Question on the .45 Colt Benet cartridge


#1

Did Frankford Arsenal’s .45 Colt Benet cartridge have a wad below the bullet? Since this version had a 30 grain charge of powder versus the 40 grains of the commercial rounds it seems a wad would have been in order. A wad isn’t mentioned as far as I can tell in Hackley et al. or B.R. Lewis. Jack


#2

Jack,

While I couldn’t find any sectioned views of the FA .45 Colt, I would agree the 30 gr. charge as indicated on the original boxes would probably leave some room with a 250 gr. bullet given the spacious nature of the Benet case design. I don’t hear any loose powder in my example (though the “crickets” do seem to be louder these last few years…) so there very possibly is a wad of some sort in there. Hopefully someone can provide a definitive answer for you as I couldn’t bring myself to hack into my only example with my limited skills in the art…

Dave


#3

The 1873 cartridges were in production for a very short time. Even so, the powder charge was reduced to 28 grains when the .45 S&W cartridge was adopted, in order to match the ballistics. So, once out of the carton it would be difficult to tell what you had. If they are still in the carton, I doubt if you’d want to pull bullets to see what’s inside. But, if someone wants to do it, please report back.

I doubt if you’ll hear any powder since the charge was usually compressed to ensure better ignition.

JMHO

Ray


#4

Ray,

I may be lost here, as is often the case, but I was thinking Jack was referring to the early “Colt length” case (shown here at 1.303") with a 30 gr. charge of powder under a 250 gr. bullet. Would seem that it would need to have something added to allow a compressed load that, as you indicate, was the norm for black powder loading. The “S&W length” case (shown here at 1.116") was able to house 28 gr. of black powder under a 230 gr. bullet I suspect without the need of additional wadding.

Sorry if I’m missing something!

Dave


#5

Dave

No, you’re not missing anything. The original 1873 Colt cartridge was loaded with 30 grains of BP. Soon after it’s introduction, the bullet weight was reduced to 230 grains and the powder charge was reduced to 28 grains in order to match the ballistics of the shorter S&W cartridge which could also be used in the Colt revolver. Not long after, the longer Colt case was discontinued in favor of the S&W case.

Whether any or all of the cartridges used any kind of wad, I have no idea. Lacking any drawings or data, someone will have to locate a cartridge (prefereably one of each 30 grain and 28 grain) and pull the bullet to see.

Ray


#6

Jack, I believe that the answer should be on page 57 of “The Pitman Notes” Vol. 2, but I don’t have a copy with me right now. Maybe someone have this book at hand, otherwise it may take me a couple of days to look for it.


#7

OK guys. Those that know me also know that I cannot stand unanswered questions, especially when it comes to U.S. Miltary cartridges.

I grabbed one of my few Cal .45 Colt cartridges and pulled the bullet. It is one of the early cartridges, as luck would have it.

Bullet weight = 249.3 grains, two lubricating grooves, no wad.

Powder - 29.1 grains. There is still a little powder stuck to the primer so the actual powder weight will be somewhat more.

Case = 89.3 grains.

I can take photos if anyone cares, but it’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

P.S. When dumped back into the case, the loose powder comes within approx .425" of the case mouth. Seating depth of the bullet is about .470".

Ray


#8

Ray,

Your sacrifice shall not go unappreciated! That is truly very interesting information determined from your selfless endeavor.

My earlier confusion was due to the fact that I was unaware of an FA “Colt length” case loaded with a 230 gr. bullet and 28 gr. of powder. I had thought the only “Colt length” case loading was 250 gr./30 gr. and the next generation was the “S&W length” case with a 230 gr./28 gr. loading.

The total weight of the cartridge from your adventure comes to 367.7 gr. My example is 370.0 gr. and I will assume I have the earlier “heavy” load as a nominal difference of 22 gr. for the other load you mention should at least be on the under side of your 367.7 gr.

As far as Jack’s initial question goes, I guess it still remains to be determined if there was a wad used in the lighter loading in the “Colt length” case. It would also seem that the later “S&W length” loading might have had some serious compression of the powder charge going on in comparison despite the lighter bullet given the shorter case length, or maybe it all equals out? (Edited to add: To check my intuition on the difference in compression between the 250 gr. bullet in the “Colt length” case and a 230 gr. bullet in the “S&W length” case, using .455 dia. and pure lead, as well as common projectile extension past case mouths, the loading in the short case would result in a compression increase on the powder of about .144". This figure does not account for the 2 gr. powder charge difference [don’t have numbers for density of powder at whatever compression] and would change slightly with the alloy of the projectile and anything other than a full diameter difference in length.)

Thanks again for your curiosity!
Dave


#9

My reference for the reduction in bullet and powder weight is:

Description And Rules for the Management Of The Springfield Rifle, Carbine And Army Revolvers, Calibre .45. National Armory: Springfield, Mass. May 13, 1874.

Using a nominal weight of 370 grains for the original, it should be easy to ID one of the later cartridges.

Ray


#10

Wish I hadn’t had to be away from this thread after posing the initial question. I did eventually remember I had a relatively clean Colt-length Benet fired case, so I did a little investigation and learned the case ran 90 grains weight. A specimen of the original Colt Benet cartridge weighed 371 grains. Figuring 250 grains for the Colt bullet gives a case plus bullet weight of 340 grains. This figure equates well with the 371 grains of the loaded cartridge if the powder plus wad (if present) weighs 30-odd grains. This agrees well with Ray’s figures. Still I am confused how the commercial loadings held 40 grains (as some of them apparently did) if FA’s contained only 30 grains. Maybe their idea of “compressed powder charge” differed from others’ idea of that concept, or maybe the Benet cup takes up more space than I imagine.

I remain unconvinced the 230 grain bullet was ever loaded, in quantity, in the Colt-length case. Wish I had access to Pitman volume 2. Thanks to all for information and opinions. Jack


#11

Jack

I agree that the Cal .45 Colt cartridges were probably manufactured in small quantities. When the lighter powder and bullet were standardized, the S&W cartridge was already in use, if only on a trial basis. I believe the Colt length ammunition was manufactured less than 2 years, total, but maybe one of the resident experts can set us straight on that.

I do know that the long case was still in use as late as 1876 because about 85% of the revolver cases found at the Little Big Horn were Colts. I have no idea how many other Cavalry regiments may have still been using the Colt cartridge at that late date.

The powder in commercial ammunition was probably more compressed than the F.A. loadings. When I pulled the bullet on mine, the powder flowed out of the case freely, indicating very little compression. Many times, when pulling bullets on black powder cartridges, the powder is in one big clump, the result of heavy compression. And, as you said, the Benet cup does take up a lot of room.

We need someone to find one of the later Colt cartridges and pull the bullet to see exactly what’s inside. The Pitman Notes are great references, but I’d believe my own eyes first, and the notes second.

Ray


#12

Jack, here is the sectioned cartridge drawing and loading information from The Pitman Notes, but it really adds nothing to what has already been said:


#13

Fede: Pitman’s drawing doesn’t add anything (in one sense) but it does agree with the other figures presented here. Thanks for the pic. Jack