Original BP Performance

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by rodwha, Oct 24, 2020.

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  1. rodwha

    rodwha Member

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    I’ve looked a bit at original BP cartridges such as the .44-40, .45 Schofield, .44 Colt, and .45 Colt, not to mention (I forgot the designation) the military cartridge that grew from the Schofield/Colt, which did what exactly, match the 28 grn Schofield with a 230 grn bullet but with the shorter case and smaller rim?

    Often what I’ve found is wiki info, and I can see that some of the info given on certain things seems suspect, often showing very dismal velocities, the kinds that people often stated all you could hope to achieve with standard powders like Goex.
     
  2. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    The "original" .45 Colt screamer load with 40 gr of black powder didn't last very long in military service. The Army seemed to be very happy with the reduced performance of the .45 Schofield. Even with the Colt 1909 New Service, the mil spec performance was a 255 gr bullet at 725 fps- a standard Cowboy load today.
     
  3. rodwha

    rodwha Member

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    This is where things seem to get murky for me. The .45 Colt started off with 40 grns pushing a 255 grn bullet, which was reduced to 35 grns. It seems the original Schofield used 30 grns under a 230 grn bullet, but was soon reduced to 28 grns. And it seems they neutered the .45 Colt with 30 grns and the 230 grn bullet. And somewhere in all of this mess they just created the shorter case with the smaller rim out of what they were doing with these 2 cartridges, the M1887.
     
  4. damoc

    damoc Member

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    I thought the only reason they went with the smaller lower power schofield case was it would work in a firearm made for the .45 colt case but 45 colt would not work in the schofield.
    It was more versatile and prevented the problem of having ammunition that would not work in certain firearms.
    I also thought that the less powder in the 45 colt and maybe the schofield was due to different case design IE the earlier balloon cases could hold more powder.
     
  5. rodwha

    rodwha Member

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    I could be wrong but I think they designed the M1887 because of logistics mostly, ensuring everyone gets ammo they can use as I read they had issues with that.

    They certainly lost some case capacity when they dropped the ballon-head cases. I think I’ve read you can’t get much more than 35-36 grns in a .45 Colt case.
     
  6. Dave T

    Dave T Member

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    Wow! Bits of truth mixed improperly give an even murkier picture that what actually happened.

    The original loading for the 45 Colt was indeed 40g of FFg behind a 255g bullet. It produced 910 fps from the original SAA's 7-1/2" barrel. It also proved difficult to control for many "troopers" and occasionally blew the soft iron cylinders of the earliest SAAs. As early as 1874 Ordnance reduced the cartridge to a 250g bullet over 30g of FFg for 800+ fps.

    Along comes Major Schofield with his connections in the higher levels of the Ordnance Dept and the government bought about 2000 S&W Schofields. I don't have the numbers on hand but the SAA Colts outnumbered the S&W by a wide margin and only a few units were issued the Schofield. But the Army bureaucracy of the 1870s was as bad as it is today. Units with Schofields received 45 Colt rounds (a problem) while some units with SAAs received the 45 S&W rounds (not a problem, except for the loss of performance). Instead of admitting the Schofield wasn't that great an idea (they proved to be less reliable under harsh field conditions) they solved the S4 (supply) problem by issuing everyone a new cartridge, the military version of the S&W Schofield. That was a 230g bullet over 28g of BP for a velocity of about 830 fps. If that sounds familiar it is the performance the Ordnance Department would call for in the 45 ACP along about 1911 (smile).

    On the civilian side I have seen documentation that the 45 Colt cartridge was loaded at various times and by various ammo makers with 40g, 38g, 35g, 32g, and the military's 30g & 28g charges . Bullet weights varied but most were either 255g or 250g RNFPs.

    The ballon-head case was actually an improvement over the original folded copper case with inside priming. Modern brass does hold about 4g less powder than the older "ballons" and there are various techniques to get the original 40g in there but an easier route to original performance is 35-36g of FFFg behind your soft cast bullet. I started loading that version of the 45 Colt back when I was still involved in CAS competition. I got 907-914 fps from my 7-1/2" Colt, 880-885fps in my 5-1/2", and 858-865 fps from my 4-3/4". I also got yelled at by the CAS shooters who complained my loads were too heavy as I occasionally knocked over their non-knockdown steel targets. (smile)

    Dave
     
  7. rodwha

    rodwha Member

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    Yes!

    So there was never a military loading of the .45 Colt with 35 grns prior to dropping down to the Schofield load? I also wasn’t aware that they went from a 255 grn bullet to a 250 before the 230 grn version.

