Reloading Cast Bullets For The .45 ACP
Tips And Tricks For Better
In test-firing the newly reintroduced Colt Gold Cup National Match in .45 Automatic Colt Pistol, I initially fired seven different factory loads. However, just as with most of my everyday shooting of the .45 ACP, I used even more handloads. My handloads consisted of all cast bullets, both homebrewed and factory versions—with the latter being found both in hardcast and soft, swaged types.
The Gold Cup didn’t care what it was fed as far as cast bullets. It simply performed well with all of them. Whether using cast bullets or jacketed bullets, there are a couple things that must be adhered to for satisfactory performance. One has to do with bullet seating and the other with crimping.
With sixgun loads, several things determine the depth of seating, such as the bullet used, powder used, length of cylinder and, most assuredly, the location of the crimping groove on the bullet. Switching to loading for the .45 Gold Cup, there is neither cylinder nor crimping groove to determine the depth of bullet seating. However, there are two things to be mindful of. The first is the bullet must be seated to a depth that does not preclude it from fitting into the magazine. In addition to this, I prefer to seat SWC cast bullets with just a “kiss” of the shoulder protruding from the mouth of the brass. This seems to help with feeding from the magazine into the chamber, as it prevents the sharp edge of the case mouth from digging into the feed ramp. That slight protrusion really helps the cartridge on its journey.
Crimping is also important, although different than what is used with sixgun loads. Whether I load on a progressive or single-stage press, I use a 4-die set in assembling .45 ACP loads. The first die sizes and deprimes, the second bells the case mouth, number three seats the bullet and, finally, the last die provides for the taper crimp. Sixgun loads require a heavy roll crimp with the edge of the case mouth folded into the crimping groove. Generally speaking, revolver cartridges headspace on the rim of the case, however semi-automatic loads, such as the .45 ACP, headspace on the mouth of the case. That is, the case mouth butts up against a shoulder in the chamber and is held there against the force of the hammer hitting the primer.
The Colt Gold Cup National Match .45 ACP (above) comes with an extra light recoil
mainspring, bushing wrench and two magazines. John found the standard spring
worked fine with all target loads tested. The front sight (below) is a Patridge
style, giving the shooter a clear, sharp sight picture.
Two things can go wrong—actually three things. All of my die sets for the .45 ACP are also designed for loading .45 Auto Rim brass, with the latter requiring a roll crimp. If the crimping die is screwed into the die plate too far it will provide a roll crimp on the .45 ACP bullet, and this will allow the cartridge case to enter the chamber too far resulting in either a misfire or hang fire. If, on the other hand, there is not enough taper crimp, the edge of the case mouth will scrape against the chamber and prevent the slide from going all the way forward.
A pair of quality calipers comes in very handy for measuring the taper crimp. With the .45 ACP Gold Cup, the diameter of the loaded cartridge at the case mouth needs to be 0.470- to 0.471-inch when used with my cast bullets sized to 0.451-inch or commercial cast bullets at 0.452-inch. If the crimp is proper and bullets are seated to the right depth, functioning and feeding will be flawless. Before loading a large batch of ammunition, whether for the Gold Cup or any other .45 ACP, it is a good idea to load a few dummy cartridges to check for functioning from the magazine and feeding into the chamber. By using dummy cartridges we can concentrate on fit without the possibility of a negligent discharge. There is no such thing as an accidental discharge—negligence, not accidents, are the problem.
There are so many excellent powders available from various manufacturers, you’ll soon find yourself picking a few to keep things simple. For my use with the Gold Cup and other .45 ACP 1911’s, I mostly use just three powders. For light target to standard loads I go with Bullseye and W231.
For standard loads to heavier everyday working loads, my choice of powder is the same as it’s been for more than half a century—namely Unique. For more years than even I’ve been around, 3.5 grains of Bullseye has been a standard charge for target loads and is still an excellent choice, especially with 200-grain bullets giving about 700 fps muzzle velocity. Moving up to 5 grains of WW231 results in about 125 fps more muzzle velocity with these same bullets.
My heavier load, again with 200-grain bullets, is 7 grains of Unique for over 900 fps and with some bullets traveling more than 1,000 fps. Even though Colt provided a lighter recoil spring for use with target loads in the new Gold Cup, I did not find it necessary, as all loads shot perfectly well with the standard spring installed. Empty brass from target loads ejected just as easily and positively as the heavier loads.
The Colt Gold Cup comes from the factory with a 7-round magazine
for target shooting and an 8-round magazine for general use.
Cast bullets of choice for loading the .45 Gold Cup are the same bullets I’ve been using for decades. From my own bullet molds come H&G’s No. 68, which is duplicated by the RCBS 45-201. Hensley & Gibbs is long gone as a supplier of bullet molds, however I have both 4- and 6-cavity molds for the 68. The problem in my older years is these molds are heavier than I care to use very often, so instead I run a pair of 2-cavity 45-201 molds. This excellent mold is still available from RCBS.
From Lyman I have a 4-cavity 452460 mold that drops 200-grain bullets, and if there is a more accurate across-the-board cast bullet for the .45 ACP than this one, I have yet to find it. Loaded with over 7 grains of Unique, it does over 900 fps from the Gold Cup and shoots under 1 inch at 20 yards. Another favorite from Lyman is the 452374 roundnose. Seated over 5 grains of WW231, it is an accurate shooting substitute for hardball loads.
If you don’t cast, it is no problem as Oregon Trail offers a bullet very close to the 200-grain H&G 68/RCBS 45-201. This is their 200-grain LSWC, and loaded over 5 grains of either WW231 or Bullseye, it travels in the 825 to 850 fps range. Moving up to 7 grains of Unique it comes in at 1,075 fps and is my choice for a cast bullet load for everyday use with commercial cast bullets. Speer also offers a softer swaged 200-grain LSWC, which also does well for target shooting.
Earlier I mentioned a possible third thing to watch for and this is case length. If cases stretch past acceptable length the slide will not close all the way, resulting in a misfire. I have thousands upon thousands upon thousands of pieces of .45 ACP brass after more than a half-century of shooting and testing factory loads, which means none of my brass is used over and over and over. So I rarely have to trim brass, however, when I do I take the easy way out. I use the RCBS Pro-Trimmer and let electricity do the work.
Some of John’s most favored .45 ACP cast bullets include (above, from left to right)
the original H&G 68, the RCBS 45-201 (which duplicates the H&G design) and the store-bought
Oregon Trail 200 LSWC. Some other of John’s favored .45 ACP cast bullets include
(below, from left to right) the Lyman 452460, Lyman 452374 and store-bought Speer 200 LSWC.
The question often comes up as to how long loaded ammunition can be stored. The above-mentioned 452460 Lyman cast bullet loaded over 7 grains of Unique came from a large batch assembled nearly 40 years ago. I have been working out of this supply of ammunition over the years while keeping it stored in a cool, dry place. In the Colt Gold Cup National Match this load, as old as it is, places five shots in 7/8-inch at 20 yards. So the answer to the question, realistically, is nearly forever under proper storage conditions.
John Taffin’s long awaited new book all about .45’s will be available soon! Visit www.gunsmagazine.com for updates!—Editor
By John Taffin
P.O. Box 6 , Radford, VA 24141
6430 Vista Drive, Shawnee, KS 66218
475 Smith St., Middletown, CT 06457
Oregon Trail Bullets
P.O. Box 529, Baker City, OR 97814
605 Oro Dam Blvd., Oroville, CA 95965
P.O. Box 856, Lewiston, ID 83501