Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Pressure testing the .45 Colt Wildcat load (Clays/grits/200LRNFP)

The data on 8/24/07 (12 weeks after loading) indicates that the pressure for the Clays/grits load remains at a safe pressure as compared to the Magtech Cowboy 45-250 reference. Two values are shown for the reference. The Mp has the powder at the primer. The Mb has the powder at the bullet. The SASSwire data shows 20.5 K psi at 12 weeks. I'll test at 14 weeks to see if there's a continual slow degradation of the Clays/grits load as determined by an earlier test of ammo loaded for 18 months.

All loading manuals warn reloaders not to use fillers with smokeless powder. However, I learned that a couple of Clays/Grits loads were developed and continue to be used. The .45 Colt Wildcat (named by Coyote Cap) uses 3.8 grains of Clays, Quick Grits to the bell of the case, and a 200 grain LRNFP bullet. My personal load for the Wildcat used 3.6 grains of Clays. My presentation of test data is for information only and is not to be construed as a recommendation for use by anyone.

So, why use such a load? Well, most every CAS competitor will try to reduce loads in the .45 Colt and the result is lots of blowback in the revolvers (difficult cleaning) and particulate in the face in rifles like the Uberti 1873 replica. With the Clays/Grits load, there isn't any blowback!

A recent thread in the SASSwire indicated that this 3.8 grain Clays load was not safe because the pressure over time increased from about 10.5K psi to 24K psi over 14 weeks. The maximum SAAMI pressure for .45 Colt is 14K psi. The data presented in the thread indicated 14.5K psi at 6 weeks after reloading. At 8 weeks, the pressure was almost 17K psi. The Thompson Contender I use for testing will tolerate pressure far in excess of 30K psi. An Old Ruger Vaquero will tolerate similar pressure. Colt and clones will not!

I had quite a few Wildcat loaded with 3.6 grains of Clays/Grits and aged about 18 months. The brief testing I did indicated that the pressure was very low and likely the ammo had deteriorated.

My next objective was to try to duplicate the SASSwire thread data. I'm at 10 weeks and haven't been able to duplicate the SASSwire data.

The crude chart shows the SASSwire pressure points with a "J". The Magtech Cowboy 45-250 I use as a reference pressure are indicated with an "M". My Wildcat load used 4.0 grains of Clays to assure that the pressure (marked with a "JTB") would be higher than the original 3.8 grains. It's important to note that my data is presented in Oehler pressure units and the actual CUP or PSI is not known. The Magtech factory ammo is assumed to comply with SAAMI standards. As long as my Oehler test results show the Wildcat load to have less Oehler pressure units than the Magtech reference, I accept that the Wildcat load is less than the SAAMI maximum pressure for the cartridge. I'll try to clean up the chart later.

From the crude chart, you can see that the SASSwire data (marked with a J) increases over time such that one must conclude that the ammo is unsafe at 6 weeks after loading. Many cowboys left the playing field saying "I told you so!" But, the Fat Lady isn't finished singing yet.

For my test, every Wildcat pressure (marked with an JTB) test shows to be less than the Magtech Cowboy 45-250 (marked with a M). To date, the Wildcat pressure is certainly less than the SAAMI maximum. With the 7/18 and the 8/6 data, I was careful to position the Magtech Cowboy powder at the primer. This increases the reference pressure significantly. The pressure with the powder the bullet, reduces the results by 3K Oehler pressure units.

At this time, the reason for the change in pressure at each test day is unknown. This variation makes use of a reference load of critical importance. At least I think I have an understanding of why the reference load pressure was so variable.

I'll continue to update the chart over time as I have several hundred Wildcat cartridges reloaded. It's too early to say if the Wildcat load will increase over time. My suspicion is that the load will deteriorate over time. I'll repeat the tests at a later date and include velocity measurements.

