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January 15th, 2022

Saturday at the Movies: Reloading for the .45 ACP Cartridge

.45 ACP pistol cartridge handloading reloading guide powder loads

Today we showcase five YouTube videos that explain basic reloading processes. This article primarily focuses on the .45 ACP cartridge because this a very good choice for hand-loaders getting started. The .45 ACP is one of the easier cartridges to reload, because it has a large case diameter and large primer pocket, and because it operates at relatively low pressures (compared to rifle rounds).

We recommend that new reloaders consider starting with the .45 ACP cartridge. There are many reasons why the .45 ACP is a good choice for those just getting started in hand-loading:

1. The case is fairly short but has a relatively large diameter (and minimal taper), so it is easy to see inside the case. That helps you quickly check powder levels.
2. Many good powders (for the .45 ACP) will fill the case over 60%, so you will have an obvious overflow if you double-charge by accident.
3. The .45 ACP round runs at relatively low pressures, but delivers excellent accuracy.
4. Good .45 ACP brass lasts a long time, is easy to size, and is good for many reloads.
5. Along with 1911s, there are fine .45 ACP revolvers that shoot the round with moon clips.
6. The vast majority of .45 ACP brass uses large pistol primers (although there ARE some small primer pocket varieties*). We find that large primers are easier to pick up and handle if you are using a single primer tool.

.45 ACP pistol cartridge handloading reloading guide powder loads

The .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge is a rimless straight-walled handgun cartridge originally developed in 1904 by John Moses Browning for use in his prototype Colt semi-automatic pistol. After successful military trials, it was adopted as the standard chambering for Colt’s M1911 pistol.

For reloading, there are many good powder choices. We recommend Vihtavuori N320. This is very accurate and burns cleaner than some otherwise good powders, such as Accurate (AA) No. 5 and Unique.

Basic Reloading for the .45 ACP Cartridge

This is the most-viewed .45 ACP reloading video on YouTube. It is directed primarily for the novice or prospective reloader. It covers the basic processes: case inspection, cleaning, trimming, sizing, priming, powder filling, bullet seating, and crimping. The video creator notes: “Trimming pistol/revolver brass is optional and usually not necessary. it was included because that is what I did when I first began reloading, before I found out that handgun brass does not stretch as much as bottleneck rifle brass.”

.45 ACP pistol cartridge handloading reloading guide powder loads

How To Reload .45 ACP Start to Finish — Tutorial for Newer Reloaders

This is a detailed 30-minute video that shows the reloading process start to finish. The cases are sized and bullets seated using a single-stage RCBS press. The cases are primed using an RCBS hand-priming tool which keeps multiple primers in a tray. For efficiency, we recommend this vs. seating primers using the priming system on the press itself.

Safety First When Loading All Cartridges

Along with the first two instructional videos above, we include two important videos focused on reloading safety. In the first video, UltimateReloader’s Gavin Gear explains how to check your cartridge during the loading process to eliminate squib loads and other defects. In the second video, Starline Brass tech Hunter Pilant explains how to avoid double charges.

Load .45 ACP Safely — Avoid Squib Loads and Overcharges

You need to check the powder level of EVERY round you load. Do this visually BEFORE seating a bullet. (Or, with a progressive press, use a lock-out die that monitors powder levels). This is very important because a squib load (with little or no powder) can leave a bullet lodged in the barrel. A subsequent full, live round can cause a Kaboom with dire consequences.

Preventing Double Charges — Use a Case-filling Powder with .45 ACP

IMPORTANT TIP: Use a bulky powder that fills your case more than half way with a correct charge. “This will over-fill the case if it is double-charged, making it impossible to load. This is one safeguard that can keep you from making a big [mistake]” (Hunter Pilant, Starline). A bulky powder with high fill level will also be easier to see inside the case.

