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45 Long Colt vs 45 ACP

Discussion in 'The Powder Keg' started by Doc Jones, Sep 9, 2009.

  1. Doc Jones

    Doc Jones G&G Addict

    Aug 11, 2009
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    I recently discovered (much to my delight) that there is such a thing as a 45 acp revolver (forgive me, I'm new to all of this).

    Couple of questions...

    First, how does the 45 acp cartridge compare to the 45 LC?

    Second, the 45 acp revolver article was talking about using moon clips. Are those necessary because the 45 acp has a smaller rim and won't work in a revolver without one or is it just for speed loading?

    Thanks folks.

  2. Metronome

    Metronome G&G Newbie

    Nov 13, 2008
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    Well, of course the .45 Colt is the older of the two cartridges, and the .45 ACP was actually developed to match the ballistics of the former.
    Without delving too deep into the specifics, the differences are minimal with the 'standard loads':
    .45 ACP 230 grain bullet @ 830 FPS (military ball load)
    .45 Colt 250 grain bullet @ 860 FPS (Remington)
    The .45 Colt will usually toss a heavier bullet, and can be loaded hotter in a stronger action.

    As for using moon clips, that is pretty much the norm for a double action gun, but I have heard they work without them, but ejecting the cases won't work. If you get one of the Single action revolvers (Ruger) the moon clips aren't necessary.
  3. TXplt

    TXplt Gun Toting Boeing Driver Forum Contributor

    Jan 23, 2008
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    They're Ballistically

    about the same.

    Buffalo bore ammo makes a heavy standard pressure .45 LC which has similar ballistics to a heavy .45 ACP +P.

    I have a Smith and Wesson model 325 Nitegard revolver in .45 ACP which uses full moon clips. The full moon clips are used to extract the cartridges because the .45 ACP is a rimless cartridge. They work great and make great speedloaders (they're also pretty cheap). You can also get 45 Auto Rim which is a rimmed .45 ACP cartridges from a few manufacturers (Double Tap, Cor-Bon, Buffalo Bore)--these obviously can't be used in an autoloader and extract like conventional rounds. The Nitegard (and other revolvers as well) can be loaded with .45 ACP ammo (non auto-rim) and will shoot it just fine (headspacing is on the cartridge) but will have to be poked out with a dowel or something like this if they're fired without the moon clips. I think both sportsman's guide and Cheaper than Dirt sell the moon clips, and I'd also buy a "de mooning" tool--about 10 bux--to pry the empties out of the clips (this can be a chore without it and if you aren't going to recycle/reload the cases can be done with needlenose pliers as well).

    Some manufacturers make .45 LC +P's which are designed for specific strong guns or rifles. Some of these approach ".45 Magnum" energies (more than any .45 ACP) and one would be wise to make sure they're safe to use in your particular gun.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2009
  4. sawnoffshotgun

    sawnoffshotgun Suspended

    Apr 1, 2009
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    The .45 LC is actually considerably more powerful then the .45 ACP its just that the factory underloads them (like the 45 70) since very old guns are still being used. If you get a modern .45 LC then I would suggest getting a reloader. When loaded with your own cartridges the 45 LC is actually in the league of the .44 and .41 magnum.
  5. samuel

    samuel G&G Newbie

    Dec 13, 2006
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    In standard loads the .45lc,using a 250gr bullet runs about 900fps with about 450lbs energy.The .45ACP,using a 230gr bullet runs about 850fps and has about 370lbs energy. ,,,sam.
  6. dmsbandit

    dmsbandit G&G Evangelist

    Dec 24, 2008
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    The 45 ACP is only equal to the 45Colt if the colt is downloaded. The buffalo bore is T-Rex killing ammo. That ammo is capable of killing anything that walks the earth, and the 45ACP isn't even in the conversation.

    I have a Ruger Vaquero in 45 colt that also has a 45ACP cylinder. It headspaces in the cylinder on the front of the case and shoots to the same point of impact as the Colt cylinder. If you can find a used one of those, you'll have alot of fun.
  7. nathangdad

    nathangdad G&G Newbie

    Nov 17, 2007
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    The ACP needs a moon clip as it does not have

    a rim as does the more conventional design of the .45 Long Colt. The clip facilitates use in the revolver's cylinder.

    Note: A big factor is cost. Neither are what I would call cheap in this market but the .45 Long Colt is generally much more expensive on the dealer's shelf.

    Either cartridge is well proven as a self-defense round. You can get good (accurate) with either cartridge if you spend the time.

