Early Smokeless Powders and Revolvers...looking for answers

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SavvyJack posted this 25 March 2020

I have been reading up on early smokeless powders again and I have run into a few places that claim even Colt advised against using the new powder in Colt revolvers, or at least the 45 Colt revolvers. Can anyone offer any more reliable information?

As we all know by now, Winchester did not "offer" smokeless powder for Colt's 44-40 revolvers. Between 1895 and 1899, five years, there was no information advising against it on Winchester's new cartridge boxes with red labels. By 1900 "Not For Pistols" was added to the label but dropped from the label in 1909. I don't know about other ammunition manufacture offering smokeless powder for the 45 Colt. I have yet to check into it.

With the dates 1900-1909 I did find some other information that is certainly very interesting. Winchester's issues with the revolvers is unknown to me but looking at the powder dates could shed some light between smokeless powders and revolvers.

44-40 pre-1900 Smokeless Powders  

All Bulk "blonde in color" powder    

It is rather difficult to follow the dates of these 44-40 powders with the exception of when they were introduced. Dupont and Laflin & Rand appear to have manufactured the three earliest powders I can find;  

1894 - Dupont's No.2 Smokeless Rifle Powder

1896 - Laflin & Rand's "Sporting Rifle Powder"

1897 - Laflin & Rand's "Sharpshooter"    

The "Sharpshooter" powder (1897), probably being the more forgiving of the three, was also approved specifically for "Black Powder Rifles".   Laflin & Rand "Sporting Rifle Powder" shows use specifically for "Rifle and Revolver" on the can but we also find Winchester factory ammunition loads were not approved for use in revolvers until at least 1909. I wonder if this has anything to do with Sharpshooter#2 being introduced in this time frame? [Sharpshooer introduced in 1897 by L&R, then to Dupont after L&R destroyed by fire, then to Hercules by 1909 due to a law suit]     The Laflin & Rand "Sporting Rifle Powder" shows a load for 17gr for the 44-40 which is the same as Dupont's "No.2" 44-40 load data of 17gr, both being of the blonde in color and "rocky texture"  

 

Ironically it seems even before the smokeless powder was "proven" for revolvers, Winchester had already developed the High Velocity "Low Pressure" loads by 1903(Yellow labels). Hercules (1903-1914) "Sharpshooter" shows a High Velocity load in the load data on the back of the can. It also is amusing to me that by the time Winchester removed the "Not for Revolvers" from the smokeless powder (Red label) boxes by 1909, the 1910 High Velocity "High Pressure" (Yellow label) loads jumped from "low pressure" to 22,000cup high pressures...showing that the smokeless powder rifle loads were way in advance of the smokeless powder revolver loads.  

 

continued below......    

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SavvyJack posted this 25 March 2020

To back up some...  

 

As we all know Bullseye and Unique came out about 1898/1900 respectively.

L&R Bullseye...
...was introduced in 1898 to replace L&R's "Smokeless Revolver Powder. This is one of those powders that had several types. There were two versions of Bullseye, the first of which was known as Bullseye #1 or “dust” Bullseye. L&R Bullseye #2 was supposed to have been brought out in 1904 as small round black discs .038” dia. X .003”, ostensibly because there were insufficient quantities of #1 to meet demand. It contained 40% NG. This Bullseye #2 is what we identify today as Bullseye, and is believed that it has not changed formula since its introduction in 1898. It went to DuPont in 1907 and to Hercules in 1912. Bullseye, Unique, and Infallible were all made from the same formula, the only difference being granulation. It is still manufactured by Alliant in 2007. ~Klaus Neuschaefer    

With that said, those dates begin to intertwine in that 1900-1909 time frame. However, another thing I have yet to do is understand what powders Winchester used for the 44-40 over time. We certainly know that they used Dupont No.2 and Sharpshooter for rifles but at what point did Winchester start loading the 44-40 with pistol powders. Sharpshooter was available up to WWII.

Again, "Not for Pistols" was dropped from Winchester's 44-40 smokeless powder ammunition (normal loads) by 1909...I wonder why

It appears that Winchester's 44-40 factory loads maintained at least 1,310fps up until 1978, of which then it dropped to 1,190fps and is still that way today although mine chronographed at 1,025fps.

