Single-Minded Over A Single-Action Standby
By Tank Hoover
Picking your favorite handgun is a tough proposition. Narrowing down to a favorite caliber can be almost as frustrating for some folks.
But not for me! I’ve got a favorite and enjoy touting its virtues to anyone — whether they listen or not.
My hands-down favorite is the .45 Colt. It’s got everything I love and more. This battle-proven big-bore just oozes history, versatility and potential.
The .45 Colt was the first metallic cartridge chambered in Sam Colt’s wonderful Peacemaker. Loaded over a stout charge of blackpowder and a 250-gr. lead bullet at around 900 fps, it’s a powerhouse. The cavernous case? Needed for bulky blackpowder — but the very space is what makes the grand old .45 Colt so versatile.
Tank’s Ruger Trio: All are in .45 Colt of course. Tank’s married to the caliber.
He just has a hard time being faithful to one gun.
The old Colt has the ability to shoot both light and heavy bullets accurately. Does it really make sense to shoot heavy stuff when all you’re doing is punching paper? My all-around load consists of a Lee Precision 255-gr. FN over 8 grains of Winchester 231. Duplicating ballistics of the original blackpowder load, it’ll cover 90 percent of your needs.
I also enjoy plinking with Lee’s wonderful 200-gr. RFN. It’s accurate, light recoiling, and a great beginner bullet for kids.
My favorite hunting load for my Rugers consists of the classic 260-gr. Keith bullet thrown from a vintage Lyman 454424 mold. This slug — seated over 20 grains of 2400 — gets around 1,240 fps. I “double lunged” a cow elk in Idaho at roughly 120 yards and the Keith slug zinged right through her. It made me question using anything heavier in the .45 Colt.
However, I do have several favorite molds in the 300- to 320-gr. range. Again, Lee helps out with a 300-grain WFNGC (Wide Flat Nose Gas-Checked) design and my LBT 320-grain LFNGC (Long Flat Nose Gas-Checked) is a great shooter, also. Loaded over 22 grains of Hodgdon H110 and lit by a CCI 350 Magnum primer, we’re getting close to 1,300 fps in Ruger guns. And with sane pressures.
Bullets weighing from 200–320 grains give the .45 Colt uncommon versatility. (Left to right): Lee 200 and
255-gr. FN, Lee 300-gr. WFNGC, 260-gr. Lyman 454424 “Keith” and lastly, an LBT 320-gr. LFNGC. All bullets
are Powder Coated in clear, brown or gray.
Here’s all the fixin’s for Tank’s favorite .45 Colt hunting load — vintage Lyman 454424 mold,
2400 powder and Winchester Large Pistol primers.
My 3 Guns
As I mentioned, picking a favorite caliber is slightly easier than picking a favorite gun. There are many considerations for becoming a favorite. Sentimental value, performance, good memories or just a “lucky” gun we’ve been successful with are a few.
My first “favorite” is none other than a stainless Ruger Blackhawk with 7.5″ barrel. I got it shortly after I began handloading and casting my own bullets. It just seemed like the right choice and I’ve never regretted buying it. Back then I wanted guns like me, weather resistant, strong and hard to damage.
My “next favorite” is what I killed my first critter with handgun hunting — a Ruger Bisley Hunter, also stainless. The Bisley grip, combined with the ribbed barrel, handles recoil better than traditional plow-handled Blackhawks. Also, the Hunter has scope-ring cutouts, so I figure whenever my eyes “go south,” mounting a scope will be quick and easy. After the cow elk, I took two whitetails the same year in my home state, with the same box of handloads. Many more whitetails have fallen, using this deadly duo. It holds a special place in my heart and I will never part with it, as it “taught” me to be a handgun hunter.
The “final favorite” is a combination of the first two, only blued. As I get older, my taste for stainless has waned some, and an appreciation of blued steel has developed. No longer invincible, but now nicked, scarred and imperfect, I figure “character marks” common on blued guns suit me just right. A blued gun eventually wears, showing just how much it’s a part of you.
Honest wear is eye-pleasing. This was the first gun I slicked over myself. I honed out the undersized cylinder throats, polished some parts and replaced the trigger spring for a lighter one. My ministrations improved the accuracy and feel of the gun while personalizing it more.
As you see, I can narrow down my favorite cartridge but I can only whittle down my wheelgun choices to three. Sounds about right.