Well, we had a long, but successful, .45 ACP/Super/.450 SMC testing sequence over the memorial day weekend. Here’s a pic of the ammo station showing all the different rounds tested:
It’ll be a while before we have all the data crunched and the website updated, but I thought I would share some preliminary thoughts and information through a series of informal posts. This is the first such, looking at how the ammo performed in a pair of Boberg XR45-S pistols.
As I have noted previously, the Boberg operating mechanism is unusual/unique, with a reverse-feed action. This allows for a more compact design, and changes the felt recoil from what you would expect of most small semi-automatics, and is robust enough to handle full-power .45 Super/.450 SMC cartridges without any alterations. It can, however, present some reliability issues with some ammunition — see the note at the end.
Quick note about the data below: All the ammo used, with the exception of the four * items, were part of our overall test sequence and had three shots made over the Oehler chronograph (which is a double-unit, and automatically records and then averages the two readings), representing a total of 6 data points. I’m just giving the overall averages here; the full data will be available on the website later. The four * ammunition types only include two shots/four data points through one of the Bobergs — we only had one box of each of this ammo, and were wanting to get data from a range of guns.
Ammo Boberg XR45 A Boberg XR45 B
.45 ACP Low Recoil Std P 185gr FMJ-FN 749 fps / 280 ft-lbs 716 fps / 210 ft-lbs
.45 ACP Std P 230gr FMJ-RN 745 fps / 283 ft-lbs 766 fps / 299 ft-lbs
.45 ACP +P 185gr JHP 1060 fps / 461 ft-lbs 1052 fps / 454 ft-lbs
.45 ACP +P 230gr JHP 902 fps / 415 ft-lbs 906 fps / 419 ft-lbs
.45 Super 185gr JHP 1167 fps / 559 ft-lbs 1173 fps / 565 ft-lbs
.45 Super 200gr JHP 1104 fps / 541 ft-lbs 1106 fps / 543 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr FMJ 1008 fps / 518 ft-lbs 1019 fps / 540 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr JHP 1034 fps / 545 ft-lbs 1020 fps / 531 ft-lbs
.45 Super 255gr Hard Cast 1017 fps / 585 ft-lbs 1010 fps / 577 ft-lbs
.45 ACP +P 160gr Barnes TAC-XP 1040 fps / 384 ft-lbs 1047 fps / 389 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 185gr JHP 1249 fps / 640 ft-lbs 1243 fps / 634 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 185gr Bonded Defense JHP 1244 fps / 635 ft-lbs 1194 fps / 585 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 230gr Bonded Defense JHP 1068 fps / 582 ft-lbs 1046 fps / 558 ft-lbs
Critical Defense .45 ACP Std P 185gr FTX 930 fps / 355 ft-lbs 937 fps / 360 ft-lbs
Critical Duty .45 ACP +P 220gr Flexlock 885 fps / 382 ft-lbs 894 fps / 390 ft-lbs
.45 Super 170gr CF 1184 fps / 529 ft-lbs 1167 fps / 513 ft-lbs
.45 Super 185gr XTP JHP 1250 fps / 641 ft-lbs 1210 fps / 601 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr GD JHP 1038 fps / 550 ft-lbs 1025 fps / 536 ft-lbs
*Federal HST .45 ACP Std P 230gr JHP 779 fps / 309 ft-lbs
*G2 Research RIP .45 ACP Std P 162gr JHP 877 fps / 276 ft-lbs
*LeHigh Defense .45 Super 170gr JHP 1100 fps / 456 ft-lbs
*Liberty Civil Defense .45 ACP +P 78gr JHP 1768 fps / 541 ft-lbs
So, there you can see the general trends pretty well. The standard-pressure .45 ACP loads run about 300 ft-lbs, the +P .45 ACP run up to about 400 ft-pounds, and the .45 Super / .450 SMC rounds are in the 500-600 ft-lbs range. That kind of distribution is what we saw across the board with other barrel lengths, as well (though you’ll have to wait to see the details and caveats on that).
Of course, pure power is just one component for what makes a good ammunition choice. Bullet design & penetration is extremely important when considering a self-defense load. Shootability in your gun is also critical — because if you can’t recover quickly from shot to shot, then you may limit your ability in a stressful situation. Likewise, if the ammo doesn’t function reliably, or damages your gun, that is also a huge factor.
Most of the ammo we tested functioned fairly well in the pair of Bobergs. We experienced FTFs (failure-to-fire) with a number of the different Double-Tap rounds, and not in just the Bobergs. Those seemed to have been due to light strikes on the primer, which could have been due to improper primer seating, ‘hard’ primers, or some other factor. And we ran into some problems with bullet separation with a number of the Buffalo Bore loads, which was confirmed later when I did some additional shooting with those rounds through my Boberg (one of the two used in the testing), to a rate of about one round per magazine. But that is due to the reverse-feed mechanism in the XR45-S, so wouldn’t be a factor in other guns (and indeed wasn’t).
Personally, I find the extra power quite manageable in the Boberg platform, but I am not very recoil sensitive. There also didn’t seem to be any damage caused to the guns by those loads. But I still don’t plan on feeding my gun a steady diet of such hot loads, the same way that I don’t always shoot full-house magnums out of my .357s and .44s. Personal preference.
