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Old June 18, 2007, 07:58 PM   #1
rabid_rob
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Which Caliber for a SA Revolver?

My "next gun" is probably going to be a single-action revolver, but trying to decide on a caliber.

At first, it was no question to pick .45 long Colt, as its seem like the right caliber for a older-style gun, such as the Ruger Vaquero. But, after learning how costly the ammo can be ($20+ for 50 rounds) I was shocked. That's more that double .357 ammo. So, my first question is, why is .45 LC ammo so much more costly?

Next, beyond cost, what are the pros/cons of .357 vs. .45 LC in a SA revolver?

I have a .357 DA revolver (Python) and am quite happy with the caliber's performance and cost. I'd like to be just as happy with a SA revolver, and think caliber will play a big factor.

Help me decide....357 or .45 LC?

If nothing else, going with .45 LC will help, um, "justify" the cost of a nice reloading press.
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Old June 18, 2007, 08:10 PM   #2
BoneDigger
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.45lc

Go with the .45LC, it's a lot more fun in my opinion!

Todd
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Old June 18, 2007, 08:25 PM   #3
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long colt
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Old June 18, 2007, 08:37 PM   #4
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While I would also say, "Long Colt" at this moment (it changes hourly ), your ammo cost is off. I can buy one type of commercial .45LC, and it's $31.95/50, a whopping $.64/round. For LRN. :barf:

The only viable means to shoot it is to reload. I've got a press, but no dies, etc, for this caliber.

I'm just wondering whether to stick with .44 mag or make the jump.

-- Sam
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Old June 18, 2007, 09:10 PM   #5
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Why not get Ruger Blackhawk .45lc with the .45acp cylinder
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Old June 18, 2007, 09:56 PM   #6
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I've owned several Single Actions:
Colt SAA in .45 Colt
Cimarron Arms in .44 Special
Ruger Blackhawk in .45 Colt w/.45 ACP cylinder
Ruger Blackhawk in .357 mag w/9mm cylinder.
Uberti Cattleman in .45 Colt

I still have the Colt SAA but the one that was the most fun to shoot and the most accurate was the Ruger in .357 with the extra 9mm cylinder. Very pleasant to shoot with .38 Special target loads. If it wasn't for a money crunch problem, I would not have sold it.
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Old June 18, 2007, 10:29 PM   #7
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In general, I'd say 45 and take up reloading.

Depends on your plans for the gun.
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Old June 18, 2007, 11:02 PM   #8
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What do you want the gun for?

Hunting? Plinking/traget shooting? Cowboy action games? Some combination of the three? Or just because they are neat old/modern guns and you haven't decided what it is really for yet?

There are lots of choices, between different designs of guns/models and calibers. Some will do it all well, some are much better in one area than another.

You are leaning towards either the .357 or the .45 Colt, so lets save them for last.

The Colt SAA (1873, Model P, Peacemaker, 'ol hawg leg, etc.) is the single action revolver. It set the standard and held it for nearly a hundred years, and purists will have nothing else. However, while they can still be had, they are a significant chunk of change, and most of us cannot easily afford that kind of money very often. For those of us with more limited gun budgets, there are quite a few different clones of the SAA, at much more reasonable prices for what you get.

The Colt, and clones using the Colt type operating system, are world famous in the way they work. There is a half cock position on the hammer, and it is used to free the cylinder for loading and unloading. Old model (three screw) Rugers also use this system. They hold six, but are only safe to carry with five, leaving the empty chamber under the cylinder.

In 1973, Ruger began marketing their redesigned single action revolvers, calling them New Models. These guns use a transfer bar ignition system, making them safe to carry with six rounds loaded. They also did away with the half cock hammer position, so that just opening the loading gate frees the cylinder for loading and unloading.

Traditional Colt (and clones) and early Ruger Blackhawks have smaller frames than New Model Ruger Blackhawks (and original Vaqueros). The new Vaquero also has a smaller frame, making it closer in size to the original Colt.

While other lengths exist, the most common SA barrel lengths are 4 &3/4 (or 5/8), 5 or 5 & 1/2, and 7 & 1/2 inches. Some prefer the balance of one barrel length, some prefer others. A very personal choice. Myself, I like the longer barrel, the 7.5". If you use the gun for hunting, the longer barrel gives you the most energy.

