The 45 Colt Comeback
Dr. John Woods 05.01.18
Every time they put a rerun of Matt Dillon from an episode of Gunsmoke on TV showing his legendary draw of a single action army, 7-½ inch smoke wagon, I think of the equally legendary 45 Colt. Surely the Marshall’s thumb buster held five rounds of the big cartridge that contributed to winning the west.
Oh, five rounds, because the hammer was kept down on one empty cylinder chamber for safety. The old cowboy six guns did not have the “Ruger” type transfer safety bar. If those guns were happened to be dropped on the hammer over a load, it could fire with bad results.
It really is not fair to say the 45 LC is making a comeback, because in truth, it has never really left the shooting scene since it was introduced back in 1873. It has trended up and down in shooting popularity over the decades, but it always seems to be around. Really classic cartridges never go out of style.
As mentioned, the 45 Colt was introduced by Colt in 1873 for its also classic Peacemaker single-action revolver. This revolver and the cartridge were both adopted by the U.S. Army in 1875. This set up became the iconic western territory standby and was in great part responsible for it being portrayed in so many western action cowboy movies.
The 45 Colt continued in Army service until 1892 when it was replaced by the .38 Long Colt, in a change that many at the time thought was a huge mistake. Sound familiar, like the military replacing the 45 ACP, 1911 handguns with a 9mm model later on? Ponder that.
The original 45 Colt round was of course loaded with black powder. They used 40 grains of FFg powder under a 255 grain solid lead bullet. This load generated about 900 fps out of the original Army Colt Peacemakers with a standard 7.5 inch barrel.
With 145 years of service under its belt, the 45 Colt continues to be popular with cowboy action shooters, ranchers, gun enthusiasts, and collectors that shoot their prized guns. The 45 Colt with modern loads can hold its own in terms of bullet velocity and energy, only being out gunned by the .44 Magnum.
Current load velocities run from around 850 fps on up to 1100 fps using bullets weighing from 185 grains to the original 255. The most common factory loads use a 250 grain jacketed hollow point bullet. That one whops some thump.
Many modern single action six guns can still be found, but also double action handguns like the old Colt New Service and Smith and Wesson Model 25s. If you haven’t yet tried the 45 Colt, you need to.