Look for more results, images, and thoughts in the days to come.
With a little luck in about two months we’ll be doing the formal chop tests of .45 Super, .450 SMC, and some additional .45 ACP loads. We’ve now got all the ammo on hand, and it’ll be a fun (but tiring) weekend. I thought I would share what actual ammo we will be testing, with the manufacturer’s velocity data:
45acp Low Recoil Std P 185gr FMJ-FN 850fps
45acp Std P 230gr FMJ-RN 850fps
45acp +P 185gr JHP 1150fps
45acp +P 230gr JHP 950fps
45 Super 185gr JHP 1300fps
45 Super 200gr JHP 1200fps
45 Super 230gr FMJ 1100fps
45 Super 230gr JHP 1100fps
45 Super 255gr Hard Cast 1075fps
45acp +P 160gr Barnes TAC-XP 1200fps from 5” 1075fps from 3.5”
450 SMC 185gr JHP 1310fps from 5” 1911
450 SMC 185gr Bonded Defense JHP 1310fps from 5” 1911
450 SMC 230gr Bonded Defense JHP 1135fps from 5” 1911
Critical Defense 45acp Std P 185gr FTX Muzzle 1000fps
Critical Duty 45acp +P 220gr Flexlock Muzzle 941fps
45 Super 170gr CF 1250fps
45 Super 185gr XTP JHP 1300fps
45 Super 230gr GD JHP 1100fps
In addition to the first data for both the .45 Super and .450 SMC cartridges, this will also almost double the number of .45 ACP loads we’ve tested. We’re looking forward to it!
As I said last time, before I get into all the nuts & bolts detail of the handloads (which I will do below), let me summarize what I learned for those who aren’t into the geeky stuff. Please note all of this is VERY TENTATIVE, based on this second set of experiments!
- Going to a tighter crimp pretty much solved the problems I had encountered the first time with bullet separation in the Boberg. This time I only had one partial separation, in a 230gr bullet.
- Likewise, going to shorter O.A.L. (Over All Length) for most of the loads eliminated most problems I had experienced with feeding.
- These factors, combined with some different power levels, have put me on the right track to developing a ‘true’ .45 Super load (something which is actually more than just a .45 ACP +P).
To re-iterate: Coming up with a hand load is more art than science, since there are many different factors to consider: type and amount of propellent (gunpowder), weight and profile of the bullet chosen, the overall length (O.A.L.) of the final cartridge because the depth of the bullet seating changes the case capacity and hence the pressure profile, what type and degree of crimping, and the type of primer used.
Here are the numbers, in the same format as last time for easy comparison. Once again, let me note that these are experimental loads, and you choose to use the information here entirely at your own risk, without endorsement from me:
Titegroup powder Bullet O.A.L.* Glock 21 (5.0″) Boberg XR45 (3.75″)
6.7gr 185gr XTP 1.175″ 1050fps 970fps
7.3gr 200gr RNFP 1.250″ 1000fps 925fps
6.3gr 230gr RNFP 1.250″ 950fps 900fps
HP-38 powder Bullet O.A.L.* Glock 21 (5.0″) Boberg XR45 (3.75″)
7.2gr 185gr XTP 1.175″ 900fps 840fps
7.2gr 200gr RNFP 1.250″ 900fps 830fps
6.8gr 230gr RNFP 1.250″ 860fps 790fps
Longshot powder Bullet O.A.L.* Glock 21 (5.0″) Boberg XR45 (3.75″)
10.0gr 185gr XTP 1.200″ 1100fps 1025fps
9.5gr 200gr RNFP 1.250″ 1010fps 910fps
9.0gr 230gr RNFP 1.250″ 1020fps 960fps
Curiously, while generally going to a shorter O.A.L. (meaning that the bullet was seated deeper) resulted in the expected increase in velocity, there are a couple of instances where that didn’t happen. I’m not sure how to explain it — could have been an data reporting error on my part (or from the chrono) either this time or last time. Or it could have been not having a large enough sample size. Or it might have some variation in the handloads made for either batch of tests. I just don’t know.
But I’m not going to worry about it overmuch. Now that I seem to have resolved the separation and feeding issues, and seem to be getting good numbers, I am going to build off of these results. That means slight increases in propellant levels so that I surpass published performance numbers for .45 ACP +P. Because of my previous tests, BBTI formal testing, and published numbers for .460 Rowland, I have an upper bound for how the Glock will handle the loads safely and there’s still a lot of leeway before I start pushing those bounds.
One step at a time.
Oh, and I continue to be happy with how the XR45-S is performing. I am still waiting on some “Generation 2″ magazine springs, which I think will eliminate the last of the problems I was having with feeding.
Over the course of the Christmas holiday weekend we had some unseasonably warm and pleasant weather, so I decided to go out to the range and test the first in a series of experimental hand loads I had developed for my new Boberg XR45-S. Since the XR45 is rated for the .45 Super cartridge, these loads were intended to start at about the power level of a .45 ACP+P load to give me a baseline, which I can then build up from there. I wanted to do this because there are actually very limited commercial choices in the .45 Super cartridge, and even less in the way of good testing or reloading data (which is one of the reasons why we’re going to be doing the BBTI chop tests on that cartridge in 2015 as I’ve previously mentioned).
