45 Caliber Ammo , Meet the Family of Handgun Ammunition Rounds

by Bob Shell
Ammunition reloader & writer, Bob Shell, organizes a family reunion of the 45 caliber ammo, meet the many cousins of the popular .45 ACP handgun round.

L to R .460 Magnum, .454 Casull, .45 Colt and the .45 S&W Schofield
L to R .460 Magnum, .454 Casull, .45 Colt and the .45 S&W Schofield
Bob Shell
Bob Shell

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- Anyone who has had their head above ground for any length of time is aware of the best .45 caliber ammo the 45 ACP and perhaps the 45 Colt. Both have been around for many years and served in the US military which gives them a lot of press.

Unknown to many are some of the other 45 caliber rounds that were or are still in circulation.

In power they range from somewhat anemic to a T-Rex killer. There are a number of rifles chambered for a couple of rounds such as the 45 Colt and 454 Casull bullets. The rifles gives these rounds another 3-400 FPS which is considerable. I have a 454 rifle and a Freedom Arms revolver and if you want a good heavy duty combo with a shared ammo, this deserves serious consideration. With that combo virtually any large game animal can be harvested. To my knowledge no one makes a rifle in 460 S & W which is surprising considering how powerful it would be. The typical bullet diameter is .451 or .452 though there may be some slight variation such as the .454 that was used in the old black powder 45 Colt.

To give you an idea of what is available we will list them.

450 Adams Bullet

450 Adams Ammo
450 Adams Ammo

One of the early rounds was the 450 Adams. Great Britain brought it out in 1868 for the military using the Adams revolver. It served until 1880 when it was replaced by the 476. One thing about the British rounds is they are very confusing with their naming system. It was a black powder round with a short case and was somewhat feeble. The military load is listed with a 226-grain bullet at 700 FPS, which would limit its range. I fired some BP loads with a 230 grain and obtained about 650 FPS. One benefit is it can be fired in the later revolvers with longer chambers. However, it was a parent to the 455 Webley rimmed as well as the 455 Eley.

476 Ammunition

.455 MkII (left) and three .476 MkIII cartridges. The far right is a cordite load, all others are blackpowder.
.455 MkII (left) and three .476 MkIII cartridges. The far right is a cordite load, all others are blackpowder. – img: Drake00, Wikipedia

The 476 is a longer version of the Adams and was introduced in 1880, the round also was sometimes called the 475 Eley/476 Enfield. Originally, 18 grains of black powder and a 265-grain slug, though later Cordite powder was used, and eventually a jacketed bullet was used. In 1897, the case was slightly shortened to better utilize smokeless powder. There are so many variations and names that it is difficult to keep them straight. The next listing is an example of this.

45 Webley Ammo

.455 Webley Revolver cartridges Marks I through VI
.455 Webley Revolver cartridges Marks I through VI. – img: Drake00, Wikipedia

Another obscure round was the 45 Webley. It was not the military round though it would probably interchange with some. It was chambered for the double action Bulldog and Webley revolvers. The listed load was a 230-grain bullet at 550 FPS though smokeless loads improved that somewhat. Why they introduced this is anyone’s guess, as it wasn’t very common.

455 Mk ll Round

45 Colt & 455 w/ Manstopper bullet
45 Colt & 455 MK II w/ Manstopper bullet

One of the better known British rounds is the 455 Mk ll. It was adopted in 1897 and was used to an extent until WW-II. The military load was a 265-grain FMJ that traveled at 600 FPS. While it has a curved trajectory, it had a good reputation as a close range stopper. Fiocchi still loads it on occasion and it used the same 265-grain bullet but is boosted up to 700 FPS. Brass can be found with some searching and good loads can be fabricated. I have shot quite a bit of ammo in those with good results. Some are modified to shoot 45 auto with moon clips or 45 auto rim rounds. Of course, that takes it out of the collector’s status. The British were big on large caliber slow moving bullets for their military handguns. Even when they dropped the 45’s the 38 caliber used a 200-grain bullet at a low velocity.

