45 Colt and Loading Lead

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Dec 8, 2010
Georgia, Dixie
I picked up some 45 colt dies a few weeks back and want to start loading for the 45. I'm experienced in loading for revolvers, but not the 45 colt and I've never loaded a lead bullet.

From some reading here I think I know that I'll need a little more bell than the very minimal bell I use for jacketed. Correct?

With mild loads, how much crimp should I look for? Would different powders benefit from more or less crimp?

These will be Non-Ruger, mild loads. I have plenty of HP38 and if that's a suitable powder, I'll use that. Otherwise, please give some suggestions.

Lead bullets...I have no idea here. I'm not interested in casting, swaging or lubing. Some suggestions for bullets ready to go would be great.

Anything else that I should be aware of?

I use just enough bell to prevent bullet shaving. I primarily rely on case neck tension to keep the bullet in place, so there is a little bulge beneath my bullets on loaded ammunition. Those who shoot black powder may desire a heavy crimp, but I simply use enough crimp to roll into the crimping groove.

Standard loads in the 45 LC push a 250-255 grain bullet around 850 fps. This is plenty powerful for Colt SAA replicas and N frame S&W’s. My favorite powder is Unique, 8.5 grains Unique with a 250 L or 250 LSWC is a staple. I prefer the lead flat nose, there is just enough round nose in that configuration that it does not hang up in the loading gate or on the edges of the cylinder. They all shoot well, though the LSWC is probably the better game bullet. Just buy by price.

As for bullet diameter, measure the cylinder mouths. Most 45 LC's have large chamber mouths, that is chamber mouths above 452". For those, buy the .454 diameter cast bullets. My S&W shot the .452" diameter and was one of the earliest S&W's not to have a .455 chamber mouth diameter. I have shot thousands of .454" lead bullets through my S&W and can say, I don't see any difference on target.

This is about the only W231 data I have in the 45 LC, W231 is the same powder as HP38. This is an excellent powder for this cartridge.

5" M25-7 Smith and Wesson

255 LSWC 8.4 grs Unique lot UN331 Fed primers
1-Feb-90 T ≈ 55 ° F

Ave Vel =722
Std Dev =14
ES = 46
Low = 697
High = 743
N = 6

255 LSWC (.452”) 7.1 grs 231 Fed 150 primers
1-Feb-90 T ≈ 55 ° F

Ave Vel =804
Std Dev =21
ES = 57
Low = 774
High = 831
N = 7

255 LSWC (.452") 7.1 grs 231 Fed 150 primers
27-Jan-91 T ≈ 40 - 45 ° F

Ave Vel =741
Std Dev =16
ES = 43
Low = 714
High = 757
N = 6

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Good advice above.
I agree you only need enough bell on the case mouth to prevent shaving the bullet. That is usually more bell than required with jacketed bullets. As for crimp, like with other low pressure revolver rounds crimp only enough to remove the bell and add enough to prevent bullet pull. Usually a light to medium crimp in more than enough.

For a very long time I used nothing other than W231/HP-38 with a 250/255gr cast bullet in the .45 Colt. Then I discovered HS-6 and changed over to that powder. since you have plenty of HP-38 on hand I see no reason to look for another powder. That powder will do a good job. With a 250/255gr bullet I usually load between 7.0gr and 7.2gr W231/HP-38.

I have been loading a 12 BHN 250gr LRN and 255gr SWC bullet from Missouri Bullets. The cost is fair and the bullet are high quality. Many reloders here are using their bullets with good success and the owners are good people to deal with. At the pressures generated by standard 45 Colt ammo there is no reason to use a harder bullet. If you're not sure which bullets you would like better they also sell 100 round sample packs.

Good luck but I doubt you will need any luck. Loading for the 45 colt is fairly straight forward.
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If you're just going to do some target practicing with your .45 Colt, I really like the 200 gr. RNFP bullet. I size mine at .452" for all my Blackhawks and Marlin rifles in that caliber and they shoot very, very well. I do cast my own, so I get lots more bullets per pound of alloy that way, but most of the commercial casters sell the same bullet, including MBC. I cast mine at Bhn 12, and get no leading at all.

The .45 Colt was made for lead bullets, so there's plenty of data available for it shooting cast or swaged bullets of varying weights.

Hope this helps.

One item to add, chamfer the inside of the case mouth and take the corner off the mouth. This will also help prevent lead shaving while seating the bullet.
i would buy a lyman reloading manual. once you have shot lead you might switch your other pistols to lead and save some money. ;)
My experience with loading cast bullets suggests that perhaps you acquire a Lyman M die. The die expands the brass a little deeper than say, for example a Lee die, which only bells the case mouth. I have found that I get zero leading in the barrel when I use a M die, and in some instances have leading when I just use a belling die. It is my unconfirmed belief that perhaps the resilience of the brass is enough to squish a properly sized cast bullet upon seating, resulting in an undersized projectile, and perhaps gas cutting of the bullet leaving lead in the barrel.

While the folks here are very knowledgeable and helpful another resource is cast boolets website. Also very willing to help and advise.
I used HP-38 initially, but I found it dirty and it would lead my bore up. Same bullet with Trailboss and it cleaned right up and shoots great with either 200 or 250gr RNFP's.

If you have problems check out the Lewis Lead Remover for clean up.
I used HP-38 initially, but I found it dirty and it would lead my bore up. Same bullet with Trailboss and it cleaned right up and shoots great with either 200 or 250gr RNFP's.

If you have problems check out the Lewis Lead Remover for clean up.
Sorry but HP-38 is anything but dirty. It's one of the powders that can be used for lighter loads. I have never found it to cause leading.

I was not satisfied with the accuracy when using Trail Boss in the 45 Colt.
Juuuuuuusssst enough bell to where the bullet base
juuuuuuusssst starts to cleanly enter the case.

(And not more than a dime's width at that) :D
I use Lee dies and have loaded a lot of lead in 9mm, .45 APC and .38/.357.
I just flare enough so that the bullet goes in easy. Never need to buy a special flare die. The bullets I have been using from Missouri Bullet have beveled bases. This makes life easier.
MBC are great people to do business with and offer THR members a 5% discount with the code.
PM me if you need the code.
95% of my cast bullet loading is for hunting revolvers.
I use gas check KTSWC's and WFNGC.
Due to substantial recoil I've found it important to have enough case tension in addition to a heavy crimp to prevent bullet "jump".
Use the .452 sizing die for the lead billets. But you'll need the .451 for the jacketed.
I don't own a .45 Colt, but a non-reloading friend does. We have been using the components I had on hand. We are using a 200 gr LSWC for a .45ACP and 8 gr of Unique. They shoot most shots touching out of his Blackhawk at 25 yards.
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