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Wolf Parker

357 vs 45LC comparison update?

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TL:DR - Is the old adage that 45LC costs a lot more to shoot still true, assuming reloading and managing to retain most brass? For a non speedster, is 38/357 more reliable in the Uberti 73's or is it just up to each individual rifle and getting them tuned if needed?

 

Historically the suggestion has usually been 38's for cost and variety of firearm options, with people sizing them as needed to feed properly in certain rifles. 45LC was significantly more to reload and even 357 cost more because the brass was significantly more money and the options for firearms more limited. I recently started looking at getting back into CAS and basically need to start from scratch on the firearms so I was pricing things out. The selection of 357 and 45LC firearms is good, that's no issue these days it seems. I was specifically looking at the Uberti 73's and Marlin's for the rifle and probably Rugers for the revolvers, nothing crazy. That had me looking at ammo cost, since emotionally I'd prefer the 45's slightly but I already have and load 357. Loading 38 wouldn't be a big deal but I can load 357 to the same power level so it would just be brass costs.

 

My rough math based on current component prices seems to show that without buying in massive bulk it's roughly $2/100 more to load 45LC than 357 once you have the brass and the brass isn't hugely more when spread over the life of the brass, not enough to worry me. These prices seem much closer than in the past and I'm wondering if there's something I'm overlooking. I'll be loading my own, so while there's more recoil on the 45LC it won't be excessive, I'm not going for maximum speed anyway. My motivation to go with 38/357 would be cost and reliability if those were still significant factors.

 

If I take cost out, and assuming equal reliability and cost on firearms, I'd say I'm slightly biased toward 45LC. If I can save a few hundred buying someone's used 45LC firearms over 38/357's that would be a bonus unless I'm missing something on ammo costs. Am I just seeing a short term fluctuation and the usual prices are still significantly better with 38's? I saw quite the spread on bullet costs but that was true in both calibers. Worst case 45 and best case 38/357 was significant and if that's the norm my interest in 45LC may suddenly be much smaller. B) 

 

Thanks folks. I did some digging but everything talking about this was quite a few years back. Since I'm starting fresh I figured I should give them a fair comparison with current numbers.

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That's doing a lot of number scratchin' and head scratchin'.  I few cents per round ain't going to tip the scales if you play Cowboy Action Shooting or not.   I shoot big bore because.  Just because. 

 

Another factor, if you mentioned it I didn't see it,  any given model gun with same barrel length is going to be heavier in 357 than in 45.  That and lighter loads and bullets in 38 Special make for lighter recoil. Thus quicker recovery time.  I see guys shoot 38s with light loads and the muzzle hardly raises.  Although I shoot less than factory loads in my 44WCF and 45 Colt,  there is significant recoil.  

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Posted (edited)

Just for fun I compared bullet cost; from my vendor the price difference between .38 and .45 varied between a low of $1.60 per 100 to a high of $3.60 depending on bullet weights compared.  Your estimated $3.00 spread is in that range.  Primer price is the same and the difference in charge weight for a fast burning smokeless powder is negligible.  If you shoot black powder with its greater charge weights and higher cost, there would be some difference that I have not calculated.  The difference in the cost of brass, spread out over the life of the cases, is hardly worth counting.

 

Shoot the ammo that you like.

Edited by Abe E.S. Corpus SASS #87667
Corrected typo
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Posted (edited)

I'm not so fussed about the total gun weight, in fact I am leaning toward a slightly longer and heavier barrel rifle than needed, and 5.5" rugers regardless of caliber. Maximum speed isn't a factor for me, I'll never be FAST so I'm more focused on shooting clean and having fun. The recoil won't be enough to bother me, my norm is full power 357 in a little J frame or full power 45acp in an aluminum frame officer's model. I don't LIKE recoil, but within reason it's not a factor for me. Reducing recoil is definitely an advantage for the smaller round, but wouldn't actually make it on my personal Pro's and Con's list. It is more about the reliability for the rifle and cost versus my slight preference toward larger bullets.

 

Warden, I'm with you on the "Just because." I thought about doing a more historical round but decided that the more limited firearm options made it less attractive. 

 

Re: Abe E.S. Corpus - Thanks. That gives me some confidence I'm not just losing my marbles or looking at some weird suppliers or junk options. I tried to check a variety but didn't do an exhaustive survey.

Edited by Wolf Parker
updating for replies as i typed.

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My anecdotal evidence from dealing with toggle link rifles since '95 is the big bore rifles are less problematic.  That's what the originals were designed around and the smaller calibers were adapted later.

 

All Italian rifles have guidelines and suggestions instead of tolerances and standards, and whether they were put together before or after a three Chianti lunch.