455 Eley Ammuntion

If you are not confused yet there is another 455, AKA the 455 Eley. I have a revolver chambered for this that was originally issued to the RCMP. The case is slightly longer than the 455 Webley. At one time Dominion made the 455 Eley with a longer case and called it a 455 Colt. My revolver is a large gun and like many of its type it is sturdy and reliable but the trigger leaves something to be desired. You can shoot all of the older and shorter rounds which is a desirable feature. Cases can be made from 45 Colt or auto rim by cutting down the rim and trimming to length.

45 Colt converted into 455 Eley
45 Colt converted into 455 Eley

455 Webley Automatic

455 Webley Automatic Ammunition
455 Webley Automatic Ammunition

Staying with the British rounds there is a 455 Webley automatic. The British Navy adopted the cartridge and a 45-auto pistol in 1912. Unfortunately, it was not a satisfactory round because of its low power. The case is slightly longer then our 45 auto but has a lighter load. One load was a 225-grain bullet at about 700 FPS, which the military used. It lasted only a short period of time and was discontinued after WW-I.

45-Auto Rim

45-Auto Rim Ammunition
45-Auto Rim Ammunition

The 45-auto rim was introduced in 1920 for use in Colt and S&W revolvers that use the 45 auto with moon clips. While the case is the same as the 45 auto, the rim is very thick in order to work in those revolvers. Some Webley revolvers that are modified can also shoot this round. Loading data and the 45 dies are the same as the auto though cast bullets are generally preferred. It also has the ability to feed WC type of bullets making it good for some hunting. As for factory ammo, Double Tap makes it and some Remington ammo can be found. Starline makes the brass and as with all of their products, the quality is good and priced reasonably.

.45 Schofield Cartridge

Schofield Revolver .45 Colt and Others Ammo
45 Schofield shown center..

The 45 Schofield was introduced because the US military wanted a single action revolver break open and the 45 Colt case was too long. When it was opened, the Colt cases would not come completely out which slows down the reloading process. Therefore, the Schofield case is shorter with a slightly larger rim to enhance extraction, which is important during a battle. Consequently, it isn’t as powerful as the Colt though it still packs a punch. The military introduced it in 1875 in the S&W revolver and saw service until 1892. The factory loads produced from 700 to 750 FPS with a 230 to 250 grain and was loaded with both black and smokeless powder.

Some historians believe that General Custer had one at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. It is popular with cowboy shooters as they use light loads and the shorter Schofield case makes it easier to achieve that. Starline makes the brass saving you from trimming 45 Colt cases.

45 Colt Ammunition

45 Caliber Colt Ammo Ammunition
45 Caliber Colt Ammo Ammunition

The 45 Colt came out in 1873 and was adopted by the military and used until 1892. The 45 Colt is one of the great cartridges having been in continues use since 1873 making it 144 years and more popular than ever. It has been chambered in everything from derringers to rifles. The loads run from black powder to some that will equal or exceed any 44 magnum round offered.

In 1892, the US military dropped the 45 caliber rounds in favor of the 38 Long Colt a decision they regretted. The Spanish-American war put American soldiers in the Philippines against the Moro tribes. It became obvious that the 38 rounds did not do an effective job as the natives were hacking our soldiers apart with machetes while being repeatedly shot with the 38 caliber rounds. The 45’s were brought back into service and eventually, the 45 ACP was put into service as the greatest military handgun ever used.

45 Short Auto

The 45 short auto, an obscure round is virtually the same as the 45 Gap. The short was made because some countries do not allow civilians to possess a military caliber. Therefore, they took the 45 auto and shortened it by 1 millimeter to comply with the law. It gives the same ballistics as a 45 auto which makes one wonder what was its purpose. This cartridge is evidence that stupidity in many legal systems is still alive and well.

45 Gap Round

45 Gap Ammo Ammunition
45 Gap Ammo Ammunition

The 45 Gap as noted above is virtually the same round as the 45 short auto though the purpose is different. Glock wanted to use a slightly smaller 45 so they brought this out to fit in their magazine. You can use 45 autoloading data but if you are loading hot ammo then the powder charge should be reduced slightly because with a shorter case pressures will increase with the auto load. Brass and ammo are available for the Gap round.

