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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have heard some folks say that Cowboy loads in the 45 Colt, 44-40, and 357 magnum for instance, should NOT be used in self-defense scenarios. Others say that even though the velocity for most Cowboy loads falls somewhere in the 720-750 feet per second range that they are definitely adequate, and perhaps ideal because they will not "go through" an assailant. I would like to read some good discussion of this issue. Is the velocity the possible problem? Is it the nature of the lead bullets? Thanks for your time and "Happy New Year" to everyone.

Kindest regards,
Timberwolf
 

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Don't know about the 44-40 but do know that the .357 at SASS spec is 158 grain round nose flat point at 800 FPS - that would work just fine if you shot someone in self-defense. The .45 Colt is 250 grain RNFP at 750 fps, which again should work fine in self-defense. I would estimate about 16" to 20" of penetration which is what the FBI "spec" is. Due to lower recoil I think they would work just dandy.
 

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I'm sure if you polled great-grandfathers everywhere, they would suggest that a 44/40 at 700fps did an awful lot of defending, back in the day. One or two of those big ol' slugs ought to handle most situations and the last thing on my mind would be whether or not they penetrate all the way through my would-be assailant.
 

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If by "Cowboy Load" you mean "Cowboy Action Load", then maybe, maybe not. But why handicap yourself? Those loads are designed for one thing only, to get the sights back on target for timed sequences. If they are all you have, they are obviously better than nothing. But if you plan to make the gun available for self-defense, then load with something more substantial if your life is worth more than a gamble. JMO.
 

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Bind three good-sized phone books together, soak 'em down with water, then shoot them with those cowboy action loads. I think if you show the results to criminals they would ask that you please shoot them with a 9mm, instead.
 

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That is the bottom line. Good point.
 

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The purpose of "cowboy" loads is that they produce light recoil to help the shooter get back on target ASAP because he is participating in a timed fire event. Many CAS shooters who handload their own ammunition are turning out rounds that come nowhere close to 750 fps so to use this type ammunition for self-defense is IMO, an unwise choice. Using this ammunition could, of course, incapacitate an assailant if the bullet struck a vital organ but then so could a .22 LR. For self-defense, there is much to be said for a large bullet that produces a lot of shock and a huge opening for blood to flow. YMMV
 

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The purpose of "cowboy" loads is that they produce light recoil to help the shooter get back on target ASAP because he is participating in a timed fire event. Many CAS shooters who handload their own ammunition are turning out rounds that come nowhere close to 750 fps so to use this type ammunition for self-defense is IMO, an unwise choice. Using this ammunition could, of course, incapacitate an assailant if the bullet struck a vital organ but then so could a .22 LR. For self-defense, there is much to be said for a large bullet that produces a lot of shock and a huge opening for blood to flow. YMMV
From the link at the bottom of the page, I found this quote: "Current factory loads for CAS Shooters range from 750 to 850 fps with a sixgun. The advantage of the .44-40 both in the Frontier Period and now over the .45 Colt is a considerable reduction in felt recoil."

Please note that this is a reduced load from the standard 1100fps you would expect from the Winchester 'litigation-safe' loads. If, as you say, you'd like a large bullet that produces a lot of shock and a huge opening for blood to flow, how does a .429" hole and a 200gr slug sound? Just because it is over 100 years old and doesn't have the term "magnum" applied to it, please don't presume the 44/40 would be ineffective for self-defense. Even with throttled back CAS loads, there isn't a reason in the world to pick a 9mm over this classic round!

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BQY/is_3_48/ai_82551649/pg_2/?tag=content;col1
 

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. . . If, as you say, you'd like a large bullet that produces a lot of shock and a huge opening for blood to flow, how does a .429" hole and a 200gr slug sound? Just because it is over 100 years old and doesn't have the term "magnum" applied to it, please don't presume the 44/40 would be ineffective for self-defense. . .
Both the .44 WCF or the .45 Colt is a round that commands respect under any conditions, especially when loaded to standard factory specs. It's when these rounds are deliberately loaded down to win at CAS that cause misgivings if used for self-defence. I thought I made it clear that I prefer a serious round for serious work and yes, YMMV.
 

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The purpose of "cowboy" loads is that they produce light recoil to help the shooter get back on target ASAP because he is participating in a timed fire event. Many CAS shooters who handload their own ammunition are turning out rounds that come nowhere close to 750 fps so to use this type ammunition for self-defense is IMO, an unwise choice. Using this ammunition could, of course, incapacitate an assailant if the bullet struck a vital organ but then so could a .22 LR. For self-defense, there is much to be said for a large bullet that produces a lot of shock and a huge opening for blood to flow. YMMV
This was not a thread regarding how top SASS shooters download ammuntiton to win competitions. There are a number of manufacturers who load "cowboy ammunition" generally to the same standards - here is link to Black Hills (typical of all the "Cowboy Loads") http://www.black-hills.com/cowboy.htm Just click on more info. As indicated the rounds in question are more than adequate and not marginal and would likely pass FBI ballistic geletin standards. It appears to be a fact beyond dispute that the "cowboy" .357, .45 Colt and 44-40 would all make effective self-defense ammunition.
 

