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Discussion Starter #1
I'm wanting to start reloading for my .45 Vaquero. It has generally about .448 throats, so I guess I'm going to have to either send it to cylindersmith, or get the kit and do it myself. However, it seems that the only options for reaming the throats is .4525. In looking through Midway's bullet selection (a pretty large selection for .45, it seems), the largest they go is .452, except for one style that was .454.
Is the .452 bullet OK for .4525 throats? I'm guessing that lead is fine; how about jacketed?
 

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dogbboy, not to worry. The .452 cast or swaged bullets are what you want and will work fine as will any .451 jacketed bullet for .45 Colt. Although I haven't used them myself, some people also have good results with the .454 swaged bullets in regular pressure loads.:)
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You can get Dave Manson reamers that will ream to .453 with pilot packs that run from.448-.451 so you can make sure the reamer is centered in each chamber. There is a good article in Handloader Magazine #238 December 2005 issue, by Brian Pearce. He takes you through the whole process and includes some tips to make everything go smooth and accurately. Having the throats at either .4525 or .453 is perfect and what you want in .45 Colt. Any bullet of .451 or .452 will work great, and the Winchester and Remington bullets at .456 and .455 are soft and will swage right down with no problems, when fired through .453 throats.
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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
different .45 Colt novice reloading question

OK, I got the throats reamed, and I'm reloading the .45 Vaquero. I have Speer LSWC's and Magtech LRNFP that I'm reloading right now, both in 250gr. Both swaged lead. In the Speer #13 are the following loads:

Speer 250gr LSWC, 6.3 to 7.0 gr Bullseye for the standard loads.
Speer 260gr JHP, 8.5 to 9.4 gr Bullseye for the Ruger Only loads.

Since the jacketed load is 260 (vs. my 250), and the jacketed bullets are higher friction anyway (although that shouldn't make a big difference in pressure anyway, as I've been told, which makes sense), I should be fine working slowly up with the Magtech or Speer swaged 250's to a little heavier, correct? Say mid-7-ish? I'm not really interested in going all the way to the HEAVY "Ruger Only" load, but it would be fun to work it up just a little heavier than the 7.0 of the standard load.

And forgive me if this is just too many novice questions. I just want to make sure that I'm not missing anything. I AM being careful to make sure that my seating depths are maintained the same between the Speer and the Magtech.
 

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dogboy, There's one very important issue missing from your logic. You should never use jacketed bullet data when you load lead bullets. Look in your reloading manual and find both jacketed and lead bullet loads for the same weight bullets. Jacketed bullets always use more powder to get the same velocity and chamber pressure is always less with jacketed bullets. Here's the reason and it's not because of bore friction: Jacketed bullets don't seal in the bore or the cylinder throats very well. There is always some "venting" around the bullet which causes a loss of pressure and lower velocity. Lead bullets do seal in the throats and bore and lose very little pressure to venting. As such, it takes less powder to drive a lead bullet to the same velocity as a jacketed bullet but chamber pressure will be higher with the lead bullet because it seals better.

Bullseye powder is a very fast burner ... one of the fastest and is not the powder of choice for a 45 Colt load. It does work well with "powder puff" loads because the chamber pressure is high enough even with light loads to make the bullet obturate. With heavier charges of Bullseye, the chamber pressure elevates and breaks down the natural seal between the bullet and bore. This will cause fouling and a loss of accuracy.

Unique or AA#5 is the "right" burn rate for lead bullets in a 45 Colt. Your loads will be way more accurate, less fouling, yet stay within chamber SAAMI pressure limits. I would highly recommend you save your Bullseye for light loads and use either Unique or AA#5 for full power SAAMI rated loads. If you want to get into the "Ruger Only" power level, get some slow burning powder such as W-296 or H-110. Way safer, much more accurate, and way less fouling because the slow burning powders generate about the same pressure at high velocities as Unique or AA#5 would at lower velocities.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Well there ya go. That is what I was missing, and that's the reason I thought I'd ask.