45 Win Magnum

The 45 Win mag was brought out in 1979 for the Wildey auto pistol and the Thompson center single shot. Later the Desert Eagle and the LAR Grizzly also chambered it. It is a seriously high powered auto pistol round and can be used for hunting large game.

The LAR Grizzly works well with 2400 and similar powders
The LAR Grizzly works well with 2400 and similar powders

The guns are large and costly but are designed for this type of round. My LAR Grizzly is very accurate and somewhat flexible making it desirable for large game. Factory ammo is difficult to get and as far as I know, Double Tap is the only company that produces it. However, brass by Starline is available and any sturdy 45 caliber bullet will work. Starline comes to the rescue by manufacturing the brass.

45 Win mag & 45 auto
45 Win mag & 45 auto

454 Casull

454 Casull
454 Casull

If you like some power then the 454 Casull might be for you. It came out in 1957 being developed by Dick Casull. It has enough power to hunt anything that can be done with a handgun and is flexible especially for the hand loader. It has taken virtually every species on this planet.

One thing to keep in mind is not to use bullets with thin jackets as they may come off in the barrel causing a bad situation. You can use reduced loads easily and using the 45 Schofield or Colt case will make that easier because of less airspace to deal with.

If you use shorter cases, be sure to clean the chambers well as residue can build up causing difficult chambering or excess pressure. Like most high-pressure rounds, rifle primers are needed.

Accuracy is excellent as with my Freedom Arms, 2 to 3” groups are possible at 100 yards though recoil is an issue after a few rounds.

There is some factory ammo available such as Double Tap and brass is available from Winchester, Federal, and Starline. (read more on the 454 Casull)

460 S&W

If you must have the largest 45 caliber then the 460 S & W is the way to go. The case is longer than the 454 giving it some more power, in case a T-Rex is in the yard. The 460 is also given the credit for being the fastest large caliber handgun round, giving over 2,000 FPS with some loads.

The S & W that shoots it is a massive affair which is necessary given the brutal recoil. They have a model with a short barrel and a bit lighter for someone who may be stranded in Alaskan bear country. It is advised not to shoot it with full power loads unless a bear is attacking you. Due to the recoil and muzzle blast I would certainly follow that advice. I have fired the full size model and it is no picnic to fire.

There you have it a list of the 45 rounds from the oldest to the most powerful. One of the desirable features is the flexibility and the availability. If you want to shoot any of them it is possible because someone makes the brass and of course, 45 caliber bullets are available anywhere ammo and reloading supplies are offered.

You really can never go wrong with a 45 caliber handgun.

About Bob Shell:

A Custom Reloader of Obsolete and Antique Ammo, Bob Shell, writes about the subject of Guns, Ammo, Shooting and Related Subjects. Visit: www.bobshellsblog.blogspot.com.

39
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
21 Comment threads
18 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
29 Comment authors
Richard L WaldropMike FranklinmerlinDon FurrJim Macklin Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Richard L Waldrop
Guest
Richard L Waldrop

I have Judge, 45acp /410 , is the 45acp the only 45 caliber round I can use in it as it has the 3 inch cylinder

merlin
Guest
merlin

buffalo bore also makes 45 win mag.

Don Furr
Guest
Don Furr

Bob, thanks for a very informative article. I have a Colt 1911 in .455 eley that was made in 1918 and is British marked. I need to get a box of ammo for the gun so I can have some barrel work done and the cycling checked. Is the correct ammo available out there and should it look like the ammo in your photo of the Colt .45 converted into .455 eley? Thanks!

Jim Macklin
Guest
Jim Macklin

Between 1873 and 1930 everybody wanted some proprietary cartridge. Factories would custom make almost anything. At one time there were thousands of variations of 12 gauge shotguns. 45 caliber could be anything between a bullet diameter of 0.42 and 0.49 inches depending on the particular bullet design, such as heeled, paper patched, or just marketing lies. The 1873 Colt 45 was designed for maximum power with black powder. Smaller gun designs could not chamber a long cartridge so a shorter cartridge was made. The S&W #3 revolver cylinder was too short to chamber a 45 Colt. The 45 S&W Schofield… Read more »

Matt
Guest
Matt

Thanks Jim. I think I’ll take your advice and make a few calls.

