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I think Colt is making a good decision by doing that ( .456 throats). If that simple measure offers an additional safety measure, I am all for it. Colt never increased the cylinder size on the SAA when both the new service and even the colt cowboy used a bigger cylinder. With Colt stating the slightly bigger cylinder on the cowboy was for it to make deeper cylinder notches for the bolt to enter. On a SAA 45 colt chambered cylinder, it appears there is about zero room for error when cutting bolt notches.
 

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Somewhere in this long thread I believe I mentioned blown up frames and cylinders that I've had to repair and replace. In 32 two years, probably 15 or 16, and also talked about my friend who has shot over 5,000 rounds of modern factory Winchester Silvertip .45's in an 1876 nickel SA with a 1905 cylinder in it. No signs of pressure, head space, firing pin deformation or primer flow back. So the above comment about weak cylinder configuration is accurate, IMHO. Ballisticians can use all the graphs and pressure measurements they want, but hands on examination speaks volumes. Personally, I would not shoot that ammo in any black powder gun, but it is a fitting testament to the strong design of the SA frame, old or new.

That said, 5 of the frames I repaired were modern, including a third gen. The trouble in all but one case of the 16 came from improper fitting of a speed shooting bolt or a bolt that was fitted/shaped improperly and light bolt/trigger spring, along with a very light main spring. In just about every case, the timing was OK but the springs so light that on fast cock the cylinder jumps out of alignment with the bore. A bullet with a round nose might slither into the forcing cone and realign the chamber but a semi wad cutter binds at the point of entry and there is your pressure spike creator. The one case where the cylinder blew but not the frame was with a gun that had all it's rounds cooked off in a fire. The cylinder opened up on top and bottom,( still have it to show), and it was a second gen.

So in my experience, a softer lead alloy if handloading is proper with black or smoke less powder, like 30 to 1. Hard bullets are hard on the guns, and when combined with the above mentioned fitting problems and chamber mouths that are too tight for bullet diameter, KABOOM!

jp
 

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Seems to me that solidifies the argument its their cylinders that are marginal at best, regardless of the steel properties... or era, in 45.

All the more proof that the smokeless-pressures discussion centers on a cylinder. Even today.
I have been reloading for 45 years and reloading 45 colt for 35. I have never had an issue using my reloaded 45 colt ammunition that was reloaded within current SAMMI pressure limits. I believe almost all of the damaged guns comes from those who push the limits beyond what is recommended for standard 45 colt or mistakes made reloading such as a double charge.
 

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I'm in agreement with Jplower and some other smiths on this forum. I believe SAAMI standards account for BP loads. But guns that are over 100 years old have so many unknowns as to wear, fit, etc, that firing them can lead to a KABOOM. They need to be checked out by a very knowledgeable smith before shooting either BP or Smokeless.
 

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I'm in agreement with Jplower and some other smiths on this forum. I believe SAAMI standards account for BP loads. But guns that are over 100 years old have so many unknowns as to wear, fit, etc, that firing them can lead to a KABOOM. They need to be checked out by a very knowledgeable smith before shooting either BP or Smokeless.

Interestingly enough, aside from the pressure curve between black powder and smokeless powder, I tested some full black powder 44-40 loads in original unheadstamped semi-balloon head cases pre-dating 1884. Using 40gr of Swiss FFg compressed .17", the results were 14,285psi which should be close to 17,000cup. My results produced 1,373fps velocities with a Lyman 215gr 427098 lead bullet. During the 1930's, smokeless powder 44-40 handloads were loaded to a max of 15,000cup rather than today's 13,000cup/11,000psi Max.

Using the same load in Starline cases, .21" powder compression, the results were much different at only 8,953psi @ 1,226fps

The recorded reduction in velocity is linier with actual factory reduction published velocities over time.

Dissection of original cartridges yielded anywhere between .17" powder compression for larger semi-balloonhead cases, .18" to .19" powder compression for smaller semi-balloon head cases to .21" for later and modern brass.


Here are all of the results 2020-9-19, 44-40 Pressure Results, 83 Tests

I know most hate to click links so here it is again
PressureTrace II 20" x 1 1/4" dia. MGM BarrelPT-IITempTargetPublished Load Information
Test #LOADPOWDERBULLETManufactureVelocity FPSEst PSIF#Notes
2532/wKik217 LRNFP43-215CNA6,04339
5540/wGoex FFF210 LRNFP43-210B1,2358,30543219WLP's, Crimp Inside Lube Groove, No Chrono
4140/wSwiss FF210 LRNFP4270981,2578,64839
4239/wSwiss FF205 LRNFP43-208A1,2218,84339
1140/wSkirmish200 LRNFPBigLubeNA8,90038
5640/wSwiss FF210 LRNFP4270981,2268,95343219WLP's, Starline
5440/wGoex FFF210 LRNFP4270981,24810,03743219WLP's, REM-UMC Semi-Balloon Head
5340/wGoex FFF210 LRNFP4270981,27211,00143219WLP's, WRA Semi-Balloon Head
7140/wGoex FFF210 LRNFP4270981,35612,648502301800's Unheadstamped, Typical 4" Group @ 100 yards
5240/wGoex FFF210 LRNFP4270981,27612,75543219WSPM/WLP's, WESTEN Semi-Balloon Head, Mix Headstamps
4340/wSwiss FF210 LRNFP4270981,37314,28539Original Semi-Balloon head Cases
 

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Discussion Starter · #192 · (Edited)
A Whole lot of difference between what a 38-40 and what a 45 Colt is capable of to safely handle the pressure of smokeless in these old guns.

