45 Colt vs 45 Long Colt – a 45 Caliber Debate Over Nothing

Let’s set the record straight once and for all, the 45 Colt & 45 Long Colt are the same exact round of ammunition. 1st published Sep 30, 2016.

45 Colt vs 45 Long Colt
45 Colt vs 45 Long Colt – a 45 Caliber Debate Over Nothing, iStock tamjkelly 511743062

United States -(AmmoLand.com)- At 143 years old, a certain US-made .45 caliber cartridge still shows no sign of going away. The question often becomes, “What do we call it?”

Is it 45 Colt or 45 Long Colt?

45 Colt vs 45 Long Colt History

The year was 1873 and Colt’s latest handgun, the Model P (aka as the Single Action Army Revolver of 1873) was just awarded the contract as the official sidearm for the US Army. The chambering selected was a .45 caliber black powder cartridge manufactured by the Union Metallic Cartridge Company of Bridgeport, CT.

Based on the slightly older 44 Colt round, this new cartridge used the same diameter of the 0.451″ of the 44 Colt’s rebated heel type bullet. It was named the 45 Colt and all was right with the world.

Two years later Army units began adopting the Smith & Wesson Schofield Revolver for use as an alternate sidearm.

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

This revolver was based on Smith & Wesson’s Third Model top-break revolver and as such offered an advantage by being faster to load and unload when compared to the Colt.

Unfortunately, the revolver used a shorter proprietary cartridge that soon created a problem of logistics. Cases of ordinance were simply marked “Pistol, 45 caliber”. The longer rounds were being shipped to units that were armed with the M1875 Schofields and the end result was that the longer rounds would not chamber in these revolvers.

The Colt shooters could easily use the shorter Smith & Wesson cartridge, so the quartermasters began referring to the Colt round as “45 Long Colt”. The Frankford Arsenal ended up dropping the longer round from production in 1887 and solely manufactured the 45 S&W round as the “.45 caliber M1887 Military Ball Cartridge until 1892 when it was replaced by the 38 Long Colt round in a new double-action revolver.

For about a decade the moniker 45 Long Colt was applicable when differentiating between the two rounds but by the dawn of the 20th century the Schofield had long been retired and sold on the surplus market, by the end of World War 2, both revolvers were becoming distant memories and Colt’s latest offering that proved itself in the Second World War (the M1911 chambered in 45 ACP) was becoming the new favorite among shooters.

However, after World War 2, a cultural phenomenon occurred that changed the shooting world as we knew it: Television and more specifically, programs themed as Westerns took the American imagination by storm.

Viewers wanted to own the guns shown on television, specifically, the Colt Single Action Army Revolver. Colt had ceased production at the onset of the war, but soon tooled up to make the classic revolver again and offered it in its original chambering: the 45 Colt!

After a few decades, interest in the old guns wavered again and colt retired the SAA in 1978. There was by this time a plethora of other handguns offered in this caliber from Ruger, Thompson Center, and various Italian gun makers who replicated the SAA and later the Model 3. Smith & Wesson offered the 45 Colt chambering in their N-Frame revolvers as well. The round came back to the forefront in the form of the new sport of Cowboy Action Shooting in the early 1990s.

.45 Colt , A New Cartridge for a New Era

Ruger “Old Model” Vaquero in .45 colt
Ruger “Old Model” Vaquero in .45 Colt

Thompson Center’s and Ruger’s offerings for the 45 Colt breathed new life into the old round that had eluded the older Colt revolvers and even the Smith & Wesson N-Frame. Ballisticians saw the case length and powder capacity to be the equivalent of the 44 Magnum and capable of launching a heavier bullet at higher pressure and velocity than its predecessors. These newer guns were heavier and made of superior materials than the old Colt revolvers and their Italian clones.

A few ammunition manufacturers and load developers began offering the round or the recipe to cook up a hotter load as “For Thompson center and Ruger Only” as a warning for Colt and S&W shooters to not load them in their firearms.

Do not try such loads in the Ruger “New Model” Vaquero (earlier model shown above). These guns are built on a smaller flame for competition use because the main complaint about the original Vaquero was its excessive weight compared to the original SAA and its foreign-made clones.

Eventually, the 45 Colt would form the basis for the 454 Casull and 460 Smith & Wesson rounds and of course, the 45 Colt can be fired in these larger revolvers and single-shot pistols.

The base is dimensionally similar to the .410 Shotgun round and numerous Derringers, revolvers and single-shot pistols have been made to accommodate both cartridges.

The 45 Long Colt Lever Gun Myth

None of the old time rifle makers ever chambered a rifle in 45 Colt until the late twentieth century for the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting.
None of the old-time rifle makers ever chambered a rifle in 45 Colt until the late twentieth century for the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting.