Calibers are a mix of old cartridges and new. From .32-20 through .45 Colt, including all the magnums, and there are even SA revolvers made for the monster magnum rounds like .454, .475, etc. The traditional cowboy cartridges (.38-40, .44-40, .45 Colt) are not powerhouses by today's standards. The .45 Colt can be, in strong modern guns, with special ammo, but the original loading was a 255gr bullet at 850fps (some say 900). regular .45 Colt ammo is held to those specs for velocity and held to blackpowder pressures. This is no magnum, but a very effective round none the less.

In a gun like the Ruger Blackhawk the .45 Colt can be loaded to match (or even slightly exceed) the .44 Mag. Heavy loading the .45 Colt in strong guns is what led to the .454 Casull, which is the next step up the power ladder.

You already have a .357 Mag, so a SA in that caliber has advantages for you. Only one caliber provides some economy, but you must balance that against feeding two guns from the same supply, and the fact that each gun may perform best with different ammo. Of course, you also have the benefit of shooting light recoiling lower cost .38 Special as well.

The only real drawbacks to the .357 as a SA caliber is the fact that it is not considered a "traditional" SA round (if that matters to you), and the .357 is no longer considered a good choice for larger game. Some will tell you the .357 is not a good choice for deer. This is not true (which a great many deer would tell you if they could) it is just not the best choice for longer (handgun) ranges. It still works as well as it ever did, and at one time in a long barreled revolver, it was the king of the heap.

The .45 Colt (aka .45 Long Colt) was top of the heap in it's day, and the old load is no slouch, even today. And today, we have a lot more power available to us. Everything has gone up quite a bit lately, and ammo more than much (except gas), the .45 Colt uses a big bullet, and a big case, so raw material cost is high, and that is having an exaggerated effect in today's market. I have been handloading the .45 Colt for nearly 25 years, and had no idea factory ammo costs had gotten so high.

Handloading is the way to go if you want to shoot more than rarely. After the cost of the tools, and not counting the cost of your time (which is more important to some than others) you can make your own ammo for half (or less) the cost of factory ammo. Cast your own bullets and again, once you get past the start up costs (and more work for you), it gets as cheap as possible.

Good quality reloading tools, properly cared for, will last you the rest of your life, and will likely serve your children well also. Over the long run, they are really quite cheap. Making good ammo is a learning experience, but the curve is not too steep, and it doesn't take long to learn.

My preference is for Rugers, and .45 Colt. I also have a Vaquero in .44 Mag, and a Super Single Six in .22LR/.22mag. Great value for the money. Neither the cheapest nor the most expensive, and neither the best (but pretty dang good) nor the worst, but I think they are a good value. And, they can be "slicked" up if you desire.

Ruger SA's are built like tanks, it takes a lot of abuse/neglect to actually hurt one, other than the finish, so you might consider looking around at the used ones. Especially if you are willing to put up with some blemishes, you can get a mechanically good gun for even less.

One other thing, Rugers are made in the USA.
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Old June 18, 2007, 11:02 PM   #9
Doug.38PR
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.45 Long Colt. If you are planning on using this gun for defense, .357 or .45 will do fine. If you are getting it for admiration, you will appreciate it in .45 LC even more. If you are getting it to shoot, it just needs the .45 LC through it. (besides, you could probably handload your own to save money).
And, if you are getting it for admiration, don't get it in Ruger, get it in Colt or at least Uberti Cimmeron
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Old June 19, 2007, 03:43 AM   #10
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The 1873 and the .45 LC together are a classic. Rather buy a cheap Lee turret press than compromising on the calibre. The press is only about $100 and easy to operate, making it a good first press.
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Old June 19, 2007, 04:29 AM   #11
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Quote:
I have a .357 DA revolver (Python) and am quite happy with the caliber's performance and cost. I'd like to be just as happy with a SA revolver, and think caliber will play a big factor.

Help me decide....357 or .45 LC?
Like you I had owned a 357 DA revolver first , the addition to a 357 SA was an easy choice for me. I can load up a bunch of 357 rounds and shoot them in any of my guns , Smith DAs , Ruger SAs or my TC single shot. None of them are really finicky about what they shoot well with.

