.45ACP Sixguns

Originally published at: .45ACP Sixguns – SIXGUNS

"The truth is that the

fat, stubby .45 ACP cartridge can reach its greatest potential in a handgun for

which it was never intended for– the old fashioned, much maligned revolver.

And this is much more true in the progressive year of 1973 than ever before

because we have strong, modern sixshooters that will take the heaviest .45 auto

loads, loads that would ruin any automatics, without the mildest

complaint." That was written by Skeeter Skelton more than 35 years ago in

an article entitled. "The Best .45 Autos Are Sixguns”; is it still true


When that statement was
written about the only readily available .45 ACP semi-automatic was the Colt
1911 or Commander; I would hate to try to list from memory just how many .45
semi-automatics have come, and many of which have gone, since 1973. Today we
have at least a dozen manufacturers producing high quality 1911s, as well as
polymer framed .45s from such companies as Glock, Ruger, Smith & Wesson,
Springfield Armory, and Taurus. Are sixguns still really the best .45 autos?

Today’s crop of .45 ACP
semi-automatics are exceptionally dependable, definitely accurate, and
certainly make one of the best, if not the best, option for self-defense use
and concealed carry. However, Skeeter’s main point still holds, that is revolvers
chambered for the .45 ACP will take the heaviest possible loads , and not only
is this still true, they are also much more versatile than .45 semi-automatics.
For self-defense use a good quality .45 semi-automatic is certainly to be
desired much more so than a single action sixgun, even by this confirmed single
action sixgunner, however when it comes to a double action revolver the choice
is not so simple. The semi-automatic definitely conceals easier, however a
seasoned hand with a .45 ACP sixgun and using full moon clips can put out an
awful lot of lead very quickly.

When it comes
to target shooting, examples can be found of all three .45 ACPs,
semi-automatic, single action sixgun, and double action revolver which can
outshoot the best of shooters; and if you think the single action sixgun should
be left out of such select company then you have probably never shot a Freedom
Arms Model 97 chambered in .45 Colt but fitted with a .45 ACP cylinder. I would
place it up against the finest target .45 ACP semi-automatic ever made and
expect at least a tie but more likely in this case the sixgun would win.

When Skeeter made his
statement the only .45 ACP generally available as a new sixgun was the Smith
& Wesson Model 25-2, the Model 1955. A few years earlier Ruger had
introduced their first .45, the .45 Colt Blackhawk. At the time I was going to
graduate school in Montana, totally bored with being away from home and family,
walked into the local gun shop and was stunned to see a brand new Ruger
Blackhawk chambered in .45 Colt. Not being a resident of the state I had to
make the necessary arrangements for it to be transferred to me legally and then
anxiously wait for the days to pass when I could head back home.

What a great sixgun that
.45 Ruger was, and is. When I bought it I was so excited I did not notice the
little red bag in the factory box. When I did get home I discovered an
auxiliary .45 ACP cylinder in the box, and I distinctly remember my first thought
was what in the world am I going to do with this? At the time, in the early 1970s,
my wife, the kids, and I often drove up into the foothills to shoot. In a weak
moment I pulled out a box of military .45 ACP hardball ammunition, slipped the
.45 ACP cylinder into the Blackhawk, and shooting offhand watched a one-hole
group form at 25 yards. My attitude about .45 ACP sixguns changed immediately
and dramatically; shortly thereafter I was able to agree completely with
Skeeter’s assessment of .45 ACP revolvers.

The concept of the .45 ACP
revolver goes all the way back to World War I when Smith & Wesson and Colt
adapted the .45 ACP cartridge to their big double action revolvers. There was
no way to extract the cartridges except by punching them out from the front as
there was no rim on the case for the star of the extractor to push on for
ejection. An engineer at Smith & Wesson came up with the idea of the
half-moon clip which held three cartridges and two of these loaded clips could
be placed in the .45 ACP cylinder, fired and then easily ejected all at once.

With today’s .45 ACP
sixguns we have several choices. Single actions do not accept clips but are
rather loaded in the traditional way and extracted with the ejector rod. With
double action revolvers we can go with no clips, at least with some revolvers,
one-third, half-, or full- moon clips. For using clips two accessory items are
just about indispensable, a mooner for easily loading cartridges into clips and
a de-mooner for removing fired brass from the clips such as those pictured.
They save a lot of wear and tear on fingers.

Today, in addition to .45
Colt single action sixguns with extra cylinders available from Colt, Freedom
Arms, Ruger, and USFA, Smith & Wesson offers a varied line of Model 625 stainless
steel heavy underlug barreled .45 ACP revolvers as well as the 4” fixed-sighted
and blued Model 22. With full moon clips and using bullets with no sharp edges
such as 230 grain round-nosed or flat-nosed bullets, whether jacketed or cast,
reloading the cylinder is exceptionally fast especially with practice. We can’t
all be Jerry Miculek but we can learn to reload very quickly.