While it may have been popular for shooters of the Old West to tote a carbine and revolver in the same caliber, this was done with rounds such as the 44-40 and 38-40. None of the old-time rifle makers ever chambered a rifle in 45 Colt until the late twentieth century for the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting.

The reason for this had to do with the case dimensions of the original 45 Colt and its almost nonexistent rim. The round was simply not suitable for use in a lever-action or slide action rifle. Modern cases use a slightly larger rim, so the issue has been addressed and made logistics for Cowboy Action Shooting much easier on the participants of the sport.

So is it 45 Colt or 45 Long Colt?

While either term is correct, 45 Long Colt was really just a nickname. The majority of ammunition manufacturers stamp their cases with “45 Colt” as do the majority of firearm manufacturers mark their firearms with the same.

The reason for this is because .45 COLT is the official name used by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI). When all else fails, this is the correct term to which we fall back.

45 Long Colt Ammunition
45 Long Colt Ammunition

About Mike Searson:

Mike Searson’s career as a shooter began as a Marine Rifleman at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire adult life as a Gunsmith, Ballistician, Consultant, Salesman, and Author and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1989.

Mike has written over 2000 articles for a number of magazines, websites, and newsletters including Blade, RECOIL, OFF-GRID, Tactical Officer, SWAT, Tactical World, Gun Digest, Examiner.com, and the US Concealed Carry Association as well as AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.

    • Home page: www.mikesearson.com
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Mike Searson
Mike Searson
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Is Ammoland on vacation. Todays article has posts that are four years old and the other topics are repeats from a few days ago. Granted, this is a good article and so are many others but couldn’t we have a new, new topic that hasn’t been discussed? How about more election topics. I know I am sick and tired of people, I use that term loosely, stealing and destroying Trump Pence posters. How about an article that has people post if this is happening in their town. It’s happening here on the coast of Oregone and antifa is blasting the… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by musicman44mag

Thank you, Musicman, for your comment posted a year ago. I struggle to call these old articles “news”.


Here it is 2022 and the same thing is happening with republican posters for elections. They are getting knocked down while the demonratt posters stay up. Wish I could catch them on film doing it.

OreGONISTAN where antifa are the good guys according to the state government and the news.


I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to explain this to people. Even people who claim to be “gun guys”.


Most guys today are gun guys if you’re talking about semi-autos. But when it comes to revolvers and single actions, not many can hold up their end of the conversation.


Particularly if all they ever knew is “Combat Tupperware “.


I had a Ruger Blackhawk in .45 Colt that I experimented with max recommended loads since I was a reloader. It was a hard hitter on both ends akin to shooting 44mag loads. I also owned a Super Blackhawk so I stopped dallying with magnumizing the .45, but lo and behold the BFR came out.
What I am waiting on now is a BFR chambered in 350Legend. Now that would be interesting since the 350Legend is basically a .357 magnum on steroids, but a rimless cartridge based on .223 brass.


First, we need to realize that firearms and ammunition manufacturers have been creating a massive variety of cartridges for well over a century. Some have become standardized and some have been adopted by various countries’ militaries. Many rounds have civilian and military designations that sound totally different, yet are dimensionally the same. Most military ammo has a feature that the civilian version doesn’t, namely crimped in primers. The feature insures reliability in full automatic firearms, as well as helping with moisture protection. Even though the .45 Colt cartridge was used as an official military caliber, at the time, mil spec… Read more »


The reason for this had to do with the case dimensions of the original 45 Colt and its almost nonexistent rim.
actually … from what i understand … the reason the .45 colt was not chambered in any other firearms … not just rifles … is because it was a proprietary cartridge for the military only.
that is exactly why the 45 schofeld was created by smith & wesson.


Thanks Mike, great article. Every .45 cal. cartridge ever manufactured has an official name and 45 Short Colt is NOT amongst them. The 44-40, for example, is an official cartridge manufactured by Marlin that was indeed different than Winchester’s 44 WCF before eventually all being the same. At one time it was also called the 44 Remington, long before the advent of the 44 Remington Magnum.

Green Mtn. Boy

Then to throw a even shorter colt into the modern mix for 45 colt chambered guns. 45 Cowboy Special Brass The Cowboy .45 Special is a case that is optimized for use with light loads in .45 Colt caliber revolvers for Cowboy Action Shooting. Light loads with excessive airspace are a recipe for case splits and erratic function. By using the Cowboy .45 Special case, with its .45 Colt rim and .45 Auto length, the problem no longer exists. While many claim that .45 Auto load data can be used in this caliber, it is important to realize the limitations of the… Read more »


I just bought a Taurus the Judge .410/.45LC stamped under the barrel. Took it home to shoot it. Shot the .410 fine. When I chambered the .45 Auto round it went into the cylinder a half inch deep! What type of .45 Cal do I need to have it work in this hand gun? Is there a difference in the seat of a .45 Auto and .45LC? Why does it not seat at the end of the cylinder? Please help with your knowledge.