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I'm sure if you polled great-grandfathers everywhere, they would suggest that a 44/40 at 700fps did an awful lot of defending, back in the day.
"Back in the day" they didn't download squat, except maybe the military's .45 Colt to .45 Schofield due to weapons compatabilty issues. "Back in the day" they never used cream of wheat as an inert filler, for Pete's sake. I think cowboys, lawmen, and gunslingers "back in the day" would laugh at the thought of purposely reducing the standard full black powder loads for .44 Special, .44-40, or .45 Colt, especially where intended to be used for self defense. I can't recall Elmer Keith ever talking about reducing the power of handgun cartridges for manstopping. In fact, he was always trying to upload them, even blowing up some of his guns during his experiments. So, if you feel that your reduced-power Cowboy Action Loads are somehow on par with or better than the standard loadings, then that's your gamble. I wouldn't want to be shot with either loading, no one would, so that's no proof of what's "adequate":rolleyes:, but if I were specifically choosing one with which to defend myself, well.......enough said.
 

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"Back in the day" they didn't download squat, except maybe the military's .45 Colt to .45 Schofield due to weapons compatabilty issues. "Back in the day" they never used cream of wheat as an inert filler, for Pete's sake. I think cowboys, lawmen, and gunslingers "back in the day" would laugh at the thought of purposely reducing the standard full black powder loads for .44 Special, .44-40, or .45 Colt, especially where intended to be used for self defense. I can't recall Elmer Keith ever talking about reducing the power of handgun cartridges for manstopping. In fact, he was always trying to upload them, even blowing up some of his guns during his experiments. So, if you feel that your reduced-power Cowboy Action Loads are somehow on par with or better than the standard loadings, then that's your gamble. I wouldn't want to be shot with either loading, no one would, so that's no proof of what's "adequate":rolleyes:, but if I were specifically choosing one with which to defend myself, well.......enough said.
Well, sir, this thread is entirely about whether or not the CAS loads, in the listed calibers are "adequate", so I was responding accordingly. I wouldn't necessarily choose those loads, either, but nonetheless, they would be, and historically have been, quite effective. Because I don't prescribe to the "more is better" mentality as THE answer to every question, I would not feel at a disadvantage if armed with a revolver and 44/40 CAS loads.

I think if you were to read and understand the history of the 44/40 round, in particular, you would have a better basis to make comparisons with today's Cowboy loads. There have been two markedly different iterations of the 44/40 round, based on the strength of available actions of the time. The evolution of the way this cartridge is used has come full circle, with the CAS loads, because they basically duplicate the pressures/velocities associated with the original black powder loadings, as fired from early revolvers. The assertion that they are "downloaded" simply for lower recoil is erroneous.

So, comparing "back in the day" BP loads with today's CAS loads is essentially, apples-to-apples...and thus, I maintain my position on the question the OP asked. A 200gr slug, from a 44/40 CAS load, at ~700fps, is well-suited for personal defense, despite not being as powerful as more modern offerings. When you put it all into proper context, a 44 Russian is not a 44/40, is not a 44 Special, is not a 44 Magnum, is not a 445 Super Mag....but the end results are, predictably, quite similar.
 

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I wouldn't necessarily choose those loads, either, but nonetheless, they would be, and historically have been, quite effective. .........So, comparing "back in the day" BP loads with today's CAS loads is essentially, apples-to-apples....
You may have a case for the .44 WCF CAS loading being "apples-to-apples" with the original black powder loads, but I seriously doubt it. I don't have a .44-40, and have never even fired one, so I don't pretend to have an answer for it, not having my loading data with me on this trip.

However, I am familiar enough with the .45 Colt to say that your assertion is entirely untrue. A .45 Colt CAS load is not equivalent to the normal 30 gr. FFg black powder load. It would completely defeat the whole point of CAS loads, which is reduced recoil.

Our mutual friend, Sir Isaac Newton, once told me that for every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is what causes recoil. In order to reduce the recoil in any given gun, one must reduce the force coming from the muzzle, which force we call "energy". This can be accomplished by reducing the velocity and/or mass of the projectile. In other words, reducing recoil equals reducing muzzle energy. In other, other words, CAS reduced-power loads cannot be "apples-to apples" with the original black powder loads when talking about the .45 Colt, where the recoil of a standard full black powder load points that muzzle sky high. Do CAS loads do this? Wouldn't it defeat the point of CAS loads if they did?! .45 Colt reduced CAS loads are NOT "apples-to-apples" with the original black powder loads.



