No true full-power .45 Colt Loads?


I read an article in one gun magazine or another recently in which it was stated that “no” (none, not even one) factory .45 Colt loads have been loaded to full SAAMI specs since WWII. It further stated that this was the case regardless of velocity claims on the box.

Is this true and, if so, why aren’t they? Also, why is WWII the dividing line?

  • Clueless in Texas (AKA Rich…)


As far as WWII being a dividing line, many U.S. manufacturing facilities (not just guns and ammunition) devoted much of their efforts toward the war. After the war, many product lines were not started up again. I suppose demand played a big part in that.


If that is true, it may be the lawyers at it again. You have two recognized frames in the Colt Single Action Army Revolver. The first ones, with the cylinder base pin held in by a screw in the front of the frame (there may be a little cross over in the two, so please don’t nit-pick me on this. I am very familiar with the Colt SAA, but not “expert” in the little details of them) are considered safe to fire only with black powder loads. The second ones, with the cylinder base pin held in by a spring-loaded plunder appearing to have a screw in both ends and going laterally thru the frame sides, are for smokeless powder.

It could be that an absolute full load, velocity and pressure, will really take a BP frame colt apart.

There may be other .45 Colt-caliber weapons were a full load of smokeless powder is close to the red line as well, although right of hand, I can’t think of any.

Again, I don’t know if that is the answer, but if the information that began the thread is true, it is a good bet. By the way, I would not class the current factory load as a :pop-gun:" load of any type. For those who have fired them in light guns like a Colt SAA, if the recoil is any indication of “power” they are a stout load.

John Moss


Curiously enough, for many years after smokeless powder became available the .45 Colt could be loaded to higher velocities at acceptable pressures with black powder than with any of the then available smokeless propellants. Jack


The lawyers obviously are the big constraint and the population of aging Colt revlovers would have been a concern before Ruger and Uberti revived interest in that type of pistol.
The other issue would be need, why bother? I would suggest that by the end of WW2 the SAA’s working life was over and any pistols still in use would be “Sunday guns” used for amusement and play. The owners would not relish being knocked around by a full house load.

You will probably find that many other pistol cartridges were/ are similarly underloaded. There is no advantage, except perhaps stopping power, to be gained from maximum loading. Best accuracy is usually found below the maximum velocity and pressure anyway.

People like Elmer Keith pushed these pistols right out to the limit and his articles in G&A in the 60s generated a new type of interest culminating in the .44 magnum but the SAA is not that strong and not really disposed to heavy loads.

I used to load my Ubrerti SAA up to max on occasions and its not comfortable to fire with that grip. A lot of potential shooters, espescially casual shooters would be put off by it.


Vince: There were still as late as the 1920s in certain parts of the U.S. men who to whom the stopping power of the .45 Colt was of professional interest. I don’t have loading tables at hand, but I’m pretty sure the original 40 grains of black load was the most powerful off the shelf version of this cartridge until well past the first war. Jack


I do not have extensive SAAMI specs or pressure data in front of me, but I have to disagree with the article.

CorBon, DoubleTap (listed at 27,500psi), Buffalo Bore and several other smaller manufacturers have loaded higher than standard-pressure .45LC cartridges. Some are advertised as ‘+p’ and many have the express caveat that they only be used in certain modern steel-frame revolvers and rifles (ie, don’t run these in the old single-action guns). I’ll bet at least one of them meets or exceeds the SAAMI max for the cartridge.

Most of the larger factories do put out .45LC that is well within conservative pressures for use in all .45LC guns.


Of late there has been a resurgence in relatively high power .45 colt loads since the Taurus Judge has created a mini-market for self defense loads tailored to that gun.


The S&W mod 625 revolver was probably the turning point for me but a lot of rifles are chambered for it now (suprisingly) and it is undergoing a bit of a resurgence due to the interest in CAS.


Vince - CAS would not be the market for full loads, however. Without getting into super-light loads some in the game call “gamer loads,” velocities in CAS shooting are generally kept within a range of about 750 to 850 fps. If you push a lead bullet (lead bullets required - not even gas check bullets are allowed in normal matches) too fast, it comes to pieces and you get a lot of back spatter. Years ago, most of us bled for our sport, literally, at least once. It is getting better now, as the reasons for the spatter (loads, target-face condition, target angle) are becoming better understood. If you load too light, you risk a bounce back of a complete bullet. Within the preferred velocity range, when the lead bullet hits a steel plate, it generally flattens and drops to the ground in more or less one piece.

Aside from the safety aspects, heavy loads are not popular with a lot of the shooters, because they increase recoil and therefore increase the time it takes to shoot a stage. In CAS, your time minus misses and faults is your score.

John Moss


John, you are confirming the origininal post’s question and what I said in my post regarding “whats the point?” Its a recreational calibre and no shame for that.
Its a calibre thats close to my heart, I owned and shot .45 pistols when over here it was an unfashionable calibre. It is or can be capable of fantastic accuracy and can be loaded to sweet nothings or near .44 mag proportions.

Very underestimated, the choice of S&W in calling the 625 the mountain pistol was a mistake. Had they called it the DUTY PLUS it may have found its true niche.

It is also extremely accurate in the rifles over short ranges as well. All in all its a bit sad because it has been so neglected as a calibre.