As a final comment, I have used .45 Autorim with 2.7 grains of Clays and grits to the bell under a 160 grain LRNFP bullet in my Ruger Vaqueros for several years in both practice and CAS matches. I tested Cowboy .45 Special ammo with the .45 Autorim and found the pressure to be less than the Magtech reference ammo over time. The Cowboy .45 Special brass is identical in every respect to the .45 Autorim excepting the rim.

In my '73 lever rifle, I use a modification of the Wildcat load (.45 Colt brass) by using the 160 grain LRNFP rather than the 200 grain LRNFP bullet and kept the 3.6 grains of Clays with grits to the bell. The pressure has never reached the offset of 7000 psi for .45 Colt brass.

More later . . .

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Backyard Cowboy Steel for practice . . .

Hi Pards,

I lost the forest behind my home that served as a secondary backstop. So, I designed and welded new steel targets and stands for my practice. The steel is very close to the ground and limits the exposure of the rebar support. The steel is free to swing and absorb bullet energy and reduce bounce back and spatter. Most of the bullet fragments are directed straight down to the ground and the usual largest fragment is a dime size wafer. Ricochet from edge hits will always be a problem in any target setup.
The steel is 1/2 or 3/8 inch plate (not armor) and doesn't show any divots or bending with my low velocity non jacketed cowboy loads that use 200 and 160 grain cast lead bullets. The hardness of the black powder 200 grain bullets is BHN 8 and the smokeless powder commercial 160 grain bullets is BHN 14. The maximum velocity from the rifle is 800 fps. The target size ranges from 8 inches to 11 inches square. Adequate for some speed, but not so large to allow reckless shooting or so small that the speed is sacrificed.
There is a several square inch tab welded to the rebar that is driven underground and prevents the target from twisting.
These revolver and rifle targets used with the shotgun clay tosser targets exhibited in this blog give me some interesting practice scenarios.
Just my experiences and opinions . . .

Sunday, December 31, 2006


How to pour grits, shot, and powder?

Hi Cowboys,

Handling grits, powder, and shot can become messy in a hurry if ya pour into a hopper from the shot bag, powder bottle, or box of grits. My method isn't fool proof, but it gets the job done safely and sure. I have small plastic boxes with a snap lid that I've drilled a 1" hole in a corner of the lid. Fill the box with yer need and fix the lid. Now, ya can pour into a powder funnel, shot hopper, or grits funnel. The size of the plastic box allows pouring the the powder, grits, or shot back into the box from the reservoirs. Then, pour the stuff back into the storage container. The boxes are simple to clean and are transparent. Works for me.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Replica Win 1887 Cap Special lever shotgun

Hi Pards,

While trying to learn how to shoot this monster, I had more than usual number of shotshell that refused to light off. I had a problem with primers being set too deep, but this was only part of the problem. You can see from the picture that the firing pin striks the primer off center. Cap says this is a manufacturing defect. My concern is that as the gun wears, the firing pin may begin to strike the metal base and result in many mis firings. The gun is back with Cap to determine how the gun can be fixed and/or replaced.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


How to use the Lee Pro Disk powder measure on a Dillon 650

Hi Cowboys,

Notice the two Auto-disk Risers situated in the 4th die position of the Dillon 650 to drops grits. I use a similar set-up with smokeless, black and substitute black powder.

The Lee Pro Disk and the Dillon powder hoppers have personal vibrators fixed to the side of the hopper to assist with consistant drops. The two risers lift the Lee moving parts above the Dillon powder check die and out of conflict with the Dillon powder measure. The user must be absolutely sure that the Lee Pro disks align fully above the drop hole in the powder die. If this can't be done with the die adjustment, look to the actuator arm wear on the swivel adapter. I had to use a sheet metal insert above the actuator arm to bring the disk holes to a proper drop position. Note also that I'm using a double stack kit to drop a large volume of grits in the .45 Colt case. I seat the bullet and crimp in the same die in the 5th position.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


How to measure large flake powder for reloading . .