Ya see, I had thought that, because the Speer manual mentions that the jacketed bullets have a higher friction and require more pressure, that a lead bullet would get higher velocity, and/or not have as high a pressure to get it, even though you had mentioned earlier that because of the scale of the pressure vs. the friction, it was infinitesimally greater pressure for the jacketed bullets, if at all. It's a good thing I was just building up a little, and didn't just jump to the "Ruger Only" load, even though it does use Bullseye. 7.5 grains was really nice, though....

I guess ... well, don't guess. You're right. The Bullseye is for the powder-puff lead loads. I picked up some H110 to use to go heavy(-er) with the .45, and to use to reload the 44 Mag. Along with some of those Winchester Large Pistol primers for it. And I've got Unique.

But isn't there a good middle ground where I could do heavier loads, but not "Ruger Only" loads? I mean, that is really where I want to go. I don't want powder-puff, but I don't want the barn-burner Ruger-Only loads either. I'd like just a good "full-power" load for the .45. I've got the 44 Magnum for really heavy duty stuff, even though I subscribe to view of "the .45 can do anything the 44 Mag can do, with less pressure." It takes more loading experience (and more need) than I have to work the .45 up to that level. What I really want is something that duplicates the original intended 40gr. of black powder, but with smokeless (which, incidentally, I guess I don't really know what that original loading was, velocity wise). I thought it was in the range of the mid-900 fps or so, but I don't recall where I got that idea.
 

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dogboy, The original (and current) factory load for a 45 Colt was/is a 255 gr LRNFT bullet driven at 860 fps from a 5.5" barrel. This load can be duplicated with 8.5 gr of Unique with a chamber pressure right at SAAMI max of 14,000 psi. This load produces 419 ft lbs of muzzle energy and has a momentum of 31.3 lb-f/s. Though mild recoil, this is a very hard hitting load, even if it isn't in the "Ruger Only" category.

With your lead bullets, you can run the Unique powder charge up to 9.5 gr before you start getting venting (lead fouling from too much pressure). This will drive a 255 gr lead bullet to 1000 fps, which is pretty snappy. It produces a ME of 566 ft lbs and a momentum of 36.4 lb-f/s. Chamber pressure will run about 19,000 psi, which is well above SAAMI specs but way under the Ruger Only limit of 25,000 psi. With jacketed 250 gr bullets, you can go up to 10.5 gr of Unique. This will crank a solid 1100 fps, 685 ft lbs, and a momentum of 40.1. Chamber pressure will be about 24,000 psi. If you want velocities above 1100 fps, you really need to go with slower burning powder.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks, Iowegan. As usual, a font of information. Thank you. That amount of power is plenty for me, and like I said, I have the H110 for heavier, if I want to go that route instead of the 44 Magnum.

Is the Vaquero suitable for Ruger-only loads?
Yes, the Vaquero is. The New Vaquero isn't.
 

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Tweek, Good question. dogboy has an older heavy frame Vaquero, and yes, "Ruger Only" loads can be used in this gun, just like a Blackhawk. The "New Vaquero" is a much lighter frame and CAN NOT safely shoot "Ruger Only" loads. Thanks for the question ... we don't want someone getting dangerous.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
With your lead bullets, you can run the Unique powder charge up to 9.5 gr before you start getting venting (lead fouling from too much pressure). This will drive a 255 gr lead bullet to 1000 fps, which is pretty snappy. It produces a ME of 566 ft lbs and a momentum of 36.4 lb-f/s. Chamber pressure will run about 19,000 psi, which is well above SAAMI specs but way under the Ruger Only limit of 25,000 psi. With jacketed 250 gr bullets, you can go up to 10.5 gr of Unique. This will crank a solid 1100 fps, 685 ft lbs, and a momentum of 40.1. Chamber pressure will be about 24,000 psi. If you want velocities above 1100 fps, you really need to go with slower burning powder.

