Black Hills Ammunition is known for producing some of the best cowboy action shooting ammo made today. I’m no gunslinger by any standard, but the quality, accuracy, and cool factor of the Black Hills Ammunition.45 Colt 250gr RNFP certainly makes me want to relive some of my favorite moments from the movies that I, and many of you, grew up on.
The .45 Colt, frequently also known as .45 Long Colt, is a cartridge with an interesting history. It was developed in the early 1870’s and achieved official adoption in 1873. It was originally chambered in the Colt Single Action Army revolver, also known as the Peacemaker.
It went on to cement its place in the American story when it was used in conflicts all over the frontier. Custer’s men fired it at Little Bighorn to no avail, but it wasn’t long before it was put to use avenging him and the 7th Cavalry.
So ingrained is the .45 Colt in our culture that it’s the cartridge of choice for every western hero ranging from Russell Crowe in 3:10 to Yuma, to John Wayne in everything he was ever in to Keith Carradine in Kill Bill. For the uncultured, Kill Bill is, in fact, a western.
The urge to relive and participate in that great American story of revenge, retribution, and gunplay is present in today’s cowboy action shooting sports and a great number of people use Black Hills cowboy action ammunition to fill the role of sheriff, outlaw or gambler.
The Black Hills load features a brass case and a large, solid lead round nose flat point bullet style with a hefty bullet weight of 250 grains. This is very similar to the original black powder loads used at the time, although these are smokeless and non-corrosive.
A box of fifty has a street price of about $35-40 depending on where you get it.
Accuracy and Basic Performance
I tested this load in the Ruger New Vaquero revolver. This particular revolver is made of stainless steel and is very solid and reliable. At 4.62″, it has a barrel shorter than the cavalry model made by Colt. This is, to the best of my knowledge, a favored size for cowboy competition.
Because this is a cowboy style load that may see some end use in competition, Black Hills loads it just a bit lighter than what was used at the time. The original loads had a 230gr bullet at about 1,000fps and 255gr loads at about 800-850fps, all of course dependent on barrel length and powder type.
This load generated an average muzzle velocity of 774fps at five feet from my Oehler 35P chronograph, which is plenty close to what was used back when.
Groups were excellent in the Ruger, with 25-yard accuracy coming in at an average of 3¼” for five-shot groups. I fired this load at ranges out to 100 yards on steel plates and found that it dropped them right in. The recoil was low and the shooting experience was extremely satisfying.
I received a 10% FBI gel block from Clear Ballistics for this section of my testing. Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m testing this ammo like I do modern carry ammo and the answer is quite simple: lots of people carry .45 Colt today.
What? Really? Yeah, they do. Revolvers chambered for .410 like the Taurus Judge and Smith & Wesson Governor also chamber .45 Colt and it’s no stretch of the imagination that these big lead boys could be rattling around in someone’s belt as you read this. And they’re on more than a few nightstands.
The ballistic performance wasn’t at all shocking if you know much about hard lead bullets. They go straight through. When I say straight through, I mean they go straight through. The hard part is actually stopping them.
As you can see, the .45 Colt is easily capable of passing clean through a standard gel block. There was no expansion and no yaw. It just blew straight through. I put a few more in and they all did the same thing. They easily went right through fabric, denim, and leather and then clean through the gel.
This load has historically been known to be a man-stopper. I can plainly see why because it just plows right through anything, even though it’s going slower than most people think bullets go today. I hear a lot that modern JHP loads are super-efficient, effective, and technologically advanced. Hell, I write all the time about advanced bullets. The thing is, plain old lead hasn’t gotten less effective with time and I don’t expect it to.
The wounds generated by this brick of a bullet aren’t particularly impressive to look at when comparing them side-to-side with something designed to rapidly and violently expand in soft tissue. But damn, if that simple, wide wound channel doesn’t scare the crap out of you, then you had better start taking guns more seriously.
Penetration was obviously deep. The issue here is over-penetration. The permanent wound channel measured about .5” all the way through. The flat nose is excellent for crushing and moving tissue.
Is this advanced, state-of-the-art carry ammo? Not really, but then again, it isn’t supposed to be. This is what it’s always been and modern shooters could learn a thing or two about what makes bullets work.
Black Hills has some cool stuff here and I love it for how simple and unassuming it is.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * * *
While not a jacketed match bullet, this load produces excellent accuracy at all ranges it was tested at.
Handling: * * * * *
Recoil was light and everyone who fired this load in the big Ruger New Vaquero commented on how pleasant it was. Expect some more recoil in a Judge or Governor that weighs a good 10 ounces less.
Reliability: * * * * *
I put 500 rounds of this load downrange and it went bang every time.
Terminal Performance: * * * *
Whether you call it .45 Colt or .45 Long Colt, it’s a big, wide bullet with sufficient muzzle energy to crush its way through at a relatively slow muzzle velocity. Instead of being hit by a golf ball out on the green, this is like being hit by a brick thrown from an overpass.
Overall: * * * * 1/2
I spend a great deal of time with a lot of very good ammo. I get to see the most modern and secret-squirrel stuff out there as any well-connected freelance journalist/day-drinker, but I love plain old lead so much more than anything coming off a CNC machine today. Be aware of the over-penetration issue and keep Rule No. 4 in mind. This type of ammo is just about as close to a romance novel as a man can get in his life. All we really want is a ranch to protect and a town full of hooligans to retreat to after work and this ammo puts you right back there.