Ballistics by the inch

Ammo test results in the Boberg XR45-S

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:

Super ammo

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

      Buffalo Bore

.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

      Double Tap

.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.


Jim Downey

May 27, 2015 Posted by | .45 ACP, .45 Super, .450 SMC, Boberg Arms, Data, Discussion., General Procedures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Upcoming .45 test ammo.

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:

Buffalo Bore
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

Double Tap
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!

Jim Downey

March 7, 2015 Posted by | .45 ACP, .45 Super, .450 SMC, Boberg Arms, Data, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Boberg XR45-S: experiments in .45 Super loads – part II.

As I mentioned a few days ago, we had another warm spell here which allowed me to get out and test the next round of experimental loads for .45 Super.

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.


Jim Downey

January 23, 2015 Posted by | .45 ACP, .45 Super, .450 SMC, .460 Rowland, Boberg Arms, Data, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First date with the Boberg XR9-S.

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a ‘little brother‘ for my Boberg XR45-S. Here they are again:

Lil brother

Well, we’re having another delightful warm spell here in mid-Missouri, so yesterday afternoon I took advantage of it and went out to the range to give the little guy a try.

As I noted before, I have actually shot this particular gun a couple of times previously, and just loved it. But it had been a while, and I couldn’t remember specifically what ammo types we had used. So I packed up what variety of 9mm loads I had on hand, along with my chrono (which I needed to also do some more testing of .45 Super loads — more on that later), and to see whether anything had changed.

Because of the way they operate, the Boberg pistols have a tendency to be very particular about what ammo they like. Ammo which doesn’t have a sufficient crimp is prone to separate (the case being jerked away from the bullet). It’s an issue which is well known, and there’s a list of compatible ammo for both the XR9 and the XR45. But while those crowd-sourced lists are useful, the final word is always what specific ammo your particular gun will handle. For me, that’s particularly something I want to determine for any self-defense pistol before I will carry it.

Full details to follow, but for those who just want the short version: oh baby! The XR9 ate everything I fed it without a problem. Including my standard 9mm reloads. No mis-feeds. No bullet separation. No problems. And it was a real joy to shoot, which isn’t something I normally say about a pocket pistol handling full-power SD loads.

OK, for those want the details …

Below are informal* chrono numbers for seven different ammo types I had. These are all for the Boberg. But I also ran a few through my Steyr S9 for comparison, which usually just had an advantage of about 10 fps over the Boberg (the barrel on the Steyr is about a quarter of an inch longer). If that much.

  • Buffalo Bore 124gr JHP +P+                                             1,230 fps
  • Federal 124gr Hydra Shok JHP                                           1,025 fps
  • Reloads. (4.4gr HP-38, 124gr Rainier FMJ bullet)                        1,020 fps
  • Remington 124gr FMJ                                                       1,040 fps
  • Speer GDHP 115gr JHP                                                      1,210 fps
  • Speer GDHP 124gr JHP                                                      1,100 fps
  • Speer GDHP 124gr JHP +P ‘Short barrel’                           1,150 fps

As you can see, all pretty respectable numbers. And in keeping with both the claims of the manufacturer as well as what we had tested previously (where there’s overlap). I wouldn’t have any qualms carrying any of the Speer ammo, but my preferred SD ammo is currently the Buffalo Bore. Happily, the Boberg shot all of them without a glitch. And after getting my chrono numbers, I ran several magazines worth through the gun doing some quick shooting at cans, was getting excellent accuracy from it at about 15 yards.

I brought it home, stripped and cleaned it, and now consider it reliable enough to carry. Of course, I will continue to practice with it regularly, and keep a close on on how it performs with my reloads, and occasionally run a mag of carry ammo through it, but I don’t expect any problems. It’s a nice little gun.


Jim Downey

*By ‘informal’, I mean just using one chrono and without the lighting rig we now use for formal testing. And I would just run a magazine of ammo through, mentally noting the numbers in a running tally, then writing them down for that particular ammo, so they are necessarily just ‘ballpark’ figures. But since they jibe well with our previous numbers and what the mfg claims (which I only discovered when I sat down to write this), I think they’re pretty good.


January 20, 2015 Posted by | 9mm Luger (9x19), Boberg Arms, Data, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boberg XR45-S: experiments in .45 Super loads.

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.

Super tests

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.

Jim Downey

December 27, 2014 Posted by | .45 ACP, .45 Super, .460 Rowland, Boberg Arms, Data, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Boberg XR9-S: a new little brother for my XR45-S.