    I also wasn’t aware that the original loading was that stout! 910 FPS is pretty outstanding. And it makes me want a chronograph to see just what I’m achieving as my NMA’s accurate hunting load weighs 33-35 grns of 3F Olde E but I still have excess chamber space that I intend to fill with lead. This will bring my projectile up from 195 grns to somewhere around 215-230 grns. And my ROA’s load weighs 38-40 with the same bullet and with nearly the same excess chamber space. Sounds like my NMA might have more thump than I’ve estimated judging from similar loads.
     
  8. Dave T

    Dave T Member

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    rodwa,

    I believe it was Elmer Keith who claimed that until the introduction of the 357 Magnum in 1935 the full black powder loading of the 45 Colt (40g FFg, 255g RNFP, 910 fps) was the most powerful factory load in the US. Of course he claimed his heavy loads in the 44 Special were more powerful (and they were) but they were never loaded by any factory.

    Dave
     
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  9. Ugly Sauce

    Ugly Sauce Member

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    I think the bottom line is that the lower powder charges worked as well as the 40 grain loads, as far as shooting people goes. Some believe that the solid head cases will not hold as much powder as the balloon head cases, and that is true from a very technical perspective. However, black power in cartridges "likes" to be compressed, and it is very easy to get 40 grains in modern cases with some compression. Rifle cartridges like a lot of compression, and I can load up to 80 grains in a 45-70 with a 400 grain jacketed bullet, (Speer) and up to 75 grains with the original cast lead bullet, although I stay with 70 grains. With just a little compression and a 250-255 my .45 Colt loads run 42 grains of fffg in modern cases.
     
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  10. Cowhide Cliff

    Cowhide Cliff Member

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    That is true. Same for the modern 44-40 cases about 36 is all you can stuff in them without some serious compression.
     
  11. Cowhide Cliff

    Cowhide Cliff Member

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    Actually that was also a problem. Original 45 S&W rims won't allow loading side by side chambers in a Colt SAA. Can only load every other one. They reduced the rim slightly as well with the introduction of the new cartridge. Modern Schofield brass from Starline has been modified with the smaller rim so it fits in most SAA and reproduction guns but even then you still run into certain guns the rims rub on the teeth of the cylinder. Seen that problem on Vaqueros.
     
  12. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    It's also my understanding that the M1909 ammo also had a larger rim to be more reliable with the New Service ejection system and prevent case slippage under the extractor star. This rim also made every-other-chamber loading a necessity in legacy SAA's still in service. I don't know whether the internal ballistics of the RSQ smokeless powder used in the M1909 had a significantly different pressure response than the older BP loads, but the 725 fps was still a bit "slow".
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
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  13. rodwha

    rodwha Member

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    For sure, and why I felt 300 ft/lbs, or about .44 Spl performance was my minimum for being an ethical sidearm. And as far as 2 legged critters go I’d feel comfortable enough to even drop a bit of weight since a man isn’t all that thick or tough, and that’s not too dissimilar to medium game, however if it comes to something with teeth or claws I’d want that weight as I want it capable of nose to tail penetration. A bit more oomph can’t hurt either.

    As an aside if I were to purchase a ClassicBallistix cylinder it wouldn’t be so that I can add 5-10 grns of powder as they state, but to create a heavier bullet to be launched by what’s all ready a pretty stout load from my ROA.
     
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  14. Ugly Sauce

    Ugly Sauce Member

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    I prefer bullet weight over velocity, but of course you can go too far on either extreme. I think that generally speaking, increased bullet weight will get more penetration, compared to increased velocity. Other variables of course.
     
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  15. TheOutlawKid

    TheOutlawKid Member

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    Ya know i have always wanted to try 4f Swiss or Old Eynseford in my guns...i bet my .36 navies with 20-25 of 4f performance powder under a 135-140 grain conical with a wide flat meplat wouls give one heck of a performance load. Using a kaido .36 conical or my own custom made conicals im sure id really love the performance id get. Just wish i had a chronograph to get performance readings or some balistic gel. Hmm...i have some 3f Old Eynseford and i bet i can filter it through a fine mesh to get 4f powder...all im missing is the chronograph. I have no worries about using 4f in a cap and ball revolver...black powder is low pressure and safe to use with these italian guns... The steel should handle it without issue and the walls of a .36 are pretty thick. Besides 4f was used in original colts just fine without issue.
     
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  16. Cowhide Cliff

    Cowhide Cliff Member

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    I load 3f Olde E for my longer range 44wcf loads. They were about 60- 80 fps faster (cant remember exactly) than 2f Kik and regular Goex loads over the crony several years ago. 36 grains pushing 200 and 215 grain bullets.
     