The same can be said for 32-20, 41, (38-40) and 44-40. Starting with 44-40s I get a whole lot more comfortable shooting smokeless loads of any sort with a thicker cylinder wall at the bolt notches going down in caliber. May be even more importantly you are shooting a much lighter bullet compared to the 45 Colt (255gr there) 200 in the 44, 180 in the 38 and115 in the 32.

The traditional 192,000 number is a good place to start thinking about shooting moderate / factory levels of power, smokeless loads. (the light cowboys loads people think are really something usually aren't). The guns are either safe or they aren't with smokeless. A 192000 serial number or later, 32-20 in good mechanical shape, should be just fine with any smokeless, pistol velocity, factory load...then or now. I'd venture to guess shooting a 38-40, shooting any 180gr factory ammo, is as well and do so myself on a regular basis in a 1904 gun.

Not a big jump in pressure in the 44-40 using a 200-grain bullet from a 180 in the 38-40 but there is some. I don't shoot my early 44-40s because the guns are simply too expensive to replace. But same story there for pressure. Bump the bullet weight up by 25% to a 250gr 45 bullet, a much bigger case volume and things change for internal pressures, all while making the cylinder weaker at the bolt notch. If that jump to 45 Colt (for bullet weight and less steel holding the gun together) sounds like a good idea to you, have at it.

Just don't make the mistake of thinking all the calibers are equal when suggesting what might be safe to shoot for ammo/powder in a pre "VP" proofed gun.
 

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A Whole lot of difference between what a 38-40 and what a 45 Colt is capable of to safely handle the pressure of smokeless in these old guns.

The same can be said for 32-20, 41, (38-40) and 44-40. Starting with 44-40s I get a whole lot more comfortable shooting smokeless loads of any sort with a thicker cylinder wall at the bolt notches going down in caliber. May be even more importantly you are shooting a much lighter bullet compared to the 45 Colt (255gr there) 200 in the 44, 180 in the 38 and115 in the 32.

The traditional 192,000 number is a good place to start thinking about shooting moderate / factory levels of power, smokeless loads. (the light cowboys loads people think are really something usually aren't). The guns are either safe or they aren't with smokeless. A 192000 serial number or later, 32-20 in good mechanical shape, should be just fine with any smokeless, pistol velocity, factory load...then or now. I'd venture to guess shooting a 38-40, shooting any 180gr factory ammo, is as well and do so myself on a regular basis in a 1904 gun.

Not a big jump in pressure in the 44-40 using a 200-grain bullet from a 180 in the 38-40 but there is soem. I don't shoot my early 44-40s because the guns are simply too expensive to replace. But same story there for pressure. Bump the bullet weight up by 25% to a 250gr 45 bullet, a much bigger case volume and things change for internal pressures, all while making the cylinder weaker at the bolt notch. If that jump to 45 Colt (for bullet weight and less steel holding the gun together) sounds like a good idea to you, have at it.

Just don't make the mistake of thinking all the calibers are equal when suggesting what might be safe to shoot for ammo/powder in a pre "VP" proofed gun.
Thanks, this makes common sense. I think I will shoot my 1902 32-20 bisley but not my 45 colt or 38-40. the latter two cost me more than the Bisley, although if I mess up the Bisley I will be sad, lol.
 

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What many folks do not understand is that original 44-40 black powder loads could have produced as high as 17,000cup or about 14,200psi. Later black powder loads as high as 15,000cup or about 12,500psi and modern black powder loads as high as 11,000cup or 9,000psi. By the time smokeless was available, we will use the 15,000cup pressures for BP and Smokeless. 15,000cup for smokeless powder for the 44-40 was used well in the 1930's.
  • Early smokeless 44-40 powders (which Winchester used Dupont's "No.2") were reported to produce less pressures than black powder. My tests confirm this speculation as plausible.
  • Folks also argue "pressure curves" which is a plausible argument, but not definitive for the low pressure 44-40.
  • Colt advised against using smokeless powders in ANY of their revolvers until at least 1909....and the argument continues on why....Powder-Can load data proves otherwise...publishing revolver data with their smokeless powder.
  • Winchester continued manufacturing smokeless powder 44-40 (Dupont "No.2") for all their rifles, to include the Winchester 73' but advised against using it in ANY revolver until about 1909 when the warning was removed from Winchester's ammo box labels...but re-added on the Winchester 44-40 High Velocity ammunition manufactured specifically for the Model 92'.

