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Hornady die set for 45 cowboy special


shamrock12
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I have a Ruger New Vaquero chambered in 45 Colt and am thinking of using Starline 45 Cowboy Special cases with 0.452” cast lead bullets and smokeless powders. They are basically shortened 45 Colt cases to minimize air gap. 
 

I prefer Hornady dies and have been studying their die set selections. I see they have set #546581 labeled as “Cowboy 45 Colt” and set #546582 labeled as “45 Colt.” Upon research, I have learned that “Cowboy” set #546581 is designed for 0.452” cast bullets while their regular set #546582 is designed for jacketed bullets. The “Cowboy” set is supposed to expand the case into a nice bell for better bullet seating. 
 

I also have been doing some researching and it would appear some have recommended Hornady set #546554 which is 45 Auto/Auto Rimmed/Win Mag set with roll crimp. I noticed the regular 45 Colt set has the same expanding and seating dies as the 45 Auto set, except for the sizing die. Obviously, the 45 Auto case is about 0.006” smaller in diameter as compared to 45 Cowboy Special and 45 Colt cases. So it puzzles me why some are recommending the smaller sizing die which would result in slightly loose chamber (read: blowbacks). I read that some others are recommending 45 Colt sizing die in conjunction with 45 Auto expanding and seating dies, which makes more sense to me.

 

Since Hornady regular “45 Colt” set has the same expanding and seating dies as found in their 45 Auto set, I am curious if their “Cowboy 45 Colt” set will also work on 45 Cowboy Special cases? I did notice their expanding and seating dies in their “Cowboy 45 Colt” set are different from the dies in their regular 45 Colt set which I have no idea what the difference could be. 
 

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This is a document written by Adirondack Jack, as he was introducing the C45S.  It was on his Website:

 

Question: What about loading dies? Updated 12/15/06
Cowboy .45 Special is designed to use ordinary "off the shelf" dies. Using a .45 Colt shell plate and sizing die, and expander and seat/crimp dies from a .45 ACP or autorim die set. While any ACP/Autorim dies will work, along with a .45 Colt shell plate, the very best results to date have been achieved using Hornady New Dimension .45 caliber dies no. 546554. Note Hornady uses the same dies for .45 Colt, ACP, Autorim, and win mag. They produce a proper roll crimp, and use a sliding bullet guide that aids in seating even very short bullets straight. The sizing die is also a bit larger than typical ACP dies, which provides proper bullet tension for .452-4 cast bullets, and requires less effort to size and expand. This makes the press run smoother, and works brass less as well. Personally, I only neck size fired cases, adjusting the sizer so it resizes the part of the brass where the bullet seats, but not the lower aspect.

Question: What dies will work?
If you already have .45 ACP dies, and don't care to get Hornady dies, your ACP dies will work, together with your .45 Colt shell plate. BUT, there are ways to make "better" ammo by using a bit more intelligent die setup. Since we are loading for .45 COLT chambers, which are notoriously roomy (the old SAAMI numbers are sloppy, and chambers cut to SAAMI max are prone to burnt powder blow-by) we need to think about the actual dimensions of our cases if the goal is to limit blow-by, especially at typical CAS levels. The Cowboy .45 Special has much less blow-by at middle of the road CAS loads, but if you like em reallly light, or load with BP or subs, read on.

