Loading the .45 LC


Ryan Williams
June 9, 2010, 12:06 AM
Just a quick question... I am going to be loading for my Ruger Vaquro .45LC this weekend and I am having difficulties deciding on a load.

For now, I'm not looking for a light cowboy action load, and I'm not looking for a hunting load... just a general plinking load, but I would like it to be as accurate as possible.

I have 200 new winchester cases and a friend gave me a box of 200 Berry's plated .45 250 GR FPLC bullets. So I would kind of like to burn these up.

Has anyone used these bullets in a .45 colt? if so, what did you think?

Also does anyone have any other recommendations for loads??


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June 9, 2010, 12:21 AM
If your vaquero isn't the old version, stick to cowboy and other low-moderate loads. For plinking (or even defense) a cowboy load is just fine.

June 9, 2010, 02:00 AM
I only shoot lead but I think you would be happy with 8.5 to 9 grains of Unique.

June 9, 2010, 02:25 AM
For practice/plinking ammo in the .45 Colt I use W231/HP-38.
I also use HS-6 for more serious work.

If you like Unique you can use Universal in place of Unique since Universal meters so much better.

dagger dog
June 9, 2010, 06:11 AM
The original Vaquero, will handle HOT loads but if it its the New Vaquero, keep them within manual specs. The 8.5 gr Unique 250-255 gr bullet seems to be the standard, Lyman 48 has this as MAX for .45 Colt. It is plenty potent, and you will find that out after you shoot a few.

Get some sand bags and see how the Berrys print, the fixed sights of your Vaquero will take a little time in working up a load that will shoot to point of aim. Your components fall in the specs for sight regulation on the fixed sight .45 Colt revolvers, load up 20 of those new cases with a starter load and work up.

June 9, 2010, 07:27 AM
For my light .45 Colt plinker load I use 6.1 Grs of AA #2 under an X-Treme 255 Gr plated bullet. (Very similar bullet) It's very clean, great ES & ED numbers regardless of powder position (excellent PF numbers), very accurate, and low recoil. Like shooting a .22 all afternoon. About 600 to 625 FPS. For a nice 800 to 900 FPS second load you'll need Unique or a similar speed powder.

This load is safe in my gun using my load technique. Check data, start low, and work up.

June 9, 2010, 07:44 AM
Crimp. No matter what recipe you decide on, crimp those babys.

June 9, 2010, 08:26 AM
Another vote for 8-9.0 grains Unique. I like a 255 grain cast bullet over 8.0-8.5 grains of Unique, that's what I shoot in my .45 Colt. Very accurate in my Smith 625-5, with little recoil. At 50 yards and under, that load should punch through anything that I will ever run into on the east coast of the United States.

June 9, 2010, 08:52 AM
I would load the starting Cowboy load of 7.7 gr of Unique with that bullet. This would give you a nice comfortable medium load to shoot and not beat up you and your Vaquero. :)

June 9, 2010, 09:16 AM
You will have to test it, but those fixed sight guns are typically adjusted to shoot to point of aim with 250-255 grain bullets. Well adjusted for someone at the factory who holds and aims totally different from me.

I had a Ruger Vaquero that had a tall front sight and I was able to file it down and get the revolver to zero.

June 9, 2010, 10:09 AM
I will go ahead and buck the trend, and say that your Vaquero is stronger than a lot of people give it credit for. The New Model Vaquero can handle loads in the 20K range all day long, without trouble. The problem comes in that most manuals provide standard data of around 14K, and then ruger only data that comes in at 25-30K.

So, while you can't load the "Ruger Only" loads in the New Model Vaquero, you can most certainly load much more than "cowboy" loads. Full power standard pressure 45colt, and a little more is perfectly safe, and not something to be avoided. FWIW, in your case I would load either 9.0-9.5gr Unique, or 14.5-15.0gr of 2400 with a 250-255 gr lead bullet. Both are standard pressure loads that will be more than powerful for your vaquero, but still be fun to shoot.

JMO, of course, and you should always load cautiously and work up to those loads.

June 9, 2010, 11:11 PM
I've been loading and shooting a lot of .45 colt recently.

In the 250 gr rnfp I have found 5.5-6.0 gr Red Dot to be pleasant and accurate.

I have used 7.8 -8.5 Unique and 7.8 Universal.

I also like the 200 gr swc with 6.8 Red dot. I've run some with 5.6 Bullseye as well.

I've been loading heavier and faster for Ruger and Rossi Puma '92, but the above are working good for moderate pistol loads.

Ryan Williams
June 10, 2010, 01:16 AM
Thanks for all of the great Tips!
It is an old Vaquero I have, not the new Vaquero so I am not as concerned about a moderately hot load. Accuracy is more the key for me.

June 10, 2010, 01:22 AM
Pointy end first dude!

Ryan Williams
June 10, 2010, 01:27 AM
ArchAngelCD & robctwo... this may sound like a noob question, but when you are referring to Universal powder, are you referring to universal clays?

June 10, 2010, 01:36 AM
I am not a balistician but I have fired 1000's of various pistol rounds and I used to spend weeks reloading rounds on a single stage press just to shoot em up again.
It is not the carefully prepared loads weighed to within 1/10th of a grain that create perfect balistics that ensures good results when handgunning, Oh maybe in a world class shooting event, but not in 99.999999% of the cases.
It is taking joy in what you do that ensures enough internal energy to do Perfect Practice Preventing Piss Poor Performance.
Even with lousy ammo you can shoot like a pro if you do all the basics perfectly through practice.
Oh and BTW
It is the guy that disreguards all the basics of Perfect Performance, the guy that is over confident that looses a match by a few points.
Place your confidence where it belongs, in YOU, inside yourself. If you feel insecure then it is because you have not learned enough about the skill you desire to use, Life is all about skill and knowladge, no one is borne with skill or knowladge but everyone has the chance to grab it like a bear grabs a trout!
And how does a bear learn to grab a trout? A bear cannot learn untill it is hungry enough to try without fear of failure.

June 10, 2010, 02:42 AM
ArchAngelCD & robctwo... this may sound like a noob question, but when you are referring to Universal powder, are you referring to universal clays?
Sorry, yes I'm talking about Universal Clays... It's a very good and clean burning substitute for Unique that meters well.

June 10, 2010, 05:20 AM
You guys have any info on how to tell early and new models apart?

Ryan Williams
June 10, 2010, 07:59 AM
The vaquero should be stamped on the side of the frame either "Ruger Vaquero" or "Ruger New Vaquero". The "New Vaquero"s have the smaller (i.e. weaker) frame.

Ryan Williams
June 10, 2010, 08:00 AM
I figured so... but I wanted to double check anyway.
thanks for the quick reply ArchAngleCD.

Arkansas Paul
June 10, 2010, 10:49 AM
If you get around to getting any lead bullets, give Trail Boss a try. Its, great. Light recoiling, easy metering, and fills the case nicely. It is a bit dirty, but I'm sure you clean a revolver after each range trip anyway, so that part shouldn't matter.

June 10, 2010, 11:10 AM
You guys have any info on how to tell early and new models apart?

If you were to hold them in your hand, it's unmistakable to tell them apart.

The easy tellers are the going to be the cylinder diameter, grip and grip frame size, as well as the length of the topstrap/frame itself.

Also, the New Vaqueros are actually stamped "New Vaquero," so that makes it very simple.

Jeff Quinn wrote some good articles on Gunblast that really demonstrate the differences. Check out both of these links. Note the undisputable size difference in the cylinder.


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