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  17. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy

    That is the first time I have heard that, about original 45 S&W rims not being able to fit next to each other in a Colt. Curious the source of that information.

    I only have two original Benet Primed, Copper Cased 45 Schofield rounds in my cartridge collection. The two on the left in this photo. Searching through the SAAMI website I find no dimensional specifications for 45 Schofield. Most sources, including two of my loading manuals list the rim diameter for 45 Schofield as either .520 or .525. I load 45 Schofield with Starline brass, and the rim diameter tends to run around .518 or .519. Interestingly enough, the rim diameters of these two original 45 Schofield rounds is .516 for one and .517 for the other.

    poCI9MG9j.jpg




    As can be seen in this photo, there is no problem with them sitting next to each other in a Colt cylinder.

    pmVyTn0Lj.jpg




    Yes, you are correct about Schofield rounds sometimes not fitting in a Ruger. The ratchet area on the 'original model' Vaqueros was a simple cylindrical drum, rather than the scalloped shape of the ratchets of a Colt. I have 3 'original model' Vaqueros chambered for 45 Colt. One chamber on one cylinder did not want to accept modern 45 Schofield brass, because the rim interfered with the 'ratchet drum'. It took about five minutes with a file to correct that. As can be seen in this photo, there is plenty of room between rims of 45 Schofield ammo on the stainless 'original model' Vaquero cylinder on the left, compared to the Colt cylinder on the right.

    pmUmwjrFj.jpg




    Interestingly enough, the smaller, New Vaquero cylinder below has no problem accepting antique and modern 45 Schofield ammo.

    pnfJmQbCj.jpg




    I am always curious when folks mention the scenario of 45 Colt ammo having been accidentally shipped to units that had the Schofield model issued to them. Yes, the 45 Colt round was simply too long to chamber in the original Schofield revolvers. That is why the Schofield round was invented. S&W did not want to miss out on lucrative Army contracts. S&W had been making their Top Break revolvers since 1869, but the largest caliber they came in was 44 Russian. Other than the original 44 caliber American Top Break revolvers that S&W had sold to the Army, 1000 if memory serves, the Army specified that they would only accept 45 caliber revolvers. This was not a problem, opening up the chambers and bores of a S&W Top Break to 45 caliber was not a problem. However S&W was in the middle of eventually making around 150,000 Russian Top Break revolvers for the Russian, Turkish, and Japanese governments, and these revolvers all had cylinders 1 7/16" long. 45 Colt was simply too long for these cylinders. S&W was not about to come up with new tooling for a longer cylinder, so the Army accepted the shorter 45 Schofield round that would fit into a 1 7/16" long cylinder.

    Anyway, I keep hearing about difficulties with the wrong ammo shipped to some units, but I have never actually seen any documentation showing that it actually happened.




    Here is another point that I make all the time: Any discussion on how many grains of Black Powder will fit into a certain cartridges is a bit of a moving target. The fact is, not all Black Powder weighs the same.

    I made up this chart a long time ago, showing the actual grain weight of powder I use in the various cartridges I load with Black Powder. Please, don't anybody tell me that Black Powder is not weighed, it is loaded by volume. I have been doing this for close to 20 years, and the charges in the left hand column are actual volumetric measurements, from the standard Lee Dipper set. My standard charge for 45 Colt in modern solid head brass is 2.2CC. This allows between 1/16" and 1/8" compression when a 250 grain bullet is seated. This chart is a bit old, Elephant is not made any more, but the chart plainly shows how the same volume of one powder does not weigh the same as the same volume of another powder. For what it's worth, I am still loading 2.2CC of Schuetzen FFg in my 45 Colt and 44-40 Black Powder cartridges in modern solid head brass. That charge weighs about 33.3 grains. Elephant was a heavier powder, but as I said it is no longer available. Goex is a little bit lighter.

    pml7GTgRj.jpg



    I was able to chronograph my 45 Colt loads once a long time ago. My reloading notebook says that 2.2CC of Goex under a 250 grain bullet had an average velocity of 704 fps out of the 7 1/2" barrel of a 2nd Generation Colt. Sorry, I don't own a chronograph, although I see they have gotten quite cheap recently, so I have no data for my Schuetzen loads. I can tell you from the reading I have done that everything else being equal, FFFg Black Powder will achieve between 60fps - 100 fps more velocity than an equal charge of FFg Black Powder.