Now, before I get into all the nuts & bolts detail of the handloads (which I will do below), let me summarize what I learned for those who aren’t into the geeky stuff. Please note all of this is VERY TENTATIVE, based on this first set of experiments!
- The ballistic performance ‘sweet spot’ seems to come in a 200gr bullet loading, in terms of how much loss comes from a shorter barrel (the difference between the 3.75″ XR45 barrel and the 5.0″ Glock 21 barrel I used for comparison.
- I consistently had problems with not having a tight enough crimp on the rounds at these higher power levels over a lower power standard .45 ACP practice loads. This makes sense because the slide would be moving faster with the higher power loads, leading to more problems with bullet separation.
- I had problems with a 185gr jacketed hollow point bullet that I didn’t have with either the 200gr or 230gr round-nose bullets. And the problem seemed to be worse with the Hornady XTP JHP bullet than in factory loaded JHPs I have tried. This *might* be due to the increased ‘throat’ size of the XTP in comparison to other brands. Maybe.
Now, about my hand loads. These were all figured based on a variety of sources and my own experience and experiments in creating loads for the .460 Rowland in 2013, since, as noted, there is very little good information readily available for the .45 Super. And while I wanted to try to start at about .45 ACP+P power levels, I wanted to be fairly conservative in doing so, just to be safe. Coming up with a hand load is more art than science, since there are many different factors to consider: type and amount of propellent (gunpowder), weight and profile of the bullet chosen, the overall length (O.A.L.) of the final cartridge because the depth of the bullet seating changes the case capacity and hence the pressure profile, what type and degree of crimping, and the type of primer used. I decided to just use all one type of primer (a fairly standard one) as well as the same amount of light crimp, to help reduce the number of different factors. I also decided to pretty much standardize the O.A.L. though you will see some variation in the Longshot loads. Like I said, it’s more art than science, and you have to start someplace.
OK, here’s a table showing the different loads and how they performed. These are experimental loads, and you choose to use the information here entirely at your own risk, without endorsement from me:
Titegroup powder Bullet O.A.L.* Glock 21 (5.0″) Boberg XR45 (3.75″)
6.5gr 185gr XTP 1.175″ 990fps 900fps
7.3gr 200gr RNFP 1.275″ 1100fps 1070fps
6.3gr 230gr RNFP 1.265″ 1020fps 970fps
HP-38 powder Bullet O.A.L.* Glock 21 (5.0″) Boberg XR45 (3.75″)
6.8gr 185gr XTP 1.175″ 600fps 560fps
8.0gr 200gr RNFP 1.275″ 920fps 850fps
6.8gr 230gr RNFP 1.265″ 840fps 770fps
Longshot powder Bullet O.A.L.* Glock 21 (5.0″) Boberg XR45 (3.75″)
10.0gr 185gr XTP 1.250″ 1020fps 960fps
9.0gr 200gr RNFP 1.250″ 1070fps 1010fps
8.0gr 230gr RNFP 1.275″ 980fps 880fps
*O.A.L. = Over All Length
OK, that’s obviously ‘warts & all’, following the same openness that we have done in the formal BBTI tests. I’ve only been back into reloading for about five years, and still have a hell of a lot to learn — as you can see from how badly underpowered the HP-38 loads turned out.
But it’s a decent start. I’m going to spend some more time thinking about the next step, see what additional research and comments suggest (feel free to offer your opinions!). The .45 Super loads available from Buffalo Bore are about 10-20% more powerful than these base loads, so I still have a ways to go in finding the right mix. Given the problems I was having with bullet separation (where the mechanical action of the Boberg causes the case to jerk away from the heavy bullet), the first step is probably to increase my crimp, and see what that does to the velocity (since a strong crimp will cause a greater pressure build-up before the bullet is released). I may also see what seating the bullets deeper does (meaning that the O.A.L. will be less, and again there will be a great pressure spike).
Wish me luck.
As Frank said on Facebook this afternoon:
I knew when you got the 45 you wanted the 9mm too. It was only a matter of time.
Guilty as charged. Look what followed me home today:
Yup, a Boberg XR9-S: a new little brother for my XR45-S. As I did in that post, I thought I’d put up some comparison pix to give a sense of just how small this gun is, even though it really doesn’t feel like it when you hold it or shoot it.
Here it is again with the XR45:
And here’s the view that shows the thickness of both:
Yeah, there’s a difference. Here’s the XR9 with a Springfield EMP (also 9mm, 3″ barrel – the XR9 has a 3.35″ barrel):
And with my J-frame in .38 Special:
For grins, here it is on top of the J-frame:
OK, but how about in comparison to the classic premium pocket 9mm, the Rohrbaugh R9? Here ya go:
The R9 *is* a fantastic little gun, and I love it. I don’t love shooting it, though. The XR9 wins in that category. It will also handle +P ammo and holds one more round (7+1) than the Rohrbaugh. But it is a bit bigger:
Lastly, here it is with a Bond Arms derringer — a great little gun, with a variety of different barrels available. But there’s still just two shots in the derringer, and it actually weighs about 3 ounces more.
