Cartridge question: .45 Colt vs .44 Mag

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by Pat Hurley, Sep 3, 2007.

  1. Pat Hurley

    Pat Hurley Former Guest

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    I'm in the hunt for a cowboy action lever action rifle that can double as a defensive weapon when in bear country. Trouble is that my cowboy action pistols are in .45 Colt and I really don't want MORE cartridges than I absolutely must have.

    So, my question is this... does the .45 Colt have the ballistics to be a big game caliber (bear, elk, etc.)? What are it's outter limits as far as performance goes?

    I know, I know, the .44 Mag is the sure thing caliber for big game buuuuuuuuuut, I don't want another caliber if I don't HAVE to have one.

    Thanks.
  2. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    Pat, if you get a Rossi 92, or a Marlin in 45, they can be loaded to reach, or even pass, 44 magnum.

    If, however, you get a Uberti 73, 66, or 1860 Henry, they cannot.

    I think the Henry Big Boy also comes in 45 Colt, and it is strong enough to hot-rod. Fugly gun, though.
  3. Pat Hurley

    Pat Hurley Former Guest

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    Fugly, huh? Well, that happens to be the rifle I'm looking at. :rolleyes:

    BUT what I really need to know is this... can a .45 Colt round (factory ammo) stop a bear?
  4. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

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    Minn-eeee-sota, ya, sure, you bet!
    Yes, .45 Colt cartridge can be loaded to .44 Magnum power......but make sure the rifle or pistol you fire it from can take those kind of pressures.

    And yes, .45 Colt factory rounds in the heavier bullet range (250+ grain) should stop a bear if fired at close range (defensive distance) from a rifle or carbine.

    .45 Colt factory loads, if fired from a revolver, might be marginal.
  5. AL MOUNT

    AL MOUNT New Member

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    I love my Uberti Yellow Boy in .45LC

    It is so accurate you don't have to aim....just point & shoot.


    But that being said:.......



    You'd have to be nuttier than a peach orchard boar.....


    to consider it a bear gun
    ......:D


    I don't give a damn how heavy you load it....:eek:

    You stand there and shoot it.....I'm runnin fer camp & my Model 29.....:D
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2007
  6. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

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    All the cowboy lever guns designed before John Brownings 1886 are weak. Not so much in the metals available back then, but by design. Those older guns use a link that goes over center in its travel to lock the bolt closed. The bending of the link and its required link pin clearances allow the bolt an amount of travel reaward under extreme pressures. It worked well for low pressure cartridges from the black powder era but is completely unsafe for modern cartridges loaded at modern levels with smokeless powders and especially if hot loaded modern ammo is used. Modern repro version are only marginally better with better materials and easily withstand standard level loads. But its the design that is the limit, not necessarily the materials used in the gun.

    The Winchester 1886, the 1892 and its later derivatives, the 1894 and the later model 94 and its derivatives, and most of the post 1890's Marlins use a different principal to lock the bolt closed. They all use a chunk of metal or two that vertically slides in receiver channels into or in back of the bolt, blocking its reaward travel during firing. They are not absolutely "bullet proof", so to speak, but will withstand hot loads much better than earlier designs. Add to that modern metals for the current versions and safety with the hotter loads returns. But the loads should never exceed listed reloading manual reloading levels. The hot 45LC loads listed in manuals that are at or near 44Mag levels are probably OK to use in these modern guns listed above. Some manuals even have Rifle loads listed and in some they nearly match the heavy "Ruger" 45LC loads.

    So while the early levers look neat, they are not strong by any means. Go with a newly manufactured post 1886 design made with modern steels and you can probably get away with hot "listed" 45LC loads.

    LDBennett

    PS: Don't mix up these hot 45LC loads with your cowboy loads and inadvertently shoot them in a cowboy gun. If you do you'll get to see the fast way to ruin a firearm. They do wonders for the brass receivered repro guns.... NOT! or any of the other pre 1886 designed guns as well.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2007
  7. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    I knew someone had to like 'em. :p

    Factory ammo. Buffalo Bore http://www.buffalobore.com/ammunition/default.htm and Cor-bon would probably do the job. Although, personally, if a bear was runnin' after me, I'd druther have a bigger gun.

    You might consider a Rossi in 454, and shoot 45 Colt through it at the matches, and have the real deal in it in the woods. Just a thought.
  8. AngelDeville

    AngelDeville New Member

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    If I was concerned about bears AND needed a CAS compatable rifle, I'd pick up a 30-30 or 45-70 lever.

    You can always use it in CAS long-range events.

    And 30-30's can be found at any pawn shop for cheap.


    Edit: this could also be the needed excuse to get a modern '97 Winchester and use 2 3/4" slugs....

    Well, I need an excuse....
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2007
  9. Coltonator

    Coltonator New Member

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    I like the Rossi 92 :D
  10. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

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    Minn-eeee-sota, ya, sure, you bet!
    The consensus seems to be......

    If you're talking about Black Bear, .45 Colt will do the job.

    If you're talking about Grizzly or Alaskan Brown Bear....that's a whole 'nuther thing. If you're think about them, hell, even a .44 Mag. is marginal for stopping a charging Grizz or Brown.

    If you want to stay CAS compatable, maybe something like a Marlin 1895 G in .45-70 or a Winchester '97 (or it's modern copies).
  11. One thing to always keep in mind, Pat, is that any handgun cartridge, even the most powerful out there, is marginal at best for dangerous game like the great bears. By way of comparison, let's look at some basic numbers:

    The regular factory load for the 150 grain spitzer bullet in the .30-06 has a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2910 fps with muzzle energy (ME) of 2820 ft. lbs.