One way to help reduce blow-by at low velocity levels is to use a .45 COLT sizer die instead of the slightly smaller ACP sizing die. Even better is what is known as "neck sizing" our fired brass. When a case is fired it expands and "bounces" back part way, ending up a few thousanths bigger than "resized" brass. Since we are working with very roomy chambers, we can leave the brass in the "as fired" state, sizing ONLY the case neck where the bullet seats, and sizing that only as much as needed to get decent neck tension on the bullet. Typical pistol dies are designed to "full length size", but can be set up to partially resize or "neck size". To do this, take a .45 Colt sizing die and adjust it so that the decapping pin JUST knocks out the spent primer. Note how close the die mouth is to the shell plate. Most often it is still going to resize more than half of the case. Now, loosen the collet holding the decapping pin, and using a small drift, push the decapping pin about .150 below the top of the die such that only the bottom portion of the collet holds the pin, and retighten the collet. Now adjust the die until it JUST knocks out the old primer, and note how much of the case is up inside the die. Likely you can get the die adjusted to a point where ONLY the case mouth is resized (the area that grabs the bullet) and no further. Now, as long as you can reliably knock out old primers and you're resizing the top .200 in. or so of the case neck, you've done all the sizing CAS brass needs. Load a few fired, neck sized cases with your favorite bullets and make sure they chamber ok in your pistols (mine do with ease) and compare the diameter of the loaded once fired, neck sized cases to those which have been full length resized. You'll likely see about .005 or .006 inch diameter difference at the point of the bullet base, which means when you next fire them, these neck sized rounds will seal much

better during firing, leave little powder residue in the chambers, and still extract just fine. This is especially important as we load for minimum recoil with light bullets. Cowboy .45 Special develops more pressure than .45 Colt at a given velocity and that means LESS blow-by at modest levels, but if ya push the lower limits of velocity, it's still possible to get smoky cases. Neck sizing with a .45 COLT sizing die will reduce the smoky cases.

Question: What about light bullets in Cowboy .45 Special? How light can we go and still get good accuracy?
Cowboy .45 Special works very well with bullets as light as 150 grains (maybe even less), and will run accurately and consistently at velocities well below those needed with .45 Colt using any similar bullet.

 

Hope you find this useful.

--Dawg

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Posted (edited)

I did not get the roll crimp I wanted until following the tip to get a Redding Profile crimp die for 45 Autorim. I use the Hornady Cowboy sizer and an RCBS 45ACP seating die.

 

Note that for some reason the name of this cartridge does not start with the caliber. It is "Cowboy 45 Special"

Edited by Roscoe Regulator
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I understand 45 Auto Rim, a convenience to avoid the Moon clips.  I can't think of a use for 45 Colt Short. The original is proven, tested and effective. I have a few boxes of near antique .22 Short I've never found a use for.  I suppose it is gamesmanship.

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I load my C45S on a Dillon 550C.  I previously loaded on a single stage RCBS JR and RCBS carbide dies.  Back in 1987 when I bought my first Dillon, I just continued to use the RCBS dies I used previously.  You can use either a 45 Colt or 45ACP sizer/decapping die.  Either works as well as the other.  I tried a 45ACP standard seating & taper crimp die and it works fine if all you shoot the C45S out of is the pistol.  I've converted my 1873 rifles to use this round and a couple of years ago bought a RCBS 45ACP Roll Crimp seater die, #18942.  Pretty simple.  

8 minutes ago, Rip Snorter said:

I understand 45 Auto Rim, a convenience to avoid the Moon clips.  I can't think of a use for 45 Colt Short. The original is proven, tested and effective. I have a few boxes of near antique .22 Short I've never found a use for.  I suppose it is gamesmanship.

Cost savings... by having lower powder payloads.  Plus, the huge 45 Colt case doesn't play well with reduced loads... and for BP... yes, when the uber competitive are using 38s or 32s, it can keep a good competitor in competition with those folks.  Not gamesmanship.  

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Posted (edited)
27 minutes ago, Rip Snorter said:

I understand 45 Auto Rim, a convenience to avoid the Moon clips.  I can't think of a use for 45 Colt Short. The original is proven, tested and effective. I have a few boxes of near antique .22 Short I've never found a use for.  I suppose it is gamesmanship.