Well, sir, this thread is entirely about whether or not the CAS loads, in the listed calibers are "adequate", so I was responding accordingly......and thus, I maintain my position on the question the OP asked. A 200gr slug, from a 44/40 CAS load, at ~700fps, [B]is[/B] well-suited for personal defense, despite not being as powerful as more modern offerings.
Ah, and there's the rub. "Adequate" is subjective, and adequacy of any given round will depend on conditions which cannot be known in advance.

Is a CAS .44-40 round "adequate" for self-defense? Sometimes, sometimes not.
Is a standard .44-40 round "adequate" for self-defense? Sometimes, sometimes not.
Is a CAS .45 Colt round "adequate" for self-defense? Sometimes, sometimes not.
Is a standard .45 Colt round "adequate" for self-defense? Sometimes, sometimes not.

There's simply no way one can say whether a given round would be "adequate" to eliminate a threat without using some term of uncertainty, like "could".

A CAS .44-40 round could be adequate for self-defense.
A standard .44-40 round could be adequate for self-defense.
A CAS .45 Colt round could be adequate for self-defense.
A standard .45 Colt round could be adequate for self-defense.
Heck, even a .22 short could be "adequate" under optimal conditions, so please be careful when saying such and such a load is adequate for self-defense.

There can be no pat answer to whether a CAS load is adequate or not, but one can decide for himself whether or not it would be prudent to consciously choose a CAS loading to defend his own life. No one can answer that question for anyone but himself. One person may value his life more than another one values his.

And, dang you anyway, TIMBERWOLF! I hear you around the corner snickering about what you started!:D
 

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With the availability of cheap low level body armor that has to be taken into account. The speed of quick follow ups has to be considered against the possibility of light body armor. Either choice could be a bad one. There are no perfect rounds. It is all a series of trade offs.
 

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None of this is a science but we do know what works. We have actual shootings and FBI performance testing to go by - 12 to 18" of penetration in ballistic gelatin. The Cowboy .45 Colt is a 250 grain round nose flat point at 750 fps that develops 311 ft pounds of energy and has a Taylor K.O. of 11 which is more than a 9mm. If a 230 grain FMJ rouund nose .45 ACP at 830 fps will penetrate 26" ballistic gelatin and is 63% for one shot stops we can expect similar performance from our .45 Colt with less than 26" of penetration but more than 18" max recommended by FBI. May over-penetrate. So it is adequate. Nothing to write home about but good enough. Same for the .357/.38 special Cowboy loads. A .38 special Federal lead round nose 158 grain at 708 fps and 176 foot pounds will penetrate 28.5" of ballistic gelatin and is at 52% for one shot stops. So our .38 special 158 grain round nose flat point cowboy load at 800 fps should be even better but may over-penetrate. Again adequate which is the whole point of all of this. No one contends that there are not better loads.
 

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This was not a thread regarding how top SASS shooters download ammuntiton to win competitions. . .
No it's not, however, the term "cowboy loads" cover a wide range of specs all the way from the factory loaded 700+ fps to the handloaders 600 fps or less. Just refer to any reloading manual that covers cowboy loads and you will see there is quite a velocity difference from factory. In broader terms, what I'm saying is that I will be packing standard velocity loads and not mid-range for self-defense. I'm taking into account that an assailant may be using cover from which to launch an attack so I would prefer a bullet with adequate (for lack of a better term) penetration. YMMV
 

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No it's not, however, the term "cowboy loads" cover a wide range of specs all the way from the factory loaded 700+ fps to the handloaders 600 fps or less. Just refer to any reloading manual that covers cowboy loads and you will see there is quite a velocity difference from factory. In broader terms, what I'm saying is that I will be packing standard velocity loads and not mid-range for self-defense. YMMV
You and me both. But for some a "Cowboy Load" may be all the recoil they can take due to physical limitations and/or illness. You are correct for most people. And sorry, when I read what I posted again it came off as rude - not my intention.
 

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Personally, I'd say the .45 Colt 250 gr @ ~750 fps is close enough to the .45 acp 230 gr @ ~830 that I wouldn't feel under gunned with the .45 Colt load. I occasionally carry a .45 Colt revolver for defense and I'll either carry the Federal 225 gr SWCHP (~900 fps) or a handloaded 250 SWC @ 950 fps, but if all I had was the cowboy loads I wouldn't hesitate to use them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I am very appreciative for all the responses to my original post.
Cowboy Gun Nut, I have a question: are the Uberti 1873 Cattleman
revolvers for 45 Colt built to withstand the loads you mentioned, that
is, the Federal, etc. that keep it inside of 1000 ft per second?

Kindness and a Happy New Year to all,
Timberwolf
 
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