.45 x 5: Range Report for 30 December 2018

From left to right: .450 Adams, .45 ACP, .45 Cowboy Special, .44 Colt & .45 Colt

Forty-five day at the range today! Two experimental loads for .450 Adams, two for .44 Colt, with the rest being old standards. I also had the new Remington .44 conversion on-hand for it’s maiden voyage.

From left to right: ‘The Dandy’ in .450 Adams, ‘The Pug’ in .45 Colt, ‘Nameless’ in .44 Colt, the Remington ‘Bisley’ conversion in .44 Colt, the Detonics Mk.1 Combat Master .45 ACP and an Armi San Marcos ‘New Dakota’ in .45 Colt

Starting with .450 Adams, I had picked up some .451 soft lead balls, usually used for percussion revolvers. I loaded some as round ball and swaged some into hollow-base round-nose lead.

Soft-lead round-ball swaged into hollow-base RNL. Finished weight is 132gr.

No real goal to this; sometimes I just like to experiment. I suppose if the round ball worked out it might make a nice source for cheap range ammo, but really I just wanted to see what would happen. For test purposes I used ‘The Dandy,’ a Pietta Remington 1858 with a bespoke cylinder chambered for .450. Both rounds were accurate enough, but the ball rounds- loaded by simply pushing the ball in over a charge of 4.3 gr. of Trail Boss- were super anemic; they shot very low even at seven yards and went off with a pop rather than a bang. I suppose if I actually properly crimped the balls in place it might make a difference, and a different powder might yield better results. I may continue to mess around with these.

Round-ball loads in .450 Adams- nope, at least not with this powder/charge weight. Hitting very low, even at seven yards.

The 132gr Hollow-base RNL did a bit better, but were still conspicuously underpowered. In a penetration test one of these bullets penetrated about 1/2″ in a kiln-dried Douglas Fir 2×6. Still, for punching paper they are OK, but honestly swaging them is a bit too much work for the payoff.

I started with a 6-o’clock hold and moved to a center-hold. Accuracy was acceptable at seven yards, but the low-volume report and complete lack of recoil make these less than satisfying to shoot.

For contrast I also had my standard .450 Adams load- a 200gr LRNFP over 4.0gr. of Unique with a CCI300 Large Pistol Primer. These were, as always, fun to shoot and accurate, with just enough bang and recoil to let you know you’ve shot a ‘real gun.’

The 200gr LRNFP bullet over 4.0gr. of Unique. Shoots to point-of-aim at seven yards and is quite accurate.

I put quite a few rounds of this load downrange; this gun/cartridge combo is very pleasant to shoot. I filled in the black on several targets before I felt the need to move on…

.44 Colt- which as I have said here before is actually a .45- was next because there is a new gun! Over the holidays I picked up a Euroarms 1858 and converted it to fire .44 Colt. I also modified the grip-frame to mimic the shape of a Colt Bisley, lowered the hammer-spur and made a set of custom Curly Maple grips. The gun is not quite ‘ready for prime time’ but I did want to test-fire it.

To this end I loaded up a box of my standard .44 Colt load, which uses a .451 caliber 200gr. heel-base RNL bullet over 6.5gr. of Trail Boss powder. I also loaded some .430 200gr. hollow-base wadcutters. My hope was that the skirt would expand enough to engage the rifling and stabilize the bullets. We’ll just get that one out of the way right now- 20% of them key-holed at seven yards. Unacceptable.

The new gun performed nicely however-

Fired at seven yards with a center-hold; the gun shoots quite close to POA, so I will not be changing out the front sight

With the new grip-shape the gun hangs very nicely in the hand, and recoil is mild. The trigger on this gun is quite nice, with little take-up or over-travel. When the gun is completely dialed in and finished I’ll start working at longer ranges. For now I am quite pleased with how it is coming out.

I also fired ‘Nameless’ a fair bit. This snub-nosed .44 Colt has notably more recoil than the long-barrelled gun, as you would expect. It also experienced a number of light strikes; CCI have a rep for being hard primers, so next time I will try a different brand and see how that works out. If need be I can make adjustments to the gun, but I prefer not to.

Nameless consistently shoots a bit high at seven yards, but not so much that I feel it is necessary to replace the front sight with a taller one.

The grip-shape on Nameless is an experiment in making one of these guns more concealable; they are small and flat so they will ‘hide’ better. Not that I intend to CC this pistol, but the reason someone in the 19th century might have made such a gun is as a hide-out, so it seems appropriate. It works well with .44 Colt, but I have to say I am not at all sure I’d want to fire a more powerful cartridge out of it.

I loaded a box of .45 Cowboy Special for ‘The Pug,’ my original Pietta Remington conversion that uses a .45 Colt Kirst Gated Conversion. These use my standard go-to .45 range bullet- a 200gr. LRNFP- loaded over 5.3gr. of Unique. The question comes up occasionally, ‘Why not just use .45 Schofield?’ It’s a fair question- ballistics are basically pretty much the same. The answer is that I have a lot of .45 Colt brass, and by shortening it to .45 ACP’s overall length I can use a .45 Colt shell-holder with .45 ACP dies without changing the settings on the dies, and I already have those.

Yes, I can shoot .45 Colt out of this gun, and have often. But I have started loading hunting loads for .45 Colt, and by sticking to .45CS for my conversions I avoid the possibility of accidentally slipping an overpowered load into them.

I shot the first seven-yard group at the lower edge of the target, then switched to a center-hold when it was obvious these loads were shooting to POA. A few fliers, but not too shabby overall.

I love this gun; accurate, mild recoil and it just feels good in the hand. There’s also sentimental value, since this was my first cartridge conversion.

The Detonics Mk.1 Combat Master .45 is also a pure pleasure to shoot. I find it almost ridiculously easy to shoot this gun well. This target was seven-yard rapid-fire. Not bad; a couple of fliers but I’ll keep working on it.

This target was right and left handed rapid fire at seven yards. I definitely need more practice, specifically with my left hand!

I also fired the ASM New Dakota. Its good looking, nicely made and is my favorite barrel length for a Single Action Army. It shoots well too, but somehow it’s just… not interesting. To me, at least. All I know is that it gets passed by a lot when I am picking guns for a range-trip. I suspect I will either have to find something interesting to do with it or sell it.

So, the last range trip of 2018- overall a pretty good way to wind up the year!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 31 December 2018

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