Quite possibly the most iconic cartridge in the United States, the .45 Colt was developed by gunmaker Samuel Colt as a black powder cartridge in 1872, for the Colt Single Action Army (aka the Peacemaker) revolver. This cartridge features a .454-inch bullet inside a rimmed, straight-walled case that measures 1.285 inches in length. Commonly called the .45 Long Colt (LC), the overall length of the round is 1.6 inches. It features a large pistol primer and is pressurized to 14,000 pounds per square inch (psi).
According to Cartridges of the World, the original .45 Colt cartridge featured about 40 grain (gr) of blackpowder and a 255 gr lead bullet. With modern testing, it’s estimated that this round could easily reach velocities as high as 900 feet per second (fps). When it comes to modern ammunition, the standard .45 Colt load has a muzzle blast of around 400 foot pound force (ft·lb) and reaches a velocity of 860 fps. Because it was one of the most powerful black powder rounds in its day, 45 Long Colt vs. .44 Mag is a common comparison. Their similar ballistic numbers make the .45 LC a capable and effective round.
The .45 LC is known as an extremely accurate round with plenty of stopping power and remains a favorite among many of the country’s big bore firearm fans. Today, most factory loads are easier to handle than the Magnums (including the .44 Magnum, .357 Magnum, .460 Magnum, and .500 Magnum), yet offers more knockdown power than the .38 Special.
Development of the .45 Long Colt
Colt Firearms collaborated with the Union Metallic Cartridge Company to produce the .45 LC cartridge. The new cartridge was designed for the Colt Single Action Army, which was released on the heels of the .45 Colt. In 1873, the United States Army accepted the Colt Single Action Army and the .45 LC as the official military handgun and ammunition. It remained the Army’s go-to firearm for 14 years, until it was replaced with a revolver chambered for .38 Long Colt.
Colt designated the ammunition the .45 Colt, but soon started calling it the “Long Colt” to avoid any confusion with .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) ammunition, which was used in semi-automatic, magazine-fed pistols.
While its use by the Army lead to the popularity of the .45 Colt, its influence on the U.S. and her citizens was further reaching than the battlefield. The .45 LC was heavily used by those moving west and the Peacemaker is considered by many “the gun that won the west” (along with the Winchester 1873 rifle). To make it even more popular for this demographic, Colt released the .45 Rifle, allowing shooters to use the same ammunition in their pistols and long guns and eliminating the need for different calibers when traveling or on horseback.
Even though Colt .45 Long ammo was no longer used by the military or in the Wild West, it remained popular with the American public. As the 20th century dawned, ballistic technologies advanced and ammunition manufacturers soon switched from traditional black powder to more modern smokeless powder.
While the .45 LC has had a rich history and has been the motivating force behind iconic firearms, perhaps its biggest influence isn’t the ammunition itself, but the ammunition it spawned. The .45 Colt cartridge is the basis for many other rounds, including the .454 Casull and the 460 S&W Magnum.
Uses for .45 LC Ammo
Once its military career ended, the .45 Long Colt remained popular among hunters and sport shooters, and still is today. Handgun hunters in North America use the ammunition for large game, including deer and black bear. And there are many shotshell varieties available for varmint and bird hunting.
Long gun hunters who appreciate the .45 Long Colt can choose among many lever action rifles chambered in the caliber. There’s even rifles available with combination barrels that also allow shooters to opt for .410 shotgun shells or the .45 LC. With a .45 Colt carbine, the velocity and increased accuracy give hunters at least 100 yards of shooting distance without sacrificing performance.
The .45 Long Colt is also popular among sport shooters, especially with the growing popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting. These shooters like .45 Long Colt ammunition because it adds to the authenticity of the sport and adheres to its historical aspects.
Other fans of .45 Colt ammunition include handloaders. Using modern smokeless powder, those who load their own bullets can reach velocities over 1,000 fps with a standard 250 gr cast bullet. When loaded hot, the .45 LC can reach thresholds as high as 1,400 fps and muzzle forces between 300 to 500 ft·lb.
Those loading their own ammo can also specify their .45 Long Colt ammunition. Common loading standards include hot loads for revolvers, light loads for single shot pistols and Cowboy Action Shooting, and hunting rounds for lever rifles and carbines. If handloading with authentic, old black powder, don’t push the limits and keep loads under 800 fps.
