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  #1  
Old 03-05-2009, 09:43 AM
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.45 Cowboy Special


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Lots of cowboy shooters insist on using the .45 Colt but want .38 special recoil. The huge powder capacity of the .45 long Colt gives them problems when using small powder charges behind light bullets. Chamber pressures of such loads are so low that few smokeless powders will burn consistently.
There has been a solution proposed, that being a .45 Short Colt called the "cowboy special". It has a .45 Colt head but shortened to .45 ACP length. Let me tell you, that is NOT a solution but simply exchanges one problem for another.
I bought 100 cases from "Adirondack Jack's Trading Post" before I even thought about it. The price is fair, $25.00 with shipping included. It seems to be decent quality brass and is head stamped ".45 Cowboy Special".
I loaded up 20 rounds, five each of 4 different powders, using .45 auto rim "starting loads" and went shooting. Bummer! Holes all over the place! Not one load gave a group I would even call a "group" at 25 yards. Six to ten inches!
Well I should have thought of this before I ordered the brass. We all know that accuracy from a revolver requires that the bullet fit the chamber throat. With the cowboy special brass being shorter than the .45 Colt chamber the bullet has to rattle through more than 3/8" of empty chamber before it even reaches the throat. The 200 grain bullets I was using have only 1/4" of bearing surface, meaning they could not be delivered to the chamber throat straight and centered, thus lousy accuracy.
This would be a fine cartridge if a revolver were chambered expressly for it, although the Ruger with a .45 ACP cylinder is probably even better. Using this brass in a .45 Colt chamber may be OK for the cowboy shooter who shoots only very large targets at very close range, it certainly does have an advantage in low recoil loads. As for me, anyone want some brass?
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Old 03-05-2009, 01:05 PM
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Thanks for your report. For those with a .45 Colt looking for light recoil ammunition this is good advice indeed. After reading your experiences, I will stay with the full length .45 Colt case.
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Old 03-05-2009, 04:08 PM
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Just think about how bad those Taurus Judges group!

Thanks for the info!
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  #4  
Old 03-05-2009, 11:06 PM
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Yep, similar issues.
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Old 03-06-2009, 03:42 PM
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Good warning. And it seems to me to be a solution in search of a problem. There are very fast smokeless powders that will develop enough pressure before the bullet gets going to burn well, even when making a small total gas volume. Vihtavuori N310, for example. Even Solo 1000 or Hodgdon Clays should do. What you want is an old fashioned gallery button bullet to combine with it. The NEI #282, a 160 grain bullet is not a button, per se, but it should do. Run it with about 3 grains of the powder you choose.
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  #6  
Old 03-06-2009, 04:20 PM
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Well it really is a non-issue to me personally as I'm not a cowboy shooter and have no objection to the recoil of common .45 Colt loads. My interest was in developing some low pressure loads for use in my 1860 army model with the Kirst Konverter. If I were into cowboy shooting and wanted light recoil I should hope I'd have the good sense not to shoot .45 Colt. If one wants .38 special recoil why don't they just shoot a .38? I guess it's all about image even though the image is deliberately deceptive, they want to wear a "big iron" but they want to shoot pop gun loads. My own favorite .45 Colt load is the 255 grain flat point over 35 grains measure of Goex black powder. Now that IS the "real cowboy gun", but also like the "real old west", messy, very messy.
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  #7  
Old 03-06-2009, 06:34 PM
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Hey, Joe.
I've been thinking of trying some of those Cowboy Specials. I'll take'm if you don't want'm.
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Old 03-06-2009, 07:36 PM
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I never heard of the Cowboy Specials... but I know to steer clear!

For anyone that wants light recoiling loads in .45 Colt, I use 200 grain bullets over Trailboss powder for CAS and whole heartedly recommend it. Trailboss is specifically designed for this purpose and works quite well.
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  #9  
Old 03-07-2009, 07:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peyote Buz View Post
Hey, Joe.
I've been thinking of trying some of those Cowboy Specials. I'll take'm if you don't want'm.
You would be welcome to them but I've already given them to a friend to try out in his Taurus Stalker .45 ACP. That is a five shot revolver which used Taurus moon clips which are very thin steel. As a result they did not build it with enough headspace to accept auto rim brass. The cowboy special seemed to fit perfectly and he was eager to try it out.
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Old 03-07-2009, 08:06 AM
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I don't cowboy shoot, but do use a Kirst Konvertor 45 Colt cylinder in two Ruger Old Army revolvers. These short loads are about like shooting 22 Shorts in a 22 Long Rifle chamber....they fire, but are not worth much. There are loads for the 45 Colt using Unique that will make up some nice low recoil loads.
I don't quite understand why anyone would want these loads, when there are 38 Specials out there for low recoil.
It seems like a waste of time to dress up like cowboys go through all stuff to be authenic, and then shoot pop loads....but like I say, I'm not into the cowboy thing......James
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  #11  
Old 03-07-2009, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by CowboyGunNut View Post
I never heard of the Cowboy Specials... but I know to steer clear!