While I have shot this gun (it belonged to a good friend), and know it to be dependable, I do still want to make sure that it will be able to reliably digest my preferred SD loads. So more on that to come!
First, I want to share a couple of things I discovered in getting the Boberg out of the box, taken apart, and cleaned. This wasn’t strictly necessary, of course, because it came from the factory properly cleaned and lubed. But I’m very much a hands-on learner, and wanted to see what I was dealing with.
The gun is very user-friendly. To take it down for field stripping, you just rack the slide back, turn a lever, then move the slide forward. You don’t need any special tools, or an extra hand, or the strength of the pure. In that sense, it is very much in the modern design, as easy as a Glock. BUT without the need to dry-fire the gun first (which always makes me twitch, and may be the only thing I really dislike about the Glock design.)
Once the slide comes away from the frame, there are only 4 parts which come apart (other than the slide itself). There are no little fiddly bits to get lost or to spring out of sight when you’re not looking. You don’t have to disassemble the gun in a paper bag so that you don’t lose anything. It’s easy, obvious, and once you’ve done it following the owner’s manual, I doubt you’ll ever need to refer to the manual again. You can’t ask for more than that.
So, dis-assembly, cleaning, and re-assembly is all a breeze. Nice!
Having done so, I went through my box of misc. holsters to see what the Boberg might fit into. Because the XR45 is so new there are damned few holster-makers out there who have a holster listed to fit it. And I discovered something VERY interesting: the slide has almost the exact same dimensions as the Glock 21 (and similar Glock models). I first found this out in trying it in this little plastic holster: Glock Sport Combat Holster. I got out my calipers and did some measuring, and found that there was less than a millimeter difference in the width of the slide on the Glock 21 and the Boberg. They also have very similar profiles. And if you measure from the deepest pocket on the backstrap of either gun (where the web of your hand settles in) to the front of the trigger guard, there is less than 2 millimeters difference. Meaning that the Boberg fits almost perfectly into an open-muzzle holster for a Glock 21. Good to know!
OK, so what about going out shooting with the Boberg today?
Overall, I was very happy with how it performed on a first outing. I had a couple of minor glitches with improper feeding and ejection, but I am going to hold off on making any decisions about that until I give it at least another range session to break in. It does seem to fling spent cases somewhere into the next county, and I’m going to have to get used to that since I like to recover those cases and reload them. My very mild reloads wouldn’t cycle properly (the ones I took out are *really* mild), so I learned to take somewhat hotter loads. And the trigger is really l o n g … longer than either J-frame I own, and about like the little DAO Rohrbaugh I have. The gun seems to shoot a little to the left for me, but I won’t adjust the sights until I’m more familiar with it. Even so, I was able to consistently ding a 6″ spinner at 10 yards, which is all I expect from a pocket pistol.
How did it handle the different ammos I tried? Quite well, all in all.
I took my Glock 21 (5″ barrel) along for comparison, and shot over a single chronograph. Here are the average numbers:
Glock 21 Boberg
CorBon DPX 185gr +P 1060FPS 1030FPS
Winchester SXZ Training 230gr 850FPS 795FPS
Speer GDHP 230gr 840FPS 760FPS
CorBon JHP 230gr +P 980FPS 900FPS
The CorBon ammo is in line with what we tested formally. So that was good to see.
All together, I put about 100 rounds through the Boberg this afternoon, and wasn’t experiencing any real soreness or tiredness from all that shooting, which is unusual for such a small gun and full power loads. And just for comparison, I shot my .38Sp J-frame with 158gr LSWCHP +P from Buffalo Bore, which is my preferred SD loading for that gun, and the recoil was worse than with the Boberg. That’s for a ME comparison of 386 ft/lbs for the J-frame to 436 ft/labs for the Boberg with the 185gr CorBon loading.
So, that’s that. Already, the Boberg is equal to the J-frame, in my eyes. I shoot it as well. It has the same, or greater, amount of power. Reloading is faster. And it holds 6+1 to start. I still want to put it through its paces before I trust it as a carry gun, and there will be times when I still prefer to have the revolver, but already I can see that the Boberg is going to be a very nice addition to my collection. Once I get into .45 Super power levels, that will really make a difference.
More to come.
I’ve written about the innovative Boberg Arms XR9 previously. Here’s the take-away from my review:
This gun is a winner. It is well designed, and well made. The innovative design makes your brain hurt when you first see it. But the recoil is nothing like what you get from any other “pocket gun”, even when shooting full +P defensive ammunition. Usually with a pocket gun, you trade off the pain of shooting it a lot for the convenience of being able to carry it easily. With the Boberg, you don’t have to make that trade-off. I honestly wouldn’t be bothered at all by running a couple hundred rounds through this gun at the range.
Well, guess what followed me home today.
No, not an XR9. Something a little … bigger:
Yup, one of the new XR45s.
Here’s a pic of one from my outing with the other BBTI guys a few weeks ago:
It’s a little hard to tell how big the gun is in that pic. Here it is with some others:
Here’s the Boberg back to back with the Steyr:
With the EMP:
And with the J-frame:
And just for grins, here’s the Boberg with the J-frame sitting right on top of it:
Yeah, the 6+1 Boberg is actually smaller than the three other compact pistols. And it has a longer barrel than all three — 3.75″ on the Boberg, compared to 3.5″ in the Steyr, 3.0″ in the EMP, and 1.875″ on the J-frame.
