45 Colt hand load velocity test

Decades ago when they were brand new I purchased a Smith and Wesson Model 25-5 pistol (in .45 Colt of course) with the mandated 8 3/8 inch barrel in the wooden case it came with in those days. Okay the 8 3/8 inch barrel wasn’t really manddated per se. Let’s just say that was the only size barrel available in the Washington, DC region without going through a six month or longer wait for the back ordered 6 and 4 inch variants. So I got the pistol with the absurd long barrel and after only two months of searching I found a holster that could fit it. S&W had recently made many 4 inch barreled Model 29s which they were trying to sell and feared making the .45 blue steel M25 available with a 4″ barrel would take sales away from their M-29. LoL, no doubt. After only a year of production the Model 25-5 was dropped for the Model 625 in stainless.

Naturally by the time I got the holster for my pistol I had already expended many boxes of purchased ammunition at the pistol range. That was very similar to emptying out my wallet every few weeks. Pointed hollow base bullets loaded down in case someone stuck one in one of the old black powder pistols. Back then my choices of ammunition were poor and worse. I was amongst those who cheered when Federal brought out their SWC HP bullet and finally there was a decent commercial round out for the 45s. None the less this round too was minimized in power just in case someone stuck it into an old 1st generation Colt. That led me into reloading.

Ah, my days of messing with Unique brand smokeless powder. Eventually I grew frustrated enough to begin reading up on the .45 Colt. Interviews with Linebaugh, articles by Skeeter Skelton and Elmer Keith (his books too), Taffin, Speer manuals, etc. All were devoured by me. I dropped Unique and moved over to 2400. I know some people have moved in the opposite direction. Power to them. Their gun is not my gun, their preference is not my preference. In the same time frame I left soft lead bullets behind and entered the world of gas checked and use of jacketed bullets originally intended for .45 acp pistols. Heavier bullets. This was done because I was experiencing severe leading problems anytime my bullets passed 900 fps. Another factor was the bullets fraying apart in the barrel weren’t that accurate, so jacketed bullets were the best solution. Also of course the superb product called the Lewis Lead Remover. I did a lot of experimentation.

Back around 1994 I think Hornady came out with their XTP bullets and finally my pistol found a friend. Speer Loading Manual #s 10 and 11 were devoured and left in the dust. I believed from my readings I knew what the danger signs of an overload were and looked for them constantly. In Unique I had seen them more than once which played a big part of my decision to follow Elmer Keith into the 2400 world. Understand that I worked up to it slowly, but eventually I found a gas checked SWC bullet and powder load combination I believe Elmer Keith himself would have liked.

The same year Winchester brought out their commemorative Winchester 94 Centennial Trapper Carbine in caliber .45 Colt. Why Winchester had never offered a lever action in .45 Colt before the end of the 20th century is one of America’s great mysteries. How they saw the obvious attractiveness of a pistol and rifle combination in 44-40 way back in the 1870s, but not recognize the same attraction would exist for a rifle pistol combination chambered for the Army .45 Colt utterly escapes many. Whatever, a .45 Colt Winchester built on the same frame as a 30-30 rifle now existed and I had to have one. Within a week I had one.

The Trapper Carbine had silly antique sights, no sling, and an over size lever lifted from John Wayne’s Stagecoach movie. It also rattled when shaken or at every step through the woods when trying to be quiet. Only one or two hunts into thick raspberry brush convinced me quickly both that it was a perfect size for the thick brush of the forests near me, but also that there was considerable room for improvement. A sad discovery was two fold. First, the SWC bullet loads I had developed for the revolver simply would not, because of bullet shape, feed reliably (LoL, if at all) in the lever action. Second, the accuracy, due to a different rifle twist rate wasn’t that good. Enter the Hornady XTP round.

Around the same time frame GunParts (aka Numrich) had listed nickel plated barrels for the S&W Model 25=5 in 4 inch. I bought one. I de=nickled it with a 2 part nickel removing solution I purchased from Brownell. The product worked well and was easy to use also. I brought the barrel to a local gunsmith who did a hot bluing which matched the S&W bluing of the pistol’s frame. Next I unpinned and removed the old barrel and put the ‘new’ 4″ barrel on. I adjusted the barrel cylinder gap and barrel throat using tools for the task I purchased from Brownell’s. Finding a good belt holster (Bianchi) for the shorter barrel configurationed Model N frame was easy. In the near future I may replace the original blue cylinder with a stainless steel cylinder I obtained from Cylinder and Slide Co.

I developed a load using the XTP 250 gr. JHP which both the pistol and the carbine liked. It is a stiff load on a par with the maximum load E. Keith mentionrf in his book, Sixguns. I also removed the rifle’s sights and tossed them. I replaced the front sight with a fiber optic sight from Williams and the rear sight was replaced with a Redfield lever action peep sight. A sling was added. Around this time Winchester admitted some rifles (including my own) had accidentally left their factory with 30-30 shell lifters and those rifles were prone to malfunction when loading, so now they were offering a .45 lifter and I replaced my own. The action needed smoothing and I did that. I replaced the John Wayne type lever with a more practical standard ’94 one which would not snag on brush (a real problem in the woods I hunt in). I fixed the rattle by adding shims, etc., etc. In short the little carbine became both the perfect brush rifle for Whitetail deer and also a good companion to the pistol.

My first chronograph had failed back in 1993 when it got wet after I got caught in a down pour at the range. Ouch. Back then they weren’t as cheap as they are today. So although I took many deer between then and now (all were one shot knock downs)with the XTP load I had developed, I did not know the true ballistics of the cartridge although an old program called LFAD from my Windows 95 days gave me a pretty good idea. This month I finally bought a new Chronograph. Yesterday I did the needed tests. Here are the results.

For the Winchester Trapper Carbine in .45 Colt.

Using the same ammunition but in my Smith and Wesson Model 25-5.

So, from the Model 04 carbine I am getting about 1,600 feet per second velocity while the pistol is getting about 1,100 fps with the same 250 grain JHP bullet loading. There are no indicators of excessive pressure in either weapon. Theres are not .454 Casull rounds, but they are way hotter than factory .45 Colt ammunition.

I have yet to recover any bullets from whitetail when using the carbine. The load basically acts like a grenade going off deep inside their torso. From the handgun although I sometimes have exit wounds on the other side I usually recover a mushroomed bullet of about .80 caliber (or more).

Before my first one got wet and failed chronographing my reloads was a fairly important way of measuring my progress in load development. If you are seeking a chronograph like my new one, you can get one here by just clicking on the image.

If you would like to do a little price comparison shopping first, then I suggest a copy paste of the link below.


Most of my gunsmith supplies are bought at Brownells. If you are a shooter, a gun smith or just someone who likes to tinker with things, this site is worth checking out as they have thousands of products not easily found elsewhere. Click here to see what they have.

Your questions and comments are welcome. Feel free to leave them below.

Leave a Reply