For anyone that wants light recoiling loads in .45 Colt, I use 200 grain bullets over Trailboss powder for CAS and whole heartedly recommend it. Trailboss is specifically designed for this purpose and works quite well.
I find Trail Boss to be quite a bit less than the miraculous stuff it is cracked up to be. It does not flow through a measure at all well. It seems to have a burning rate between Red Dot and Unique and in low pressure loads it does not burn any more consistently than those powders. It is very bulky and so would probably prevent double charging but that is about all it has to offer. The loads I've tried in my Kirst converted 1860 so far have shown velocity spreads for five shots greater than similar loads of Red Dot or Tite Group. I tried the following loads with a 200 grain cast bullet and Trail Boss.
5.4 grains average 675 fps extreme spread for 5 shots-51 fps
5.6 grains---------688 fps----------------------------56 fps
5.8 grains---------772 fps----------------------------90 fps
and 6.2 grains with a .457" round ball went 740 fps with a spread of 117 fps.
By comparison 28 grains volume measure of Pyrodex RS gave the 200 grain bullet 920 fps and the roundball 1040 fps. I never chronographed it as a percussion and was quite surprised at the velocities from the .45 Colt cylinder. None of the smokeless loads I've tried so far are going nearly so fast.
I have probably been over cautious in working up loads, I'm probably still in the area of such low pressure that no smokeless powder will burn consistently. But the outside chamber walls at the rear of the Kirst Konverter are only .033" thick, thus caution seems appropriate.
As a percussion revolver this gun was not what I'd call a "tack driver" but was good for consistent groups around 2 1/2", which I call acceptable. With the .45 Colt cylinder I have gotten a few groups around 3" but not repeatable. My goal with this is a safe smokeless load for the 200 grain bullet at least 800 fps with groups no worse than 3" all day every day. Actually, my best groups so far have been with the .457" roundball, which is no surprise since that is what the gun was designed to shoot.
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Last edited by CoyoteJoe; 03-07-2009 at 08:14 AM.
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  #12  
Old 03-07-2009, 08:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Gates View Post
I don't cowboy shoot, but do use a Kirst Konvertor 45 Colt cylinder in two Ruger Old Army revolvers. These short loads are about like shooting 22 Shorts in a 22 Long Rifle chamber....they fire, but are not worth much. There are loads for the 45 Colt using Unique that will make up some nice low recoil loads.
I don't quite understand why anyone would want these loads, when there are 38 Specials out there for low recoil.
It seems like a waste of time to dress up like cowboys go through all stuff to be authenic, and then shoot pop loads....but like I say, I'm not into the cowboy thing......James
I totally agree James, if one wants .38 recoil it's best to shoot a .38 revolver.
But shooting the cowboy special in a long Colt chamber is not at all like firing .22 shorts in a long rifle chamber. I've owned several .22's that would shoot shorts with useful accuracy, but in that case the chamber, though longer, is only a thousandth or two larger than the bullet diameter. In the case of the cowboy special you're firing a .452" bullet through a .480" chamber before it hits the chamber throat. It can dang near turn itself around in there!
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Old 03-15-2009, 04:45 AM
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I have a Ruger Blackhawk 45 convertible, 45Col/45ACP. I liked it so much I sent my Vaquero to have a cylinder fitted with an ACP cylinder. That worked so well I sent my 44Mag Vaquero Bisley to have a 44-40 cylinder fitted. The 45's with the ACP cylinders shoot reduced loads like a champ.
Case solved!
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Old 03-15-2009, 07:28 AM
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I wonder if Ruger will ever offer the .45 ACP option for the New Vaquero, that would be sweet.
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Old 03-15-2009, 01:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CowboyGunNut View Post
For anyone that wants light recoiling loads in .45 Colt, I use 200 grain bullets over Trailboss powder for CAS and whole heartedly recommend it. Trailboss is specifically designed for this purpose and works quite well.
This is what I do for light loads in the .45 Colt, it recoils less than the 215grn 44 Special loads in the 44Mag.
And I find that it meters quite nicely thew the Dillon powder measurer!
Now I just have to figure out if we're going to keep that pos Taurus Gaucho or get a good revolver!??
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Old 03-23-2009, 11:09 AM
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Tite-group is a powder designed for large case volume and low powder charges. I used tite-group for CAS, when I shot Shoots. I really liked it.
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  #17  
Old 03-30-2009, 07:32 PM
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Light loads in a .45 Colt for CAS

What about using a light load and seating the bullet deep into the standard .45 Colt case? If a crimp is needed, would a lee .45 collet crimp die (special order) crimp the case just in front of the bullet and be practical? These are just questions, what do you think?
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Old 03-31-2009, 08:11 AM
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That could be done but I think it would be a bit awkward and you'd not know how to adjust the powder charge. Even very slightly deep seating the bullet in straight wall handgun cases can run up chamber pressures very sharply and if you seated it so deeply as to really effect case capacity you could not use any normal loading data, you'd be on your own. I have heard of seating a 1/2" thick fiber wad under the bullet in .45 Colt, and using .45 ACP starting loads for powder. That could get pretty tedious if loading a lot of ammo.
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Old 04-01-2009, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Safeshot View Post
What about using a light load and seating the bullet deep into the standard .45 Colt case? If a crimp is needed, would a lee .45 collet crimp die (special order) crimp the case just in front of the bullet and be practical? These are just questions, what do you think?
For light target loads, just seat semi-wadcutter bullets so that the bullet shoulder is even with the case mouth. Lightly crimp.

The powder will burn cleaner, and velocities will be more consistent. I do this with light target loads in the .44 mag (not magnum level charges, more like .44 special charges) and in the .45 Colt.

There was a good article about doing this in a Handloader's digest a few years back, but I don't recall the year.
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  #20  
Old 04-01-2009, 04:51 PM
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Again I caution that deep seating will raise pressures because you are reducing case capacity. Notice the difference in powder charge between .45 Colt, .45 S&W Schoefield and .45 ACP. A starting load in .45 Colt will exceed the maximum load in .45 ACP even though the ACP permits higher pressures. When I seat bullets in the Long Colt to crimp over the ogive instead of the crimp groove I use .45 S&W data because that is about the same cartridge OAL, thus similar case capacity.
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Last edited by CoyoteJoe; 04-01-2009 at 04:53 PM.
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