How does it do this? Because of the innovative … some would say just plain weird … way the feed mechanism works. For the best explanation, take a look at the animation on the Boberg homepage, but basically as the slide comes back, it grabs a new cartridge out of the magazine by the rim and then positions it into the chamber. Yeah, you put the bullets in the magazine nose first. Like this:
And here’s a detail of the top of the loaded mag:
It takes some getting used to, I admit.
Now, while the Boberg is actually smaller in overall size than the other guns, it still has some heft to it: 22 ounces, as opposed to both the Steyr and the EMP at 26. The J-frame shown is a Model M&P 360 with the Scandium frame, so it comes in under 14 ounces. All of those are unloaded weight.
How does it shoot? Like this:
“Not bad at all.”
That was with .45 ACP+P high-end self-defense rounds. And the Boberg is actually rated for .45 Super, a cartridge which is dimensionally the same as the .45 ACP, but which is much higher pressure, about 30% greater than even +P … which almost takes it into .460 Rowland territory in terms of the ballistics.
Since I just got mine, it will take a while to find out all the little quirks that it has. But based on shooting one a few weeks ago, and in a much longer session with the 9mm version, I have little doubt that I will be very pleased with it. I’ve already poked around my selection of holsters, and found that the XR45 fits perfectly into a little belt slide holster I have for my Glock 21 Gen 4, as well as into a Mika Pocket Holster I use for the J-frame.
Oh, and since now a couple of us have these, guess what cartridge we’re going to test sometime next year? Yeah, the .45 Super. And since the barrel is the same as for the .45 ACP, we’re going to revisit that cartridge and test a selection of new ammo. So, something else to look forward to!
Another quick post about getting together for a bit of shooting weekend before last. This time, let’s look at some semi-auto carbines.
The first two are a pair of Beretta CX4 Storms, one in 9mm and the other in .45ACP. You can see them here with the pump guns:
I’ve previously reviewed the Cx4, and would only add that each time I shoot one of these guns I just enjoy the hell out of them. At just under 30″ overall length and weighing 5.75 pounds, they’re light, easily maneuverable, and very ergonomic. Great little pistol caliber carbines.
Now, see that gun partially visible off to the right in the pic above? And here’s another shot of it with the other pumps and carbines:
See that short little thing third from the left? Yeah, it’s an AGM-1 carbine in 9mm. Here’s a much better pic of it:
It’s an old-school bullpup, made in the 1980s in Italy. None of us had seen one before, and since it was a used gun it came with no paperwork or information. In picking it up, it felt almost too small to be civilian-legal (I mean non-NFA regulated), but the overall length is a tad over 26″ and the barrel is barely 16 and 1/8th inch. It has a little more heft than the Cx4, and most of the parts are heavy stamped steel. It uses Browning Hi-Power magazines. Interestingly, it was intended to be a modular design you could easily convert over to either .22lr or .45ACP, though I doubt the parts to do so are very common now.
But it was a surprisingly nice little gun to shoot. And when I say little, I mean it — damned thing is shorter than my arm. It was accurate, had a nice trigger, and almost no recoil. All of us were able to put a magazine full of bullets into a one-inch hole at 11 yards the first time we picked it up and tried it. Cool gun. If you ever happen to stumble across one in a shop, don’t be afraid to give it a try.
A friend dropped me a note, after looking over my previous experiments with putting .460 Rowland load power into .45 ACP cases, and asked a fairly simple question: Do you think that the case walls are actually thicker in the .460 Rowland?
Now, I have read several articles over the years which mentioned that the .460 Rowland cases were “stronger” with others saying that the cases were “thicker”. In fact, in the blog post cited above, I myself said:
Even shooting them in a gun designed to handle .460 Rowland power was risky, since the .45 ACP cases do not have the same strength as the .460 Rowland cases.
But is that actually true?
Good question. My Lyman 49th Edition Reloading Handbook doesn’t give case wall thickness for the .45ACP, and doesn’t list .460 Rowland at all. A quick check online also didn’t turn up any case wall thickness specs for either cartridge. As noted above, there are some gun writers out there who claim that the .460 Rowland case has thicker walls “for strength” but this claim isn’t made on the 460Rowland.com site that I could find.
So, being the data-curious guy that I am, I decided to just take some measurements and see what I found.
The only .460 cases I have are all Starline brass (I ordered 500 from them, and supplemented with other brass from factory Buffalo Bore ammunition – again, all of it marked as Starline), and I went through and checked a bunch with my simple calipers. Now, those calipers aren’t the pincer type, just the standard parallel-jaws type, so I only trust the measurements to about halfway down the case. And they all fell into a range of wall thickness from 0.0012″ to 0.0014″.
Doing the same measurement with ten different ‘marked’ sets of .45 ACP brass I also have readily to hand, the results were almost identical, with the vast majority of cases being 0.0012″ or a thousandth of an inch on either side of that. It didn’t matter whether the cases were nickle-plated or marked “+P”. The ‘marked’ brass was as follows:
- Cor Bon +P
- Federal Brass
- Federal Nickle
- Speer Brass
- Speer Nickle
And when you stop to think about it, there would be no reason or way for the case walls to be significantly thicker in the .460 Rowland cartridge, and still allow you to use standard .45 ACP reloading components and dies. If the case walls were substantially thicker, then you’d have to have slightly smaller bullets, if nothing else, and would probably need a different resizing die and/or neck expanding die.