 

Once gone through by someone knowledgeable and set up properly, the big bores seem to have a slightly longer mean time between failures (MTBF), and an even larger mean time between stoppages (MTBS) over the small bores.

 

I don't really see reliability as a good defining factor unless you don't have ready access to someone nearby to keep them running.  If you don't have someone nearby, then you just have a spare on hand.  Pick your poison.

 

FYI all my CAS rifles, the calibers start with .4, although I have had a few in the past that didn't .

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Thanks. I just priced out 44-40 and apparently I had just overlooked them in the list for the '73. That puts them back on the table too, at only slightly more than 45LC. lol, now I'm just getting into the crazy makin portion of things though. Apparently the prices have shifted enough to make cost a much smaller issue, so I'll just see what I can find locally. I need to get a new outfit together and go visit the two local clubs next month. No need to put the cart before the horse now that I know I'm not gonna get skinnt on the cart, so to speak. I also need to get my membership renewed. Baby steps.

 

Since I'm in CT I have to figure there are at least a few smiths familiar with these, the problem may be that they're all retired or have moved out of the area. 

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Either 44WCF(44-40) or 38WCF(38-40) cartridges feed better than the straight wall cartridges. 

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6 minutes ago, Tyrel Cody said:

Either 44WCF(44-40) or 38WCF(38-40) cartridges feed better than the straight wall cartridges. 

Plus less fouling from light loads not sealing the chamber properly.   Rarely clean my 44/40, but constantly cleaning 38  rifle.  45 will be same as 38 if not worse.     GW

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My 45 Colt rifle is not as reliable as my 357.  Both are manufactured by Uberti.  The 45 Colt cartridge is a dirty cartridge and I spend much more time cleaning it.  In order to limit blowback, I use 5.5 grains of Trail Boss with a 200 grain bullet.  Anything less that that, I get spitting in my face.  The recoil is much heavier than my .357.  Feeding on both is not a problem.

 

If I had to get a big bore rifle again, I'd probably get a 44-40.  They are much cleaner to run.

 

If you do this enough, the recoil from the 45 Colt pistol and rifle together start to add up.   I only shoot the 45 Colt rifle for Wild Bunch as that requires a high power factor.  I'll occasionally shoot gunfighter with 45 pistols, because the have lower hammers, and use Cowboy Special rounds in them to reduce recoil.  I'll stick with my 357 for the rifle for shooting GF.

 

There is a Big Bore match in the area I shot once that required everything to be 150 PF and above.  My wrists and shoulder were sore for a couple of days.  I won't do that again.

 

 

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I love my 45s and 44-40s. So much fun to shoot. Sold all my 38/357 guns and added a pair of 44-40 Vaqueros, a pair of 45 colt Vaqueros, and 2 1873 Winchester (Miroku) rifles, one in 45 and one in 44-40. The 45 rifle gets dirty quickly but stays reliable with its annual cleaning. The 44-40 looks like it has never been fired even after several matches so far. I am not recoil sensitive and my revolvers are Bisleys. Both calibers are easy to reload and components are easily obtained. Knock down will always fall if you hit them.

Good luck with your choices. have fun in the process.

 

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I went to .38's partly because of the dollar savings, while it's not much I'm not rich either so every little bit helps. I load a box of 50 .38's for $4.00 a box, .45's would cost at least $1.00-$1.50 more per 50. .38 bullets are cheaper and so is the brass. I went from .44-40 (basically the same cost as .45's) to all .38's and I have just as much fun as I always have!;)

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I did the math as well and decided that the fun of shooting a 45 over-ruled the savings of shooting my 38s. I'm not going to win with either so what the heck.

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Bigger bullets = more hits. ;)

Target.jpg

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Other than 22's for training everything else I shoot makes CAS stuff seem mild. I wouldn't want to do full power loads but the number of rounds in a day is low and the actual recoil level is moderate for all the options. 38 or light 357 just makes it even more mild. I'm not a recoil hog, but within reason I'm not sensitive to it.

The cleaning and feeding aspect of 44-40 is very attractive, that hadn't occurred to me but makes total sense. I'm really leaning that route. The cost is yet higher, but still not out of line. Looks like about 25% higher than 38/357 on bullet costs. Not insignificant, but not enough to be a deal breaker either. I'm not looking to be a real competitive shooter so there won't be three day a week practice sessions and a match every weekend. I seem to recall it was something like 50% more back when I last looked, that starts becoming a stronger factor. Don't get me wrong, I haven't tossed 38/357 out with the bathwater yet, just figurin my options and gatherin knowledge.

