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Speer’s Gold Dot in 45 Colt
By Gary W. Campbell, AKA Parson Colt
June 04, 2008


   
A great number of people these days are involved in some form or another of cowboy shooting sport, and the great majority of them shoot fixed sighted revolvers. Currently, the favorite calibers are 38 Special (often fired in 357 Magnum chambers) and 45 Colt. Now, it only makes sense to use the handgun you practice with the most as your home defense gun, and if that handgun happens to be a single-action revolver, the only handicap you face is speed of reload. If you don't think a single-action can't be fired as quickly and accurately as a semi-auto, I invite you to attend your local cowboy action match.

If the single-action of choice is a 38 Special or 357 Magnum, the ammunition choices are legion. However, if the 45 Colt is the choice, finding a modern hollow point defense load meant paying big bucks to one of the smaller ammo producers. We can all admit that many of the small producers make great ammo, but the cost can be prohibitive.

When I heard that Speer CCI Ammunition had come up with a 250 grain 45 Colt load featuring their excellent Gold Dot bullets, I thought I'd found my answer. I often carry my 45 Colt Ruger Blackhawk at the ranch loaded with 255 Laser Cast semi-wadcutters at 969 fps, but when going to town, I need to change to factory ammunition. Without getting into the controversy of hand loads verses factory ammunition for defense loads, which has already used up way too much bandwidth on various forums, those of us living in Oklahoma who have concealed carry licenses are directed by Oklahoma's Self Defense Act to use factory ammunition.

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Testing ammo over the chronograph during the Speer Ballistics Lab.

The idea behind the 45 Colt Gold Dot is to have a defense round that hits approximately the same place on a target as the standard 45 Colt ammunition. Now, my standard 45 Colt is close to the 1873 original, which hit a bit over 900 fps out of a 7 ½” barrel, only I load it hot enough to get that speed from a 4 5/8ths in barrel. So, I expected the Gold Dot load to be a touch slower than my loads. First, I shot some groups comparing the point of impact between my hand load, Black Hills 45 Colt Cowboy Load, and Winchester 45 Colt Cowboy Load with the Speer Gold Dot. They weren't in the same holes, but they were close enough at 25 yards that I would have no hesitation to use the Gold Dots for defense. Closer targets, like typical gunfight ranges, would show even closer points of impact.

Satisfied there, I stepped to the chronograph. My Speer Gold Dots only chrono'ed 767 fps. Oops! Everyone knows you have to have at least 1000 fps at the muzzle to insure expansion of a hollow point. Now, that deep – and it is deep – hollow point is going to be more effective than a round nose slug even if it doesn't open, but I was hoping for some expansion here. 767 fps is a long way from the 1000 fps necessary. Still, it shot tighter groups than the old-tech ammo I had been using, so I dropped the Gold Dot load into my Blackhawk whenever I headed to town.

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That little box on the left is the 45 Colt awaiting its opportunity.

Then I got the opportunity to observe in Speer's Ballistics Laboratory held at the North American Shooting Academy ( http://www.northamericanshootingacademy.com ) in Guthrie, Oklahoma, run by Range Master Glen McEntire. McEntire directed the firearms program for the State of Oklahoma's Council on Law Enforcement and Education and Training (CLEET) for over 20 years. To say McEntire knows his stuff is like saying Einstein knew something about math.

Speer's Law Enforcement Ballistics Laboratory demonstrates to law enforcement personnel the terminal performance of handgun and rifle ammunition using the FBI protocol set up after the disastrous Miami/Dade shootout in 1986. As part of the demonstration, ammunition is chronographed then fired into ballistic gelatin to simulate body tissue. Depth of penetration and expansion are measured. According to the FBI, penetration of at least 12 inches of ballistic gelatin is necessary for defense ammunition. I had attended one of the first of these demonstrations back in 1991 or ‘92, and I recalled that after the instructor had fired Gold Dot and many competitors' ammo, he had asked if anyone had brought something they would like to test. I hoped to have that opportunity to test the 45 Colt load, so the Blackhawk and the 45 Gold Dots went with me.

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The 45 Colt penetrated 14 inches of ballistic gelatin.

That opportunity did present itself. The law enforcement loads preformed admirably, as I knew they would, and most of the competitor's ammo did nearly as well. Then it was the 45 Colt's turn. After watching ammo that chronographed around 1000 fps, I really didn't have much hope the slower Colt load would impress anyone. On that hot day, Speer 45 Colt Gold Dot chrono'ed 775 fps average for 5 rounds – 8 fps more than my earlier test. Pretty good consistency, but far from the 1000 fps necessary for reliable expansion. Then came the real test. Would it make 12 inches of penetration at the prescribed 10 feet from the muzzle? Would the slow 250 grain hollow point expand at all?

I shouldn't have worried. Speer's 250 grain 45 Colt Gold Dot penetrated the gelatin block exactly 14 inches, and expand? I should say! The perfectly mushroomed bullet measured .763” in diameter and retained all but 1.4 grains of its weight. I'm impressed! No longer do I have any doubt that this load is an exceptional defense load for the 45 Colt. And, what happened to that knowledge we all had that 1000 fps was a must for expansion? Apparently, the engineers at Speer had never learned that you can't make a bullet expand at slow speed. Since they didn't know they couldn't. They did.

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Check out that expansion! .763" and perfectly mushroomed.

This Gold Dot ammo has very light recoil as you might expect from a 775 fps load. It's very accurate, and follow-up shots are lightning quick because of that light recoil. I highly recommend it.