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Old May 22, 2020, 07:30 PM   #1
Swifty Morgan
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Help me Work up .45 ACP Load

My new .45 brass arrived, and I want to crank out .45 rounds in the 850-900-fps range in order to get rid of hundreds of Hornady XTP 230-grain bullets (SKU 45160).

I will have to go toward the maximum end of the spectrum to get there. "No problem," I thought. "I'll just check the casings for signs of high pressure."

Then I saw someone on the Internet claiming a .45 casing which was loaded too hot might not show pressure signs.

Okay.

Is that true? If so, how does anyone ever work up a .45 ACP load?
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Old May 22, 2020, 07:46 PM   #2
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I started with Winchester 231, because it was available and received good reviews for use in .45 ACP. I had been saving range brass (mostly Winchester), so that wasn't a concern. The shop at my range at the time stocked Winchester primers, so I bought Winchester primers.

For bullets I bought Berry's plated 230-grain round nose. Back then, Berry's didn't provide any load data other than "use mid-range loads for lead bullets." (Their suggestions have changed multiple times since then, and are still equally useless.) So I went to the Winchester/Hodgdon web site and picked a mid-range charge for a 230-grain round nose bullet. For C.O.A.L. I measured some factory Winchester rounds, and I used that as my baseline.

I expected a velocity in the high 700s to about 800 fps. Imagine my surprise when the first batch clocked under 700 fps over the chronograph. Puzzled, I consulted an e-friend in the reloading area of the M1911.org forum. He suggested that I measure the bullets, and then pull a bullet from a factory Winchester round. What that showed was that the Berry's bullets, although the same weight as the Winchester bullets, are significantly shorter. Meaning that I had excess capacity behind the bullet.

I'm still loading them to a C.O.A.L. of 1.270", but I'm now 1/10th of a grain over what Winchester/Hodgdon says is max. My velocity is still under 800 fps, so I don't think I have any concerns about over-pressure.

If you can't find published load data for the XTP bullet and the powder you want to use, I guess just start at the starting load for some similar bullet and go from there. If you want to try to compare the XTP bullet to others to assess difference in seating depth, the guy I consulted has been collecting bullet dimensional data just for that purpose.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...#gid=519572970
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Old May 22, 2020, 07:58 PM   #3
Swifty Morgan
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Thanks. I do have published data. I think I wasn't clear.

I'm going to have to use maximum loads of Unique or No.7. Even though the data is published, my understanding is that I have to be careful. That suggests I need to look out for pressure signs or other indications that the ammo is too hot.

If .45 brass doesn't necessarily show pressure signs when it's too hot, how does anyone ever work up a load safely? How do they know their loads are okay?

I found something comforting. In October of 2017, Handloader Ammunition Reloading Journal published some data for the XTP. They went beyond the Hornady manual, which tops out at 6.1 grains and 1.230". They went to 6.8 and 1.205".

I don't need their max load, because they were at 949, and I would be very happy with 900 or maybe somewhat less.

I don't know if Handloader Ammunition Reloading Journal is considered a good source. I would think they make an effort to avoid being sued.

It sort of looks like I could start out at 6.5 and, with any luck, get what I want at that weight.

https://www.handloadermagazine.com/l...-acp-pet-loads
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Old May 22, 2020, 08:31 PM   #4
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It's true -- the part about a 45 might not show obvious signs of excess pressure. It's a low pressure round and primers might not show significant signs of flattening or cratering. But sometimes they do.

The brass might not show excessive bulging in the unsupported region of the barrel chamber, but sometimes they do. It can depend on what brand of brass you're using and how well your chamber supports the case.

For these reasons, the general rule is to not exceed the published load data, but as white eagle notes, bullet length and seating depth can influence the actual pressure and velocity you will get.

