Alliant’s Red Dot
and .45 Sixguns

An old favorite
; .

Red Dot performs well in .45 Colt loads in the Colt Single Action Army and the Ruger Blackhawk.

For most of my 62 years of Handloading/Reloading, I have leaned to the heavy side of loads. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of really serious loads, and many with heavy bullets, have been put together for .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, .454 Casull, .480 Ruger, .500 Wyoming Express, .475 and .500 Linebaugh. This was always the norm, however the norm has changed as the hands will simply not handle these heavier loads on a regular basis.

They are kept on hand for hunting and a little testing but they are nowhere near the upper limit of my comfort level. As an aside, the difference between Handloading and Reloading is the former is mostly a search for excellent performing loads with different powders and bullets while the latter is simply repeating the same load over and over again.


Good shooting .45 Colt loads assembled with Red Dot in Ruger Bisley Models and the Colt New Frontier.

Scaling Back

I have decided, actually my body has decided, for everyday shooting pleasure I needed something much different than these heavy loads. My goal is no longer how high I can go, but rather to come up with good shooting loads with a muzzle velocity somewhere around 900 fps or less from a 7-1/2″ to 8-3/8″ sixgun. These are loads that can be shot in comfort while still retaining a power level close to the .45 ACP Hardball load, which has a long-established reputation of success. I wanted loads that were still serious under normal circumstances as there is certainly nothing wimpy about .45 ACP Government Loads.

While maintaining this same power level, they would also be much more enjoyable shooting, or at least on the same recoil level, in a heavy-framed sixgun as in the 1911 Government Model. These loads would not only be comfortable to shoot but also accurate, loads that would serve as everyday packin’ loads should we stray off the beaten path, and could also be pressed into service for target shooting. Actually at this power level and carried in a Perfect Packin’ Pistol with barrel lengths of 4″ to 5-1/2″, these loads would also serve for self-defense or concealed carry.

I have been concentrating on loads in all the .44 and .45 sixguns at my disposal with several different powders. For this installment we look at .45s loaded with Alliant Red Dot; Alliant was formerly Hercules. Red Dot was originally designed for shotgun use and has been around for so long it actually predates me by seven years. Alliant has improved Red Dot and as they say it, “now burns significantly cleaner and offers better flow characteristics with the same performance.” I have certainly found this to be true and with most loads, provides low extreme velocity spreads. Most like to stay with loads under 50 fps extreme spreads and in many of the loads I have had spreads of less than 30 fps.

The .45 Colt arrived in 1873 and folks are still arguing over whether the original load was 40 grains of black powder or less. Until the arrival of solid head brass in the 1950s, the .45 Colt “Balloon Head” brass would hold 40 grains of black powder and my test with these older examples of .45 Colt brass cases results in muzzle velocities of 850–900 fps or, depending upon the individual sixgun, more. To duplicate these loads with Red Dot I use 6.0 grains and the Oregon Trail 250 RNFP (Round Nosed Flat Point) bullets. In a 7-1/2″ Ruger Old Model Blackhawk muzzle velocity is just over 800 fps and is extremely accurate with five shots in 5/8″. Dropping down to 5.5 grains results in muzzle velocities from 750–800 fps. In my custom Ruger Bisley by Jim Stroh, muzzle velocity is just over 800 fps and puts five shots in 1-1/4″ at 20 yards.


John also uses .45 Wadcutter bullets from Matt’s Bullets in .45 Loads
with Red Dot and this “Sheriff’s Model” Freedom Arms Model 97.

John uses both RCBS and Lyman dies for loading the various .45
Cartridges .45 Schofield, .45 Colt, .454 Casull and .45 Auto Rim.


The .45 Schofield was first chambered in the Smith & Wesson #3 Schofield Model in 1875 and featured a brass case slightly shorter than the .45 Colt. Starline now offers Schofield brass and I like to use it for lighter loads in .45 Colt sixguns. Before a large batch of .45 Schofield rounds are loaded, it is best to check to see if they will fit in the .45 Colt sixgun of choice. The Schofield brass has a rim slightly larger in diameter and requires a .44-40 #35 RCBS shell holder. With 4.0 grains of Red Dot and the same Oregon Trail bullet, muzzle velocities in sixguns with Perfect Packin Pistol barrel lengths are a very pleasant shooting 600–650 fps. In the above-mentioned Jim Stroh Ruger groups are just barely over 1″ and I get the same accuracy from a 4-3/4″ Colt New Frontier.

Red Dot also works well in the .45 Auto Rim with 5.0 grains under the Oregon Trail 250 RNFP just under 750 fps. To duplicate Hardball .45 ACP, the same charge with a 230-grain bullet is used. Finally with the .454 Casull from which I have shot many of those thousands of heavy loads mentioned above, I use 6.5 grains with the Oregon Trail Bullet which clocks out right at 800 fps and a 5/8″ group from a Freedom Arms 4-3/4″ sixgun. With this load I can enjoy the excellent-shooting .454 as long as I can still pull the trigger.

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