    A big plus will be a gun with adjustable sights.
  8. DWFan

    DWFan Handgunner Forum Contributor

    Feb 7, 2008
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    This is only true for a .45ACP used in a double action revolver such as a S&W M1917. A single action revolver uses an ejector rod. You couldn't remove the clip if it was used in a single action unless you removed the cylinder anyway and would actually prevent the ejector rod from working. (I wouldn't mention this except that I was once asked where a person could get full moon clips for a Ruger Blackhawk .45 ACP cylinder.)

    Something else to note. The SAAMI pressure limit of the .45 ACP is 21,000 psi while the .45 Colt is only 14,000 psi. So the .45 ACP required higher pressure and a closed breech weapon to duplicate the .45 Colt performance.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2009
  9. jrswanson1

    jrswanson1 G&G Newbie

    May 3, 2007
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    You can also run 45 ACP Rimmed and not deal with the clips. But the clips are also like speed loaders without the extra space.

  10. ke4sky

    ke4sky G&G Newbie

    Jul 11, 2007
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    The .45 Colt is popular among Cowboy shooters, because it is “traditional.” But from a practical standpoint, using the smaller-capacity .45 ACP case instead to shoot cast bullets makes more sense.

    The .45 Colt cased has so much airspace that developing accurate loads having good ballistic uniformity is more difficult. In my experience an ACP revolver is more accurate than a model in .45 Colt. Most fans of the .45 ACP use it in semi-automatic pistols, but there are revolvers for it out there, such as Colt and S&W M1917 militaries, S&W 25 and 625 or Ruger convertibles.

    Cartridge conversions for cap & ball six-guns are most common in the .45 Colt, but Walt Kirst made some in .45 ACP for the Ruger Old Army and 1858 Remington reproductions by Armi San Marco, Uberti and Pietta. I’m among the few who bought a one of the early Kirst .45 ACP conversion for my Ruger Old Army. It is the most accurate .45 ACP of any flavor I’ve ever owned. I was so pleased with it that I got one of his .45 ACP conversions for my Cabella's Pietta-Remington too!

    While it is true that you can assemble heavier .45 Colt hunting loads for strong revolvers, such as the Ruger Blackhawk, the thin-walled .45 Colt case doesn’t hold up well in repeated reloads with heavy loads producing over 20,000 cup. If you hunt big game with a handgun, modern hand cannons are better choices. But for recreational shooting wioth lead bullets around 800 f.p.s. the .45 ACP is hard to beat.

    The .45 ACP case was originally designed to be loaded with smokeless powder. Its smaller capacity enables more efficient use of its powder space. The maximum average chamber pressure of the .45 ACP is 21,000 psi vs. 14,000 for .45 Colt. Higher permissible chamber pressure enables a cleaner burn, more uniform velocities and leaves less powder residue. With 230-260 grain cast bullets, a 45 ACP approxcimates the velocity of factory .45 Colt lead loads, and uses common pistol powders.

    In black powder days Army .45 revolvers, such as the Colt Single-Action and the Smith & Wesson Schofield developed a reputation as reliable man-stoppers. After the Schofield revolver was adopted in 1875, the Army standardized on its shorter 1.10” long case at 1.43” overall cartridge length, Schofield cartridge ".45 Revolver Ball", to replace the longer 1.60” overall cartridge length “Revolver Cartridge, Caliber .45, M1873.” Schofield ammo was issued for both revolvers because the .45 S&W was useable in Colts, but not vice-versa.

    The .45 S&W Schofield was loaded with 28 grains of black powder and a 230 grain flat nosed bullet at a velocity of about 730 f.p.s. It is the service cartridge upon which “the .45” gained its deadly reputation. Over a half ounce of lead, with 272 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy, penetrating five 7/8” pine boards near the muzzle, producing a mean extreme spread of eight inches at 100 yards, with 16 inches of drop, and penetrating 3-1/2 inches of pine out there, according to the 1898 Army Ordnance Pamphlet, is useful performance for a service handgun, old or new.

    Commercial .45 Colt black powder cartridges were loaded with either a 250 or 255 grain hollow based lead bullet and 37 to 38 grains FFg black powder. The pointed-bullet commercial load was well known as a great penetrator, but according to Hatcher (1935) and restated by Keith (Six-guns, 1955) it had less stopping power than traditional flat-nosed bullets or later Keith semi-wad cutters. Modern solid-head .45 Colt cases only hold about 33-35 grains of FFg because their modern solid head design reduces interior powder space compared to early folded or balloon-head cases. Velocities of over 900 f.p.s. often quoted for black powder loads in old ammunition catalogs were based on solid test barrels, and do not represent revolver velocities, so are more fantasy than reality.