If you have a chronograph then you're in good shape. Work up your load as usual, watching for pressure signs. If you reach your desired velocity, even without pressure signs, stop. You have achieved your goal. You don't know what the pressure is - could be high or low - but there's no need to go farther and if you stay within published load data, that should be enough of a guarantee that you're not in the danger zone. Of course, there are always exceptions.
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Old May 22, 2020, 08:42 PM   #5
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It's unlikely you would ever see pressure signs in 45 Auto brass, but the problems you could encounter with hot loads are different than in a rifle or revolver. A local range officer told me a shooter there fired a double charged (or triple, they weren't sure) 45 round. Blew the mag out and did some other damage, but it did not destroy the gun. The first problem with too hot rounds is excessive slide velocity. If the brass is going into the next zip code, you are going to get reduced functional reliability, and you could eventually damage your pistol. I have seen a 1911 with a cracked frame due to a steady diet of hot loads. But your goal should be nowhere near that territory. Hornady lists 5 powders that reach 900 fps in tested safe loads. Unique is on the list. Personally, I like Power Pistol for most of my bottom feeders, but that's just me. Follow Hornady and enjoy.
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Old May 22, 2020, 10:31 PM   #6
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Personally would not go towards "the maximum end of the spectrum" without a chron to show what the velocity's actually are, and how they compare to what is expected. Especially so with AA-7, which can get very touchy in 45 acp at the upper end. And no, measuring the velocitys is not perfect, but better than guessing imo.
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Old May 22, 2020, 10:51 PM   #7
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Quote:
It's true -- the part about a 45 might not show obvious signs of excess pressure. It's a low pressure round and primers might not show significant signs of flattening or cratering. But sometimes they do.
I agree. It's true. 45 ACP isn't a high pressure round; so by the time you're seeing flattening primers, you're likely way over SAAMI spec pressure. Because of the low pressure, 45 ACP load work ups is a nervy proposition. It's easy to go way over spec and not realize it. There's no real way to know how close you are to dismantling your gun.

Aside from that, reading primers for signs of pressure is a lot like reading tea leaves - only not as accurate.

You wanna drive 230's to the 850-900 range. Assuming you're shooting a full-size 1911 or the like (5"-ish bbl), you should have no problem getting to that velocity using Unique or AA#7. You're on a path well traveled and there is no reason why reputable published load data won't get you there.

I'm bigger fan of AA#7 than Unique, but in this case, I had better luck with Unique. Unique does well in this application. BTW, I basically spent the summer of '18 doing high-performance load work ups for 45 ACP. In the process, I sent a lot of 230 XTP's downrange. I have lots of chronograph data for this one - using both AA#7 and Unique.

Quote:
. . . how does anyone ever work up a load safely? How do they know their loads are okay?
We start with reputable published data. We load carefully. We measure with a chronograph. And last, we pay attention to the gun's performance. Is the cycle smooth? How far is the brass flying? Is the recoil jarring? Experience comes in handy here. What we do here is not perfectly safe. There is some leap of faith - we just try to keep those leaps as short as possible.
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Old Yesterday, 02:36 AM   #8
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I realize its not as much fun as shooting, but if you need to "get rid" of hundreds of factory bullets, why not just sell them??

Here's a couple things to consider, first SAAMI specs are for an industry wide safe load in every gun out there. Ammo pressures (and velocities) that do not strain any gun, including the weakest models.

Many of us have learned over the years that you can "powder for power" in the .45ACP, and go past SAAMI spec limits BUT there is a point (well past SAAMI) where you can damage the gun, and possibly yourself.

The gun MATTERS. They're built to run at regular levels, and when you go past that, as mentioned, it starts straining the mechanism. Some guns tolerate it better than others, I know there's a difference between 1911A1s, and 1911s and SIGs. I assume Glocks will be a beast of their own, as well, though I don't own any or plan to.

There are things you can do to the guns to better adapt them for heavier than standard loads, Some have already been mentioned. Stronger springs, shock-buff, square edge firing pin stop, are all things that have been used with 1911s.

I've pushed the Speer flying ashtray (200gr JHP) from a 4.25" barrel SIG to a clocked 998fps. With Unique. Not a load I shoot often, but one that works (and quite "snappy) without any pressure signs, primer or case.

However, that same ammo, fired through a friend's 1911A1 pattern pin gun (comped barrel and all the bells and whistles) cratered primers every shot.

For my gun, the load, while hot, seemed ok. In his gun it showed pressure signs.

If you go beyond "the book" you are on your own, and there are dragons out there.

Remember that going beyond SAAMI doesn't mean the dragons will eat you. Only that they COULD.

Good Luck
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Old Yesterday, 04:22 AM   #9
Mike / Tx
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Quote:
My new .45 brass arrived, and I want to crank out .45 rounds in the 850-900-fps range in order to get rid of hundreds of Hornady XTP 230-grain bullets (SKU 45160).

I will have to go toward the maximum end of the spectrum to get there. "No problem," I thought. "I'll just check the casings for signs of high pressure."
Having grown up around the ACP and shooting one or another for the past 45'ish years, I'm just curious about why you feel you "HAVE" to load those Hornaday bullets to the max just to shoot them up?

I've shot who knows how many rounds through the three 45s i own now. Most have been in the 750-850fps range, but I have also gone lower and higher. That said most of the higher loads involved lighter cast bullets in the 170-185'ish grain range. The slower were in the 250-265'ish range, and not a lot of them.

