridge dating back to the 1870′s by US Army personnel as a way of differentiating the longer .45 Colt cartridge, which could only be used in the M1873 Colt, from the  "Revolver Ball Cartridge, Caliber .45" hybrid that could be loaded into both the M1873 Colt and the S&W Model 3 Schofield.  The .45 S&W (Schofield) could only be loaded in the S&W as the rim was too wide to chamber in the Colt M1873.
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