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Cowboy action ammunition

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by spm, Jul 3, 2013.

  1. spm

    spm Well-Known Member

    How does the compression in these loads compare to other ammunition? In other words, are they more powerful, less powerful, or about the same? Just wondering because I bought some .38 spl cowboy loads by mistake and want to make sure they are okay to shoot in my Detective Special. I tend to baby it and don't shoot +P ammo in it.

  2. Flashcube

    Flashcube Well-Known Member

    You might be able to run down range faster than the bullet. Kidding aside, "Cowboy" loads are typically pretty light... say around 650-750 fps. Just make sure they aren't loaded with black powder and you should be fine.
  3. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Yes, very light.

    Don't shoot them at a hard wood backstop.

    Because they might bounce back at you and shoot your eye out.

  4. spm

    spm Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the info and the chuckle, guys.
  5. PRD1

    PRD1 Well-Known Member


    the SASS folks have recently introduced a 'power factor' minimum requirement. This is derived, IIRC, by multiplying the bullet weight in grains by velocity in feet per second, and the minimum acceptable power level by that measure is... a 100 grain bullet at 600fps.
    Not what you'd call impressive ballistics, or even comparable to any but the smaller pocket revolver cartridges of the cowboy era. On the other hand, SASS matches are conducted against steel targets at short ranges and the clock - combat effectiveness is not a factor, but recovery time between shots and time to fire the full number for the stage are vastly helped by weenie loads.

    PRD1 - mhb - Mike
  6. Flashcube

    Flashcube Well-Known Member

    I've actually done this... minus the eye part though. Nailed myself dead centre in the forehead with a .22 CB when I hit a knot in a 2x4 I had a target tacked to. Explaining the red spot on my forehead at work was amusing..... :scrutiny:
  7. Snowdog

    Snowdog Well-Known Member

    I've read of folks who had lead round ball bounce back towards them after striking a fence post or the like from percussion black powder revolvers loaded light.

    I've personally seen a 1858 Remington blast a .454 round ball through a pressure treated 2x4 with mucho gusto at 20' or so, but dent and bounce off the same material with the same loading at 110 yards. Most might not be surprised by this, but it surprised me at the time.
  8. Goosey

    Goosey Well-Known Member

    Yup, and maximum allowed velocity for handguns is also 1000 fps.

    Personally I think it would be a more interesting sport if they moved the targets a bit further downrange as well as a few other things. From what I've seen you could just about touch them with a long stick. I suppose it's all about having fun but wouldn't fun favor classic one-handed shooting and more... standard loads? :p
  9. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    I bought a couple boxs of .45 Colt black hills Cowboy ammo to get brass to reload for my new Colt SAA years ago.

    While shooting it into my friends backyard pistol backstop made from stacked railroad ties.
    A 250 grain bullet bounced back at me and tore the heel clear off a good pair of boots.

    It almost knocked my leg out from under me and knocked me on my azz.

    Had it hit me higher up in the soft parts?
    I have no doubt I would have been making a trip to the ER and singing soprano.

    Low velocity cowboy loads ain't no laughing matter if you shoot them at something harder then dirt, but softer then steel.

    Full power .45 Colt loads bury the bullets deep in the ties, or shoot clear through them where they been shot before.

    Cowboy loads bounce off back at you.

    Last edited: Jul 3, 2013

    BADUNAME2 Well-Known Member

    One hears that sentiment a lot. Partly from folks who don't shoot it now, and partly from folks who do, but don't do it very well. Every once in a while, a club will actually try it. They'll move the targets out, or they'll make you run more than two or three steps, or some such. It never lasts, though, because the minute they do, the grumbling starts among those that do shoot, that is, the customers. If the situation persists, attendance falls off. The club either withers, or puts the word around that they're back to running cowboy matches, not cowboy bullseye or cowboy track and field.

    Edited to add: For the brief period those matches do run, the results are interesting. Lots of midpack shooters feel that they'd do better if accuracy were more tested, rather than "just speed." The results don't bear it out, though. Making a match more technically demanding doesn't narrow the gap between the top and the middle, it widens it. It turns out, you don't get to be a top shooter by not knowing how to shoot.

    However, all that said, if you want to shoot standard loads, one handed, come on out. There's even a couple of categories for you: Duelist gets you one handed, Classic Cowboy gets you .40 cal and up shot one handed, and Frontier Cartridge Duelist gets you traditional gunpowder propellants, shot one handed. If you think the targets are too easy to hit, just shoot faster. Pretty soon, they ain't.

    PS - Almost forgot to address to OP. These guys are right, factory cowboy loads are loaded to the light end of the spectrum.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2013
  11. Dr.Rob

    Dr.Rob Moderator Staff Member

    MAX in cowboy loads is 1000fps. Most factory loads are more like 700-800 fps. That's very mild with say a 130-158gr soft lead bullet in a 38 Special, but in 44 magnum or 45 Colt a 240 or 250 gr. lead bucket at 700-750 is very much like a 45ACP standard load.

    Cowboy loads in your DS will be more like shooting midrange wadcutters. Shoot 'em ALL you want.
  12. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

    Boomerang bullets ain't a joke.