Hmmmm.... I went to plug this into my notes for my Vaquero's .45 Colt reloading, and noticed that the max load in Speer #13 for the Speer 250gr LSWC is 9.5gr of Unique, and that supposedly is below the 14,000 psi SAAMI max. :confused: Does the extra 5 grains (you mention above a 255gr bullet) cause the pressure to go up 5k psi?

Anyway, that load sounds pretty nice, regradless. But I'm just curious.
 

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dogboy, 8.5 gr of Unique runs right at 14,000 psi with the .454" Hornady 255 gr LRNFT bullet. The 9.5 gr Unique load in the Speer manual uses a .452" bullet that is 2% lighter (250 gr). Look on page 582 in your Speer #13. The cast bullet listed is 255 gr and is .454". No doubt, a combination of the larger diameter and slightly heavier bullet account for the higher chamber pressure.

I ran both of these loads through QuickLOAD and it confirmed the pressures ... although that is strictly a computer model, not actual measured pressure. When a reloading manual lists a max load, there are two possible reasons for the highest powder charge. With jacketed bullets, it's always max chamber pressure but with lead bullets, it could be either max chamber pressure or the threshold where the bullet will begin to foul. If you look in your Speer #13, they list standard pressure loads for lead bullets; however, if you look at the "Ruger Only" loads, all you see is jacketed bullets.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
So the Ruger Only loads are pressure limited, because you don't have to worry about fouling from a jacketed round.

I had not caught the diameter of the Keith bullet. I was wondering why it was that it wasn't getting as much velocity as the Speer LSWC when it was running more grains of Unique. Now it makes sense. I gues....

One last question, if you don't mind. Are those velocities that you are quoting from a 5.5 or 7.5 inch barrel?
 

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dogboy, The quoted velocities were from my 5.5" Vaquero or were computed using a 5.5" barrel. A 7.5" barrel should gain about 80 fps. That said, don't take any of the velocity data to the bank, even out of reputable reloading manuals. We could chronograph two 5.5" Vaqueros side by side and get considerable velocity differences with the same ammo. Throat diameters, bore diameters, forcing cones, and B/C gaps all affect velocity. If the measurements stack against you, loosing 10% velocity is not unusual. My Colt Anaconda (45 Colt) is an excellent example. It has a 6" barrel yet always shoots higher velocities with the same ammo than my 5.5" Vaquero or my 7.5" BH. In theory, the Anaconda should shoot about 30 fps faster than the Vaquero but it's always more like 70fps faster. The Anaconda should be about 50 fps slower than the BH but it is usually 10 fps faster. Go figure!

In addition, your ammo and mine might vary in velocity too. Bullet seating depth, primers, crimp, cases, actual powder charge weight, and actual bullet weights are all variables that can also stack for or against you. The reloading manuals usually state the "best case" gun and ammo so it's rare when you get higher velocity than what's printed in the charts.

Yes, jacketed bullet loading charts are limited only by chamber pressure; however, just because Speer or Hornady doesn't list lead bullet "Ruger Only" loads .... it doesn't mean it can't be done. What it does mean is their own brand of swaged bullets are too soft to deal with 25k of chamber pressure. I bought a box of .454" 275 gr LSWCs from a commercial caster in Phoenix (Billit's Bullets I think???). These tested at BHN 18, which is just about perfect for "Ruger Only" loads. I stoked up some 1400 fps 45 Colt loads using W-296. They shot great and there wasn't a hint of lead fouling ... but the gun did some major buckin' and snortin'.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Sooooo.... the "Ruger Only" jacketed rounds are pressure limited. A hard-cast lead of the same weight would go as fast (or faster) with less powder while operating at the same maximum pressure. A hard-cast of the same weight over the same amount of powder would go faster still, assuming the gun held together, which it probably wouldn't because the lead would cause the pressure to be way over even the "Ruger Only" pressure limit. All that correct?