Also, when I was conducting those experiments last summer, I didn’t note any differences in how the .45 ACP cases looked or functioned (when being reloaded) after being shot with .460 Rowland power loads.
My conclusion? That the .460 Rowland cases are no thicker walled than .45 ACP cases. They may still be “stronger”, if there is some metallurgical difference, but I doubt it. The real difference is in whether or not the chamber of the gun in which the ammo is being used is strong enough to handle the much-greater pressure of the .460 Rowland loads. Because remember, the maximum pressure for standard .45 ACP is just 21,000 PSI, and 23,000 PSI for .45 ACP +P — while the .460 Rowland cartridge reaches pressures of 40,000 PSI.
Of course, there are additional factors to consider (like recoil and timing) with the .460 Rowland cartridge, so you can’t just make the chamber of the gun stronger and then start putting those kinds of loads into .45 ACP cases. And you really wouldn’t want to accidentally put such power into a ‘normal’ .45 ACP gun — that could lead to catastrophic failure of the gun, and result in serious injury or death. So it still makes ALL KINDS OF SENSE to only load the longer .460 Rowland cases with that much power.
Some weeks back I put up a post about my preliminary experiences with a .460 Rowland conversion for my Glock 21 Gen 4. In it I mentioned how much I like the resultant gun, but also how I was having some problems with magazine wear when shooting full-force .460 loads.
Well, after thinking a lot more about it, as well as discussing it with people online and with the other BBTI members when they were here for the recent tests (one of whom has been a Glock armorer for 15+ years) a couple different strategies emerged for me to test. Briefly, those were:
- See whether putting in a heavier mag spring would help
- See whether the problem was due to the case length of the .460 Rowland cartridges (they’re 1/16″ longer than .45 ACP).
- See whether the problem was due to the *power* of the cartridges rather than the length of the cases.
To test the first, it was a simple matter to get a more powerful mag spring and test it in one of the magazines. I picked up a Wolff magazine spring from Midway and did so.
To test whether it was the simple case length of the .460 Rowland cases, I made up some .460 Rowland rounds using .45 ACP reloading standards.
To test whether it was the *power* of the .460 loads but not the case length was another matter. Here’s where we get to the Don’t Try This At Home part of today’s blog post: I made up a number of .45 ACP rounds which were loaded to .460 Rowland specs.
Let me repeat that again: Don’t Try This At Home. These are wildcat rounds, and potentially dangerous. Shooting them in a gun not rated for .460 Rowland stresses could very well result in catastrophic failure of your gun, of the “KABOOM!” variety. Even shooting them in a gun designed to handle .460 Rowland power was risky, since the .45 ACP cases do not have the same strength as the .460 Rowland cases. I made up just 10 rounds of each of these loadings, and was careful to make sure I shot them all, so that they didn’t accidentally wind up in a .45 not strong enough to take the punishment.
Here are each of the loadings I made up, just for reference, along with their approximate chrono results:
- 185gr XTP bullet, .45 ACP case, .460 Rowland power 1480fps
- 200gr RNFP bullet, .45 ACP case, .460 Rowland power 1440fps
- 230gr RNFP bullet, .45 ACP case, .460 Rowland power 1350fps
- 250gr LFN bullet, .45 ACP case, .460 Rowland power 1250fps
- 230gr RNFP bullet, .45 ACP case, .45 ACP power 920fps
- 230gr RNFP bullet, .460 Rowland case, .45 ACP power 925fps
- 185gr XTP bullet, .460 Rowland case, .460 Rowland power 1490fps
- 200gr RNFP bullet, .460 Rowland case, .460 Rowland power 1420fps
- 230gr RNFP bullet, .460 Rowland case, .460 Rowland power 1355fps
- 250gr LFN bullet, .460 Rowland case, .460 Rowland power 1265fps
No, I’m not going to give the specific powder amounts for any of those. I used Hodgdon Longshot powder, and you can look up the specs if you want to know more.
In addition, I had these factory loads on hand for comparison, along with their approximate chrono results:
11. 185gr DPX .45 ACP +P 1110fps
12. 230gr GDHP .45 ACP 850fps
13. 230gr JHP .45 ACP +P1040fps
14. 230gr JHP .460 Rowland 1380fps
15. 255gr LFN .460 Rowland1260fps
OK, a couple of comments before I go further: those are “approximate” chrono readings because I wasn’t being anywhere near as careful as we are when we do formal BBTI testing. To wit: I was just using one chrono; I wasn’t worried about getting the exact same number of readings (so long as I got three or four, I wasn’t too worried about it); and I didn’t do anything to control for consistent lighting or suchlike. But they should all be in the right ballpark.
