The .45 Auto Does it All
Date: Oct 30 2014
My niece recently made a steal of a buy on a barely used Colt Lightweight Commander .45 Auto. Of course, she came to show me the pistol, and the conversation quickly turned to what ammunition she should shoot. The Commander has a 4.25-inch barrel and with its aluminum frame weighs a light 25 ounces, so Mikayla would need practice loads, and lots of them, to master the light pistol. She would also need a potent load for protection while she is backpacking and hiking mountain trails. While working on loads for her Colt, I planned to also develop loads for similar uses in my full-size Colt Gold Cup National Match .45 Auto that weighs 37 ounces with a 5-inch barrel.
Proper .45 Auto practice loads must be economical, accurate and low-recoiling. Speer 185-grain Total Metal Jacket Match SWC bullets would be perfect, if not for their cost of $25 for a box of 100. The Speer Reloading Manual #14 lists relatively light powder charges for this target bullet. At velocities of about 700 fps, recoil energy was a mild 3.6 to 4.0 foot-pounds (ft-lbs) from the light Commander. Recoil was so light from the Gold Cup I sometimes wondered if the gun had cycled. However, every one of the cartridges listed in the load table cycled through both .45 pistols.
These light powder charges can cause wide swings in velocity, although all three loads for the Speer TMJ bullet listed in the load table produced acceptable extreme velocity spreads. Unique provided the most uniform velocities, with a 15 fps spread for five shots in the Gold Cup. Titewad was the most constant, with a span of 57 fps in the Commander.
Accuracy was also good at 25 yards. The Commander has a grating trigger pull yet on a sandbag rest kept five of the Speer bullets inside 3 inches at 25 yards. The Gold Cup grouped somewhat tighter. All three loads for the Speer TMJ listed in the load table hit closely in line with the sights of both pistols – ever so slightly above aim at 25 yards. That’s important for the Commander, because its rear sight is adjustable only for windage.
My regular target bullet is cast from a Lee six-cavity TL452-200- SWC aluminum mould. The sprue plate for the mould is also made of aluminum and requires all my attention while casting, because the aluminum plate is not stiff enough to cleanly shear the hardened sprue. The instructions state to fill the mould then “Quickly cut the sprue by moving the sprue lever to the right.” I tried that, and with the lead barely solidified, the sprue cleanly cut from the base of the bullets However, there is a balance of cutting the sprue when the lead alloy had hardened just enough to prevent smears of lead from building up between the mould and the plate and letting the sprue harden too much with a resulting bump on the base of the bullets. I finally got the hang of it, and bullets began to pile up. Bullets fell from the mould at exactly 200 grains with a diameter of .451 inch, so there was no reason to size them. That worked out perfectly, because the TL in the TL452-200-SWC mould designation stands for “tumble lube” with five shallow grooves on the bullets that hold lubricant. The lubricant is applied by tumbling bullets with a sufficient amount of liquid lubricant, like Alox, to fill the grooves and entirely coat the bullets.