For the big bore SA I have a 31 year old Ruger SBH "Liberty Model" SBH 44 mag. I like the steel gripframe on the blued 44 mags. But I don't shoot it nearly as much as I do my 357 BHs. In fact it will probably be sold so I can aquire another 357 BH , in stainless.

Only had the chance to shoot one 45 LC SA , a Ruger Bisley. The owner had sent the cylinder off to Bowen to have the throats reamed and with the cast bullet "plinking" reloads it was quite accurate and about as mild as a big bore could be to shoot.
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Old June 19, 2007, 12:16 PM   #12
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I can't think of a better all around workhorse than a .45 Colt in the hands of a handloader. Just My old fashioned opinion. Essex
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Old June 19, 2007, 12:44 PM   #13
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re: 44 AMP
That was one of the best, most detailed descriptions I've read. Wish I'd read it myself a month or so ago. I've pieced together a lot of the same info, but it's nice to see it in one place. You've produced a very good intro to this subject, and people should be directed to this when looking at SAs.

Lots of choices, none of them "wrong".

As of this morning I now own a .22, .38/.357, .44, and .45ACP/.45LC. All Ruger Bisleys (one Bisquero), and all but one in stainless.

-- Sam
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Old June 19, 2007, 01:04 PM   #14
rabid_rob
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Once again, everyone here has helped me learn a great deal in a short period of time. I'm convinced to go with .45 LC now, as it is the "right" caliber for a old-style SA revolver.
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Old June 19, 2007, 08:44 PM   #15
StrikeEagle
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Quote:
I'm convinced to go with .45 LC now, as it is the "right" caliber for a old-style SA revolver.
That's the choice I'd have made, too. It's the choice I DID make! Hope you reload for it. I even cast for mine!

Have fun!
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Old June 19, 2007, 09:22 PM   #16
nutty ned
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Which Caliber for a SA Revolver?

.357 blackhawk with convertible 9mm cylinder.
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Old June 19, 2007, 11:16 PM   #17
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No wrong choice

There really is no wrong choice, because it is all about what you want. There are some choices that are better than others for certain application, but bottom line is whatever is most pleasing to you.

Everybody sees things a little different, and a good thing too, that is why we have so many choices. Some people prefer the look and balance of the original Colt, and glady restrict themselves to the safe performance envelope of the 1873 Peacemaker. Those folks tend to prefer the original old west cartridges, although I seem to remember at one time you could get a Colt SAA in .357 Magnum.

Others, including myself enjoy the single action style of revolver, but are not dedicated to the Colt SAA design. We want more performance from our guns, or at least the capability of more performance should we decide to use it. Adjustable sights, coil mainsprings, safety systems that allow it to be carried fully loaded, etc. These kinds of features make the "modern" single action a much more useful and fun gun for us. We respect the old Colt design, but for our uses the additional strength and features make guns like Rugers and Freedom Arms a better choice for us.

My father never had a single action revolver when I was growing up, said he didn't like the grip. He had several DA revolvers and autopistols. Dad's pistols were .22lr, .38Spl, .357 Magnum (S&W Model 28, 6", and a pair of 1911s, one in .38 Super and the other in .45 ACP. And I got a bit of experience with his guns while growing up. My first SA revolver was a Ruger Blackhawk (7.5") in .45 Colt/.45 ACP, that I bought new in 1983. I originally bought the gun because of the .45 ACP cylinder. I had a .45 auto, and figured that a revolver in that caliber would let me plink with my ammo without having to scrounge around in the sagebrush in order to find the brass to reload.

But I made a huge mistake.

On the way home, I bought a box of Winchester .45 Colt, because I figured, well I had thew cylinder for it, I might as well have some ammo for it. I had never fired the .45 Colt before, and really didn't know all that much about it.

The mistake was I shot a cylinder of .45 Colt first. WOW! The gun roared, and the muzzled headed for the sky! No problem hanging on, but no stopping it either! This was way more (it seemed) than the .45 ACP! It was nearly like the .357 but not quite as sharp feeling, and without the tremendous crack of the .357 muzzle blast. I thought, this is great!