45 Auto Rim is slightly smaller in diameter than the 45 Cowboy Special and wouldn’t have the proper headspace since it has thicker rim than the standard rim

Edited by shamrock12
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Just now, shamrock12 said:

45 Auto Rim is smaller in diameter than the 45 Cowboy Special and wouldn’t have the proper headspace since it has thicker rim than the standard rim

No, I was talking about use for the intended purpose on guns set up for moon clips.:rolleyes:

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16 minutes ago, Griff said:

I load my C45S on a Dillon 550C.  I previously loaded on a single stage RCBS JR and RCBS carbide dies.  Back in 1987 when I bought my first Dillon, I just continued to use the RCBS dies I used previously.  You can use either a 45 Colt or 45ACP sizer/decapping die.  Either works as well as the other.  I tried a 45ACP standard seating & taper crimp die and it works fine if all you shoot the C45S out of is the pistol.  I've converted my 1873 rifles to use this round and a couple of years ago bought a RCBS 45ACP Roll Crimp seater die, #18942.  Pretty simple.  

Cost savings... by having lower powder payloads.  Plus, the huge 45 Colt case doesn't play well with reduced loads... and for BP... yes, when the uber competitive are using 38s or 32s, it can keep a good competitor in competition with those folks.  Not gamesmanship.  

Except for Bullseye, where I was middle of the road in respect to loads, I have always shot loads as close to the original as is allowed by the rules,  Just a personal quirk that means more to me than being competitive.

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The great part of this game is that it allows a wide latitude for folks to find their enjoyment.

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I've used the following mix of dies for about 15 years now while loading Cowboy .45 Special.

 

.45 Colt shell holder (actually a Dillon shell plate)

 

.45 Colt sizer/depriming die  - to allow minimal resizing work on the case (better life) and let case fit in the BIG chambers (almost all 0.460" diameter) in most modern cowboy type guns chambered for .45 Colt

 

.45 Colt expander spud in the Dillon powder-through-expander die, which adjusts to give enough belling to easily let a .452 sized lead bullet start without lead shaving

 

.45 Auto Rim seating and crimp die to seat and crimp bullet with a moderate roll crimp

(crimp may be tighter diameter than required, but most .45 Colt dies will not be adjustable low enough to place a crimp on the C45S case)

 

I even include an RCBS powder lockout die in the four-station Dillon 550 on which I load.  I can do that because of the use of a combined seat/crimp operating on the final station.

 

This is a WILDCAT cartridge, for which a special deal was cut with Starline to make cases for it.   No complete die set exists from any manufacturer even today.  This is a too small volume market for most of the cartridge and tooling companies to be interested in.

 

good luck, GJ

 

 

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11 hours ago, shamrock12 said:

 

I also have been doing some researching and it would appear some have recommended Hornady set #546554 which is 45 Auto/Auto Rimmed/Win Mag set with roll crimp. 

 

I used a variety of dies early on loading C45S as recommended here on the wire and finally settled on this set. Works great.

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10 hours ago, Prairie Dawg, SASS #50329 said:

Even better is what is known as "neck sizing" our fired brass. When a case is fired it expands and "bounces" back part way, ending up a few thousanths bigger than "resized" brass. Since we are working with very roomy chambers, we can leave the brass in the "as fired" state, sizing ONLY the case neck where the bullet seats, and sizing that only as much as needed to get decent neck tension on the bullet.

 

I do that with my 38-55 cartridges (for accuracy) , but I just own one single shot rifle in that caliber, so I know that all the cases will match the chamber for sure.

But what is the maximum tolerance between largest and smallest chamber in different guns? I don't separate the brass from rifle and wheel guns. Should I gauge all my firearms in .45 Colt (2 x Uberti '73, 4 x Cattleman) first before I try? Or is neck sizing even generally recommended for .45 Colt? Blow-by isn't an issue as my loads are stout enough, but I would do it for the lifespan of the cases.

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I just started loading C45S myself.  Most of what I had read recommended a .45 Colt sizing die and .45 ACP dies for the rest.  I have a Hornady LNL-AP press; I already had a .45 Colt shellplate and a set of standard Hornady New Dimension dies in .45 Colt.  I’ve had good results with Hornady dies generally.

 

I like to use a Lee Auto Drum powder measure for Frontier Cartridge loading.  I use APP powder which can cause steel parts to rust and Hornady steel parts tend to rust if you look at them crosswise.  The Lee measure and powder through expander die have fewer steel parts than the Hornady measure.  I bought a Lee 4 die set in .45 ACP and set up the measure on the #2 Lee die.

