The Cowboy .45 Special
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  1. #1
    Senior Member Bob Wright's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Memphis TN

    The Cowboy .45 Special

    JB private messaged me about this "new" cartridge, a rimmed, short .45 round intended for Cowboy action shooting.

    "New?" It appears identical to the .452 Short and similar cartridges that have been concocted over the years. The first, of course was the .45 S&W introduce about 1875. This round was introduced with the Smith & Wesson Schofield model of 1875. The Smith's cylinder was too short to accommodate the longer .45 Colt round, so a shorter .45 was required. Whether by design or good fortune, the .45 S&W round could be fired in Colt revolvers, and when the U.S. Army purchased some 3000 Smiths, the shorter round was put into production at Frankfor Arsenal, replacing the M1873 round. The Smith round had a lighter powder charge and lighter bullet.

    Around the turn of the century, UMC tried to simplify production, using the .45 S&W case for loading .45 Colt ammunition but using the 250 gr. lead roundnosed bullet. This wasn't too popular with shooters, and the short-cased .45 Colt ammunition was short lived.

    Colt further didn't like listing the .45 S&W round as being one of the cartridges capable of being used in their guns, and prevailed on some of the manufacturers to produce a cartridge identical to the .45 S&W, but called, and headstamped, ".45 Colt Govt", or .45 Colt Government. These all fell by the wayside until recently when Cowboy Action Shooting revived interest again.

    The .452 Short was conceived some time back so as to be used in .45 ACP cylinders, in single action guns only. Its rim was too thin to be used in Colt and Smith & Wesson double action guns where headespace allowed use of half-moon or full-moon clips, or .45 Auto Rim cartridges.

    Why use these cases instead of .45 ACP? The .45 ACP headspaces on the case mouth, preventing a good crimp being used. These cases headspace on the rim, thus a hard crimp can be used. The also can be used in standart .45 Colt cylinders as well.

    The real advantage? None, with the possible exception of more positive ejection with the rod ejectors.

    That danged old .45 Colt round is mighty hard to improve upon.

    Bob Wright
    Last edited by Bob Wright; 11-29-2006 at 10:47 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Southern Maryland
    The .45 Special is for people without .45 ACP cylinders for their .45 Colt revolvers who are interested in loading it as light as possible. I have a .45 ACP cylinder for several of my .45 Colt Blackhawks. They work very well. I have had the cylinders modified to take .45 AR. The reason for this is so I have ammo interchangeability with my .45 ACP/AR double action S&W 25-2 and 625-8JM without having to resort to clips for the Smiths.
    Here is an article that appeared in Guns last year on the subject.

    .45 Colt lite
    Guns Magazine, August, 2005
    Q: I have a question concerning light charges of pistol powder in large capacity revolver cases like the .45 Colt and .45 Schofield. Would a reduced charge of pistol powder in such a case lead to "detonation" effect resulting in damage to the revolver and possible injury to the shooter or bystanders?
    If this were a strong possibility, would reducing the case volume reduce the possibility of detonation? I have considered the possibility of trimming the .45 Long Colt case to the length of a .45 ACP case for this purpose. I would essentially have a .45 Auto Rim case without the thick wide rim. Would it be possible to load .45 cal., 250-grain .452" bullets and a light charge producing 700 to 750 fps?
    I have loaded the .45 Auto Rim case with 250-grain .45 lead bullets at 720 fps. This load has given me very acceptable results in my old Mark VI Webley and Scott modified to take the auto rim. It recoils very little, is accurate at 20 yards and is very easy on the old revolver. I would like to duplicate the load for use in Cowboy Action Shooting after I retire and return to the U.S.
    Perhaps there is already something on the market similar to what I have described?
    Keith Johnson

    A: You are going to a lot of unnecessary work for nothing. The bullet has to rattle down .387" of chamber wall before entering the chamber throat if the case is cut back to the .45 ACP's .898" from the Colt's 1.285". This could be detrimental to accuracy and it will certainly stink up the chamber walls with lead.
    The velocity of 720 fps you wish to achieve is easily obtainable with today's powders from our major players such as Hodgdon, Alliant, IMR and Accurate Arms. I've used Hodgdon TiteGroup (913/362-9455, to good success in both the .45 Colt and .45 Schofield. At the starting charge, velocity with 250-grain lead bullets is about 715 fps in .45 Colt. The load data is available on Hodgdon's website or you can call and get a Cowboy Action Loads brochure mailed to you. If you stick with a powder company's recommended starting charge, you won't have any trouble with detonation.
    If the cavernous case still worries you, wait a bit. Hodgdon's new Trail Boss powder is much bulkier than other pistol powders and it will deliver mild pressure and velocity while still filling the case enough that a double charge will be readily apparent. Trail Boss will occupy from 50- to 100-percent of available case capacity. A double charge of the maximum loads will either overflow the case or will not exceed SAAMI proof pressures depending upon the cartridge case being loaded. The high load density of Trail Boss will make it very easy to visualize in a case and powder sensors will work more efficiently. The unique appearance of Trail Boss will make it impossible to mistake it for any other product.
    If you truly want to load the ACP-length case, though, look into getting an accessory .45 ACP cylinder .fitted to your gun.
    COPYRIGHT 2005 Publishers' Development Corporation
    COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

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