So, looking over all those, you will see what I see: that there was a remarkable consistency in power levels, whether you’re looking at my reloads or factory loads, and between those rounds which used either .45 ACP cases or .460 Rowland cases. That tells me that following the published data for .460 Rowland reloads, and making some intelligent decisions on how to adapt those to the .45 ACP cases for purposes of this experiment, was by and large successful. Meaning that I can use those loads to fairly evaluate what makes a difference on the basic problem I was investigating: what is causing the magazine damage and how to resolve it.
So, what conclusions did I draw from all this?
First, the more powerful magazine spring seemed to help with consistent loading. I will be swapping out all the Glock 21 mag springs I have. This makes intuitive sense, since the slide is moving faster when shooting the more powerful rounds.
That doing a little customizing on the magazines also seems to help a great deal. Here’s a pic showing an unaltered magazine and one I have taken a Dremel tool to:
Note that these are just the magazine ‘boxes’ — the guts (spring, follower, etc) have all been removed for clarity.
With the altered magazine and stronger spring, any problems I had with Failure To Feed was minimized.
And most important, it is the *power* of the round, not the case length, which seems to cause damage to the unaltered magazines. Shooting the .460 Rowland power loads in the .45 ACP cases demonstrated this. Conversely, shooting the .45 ACP power loads in the .460 Rowland cases didn’t cause any magazine damage at all.
Two additional notes I want to add: the first is that I had pretty consistent problems with the heavy Lead Flat Nose rounds in all configurations. They kept getting jammed up in transitioning from the magazine into the chamber. I’ll probably continue to experiment with this in the future, but I’m not too worried about it, since many guns run into some ammo specific problems.
The second is that once again I was really impressed at just how well this reconfigured Glock 21 did with .45 ACP loads. Seriously, with the .460 Rowland conversion in place, there was very minimal recoil (more than a .22, but not much) and it was VERY easy to control and shoot the gun well. I suspect that going forward the vast majority of the shooting I will do with this will be using standard .45 ACP reloads, saving the much more powerful .460 Rowland rounds for occasional practice. In this sense, I am thinking of the .45/.460 relationship the way I think about .38/.357 — it seems to be a perfectly appropriate analogy.
Now that I have all this sorted, I can go ahead and write up a formal review. But I thought I would share a little of the process of how I got to this point.
I said it before and I’ll repeat it here: if you carry a .45, you should instead be carrying a .460 Rowland.
So, early this year I put in an order for a .460 Rowland conversion kit for a new Gen 4 Glock 21.
I’m planning on doing a full formal review of the kit and the resultant gun, but I thought I’d share some of my experience so far. Why “so far”? Well, because I haven’t worked out all the minor kinks yet.
OK, first thing: it didn’t just take the 3 weeks for delivery which was promised. It wasn’t even 3 months. It was almost six months. And a buddy of mine who ordered his before I ordered mine still hasn’t gotten his. So, there’s that.
Second, and part of the reason for the delay, I didn’t receive a new barrel which was marked .460 Rowland. Rather, I got what looked like a standard Wolff .45 barrel. But it had indeed been rechambered to handle the .460 Rowland cartridge. Before I received the kit I got an email advising me of this problem, and I figured I could just roll with it. This is what I got in the kit:
Going clockwise from the top: That’s the threaded barrel, a screw-on compensator, spring assembly adapter, small serving of red loc-tite, and the heavy spring assembly (which is actually the Gen 3 design, but with the adapter works just fine in my Gen 4).
As advertised by .460 Rowland, the conversion takes like 30 seconds. If you can field strip your Glock, you can do the conversion. I’ve opted for using blue loc-tite rather than red, since it still works well but allows me to remove the compensator easily if I need to.
How does it work? Well, I’ve taken it out to the range several times now, shooting both factory rounds as well as my own reloads. Doing some informal chrono tests, I have gotten exactly the kind of performance promised and expected. The Buffalo Bore 230gr JHP were right at 1300 fps. 200gr RNFP reloads were at 1380 fps, and 185gr XTP (JHP) reloads were at 1410 fps. And those reloads are actually fairly mild — just 12.5gr of Longshot powder — based on what data I’ve seen, I could probably push that to 13.5gr without any risk. (Don’t consider this an endorsement — do your own research, and work up your own loads using published data and standard safety practices.)
Shooting the .460 loads out of the Glock is like shooting a .44 magnum (which I have a fair amount of practice with), but having 13 rounds on tap. Seriously, it’s like flinging thunderbolts with each shot. And the recoil is surprisingly manageable, though I’m not someone who is very recoil shy.
So, why did I say I was still working out the kinks?
Well, there’s a problem with the magazines. Here’s what happened after the first outing:
Look closely on the left side of that magazine, and you’ll see that there’s a tab which has been torn a bit loose and pushed forward. That’s from the force of the .460 cartridges slamming forward. At about this point the magazine would no longer release or insert smoothly. That was after my first outing, with about 60 .460 Rowland shots fired. And actually, I damaged two magazines to that extent with those 60 rounds.
So after that first outing, I took a Dremel tool to the magazines and cut away about 1/8″ of material, and flattened the whole face back into position. Today I took those two magazines back out to the range, and ran about another 50 rounds through the gun using the two of them. Here’s one of them after today’s outing, next to a new unaltered magazine:
More problems. This time, the little metal tab snapped off, as well as distorting the face of magazine again. Clearly, I need to sort out how to fix this.
