For a handgun, in the US I would have to say yes, it was. I believe the mv was 900 fps out of a 7 1/2" barrel with 420 fpe. Until the advent of the 357 Magnum it was the most powerful handgun cartridge period. The .45 ACP and .44 Special followed closely in the smokeless age and .45 Schofield and .476 Eley in the blackpowder age.
Yes, the .45 Colt was the most powerful BP revolver cartridge of the old west. I have seen more than a couple of different "official loadings" listed for it, but according to my Complete book of Shooting from 1984, Jeff Cooper writes "the original load was 255-grain bullet and 40 grains of black powder, which came on at a vigorous 910 foot-seconds" this makes 469 fpe which is easy to calculate..
1. 910fps times 910fps=828,100
2. divide that number by 7000...
828,100 divided by 7000=118.3
3. divide that number by 64.32...
118.3 divided by 64.32=1.8392412
4. Multiply this number by bullet weight, in
this case, 255 grains...
1.8392412 times 255=469fpe
I dont have any numbers for the Colt Walker but I imagine it would give it a run for the money in the ft/lbs department.
There were a couple of European contenders that might have given the 45 Colt a run for the money but they have fallen into obscurity.
And then there were howdah pistols. The howdah pistol appeared during the muzzle loading era but survived well into the BP cartridge era. These were single or double barreled pistols that took really monsterous cartridges for repelling borders when hunting tigers from elephant back. Ten feet would be extreme long range for a howdah pistol. Some of them had 12 gauge bores!
[This message has been edited by unspellable (edited 03-23-2005).]
Mike Venturino did a good article in one of the major trade publications, within the last year or so on B/P velocities and penetraion. It surprised a lot of folks. I re-read it at the Deer Camp this weekend while allowing the dark roast coffee to have its way with my nether regions.
The 38-40 and 44-40 were originally designed as rifle cartridges that were also adapted to handgun use, so they kind of count too. Strictly as a handgun cartridge, .45 Colt reigned supreme until the .357 Magnum was born, although in the somkeless age, .45 ACP, .45 Auto-Rim and 38/44 came close. The Colt Walker was hands down the most powerful blackpowder muzzleloader and perhaps blackpowder revolver made in consistant production. All I know is I would not want to get shot with any of them.
Probably the one that stands out from Europe,is the 11.75 Montenegrin Revolver. A 282-313 gr. bullet at 700 fps for 328 fps. The revolver,made by Gasser in Austria(and I think, "imitations made in Belgium") was a huge awkward affair. I've read somewhere,that the King of Montenegro(part of Yugoslavia after 1920,and now independent again),had a "franchise" on sale of revolver(a hinged frame weighing 4.5 lbs.-according to Barnes,"Cartridges of The World",and that all adult males were required to buy one. Bud
I may have seen it there too,but it is well documented in Pistols of the World,by Hogg and Weeks,under Gasser. Also mentioned in Zhuk's Illustrated Encyclopedia. King's name was Nicholas,and he decreed that ALL members of the Militia will buy one(which was virtually every able bodied man in Montenegro!!). He had "financial ties" to the maker. From photos I have seen,the huge guns were not carried in holsters,but in the wide belt sashes(along with vicious looking knives). Can't recall where I read it,but one of the gun rags(when I bought them!!) years ago,had a "test of one". Recoil was mild,but the vertical and round,"broomhandle" style,(typical Gasser style) made it feel worse,and accuracy,with hand crafted .445 bullets,was not good,probably 5-6" at 25 yds. Bud
I'll take a crack at some cartridges that were somewhat like .45 Colt. The British had .450 Adams, .455 Webley/Eley MKI & MKII and .476 Eley. The Canadians had the .455 Colt which was a .455 Webley MK I longer case intended for blackpowder, but they used a healthy charge of smokeless powder that got 725 fps with a 265 grain bullet.