I haven’t
said much about actual reloading of .45 ACP cartridges for sixguns. For
revolvers use cartridges can be loaded the same as if they were going to be
used in semi-automatics, or if clips are used they can be crimped the same as
any other sixgun cartridge. I do load .45 ACPs destined for sixgun use only
heavier than for semi-automatics; some of these loads are found in the
accompanying chart and MUST NOT BE USED in .45 ACP semi-automatics as they will
surely batter the slide into submission in short order. The same warning is
also true for any military surplus Model 1917s; they are to be used only with
standard loads. Two final pluses for the .45 ACP sixgun are the use of light
loads and shorter or longer than normal loads. Loads too light to work the
slide on a semi-auto work just fine in a sixgun cylinder and loads can also be
assembled longer than a magazine will accept and shorter than they will feed
reliably from that same magazine. Long live the .45 ACP sixgun.


Test-Fire: S&W .45 ACP Model of 1988 x 5”

.45 ACP Handloaded Ammo Performance

Bullet/Powder/Charge Velocity
Group Size

Oregon Trail 200 LSWC/WW452/6.0 gr. 1,028 fps 1-7/8”

Oregon Trail 200 LSWC/WW231/6.0 gr. 947 fps 1-1/2”

Oregon Trail 200 LSWC/Bullseye/5.0 gr. 874 fps 1-1/8”

Oregon Trail 200 LSWC/Unique/7.0 gr. 1,081 fps 1-1/2”

Oregon Trail 200 LSWC/Red Dot/5.0 gr. 889 fps 1-7/8”

Oregon Trail 200 LSWC/Green Dot/5.0 gr. 849 fps 1-7/8”

Oregon Trail 200 LSWC/AA#5/9.0 gr. 1,039 fps 1”

Oregon Trail 200 LRN/WW231/5.5 gr. 955 fps 1-1/2”

Oregon Trail 200 LRN/Bullseye/3.5 gr. 679 fps 1-1/2”

Oregon Trail 200 LRN/Bullseye/4.5 gr. 735 fps 1-3/8”

Oregon Trail 225 LFN/Red Dot/5.0 gr. 906 fps 1-7/8”

Oregon Trail 225 LFN/Green Dot/5.0 gr. 855 fps 1-1/4”

Oregon Trail 225 LFN/AA#5/8.0 gr. 830 fps 1-1/8”

Oregon Trail 230 LRN/WW231/6.0 gr. 867 fps 1-1/2”

Oregon Trail 230 LRN/Unique/6.5 gr. 889 fps 1-5/8”

Hornady 185 JHP/Unique/8.5 gr. 1,099
fps 1-3/4”

Hornady 230 XTP/Power Pistol/7.0 gr. 887 fps 1-1/4”

Sierra 185 JHC/Unique/8.5 gr. 1,172 fps 7/8”

Sierra 230 FMJ/Red Dot/5.0 gr. 825 fps

Sierra 230 FMJ/Power Pistol/7.0 gr. 870 fps

Speer 185 GDHP/Action Pistol/8.9 gr. 866 fps 1-1/8”

Speer 200 JHP/Power Pistol/8.0 gr. 1,021 fps

Speer 200 GDHP/Unique/7.0 gr. 895 fps 1”

Speer 230 GDHP/Action Pistol/6.2 gr. 618 fps 1”



Bullet/Powder/Charge Velocity
Group Size

Oregon Trail 200 LSWC/Red Dot/6.0 gr. 1,069 fps 1-3/4”

Oregon Trail 200 LSWC/Green Dot/6.0 gr. 1,049 fps 1-3/4”

Oregon Trail 225 LFN/Red Dot/6.0 gr. 1,006 fps 1-3/4”

Oregon Trail 225 LFN/Green Dot/6.0 gr. 901 fps 1-3/8”

Sierra 230 FMJ/Red Dot/6.0 gr. 1,025
fps 1”

Lyman #452423KT/#2400/15.0 gr. 952 fps 1-1/2”

Lyman #454423KT/Unique/7.5 gr. 902 fps 1-1/2”

Lyman #454424KT/#2400/15.0 gr. 926 fps 1-3/4”

Lyman #454424KT/Unique/7.5 gr. 915 fps 1-7/8”

Notes: Groups the product of 5 Shots at 20 yards.
Chronograph screens set at 10’ from muzzle. CCI #300 primers used.