 

I was wondering if someone would point out the hit chance. I do some target archery and it's a strongly debated topic. Everyone's got a theory, everyone makes their own call and rolls the dice. For me, I'm thinking the traditional aspect along with the larger bore of 44-40 is pretty attractive. 45LC is looking a lot less likely.

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You've neglected the 32s.  Lots of folks like the 32s.  The 32-20WCF was made for the lever and slide action rifles.  Runs well. Runs clean.   Light recoil.  Flat shooting.  Hits hard.  1cc BlackMZ makes plenty of smoke. 

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lol

I actually started my six gun life with a 32H&R. Those are some paper thin cases. If I was gonna go small bore old school I'd consider the 32-20, or maybe go a bit further back and do a pair of 36 Navy's. There was some real soul searching about doing BP, but I decided to stick to smokeless for now. I've actually still got a large bore 1858 floating around.

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Posted (edited)

Don't make your choice of cartridges based on the cost of ammo.  If you shoot this Cowboy game much, you will be reloading.  And thus in some control of the cost of ammo.   That will not be your big expense.

 

If you are looking for speed, use a small caliber gun.  .38 special is shot by most of the fastest.

 

.44-40 guns shoot real cleanly.  .45 Colt guns are satisfyingly historic (other than rifle, for which none of the frontier guns were chambered, but they are now).

 

Go watch some local matches - even shoot in some when folks offer to let you.   The fun you see folks having will help tell you what you want to shoot.

 

But if you make this a dry economics research project - what a way to pour cold water on a fun startup, IMHO.

 

Good luck, GJ

 

 

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
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I've never really considered the cost & I can tell ya whatever you pay there we probably pay  a 1/3 more  above that here in Aus  .I reckon it's a personal choice on what you get the most fun & success with ..I'm in the heavy camp .. .45 & 44-40 .

 

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Posted (edited)

Get the best of all three... the .38-40.  Possibly even cleaner shooting than the .44-40,  :ph34r:

 

I have 5 repeating rifles in .45 COLT... (45LC is a misnomer)... yes... everyone knows what you're talking about... but... why use two syllables when one is proper and faster... this is a speed game after all!

 

The 45 Colt is a fine round... I have an 1873 I've been shooting since 1987  and while I could say every breakdown has been because the rifle is in 45 Colt... that would be patently untrue.  I have had stoppages due to faulty ammo... a broken mainspring and two broken extractors.

 

All of which has happened to other folks shooting other cartridges... so I doubt it's the chambering that causes those issues.

 

As for dirty shooting... I use black, I can shoot upwards of 12 stages before it needs cleaning.  As for when I shoot smokeless,  my 1873 rifles can usually go for over a year before they NEED cleaning.  Some powders are just naturally (by design no doubt), cleaner shooting than others.  Eye protection is mandatory on our ranges...  I don't worry about a bit of fouling... 

 

And in the pistols... run the Cowboy45Special!  You'll certainly be thankful you do!

Edited by Griff

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40 years of being a Forklift mechanic beat up my hands and wrists. I started out shooting .45 seventeen years and went to 38 after about 3-4 years. My hands will last a little longer because of it. But I liked .44 mag, 200 grJHP at about 1700fps back in the day. Now, not so much. In a game that requires this much ammo, cost of reloads for .38 vs .44-45 is not a huge consideration for me. 

 

Imis

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I can’t compare them because I’ve shot .38 special from the start but I can tell you that reloading .38 currently costs me right at .08 per round - 125 grain, 2.7 Clays, Federal primers. I can buy once fired brass at .03 per piece and they last a long time. 

 

Perhaps someone can report cost per round of .45.

 

As far as reliability goes I’ll respectfully disagree with comments about reliability based on caliber. None of our rifles or pistols has ever broken and we go through tens of thousands of rounds per year.

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If you already reload .38/357 I'd say just keep on doing what you're doing.  I found them to be much cleaner to shoot than the .45s.  Reliability? No difference by caliber.  The only things I've broken are a firing pin, extractor, and a lower bolt tab, (not all at once and not all on the same gun).  Not hard fixes, especially now that there are after-market bolts with replaceable tabs.  For pure historicity, I prefer a bottle-necked cartridge.  I chose .38-40, but .44-40 is extremely popular in CAS. 

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If you like the big bullet, and you want to shoot it in pistol with out a recoil penalty, load cowboy 45 specials for the pistols. I can load my c45s down to less than even mild .38s. sure the floor of the 38 is a little lower, but not by much.

 

In rifle, the 45 is dirty but works perfectly fine and I you never notice recoil unless you are just really sensitive.

 

Cost, I found your estimate to be right, it's about 2.5 cents more a 45.