So does that mean that I have to hold my Hunters Supply hard-cast at 15 Brinell to the same maximum loads that are in the standard .45 Colt section because I can't take them anywhere near the "Ruger Only" loads due to pressure concerns? If so, how would someone that doesn't have pressure measuring equipment safely work up loads to "Ruger Only" levels with a bullet that isn't in an manual????
 

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dogboy, First paragraph ...Yup, you got it. Second paragraph ... good question!. You have what I call "tweener" bullets. Too hard for standard pressure loads and not hard enough for Ruger Only loads ... just in between.

Yes, there is a solution but you won't find it in reloading manuals for 45 Colt lead bullet loads. Seems they either go standard SAAMI pressures (14k psi) with lead or jacketed bullets or Ruger Only pressure (25k psi) with jacketed bullets only and nothing in the middle for lead bullets. The solution is "QuickLOAD" software.

First you need to know a little about powder burn rates as it applies to large diameter heavy lead bullets. The "rule" is to use fast burning powder (ie Bullseye) for low velocity loads. It reaches peak pressure very quickly so it satisfies the pressure requirements for obturation but sustained pressure peters out quickly so velocity doesn't continue to build. A medium burn rate powder (ie Unique, AA#5 etc) works great for standard velocity loads because it will reach the pressure necessary for obturation and sustain it longer for higher velocity. When you jump up to Ruger Only loads, you need a healthy charge of slow burning magnum powder (W-296, H-4227, Lil'Gun) that will reach a higher peak pressure of about 25k psi and will sustain pressure much longer, thus much higher velocities.

For BHN 15 bullets, the ideal chamber pressure would be 21k psi (1400X15) to satisfy obturation requirements. For "tweener" loads there are two possible solutions. Use a lighter charge of "magnum" powder or use a powder with the right properties for the desired pressure. Reduced charges of slow burning powders are normally not recommended because they tend to have erratic pressure spikes and are likely to create squibs. That's because there is too much free space in the loaded cartridge and the powder doesn't like to ignite very uniform. You can solve these issues by using fiber filler. If you don't want to mess with fiber filler, you can select a powder in between medium and slow burn rates. W-540 is ideal but hard to find as are other not-so-popular tweener powders. Walla!!! Here's where QuickLOAD comes in handy.

Here's what I found when I entered the necessary data for W-296 (also H-110). 20 gr of W-296 results in a chamber pressure of 19k psi with 250 gr .452" lead bullets (1100 fps). You can go up to 21 gr of W-296 (1200 fps) and be right at 21k psi. The powder only fills the case to 75% capacity with the 21 gr load (72% with the 20 gr load) so you will need a pinch of fiber filler to hold the powder in place. I have never tried this load but I'm betting it will work just fine. It is well under the 25k limit so not a problem there. Worst case ... you may get a little fouling but I doubt it.

If you look on page 586 in your Speer #13, there is a "tweener" jacketed bullet load using a 260 gr JHP. This load is no where near the 25k psi limit (18k psi) but is higher than standard SAAMI loads. Now look down at the 300 gr load. It is right at max 25k pressure limits and uses 23 gr of W-293.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Now SEE, I would have thought it would just be a matter of going a couple of tenths more grains on the Unique, instead of having to go down with H-110 and start using filler, for the 250gr hardcast at 15 Brinell. Or I guess Unique goes flaky before it would get to the 21k psi, eh? Can you not run 15 Brinell bullets at lower pressure than the 21k? I mean, what would happen if you didn't run them hard enough (high enough pressure)? What would happen if you ran the 15 Brinell HS bullets at, say, 17k psi. Or the 19k psi that you mentioned a couple posts back for the .454 Keith bullets in Speer #13. :confused:

And you can't run the Speer load higher because it is swaged and will start leading big-time, correct? Not so much because I would want to, but this is just to make sure I understand. The pressure wouldn't so much be a problem as the leading.