The Progressive Option — Loading .45 ACP on the Dillon 550B

Once you have mastered the basics of reloading for the .45 ACP, if you require large quantities of ammo, you may want to consider getting a progressive press. Progressive presses can significantly increase your ammo output, but there are also important safety considerations. You need to be careful about powder levels and priming. In this video, Gavin Gear explains how to reload safely with a Dillon 550B progressive press. The equivalent current model is the Dillon 550C.

.45 ACP Ammunition Loading Guide — Nosler Data

If you “roll your own” .45 ACP cartridges, there are many good powder choices. Our favorites are Vihtavuori N320, AA No. 5, and Hodgdon TiteGroup, but there are many other good choices. You’ll find these three recommended powders (plus many others) in the .45 ACP Load Data Charts from Nosler. Shown below are the Nosler Guides for 185gr bullets and 230gr bullets. Right-click each image below to access/download printable PDF files.

Click for PDF File
.45 ACP Nosler reloading guide powder loads

Click for PDF File
.45 ACP Nosler reloading guide powder loads


* However, be aware that CCI and other companies are now manufacturing .45 ACP brass with SMALL PRIMER POCKETS. Whenever you get new brass, be sure so check ALL the cases for primer size, and segregate large and small in two groups. Attempting to push a large primer into a small primer hole can lead to jams, or worse, dangerous detonation. Be CAREFUL!

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January 15th, 2022

Changes in Humidity Can Alter Powder Burn Rates — IMPORTANT

Tech Tip Norma Powder gunpowder moisture temperature humidity

Most shooters realize that significant changes in temperature will alter how powders perform. That’s why you want to keep your loaded ammo out of the hot sun, and keep rounds out of a hot chamber until you’re ready to fire. But there are other factors to be considered — HUMIDITY for one. This article explains why and how humidity can affect powder burn rates and performance.

We’ve all heard the old adage: “Keep your powder dry”. Well, tests by Norma have demonstrated that even normal environmental differences in humidity can affect the way powders burn, at least over the long term. In the Norma Reloading Manual, Sven-Eric Johansson, head of ballistics at Nexplo/Bofors, presents a very important discussion of water vapor absorption by powder. Johansson demonstrates that the same powder will burn at different rates depending on water content.

Powders Leave the Factory with 0.5 to 1.0% Water Content
Johansson explains that, as manufactured, most powders contain 0.5 to 1% of water by weight. (The relative humidity is “equilibrated” at 40-50% during the manufacturing process to maintain this 0.5-1% moisture content). Importantly, Johansson notes that powder exposed to moist air for a long time will absorb water, causing it to burn at a slower rate. On the other hand, long-term storage in a very dry environment reduces powder moisture content, so the powder burns at a faster rate. In addition, Johansson found that single-base powders are MORE sensitive to relative humidity than are double-base powders (which contain nitroglycerine).

Tests Show Burn Rates Vary with Water Content
In his review of the Norma Manual, Fred Barker notes: “Johansson gives twelve (eye-opening) plots of the velocities and pressures obtained on firing several popular cartridges with dehydrated, normal and hydrated Norma powders (from #200 to MRP). He also gives results on loaded .30-06 and .38 Special cartridges stored for 663 to 683 days in relative humidities of 20% and 86%. So Johansson’s advice is to keep powders tightly capped in their factory containers, and to minimize their exposure to dry or humid air.”

Confirming Johansson’s findings that storage conditions can alter burn rates, Barker observes: “I have about 10 pounds of WWII 4831 powder that has been stored in dry (about 20% RH) Colorado air for more than 60 years. It now burns about like IMR 3031.”

What does this teach us? First, all powders start out with a small, but chemically important, amount of water content. Second, a powder’s water content can change over time, depending on where and how the powder is stored. Third, the water content of your powder DOES make a difference in how it burns, particularly for single-base powders. For example, over a period of time, a powder used (and then recapped) in the hot, dry Southwest will probably behave differently than the same powder used in the humid Southeast.

Reloaders are advised to keep these things in mind. If you want to maintain your powders’ “as manufactured” burn rate, it is wise to head Johannson’s recommendation to keep your powders tightly capped when you’re not actually dispensing charges and avoid exposing your powder to very dry or very humid conditions. The Norma Reloading Manual is available from MidwayUSA for $24.99.