    Here is a photo of a box of cartridges in my cartridge collection. These 45 Colt rounds were made at the Frankford Arsenal in 1874. Notice a 250 grain bullet is specified as well as 30 grains of powder. No, I am not going to dissect one to see what the granulation was, or see what kind of wadding was used.

    plpYHejkj.jpg




    Another photo of the same box, showing the bottom of a cartridge, which looks like a rimfire round because of the internal priming. Two cartridges are set out next to the box, along with one of my modern reloads. The crimps at the bottom of the Benet Primed rounds hold the internal anvil plate in place.

    pnk54uT9j.jpg




    Cross sections of two 45 Colt round, a Remington-Umc Balloon Head on the left, a modern Winchester Solid head on the right. As can be seen, the Balloon Head had more interior capacity than the modern round. I have a box of these Balloon heads, and one of these days I will load up a box to see how much more powder they can hold.

    pnkIGffOj.jpg




    A cutaway view of some original copper cased Benet Primed ammo. A 45 Colt and a 45 Schofield. on the far right is a cutaway showing how the internal anvil plate was held in place. Priming material was compressed between the rear of the case and the anvil plate. When the firing pin dented the soft copper case, the priming material ignited and the resultant flame passed through the two flash holes visible in the anvil plate. Again, I am not going to dissect one of my Benet Primed 45 Colt rounds, but everything I have read says these were the only rounds that truly held 40 grains of powder in them. The Balloon Heads held a little bit less.

    pnIRvdUMj.jpg





    Finally, yes if you compress it enough, you can stuff a lot of Black Powder into modern cases. Perhaps even 40 grains into a modern solid head case. I have never been temped to try, 33 grains of Schuetzen under a 250 grain bullet provides enough velocity, smoke and recoil for me.



    P.S. About the Schofield revolver. I don't know if Colonel Schofield had anything to do with the Army buying them or not. I do know that there were 3,035 1st Model Schofields manufactured in 1875, and they all went to the Army. There were 5,934 2nd Model Schofields made in 1876 and 1877, and all but about 650 went to the Army. The Schofields pictured below are both 1st Models, that left the factory in 1875. One has been refinished, the other has not.

    pnISQ5F1j.jpg

    plQNWEnoj.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2020
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  18. Ugly Sauce

    Ugly Sauce Member

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    I'll say again that one can easily get 40 grains of powder in a modern .45 Colt case. Same with the .45-70, 70-75 grains is easy-peasy. The reason the old cartridge cases were loaded by volume, is that the charges were compressed, and if the volume is held constant, the compression will be the same. As you know, by weight, the volume will change and more or less pressure required to compress the powder. Not good on an assembly line, or mass-producing cartridges. I'm glad that you will not dissect your cartridges. !!!! I have heard of people doing that, and they exclaim: "the powder was so old, it turned into a solid mass"! No, it was compressed. So if one did/does dissect an old cartridge, it would be difficult to determine what the original granulation was, as it was crushed when being compressed. Anyhow, just saying, when someone says: "you can only get 30, or 35, or whatever into a modern case, that is not true. I suppose that with an equal amount of compression, the balloon head case would hold a few grains more of uncompressed powder, and if you fill cases with loose powder a balloon head case will hold a tiny bit more, but one can certainly get the old standard powder charges into modern cases.
     
  19. Ugly Sauce

    Ugly Sauce Member

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    I forgot to mention, although a loose charge in a cartridge case will produce plenty of boom, recoil and smoke, a compressed charge will burn cleaner, produce a little less smoke, and usually be much more accurate. This is certainly true with the .45-70, of which I have "a little bit" of experience with. My black powder .45 Colt loads take 42 grains, are quite accurate, and produce over 900fps. (5.5" barrel) I'm not sure if there's any significant boost in velocity. I would suggest adding just enough extra powder to get some compression, I think you will like the results. However, it does complicate and prolong the reloading process a bit. I think it's worth it.
     
  20. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy Again

    Are you talking to me?

    If so, you may notice I said my 45 Colt loads compress the powder between 1/16" and 1/8" when I seat the bullet. This does not complicate or prolong the loading process at all. I load all my BP ammo on my Hornady Lock and Load AP progressive machine. The powder gets compressed when I seat the bullet. That is all the compression that is necessary. I don't need to be propelling my bullets at 900 fps, 700 fps is fine. Here is a photo of my set up for loading 45 Colt.

    popugCJej.jpg
     
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  21. Ugly Sauce

    Ugly Sauce Member

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    Oh okay, I was assuming a loose powder charge. Yeah, that's good compression. And that's quite a set-up.
     
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