Obviously your first revolver experience. The .45 ACP has no exposed rim, which as it is with all automatic/semi-automatic clip fed rounds. The rim of the .45 acp is the same diameter as the cartridge casing. You need the .45 colt or .45 “long colt”. These days it is the same round. It has a rim that is larger in diameter than the barrel of the casing. Simply known as .45 colt ‘revolver’ ammo.
Happy shooting.


OMG…another self proclaimed “firearms expert” who does not know that a clip and a magazine are two different things. A .45 ACP pistol shoots bullets that are loaded and fed through a MAGAZINE, not a clip.
Even though a magazine and a clip both hold ammunition, a magazine has an internal spring that feeds ammunition. A clip has no internal spring.
God Help us…..


Dave, while your comment about clips vs. magazines is correct and overall helpful, that was not the point of Billy’s comment. He was merely trying to explain why the .45 ACP cartridge cannot be shot in a .45 LC gun since the ACP cartridge is so much shorter than the .45 LC round. Many people interchange the two terms you describe when referring to semi-auto handguns, but almost never do when referring to fully automatic rifles!

Vincent (03-22-2020)

Country Boy

M1917 Colt DA US Army revolvers used both .45acp snapped into two half moon clips or .45 cal autorim. Look it up. I know. I own one.


Good for you. Do you own a Taurus Judge, because that was the original question from the OP? Focus.


Apparently you have little firearms knowledge otherwise you would know that the “38 ACP” and the “38 Super” (same dimensions different pressure levels) have what you refer to as a “exposed rim.” And then there is the 32 ACP and 25ACP . Hit the books and you can cure your ignorance.


The topic is 45 ACP. Focus.

Albert W.

Thanks for the education on this issue.

Mike A

Great picture of the Ruger Vaquero birdshead model. I like how the picture caption says “Old Vaquero”. In an article about correct nomenclature, we probably shouldn’t be calling it an Old Vaquero, since there was never a model called “Old Vaquero”. Takeaway for me is that I own an Old Vaquero in 45 Long Colt. Fun article though.


That is probably why they put it in quotes

Jorn lytton vavik

.45 colt .45 acp
Again: a few revolver constructions were chambered for the .45 acp, headspacing/chambering on the very slight edge of the shell mouth. Not very successfull, misfires due to lack of longitudenal support of the cartridge.


Mike, I have two Old model Vaquero birdsheads. They are made on the Blackhawk frame. A few years ago Ruger changed the frame to match the colt frame. These frames are smaller and can’t handle the hot loads that the Blackhawks can.They did this to sell them to cowboy shooters who don’t shoot hot loads anyway and wanted a slimer Colt model.


Is there a 1911? That was ever chambered for the 45. Colt. I’ve just recently started learning about this ammunition cause I bought a Bond Arms Snake Slayer IV. Love the POWER the 45. LC produces and Federal has got a great low-recoil round also( a smaller grain bullet ) I favor the 250+grain rounds though…


Can a .45colt be fired from an ar-15? and what modifications would need to be made?


No because of the larger rim BUT, you can build or buy an AR in 450 Bushmaster. It’s basically a 45 ACP stretched to fill an AR magazine pushing the same jacketed bullet at over twice the velocity. The perfect deer rifle …….


Back about 10 years ago I bought a Winchester 94 chambered in .45 Colt. The damn thing jammed regularly. If you did not move the lever just so, a round would go in under the lifter and I would have to remove the pin holding the lever and get the round out. I asked a bunch of gunsmiths and the general consensus was that there was no fix and the rifle was a piece of crap. I have thought about trading it in every now and then but still have the damn thing. It is a nice little rifle, light… Read more »

Green Mtn. Boy

Part and parcel of chambering a medium action length to a PPC cartridge, the 94 is ideal for 2.25 OAL cartridges,not so for 1.575 OAL length cartridges.


I have the same rifle, circa early 70’s, in .44 magnum. Ammo with a wide meplat will occasionally require a jiggle to get it to chamber but other than that it’s fine. Ammo with a slightly rounder bullet cycles and chambers with no problem. Certainly shorter action models are smoother with pistol calibers but the 94 is nowhere near “crap”. I’ve never had an issue with the skinnier .44 magnum nor have I heard of rounds getting under the lifter. I’m curious if they’ve changed the lifter design at some point. I’ve considered buying one in .45 Colt but the… Read more »


I preferred the heavy rifling not the micro sec.


I have a Trapper chambered in .45LC. I’ve had the issue you describe. And it handles my hot loads just fine. My only issue I had was that the shell lifter broke one day into about 4 pieces. Took me a few years to find a replacement. Obsolete part. L. I finally found a guy that machines them out of Stainless. Put it in and it works great. Haven’t had an issue since.