It was also in the early 1970's that SAMMI seemed to standardize 12,000cup MAP (rather than many years of reputable handloading manuals showing 15,000cup) with the advent of the piezoelectric transducer showing that their 12,000cup was equal to 11,000psi with those test loads.

To ramble on a bit further, during the 1930's, popular powders used in the (200gr JSP) 44-40 REVOLVERS were ONLY Bullseye and Unique both showing max loads of 15,000cup, recommended by Hercules.

Okay, my brain hurts!

https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/powders/smokeless-powders-transition-years


  https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/cartridge-boxes/winchester-cartridge-box-timeline-1960-2020  

https://saami.org/about-saami/history/

 

 

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SavvyJack posted this 27 March 2020

One of the things I forgot which someone on another forum reminded me; "The Army asked the DuPont Company to develop a special powder, as the Bullseye powder lacked sufficient bull to prevent double charging. The result was DuPont's Revolver, Special Quality, or RSQ as it was known." This did guide me back to were I member seeing that information. Sharpe again!



Below is a chart I made that shows the time period and some powders. Feel free to comment on errors or updates needed.

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RicinYakima posted this 27 March 2020

Dates are interesting, must have been for the Model 1909 New Service for the Army and USMC.

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SavvyJack posted this 27 March 2020

Dates are interesting, must have been for the Model 1909 New Service for the Army and USMC.

 

I am thinking you are correct. As well as, the "new" 45 Colt cases had larger rims specifically for the Model 1909...according to what I read. Later I see where a handloader could shave the rims to fit in the 45 Colt SAA revolvers. There is still a lot left to this story I have yet to see .

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RicinYakima posted this 27 March 2020

I have a Frankfort Arsenal depriming and cleaning kit for 45 Schofield, 30 US Army, 30 Model 1903, 30 Model 1906 and the 1909 45 Revolver with the larger rim. When ever possible the Army saved the brass and reloaded it for practice ammo, especially after 1898 and found out Americans could no shoot. I don't know that the military ever issued .45 Colt's Revolver after about 1875. Frankfort Arsenal  was still making 45 Schofield until  the .38 Long was adapted.   

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SavvyJack posted this 28 March 2020

Here are two dissected Winchester 44-40 cartridges. One from 1992 (flat head primer) with factory published velocities of 1,190fps. The second could be a Western or Winchester-Western date unknown. Has the button (rounded head) )primer. Should be at least a 1,310fps cartridge.

23 Sept 1992 code dated, Orange and Red banner Winchester box. Advertised 1,190fps. 8gr of a disc like pistol powder.
WW 44-40 Win. headstamp

 

 

Western 44-40 Win. headstamp (round head primer), Date unknown, box colors unknown. 12.8gr of ball/disc or flattened ball powder.

I have a third cartridge not yet dissected, it is also a round head primer but WW 44-40 Win headstamp. I am betting that both the second and third cartridges are from the 1970's, The WW from the Winchester-Western yellow X white box and the Western from the Western red X white box. Since both are advertised at 1,310fps (#W4440 and #4440), I bet the powder used is the same...12.8gr of ball powder.

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SavvyJack posted this 28 March 2020

The third cartridge, although a WW (round head primer), also contained a ball/disc or flattened ball powder but slightly less at 12.5gr. Should also be a 1,310fps factory load. (powder shown is only a small sample)

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RicinYakima posted this 28 March 2020

I believe factory ammo is loaded with non canister powder. It is up to the company to determine charge weight with their own laboratory test for pressure and burn rate. That is one of the reasons the stuff we buy is more expensive, because they have to keep specifications within limits.

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SavvyJack posted this 28 March 2020

I believe factory ammo is loaded with non canister powder. It is up to the company to determine charge weight with their own laboratory test for pressure and burn rate. That is one of the reasons the stuff we buy is more expensive, because they have to keep specifications within limits.

 

I do believer you are correct or something like that!!  The charge should give us a hint at what was used though, large charge vs small charge.

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