Trust me I like fast, but I use calibers known for fast to get there. Hornady builds the XTP to work over a range of velocity that the calibers normally run at. Now if you were using maybe the Mag XTP then to get any expansion you would need more speed, but the standard for the ACP will do just fine at 750-850fps.
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Old Yesterday, 09:58 AM   #10
Swifty Morgan
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It seems that what I'm hearing is that if the chronograph reading is low enough, the load is okay. That doesn't make sense to me, because I've seen loads with certain powders limited at lower speeds than other powders. It must be possible to have unacceptably high pressure without excessive speed.
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Old Yesterday, 10:26 AM   #11
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Isn't 800fps standard for the .45? I made tests using Bullseye and after finding my pet load of 5.0gr, discovered it was the standard petload for the round. I played with bullet seating depth to. My results were: 1.20" OAL was about 2-1/2" at 20 yards and 1.272" to just fit in the magazine = 1" groups. I didn't test the OAL by dropping the round in the chamber so you should consider that.
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Old Yesterday, 10:35 AM   #12
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Someone correct me here if I'm wrong but I think that if you load too hot of a round for a semi-auto, the slide will start to slam back as the spring can't handle it. Common sense will tell you that you should stop.
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Old Yesterday, 11:03 AM   #13
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I usually stick to loads close to the minimum or mid-range, but when Working up to max loads just verify nothing unexpected is happening. Check your primers, check your brass, watch how far the brass flies, etc. As long as nothing abnormal happens and you can cross reference the load in more than one published manual I have no problem loading max loads.

45 ACP has been around for 100+ years and most of the max loads out there are going to be fairly well established.
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Old Yesterday, 11:32 AM   #14
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Quote:
Isn't 800fps standard for the .45? I made tests using Bullseye and after finding my pet load of 5.0gr, discovered it was the standard petload for the round. I played with bullet seating depth to. My results were: 1.20" OAL was about 2-1/2" at 20 yards and 1.272" to just fit in the magazine = 1" groups. I didn't test the OAL by dropping the round in the chamber so you should consider that.
Standards have changed over the years. Unclenick knows them off the top of his head, but i can tell you that Winchester brown box does about 850-860 fps out of my full size 1911's with 230 gr hardballs. (Verified by my Labradar)

When i made my target load, i sought to duplicate that and used win 244 which is the new version of win 231. 850-860 fps out of a government sized 1911 with a 230 grain bullet is within standard pressure and functions perfectly. I do not load any plus p stuff for 45 acp myself as i dont see the point.
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Old Yesterday, 11:52 AM   #15
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Quote:
It seems that what I'm hearing is that if the chronograph reading is low enough, the load is okay. That doesn't make sense to me, because I've seen loads with certain powders limited at lower speeds than other powders. It must be possible to have unacceptably high pressure without excessive speed.
Expecting a slower powder to have same pressure at same velocity as a faster powder might not be reasonable, or expected. If you are using a manual, there should be expected velocity's for the powder you are using. You check the velocity for that powder, not another slower or faster powder.
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Old Yesterday, 01:04 PM   #16
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Some good info here for OP. zeke is right on the money here. I'm also with the Unique users. Easy to load with. Looking at my notes and two different manuals, 6.0-6.2gr Unique will put you where you want regarding your fps. Do you have access to a chronograph? They're a big help.
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Old Yesterday, 01:20 PM   #17
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Swifty,you might want to re-evaluate your approach to handloading.

The goal is not to achieve "pressure signs" Achieving "pressure signs" is not part of "working up a load"

In centerfire rifle cartridges,at normal.safe pressures of 50,000 to 60,000 psi,you won't see "pressure signs"

A 45 ACP 1911 runs at about 20,000 psi. You really don't want to see "pressure signs"

Semi-automatic recoil operated guns are designed around a particular cartridge performance.That wheel has been invented over the last 100 plus years folks have been loading 1911. There is no need to re-ivent it.

If the 1911 is designed for about 850 fps with a 230 gr bullet,thats what the slide mass and springs,etc,are designed to work with.

Thats your target. There is plenty of reference material to get there.

You might look for minimum deviation,powder that meters well,and burns clean. Especially to use up a finite quantity of bullets.

I've got an old solid axle 4x4 toyota. I run tires about 29 in in diameter.

What happens if I push for 34 inch tires? Well,I might have to lift the truck a bit. OK, It looks tough with big tires and a lift!!

But now I have to slip the clutch,it won't pull 5th,or even 4th gear,and my u-joints are failing. Well,OK,tapered shims at the spring perches cure the drive line angles,and for only $1000 or so I can re-Gear both axles. Heck,I could get 5.29's A stump puller!!