After shooting about half the box, I put in the ACP cylinder, and it was a real letdown. Compared to the .45 Colt, the .45 auto rounds felt weak. Wow! I went to my collection of gun magazines and books (just a bit pre-internet), and started learning all I could about the .45 Colt, loads, and the Ruger New Model Blackhawk that I had. Then I went and got dies, some more brass, and some bullets, and never looked back. I may have fired 300 rounds of .45 ACP through that gun in the 24 years since, but no more than that. I was hooked on the .45 Colt.

I spent a few years expirimenting with extra heavy loads, and different grips to handle the recoil. Eventually I settled on a load heavier than orginal factory, but lighter than the magnum levels. 10gr Unique and a 250gr LSWC (hardcast) runs 1070fps from my Blackhawk, and does me quite well for plinking, long range shooting (yes, it is not only possible, it isn't as hard as most think), and small/medium game, up to deer.

It has become very popular in recent years to use heavier than "standard" bullets for bigger game in handguns. 180gr .357s, 300gr .44s and .45s. And while I cannot deny they have proven effective, I have never been convinced of the actual need to use them. Heavier recoil, and strain on the gun and shooter is the drawback, and I don't see the downrange advantage as being worth it, at least for me. I can no longer hunt often or in rugged country due to health reasons, so most of my shooting these days is plinking, and at the range. If you are hunting large game, elk,moose, big bear, or even hogs (which are pretty tough) there could well be an advantage to the extra heavy slugs. I'm not doing that, and not likely to be, but if you can do it, enjoy.

And whikle on the subject of single actions in general, I would like to put in a word for the humble .22 rimfire. I have found that a single action .22 makes a fine gun for training new pistol shooters, especially younger ones, and those with no experience with recoil and who might be noise sensitive. I have know a few women who did not shoot well, not because they couldn't, or that they couldn't handle the recoil, it was the noise and blast (even with ear/eye protection-always) that intimidated them. They developed a flinch, because they were given too much, too soon.

A good SA .22 (I prefer the Ruger with adjustable sights) goes from CB caps up to .22 Magnum (with the extra cylinder), and can be very accurate. A little bit of work, or a few years of steady use can slick them up real nice, and the beginning shooter has to work a bit for each shot. Lots of children (and some adults) shoot too fast when they are learning. Semi autos really make it easy, and accuracy suffers. While the .22 is the cheapest ammo, letting beginners waste it does them no good. The SA forces them to slow down, and concentrate on the basics. Once they get the basics down, they can move on to other guns, and they do, but a surprising number come back to the SA revolver. To the .22 for nostalgia and economy, and larger calibers for more serious uses.

Modern SA revolvers are very hard to beat in the hunting fields as well, being just as accurate and effective as DA guns, while generally being lighter and costing less in comparable calibers. Generally.

To me, a gun like the Ruger Blackhawk embodies the best of the old and the new, rolled into one. The Vaquero takes this a step further towards the traditional Colt appearance, while keeping several of the modern features, including the capability for high intensity rounds beyond the safe limits of the Colt SAA and clones.

And there are clones of the Colt SAA out there, ranging from poor to very good in quality and value, so those those who have Colt tastes but don't have Colt wallets can enjoy the SAA as well.

The Single action revolver, like the lever action rifle are iconic in American history. Owning and shooting guns like these is a living connection to our past. And they are fun too!

I have a couple of dozen handguns, of several different types, but the ones that get shot the most often are single action revolvers!
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Old June 19, 2007, 11:33 PM   #18
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Yeah know, the .38 Colt was a popular cartridge back in the day. I think the .38 Special / 357 Mag is a great choice for a SA revolver. I have .45's and .38's and I shoot the .38's far more.
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Old June 20, 2007, 04:53 AM   #19
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44 Amp

Great posts! Thank you.

I agree that .45 Colt is the Real Deal in these guns. It feels powerful without being sharp and annoying like .357 can be.

My standard load is 6.0 of Red Dot behind a 250ish cast bullet. Very inexpensive, superbly accurate, and it pretty much duplicates the traditional factory loadings.
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