Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Black Powder And The .45 Colt, A Range Report.

Picture One: What a mess! Fired cases in soapy water.

Pictue Two.Typical five shot group with Smokeless. The load is a 252 Lee cast bullet with Lee's Tumblelube over 6.1 grains of Hodgdon's Titegroup powder. Winchester Large Pistol primer in a Starline case.

Picture Three: Typical black Powder Group. Same bullet, 35 grains of Goex FFG Black Powder.

Picture Five: Loading Sequence. Left to right, Bullet, Empty Case, Case with the mouth belled and powder charge, Beeswax overpowder wad, 'grease cookie, card wad, complete round.

Picture Six: Cimarron Arms Model P. A Clone of the old Colt Single Action Army.

Note: Please don't ask why the pictures won't go where I put them, I'm still learning this posting pictures thing.

Those interested in my doings know that I've been fooling around with the .45 Colt cartridge, aka the .45 Long Colt to distinguish it from all of the other .45 cartridges out there, like that newfangled Automatic Colt Pistol cartridge that John Browning came up with in 1911 or so.

The .45 Colt was developed in 1873 to go with the first Colt Single Action Army Revolver, the old 'cowboy six shooter'. The original load was 40 grains of Black Powder behind a 250 or 255 grain lead bullet. That loading pushed the bullet at right around 900 feet per second making it the most powerful handgun cartridge in the world. It remained the most powerful right up until Major Doug Wesson, with the advice of Phil Sharpe and Elmer Keith, brought out the .357 Magnum in the mid-1930s.

I don't know that the Docs will ever get me steady enough to be able to compete in cowboy action shooting, if that miracle should happen I'd like to compete in the Traditional Class, meaning that I have to use the old Black Powder loads. So, I've been fooling around trying to teach myself how to load safe and accurate BP loads in this cartridge.

Things are different today than in the old days, the cartridge cases aren't the old 'balloon head' anymore and they're much thicker so there is simply no way to get that much powder into the cases. Also different is the quality of the powder itself. In order to keep our revolvers functioning we must now add something to the load in order to keep the fouling soft enough that it doesn't bind everything up. Actually, I'm not positive that this harder fouling is due to problems with the powder or we've just lost the formula for the bullet lubes used in those days. I'm also not sure if we've not changed the design of the bullets themselves. The grease grooves may not hold as much lubricant. Whatever those changes actually are, there is a lot of extra messing around to do if we want our BP loads to function for an extended shooting string. With smokeless powder it's merely a matter of sizing the case, belling the mouth so we can start a bullet, adding the powder charge then seating and crimping the bullet.

With Black we must add a beeswax overpowder wad, a 'grease cookie', and a card wad. This is what the sequence looks like and click the pic tiled 'loading sequence'. The good news is that I managed to fire one hundred rounds of both Black Powder and Pyrodex replica Black Powder loads without having to take the revolver down for cleaning was perfect. The bad news? I'm still learning how to keep the extra lubricant in the 'grease cookie' from contaminating some of the powder. Some of the loads were noticeably weak and examination of the fired cases of those showed a big ol' lump of half-melted wax stuck on the side of the case with a big lump of greasy unburned powder stuck to it.. Apparently I need to find a better way to keep the overpowder beeswax wad from turning sideways as I compress everything during the bullet seating. Still, I'm making progress. Look up there for a typical five shot group from the BP loads and a comparable group from the same bullet and 6.1 grains of Hodgdon's Titegroup (smokeless) powder. I suspect I'm using too much powder and squeezing some of the lube past the wad, into the powder. Those BP loads are REALLY compressed. Look at the loading sequence again. See how the nose of the bullet has been swaged into a somewhat different shape during seating?

Just for fun, here is the bucket of fired cases in soapy water. Yes, one hundred rounds of BP ammo does make a mess. I should have taken a picture of the shootin' iron, it was barely recognizable.

I'm trying to decide if all this extra work is worthwhile. I can see why Grandpa was so happy to see Smokeless come along.

Lessons learned? Several. Never shoot one hundred rounds of BP ammo in a session again. I can't recall workin' this hard to get a shootin' iron clean since 1964 when it had to pass inspection by a gimlet-eyed Drill Instructor. A little less BP in these loads for less compression. Work a little harder at getting the beeswax overpowder wad started straight in the case. Learn how to make the pictures post where I click the icon. And never, ever try to put this many pictures in a post until we get something faster than this poor ol' dialup out here in the sticks. I'm flat sick of sittin' here playin' solitaire, waitin'.

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