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Thread: Loading .45 LC for the Ruger Blackhawk

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Default Loading .45 LC for the Ruger Blackhawk

    I've been reading what literature I have, and surfing other forums and the web in general. Certainly, I've missed things, but generally all I've found on the subject is scattered smatterings of conversation here and there. The most comprehensive Information I've found is Linebaugh's writings, which are impressive, and I'm inclined to give a lot of merit to what he says.

    My brief introduction to handloading was with wheel gun cartridges, but that was over 30 years ago, and I've only loaded long gun brass since then. Have decided to dip a toe into the handgun cartridge waters now, so am seeking input.

    I'm not interested in casting my own, so am looking for commercial sources for 260-300ish grain Keith bullets. I'm already clued into Beartooth. Anyone have recommendations for other good Keith style bullet casters?

    Any recommendations for good proven loads, process and procedure tips, component preferences, dies etc., specific to the .45 LC / Blackhawk combo would be appreciated.

    Also, in the meantime, any recommendations of good quality commercial fodder for target practice?
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    I did the same thing myself 3 months ago...was a devoted 44 Mag shooter and I decided to branch out into the .45LC. Snyd was a great deal of help and I'm now reloading and shooting a BH and a Rossi 92 in .45LC. I settled on 20.0 gr of Lil Gun behind a 325 gr Cast Performance for a carry load. It is not meant to be a paper puncher so I have not adopted any light loads.

    If you get a BH I would suggest you get it chamber reamed to 0.4525" or mine is 0.453". It made a world of difference in the accuracy department...3" groups down from 8" before the reaming at 25 yds. There is a thread on here about that. I also put a set of Hogue grips on my BH...much nicer to shoot with the heavy loads.

    My 5" SS SBH in 44 Mag is still my favorite but I do like the .45LC a lot!!
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    I am pleased with the 255gr Keiths I got from Missouri Bullet Company. They come in two hardness levels for different power loads and they are very accurate. I love the Beartooths I have had and they have more variety, but the Missouri's are much cheaper.

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    For plinking loads I use 255gr Oregon Trail. 20gr. IMR 4227, fed. large pistol primer, starline brass.

    About 23,500 CUP according to loading manual.

    940 to 980 fps. from a couple of my 45 LC's. 4" to 7.5" barrels.

    Not sure what pressures the Blackhawk runs at.
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    Blackhawk will take the "Ruger only" loads just like a Redhawk. Some very heavy boolit lodes developed for RH can run too long COL for a BH though because a RH cylinder is a tad longer.

    That load Lowrider posted is a great load, 20g LilGun under 325g hard cast. I run same charge under a 330g because 330 is what Lee Stoner casts here in the Valley and his bullets can be had from forum sponsor Artic Ammo & Reloading. Powders I load in 45 Colt these days are . . . TrailBoss replaceed Unique and Bullseye, 2400 for mid range, H110/W296, and LilGun for hot . . . start low and work up as always!

    Here is the bible, the basic need-ta-know on this subject if you don't have it:
    http://www.chuckhawks.com/high-pressure45.htm
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    Most of my dies are RCBS, but I've got a few Lyman (Multi Delux) that I like better for handguns. I think the carbide dies are well worth the extra $, I hate wiping lube.

    For measuring the powder I use a Lyman Accumeasure Rotor. It's quick and repeatable. I visually check each case for hi/lo powder charge.

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    You can cut your powder costs by 40-50% by going to Tite Group instead of the trail boss...it lights up fine for plinking loads and I sometimes push medium velocity 330 grain Brooks out of my redhawk to 1100 fps with it. If you are looking to get 1400+ then I go to W296 or 110.

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    I just got some 265 gr Keiths from Beartooth for my Redhawk. These will be the plinkers. Was actually online now to see if anyone has loaded any. I've also got a box of 325gr FN and 425gr WLN coming from them for heavy load testing. Can't wait for the temps to cooperate so I can smell some burnt powder again.

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    If you venture into the high pressure loads, label the heck out of your ammo boxes. I don't know if you have any other Colts around that digest only moderate or light loads, but it's not worth the risk that someone else might get hold of your reloads and put them in the wrong gun. Doesn't take long, but with multiple guns around it's worth labeling. Heck I even have to do it with the loads for my 44 Redhawks. They easily digest loads that will lock up every 29 and 629 I own. You can't tell the loads apart looking at them, but the guns will certainly recognize the difference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ADfields View Post
    Blackhawk will take the "Ruger only" loads just like a Redhawk. Some very heavy boolit lodes developed for RH can run too long COL for a BH though because a RH cylinder is a tad longer.

