Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Black Powder .45 Colt Shotshells

On one of the Cowboy Action Bulletin Boards I am a member of a Pard was wondering about .45 Colt shotshells. Now I load a few shotshells, with smokeless powder, in both .45 and .38 Special for snakes so I got curious.

Now when I get curious I head for the reloading room and get busy. Many have said that in order to load .45 Colt shotshells you need to start with .444 Marlin rifle cases and cut them down to the cylinder length of the .45, then run the cut down cases through a .44 Special or .44 Mag die to get the front bit of the case to fit the front end of the chamber, then fireform the case.

After all that, then you have to take the fireformed cases and drop the black powder in, then a stiff card wad or, better yet, a gascheck, then add the shot, then another wad or gas check, and crimp everything down. That is a lot of work.

Now, I thought it would be easier to simply drop in some black powder and just seat a Speer Shotcap over the powder. Today I finally tried it. Now the first problem is that black powder is a whole lot bulkier than smokeless. One of the common smokeless loads is 7.5 grains of Unique, remember a "grain " is not an individual speck of powder but a weight measure, 7,000th of a pound. Now there simply isn't room for a normal charge of black powder under a Speer shotcap, this is one of the reasons that black powder almost disappeared in Gramps' day.

I could only get 20 grains of Black in, my .45s usually carry some 35 grains. But then my usual bullet weight in 250 grains and these shotcaps weighed some 169 grains or a little more an a single .45 caliber round ball.

Now there is a Pard that "invented" the .45 Cowboy cartridge, what he did was order a bunch of cases from the Starline Brass people. These cases have the .45 Colt rim and diameter but are only as long as the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol. Another cowboy action Pard devloped a Big Lube Boolit that weighed the same as a round ball but has that great big lube groove, and a more normal, although very short of course, shape. This bullet is named after him, the El Paso Pete bullet.

Another Pard decided to try the Cowboy Cartridge with black powder, he mamaged to put in about 18.5 grains and the El Paso Pete bullet and got over 900 fps. Well, it seemed to me that a little more powder and the same payload weight ought to work for shotshells.

It does. At least at "there's a SNAKE!" range. I took a gunfull of these out with my usual targets, a couple of Linda Lou's plastic soda bottles and let fly. At normal SNAKE! ranges the bottles were nicely speckled with birshot holes. Now after the bottles were hit and flew a bit all the birdshot didn't exit the bottles, I suspect it was those shot that hit the part of the bottle on the ground.

At any rate I shall stick to the more normal smokeless powders for these shotshells. It's not that a smokey shotshells WON'T kill a close up snake, the higher velocity of the smokeless powder would give better penetration at the longer range, though, and after shooting real black your shootin' iron needs to be cleaned fairly quickly while smokeless gives a little more time. But if Black was all I had...

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