! ! ! !
Day By Day© by Chris Muir.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

reloading the 45 Colt (aka Long Colt) with Trail Boss powder

I've owned and shot a Ruger Vaquero in 45 Colt for about 6 years. in all that time, i've only found one load that shot true point of aim, with any kind of accuracy. and that was a commercial round: winchester's 250 grain lead round nose ammo. but it's expensive, at around $25.00 a box of 50.
so i got the ballistics data from winchester's data page, and set off to find a good dependable load that I can put together.

i've tried 6 or 7 powders, and at least 10 different bullets, over the years.
i've gotten close with 9 grains of unique under a 255 grain lead semi-wadcutter from oregon trails. it was close, but i've never been happy with it. other loads, such as winchester's reloading data using W231 powder didn't cut it because the case sensitivity of the powder made it so that i had to tip the pistol up between each shot just to get consistent results. i've held off finally filing the front site down to bring the point of aim up on one load that does a fairly decent job, because the thought of taking a file to my gun isn't one i relish. not that i can't, or won't do it, but it just seems so final, and means to me that i've given up. i know this gun is capable of point of aim accuracy, because i have done it with factory loads. dammit.

then IMR powder company came out with Trail Boss powder this last year. the frustrating problem with this powder is it's availability. i've scoured the usual suspects ever since i read about the powder in one of the gun mags i get. nobody was carrying it, and when i asked about ordering it, i got a lot of blank stares. when it costs an extra $29.00 just in hazardous materials handling charges from UPS, above the cost of the powder and normal shipping fees, nobody was willing to order me a can and still charge me $13.00. luckily there was a gun show in Vallejo last weekend, and i was able to find a couple of bottles there.

Trail Boss was developed for use in cartridges originally designed for black powder use. that would include the 45 colt and the 30-30 rifle cartridge. the powder looks different. it's shaped like a donut, and it fed through my RCBS powder charger like a champ. it's designed to take up a lot more room. a typical 1 pound powder can holds 9 ounces of Trail Boss. so when you throw a 5.8 grain charge, it takes up over 1/2 the available space. and when you throw a 6.5 grain charge, the case looks close to full, with enough room that the charge isn't compressed when inserting a 200 grain round nose bullet.

just for comparisons, the following picture contains a 45 Colt bullet loaded with a 255 grain Oregon Trails lasercast lead semi-wadcutter next to a 45 ACP loaded with a 200 grain lead semi-wadcutter from Western Nevada bullet company. to the left is a 255 bullet, and to the right is a 200 grain lead round nose bullet, also from Oregon Trails. i used both the 200 grain round nose and 255 semi-wadcutter with the Trail Boss powder.
click for larger images

200 grain lead round nose 45LC bullets from Oregon Trails. load data shows min charge 5.5 gr max charge 6.5 gr.
the 5.8 grain charge showed hitting like a round of buckshot fired from a muzzle loading blunderbuss. not worth a damn

the 6.5 grain load wasn't a whole lot better
but at least it did have a little something going for it. if i wasn't such a freak about accuracy, i could file the front blade to raise the point of aim, and use this load. but i won't. shooting the top and bottom loads with this lack of accuracy shows me i don't need to waste any more time with this specific bullet and this specific powder.

255 grain lead semi-wadcutter, Oregon Trail. load data shows minimum powder charge 4.5 grain to max of 5.8 grain.

i loaded the bottom of the band to 4.5 grains and when i shot it, i held a point of aim at the top of the black
i didn't have to, because you can see the bullet impact is higher. that's one of the things the reloading writers always talk about. if you want to raise your bullet's impact, go with a higher charge, or a heavier bullet. the muzzle flip on recoil will cause the bullet to strike higher.

here's the full image for the 255 grain bullet series. as you look at the targets, you can see that as i raised the powder charge to 5 grains, i started to get coherent groupings. at near the max charge of 5.6 grains, the grouping is still pretty good. remember, i'm firing off hand at 15 yards, in this instance, so tight pretty ransom rest type groups are not in the cards.

conclusion. it looks like i'll be doing a lot more loading with the Trail Boss powder and the 255 grain Oregon Trails semi-wadcutters. i'll go back and try this again, from min to max, only i'll do it in 0.2 or 0.3 grain increments, and i'll let you know which charge did the trick.

i think i'll be using this powder for the caliber from now on.

Labels: , , ,


Blogger loddfafnir said...

hey Bo,
you ever shoot smokey powder? it's lots of fun and clean up isn't bad with modern BP substitutes like CleanShot.

"every gun, when it grows up, wants to be a 45"

4/5/06, 11:34 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

I have had great results with the Remington 255 gr. RNFP bullet. It is a nice fat bullet, running .454 to .455, it is dead soft lead, too. The bullets slug up to obdurate the bore very well, I have not seen any leading in three different barrels as long as I keep the velocity below about 1150 fps in my rifle.
I have had very good luck with both GOEX FFG black powder and a less expensive load with Hodgdon's TiteGroup. These loads in a couple of Uberti Single Action Army clones and a Model '92 Winchester clone I use in Cowboy Action shooting.
I urge you to check out that Remington bullet, Midway sells them at 24.99, plus shipping, for 500. The only downside to this bullet is that the black waxy lube is all over the bullet and I have to take my bullet seating die down every once in a while to clean it out, otherwise the bullet gets to seating deeper and deeper.

4/8/06, 8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm using 250gr RNFP bullets made by "Proofmark" of Burgess Va., I'm using 6gr of Bullseye and Winchester large magnum pistol primers. At 15 yards I'm getting 2" to 2 1/4" 10 shot offhand groups with my New model Blackhawk with the 5.5" barrel. I tried 5.7gr of bullseye at first and had 3 to 4 inch groups, just adding that.3 grains of powder tightened my groups right up.

12/17/07, 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to add something here, I am also using Proofmark 255gr LSWC bullets over 6 grains of bullseye. I started my charge load low as well and wasn't happy with the results. 5.5 grains of bullseye is where i started, and it gave me 4" offhand groups through my 5.5" Blackhawk. As soon as I progressed through to 6 grains of bullseye, my groups tightened up to one ragged hole. 7.5 grains of Unique also gives me tight groupings, but in my opinion, this should only be used in Blackhawks, Freedom arms and other strongly built revolvers, and of course the Thompson contenders.

4/25/08, 10:08 AM  
Blogger timberjack said...

I have been reloading 45 colt for my 460S&W.I have been lookin for a cleaner burning powder, so far have tried 2400, IMR 4227, and universal.The universal is a shotgun powder and has been producing some nice tight groups but is a real dirty burner.I am gonna look for some trailboss.I did go and file my front site not so much down but pointy so i could actually see my aim point not just a huge front post.A few questions for you seasoned geezer's.I am using DRG bullets lead casts what is the max load for a cast bullets roughly? I had some loaded pretty hot and noticed lots of leading and then noticed the leads started to tumble with the hot loads.

6/14/09, 4:27 AM  
Blogger terry said...

i guess at 62 I fit into the geezer catigory
I'm loading for some smith mod 25's
I started loading longshot 9.4gr. and 225gr hornady ftx bullets.
925 on the cronograph excellent groups no pressure signs. load is from hornady's web site. penatration is very deep in clayThis feals like a hunting winner

4/13/11, 5:17 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home