    That load Lowrider posted is a great load, 20g LilGun under 325g hard cast. I run same charge under a 330g because 330 is what Lee Stoner casts here in the Valley and his bullets can be had from forum sponsor Artic Ammo & Reloading. Powders I load in 45 Colt these days are . . . TrailBoss replaceed Unique and Bullseye, 2400 for mid range, H110/W296, and LilGun for hot . . . start low and work up as always!

    Here is the bible, the basic need-ta-know on this subject if you don't have it:
    http://www.chuckhawks.com/high-pressure45.htm
    Andy, I'm disappointed with selection of Chuck Hawks as a reference for this. He's out voted by so many of us who have practiced loading the 45 Colt for four decades. I'll side with John Linebaugh on 45 Colt loading.

    Modern brass is essential. That may be Winchester, Federal or my preference, Starline. There are others that qualify.

    You must first understand that the mighty 44 Magnum operates with pressure limit of 36,000 psi.

    The ancient 45 Colt was originally spec'd at 14,000 psi. These are what we call cowboy loads today because they can be used in those old original Colt 1873 model guns.

    Many loading manuals clearly differentiate between the cowboy loads and loads for modern 45 Colt revolvers. Speer limits their modern 45 Colt loads to 25,000 CUP (they still use copper crusher test system). But even at this modest pressure a 300 grain bullet can be launched at 1200 fps from a 7.5" barrel. An interesting note here is that the 44 magnum will send 300 grains from the same length at 1200 fps also, but at about 35,000 CUP.

    Would there be a discussion about which would be more effective 300 grains at 1200 FPS.....probably still, but clearly the 45 Colt is now in the same league as the mighty 44 mag.

    I've had the opportunity to run pressure testing equipment on the 45 Colt. I've loaded it to a consistent 35,000 psi (this was a test receiver). The brass used never showed any wore wear or weakness than the 44 mag brass or any of the other big revolver caliber brass. I also concluded from those test that Starline is superior in durability and a more uniform anneal than some of the other makers brass.

    Another key point in loading for the 45 Colt, as well as other big bore revolver cartridges, is that hard cast bullets offer an advantage over jacketed both in ballistic performance and several other points. Hard cast lead (BHN 18-22) will hold a crimp better because of the correct crimp groove, It has a lower co-effecient of friction and will achieve target velocity with less pressure than jacketed. And the terminal performance is more predictable than jacketed soft points or hollow-point bullets.

    Also it should be noted that the correct bore size for modern 45 Colt revolvers, from all makers, including Freedom Arms, is .451" With this and correct cylinder throats bullets used should be .451" to .452" for jacketed and .452" to .453" for hard cast, depending on cylinder throats.

    Even though Chuck Hawks says these modern loads are for Black Hawk and Contender only, obviously the Red Hawk and super Red Hawk could be included also. The Freedom Arms guns, both the model 97 and the model 83 are well capable of taking 44 magnum pressures. I've shot a FA 97 with these loads at 44 mag pressures for years and the only adverse effect is a sore hand.

    Some of my favorite loads for the 45 Colt are with Cast Performance and Beartooth bullets.

    A good top load is with the CP 335 LFNGC and 20.0 grains of Lil"gun. I like this powder also. This will give 1200 fps from a 7" barrel and tests at a max pressure of 30,000 psi. Still less than 44 magnum pressure. The 360 grain LFNGC can be driven to 1100 fps with 18.0 grains of Lil'Gun, at this pressure. A favorite powder for the 45 COlt for decades has been H4227. With with 22.0 grains of this and the 335 grain LFNGC we can get 1100 fps with a little less pressure.

    For the most trusted load data and the most current I have found the Hodgdon Powder's annual reloading magazine. They make the powders and they test continually.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Murphy View Post
    Andy, I'm disappointed with selection of Chuck Hawks as a reference for this. He's out voted by so many of us who have practiced loading the 45 Colt for four decades. I'll side with John Linebaugh on 45 Colt loading.

    Modern brass is essential. That may be Winchester, Federal or my preference, Starline. There are others that qualify.

    You must first understand that the mighty 44 Magnum operates with pressure limit of 36,000 psi.

    The ancient 45 Colt was originally spec'd at 14,000 psi. These are what we call cowboy loads today because they can be used in those old original Colt 1873 model guns.