As Cozmo mentioned, and is shown at the link I previously provided...the weak link is the thickness of the cylinder wall, especially at the cylinder lock detent.

Modern 44-40 FACTORY smokeless ammunition only creates about 6,500 to 7,000 psi or about <9,000cup...a far cry from the pre-1880's 17,000cup black powder loads as well as the pre-1940's 15,000cup handloads.

Modern full 40gr FF loads with powder compressed up to .21" in modern Star- Line brass only created about 8,500psi to 9,000psi or about 11,000cup.

Once you grasp all of the aforementioned data......ANY modern factory smokeless loads are safe in the old girls AS LONG AS they are in good operation condition or unless the ammo states otherwise. Question is.........are yall's (to include my own) old guns really safe to operate?

That is only a decision you can make. No gunsmith in his right mind would tell anyone otherwise.


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Thanks SavvyJack for your contributions. This thread would be a good place to send people who ask the question if their gun is safe for smokeless. Eventually everyone will be the final judge when it comes to their own gun as there are many factors to be considered. If you go to shotgun sites, there is a plethora of info on Damascus barrels. Many fine old shotguns were bought for cheap and enjoyed with smokeless because of the warnings on a box of shotgun shells. But again, the gun has to be sound and checked out.

Your info of pressures with 44-40 is eye opening for sure and caused pause here for awhile. My own experience with 44-40 is my late 1875 Remington revolver. I bought it on a Saturday and was at the range Sunday with blackpowder loads. Very fun and powerful. I found a smokeless 700X cowboy load at about 7800 psi and it works fine ( works very well for cowboy action!) while less powerful than of course the blackpowder full charge.
 

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Thanks SavvyJack for your contributions. This thread would be a good place to send people who ask the question if their gun is safe for smokeless. Eventually everyone will be the final judge when it comes to their own gun as there are many factors to be considered. If you go to shotgun sites, there is a plethora of info on Damascus barrels. Many fine old shotguns were bought for cheap and enjoyed with smokeless because of the warnings on a box of shotgun shells. But again, the gun has to be sound and checked out.

Your info of pressures with 44-40 is eye opening for sure and caused pause here for awhile. My own experience with 44-40 is my late 1875 Remington revolver. I bought it on a Saturday and was at the range Sunday with blackpowder loads. Very fun and powerful. I found a smokeless 700X cowboy load at about 7800 psi and it works fine ( works very well for cowboy action!) while less powerful than of course the blackpowder full charge.
Thanks...I enjoy your videos on the Remington!!!

Here is some of that pressure curve information with the 45-70.
Using certain rifle powders in the 44-40 pressure curves are essentially the same. Using slower burning rifle powders AND faster burning pistol powders at 44-40 High Velocity pressures will increase the pressure spikes since the powder is burning at the desired higher pressures the powder was designed to burn best.

Shooting 8,000psi cowboy loads are extremely fun and easy on the wrists and old man finger joints.

Trail Boss 44-40 loads in both revolver and rifle are very fun and is my standard plinking powder.

My "Go-To" loads can be seen here:
 

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Winchester started using Dupont's No. 1 and No. 2 Rifle smokeless powders in 1895. Both were the same but the granulars of the No. 1 were larger than that of the No. 2 powders.

I have added the below "Wrapper" data sheet for your entertainment. Details can be seen here: Chasing the 44-40 - Smokeless Powders Transition Years

This "data form" is dated 1899 and is the only example I have ever seen and is in my possession. I can only assume the Dupont No. 2 sheet would be basically the same format.

Newspaper Publication Font Material property Paper



Did you notice what it said? Look again
Newspaper Publication Font Paper Paper product


Yeap, creates LESS PRESSURE than black powder.

So why was this powder, loaded in the 45 Colt, 44-40 or any other rifle cartridge that was chambered in the Colt revolvers, not recommended by Colt? Honestly we really don't know. There is no way using these powders were unsafe.

Lets continue.....

This was NOT the case when handloaders used faster burning pistol powders for the 44-40 and 45 Colt which was, Unique (1899) and Bullseye (1900). While Colt did not recommend smokeless powders to be used in their revolvers until about 1909, powder companies may not have remove handload data for the revolvers on their powder cans or data sheets.

Just more food for thought.
 

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I'll be post 200 in regards to this subject. Pretty sure it boils down to these non-arguable circumstances at least for me.
*Unless you purchased your firearm brand new and know it's factory vp'd
or your gun's cylinder/barrel are serialed to your specific gun displaying the vp then it comes down to a crap shoot.
So many parts have been swapped, recut & rebarreled over the past decades, some would be foolish just to "assume" it's all good because of a stamp.
It always reminds me, why stamp just a frame with the vp when there are multiple removable components just as important to the equation with no assimilation aside from (some) serialed to the frame.
It's really no different than buying ammunition at a gun show in a factory box only to find out later that they may be reloads.....
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