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Old October 9, 2008, 08:38 PM   #1
44Magnum
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Cowboy Load Confusion

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a cowboy action shooter and have done no formal historical research on the subject. I am hoping somebody here has. Are the reduced power cowboy loads simply made so that it's easier to handle the guns quickly, or is it because the old ammunition was actually weak? How powerful was the ammunition "back in the day?"

Just curious.
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Old October 9, 2008, 09:24 PM   #2
B. Lahey
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The new "cowboy" loads are only for making huge steel targets a foot and a half from the firing line go "plink" as quickly as possible. They are strictly for entertaining accountants who decided to wear chaps and name themselves Buckshot Billy.

The old loads were not for games, they were for hunting and SD, and were loaded for those purposes. They had no use for cases full of cornmeal, the brass for the old calibers is large because they had to be big to hold as much blackpowder as they wanted (a lot).
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Old October 9, 2008, 10:02 PM   #3
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Well put B. Lahey, & I concurr the large caliber pistols were every bit the man stoper & game getting loads that todays large caliber handguns are.

Not to mention that untill the 20th century all pistol & revolver bullets were pure lead which means that when they struck their target they started to expand due to resistance, maybe not as severe as todays hollow point bullets but they did expand some.

.45 Colt = 40gr. FFg. 255gr. bullet = 900fps. - 458ft. lbs.
.44 Russian = 24gr. FFFg. 245gr. bullet = 750fps. - 305ft. lbs.
.44-40 WCF = 40gr. FFg. 200gr. bullet = 1050fps. - 489ft. lbs.
.45 Schofield = 26gr. FFFg. 230gr. bullet = 750fps. - 286ft. lbs.

That's to name just the most popular rounds of the time, there were some .38 & 32 caliber rounds but they were mostly in smaller more concealed pistols with a few exceptions.
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Old October 9, 2008, 11:07 PM   #4
Fingers McGee
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Quote:
The new "cowboy" loads are only for making huge steel targets a foot and a half from the firing line go "plink" as quickly as possible. They are strictly for entertaining accountants who decided to wear chaps and name themselves Buckshot Billy.
Hadn't heard it explained quite that way before. :barf:
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Old October 10, 2008, 04:08 AM   #5
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Quote:
The new "cowboy" loads are only for making huge steel targets a foot and a half from the firing line go "plink" as quickly as possible. They are strictly for entertaining accountants who decided to wear chaps and name themselves Buckshot Billy.
They're not that big and they're a little bit further away than a foot and a half. The average is 16 inches at 7-10 yds. for pistols. Very easy to hit when you take your time. Not always so easy when you're on the clock. BTW only gamer rounds go plink when they hit. Real rounds go clang.
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Old October 10, 2008, 07:47 AM   #6
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If ya have never loaded up some 45 LC cases to the way they were back in the day ...250 ..255 gr bullet over 34 grs of real black 2F ...it`s a very impressive load ..now thats a cowboy load ! ...it would be a waste to shoot thses rounds at a SASS match ...you wouldn`t shoot them fast because of the recoil ..The black powder doesn`t create the pressures of smokeless rounds ..so these loads are safe in modern reproduction pistols ..but they will make ya take a step back and say WOW ..
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Old October 10, 2008, 08:12 AM   #7
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BTW only gamer rounds go plink when they hit. Real rounds go clang.
One of the reasons a lot of folks have stepped away from the sport is not the "gamers" and their light loads, it's everybody else complaining about everybody else's ammo.....Can't even get past 3 or 4 pages in the "Cowboy Chronicle" (SASS member newspaper) without a new article about it.

A lot of folks forgot this sport was supposed to be fun......


And I am not an "accountant in chaps"....I am a Logistics Manager in Boots
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Old October 10, 2008, 03:29 PM   #8
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Thank you all very much for clearing this up. What I get from the posts is that, while made differently, old ammunition still packed the wallop it does today.