    Many loading manuals clearly differentiate between the cowboy loads and loads for modern 45 Colt revolvers. Speer limits their modern 45 Colt loads to 25,000 CUP (they still use copper crusher test system). But even at this modest pressure a 300 grain bullet can be launched at 1200 fps from a 7.5" barrel. An interesting note here is that the 44 magnum will send 300 grains from the same length at 1200 fps also, but at about 35,000 CUP.

    Would there be a discussion about which would be more effective 300 grains at 1200 FPS.....probably still, but clearly the 45 Colt is now in the same league as the mighty 44 mag.

    I've had the opportunity to run pressure testing equipment on the 45 Colt. I've loaded it to a consistent 35,000 psi (this was a test receiver). The brass used never showed any wore wear or weakness than the 44 mag brass or any of the other big revolver caliber brass. I also concluded from those test that Starline is superior in durability and a more uniform anneal than some of the other makers brass.

    Another key point in loading for the 45 Colt, as well as other big bore revolver cartridges, is that hard cast bullets offer an advantage over jacketed both in ballistic performance and several other points. Hard cast lead (BHN 18-22) will hold a crimp better because of the correct crimp groove, It has a lower co-effecient of friction and will achieve target velocity with less pressure than jacketed. And the terminal performance is more predictable than jacketed soft points or hollow-point bullets.

    Also it should be noted that the correct bore size for modern 45 Colt revolvers, from all makers, including Freedom Arms, is .451" With this and correct cylinder throats bullets used should be .451" to .452" for jacketed and .452" to .453" for hard cast, depending on cylinder throats.

    Even though Chuck Hawks says these modern loads are for Black Hawk and Contender only, obviously the Red Hawk and super Red Hawk could be included also. The Freedom Arms guns, both the model 97 and the model 83 are well capable of taking 44 magnum pressures. I've shot a FA 97 with these loads at 44 mag pressures for years and the only adverse effect is a sore hand.

    Some of my favorite loads for the 45 Colt are with Cast Performance and Beartooth bullets.

    A good top load is with the CP 335 LFNGC and 20.0 grains of Lil"gun. I like this powder also. This will give 1200 fps from a 7" barrel and tests at a max pressure of 30,000 psi. Still less than 44 magnum pressure. The 360 grain LFNGC can be driven to 1100 fps with 18.0 grains of Lil'Gun, at this pressure. A favorite powder for the 45 COlt for decades has been H4227. With with 22.0 grains of this and the 335 grain LFNGC we can get 1100 fps with a little less pressure.

    For the most trusted load data and the most current I have found the Hodgdon Powder's annual reloading magazine. They make the powders and they test continually.
    Murphy I do agree with you here.
    I too donít agree with a lot of his ascertains in that old article but he makes some valid points and brings concerns anyone starting into Rugar Only loads needs to have before diving right in head first.

    I think safe working pressure in a Blackhawk would be more like 32,000(ish)cup where he thinks 25K. He says nothing about Redhawk and it has more meat on the bones so would stand even more pressure.

    I shouldnít have said bible but what I mean is, well itís hard to explain, Nobody argues that his 25Kcup is safe but the higher you go from there the more guys there are with their hair on their neck standing up. So if you are new to this Ruger Only stuff then starting at Chuckís level seems a good idea, then you can work up to the place your own hair starts standing up.

    Agree on the Starline brass too, buy all I can in Starline. Iíve filled them clear up with LilGun without problem, 454 level loads, fired out of a 460 though not a 45 Colt. Don't buy CP boolets very often any more, I like the cheaper Lee Stoner ones made right here better . . . if Lee would get a 395g .452" mold I'd have no need to but CP's fine products at all anymore.

    I was surprised that you like Lilgun though, I thought you were in the ďLilGun kills revolversĒ bunch. There are a lot of LilGun nay-sayers out there but I've had no trouble at all with it.
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    No I don't know of any Lil'Gun problems. I've heard/read about them but until I see it I don't believe it. I stay in contact with the folks at Hodgdon powder and they stand by it. It works just like H110 but is less temperature sensitive and is more consistent lot to lot. Not loaded to same charge weight but similar otherwise. I just ran through three pounds of it this past month with some good weather down here and shot everything from 44 to 500 S&W including the 45 Colt and 454 and it was very good. Those big cases take up a lot of it.

