A while back I had an idea that sounded pretty
clever to me, so I went to work on it, had success with it and was pretty proud
of myself. I figured that something like this had probably been done before,
but couldn't remember seeing anything in print about it. Then, as the project
was winding down, the prior art re-surfaced. My only consolation (aside from
the fact that I had developed some pretty useful loading data) was that the man
that beat me to the punch was none other than Elmer Keith. Perhaps my
inspiration for this concept came from some dim, dark recollection of his
writings (I'm certainly not going to rule that out), maybe it was indeed
original. Who cares? Anyway, I thought I'd share some of the results that will
be of interest to the handgun hunting community.
I've had some rather androgenous concepts for putting together a 40+ bore
wildcat in an iron-sighted 10" Contender for the lazy "stroll through the park"
kind of hunting where you just kinda kick the bushes and see what comes out, and
the shooting tends to be close, quick and not necessarily from the best angle.
Penetration was to be the key performance parameter. Not surprisingly, the
concept generally revolved around a .416 diameter bullet weighing 400 grains,
usually just above the speed of sound for up close and personal thumping.
this scenario sounds familiar to members of Handgun Hunters International, it
should -- the inspiration for it came from a hybridization of J. D. Jones' "Woodswalker"
and "Whisper" concepts -- a useful union of portable hunting power and heavy
bullets (particularly cast bullets) at modest velocity. Penetration par
excellence, sans belligerent recoil and bloodshot steaks.
You're probably thinking "Why not go with a .44 Magnum?". Well, basically
'cause I wanted to go with heavier bullets than were then available for the
.44. The idea of 400 grains of bullet metal had real appeal (and besides, I was
looking for something different to experiment with).
any event, various case designs for this .416 came and went. Unfortunately, each
had its own problems and was thus difficult to get enthused about, so the idea
coasted for a while. As a brief philosophical aside, an excellent way to design
a hunting cartridge is find an outstanding hunting bullet, identify its optimal
velocity, and then construct a case capable of launching that bullet at that
speed in such a way as to stay within the design limitations of the firearm in
question (for example, the 120 grains Speer SP in the 6.5 JDJ, or the 200 grain
Hornady FP in the .338 GEF). I'd really love to say that I followed this
logical, systematic approach with this project, but I'd be lyin' through my
teeth. In reality, I just stumbled across some truly excellent hunting bullets
with a long history of killing game, and the rest just kinda fell into place.
Definitely a case of this blind hog stumbling into this particular acorn.
Many years ago, John H. Barlow designed three different cast hollow point
bullets for hunting deer-sized game with the .45-70. The middleweight slug was
a beautiful 330 grainer that was chosen by A.C. Gould and cataloged by
Ideal/Lyman as their mould number 456122 (now listed as 457122). This mould
design has henceforth been known as "The Gould Bullet". Paul Matthews details
many of his experiences with this bullet (and several others) in his fun little
book "40 Years With the .45-70". These bullets were commonly cast using a
16-to-1 lead-tin alloy so that they would be soft enough to expand positively at
modest velocity. They were, and still are, deadly. Reo Rake, a friend of mine
who is a certifiable cast bullet and .45-70 nut, was casting some Gould bullets
awhile back in my garage. I picked one up and started muttering about the "walkin'
around gun" concept. What about the Gould in a .45 Colt? The bullets dropped
from the mould at .457", sizing them down to .454" didn't distort them
significantly and left them .002" oversized (sizing them all the way down to
.452" in one fell swoop proved disastrous in terms of distortion). The hunt was
on for a 10" .45 Colt barrel. Eventually one was secured, and yours truly was
getting all wet and wild-eyed, and yet another hunting handgun project was
Good idea? Yes. Original? No. It turns out that Elmer Keith had the very
same idea about 75 years ago. He took .45-90 flat-pointed bullets, sized them
.454" and loaded them over a heap of black powder for use in his Colt SAA. He
killed a fair number of critters with these loads before he decided that they
were just a bit too much for the thin-cylindered Colts. So this idea is hardly
new, but the combination of smokeless powders, .45-70 bullets sized .454" and
seated long for use in a Contender does put a bit of a fresh shine on an old
I was writing this project up, I bought a copy of the Handloaders Digest 1996,
in which I found a somewhat similar project dealing with heavy cast bullets in a
.454 Casull revolver, written up by P. A. Widegren. The Freedom Arms revolver
allows loads to be pushed to much higher pressures than the Contender can
handle, but the revolver's cylinder also requires deeper seating of the bullets
than is allowed by the throating of the single-shot. Similar in concept, but
very different in terms of pragmatic load development.
