45 auto 3-ball triplex


I took a photo of this triplex .45 auto with silver paper hull, and the X-ray photo that was next to it at the Woodin Lab, but could not find an index card, and I failed to ask Bill about it. Does anyone know what this is, whether it is an experimental load, or just some custom small-outfit build from a regional shop? The balls would be 000-buck I guess.


Matt, it is great to see an x-ray of this round, thanks for sharing. Take a look at this thread: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3860


Matt - interesting beyond comment!! I never even thought of these being silver to identify a different loading altogether. One thing is sure, they are not a “one of a kind.” I have one in my collection, and have seen others in collections. They don’t look tampered with. Mine is pretty much in mint condition. I never even ever thought to weigh them.
Here are the weights, both rounds brass case with 2 cannelures, copper primer cup with purple primer seal, and headstamped R A 42:

Red paper sabot: 258 Grains (16.71 grams)
Silver paper sabot: 248.6 Grains (16.11 grams)

I consider that a significant difference. I feel really ignorant because I have been guessing about this round for thirty or more years and never even thought to weight them, much less have one X-rayed.

Good job Matt!!!

I wonder if this will be covered in the next volume of HWS on U.S. Ammo?


Thanks for verifying this Fede & John. If it was related to any military experiment or contract it should be covered in HWS-III because I thought it hailed from the 60’s for some reason (an RA 42 headstamp seems sort of old for that period though?). The “segmented” .45 auto with 6 slivers of lead bullet was from the early 70’s and was apparently thought of for anti-skyjack, so this might be a lower-tech approach to that end as well.


Speaking of X-rays, here is another odd multi-projectile load that caught my eye in the lab, a Bellmore Johnson Tool co. duplex ring-airfoil stlye .45 auto. The X-ray in the drawer next to two specimens seems to correlate with the brass case version in terms of size. I also found the index card for these, and there was another X-ray showing what looks like a triplex ring payload, but the size of the brass rings (the upper brass ring) in the X-ray doesn’t match up to either of the cartridges that were in the drawer in terms of size, which is puzzling. These were experimentals tested at Edgewood apparently, with the last design around 1978:


I wish that Bill’s card showed the total weight of the cartridges, and the headstamp. I know the headstamp on rounds like this is insignificant to the identification of the maker, but it does help in the identification of other specimens believed to be the same as “the known one.”

It is interesting that the Bellmore Johnson company loaded the ones shown, as while they do, or did, manufactured the Winchester-Licensed reproduction of the famous Winchester 10 Gauge cannon, I never thought of them as really a firearms-related company. I had my round identified as a commercial cartridge of some other make.

My cartridge is loaded in a new (never previously fired) W-W 45 AUTO case, and the total cartridge weight is 180.9 grains (11.52 grams). It has a three-segment plastic sabot that is semi-transparent, that is, more than just translucent. is 0.133" (3.38 mm) deep, and shows two copper segments with white nylon apparent between the two segments, and the bottom of the cavity being copper as well. That is what the Woodin X-rays seem to show.

Barring a different ID (with documentation) of the round I have described, I will reclassify it in my own collection. I certainly trust the Lab’s ID far, far above my own original ID.