 

I had problems with neck tension using the Lee dies, then problems with bullet seating.  I was somewhat concerned whether the ACP dies would provide an adequate crimp but I do have an older RCBS .45 ACP #3 die with a roll crimp that I could use, but first I had to get the neck tension right.  I decided to see if my .45 Colt #2 and #3 dies would adjust down far enough to expand, seat and crimp the short cases.  Somewhat to my surprise, they did.  I did keep the Lee powder die in Station 3 with the Lee Auto Drum, but the neck expansion is done in Station 2.  It’s what worked for me.

 

I posted a video reporting my setup.  

 

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With my new SL brass I was getting lead shaving and unsatisfactory roll crimps until I chamfered all the cases.

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How hard is it to cut off a 45 colt factory crimp die so it will crimp c45s? Anything special in doing that or is it just a straight forward cut it off?

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For a  steel crimp die, a grinder will work faster than a hacksaw.  May take several blades, then filing and sanding, to finish the cut.   Sizing Dies are made of fairly good steel, and often heat treated to harden.    If you have a smith or mechanic friend with a lathe, the job goes quick.

 

good luck, GJ

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2 minutes ago, Slapshot said:

How hard is it to cut off a 45 colt factory crimp die so it will crimp c45s? Anything special in doing that or is it just a straight forward cut it off?

If you are referring to the Lee Factory Crimp Die (TM), it has a carbide ring in the mouth of the die that would complicate that process.

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7 minutes ago, Abe E.S. Corpus SASS #87667 said:

If you are referring to the Lee Factory Crimp Die (TM), it has a carbide ring in the mouth of the die that would complicate that process.

Ok was afraid of that. Hard to find a 45 acp/auto rim roll crimp die out there.

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Just grind down a 45 Colt roll crimp die and it works fine.

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2 minutes ago, Springfield Slim SASS #24733 said:

Just grind down a 45 Colt roll crimp die and it works fine.

This will also work for an SDB 45 colt die. Used a belt sander and then chamfered with a Dremel bit and polished. Worked like a champ. IIRC, I got the idea from Ripsaw. Liked the roll crimp way better than the ACP taper crimp.

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1 hour ago, Eyesa Horg said:

This will also work for an SDB 45 colt die. Used a belt sander and then chamfered with a Dremel bit and polished. Worked like a champ. IIRC, I got the idea from Ripsaw. Liked the roll crimp way better than the ACP taper crimp.

What is a "SDB" 45 colt die?

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39 minutes ago, Slapshot said:

What is a "SDB" 45 colt die?

Dillon SDB, which use special SDB only does. The loader is only good for pistol calibers, but work excellent. Mine is about 30 years old now.

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27 minutes ago, Slapshot said:

Has anyone tried to load C45S with 45 Scholfield dies?

Haven't tried, but think they may still be too tall for the C45S. I use the C45S in my 45c Vaquero with 4.2 grains of Çlays and a 160 grain RNFP pill. Works great for me.

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2 hours ago, Slapshot said:

Ok was afraid of that. Hard to find a 45 acp/auto rim roll crimp die out there.

Hmmm... listed as "in stock"  RCBS Roll Crimp Seater for 45ACP/45GAP/45AutoRim, I didn't have any trouble finding one... 

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Been reported here that the Schofield dies will USUALLY load Cowboy .45 Special ammo fine.  And they have a roll crimp die almost always.

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10 hours ago, Sixgun Seamus said:

I used a variety of dies early on loading C45S as recommended here on the wire and finally settled on this set. Works great.

Cowboy .45 Special is designed to use ordinary "off the shelf" dies. Using a .45 Colt shell plate and sizing die, and expander and seat/crimp dies from a .45 ACP or autorim die set. While any ACP/Autorim dies will work, along with a .45 Colt shell plate, the very best results to date have been achieved using Hornady New Dimension .45 caliber dies no. 546554. Note Hornady uses the same dies for .45 Colt, ACP, Autorim, and win mag. They produce a proper roll crimp, and use a sliding bullet guide that aids in seating even very short bullets straight.