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I shoot a mixture 32s revolvers, 38 rifle, 45 acp and Colt for Wild  Bunch.  The 45 bullets cost more, just fact

 

You want expensive? Try Winchester 351 SL

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i think you are overthinking this - shoot what you like to shoot , it is what ive always done as well as most of my friends , i shoot all 45 in both handguns and rifles it keeps my reloading simple and easy , i have a couple friends - he shoots 45 and she shoots 357 so his is more complex but the both participate in the shooting and loading activities so i guess it equals out , 

 

i get that after you expand to WB you add to the complexity but its still something that can be easy and enjoyable , 

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1 hour ago, watab kid said:

i think you are overthinking this - shoot what you like to shoot...

 

Well and succinctly said.

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I think nobody has mentioned "classic cowboy" yet. If you are considering shooting in this category (now or later) you will need big bores guns :)

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I hate cleaning guns. Started this game with 45 Colt. At the pressures and velocity we shoot this game, the brass simply doesn't expand enough to seal the chamber. Huge blow back into the action. Switched to 38-40 (38wcf) and 44-40 (44wcf). Extreme thin brass expands at our pressures and seal the chamber. After a few thousand rounds I might clean a rifle and the internals look unfired!

 Some folks say hard to reload. I've loaded over 25,000 38wcf on a LEE 1000 and not lost any cases because of thinness. 

 I suggest 44wcf because there are many more guns available in this caliber currently.

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The cost isn't huge but you pay $10 more for 500 lead bullets of 45 than I do for a box of 38's. Once fired 38 brass is easier to find and much cheaper and the guns are faster IMO. So it's a win win if you like to win...……..lol

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Thanks everyone. Lots of good info and different perspectives.

I do want to clarify, I'm just on the fence between going .4x versus .3xx and cost has historically been a large difference between them. I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something and that the cost difference really had closed that much. Many of the reasons folks listed for shooting 38/357 are exactly why it's on the list for me, including commonality with existing equipment. On the other hand, I'd be buying a new set of dies anyway so I can set them up specifically for the cowboy stuff and I don't have enough 357 cases as it is, so I'll be buying a supply of brass either way.

 

Even in terms of the emotional and traditional side of things, I'm not strongly swayed one way or the other. Things like 44-40 shooting so clean at the lower pressures are definitely a positive, but are balanced against the slightly larger hassle of loading the round compared to straight walled stuff where I can use carbide dies and more easily seat and crimp in one step. Nothing massive, just little pros and cons making it less simple of a choice.

 

All of this is just me getting re-acclimated to the hardware side. The final choice might be as simple as once I get out to the two local clubs someone has a set of guns they're offloading at a fair price, or even guns + leather that fits. A set that I can try out, know it works, someone's done all the "best run at this OAL and bullet shape" kinda stuff is worth a lot and could easily trump the specific caliber debate. The fact that there are half a dozen or so practical caliber options is awesome and wonderful. It's one of the things that has always attracted me to CAS, even when it's about the gear, it's not about the gear but how we feel about the gear. Fifteen years ago this would have been easier. I'd have gone with 38's in slicked up Rugers and a '73 with a tuned up '97. I'd be competition oriented and I'd be practicing a lot. These days? Takin life a little slower and enjoying the scenery.

 

I really appreciate all the info, you pards gave me a lot to consider and roll around while I get an outfit together and wait on the next shoots. I literally missed one of them by a day, I didn't look at the schedule until this past Sunday and they shot on Saturday. Tricky part is gonna be the darn hat, not many good hat shops here in CT, that's my current top priority.

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I started out with 45Colt because I had been shooting single (and double) acrion 45Colt for 50 years. I had everything to reload them including casting my own bullets.   So it was less expensive to shoot than to start over.   But.. I also could say that with 38 Special,  357 Magnum,  44 Special and 44 Magnum.   Also 25-20 and 32-20.  I shot my first match with an antique Marlin 1894 in 25-20.  They had to get out the rule book to verify it was allowed. Since then I've added 44WCF and 38WCF to the list. 

 

Sawmill Mary likes to shoot the Missouri Bullet Company poly coated bullets.   She calls them her "lipstick" bullets.   I cast most of the bullets I shoot out of reclaimed lead from my bullet traps.

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You would rather have .45 than .38, that's a subjective choice. Trying to justify it by crunching numbers is an objective choice.

Visit some matches, and you'll probably find mostly .38 shooters for less recoil and lower cost. But those aren't the only factors.

If you like your .45's you can enjoy your .45's.

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I shoot .45 because I like'm.

Nothing against any other caliber,I  just like shooting the .45.

Just like any other choice in life ,you pay for your choices.

Choctaw Jack  

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On a side note if that little of a cost difference is a factor than a potential new shooter really can not afford to shoot at all. IMHO  :FlagAm:

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