Jim Macklin
Guest
Jim Macklin

You’re welcome. The 45 Colt has a small rim, some 45 calibers have thick or even larger diameter. If the Colt London Gun is original and in condition it is valuable. Getting a spare cylinder fitted can allow shooting commercial ammo. The cost of doing that is probably more than buying a new Ruger Vaquero 45 with a spare 45 ACP cylinder. Many years ago a gentleman came into the store because he wanted some ammo for his old S&W Schofield. At that time it was not available. The boss had me trim a box of 45 Colt cases and… Read more »

Matt
Guest
Matt

The gun is still fully original s/n in the late 50000’s. It has the 7.5″ barrel. All the serial numbers match (Heel, Frame, Cylinder etc). Used to be my great grandfathers service weapon around the the late 1890’s. Because it was held in the service holster for about 60 years and the leather took off most of the surface finish.. I am just very interested in firing the weapon. Since I will probably never sell it due to the sentimental value, I would like to at least do a little target shooting. Thanks for the link. I have already sent… Read more »

Jim Macklin
Guest
Jim Macklin

I suggest one of the “cowboy or black powder” substitute powders that will bulk up in the case and prevent a double charge.
BULLSEYE has probably blown up more 45s than any other powder. A safe load might be only 4 to 7 grains, leaving room for a double or triple charge that will blow te top off of modern steel guns, let alone a 125 year old low grade steel black powder cylinder.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Hi.
It seems that most of the people on here is quite well informed.
I have a Colt SAA London Edition (around 1880) that is stamped in .45B Cal. Which rounds can I use in it?

jim
Guest
jim

I have a 450 ex single shot leaver action Schofield rifle gun is old I am looking for ammunition

Stendel Brian
Guest
Stendel Brian

460 Rowland anyone? 44 mag power in a 1911 with 7-10 rounds.

Ostlander
Guest
Ostlander

I’d like to get better velocity out of my Smith and Wesson Model 25 than the Colt SAA in 45 Colt. What are some hotter, yet safe loads

A.X. Perez
Guest
A.X. Perez

.451 Detonics Mag.

temujin
Guest
temujin

no 45 super talk ? i do believe it is a great round and brought about in 1988 !

Gordon Tillman
Guest
Gordon Tillman

Nice write-up Mr. Shell. May I recommend another for your consideration? It is the 460 Rowland. Great cartridge. I upgraded an old Kimber Stainless II and am really impressed by the performance.

BJI
Guest
BJI

I think the .460 R load is a 185 grain bullet @ 1550 fps!
Although not a .45 the .357 Magnum is a real White Tail killer. Years ago I read an article written by a hunter who claimed to have killed more than 20 WTs and NEVER recovered a bullet!

Wild Bill
Guest
Wild Bill

There is another 45 to add to this list, the .450 Magnum Express.

North American Arms designed their .450 Magnum Express around 1981, though it would take some time for it to reach production. Most people when they hear of the round immediately think of a big bore rifle cartridge, but names can be deceiving. In fact, the NAA .450 is nothing more than a .45 Winchester Mag that’s been lengthened to 1.344”.”

http://www.singleactions.com/NAA450MagnumExpress.pdf

Bob Shell
Guest
Bob Shell

The 480 is not a 45 but a 475 caliber same with a 475 Linebaugh

Al E. Gator
Guest
Al E. Gator

Big Horn Armory makes a couple rifles in .460 Magnum. They make expensive, but very very beautiful rifles.

http://www.bighornarmory.com/catalog/big-horn-armory-products/model-90-carbine-460-sandw-model-90a-454-casull-6/

Cumara
Guest
Cumara

What about 480 ?

Bob Shell
Guest
Bob Shell

They are the same there is no such thing as a 45 long Colt it is a 45 Colt …..

Mike Franklin
Guest
Mike Franklin

Except that the Army issued the “.45 Colt Government Round” from about 1870 until about 1930. Short as the .45 S&W but with the small rim of a Colt.

oldvet
Guest
oldvet

I have always been interested in the .45-70. If I’m not mistaken this was a cartridge that was chambered in both handguns and rifles, thus the original companion cartridge? Any historians out there who could enlighten us. Probably the only excuse I have for not investing is it would be another whole set up, ammunition etc.