Types of .45 Long Colt Ammo
Like other calibers of ammunition, the .45 Colt comes in a variety of forms and types. Some of the most common ammunition types in this round include:
- Lead round nose (LRN): A traditional style cartridge, LRN ammunition features a round, lead bullet in a case; these are universal-style ammunition that can be used for target practicing, hunting, or self defense
- Lead round nose - flat point (LRN-FP): Known as the cowboy bullet, LRN-FP ammunition looks similar to the LRN, but with a flat point at the end of the lead bullet; it was designed this way in the late 1800s to improve feeding into lever action rifles
- Lead flat nose (LFN): LFN ammo is often used by target shooters and is designed with a flat nose, allowing the cartridge to create a clean cut when it passes through a paper target, making scoring easier and more accurate; it also gives greater expansion upon impact and has a lighter powder load, making it easier for some shooters to handle
- Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP): JHP ammunition features a lead bullet covered, or “jacketed,” in a harder metal, often copper, and has a hollow point in the bullet, allowing it to expand on impact more than traditional LRN; these rounds are most often associated with self-defense or hunting purposes
- Total Metal Jacket (TMJ): TMJ rounds have a round bullet fully jacketed in a harder metal, even inside the casing; these function much like full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets, but are required in some shooting areas and ranges to prevent lead exposure
- Lead Semi-Wadcutter Hollow Point (LSWCHP): LSWCHP ammo features a wadcutter design that cuts cleanly through paper targets, but with an extended hollow point; this hollow point allows for greater expansion and self defense, and is often allowed in places where standard hollow points are outlawed
- #9 Shot (Skeet): When looking for something a little different, #9 Shot Shells are available in .45 Colt; loaded with small lead projectiles, these shotshells are often used in skeet shooting
Popular Firearms Chambered for the .45 Long Colt
The popularity of the .45 Long Colt cartridge has ebbed and flowed throughout the last 150 years or so since its creation. Yet recently, a boost in the popularity of the .45 LC cartridge occurred with the release of the Taurus Judge series. This five-shot wheel gun was named because of the number of judges who carry this firearm into their courtrooms and is designed for short distances. These revolvers can fire either the .45 Colt or the .410 shotshell.
The Smith & Wesson Governor is another popular pistol for the .45 Colt. This small six-shot wheel gun can also house .410 shotgun shells and .45 ACP ammunition and measures under nine inches in length.
While defensive loads for shotgun in a .410 bore have lost their novelty, ammunition manufacturers have latched on to the versatility of these types of defensive revolvers and have made personal protection ammunition available in the .45 Colt. These self defense cartridges have expanded the applications for the ammo and returned attention to the .45 Long Colt as a legitimate personal-protection round.
When it comes to lever action rifles, there’s a variety of options to choose from, including those made for hunting and those made for shooting off of horses or mules. Some of the most popular .45 Colt rifles are made by firearm manufacturing companies like Winchester, Marlin, Henry, Rossi, Uberti, and Cimarron.
Common Names for the .45 Long Colt
As with many ammunition cartridges, the .45 Long Colt is called by different names. Its original title was simply .45 Colt, which is still used today. But due to confusion between this and the .45 ACP, the “Long” was added in some catalogs. So today, when people compare .45 Colt vs. .45 Long Colt, both options are correct and can be seen printed in ammunition catalogs and boxes from coast to coast (although it should be noted that according to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI), the actual name of the cartridge is .45 Colt).
Other times, the name may be printed in its abbreviated form, the .45 LC, or in its measurement form, the 11.43 x 33mmR (where the R signifies a rimmed casing). Both of these forms are correct.
There are times that the ammunition is referred to as the 45 Colt or the 45 Long Colt, without the associated decimal point. While the meaning is still grasped with these terms, they’re technically wrong as the decimal and following number actually represent a measurement, .45 inch, and are therefore needed for grammatical correctness.
.45 Colt vs. .45 ACP
When it comes to ammunition comparisons, the .45 ACP vs. .45 Colt is a common one. And it’s no wonder – these cartridges share a similar bullet size and are both American icons. Both ammunitions were developed by Samuel Colt, although the .45 LC for a revolver and the .45 ACP for a magazine-fed, automatic pistol.
As far as size and shape, shooters can see many differences between the two ammunitions. The Long Colt has a slightly larger bullet diameter, measuring .454 inch, while the ACP bullet diameter is .451 inch. The .45 Colt also has a significantly longer case (1.285 inches compared to .898 inch), which leads to a longer overall length of 1.6 inches for the Long Colt and only 1.275 inches for the ACP. The .45 LC case also has a .032-inch wider diameter and is .011 inch thicker than that of the .45 Auto.