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:

Lil brother

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:

Lil brother 2

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:

W J-frame

For grins, here it is on top of the J-frame:

J Top

OK, but how about in comparison to the classic premium pocket 9mm, the Rohrbaugh R9? Here ya go:

W R9

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:

R9 Top

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.

W Bond

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!


Jim Downey

December 26, 2014 Posted by | .45 ACP, .45 Super, 9mm Luger (9x19), Boberg Arms, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

First date with the Boberg XR45-S

Over the weekend I posted about picking up my new Boberg XR45-S. This afternoon I took it out for a first “getting to know you” session. More about that in a moment.

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.

Jim Downey

December 8, 2014 Posted by | .38 Special, .45 ACP, Boberg Arms, Discussion., General Procedures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

.460 Rowland case wall thickness.

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 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
  • ELD
  • Federal Brass
  • Federal Nickle
  • R-P
  • S&B
  • Speer Brass
  • Speer Nickle
  • Starline
  • Winchester

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.


Jim Downey

March 22, 2014 Posted by | .45 ACP, .460 Rowland, Anecdotes, Data, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s like flinging thunderbolts.

You may remember that I have a small bit of an obsession with the .460 Rowland cartridge.  Ever since we tested it for BBTI, I’ve wanted one. As I noted in one of those articles:

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:

.460 Rowland Conversion Kit.

.460 Rowland Conversion 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:

Glock 21 magazine

Glock 21 magazine


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:

Two Glock 21 magazines.

Two Glock 21 magazines.


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:

Glock 21

Glock 21

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.


Jim Downey

September 23, 2013 Posted by | .45 ACP, .460 Rowland, Anecdotes, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Just take a little off the sides, leave the top alone.

So, yesterday was our best day ever for this blog, doing 50% more traffic than any previous day. Why? Well, thanks to a link from The Firearm Blog about my experiments to alter the Buffalo Bore 340gr .44mag loads I’ve written about recently. So I wanted to say thanks to Steve over there, and to all his readers.

And I also wanted to report how the rounds behaved after a trip to the range this morning. I think pictures tell the story just fine. Here’s the first one:


That’s a 3″ circle, just for reference. Those are three shots, fired from a sitting position at 50 yards (well, paces, so something pretty close to 50 yards). That’s with the standard, unaltered, 340gr rounds from my Winchester 94AE which has the standard iron sights. I wasn’t trying for super accuracy, just the sort of quick sight and shoot you’d do when hunting at that range. It may be worth noting that I had to hand-feed each round into the chamber of the gun, since these unaltered cartridges will not feed from the tube magazine. If you look close, you’ll see that I marked through each hole with a blue Sharpie.

Here’s the second picture:


Exact same parameters as the first pic, but this time with three rounds which had been shaved as discussed in the previous posts. And since these rounds will reliably feed from the tube magazine, they were shot then the gun was cycled and then the next shot taken in fairly quick sequence. For clarity, I marked through the second set with a red Sharpie.

My conclusion? They’re as accurate as the unaltered cartridges. Which is to say, within the limits of my ability using them like that. With a good shooting rest and a scope you might be able to tell a difference, particularly at greater range. But for what I wanted them for, they’re entirely suitable. YMMV.


Jim Downey

August 29, 2013 Posted by | .44 Magnum, Anecdotes, Data, Discussion., Links | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You want me to stick it *where*??

The beginning of this month, I posted an entry about my initial experiment altering one of those heavy Buffalo Bore 340gr +P+ rounds for .44 magnum. I intended to revisit that experiment in short order, and then write up further thoughts on the matter.

But then my month got rather unexpectedly complicated, with my wife needing an emergency appendectomy, a lengthy hospital stay, and then a fair amount of additional care and treatment. She’s doing grand now, but most of the past month was a bit of a blur.

So I’m just now getting back to the experiment. Fortunately, someone over on Facebook made a suggestion which proved to be just about perfect:  use a pencil sharpener. Specifically, one designed for the larger style of carpenter’s pencils.

The first one I found here at home didn’t work. But my wife remembered an older (and cheaper) one she had and dug it out for me. I gave it a try, and here’s the result:


The cartridge on the left is the one I initially altered using a rasp and then sandpaper. The one on the right is the one I used the pencil sharpener on. The sharpener itself is there — just one of those cheap plastic ones for schoolkids. If you look close you can see that the blades in it have a bit of rust on them. And the pile of shavings is what I took off the right cartridge.