BJI
Guest
BJI

Only recently has .45-70 been chambered in a handgun. I believe Freedom Arms makes a 5 shot revolver in .45-70.

FlaBoy
Guest
FlaBoy

Why no S&W 460 carbines or rifles?…probably because of the 45-70, which is available in a wide variation of loads, from mild Cowboy Action to +P+ stuff designed for use only in modern arms that will take down anything now walking the earth.

Frank G
Guest
Frank G

I often thought the same about a S&W 460 lever action. I know there are a few single shot barrels available for a few. Set up a Henry 45-70 AW last season, OH YA anything with hoofs, jaws, claws, tusks or horns would be fair game. Now sending Hornady LeverEvolution at 2040 fps will stop anything, how about sending Hornady 460 S&W down the same length barrel when it sends it 2200+ fps out of a 460 XVR with only a 8.75″ barrel! Only need to carry one size ammo ……………… just a thought.

Frank G
Guest
Frank G

TC produces a 460 barrel for the Encore, couldn’t resist, have one on its way! Wish it was a 24 or 27″ but a 20″ will get the job done. Can’t do anything half a$$ so a Boyds thumbhole stock is heading this way as well a spare Leupold AR green dot on top should make a fun package. Will post results.

David Palenshus
Guest
David Palenshus

.45-70 wasn’t mentioned…there was a s handgun specifically made for this round, created by a relative of mine… Called The Golden Bison.

Frank G
Guest
Frank G

Magnum Research produces a 45-70 revolver called the “BFR”, not sure I would want to send a few with this beast. My S&W 460 XVR is quite enough. Ha

Cecil
Guest
Cecil

I had one and then realized I could only shoot about eight rounds per range session and then my forearms were sore the next day. Did attract attention at the range!

Roy D.
Guest
Roy D.

As a teenager in the early ’70s I remember that Frontier Sporting Goods in Fairbanks, Alaska had one of the Golden Bison revolvers in their display case. It was a thing to behold.

Frank G
Guest
Frank G

Great article. My go to white tail gun is the S&W 460 XVR, has been now for the past 7 years. This is not a hand cannon for the faint of heart, literally a “blast” to shoot. The areas I hunt here in Tennessee are quite dense: oak, pines, cedars etc. handguns are not generally known a brush guns ……… believe me the 460 is. Whether stalking or in stand a bandolier holster is the way to go. At the range start off with .45 Colt then send a few .454 Casull then finish with Hornady 460 it will get… Read more »

Jerry
Guest
Jerry

Looking for the difference between .45 Colt and .45 Long Colt

GomeznSA
Guest
GomeznSA

If I am not misinformed, they are the same – .45 Colt is the ‘shorthand’ version.

Mark Houghtaling
Guest
Mark Houghtaling

.45 Colt is the original name. People started calling it “Long Colt” to differentiate between the .45 Colt and the new .45 ACP.

Goody
Guest
Goody

No my friend differentiate from the 45. Schofield round, they where shorter.. Right Bob?

Jim Macklin
Guest
Jim Macklin

The U.S. Army bought 1873 Colt SAA revolvers in .45 Colt. Then they bought S&W #3 Schofield revolvers in .45 S&W which is shorter than the Colt. To simplify logistics the Army began buying 45 S&W to used in both revolvers.
Thus people began saying 45 LONG Colt to make it clear they wanted the long cartridge.
45 Auto was always 45 Auto until after WWI when Remington brought out the 45 Auto Rim that was a rimmed case so that the moon clip was not necessary.

Saddletramp
Guest
Saddletramp

.45 Long Colt is a misnomer. There is a .” 45 Colt ” and nothing else. Some probably started using the phrase Long Colt to differentiate it from the .45 S&W, also known as the .45 Schofield. Colt did make some shortened versions in other calibers and did officially designate such as ” long ” or ” short ” but the .45 Colt was not one of those.

JorgeNorberto Pedace
Guest
JorgeNorberto Pedace

EN ARMA DE PUÑO,UNO DE LOS CALIBRES MÁS DEFINITORIOS Y FEROCES,QUE SE HAYAN CREADO.