While the sizing of the cartridges is extremely different, their performance is more comparable, even with the 7,000 psi of difference in maximum pressure (according to SAAMI, the max pressure for the .45 Long Colt is 14,000 psi, while the max pressure for the ACP is 21,000 psi). Velocities fall within a similar range, with the Long Colt ranging between 900 to 1,300 fps and the .45 ACP ranging from 835 to 1,350 fps. When it comes to muzzle energy, there are some significant differences. The Long Colt packs a greater punch, with foot pound forces ranging from 444 to 1,151 ft·lb, while the ACP muzzle energy stays much lower, from 356 to 587 ft·lb.
What does this mean for the average shooter? It means that they should expect the bullets to travel about the same distance and speed, but they should be prepared for the .45 Long Colt to likely have more recoil and muzzle blast, making it more difficult to shoot and requiring a longer period of time to get the gun back on target. The difference in recoil may not be as strong as the numbers make it appear, simply because a revolver – which the .45 LC is designed to be shot from – tends to absorb more of the energy force from firing a cartridge than a semi-automatic pistol (often smaller in size and lighter in construction).
Which is more powerful the .45 Long Colt, the .44 Mag, or the .357 Mag?
When comparing the .45 Long Colt, .44 Mag, and .357 Mag, the .44 is the most powerful. It exceeds both the .45 Long and the .357 Mag in velocity and muzzle energy.
What is the difference between .45 Long Colt ammo and .45 ACP ammo?
Both the .45 Long Colt and .45 ACP were designed by Samuel Colt, but they have some major differences. The .45 LC, which is a revolver cartridge, features a larger and heavier bullet, as well as a longer case than the .45 ACP, which is made for a magazine-fed pistol. While the rounds reach similar velocities, the heavier projectile in the .45 Long packs more of a punch with more muzzle energy.
What is the difference between .45 Colt and the .45 Long Colt?
The .45 Colt and the .45 Long Colt both represent the same caliber. Originally called just the .45 Colt, the “Long” was added to avoid any confusion with the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (.45 ACP). According to SAAMI, the official name of the round is still .45 Colt.
What guns shoot 45 Long Colt ammunition?
The most popular guns chambered in .45 Long Colt are the Taurus Judge, a five-shot wheelgun, and the Smith & Wesson Governor, a six-shot revolver that also fires .45 ACP and .410 bore. There are also various carbines chambered for the .45 Colt.
How do you reload 45 Long Colt ammo?
The .45 Long Colt is a popular round among handloaders. Hot wildcat rounds can increase the velocity to levels as high as the .357 Mag and .44 Mag, while light rounds can also be crafted for Cowboy Action shooting and single shot pistols. Check out our guide for specifics.
How long is a 45 Long Colt cartridge casing?
The casing of the .45 Long Colt measures 1.285 inches in length. The total length of the cartridge is 1.6 inches.
What game can you hunt with .45 Long Colt?
Most medium game, and a few species of large game, can be harvested with the .45 Long Colt. It’s a popular round among handgun hunters for whitetail deer and black bear and a variety of shotshell rounds are specialized for bird and varmint hunters.
What size primers does 45 Long Colt ammo use?
The .45 Long Colt caliber uses a large pistol primer. Most ammos available in the US use a boxer primer (partially because it’s easier for handloading), but the .45 Colt can also be found with Berdan primers.
How can you make .45 Long Colt blanks?
To handload .45 Long Colt blanks, which are popular with Cowboy Action Shooting, special tools are necessary. This includes blank forming dies and a crimping tool. Check out our wildcat guide for more specifics on handloading.
45 Long Colt Ballistics: Chart of Average 45 Long Colt Ballistics
When it comes to firing a firearm chambered for the .45 Long Colt, the shooter can expect a cartridge that provides efficiency and accuracy, as well as some significant knockdown power. As for the .45 Colt ballistics, a range of performance can be expected depending on the type and style of ammunition used.
Note: This information comes from the manufacturer and is for informational purposes only. The actual ballistics obtained with your firearm can vary considerably from the advertised ballistics. Also, ballistics can vary from lot to lot with the same brand and type load.
|45 Long Colt Bullet WEIGHT
||Muzzle VELOCITY (fps)
||Muzzle ENERGY (ft. lbs.)
||Mid-Range TRAJECTORY (in.)
||Barrel Length (in.)
|180 Grain FTX
|300 Grain +P