Real-World Example — “Dry” H4831sc Runs Hotter

Robert Whitley agrees that the burn rate of the powder varies with the humidity it absorbs. Robert writes: “I had an 8-lb. jug of H4831SC I kept in my detached garage (it can be humid there). 43.5-44.0 gr of this was superbly accurate with the 115 Bergers out of my 6mm Super X. I got tired of bringing it in and out of the garage to my house for reloading so I brought and kept the jug in my reloading room (a dehumidified room in my house) and after a few weeks I loaded up 43.5 gr, went to a match and it shot awful. I could not figure out what was going on until I put that load back over the chronograph and figured out it was going a good bit faster than before and the load was out of the “sweet spot” (42.5 – 43.0 gr was the max I could load and keep it accurate when it was stored in less humid air). I put the jug back in the garage for a few weeks and I now am back to loading 43.5 – 44.0 gr and it shoots great again. I have seen this with other powders too.”

If you have two jugs of the same powder, one kept in a room in your house and one somewhere else where it is drier or more humid, don’t expect the two jugs of the same lot of powder to chrono the same with the same charge weights unless and until they are both stored long enough in the same place to equalize again.

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January 15th, 2022

Fitness and Cardio Training for Competitive Shooters

fitness cardio training

In the archives of The First Shot (the CMP’s Online Magazine), SGT Walter E. Craig of the USAMU discusses physical conditioning for competitive shooters, particularly High Power competitors. Fitness training is an important subject that, curiously, is rarely featured in the shooting sports media. We seem to focus on hardware, or esoteric details of cartridge reloading. Yet physical fitness also matters, particularly for High Power shooters. In his article, Craig advocates: 1) weight training to strengthen the Skeletal Muscle System; 2) exercises to build endurance and stamina; and 3) cardiovascular conditioning programs to allow the shooter to remain relaxed with a controlled heart beat.

SGT Craig explains: “An individual would not enter a long distance race without first spending many hours conditioning his/her body. One should apply the same conditioning philosophy to [shooting]. Physical conditioning to improve shooting skills will result in better shooting performance[.] The objective of an individual physical training program is to condition the muscles, heart, and lungs thereby increasing the shooter’s capability of controlling the body and rifle for sustained periods.”


CLICK HERE to READ FULL FITNESS TRAINING ARTICLE »

In addition to weight training and cardio workouts (which can be done in a gym), SGT Craig advocates “some kind of holding drill… to develop the muscles necessary for holding a rifle for extended periods.”

For those with range access, Craig recommends a blind standing exercise: “This exercise consists of dry-firing one round, then live-firing one round, at a 200-yard standard SR target. For those who have access only to a 100-yard range, reduced targets will work as well. Begin the exercise with a timer set for 50 minutes. Dry-fire one round, then fire one live round and without looking at the actual impact, plot a call in a data book. Continue the dry fire/live fire sequence for 20 rounds, plotting after each round. After firing is complete, compare the data book to the target. If your zero and position are solid, the plots should resemble the target. As the training days add up and your zero is refined, the groups will shrink and move to the center.”

Brandon Green
Fitness training and holding drills help position shooters reach their full potential. Here is 5-Time U.S. National Long Range Champion John Whidden.

Training for Older Shooters
Tom Alves has written an excellent article A Suggested Training Approach for Older Shooters. This article discusses appropriate low-impact training methods for older shooters. Tom explains: “Many of the articles you will read in books about position shooting and the one mentioned above are directed more toward the younger generation of shooters in their 20s. If you look down the line at a typical high power match these days you are likely to see quite a few folks who are in their middle 30s and up. Many people in that age range have had broken bones and wear and tear on their joints so a training program needs to take that into account. For instance, while jogging for an extended period for heart and lung conditioning may be the recommended approach for younger folks, it may be totally inappropriate for older people.”

READ FULL ARTICLE by Tom Alves

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