This is what Garrison Joe recommended to me. Loaded on a Dillon 550, Dillon 45 Colt shell plate, Shooting Fox's 130 gr Barnstormer and works like a champ.

Regards

:FlagAm:  :FlagAm:  :FlagAm:

Gateway Kid

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I've been loading and shooting Cowboy 45 Special since before they were legitimized by Starline.

 

A.  Using straight 45 ACP dies is a mistake.  The 45 ACP resize die imparts a slight taper to the case which promotes Blow-By

 

B.  Use standard 45 Colt resize dies and standard 45 Colt belling/through powder die.

 

C.  Use a standard 45 ACP seater die then use a Redding Profile Crimp die.  Especially important if running C45S in your rifle.

 

Have Fun.

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7 hours ago, Eyesa Horg said:

Haven't tried, but think they may still be too tall for the C45S. I use the C45S in my 45c Vaquero with 4.2 grains of Çlays and a 160 grain RNFP pill. Works great for me.

For smokeless I have just about settled on 4 grain of bullseye with a 160 RF Lee.

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2 hours ago, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

Been reported here that the Schofield dies will USUALLY load Cowboy .45 Special ammo fine.  And they have a roll crimp die almost always.

Thanks reason I asked is if they would then that would give me two different calibers for the cost. And I have been thinking about getting some Scholfield cases to load.

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Posted (edited)
On 5/4/2022 at 6:45 PM, shamrock12 said:

I have a Ruger New Vaquero chambered in 45 Colt and am thinking of using Starline 45 Cowboy Special cases with 0.452” cast lead bullets and smokeless powders. They are basically shortened 45 Colt cases to minimize air gap. 
 

I prefer Hornady dies and have been studying their die set selections. I see they have set #546581 labeled as “Cowboy 45 Colt” and set #546582 labeled as “45 Colt.” Upon research, I have learned that “Cowboy” set #546581 is designed for 0.452” cast bullets while their regular set #546582 is designed for jacketed bullets. The “Cowboy” set is supposed to expand the case into a nice bell for better bullet seating. 
 

I also have been doing some researching and it would appear some have recommended Hornady set #546554 which is 45 Auto/Auto Rimmed/Win Mag set with roll crimp. I noticed the regular 45 Colt set has the same expanding and seating dies as the 45 Auto set, except for the sizing die. Obviously, the 45 Auto case is about 0.006” smaller in diameter as compared to 45 Cowboy Special and 45 Colt cases. So it puzzles me why some are recommending the smaller sizing die which would result in slightly loose chamber (read: blowbacks). I read that some others are recommending 45 Colt sizing die in conjunction with 45 Auto expanding and seating dies, which makes more sense to me.

 

Since Hornady regular “45 Colt” set has the same expanding and seating dies as found in their 45 Auto set, I am curious if their “Cowboy 45 Colt” set will also work on 45 Cowboy Special cases? I did notice their expanding and seating dies in their “Cowboy 45 Colt” set are different from the dies in their regular 45 Colt set which I have no idea what the difference could be. 
 

 

Shamrock, I've been using the standard Hornady Custom Grade New Dimension .45 Colt 3-die set I purchased in 2009 for C45S cases when I first started reloading. I use them on a Hornady LNL progressive press, lead bullets only. They reach down far enough to seat and put a nice roll crimp on the cartridge, without any modification, where other brands do not. No muss, no fuss, or need to mix in other dies like .45 ACP, auto rim et al. Haven't produced a faulty cartridge yet in 13 years and many thousands of rounds, BP or smokeless. Full disclosure, I've only used them in pistols, but I've little doubt they'd work fine in a properly modified toggle link rifle such as Colorado Coffinmaker's.

 

EDIT: the same dies work great on .45 S&W (Schofield). 

 

Label on box says:

Series II

Item # 546582

Use shell holder # 32

 

Good luck!

 

 

Edited by Abilene Slim SASS 81783
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