January 28, 2018 at 9:58 pm #48913
5/8 oz Birdshot, and 000 BuckShot, loads for the 45 Colt and beyond
While helping my buddy Wayne build fence one summer, we happened upon several Copper Heads in places that we didn’t want them to be, so Wayne quickly dispatched them with his 41 mag revolver. While Wayne is a great pistol shot and took their heads off with one round each, not everyone is, or can shoot with exact shot placement when facing a venomous or dangerous opponent. A small light shotgun would be very useful in this situation, but you can’t really strap one on to your hip and work all day. This is where some bird shot, or snake shot loads for your revolver could come in really handy.
I have read a couple of articles over the years about loading bird shot for your revolvers, but the case capacity of a 45 Colt is a bit to small to allow for a heavy load of shot. You also had to use a very small shot size, no.11 or no.12, to get any sort of decent shot patterns. After a charge of powder and a very thin wad, .36 ounce of no. 8 shot is all that will fit in a 45 Colt case. With a little bit of mild wildcatting and case forming we can have a case that fills the full length of a 45 Colt cylinder. This allows for a full ½ to 5/8 oz of no. 8 shot to equal a 410 shot shell load, but in a normal length cylinder.
The 45 Colt has been one of my all time favorite cartridges, so I had a few options to choose from for testing patterns. The short end of the list is a FMJ 45/410 derringer, followed by a 3” Taurus Judge, a 4 5/8” Stainless Ruger Blackhawk, a 5 ½” Stainless Ruger Bisley, a 6” 45/454/410 BFR, a 7 ½” Cimarron Bisley Flat Top, and finally a 10” 45/410 Super Comanche single shot pistol, My buddy Wayne offered up his 5 ½” Redhawk for testing also. This gave us 8 different platforms to test loads in. The idea behind all of this was to add some versatility to a packin pistol, so the Judge, the three Rugers and the Cimarron were chosen for most of the testing. The 3” Taurus Judge had the tightest pattern by far. With 11 grains of Alliant 410, the judge just shredded the bullseye of the target at 10’. As barrel lengths increased so did the pattern size. As velocity increased, the patterns got larger also.
For a donor case there are a few options that all worked about the same. Magtech makes some nice 2.5” 410 brass cases that can be cut down. We can also use cut down 444 Marlin cases, or just trim a little bit from 460 S&W brass. I used some of each to see what the differences were. The 410 and 444 cases were marked at 1.75” and cut off with a tubing cutter. Then I ran them into a 45 colt expander die. The cases were then trimmed with a Lyman trimmer to 1.715”. The cut and trimmed cases were then ready for forming. I screwed a 44-40 sizer die into my Dillon 550 press about ½” from the top of the shell holder, lubed the cases and then ran them part way into the sizer die. I checked to see if the cases would chamber fully, screwed the sizer die in some more and repeated until they would seat flush with the back of the cylinder. After forming, the cases grew to 1.730” which gave us plenty of room in a Ruger Blackhawk’s cylinder. The Redhawk had the longest cylinder, so cases could be made up to 1.78” long. The Cimarron had a shorter cylinder, 1.673”, and cases were cut to 1.650” to give us just a little clearance with the end of the cylinder. The Magtech 410 brass cases are the lightest and provided the most internal capacity at 55 grains of H2O, next was the 460 S&W at 54 grains followed by the 444 Marlin cases at 50 grains. The Magtech 410 rims are larger than the others and while they would easily chamber in my Ruger Bisley, some of them would not chamber in the Cimarron Bisley flat top. The Magtech brass seemed to have the rim slightly off center also. I chucked them up in a drill and trimmed the rims slightly with a file to allow them to chamber in the smaller diameter cylinder. The 460 S&W cases were the easiest of all and just needed a little trimming to 1.715” and then were ready for a trip through the sizer die.
Wads and things:
To separate the powder from the shot, I used Ballistic Products 410 bore x ½” Fiber Cushion Wads cut into .050” thin discs with a pocket knife. For an over shot wad I tried Ballistic Products 1/8” Nitro Card and Over Shot Card wads. All of these can be found at either MidwayUSA.com or BallisticProducts.com. I read about an option to buying wads is a fairly easy to make wad cutter. I started with a 308 win case, cut the shoulder off with a tubing cutter, then used a deburring tool to sharpen the case mouth and finally ran the case through the 44-40 sizing die to produce wads that would fit the inside of the case. The new wad cutter also needed a 1/4” hole drill in the side of the case, so the cut wads could be pushed out. You could also drill out the primer pocket and use a small screwdriver to push the wads out. I chucked the new cutter in a drill and cut a small pile of wads from milk jugs and thin cardboard boxes in a very short time.
The wads cut from the sides of milk jugs seemed to work the best for use over the powder. They were also thinner which made room for more shot. With the faster powders and the milk jug wads I was able to get a full 5/8 ounce of shot in the case and still have room for the 1/8” nitro card wad on top.