Hi Pards,

Getting large flake powders like Clays or American Select to measure reliably in a powder measure used on a progressive or turret press can be exhasberating to say the least. The measure can have powder bridge blocks (no powder drops) or the dropped powder can vary considerably above and below the set drop weight. For these reasons, I use either a Dillon powder check die or an RCBS powder check die following the powder drop. Safety demands that this check be installed on any press where there isn't visual identification that the case is adequately filled.

Many experienced reloaders suggested using a small electric aquarium pump attached to the powder hopper. The vibration helps settle the powder and prevent some measuring errors. I find that the added electric wires of an aquarium pump are worrisome and with a turret press are impractical. So, I decided to use the small egg shaped "Personal Vibrator" for the purpose. These have a variable vibration control and are very effective in providing sufficient vibration for the purpose. They are small and I secure them to the hopper with a few rubber bands.

The pictures show one vibrator attached to a Dillon powder measure hopper and another attached to a Lee pro disk powder measure. Won't tell how I got these, but they might be available at any Adult Novelty shop.

Other ways to skin a cat, but this one worked for me.


Casting bullet lube hollow core sticks . . .

Hi Pards,

While lube/sizing bullets for black powder use is pretty easy with the lube hopper filled in a Lyman type lubesizer, refilling the hopper can be a tedious operation. Of course, one can just melt the lube, pour it in, and wait forcver for it to cool for use. However, most would want to refill the hopper and continue lube/sizing bullets.

The lube sticks are commercially available, but I chose to use Dick Dastardly's "Pear Lube"TM that is made up of equal parts by weight of inexpensive shortening, beeswax like toilet rings, and soya candle wax. Some recommend filling quarter wrappers as a mold for the lube. Works OK with lots of fiddling, but there won't be a hole in the center for the Lyman.

From recommendations by other black powder shooters, I purchased the 1" copper pipe (2' for $13) and cut it into appropriate lengths. For the end caps, I purchased PVC to fit the copper pipe. For the center hole, I drafted several of my tent stakes that use a piling spike (nail) about 5/16 inch diameter and 10 inches long. Fashioned a washer to fit over the nail and inside the copper pipe. The washer centers the bottom of the nail in the mold. For the top, I cut the tent rope plastic (green in the picture) to fit the pipe and center the nail in the top.

Make a stand to hold the molds upright. They will be not, but not dangerous to handle. Of course, hot wax is dangerous and melting it should be done with adequate caution and safety considerations. Some make up the Pearl Lube in a double boiler and melting it for use in the mold by the same means would be wise. I use a pyrex measuring cup to pour the wax melt into the mold.

Fortunately, when the lube cools to room or refrigeration temperature, the lube shrinks away from the copper pipe and can easily be pushed out of the pipe. The end cap removes easily too. Only takes mild pressure to get the nail to slip and be removed from the center of the lube stick. Leaves a perfect hole for the Lyman lubesizer.

I cut the lube into appropriate lengths and roll the stick in bond paper for storage. See lube stick examples in the picture - one with protective wrap and the other left in the raw. Note the center hole.

The picture says the thousand words needed . . .

Many means to accomplish the same, but this works OK for me. Just remember to THINK and account for all safety issues handling flammable wax and possible skin burns.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Profile of JP 45 - 200 six cavity bullets.


The picture shows the difference in profile of the bullets dropped from different JP 45 200 six cavity molds. The left bullet drops at near 215 grains with a nominal diameter of .458. The right bullet drops near 204 with a nominal diameter of .454. It's obvious that the crimp groove would make the over all finished cartridge much different in length. Also, the right bullet would result in much less case capacity. Not a problem for me as I use minimal black powder and grits filler. The castings are from recovered wheel weights.

Is it possible that the left bullet is actually the DD/ROA BL 210 for Ruger Old Army? It would size to .457 easily, but of course, the crimp groove wouldn't be necessary.


The two molds are identical in name and function. The rounded profile is the original shape of the JP 45-200 bullet. The truncated cone shape is the New and Improved version of the JP 45-200 bullet. The latter allows a bit more black powder in the case.

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