Two other things I want to mention. One, I tried shooting standard .45ACP cartridges out of the .460 Rowland conversion. They work wonderfully. Seriously, there’s almost no recoil, the gun cycles just fine (with my mild reloads as well as factory +P self defense ammo), and there’s no accuracy loss that I could determine casually shooting the gun. So, that’s a plus.
But the other thing? Heh — take a look at what happened with my front site today:
Yeah, it really shouldn’t be facing that way, nor sticking up quite so much. But I can fix that easily enough.
If you have thoughts on how I can correct the magazine problem, I’d love to hear ’em.
Oh — THAT — ammo shortage.
Yeah, the beginning of January I wrote that we were finally moving forward with the testing of polygonal vs. traditional rifling; the so-called “Glock Tests“, and outlined how we were planning on conducting a bit of an experiment in asking for suggested ammo loads to include in the tests, and then seeing what kind of support there was for a slate of different choices by allowing pledges to help purchase ammo.
But, as someone who wrote me put it: where did we think we were going to *find* any such ammo?
Initially, I thought that the shortage we were seeing would be a fairly temporary problem, and that by the time spring rolled around we’d be able to locate sufficient quantities for our testing (we need about 350 rounds of each type).
Yeah, so much for that idea. Now you know why I don’t play the stock market or bet on races.
The ammo shortage has just continued to deepen. It’s to the point where people are having a hard time finding enough of any kind of ammo just to keep in practice with a trip to the range once or twice a month. I’m damned glad I reload my practice ammo, and have a decent store of most components.
But that doesn’t do a damned thing for our testing. The whole idea is to test factory ammo, not some cobbled-together handload version of factory ammo.
So we’re putting off the “Glock Tests” again, until the situation gets better. Keep an eye here and elsewhere for news about when this will change.
One good bit of news, however: we already had a decent selection and sufficient quantity of each ammo type to do the .22WMR (.22Magnum) tests. So we’re going to go ahead and do that sequence of tests here this spring — sometime soon!
Sorry for the bad news, everyone — really. These tests have been delayed several times for one (good) reason or another, and we’re just as frustrated by that as everyone else. But when ammo supplies start to become more available, we’ll be sure to try and get them done as soon as we can.
As mentioned previously, for some time we’ve been planning on doing a series of inch-by-inch chop tests on the Glock-style polygonal barrels (Glock was unable to supply 18″ barrels, so we’ll be using 6 grove poly and 6 land traditional barrels from Lothar Walther). We’ve run into a number of unexpected delays, but now have the barrels we need, and are planning on doing the series of tests sometime later this year, hopefully in spring/early summer. For testing purposes, we’ll be conducting traditional ‘land & groove’ barrels in the same calibers at the same time, so that we have direct head-to-head comparisons. Because we’re expecting a fairly subtle difference in performance, we’re going to do 10 (ten) shots for each inch of barrel for both style barrels. And to keep the scope of the project manageable, we’re only going to test two cartridges/calibers: 9mm (9×19) and .45 ACP.
In order to do the tests this way, we’ll need a minimum of 340 rounds of each ammo to test. Add in “real world guns” and allowing for errors/glitches which mean extra shots, we’re planning on getting 400 rounds of each ammo to be tested. Figure an average of about $1 per round for premium self-defense ammunition, and we’re looking at about $400 for each ammo selected for testing. There are some specific ammunition types/loads we’ve tested previously that we want to revisit for comparison purposes, but our selection is hardly comprehensive — time and money are limited.
So we’d like to try an experiment: do Kickstarter-style crowdfunding to see what ammunition types/loads people want to have us test. This will allow two things:
- To let people help support the project by offsetting our costs.
- To help us find new ammunition types/loads.
Now, Kickstarter itself isn’t firearm-friendly. And that’s OK — we can do this on our own, just using our own site. What we’ll do is put up a list of different ammo types/loads, and solicit donations targeted for each during a specific time frame. When pledges are made, we’ll keep a running tally total for each ammo, and once it crosses a certain threshold, then that specific type/load will be added to our testing list.
But first we need to create our list of ammo. So, for the next two weeks, either add a comment to this blog post or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with one specific 9mm ammunition type/load you would like to see us test. Please, just one type/load per comment or email, and just five or six such entries per person. I’m going to have to collate these myself, so help make it a little easier on me. Just sending in a selected ammo doesn’t obligate you to support that ammo with $ in the second phase of this test, but it’s probably a good idea to only recommend ammo you would be willing to actually support, and ones you think you can get others to support. And remember, keep your recommendations limited to factory mass-produced ammo; handloads or artisanal ammo which the average person doesn’t have access to will not be selected for inclusion in the tests. Also: we’re only accepting recommendations and donations from individuals, not ammo manufacturers.
You can see all the 9mm ammo we’ve tested previously here: 9mm Luger Results.
As I said, this is an experiment. If it works for selecting 9mm ammo to test, we may extend it to the .45 ACP tests, and then see about using a similar approach for other testing. We hope that this will be a way we can expand our research and make it more responsive to what data the firearms-enthusiast community wants to see. You can help by sending in your suggestions, but in also spreading the word on the different forums/blogs where our data may be used.
Thanks, everyone, for your ongoing interest and support!
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