I would think the cylinder gap would place it behind the good 'ol 1911 as God and John Browning intended, in a 5" barrel. I still frequently carry an all steel Colt Officer’s ACP with Brown 3.5" barrel, trapped recoil spring and tapered bushing, King match trigger, G10 grip scales, and Bullseye springs. A very potent EDC.


Heavy too I bet?

I used to carry a Springfield V10, ported 3.5" bull barrel, no bushing, fun to shoot, but despite small it was not light, sold it for travel money cross country long ago, would like another, and its big brother the V12 too :grin:


Reminds me of the opposite attempt by Coonan to put the .357mag in an auto, wish it were more of a success, awesome round.


Three .45 ACP semiautos…a GI-CMP 1911A1 Mixmaster (Colt slide, Remington-Rand frame); older German Sig P220, and an older, inherited Kimber Ultra CDP. All are joys to shoot, with the Kimber being a bit of a bucking bronco. All are reliable with my reloads. Have to say, the P220 percolates to the top of the stewpot for ergos, shootability, accuracy, etc. A Vedder holster actually makes the P220 concealable in appendix carry.


How are the springs in your Magazines holding up on that Sig. ?

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I was, over time, able to find 9 of the SIG .45 ACP OEM 7-round magazines. I have used them all and have had problems with none, even the three I keep loaded to capacity.
A few years ago. I picked up a surplus Sig P225/P6 (West German Poleizei piece) that after a little use, snapped a trigger return spring. Obviously had not been replaced ever is how it appeared to me.
That P6 is the only problem I have ever had with a Sig spring. I sold the P6 but learned my lesson. I obtained a supply of upgraded “loop” trigger springs, plus all other internal OEM springs for my P220 and replace them when necessary, which is not very often.


I had forgotten about the Coonan 357. I remember thinking that would be a great gun.

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I have one of the original P225’s. Bought in 98 or 99. My issue is getting magazines. The 225 A1 magazines won’t properly work (Feed and lock back issues). I would love to find new magazines. The Promag ones are for the A1.


I bought a P225 new in 1993, took it to Germany (when you could do such things) and in a series of trades after coming back, ended up with a S&W pre-29 .44. Great piece.
Magazines…I had to hunt eBay and Gunbroker to find OEM 7 rounders for my for my P220. There are some on eBay for the P225 - I saw them just today - but they are pricey, quite a few for ~$100 each.

There are some on GunBroker as well…keyword search Sig P225 magazines.

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lol, I thought so as well, bought two

That top one was one of the first 100 made when they retooled after their first shut down, the bottom one was when they introduced the cadet, I had the option to get a close serial number

Super impressive except…


Only gun I ever had to ship in for repair, ended up selling both.


I had a 9mm revolver one time, then thought Why? i sold it.


Why ?? Cause you can …lol thats why !! You sell it to @JTR or @Robert :joy::joy:


ehh, think I’d be likely to sell it also :man_shrugging:


I won a 9mm revolver and traded it the next day , Never even shot it . Like Belt Fed said . Why?


Cause it would be sorta cheap to shoot and more reliable I think.


9mm is pretty common. I always liked the Ruger multi-cylinder concept. Good to be able to use the ammunition you can find.

I never thought I’d be reloading 9mm. But welcome to New York State. I now police my 9mm brass and reload becase not only am I forbidden from ordering ammo over the internet. I have a waiting period to buy ammo so they can do a background check. And sellers may limit the amount per purchase. Screw that. I ordered up a lifetime supply of brass, primers, maybe not powder (could be close) while I could. 9mm is actually kind of fun and relaxing to reload. Much like .38 Special.


Another good reason to own a revolver in 9mm and 45acp. Can taylor the loads and shooting would be cheap and lastly with a revolver you wouldn’t fly through quite as much ammo. I :clap: applaud you
@Stumpkiller for thinking ahead. I have enough to do me for about 4 or 5 more seasons of hunting and practice . So I need to get my butt in gear and buy a bunch of primers and lead. I have a lot of cases. .357,44mag,454,460,38,3006,243,308…really only have a few boxes of 22lr. And only 1 box of 22WMR left. I am dangerously low in stock.


Gonna have to agree to disagree, if it is 9mm or 45 auto it needs a magazine.


Okay, I get it its like eating breakfast food at 600pm for dinner. :crazy_face: :rofl:

Just like introducing a non-native species of fish or clam into a fish habitat from another part of the world or like the emerald Ash Borer Beetle Etc… I see your point.


I have a 45acp cylinder for my 45Colt Blackhawk.
I think I did run a cylinder of acp’s through it to make sure it works. Only reason to shoot acp’s through it is if I’m out of 45Colt ammo and my Kimbers are broke.