Article is not 100% correct with regard to the m1887 military ball cartridige. It does not have exactly the same case dimensions as the .45 Schofield, because the Schofield case had a rim diameter ever so slightly larger than that of .45 Colt. This apparently caused the rims to interfere with each other when you attempted to use .45 Schofield ammunition in a Colt SAA revolver. You weren’t screwed as badly as an S&W armed trooper who had been issued Colt ammunition, because you could still use the Schofield ammo in your Colt by only loading 3 rounds, so there… Read more »

Big Al

That’s simply not true.. the never was a 45 short Colt. The 1887 cartridge you refer to was called 45 government.


“The people who still refer to it as .45 LC are therefore not necessarily wrong, but still most likely clueless as to exactly why it was called that.”
Shooters have an obligation to know about the ammo they are shooting. Ignorance is no excuse.


Winchester1873Which is why this informative article has that valuable information. “Ignorance” is cured by facts, and then becomes knowledge. Thinking long and hard without factual information only begets resolute ignorance.

Cogito, ergo armatus sum.

jorn vavik

.45 ACP vs 45 Colt.
When will this everlasting debate end……
It is quite simple as to dimentions and for which firearms intented.
Read books, internet etc, before you insert a .45 ACP into your revolving pistol, without half moon clip that is.
It is like asking about the difference between a dolphin and a whale whithout consulting readily available information.


Jorn, I would like to add a little to this discussion about the .45 ACP vs the .45 Long Colt (or just Colt since these are the same). I own two Ruger single action Blackhawk revolvers, and my .45 Colt comes with a second cylinder which is made for shooting the .45 ACP round. So, I do not need moon clips at all. The moon clips are for holding the shorter .45 ACP cartridge into the longer .45 Colt chamber. This second cylinder provided by Ruger is made to hold the shorter ACP round tightly in the chamber, and hence,… Read more »

Country Boy

It is my understanding that the .45 cal auto rim was made for the M1917 DA Colt Army Revolver used in WWI. And 45ACP and using the 1/2 moon clips was used to help logistics as .45acp is what the Thompson submachine guns were using too.As were the 1911 Colts.US Army ran short on 1911s and issued the M1917 .45 ACP/Auto rim Colt revolvers to help take up the slack. I have my Grandfather’s Colt M1917. DA Army revolver. These shoot either .45ACP using the half moon clips and .45 Autorim . [email protected] made these revolvers for US Mlitary too.… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by Country Boy
Joseph Adams

So, whee does the .45 Government fall into all of this?


about 1.5 inch longer


You’d be well on your way to sounding halfway intelligent if you actually admitted that SCCY has been lying about releasing the CPX-3 for the last two years. Sorry for the contraction, little Mikey.


Why was there a debate on this to begin with? I’ve always heard this ammunition referred to as both .45 Colt and .45 Long Colt. I’ve even done so myself. I just figured that saying “.45 Colt” was just the abbreviated version.


Well, if we are going to use whatever moniker that pleases us, I’ll begin referring to the .45 ACP as a ’45 Another Colt Product’ and argue with everyone that I am right because….


I skipped the .45 Colt and went for the 454 Casull , but I do pick up the Colt brass people leave at the range just incase I want to load it and shoot a more shooter friendly round . So far all I shoot are the 454 Casull rounds loaded with a 300 grain XTP handload .


Good article. I have shot the Old Model Ruger Vaquero for years. I have the Limited Deluxe Edition. She’s beautiful. American Elk grips, gold inlay on the cylinder flutes. I shoot a 255gr. Flatpoint down range at around 1100 FPS on a regular basis. My HOT load is a 300gr. hollowpoint that does 1300 FPS. It’s my favorite gun and I have had a ton of fun shooting it.


Dang that hot load seems to split the difference between typical 9mm and a shotgun slug. If purpose is bear defense, do the hollow points function well at that velocity and do they have sufficient penetration for bears even with that expansion?

Wild Bill

@Mike Searson,
Enjoyed the article. I agree the argument is about little. I have that same box, but in better shape … of course! Ha!!


What is the head stamp on the cartridge. How are the boxes marked?

Lee Webber

It’s interesting to read why some people still refer to 45 Colt as “45 Long Colt”. No ammo manufacturer that I know of sells what they call “45 Long Colt’. When I think of 45 caliber handgun ammo, I think of 45 ACP or 45 Colt.


I bought some ammo the other day that was .45 LC.


My question is. The reproduction Schofield revolvers, what do they shoot? .45 Colt?

Lee Webber

I owned one and used it in Cowboy Action shooting. I loaded it with 38 Special hand loads, however, it may have chambered 357 Magnum. The revolver had a 5 inch barrel. I noticed the guns made to chambered in 45 Colt were more readily available and less costly.


Again? Puh-leeze!

JorgeNorberto Pedace