January 28, 2018 at 10:04 pm #48914
I intended to get some chronograph readings to go along with this but I could not get any consistent readings. The powders I had on hand were Alliant’s Red Dot, Unique, 410, and 2400. Locally I could not find Unique or 2400, but there is a good supply of 410, so I did most of my initial testing with it. I looked online at AlliantPowder.com in their reloaders guide to get an idea of where to start. The 2 ½ ” 410 ½ oz load data showed several starting loads of 11grains of 410 and 13 grains of 2400 with various hull and wad combinations so it seemed like a reasonable place to start. I was talking with my buddy Wayne about the project and he volunteered an assortment of powders to give a wide range of fast to slow pistol powders for a comparison. There is not any published load data for what I was doing, so I turned to Quickload, http://www.neconos.com, to see if a computer simulation would match up with what I thought would work. I entered in the case length and capacity and used the shot column length with wads in place for the bullet measurements. I adjusted the values with 13 grains of 2400, for Quickload to give a reasonable pressure estimate. I used this as a baseline to get starting charges for the other powders.
I backed off the Quickload estimated charges by roughly 15% and worked up in small increments until the patterns started to get larger and then used the heaviest load that still gave good patterns. Not all of the guns liked the same loads that would shoot great in another. With ten different powder options you should be able to find something that would work in your individual guns.
I primed several of the Magtech cases with Winchester large pistol primers, then charged the cases with 13 grains of 2400, next went the thin, .05”, fiber wad that was pushed into place with a 3/8” steel punch. Then a ½ oz of no. 8 shot was poured in, followed by a 1/8” nitro card wad on top of it all. I used a 44-40 seat and roll crimp die to push the top wad down and roll crimp over the top to hold everything in place. I stapled a target to a card board box, measured off 10 feet and armed with hearing and eye protection, I shot the first round in my 5.5” Stainless Ruger Bisley. It had very low recoil and the fired case just fell out of the chamber when tipped up. I measured the fired case next to an unfired one and it showed very little fire forming in the shoulder area. So I assumed that the pressure was indeed very low and it should be safe to continue.
I switched to Alliant’s 410 powder and loaded 11, 12 and 13 grains of it with ½ oz of no. 8 shot and tried the various loads out on some targets at 10 feet to get an idea of where things were at. They all shot just below point of aim, from my 5.5” Bisley. They all burned clean and gave surprisingly good patterns. I adjusted my point of aim to cover the bullseye with the front blade which gave nice patterns centered on the bullseye. The patterns seemed to get larger with the increase in powder charges, so I decided to stay with the 11 grain load. Next I tried the 460 S&W cases which gave essentially the same results. The 444 Marlin brass had a smaller capacity and I could only get .45oz of shot in them and still have enough room for the nitro card wad on top. If you can find them, the 460 S&W cases definitely take the least amount of work to form into shot loads. The rims on the 410 Magtech cases are thinner than the 460 and 444 cases. So upon firing, the primers would back out just a very small amount. This never did cause any problems with the operation of the revolver, it’s just something to be aware of. Also the rims of the Magtech 410 brass cases seemed to be a little off center. So you could trim the cases a little bit with a file, or rotate the cartridge to get it to seat fully in the chamber.
I found that once the powder and fiber wad were in place you could just scoop the case full of shot, pour it into a powder pan and then pour the shot slowly into the case using a powder funnel. This allowed the shot to pack tighter and in some instances up to .625 oz of shot could be used.
For a comparison, I loaded a regular 45 Colt case with 11 grains of 410, a fiber wad over the powder, .36 ounces of no. 8 shot and a 45 cal gascheck on top to hold everything in place. I tried it out on a target at 10′. The resulting pattern had all of the shot in a much smaller area, but there was obviously far fewer pellets.
With my meager selection of powders and accompanied by my buddies powders, we had 10 different options to choose from ranging from Red Dot on the fast side to 2400 at the slow end. The accompanying table shows the powders and charges tried. All of them had about the same recoil, burned clean and gave very good patterns. The loads needed to be tailored for the individual gun used. For instance 11gn of 410 gave excellent patterns in the Judge, very good patterns in my 5.5” Bisley, but were terrible in my buddies 5.5” Redhawk. I tried a couple of different powders and found that the Redhawk liked 6gns of AA#2 and 6gns of Bullseye which gave very good patterns.
AA #9 -11gns
Blue Dot- 8gns
AA #2- 5.5gns
Red Dot- 4gns
January 29, 2018 at 6:51 am #48917GhostHawkParticipant
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Wow, awesome write up.
January 29, 2018 at 9:26 am #48918GoodsteelKeymaster
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Absolutely brilliant writeup Glenn. Fantastic.
Your use of common hand tools to modify case rims is excellent. This post is a real service to your fellow shooters!!!
January 29, 2018 at 12:27 pm #48929
I went to update the 480 powder charge and it got deleted. I’ll repost it in a few
January 29, 2018 at 4:22 pm #48949
With the success of the 45Colt shot loads, I turned my attention to the 41mag, 44mag and 480 Ruger. The easiest cases to use were the 414 and 445 Supermag brass, but longer cases could be made. I pulled out Cartridges of the World and looked in the specs portion to get an idea of what would have similar rim body dimensions.