    A couple years ago, I was firing one of my .41 Magnum Blackhawks at a beat-up steel target some 50 yards distant. I knew the risks of firing at pockmarked steel, but I figured that 50 yards away was good.

    I was wrong.

    The ammunition was mid-range stuff. 210-grain cast bullets and 8.5 grains of Unique. Not wimpy by any stretch, but not exactly a barn burner, either.

    On the 3rd or 4th round, one came back and struck me on the wrist of my support hand. It felt like I'd been hit with a hammer. It took a sizeable chunk of skin, and I had blood trickling down my arm. If it hadn't struck directly on the bone, I'm confident that it would have penetrated deep enough to require a visit to the local ER.

    Had it been loaded to full .41 Magnum velocity, the bullet would have probably disintegrated on impact...but because it didn't have enough oomph to break up, it returned. My theory is that it caught a crater right on the edge and followed the radius...and came pretty much straight back from whence it started.

    Be careful what you shoot at with light loads.
  13. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    Like already said, have no fears with Cowboy ammo in your Colt. Most, if not all commercial 38 Special Cowboy ammo is loaded with low pressures.

    Not to pile on but, I shot some 410 #9 Birdshot at a hard board backer at the range from a double barrel Derringer type pistol and the darn stuff bounced back at me and peppered my face and chest. Needless to say I did not shoot the second barrel at that backer. (but I did kill the bottle laying on the ground in front of the backer lol)

  14. high_pockets

    high_pockets Member

    I've seen instances where the .38s were loaded so light, the shot-timer couldn't pick them up.

    We used to have to be sure shotgun was the last weapon on the stage, instead of rifle, just so the timer would register their round.
  15. Dave Markowitz

    Dave Markowitz Well-Known Member

    I'm not calling BS but I am surprised at this. I shoot Black Hills .45 Colt 250 grain CAS loads in my converted 1858 Remington. Last year I put a few of them through a pine log ~10" in diameter from about 10 - 15 yards, with the bullets stopping in the off side under the bark. The recovered bullets showed no deformation except for the rifling marks.
  16. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    No BS I assure you.

    Maybe your pine logs are somewhat softer then our old seasoned oak railroad ties though??

    Last edited: Jul 5, 2013
  17. Drail

    Drail Well-Known Member

    Pockmarked steel and wood most definitely can return a bullet back to the line. I have seen it too many times. Wood can be very treacherous as the bullet can enter and follow the grain before it exits. Elmer Keith describes this in one of his books. He was shooting at an old fence post and the bullet circled 180 degrees around a big knot and came back and hit him. Always inspect any targets before you shoot at them and think about where that slug might go. I stood next to a guy at a range who was shooting medium power .44 Spl loads at a swinging plate and he hit it just as it swung back. The bullet came straight back and hit him right between the eyes and dropped him instantly. He lived and made a full recovery but was in pain for a long time. I will never shoot at swing plates again. Ever. When I shoot steel it is carefully angled so that the bullets either go into the ground in front of the plate or off to the side into a berm.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2013
  18. reddrumtoo

    reddrumtoo Well-Known Member

    On an IHMSA range I've seen turkey targets set on railroad track that when hit on the curved part of the track would sometimes return fragments of bullet jackets to the firing line from 150 meters [165 yards] . This w/rifle like velocities out of handguns . i.e. x-p 100,t/c, m.o.a. etc.
  19. Reefinmike

    Reefinmike Well-Known Member

    slightly off topic, but on the topic of ricochet

    Back ten years ago(14 years old) when my mom bought me and my brother our first 22's, she let us hang on to the guns and she hid the ammo... well, being the rascals we were, we found the ammo under her bed the first day she was off at work. First shot out of my very first gun was a remington golden bullet aimed at a big old osage orange tree. the sucker flew back and hit me in the chest. I still have that bullet to this very day in my notable bullet dish.

    Once I was shooting some junky ppu lead round nose 38spl into a pile of dirt out of my snub. it hit a rock and flew back and hit my knee. It almost hurt, would have really hurt if it were my eye or begonias.

    Then I was shooting some agulia 158gr sjhp 38spl at a 30 cal ammo can, after the first cylinder, found out that half the shots didnt even penetrate the first layer of the can!

    I thought 38spl was pretty darn weak at that point

    Then I shot a 158gr cast lswc w/ a very mild charge of 3.4gr hp38 through two water jugs, then a 1" thick piece of high quality ply and ended up digging it out of the dirt about 12" behind the board. Bullet had zero deformation besides rifling groves. still amazed at that one
  20. Snowdog

    Snowdog Well-Known Member

    Slow bullets hitting a hard/light target like a tin can has the potential to do interesting things.

    A coworker was complaining about the .380acp several years ago when his recently purchased IJ-70 (Russian commercial Makarov, this one chambered in 9x17) failed to live up to his expectations.
    I turns out he was shooting empty 20 ounce bottles set on a wooden fence. The slugs were launching the bottles into the air and marring, but not penetrating them.

    He changed his tune just a little when I recommended he fill them with water first.

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