Too bad quickLoad doesn't work with Macintosh (unless you have boot camp, which I don't).

I know I'm going to have several more questions, but gotta run now.
 

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dogboy, In a nutshell, anytime your bullet hardness doesn't match chamber pressure, you're going to get lead fouling which soon leads to poor accuracy. If your pressure is too high for bullet hardness, the bullet-to-bore seal will break down and you get blow-by which in turn melts the circumference of the bullet, creates lead vapor, which hardens and deposits lead fouling in the bore. If the pressure is too low, the bullet won't obturate and will not get a good seal in the bore and the same identical thing happens. When pressure matches bullet hardness within a reasonable tolerance, the bullet-to-bore seal will be maintained from the forcing cone to the muzzle so you have a nice clean bore for the next round. As long as your bore stays clean, accuracy will be at its best.

Through the above process, you have two factors to consider. One is max allowable chamber pressure and the other is the desired velocity. You never want to exceed max chamber pressure for any reason or you risk damage to the gun and possibly the person holding it. With your heavy frame Vaquero ... that is 25k psi. So ... for some loads, max chamber pressure would occur before you achieve the desired velocity ..... typical of faster burning powders. On the other end of the spectrum with slow burning powders, velocity may be higher than desired before you achieve adequate chamber pressure for obturation. It's all just a balancing act in a quest for a safe and accurate load at the desired velocity.

To answer your question about adding more Unique ... potentially dangerous. W-296 powder takes a much heavier charge because it is "doped" to burn slower. It is also a "bulky" powder, meaning it takes up more volume compared to the same charge weight for Unique. These two W-296 attributes make pressure much more predictable and safer. Most powder measures drop very uniform charges with W-296. Not so with Unique. A few tenths of a grain difference in W-296 powder drop makes minor changes in chamber pressure. With Unique running at 21k psi, a few tenths of a grain extra will make the load go over pressure limits as would an increase in ambient temperature, even if the powder drop was perfect. It's always wise to use the powder's best attributes instead of pushing the limits with a different powder.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I guess I'm not really looking for a specific velocity. I just want to use the hard-cast Hunters Supply bullets that I have (which, by the way, are .452, not .454), and it sounds like they really need to go toward the "Ruger Only" loads in order to have enough pressure. I'm fine with using H-110, WLP's, and going to the "Ruger Only" loads if I need to. Or if I can get the right pressure with them and Unique and do it at a lower velocity, I'm good with that, too. I would be fine with them at the 846fps that the .454 Keith on page 582 shows, but I'm getting the impression that the Unique at that charge weight, with my .452 hard-cast, wouldn't get me near the pressure that I need for those bullets.

I need to find a manual that has hard-cast in the Ruger Only loads; I'm not sure why they aren't listed in Speer #13, because I read left, right, up, and down of people pushing hard-cast bullets well up to 1200, 1300, even 1400 fps.
 

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dogboy, Did you ever notice ... Speer, Hornady, Sierra, etc only list loads for bullets they make? There are a few exceptions in the Speer manual where "cast bullets" are listed ... of course they specify RCBS moulds (part of the same parent company).

The problem with finding "Ruger Only" lead bullet loads is ... there are way too many variables. Within a given weight there are dozens of different moulds that produce different shapes which in turn affect seating depth, thus chamber pressure. There are also different diameter options ... which also affect chamber pressure. Alloys change weight and hardness. When you are running at SAAMI pressure levels in a strong gun, even if you go over pressure a little, about the worse thing that will happen is the bore gets fouled and accuracy sucks. When you get into the "Ruger Only" pressure levels, a slight change in one of the variables could end up in disaster.

Maybe now you see why I recommended starting with jacketed bullets. You can burn up those hard-cast Hunters Supply bullets by loading them on the warm end with Unique. I'd try 9.5 gr and see what happens. It's not a perfect pressure-to-hardness match but maybe it's close enough where fouling won't be too bad.
 
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