Before we get into the meat of the loading data, there are a few points that
must be borne in mind. The loads discussed below require that the bullets be
seated long. To the best of my knowledge, my .45 Colt barrel (note: this is not
a .45/.410) has the T/C factory standard throating and will allow seating these
cast bullets to an OAL of about 1.9" (a .45 LONG Colt indeed!). Seating the
bullets more deeply to more typical .45 Colt OAL's will reduce case capacity and
increase peak chamber pressure to the point of being dangerous. Traditional .45
Colt loads commonly use some of the faster burning pistol powders. Do not use
the faster pistol powders to try to duplicate these velocities. These are big,
heavy bullets and slow powders are absolutely necessary to keep pressures
reasonable. Don't use any .45-70 jacketed bullets (.457" to .458" in diameter)
in a .45 Colt Contender (.452" groove diameter). A cast bullet that is .002"
oversized is OK, but a jacketed bullet that's .006" oversized is going to jack
pressures up to Contender wrecking levels. Likewise, don't use any .458" cast
bullets in a .45 Colt T/C, size them .454" and both you and your gun will be
Anyway, with a fresh supply of .454" Gould HP's on hand, I started load
development with Accurate Arms 1680 since it had performed very well in other
loading projects involving straight-walled pistol cartridges launching
heavyweight cast bullets from a Contender. Eventually, I tried powders ranging
all the way from HS-7 on the fast side to BL-C(2) on the slow side. Three
powders were found to give the best combination of velocity, pressure and
accuracy -- they were AA 1680, IMR 4198 and Re 7.
Velocities of 1200+ fps were easily reached with all three and 5-shot
groups generally ran about 1.5" at 25 yards with iron sights, with the
best loads running right at an inch. There was no advantage to crimping or
not crimping the loads, so I settled on no crimp so the brass might live
Expansion testing was performed with a 12" water bath, backed up by a "bale" of
dry newspapers. Expansion of the Gould HP (I prefer to cast these with about 7
lbs WW, cut with 2 lbs of lead, with a couple of ounces of tin added) going 1200
fps was positive, to say the least. For those of you concerned with downrange
performance, the Gould HP will still be traveling at about 1030 fps at 150
yards, when launched with a muzzle velocity of 1200 fps. This is fast enough to
induce modest expansion, if the alloy is reasonably soft (e.g. 20-to-1). With a
100 yard zero, they strike 2.7" high at 50 yards and 10" low at 150; ideally
suited to iron-sighted handgun hunting ranges.
this loading data distinct from my other .45 Colt data, I have been referring to
the combination of a .45 Colt case with a .45-70 cast bullet sized .454" and
seated to an OAL of about 1.9" for use in my Contender as the ".45 KGF"
(for Keith-Gould-Fryxell, to recognize the contributors in the order of their
contributions). Reo likes to call this my "Backdoor Springfield" in reference
to the fact that these loads are ballistically reminiscent of the original
trapdoor Springfield black
powder loads. Not bad company to be found in, by the way. The Lyman Manual
claims a 1 in 24" twist is used by T/C, but my barrel has exactly one half twist
in the rifled portion of the barrel (which amounts to a shade over 8"), so I'm
thinking 1 in 16" (or thereabouts) may be a little closer to reality. Either
way, the twist is fast enough to stabilize heavier bullets and the original
concept was a supersonic 400 grainer. So (sigh...), I was forced to explore the
use of heavier .45-70 cast bullets (sized .454") in the .45 KGF. There are
such sacrifices for the Grail of Ballistic Experimentation.