It took just a little playing around to figure out the best way to shave off the shoulders on the bullet, and just how much I needed to take off, but soon I got the hang of it. Here’s a pic with that initial one, one unaltered cartridge, and three finished cartridges:


I’ve since done a full box of cartridges. When you get the hang of it, it only takes a couple minutes each. And the results are *very* satisfactory. They’re consistent. Smooth. Uniform. And I have carefully measured the shavings from each cartridge, and they all fall between 8 and 10 grains of lead removed.  Most importantly, they all feed perfectly reliably in my Winchester 94 lever-action.

So if you’ve encountered this problem, you might want to give this a try. You may need to experiment with a couple different sharpeners, and it’s possible that a different design one would work better for you (either an electric one or one that grinds off material rather than cutting it directly). But it’s worth a shot.

Jim Downey

August 24, 2013 Posted by | .44 Magnum, Anecdotes, Discussion. | , , | 9 Comments

There’s more than one way to skin a cartridge.

So, the beginning of July I posted an entry about some informal .44 data I had collected.  As I said at the time:

I was prompted to do so because I had picked up some new Buffalo Bore ammunition that I wanted to try.

Specifically, this ammo:  Buffalo Bore 340gr .44mag

Heavy .44 Magnum +P+ Pistol and Handgun Ammo

And I was VERY impressed with the performance of that ammunition, since it generated over 1653 fps/2063 ft-lbs out of my Winchester 94.  However, there was a problem: it wouldn’t feed in my levergun. Oh, it shot and extracted just fine, but you couldn’t rack a new cartridge from the magazine into the chamber — they would invariably get stuck. Thus making the gun a single-shot, at least as far as that particular ammo was concerned.

So I started thinking about ways around this problem.

My first thought was that perhaps I could develop a similar cartridge using a .44special case. I knew the history of the development of the .44magnum, so i figured that it was probable that the .44special brass would withstand the pressures involved, and give me about 1/8th inch (the difference between the case length of the .44special and the .44magnum) to play with. I found a suitable bullet, and did a little research to see whether anyone had recently tried to develop such power out of a .44special case.

My research pointed to the possibility of developing full .44magnum power out of a .44special case (which was what was done historically, so no big surprise there). And over the course of the last month I worked up two different flights of test ammo experimenting with that idea.

What results did I get? Well, let’s just say that you can indeed get some very powerful rounds using .44special cases. Indeed, using 240 grain bullets (which are fairly standard for the .44) I had considerable success. The rest of the equation is left to the experienced reloader to determine for themselves.

With the 330 grain bullets, though, it was a different story. When approaching the upper end of the published  data for .44magnum, I started to see indications of stress on the spent brass which made me … nervous. Enough so that I decided not to risk shooting the last couple of test rounds. Draw your own conclusions.

And the chronographed power results were only about half of what the Buffalo Bore ammunition I was trying to emulate demonstrated.  Hmm.

Now, it is possible that with a different type of gunpowder, I might be able to come to a different result with my shorter .44special reloads. Maybe.

But we all know how hard it can be to find preferred types of gunpowder these days. So I decided to reconsider my strategy. After all, what I wanted was to have the power of the Buffalo Bore loads, but in a cartridge which would feed reliably in my levergun.

The result? I decided to try to change the shape of the bullet in the Buffalo Bore cartridge, so that the hard leading shoulder would be rounded off in such a way as to properly feed in my gun. After a bit of experimentation this afternoon, this is what I came up with:


Note the rounded cartridge on the left, next to an unaltered cartridge on the right. In the pan for my balance beam scale you can see the bulk of the lead removed from the bullet in the cartridge on the left. Now, that’s not all of the lead I removed — but it is probably the vast majority of it, since I did the removal over a sheet of paper using a rasp, and then weighed the shavings (which turned out to be 10.5 grains, btw).

That cartridge feeds fine in my levergun. No problems. So the trick will be to experiment with seeing how little lead I can remove while still getting reliable feeding, and getting good at doing so uniformly so as to not really screw up how the bullet behaves aerodynamically. That should be a manageable matter. (Edited to add: see my solution here.)

But I also think I’ll drop Buffalo Bore a note, and see if I can get them to tweak the design of the bullet just a tad to make it more friendly for us levergun owners. Thanks to BBTI, I should have enough cred that perhaps they’ll take note.

We’ll see.

Jim Downey

August 1, 2013 Posted by | .44 Magnum, .44 Special | , , | 8 Comments



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