An Interesting Light Smokeless .44/.45 Load

 

A few years ago Coyote Cap told me about a load that he and some of his pards were shooting. They actually discovered this by accident as they were trying to do experiments on the "light load detonation" theory. What they came up with is a light big-bore load for Cowboy Action Shooting or plinking that has a number of unique features.

Cap and his buddies have shot hundreds of thousands of these rounds with no ill effect. I've probably shot close to 1000 myself. Nevertheless, for liability reasons I am not advocating that anyone load or shoot these rounds. I am merely describing what some folks are shooting for educational purposes.

Basically, it is a light load of Hodgdon Clays powder and a grits filler with a medium sized bullet.

First let me describe how these shoot. Most light loads in large cases are pretty dirty. Guns and brass get dirty. Consistency can also be an issue with small charges in large cases. Titegroup powder is good at not being position sensitive, but it is a pretty snappy powder. These loads are very mild to shoot, on par with a factory .38 Spcl. The brass comes out of the gun very CLEAN and COOL. There is no blowback in rifles, even with straight cases. Guns stay very clean. The load is accurate and very consistent. A single clean patch down the bore and it is shiny. And there is no leading in the bore.

As to the specifics, the load as described to me by Cap has varied a bit over the years. It is the same load for any large case, that is .44 Spcl, .44 Magnum, .44-40, .45LC. I would imagine that the powder charge should be reduced for smaller cases, and I'll describe my efforts in that area later. Cap first told me that in the aforementioned cases, use 2.8 grains of Clays (NOT Universal Clays) for pistol loads and 3.8gr for rifle loads. Those 2.8gr loads were just too wimpy and I did not care for them. Later I noted that he was recommending 3.5gr for both pistol and rifle, which is what I use. Another person on the SASS Wire once mentioned that Cap told him 3.8gr for all loads. Doesn't seem to be too critical. On top of the Clays, fill the case nearly to the top with white hominy grits. He said not to use instant grits, but others have mentioned using instant grits with good results. Leave about 1/16" empty at the top of the case so you have room to get a bullet started in the seating process. When you seat the bullet, it will compress the grits and holds the powder down against the primer. This is why it is so consistent. Why the brass stays so clean and cool I don't know. The powder charges, you may notice, are below the minimum listed in Hodgdon's loading data. However, the grits filler is going to raise the pressure. Someone posted their chrono results with these loads on the Wire once. I don't recall details, but I seem to remember the .45's clocking around 650fps with low deviation.

Cap stated to use Federal Magnum primers and Lasercast bullets, 200gr. I have used Federal standard primers and Winchester std/mag primers with equal results. And I have also used a variety of other hardcast 200gr bullets, mostly Lone Star Bullet Co.

The Lee 0.5cc dipper throws pretty close to 3.5gr of Clays, so that's what I usually use in the .44 and .45. My Dillon powder measure and Lee measure with adjustable charge bar aren't too consistent at that small of a charge. And since I need to add the grits, I dip the powder and then dip the filler, dumping first the Clays then the grits through a funnel on my Lee Turret press. I use a 1.6cc dipper for the grits for .44 Spcl, and the 2.2cc dipper of grits for .45LC.

I have a Kimber 1911 that has a slightly pitted barrel and leads up more than I'd like. The .45ACP load I came up with 3.2gr Clays (.46 disk in my Lee Auto-disk powder measure) with a Lee 1.0cc dipper of grits on top, and then a 230gr LRN bullet. This load is very mild but cycles fine in my Kimber with stock springs. Also, it leaves no leading in the barrel. Since I'm using the powder measure to drop the powder and there's no funnel in place, I just pour the grits directly into the case mouth from the dipper. Sometimes there is a bit of spillage, but I just blow it away.

I also occasionally shoot my brother's 1st Generation 32-20 SAA. It has a rough bore which leads quickly. I decided to try the clays/grits combo in a small bore cartridge. I used 2.0gr Clays from a Lee 0.3cc dipper (the smallest one), with 1.0cc of grits filler. Again, a nice pleasant load and no leading in the rough bore.

I mentioned above the positive aspects of these loads. The only negative that I know of is the hassle involved of the extra loading step required to add the grits. I've heard of some people who have appropriate loading presses using two powder measures, one for powder and one for grits. I am used to dipping powder for my BP loads so I'm used to the slow pace. And since I mostly shoot BP, I don't load all that many of these rounds. But when I do want to shoot smokeless for whatever reason, I really like these.

Update Dec. 2006: Wishing to be as complete as possible, Iíll cover some potential negatives that I have become aware of. First, regarding 44 Spcl. I was told that the original load given was the same for all big-bore cartridges, including 44 Spcl. Although they shoot great in my í66, I believe that load is too hot, as the brass sticks in the cylinders of my Colts and recoil is rather stiff. Even 3.0gr Clays under the grits was too hot. The Hodgdon-recommended minimum (200gr bullet) is 3.5gr Clays (no filler), and that load is milder than even the 3.0gr Clays/grits load. There may be a lighter charge of Clays that will work well with grits in this cartridge but I havenít experimented with it to find out.

The next may be considered a warning. SASS shooter Jabez Cowboy has tested some Clays/Grits loads with pressure equipment and the results were rising pressures as the ammo aged. I will quote his informative post and then give a few of my comments at the end: - -

Pards;

This is the scoop ;

First the load : Winchester Cases & std. LP Primmers, 3.8 grains of Clays,Bullet Barn 200 gr. RNFP sized .452 and 1.9 CC grits...

Presure as loaded (Same day) 10,900 Psi.

Two weeks latter 12,060 Psi.

One month latter 14,040 Psi.

Six weeks latter 14,800 Psi.

Findings with-in six weeks the presures have exceeded the allowable limits for .45 Colt ...

While these presures are not a problem in Ruger guns they could be in other firearms ...

Pards you can do what you want with this information , I will continue testing the remaining rounds as time goes on ...

The powder Manufactures are United in their warnings against "Grits" loads, I wonder if just maybe they have Known all along that it was perhaps an unsafe practice ...

This post is not made to anger anyone , but rather to inform ...

Jabez Cowboy

 -

Very informative. Purportedly the reason for rising pressure is the grits absorbs moisture from the Clays and changes its burn rate. One thing is certain, the load he is testing is hotter (more Clays) than the load quoted to me from the originator. There have also been a few folks who have mentioned their year-old Clays/grits loads being inconsistent. Perhaps there are differences in types of grits or in othersí loading techniques, but as for myself I have shot year-old ammo with no loss or change in performance, still very mild and consistent. And I know a lot of others have had no problems with these loads. Of course, Your Mileage May Vary. So it would be prudent if using these loads to load no more than one intends to shoot over a reasonable period of time.

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