Grier's Hardcast of LaGrande, Oregon (phone number (503) 963-8796) recently
added a few rifle bullets to their line, one of which is a beautiful 350 grain
flat point for the .45-70. I got my hands on some of these and sized them down
to .454". In the .45 KGF, it's no problem to run these FP's at 1200 fps. This
is a very accurate bullet, and with its man-sized meplat it should make a truly
outstanding hunting load.
traditional favorite for the .45-70 is the Lyman 457193. This mould is listed
as a 405 grain flat point, but bullets drop from my mould weighing 415 grains
when cast of wheel-weights spiced with a pinch of added tin. The .45 KGF can
comfortably launch this heavyweight at 1100 fps. This combination just might be
the most pleasant, comfortable to shoot deep-penetrator available to the handgun
hunter. The recoil is there, to be sure, but it's more of a slow shove than a
sharp, wrist-wrenching jab.
457193 is a remarkably efficient projectile -- according to the Lyman Manual,
launching this bullet at 1100 fps will have it flying at 1000 fps at 150 yards,
and still chuggin' along at 900 fps at 400 yards! A 100 yard zero has it 3.5"
high at 50 yards and 12" low at 150. Accuracy with this bullet was fair, with
groups running 1 1/2" to 2" at 25 yards with iron sights (a significant portion
of these group sizes could have easily been due to the shooter as it was cold
and windy during the test session -- a stable sight picture and effective
trigger technique are indeed difficult when shivering!). From my particular
barrel, these loads shot to point of aim with the rear sight bottomed out.
OK, I just had to play with the 500+ grainers, just to see what could be done
with them without getting into trouble. The Lyman 457125 round nose drops out
of my mould blocks at 520 grains when cast of the same alloy as mentioned above.
750 fps is pretty much maximum for the 520s, based on reasonable pressures.
Yes, they do stabilize at this twist rate and velocity. No, they won't shoot to
the sights (these slow heavy bullets still shoot high with the rear sight
bottomed out). Accuracy was uninspiring at about 2.5" for 5-shot groups at 25
yards. However, these loads are probably useless for any real world
applications (unless you happen to have some really fearsome saber-toothed
bunnies ransacking your rutabagas, in which case these just might make the
perfect "stopping loads"). If you insist on lobbing these spinning Winnebago's,
you might as well shoot light loads at 500-600 fps, which are just too much
fun! They are quiet, have modest recoil, leave a big hole and land with a big
freely admit that this is nothing more than a very crude bastardization of J. D.
Jones' "Whisper" concept, but I'm not selling anything, or making any money off
of this project, and the .45 Colt chambering and .45-70 cast bullets have been
around even longer than J. D. has, so I don't think I'm "stepping on any toes"
here. The main difference is that J.D.'s Whisper cartridges achieve this level
of ballistic frivolity with sleek, shapely, aerodynamic match bullets (and
tracers!) for serious (?) long-range plinking fun, as opposed to garden-variety,
blunt-nosed bricks, suitable for spittin' distance bludgeoning.
Sheriff Jim Wilson coined the phrase "professional plinking" to describe the
die-hard, get-brass-up-to-your ears, burnt-powder-in-the-gravel-pit-good-times. The .45 KGF with 520s just might qualify as a professional plinker's load. And
while it's not a silhouette load by any stretch of the imagination due to it's
mortar-like trajectory, even the most stone-faced crotchety ol' curmudgeon (Wes,
is that you?) will crack a smile when that low-flying lead mine smacks the
steel. Momentum it lacks not.
can shoot these loads in the popular .45/.410 barrels (with the choke tube
removed!), but I wouldn't expect very satisfactory results due to the
excessively long bullet jump and the stone-age sights. One of these days I'll
have to try a few of these and see....
hunting loads for the .45 KGF are the 330 grain Gould HP and the Grier 350 FP at
1200 fps, and the 415 grain FP at 1100 fps. The 520s are just for fun. AA 1680
consistently gave the highest velocities with the various cast bullets, but with
only so-so accuracy. The best accuracy across the board was provided by IMR
4198, followed closely by Re 7.
Calculations suggest that the maximum loads reported here develop chamber
pressures on the order of 26,000-28,000 psi, which is acceptable for this cartridge
in the T/C Contender.
really like this "walkin' around gun". It's rather different than the original
.416 concept, but it lives up to that vision quite nicely. Sometimes these neat
"new" ideas that come along have solutions that are generations old. Ah, the
joys of re-discovery!