.45 Long Colt
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What Made .45 Long Colt a Timeless Cartridge


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When people talk about the Colt .45, whether they know it or not, they're referring to a specific gun and a cartridge. In addition to the original Colt Peacemaker, it references the .45 Long Colt cartridge, also called the .45 Colt or .45 LC.

It's a rimmed straight-walled handgun cartridge introduced in 1872. However, it later saw use in plenty of lever-action rifles and carbines. Back then, it was a black powder revolver cartridge developed for the Colt Single Action Army Revolver, which the U.S. Army adopted in 1873. It almost switched to the .45 Schofield made by Smith & Wesson for its Model 3 revolver. Still, logistics and supply chains kept them in the business for 14 years.

The .45 Long Colt was a product of Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company and the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, which was called Connecticut home. It replaced the Model 1871 Remington Single Shot pistol and a variety of cap-and-ball revolvers that they had converted to metallic cartridges. In 1892, the military went with the doomed and underpowered .38 Long Colt, which didn't last long. In 1909, the New Service Revolver took its place using the .45 M1909 round, nearly identical to the .45 Long Colt. It only had a larger rim diameter, which prevented it from being loaded in SAA revolvers or other ejector-rod guns.

In 1911, John Browning's M1911 semi-auto pistol and the .45 ACP replaced both. Today, it's still popular among cowboy action shooters, typically chambered for single-action revolvers and lever-action rifles. It also got a big boost about a decade ago when the Taurus Judge and S&W Governor revolvers debuted. These firearms can fire both .410 shotgun shells and centerfire ammo from the same cylinder. The Judge has become quite popular, with over a dozen models in the line. Bond Arms also makes some Derringers chambered for the ammo combo.

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Subsequently, some ammo companies like Federal and Hornady introduced self-defense .45 Long Colt handgun ammo with modern hollow-point bullets. The .45 Long Colt also set the stage for several other rounds, namely the powerful .454 Casull. A revolver chambered for .454 Casull will fire a .45 Long Colt and a .45 Schofield. The more powerful .460 Smith & Wesson cartridge is an extended version of the .45 Colt and the .454 Casull.

When To Use a .45 Colt

.45 Long Colt

The modern round is a popular hunting load for deer and black bears, and heavier hand loads are more potent than a .357 Magnum and approach the ballistics of a .44 Magnum. Winchester, Marlin, Henry, Chiappa, Rossi, Uberti, and Cimmarron all produce lever guns that fit the round.

When taking down more giant game, like bears and elk, with this round, limit your range to about 200 yards. As a heavier, rounded bullet, it experiences more drop-off effects than other ammunition. Don't go thinking the .45 Colt is an antique round. It's still a popular and versatile round of ammunition, powerful enough to do you some good when taking down game.

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This article was originally published on April 22, 2021.

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