    The most common factory loads for the .45 Colt give a 225 grain lead HP bullet a muzzle velocity of 960 fps and an energy of 460 ft. lbs.

    The regular factory load for the 240 grain lead bullet in the 44 Magnum has a muzzle velocity (MV) of 1180 fps with muzzle energy (ME) of 740 ft-lbs.

    Will a .44 magnum kill a bear? Yes, sometimes, if the shot is at relatively close range and the shooter has the cajones to put the bullet precisely where he wants it. Realistically though, how accurate are you likely to be if faced by a charging bear intent on having you for lunch? :eek: ;)

    Is it wise to carry a heavy handgun when hiking in bear and cat country? That's a question only the individual involved can answer. I can only say that I do since I figure that some chance is much better than no chance at all in the very unlikely event of a serious bear encounter. One thing I would NOT do, however, is go looking for bear confrontations armed with nothing but a handgun . . . ANY handgun! :D
  12. Pat Hurley

    Pat Hurley Former Guest

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    Great info everybody (special thanks to Pistol, X, and LD).

    Since most .45 Colt firearms can withstand the occasional .454 Casul, I'd like to know what the felt (recoil) is between the .44 Mag and and the .454?

    I'm going to either go with the .44 Mag OR go for a .454 lever action and shoot .45 Colts out of it for Cowboy Action Shooting.

    More feedback please!

    Thanks.
  13. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    Don't know where you got that information from. No 45 Colt firearm that I am aware of will chamber a 454, and if any of them did, most 45 Colt firearms would blow up shooting a 454. Ruger might take it. Freedom Arms, probably. You are talking about shooting a 45,000 psi cartridge in a gun designed for 9,000 psi.
  14. Alpo is right, Pat. The .454 won't chamber in a .45 Colt. It's slightly too long. It's much the same relationship that exists between the .38 Special and the .357 magnum. You can, however, shoot .45 Colts through a .454 Casul revolver without any problems. That's done on purpose, to keep folks from blowing up revolvers intended for .45 Colts! Loaded to relatively low SAMII maximums the pressures work out to 14,000 PSI for the .45 Colt, the .44 Magnum has a maximum SAMII approved pressure of 36,000 PSI, while the .454 Casull is rated at 60,000 PSI! The bullet generates about 1800 ft. pounds of energy at the muzzle and uses a rifle primer for ignition. :D

    If you're talking about full power loads, the .454 definitely smacks you much harder than a .44 mag. That's been my own experience anyway. In my opinion, to shoot the .454 comfortably you need a very heavy revolver to absorb some of the recoil. I can shoot a .44 mag all day if I have good grips on the revolver. The .454 gets to me after only 18 rounds or so.
  15. AngelDeville

    AngelDeville New Member

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    I have never fired a .454, I have had offers but I'm just not into punishing myself, it just seems brutal, I'll stick with my 44.mags
  16. It's kinda fun to shoot actually, Angel, but you're right, it is punishing. One of my shooting friends is into the .454 and handloads for it. For practice he loads it way down, basically to .44 mag levels. It's always seemed to me that in any situation where the power of a .44 mag is insufficient, it's time to go for a rifle!
  17. Pat Hurley

    Pat Hurley Former Guest

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    You and Alpo are, of course, correct. I got my wires crossed when planning my buying strategy. A dumb, embarrasing mistake on my part.

    The correct buy would be to get a .454 chambered lever action rifle and shoot .45 Colts through it when desired. However, (and please note how deftly I pass the buck and deflect blame) the owner of Henry rifles may have been the one who planted the error in my brain. He said to me, and I paraphrase, that the Henry Big Boy - chambered for the .45 Colt - can withstand a steady diet of .454 pressures but he didn't recommend it. Take that however you wish, but my brain processed it to mean that the Henry Big Boy would swallow .454 Casul rounds.

    I think I'll have one of Catfish's cocktails now.
  18. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

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    I hate to throw a wrench into your plan but the Henry Big Boy appears NOT to be chambered in 454 Casull. The models show on their Web page is 45LC. The difference is about 0.100 inches in case length. A gun chambered correctly for 45LC would not accept a 454 Casull, in my experience.

    Did I miss something?

    Of course you may be able to squeeze enough powder into a 45LC case to equal the 454 Casull but that is pure crazy to do. I say "never load beyond reloading manual loads" and certainly there are no 45LC loads in any reloading manual I have seen that end up at 454 Casull pressure levels. The 454 Casull pressure levels are modern rifle levels in the 45,000 to 65,000 psi range. The 45LC design pressures are below 25,000 psi for Ruger pistols and much lower than that by about half for regular 45LC loads.

    Lever guns by almost anyone (except the Browning BLR which is a bolt gun with a lever to actuate it) are not the strongest designs and are most certainly not as strong as a bolt gun. The problem is that the bolt is held closed at the rear of the receiver and the receiver walls stretches under extreme pressure. Stretch the receiver enough times and the stretch will become permanent, screwing up the headspace and ending up with blown cases and high pressure gas in your face. This whole approach of expecting 45LC in a lever gun to match 454 Casull pressure is pure folly and will lead to damage to the gun and/or the shooter.

    If you are after power levels of the 454 Casull in a lever then buy a 45-70 lever. With a modern Winchester clone 1886 in 45-70 or a modern Marlin you can get a 300 grain bullet out the barrel at in excess of 2000 FPS. That exceeds 454 Casull. Want less, then download 45-70. Springfield loads are closer to 1200 FPS. Anything in between will get you there.

    LDBennett
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