    I think my grief with Chuck is that it doesn't seem to be his opinion based on his experience. He seems to take a comment here, a comment there and agree with some disagree with some and create confusion and contradiction all at once. I do like his web site and read a lot of stuff there.....still disagreeing with him all the way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bullelkklr View Post
    You can cut your powder costs by 40-50% by going to Tite Group instead of the trail boss...it lights up fine for plinking loads and I sometimes push medium velocity 330 grain Brooks out of my redhawk to 1100 fps with it. If you are looking to get 1400+ then I go to W296 or 110.
    Yes I know, I was using Bullseye and it was cheaper at 5g per light 45 Colt load and about $20 per pound that was cheaper. But Trailboss isnít exactly braking the bank ether, 8g pre round 875 rounds per pound and running me about $23 per pound and it is a lot safer because itís bulky powder.
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    So, while we're on the subject of powders; Linebaugh makes a good case for H110 and W296 being more efficient in the 45LC than most others, but he doesn't reference Lil'Gun in his stats. How do you think Lil'Gun compares to H110 efficiency wise? Murphy?

    And I don't want to say cost is no object, but with all my loading my first priority is accuracy and performance. Cost and velocity come in second. That is to say I'm not afflicted with magnumitis...
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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    So, while we're on the subject of powders; Linebaugh makes a good case for H110 and W296 being more efficient in the 45LC than most others, but he doesn't reference Lil'Gun in his stats. How do you think Lil'Gun compares to H110 efficiency wise? Murphy?
    Not Murphy but LilGun will give same speed at lower pressure and better speed at same pressure, great stuff. Iíve found nothing that can better Lilgunís numbers in big caliber handguns. And H110/W296 (they are the same powder) is a bad one to light in the cold where LilGun lights just fine.
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    Default Lit'gun in the .45 Colt

    There is quite a bit of information on the web about Lil'gun causing throat errosion in some revolvers. If i recall Freedon Arms had quite a bit of problems with in their .454s and states not to use it.

    Apparently Lil'gun has more nitrogylerine in it that the others and thus causes more throat errosion - or so the story goes.

    There are a couple of other powders in the H110/W296 range including Enforcer, Steel, and 300 MP. I've used them in the .44 Mag and .500 S&W but haven't tried them in the .45 LC yet. When Ruger finally gets my Redhawk right I'll let you know how they go.


    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    So, while we're on the subject of powders; Linebaugh makes a good case for H110 and W296 being more efficient in the 45LC than most others, but he doesn't reference Lil'Gun in his stats. How do you think Lil'Gun compares to H110 efficiency wise? Murphy?
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    Quote Originally Posted by ADfields View Post
    Not Murphy but LilGun will give same speed at lower pressure and better speed at same pressure, great stuff. Iíve found nothing that can better Lilgunís numbers in big caliber handguns. And H110/W296 (they are the same powder) is a bad one to light in the cold where LilGun lights just fine.
    Thanks Andy, that's the kind of info I'm interested in. Do you have a favorite / starting recipe with Lil'Gun? Magnum or standard primer?...
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    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    There is quite a bit of information on the web about Lil'gun causing throat errosion in some revolvers. If i recall Freedon Arms had quite a bit of problems with in their .454s and states not to use it.

    Apparently Lil'gun has more nitrogylerine in it that the others and thus causes more throat errosion - or so the story goes.
    I'll dig into this too, and am interested in what others here think. Thanks Tim. Where's Snyd I wonder?
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    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    There is quite a bit of information on the web about Lil'gun causing throat errosion in some revolvers. If i recall Freedon Arms had quite a bit of problems with in their .454s and states not to use it.
    I've been told that H110/W296 also accelerates throat erosion especially in S&W 29 & 629 revolvers. I can't say definitively, but I know a 29 that puked and accuracy simply quit after 500 or so rounds of full charge loads of H110.
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    H110 is a good powder and I use it in the 357 Mag and 44 Mag and have been using it in the 300 Blackout too along with Lil Gun.

    I got started on Lil Gun with a 22 K Hornet and it does give better velocity at lower pressures and I found you really can't stuff enough in a K Hornet case to cause flat primers so I like it becasue it that makes it safer for me. When I heard of folks using it in magnum revolvers I tried it and I like it just fine. I always use standard primers in whatever I load with Lil Gun and it seems to light off just fine.

    Frankly, I won't shoot enough hot rounds thru a magnum or 45 LC to worry about throat erosion in this life time and if my kids get my guns and they are worn out...oh well.
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