But now,with those big tires and lower gears,there is enough torque to break axles and,BTW,my brakes are sort of marginal..

My point is, a 1911 is a balanced package with a given ammo performance.

There is more to maintaining that balance than adding powder and "looking for pressure signs"

But you do it your way. I'm sure you will learn a lot.

Last edited by HiBC; Yesterday at 01:29 PM.
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Old Yesterday, 01:51 PM   #18
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You are looking for a load for XTP?

Western Powders Data; Hornady XTP 230GR using AA#7, 9.2gr @ 897fps to 9.6gr @ 940fps. These are listed as a +P load.

Their normal start load is 7.8gr @743fps.
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Old Yesterday, 02:40 PM   #19
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Quote:
It seems that what I'm hearing is that if the chronograph reading is low enough, the load is okay. That doesn't make sense to me, because I've seen loads with certain powders limited at lower speeds than other powders. It must be possible to have unacceptably high pressure without excessive speed.
swifty

Powders bun at different rates, and there are multiple powders that are used to achieve different desired results. Some folks want a very mild recoil which means slow velocity typically. This is best achieved by using a faster burning powder rather than downloading a slower power. On the other hand, better velocities are achieved with slower powders.

Typical load work up would focus on a velocity you are seeking, then choosing a powder best suited for that load. Just because a powder will work, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for many reasons.....one of which is that powders are designed to burn best at specified pressures. They might not burn cleanly or thoroughly if you do not operate somewhere near the 20k psi the 45 is rated for.

A faster burning powder will achieve near 20k psi at much lower velocities than a slower powder.
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Old Yesterday, 04:33 PM   #20
Swifty Morgan
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Okay, I don't know where I said I was hoping to see pressure signs. That would be bizarre.

What I was trying to find out was how people tell .45 loads are okay, given that .45 cases don't necessarily show pressure signs.

I am not trying to get a super-fast load. I want somewhere between 850 and 900, using published loads. The problem was that I knew that if I got close to the high end for a published load, I might have a problem even though whoever published the load did not. I wanted to know how to tell if the load was too hot for my gun.

All that being said, I used a published load, backed off 0.3 grains, and definitely got too much pressure. I can see bulges in a couple of cases. It looks like there is a dent going around the cases above the bulges, presumably where the barrel contacted them.

I also got a lot more speed than the published load suggested. The average was 951, which is about what Handloader Ammunition Reloading Journal got for 0.3 grains more powder. On the up side, the spread was tiny: 8 fps. Also, the load felt friendly and manageable. Too bad I can't use it.

I guess I'll go down 0.3 grains and see what happens.
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Old Yesterday, 05:22 PM   #21
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Some pistols do not offer as much case support as others. Certain Glocks are noted for creating the bulge and it was named the "Glock Bulge".

I don't shoot Glocks. All my 1911s are manufactured by Colt and I have never had bulges on the cases.

If by chance you are shooting your loads out of one of those mentioned Glocks, that is why you have the bulges.

The method I normally use to determine if I am out of bounds with my loads is the manner in which the case is ejected. Sometimes I had a load that would smack me right between the eyes (or in that territory) and I changed the load. Sometimes the ejected cases are thrown at maybe 8-10 feet from me. I back those down to get them 4-6 feet from me. And, the methodology goes on.

I am sure others have different methods to speak about when they think about them. This is just what I go by. It works for me, and that is what matters most.
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Old Yesterday, 05:27 PM   #22
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I suggest you stick to published loads......per Hornady in your case. By the time the cases show high pressure it may be a kaboom. Primers are unreliable too as for pressure signs.
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Old Yesterday, 05:39 PM   #23
Swifty Morgan
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My gun is an SW1911.

Here is what I got with 6.2 grains:

908
906
910
905
888

The cases look fine.

I guess if I go to 6.1, I'll be where I want to be.

The consistency is really impressive. I guess it pays to clean your powder measure.

I love the new chronograph. It puts all this stuff in PDF files.
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Old Yesterday, 05:56 PM   #24
burbank_jung
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Watch your cases and beware of Kabooms. My brother's G20 blew up in my hand and I thought my fingers were shredded because it was so painful. My hand and finger were ok.
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Old Yesterday, 05:59 PM   #25
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Swifty, did you ever say what powder you are using?

I don't load .45 ACP, but I would probably use just over 5 grains of Bullseye or Green Dot, or about 6 grains of Unique. It's an old cartridge, you should use an old powder. 231 is probably a good one too, but I don't have a feel for how much.
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