Tank’s Five Favorite
Loads For The .45 Colt

The ‘Old Man’ Still Makes The Grade

The Ruger Redhawk is a favorite of Tank’s.

Of all the cartridges I load, the .45 Colt is my favorite. Sure, there are better cartridges for certain applications, but no other cartridge stands-in and handles every chore thrown its way like the .45 Colt. It has the broadest range on the power spectrum of just about any cartridge out there. Yes sir, the Granddaddy of pistol cartridges can be loaded from mild to wild, performing and perfecting, with the right load.

Designed in 1873 for the Colt Single-Action Army, the voluminous case could hold 40 grains of black powder under a 250-grain radiused flat-nosed bullet with a tiny meplat. Velocity was right around 900 FPS depending on barrel length. It quickly earned its reputation as a manstopper.

Fast forward a hundred years and Ruger released its Blackhawk in .45 Colt. Now we can load the classic cartridge to unheard of velocities over 1,200 FPS, with bullets weighing over 300 grains. Throw in some bullets with large nose flats and we have a cartridge transformation capable of taking the largest game in North America.

The Elmer Keith-designed Lyman/Ideal 454424, is a favorite of mine for many reasons, the first being its hard-hitting flat nose. Second is purely nostalgia, I love the grand old man. Third, I made my first handgun kill using this bullet on a cow elk.


About 30 years ago Veral Smith designed bullets having large flat noses. More weight was kept outside the cartridge case allowing more powder capacity in the case. He had long flat-nose and wide flat-nose designs and everything else in between. His aluminum molds are works of art, casting beautiful bullets.

His book, Jacketed Performance With Cast Bullets is considered the cast bullet bible full of useful information and testimonials.

Tank’s Ruger Bisley Hunters and personal favorites. The top one in factory form,
the bottom one heavily and skillfully modified by Ken Kelly of Mag-na-port.

Power Levels

The .45 Colt can be loaded with three power levels. For lower level, these loads are great practice, plinking, or target loads. My favorite bullet is Lee’s 200-grain radiused flat-nosed bullet. Loaded over 6 grains of 231, it goes around 760 FPS with hardly any recoil.

Mid-level loads consist of 250-grain slugs. My two favorites are Lee’s 255-grain radiused flat-nose bullet and Elmer’s bullet, the Lyman/Ideal 454424. The load I shoot most consists of 8 grains of 231 for 900 FPS. This load duplicates the original 40-grain black powder ballistics and is the most accurate load I’ve shot in my guns. I’ve also used a fair amount of Unique, usually 8–9 grains and it too crowds around the 900 FPS mark.

Heavy loads consist of several favorite bullets and are only for Ruger large-framed guns. Again, Elmer’s 454424 is a favorite bullet, loaded heavy. I’ve used it to take several deer and a cow elk, all with one shot. My pet load uses 20 grains of 2400 with a standard large pistol primer. Velocity runs around 1,250 FPS.

MP Molds SAA 270 .45 HP is a dandy slug weighing 285 grains in solid form and 280 grains with HP. Loaded over 20 grains of 2400, it gives over 1,200 FPS with mighty fine accuracy. It may be the best overall bullet in the group and one I’d think hard on if I could only have one bullet.

Lastly, is my LBT LFNGC, or long, flat-nosed, gas checked bullet weighing 330 grains when cast of WW alloy. Loaded over 22 grains of H110 and using a CCI large magnum pistol primer velocity runs about 1,240 FPS.

These 25-yard targets show just how versatile the .45 Colt can be with different loads.

The Guns

Favored .45 Colt guns for hunting include mostly Ruger Bisley’s with 7.5″ barrels. The added length gives top velocities, while providing a longer sight radius, making hits easier. My basically stock Bisley Hunter has been a good one, taking a lot of game with its iron sights. Adding a scope makes it great testing loads for accuracy.

I have a stainless Bisley worked over by Tyler Gun Works, which is becoming a favored shooter with its accuracy and smooth action. The ram horn stocks are a nice touch, too!

Ruger Redhawk fills the niche nicely for double-action shooters. I have both 4.2″ and 7.5″ barrel sixguns in .45 Colt. Shooting can be either single, or double action, depending on what scenario plays out.

Final Shot

The Granddaddy of all cartridges is still as useful and viable when it was first released over 150 years ago, only now it has the potential for fulfilling heavier duties with proper guns and loads. It’s not particular either when shooting different loads. The .45 Colt refuses to die and with good reason! In fact, it appears to be picking up steam, getting better with age, as it should. I could happily end my shooting days with nothing more than a few .45 Colts, but I’m happy I don’t have to!

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