Just one other question: They used straight lead cast bullets back then right? How could they achieve the same power without leading the weapons horribly?
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Old October 10, 2008, 04:22 PM   #9
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Smokeless powders have a different burning rate compared to Real Black Powder & would get hot enough to cause some leading issues "tis why we have the copper jacketed bullets we have today" but with Black Powder the bullets would normally not be subjected to the higher temps & with proper cleaning of the weapons the issue was very nill at best.
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Old October 10, 2008, 07:45 PM   #10
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mmmmmmmmm, bullet hardness has more to do with leading. Very hard bullets lead worse than soft ones. I shoot bp and smokeless with the same bullets and I get very little leading. I cast my own and haven't seen a jacketed bullet in so long I barely remember what they look like.
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Old October 10, 2008, 08:01 PM   #11
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HH I didn't think of it like that but come to think of it in my 45-70 my cast clip on wheel weights seemed to filth up my bore more than my pure cast so I got rid of all of my clip on stuff not really thinking about that.
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Old October 10, 2008, 08:31 PM   #12
44Magnum
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Excellent explanations. Thank you all very much.
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Old October 29, 2008, 10:08 AM   #13
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There are "cowboy" loads and there are "cowboy" loads. For instance, Ten-X sells .45 LC in five different loads. I buy the 200 gr. lead flat nose. Magtech sells cowboy .45 LC loaded with 250 gr. that generate 761 FPS and a 100 yd trajectory of 8.3". That ain't no weak round! The difference I see is price. Cowboy loads usually cost a bit less.

But, there are those bird shot cowboy loads used to bust balloons while riding a horse. Then there are those with wax bullets.

Yeah, those cowboy shooters go a bit overboard, but I'm a American Civil War reenactor so there days when I might look a bit funny at a McDonalds too. Be thankful that there are so many of us who do this stuff. It keeps the industry interested in supplying reproductions of these fine old weapons.

Harry
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Old October 29, 2008, 12:10 PM   #14
Hawg
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Quote:
But, there are those bird shot cowboy loads used to bust balloons while riding a horse.
They're not bird shot, they're blanks. You've got to be good to bust a balloon from horseback with a blank. Kinda puts a different perspective on it doesn't it?
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Old October 29, 2008, 07:26 PM   #15
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They're not bird shot, they're blanks. You've got to be good to bust a balloon from horseback with a blank. Kinda puts a different perspective on it doesn't it?

Fer sure

BTW- B Lahey is totally full of the B stuff & has obvisially NEVER attended a SASS match
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Old October 30, 2008, 07:36 AM   #16
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They use a crimped case full of coarse powder to bust those ballons (embers burn slower )...not a problem out to around 20 ft or so ...I`ve seen them install smooth bore barrels on their pistols to make shooting these type blanks with an edge . Fun to watch too .
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Old October 30, 2008, 08:29 AM   #17
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I`ve seen them install smooth bore barrels on their pistols to make shooting these type blanks with an edge

They better be REAL quiet about it, then. That being illegal and all.
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Old October 30, 2008, 09:24 AM   #18
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C'mon; B. Lahey added a smiley to his statement, indicating he made it in jest. I found it rather funny! Sounds like some cowboy action shooters take more than clock times and ammunition way too seriously.
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Old October 30, 2008, 09:49 AM   #19
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I didn`t figure the smooth bores were not allowed in the mounted cowboy shooting ...there was a company with a booth set up selling the barrels at the last event I attended ....hummm go figure ...
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Old October 30, 2008, 10:01 AM   #20
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I shoot a relatively light .38 special load. I do it for cost reasons and because I dislike the excessive "splatter" you can get from the stronger rounds. I have also fired some .45LC rounds that a guy had loaded with blackpowder to the "old time" standards.

In a word, WOW! Decent thump and a BIG cloud of smoke
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Old October 30, 2008, 03:24 PM   #21
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Point well taken on the bird shot. Sorry, I guess I just thought it was bird shot. I've never seen it done except on TV and they referred to is as "bird shot". Even then, you are right about how good these shooters are! They show'd a 13 yr. old girl in pigtails running a course and hitting every balloon. I can't even ride that well, let alone shoot while doing it!

Sort of reminds me of Clint Eastwood in "Unforgiven". He can't hit with the pistol so he gets out a shotgun. I'd hafta use grenades!

Harry
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Old October 30, 2008, 03:50 PM   #22
Hawg
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Quote:
I have also fired some .45LC rounds that a guy had loaded with blackpowder to the "old time" standards.

In a word, WOW! Decent thump and a BIG cloud of smoke
And the old balloon head cases held a few grs. more than modern cases.
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Old October 31, 2008, 01:17 PM   #23
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I had an interesting conversation with one of those horseback competitors, the only thing that comes out of those rounds is the still-burning powder which is what makes the balloons pop. And it is apparently unlawful to handload those rounds, they have to be purchased from a SASS approved dealer. The reason is the bystanders are commonly lined up along the path of the course and it would be dangerous for any projectile to be loaded, wax, shot or otherwise. The powder presumably burns up within a couple feet of the muzzle. The balloons appear to be just within that range when shot at.

Another interesting side note, they have special hearing protection for the horses.
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