Most folks don’t realize that the US Army rarely issued the .45 Colt cartridge, and when they did, it was often not a full-power load. Mike Venturino has a January 1874 vintage box of Frankford Arsenal .45 Colt ammunition. The box label clearly indicates that it was only loaded with 30gr of blackpowder, not the 40gr seen in commercial ammunition.

Once the S&W Schofield revolver was approved for service, the US Army began to move away from the .45 Colt cartridge. Frankford Arsenal received its first order for production of the .45 Schofield cartridge on August 20, 1874. Like other cartridges of the era, these used internally-primed copper cases. With the transition to Boxer primers, the Cal. .45 Revolver, Ball, Model of 1882 was adopted July 3, 1882. On June 13, 1887, the case specification became a hybrid of the Schofield-length case with the smaller rim of the .45 Colt case. Early .45 M1882 cartridges used a 230gr projectile loaded over 28gr of blackpowder. By 1901, this was reduced to a 225gr projectile loaded over 26gr of blackpowder. Procurement of blackpowder Schofield-length cartridges continued as late as 1920.

In 1898, US Army Ordnance purchased 650,000 commercial .45 Colt (40gr blackpowder) cartridges from UMC for use in the Philippines. However, these turned out to be over-pressure, causing split cases and blown primers. (Outside of possible QC issues, I’m going to guess that the issue was compounded by the lengthy transport and storage time in excessive heat.) In 1903, Frankford Arsenal ordered 10,000 additional commercial .45 Colt from UMC. Once again loaded with 40gr of blackpowder, these cartridges were purposefully dedicated for proof firing refurbished Colt revolvers.

The full-length .45 Colt case (albeit with a wider rim) was revived for the smokeless Cal. 45 M1909 Revolver Ball cartridge, but even that was loaded fairly light. Vintage Frankford Arsenal box labels claim 725 fps.

7 Comments

  1. Shawn says:

    Unrelated to the main topic, Mike Venturino is from the town over in WV about 3 miles from me across the border. His relatives all still l live in the area, and every single one of them are world-class snotty pricks that no one likes.

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    1. Wild, wild west says:

      Interesting assessment.

      I’m having a very hard time finding any of the current crop of so-called writers that aren’t from that mold. There’s a guy writes for Shooting Times Allen somebody or another who was a ballistician at the Dallas crime lab and worked for Speer and he seems OK but there are enough azz-holes write for that rag I’m gonna let that subscription slide this time around. One guy named Wieland (or thereabouts) is a real snob and there’s some other azz-hole name escapes me alla time talking about long range kills on critters. A practice I find despicable ’cause then every Nimrod thinks he can do it too. If he was half as good as he says he is, he could learn Gee-David Tubb a thing or two and as you know that’s sayin’ something.

      Nobody in the Rifleman who’s name I assimilate these days, and it’s been a long time since they reviewed a gun they didn’t find divine.

      Haven’t subscribed to Guns and Ammo since Elmer died.

      Rifle used to have good technical stuff but then turned into just another hunting rag.

      Precision Shooting/Tactical Rifle went tango-uniform.

      If there’s anything you find worth reading, please advise.

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      1. Shawn says:

        I can’t recommend any of the slick rags. SWAT is gone and PS is gone. That was the only ones I respected or knew anything about they were talking about.

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  2. Shawn says:

    From what I understand, the military .45 colt load was never something commercially made/sold.

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    1. BAP45 says:

      19th century 10mm?

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      1. Shawn says:

        more like 40 SW

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  3. I’d be interested to see one of those cartridges pulled down and we could compare the size of the powder grains and the load density vs. the commercial loads with black powder.

    It is well known among black powder shooters that you should not leave empty space in a load – you can get some significant pressure spikes as a result if you do.

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