    In the black powder era, revolvers often had cylinder gaps as large as 0.010” or more, to reduce cylinder binding with black powder ammunition, which lowers velocity significantly. A modern S&W Model 625 or Ruger revolver with 5” to 6” barrel and typical cylinder gap of 0.006” produces higher velocities with .45 ACP than .45 Colts fired from loose-gapped collectibles which are worth too much these days to shoot.

    Today’s lead bullet, smokeless factory loads for the .45 Colt produce typical revolver velocities that are not much different from original M1875 Schofield black powder or later M1909 smokeless loads. The .45 ACP gives similar performance, whether used in a revolver or pistol. According to Hatcher (1935), .45 ACP M1911 Ball ammunition (230-gr. FMJ) reached 810 f.p.s. with 4.9 grains of Bullseye powder, according to the Ordnance pamphlet. Hatcher tested six each of Colt and S&W M1917 .45 revolvers to compare velocities with M1911 pistols. While it is true that recent ammunition catalogs and military specifications quote 855 +/- 30 f.p.s. for.45 hardball, you’ll seldom chronograph much over 800 f.p.s. from an M1911, without selecting lots of GI Ball or hotter imports such as TZZ. So, Hatcher’s 810 f.p.s. is still a good benchmark.

    Standard M1911 Government Model pistols “out of the box” don’t feed semi-wad cutters very well. However, 230-gr. lead flat nosed cowboy slugs such as the RCBS 45-230CM and Saeco #954, which were originally designed for the .45 Colt, also feed wonderfully in every .45 automatic pistol (and SMG) I’ve tried them in. The flat-nosed bullet is better in field loads than a round nose and pokes nice holes in target paper. Today’s “Cowboy slugs” resemble the shape of the M1909 service load, whose flat point Hatcher said was “much more effective than the full-patched .45 Automatic.” Inn my experience unmodified government model pistols cycle reliably with as little as 4.2 grains of Bullseye with a 230 grain LFN, for about 700 f.p.s. It takes a somewhat heavier charge for reliable full-auto cycling of the Thompson submachine gun, but 4.5 grains of Bullseye with the Cowboy slug works just fine in most of them.

    My recommendation for a reliable utilitarian, general-purpose .45 ACP cast lead load which works in any firearm chambered for the .45 ACP, is 4.5 grains Bullseye with either the RCBS 45-230CM, or the Saeco #954. This approximates the ballistics of the 1875-era .45 S&W Schofield or later M1909 service loads. Velocity is about 750 f.p.s. from an M1911 pistol, 730 f.p.s. from a 4” S&W Model 625 revolver, 940 f.p.s. from my set back and re-chambered 1894 Marlin and 960 f.p.s. from a 27” barrel fitted onto my Beretta M412 folding shotgun.

    A “full charge” of 5 grains of Bullseye provides 800 f.p.s. from a four-inch revolver
    and is relatively quiet, subsonic at 1050 f.p.s. from a .45 ACP rifle or carbine. The “5BE” load rings true to Hatcher’s data, and is common for IPSC or IDPA practice in autoloaders and revolvers.
  11. ouch

    ouch G&G Newbie

    Nov 21, 2007
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    Blackhawk conversions.

    You should consider having a Ruger Blackhawk with a conversion cylinder. No clips are used. You can shoot both standard pressure loads and higher pressure loading. A simple cylinder change (10 seconds) and you can shoot either caliber. The 45 colt can give great performance in this gun. I am shooting 1100fps 185gr FMJ SWC in the Colt45 format. With a 4 5/8 barrel. I can switch to the ACP cylinder and make them shoot as well. I don't like to overload the ACP loads as I want them to work safely in my Semiauto.

    The colt45 should be able to give more performance with less pressure than the much shorter 45ACP cartridge.

    Of course there are more powerful cartridges out there. But being able to shoot an 45ACP in a revolver is nice.

    If you like the idea you can get the same setup in the 357 Blackhawk. It will shoot 357, 38 special and 9mm.

    I would like to have a Blackhawk in 30 carbine and a cylinder in 7.62x25. I am sure it can be done.
  12. nathangdad

    nathangdad G&G Newbie

    Nov 17, 2007
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    Hi DW Fan

    You are quite correct. I was only thinking about the double action gun as it has been quite a while since I owned a single action.

    Thanks for the clarification.
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