44mag: For the 44mag I used some 303 Britt brass. First I chucked a piece of brass in the hand drill and turned the rim down to .508” with a file. The rim was a little too thick, so I turned it down with the file and drill also. Next I had to turn the base down a little to .453” to fit into the cylinder. After that I trimmed the case to length and ran it partway into a 38-40 sizer die. The dimensions were not perfect, but they did work.
For Wads, I followed the steps above to cut my own out of milk jugs or thick card board. Below is a short list of powders and charges.
2400-12gns-.44oz-Reasonable pattern, but the faster powders worked much better.
Red Dot-4gns-.51oz-Nice tight pattern
41mag: My buddy Wayne is a 41mag fan, so I turned my attention to the 41 mag next. The easiest case to use is the 414 Supermag case. A 303 British case can be made to work, but the rim and base needed to be turned down. Another option was 30-30 brass. Just turn the rim down, cut to length and fire form to fit the cylinder. The base of the 30-30 brass is abit too small, but it can work if you can’t find anything better.
I could not find a bottle necked set of dies that would work to form cases, so I ran the 414 case into a 303 British sizer die and it fit the chambers very well.
Again, wads needed to be cut for the 41 mag. I got nice tight patterns with 2400, Unique and Red Dot, but all of the loads that I tried locked up the gun upon firing and would not let the cylinder rotate.
So maybe I need to try some lighter charges, or find another sizing die option.
480 Ruger: With the addition of the 5shot 480 Ruger in the Ruger Bisley line of guns, I couldn’t help myself and picked one up to add to my Ruger collection.
Shotshell cases were formed from 45-70 brass. First thing was to chuck a piece of brass in the drill and turn the rim down to fit a 480 shell holder. The case was cut to fit the length of the cylinder, then ran partway into a 30-06 sizer die until it would drop into the cylinder. Most of the loads tried would lockup the cylinder until I got to 11 gns of RedDot. This gave a nice tight pattern and did not lock up the cylinder. I could not find a die in my collection that would form a roll crimp over the case, so the overshot wads had to be glued into place.
RedDot-11gns-.64oz-Tight pattern, easy cylinder rotation
RedDot-13gns- .63oz -Tight pattern, easy cylinder rotation
Heavier shot, no 6, T, and 000 Buckshot:
The good patterns with no. 8 shot got me to wondering, what about using some heavier shot. I had some no. 6 shot which gave reasonable patterns with the same powder charges. I ordered some T lead shot, .220”, from Midway, to try as it seemed like it was the largest size that would allow 2 pellets to fit side by side and stack in the case. With using 4 grains of Red Dot, I was able to get 10 pellets loaded into the case. I also had some 000 Buckshot that I used in 2 ½” 410 Buckshot loads for the Judge. I was able to get 3 of the 000 Buckshot loaded into each case. I think that the over powder fiber wad wasn’t forming a good seal for the T and 000 Buck as the pellets barely penetrated one layer of cardboard.
To get the wad to seal better, I seated a plastic milk jug wad on top of the powder, then I cut a 1/8” hard card wad in half and seated it on top the plastic wad. Next went 3 000 buckshot and a 1/8” hard card wad on top followed by a heavy roll crimp to hold everything in place. This seemed to help and the loads would almost penetrate ½” of particle board. I started bumping up the powder charge to 7 grains of Red Dot until the 000 buck would blast a big hole in the particle board, plus penetrate several inches of wet clay. With 7 grains of Red Dot, I was able to get 9 of the T pellets in the case and still leave enough room for the 1/8” hard card wad. Loaded this way, the T shot easily penetrated the ½” particle board and several inches of wet clay also.
Caliber-Load-Notes: 000 Buck
45 Colt-7gns RedDot-2” group at 10’
44 Mag-8gns RedDot-1 ½” group at 10’
41 Mag-7gns RedDot-2 ¾” group at 10’
Wrapping it up:
This was a very fun project to take on. I’ve been thinking about it for a few years, but just never got around to it. The only downside to the project is that the shot loads would lead the barrels fairly quickly. A bronze brush with a patch would scrub the leading out easily enough.
From 10-15 feet away, and armed with two 45 Colt single action Rugers, my Son and I could easily dust small pieces of broken clay pigeons that were scattered across the berm. These loads should easily take out a snake or even a grouse if encountered within close range and can add a little fun and versatility to your favorite revolver.
January 29, 2018 at 4:24 pm #48950
I think what killed it was trying to put in 1 more picture.
480 shotshell formed from 45-70 case.
It looks like it’s back up now. Is there a way to move it up to below the other parts?
February 2, 2018 at 5:32 am #48974uber7mmParticipant
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I believe the .41 Mag case is based from the 303 Savage; a little bit wider than a 30-30 Win and definitely harder to find. I hope this helps.
February 2, 2018 at 1:24 pm #48977Doc44Participant
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I am glad you got all this good info posted. Glad I could help with a few supplies.
February 2, 2018 at 4:40 pm #48978slim1836Participant
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Very nice report, thanks for your hard work and sharing, it’s appreciated.
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