Gratuitous Gun Pic: S&W Mod 25 (.45 LC)

From Reader Joe in PNG:

“I’m seriously pondering a S&W Model 25 in .45 LC for my 45th birthday — in blued steel with a 4″ barrel and some sort of fancy wood grips.”

So detailed a consideration requires pictorial support, methinks (albeit without fancy wood grips):

It’s a good one. The nice thing about the venerable .45 Long Colt cartridge is that it can be found in a weak, cowboy-action-shooting (CAS) guise, and also in rip-snorting magnum-strength power. Witness:

Hornady’s Cowboy:
Bullet Weight: 255 Grains
Muzzle Energy: 298 ft lbs
Muzzle Velocity: 725 fps

Buffalo Bore +P:
Bullet Weight: 260 Grain
Muzzle Energy: 1,298 ft/lbs
Muzzle Velocity: 1,500 fps

Just so we’re clear on the concept, here are the comparable figures for Buffalo Bore’s .357 Mag and .44 Mag cartridges, both regarded as exemplary stoppers:

.357 Magnum:
Bullet Weight: 158 Grains
Muzzle energy: 763 ft/lbs
Muzzle velocity: 1,475 fps

.44 Magnum:
Bullet Weight: 240 grains
Muzzle energy: 1,280 ft/lbs
Muzzle velocity: 1,550 fps

So Joe’s consideration is certainly a valid one in terms of self-defense needs. And let’s not forget that the Model 25 is a handsome-looking piece as well. Win-win, I think the marketing nerds call it.

And if like me you’re an old-school shooter with no fear of single-action revolvers, let’s take a quick look at Ruger’s New Model Blackhawk Bisley in the same caliber:

Am I the only one whose trigger-digit has suddenly started to itch?


  1. I have a 625 Mountain Gun as well as two Ruger Blackhawks, all in .45 Colt. I agree that they can be loaded from “mild to wild”, and I reload for them. I’ve been told by my hunting friends of 255gr .45 Colt with an MV of 900 fps transecting whitetails from breast to rump, so while the Buffalo Bore offering is interesting, it’s not needed for most use.

  2. I read many moons ago in a gun mag that the 45 Colt was one of the more versatile rounds out there.

    As noted it could be had in bunny-fart loads for plinking

    It could be loaded to .44 mag levels in a gun like a Blackhawk or Redhawk. Not sure where the Model 25 falls there.

    It could be loaded MUCH hotter in one of the five-shot Freedom Arms revolvers (are they still made?).

    In short it could be used to hunt anything found in North America, plus all but the biggest things in Africa.

  3. I’ll second (third?) the motion. If I were consigned to carry a revolver, and were allowed to purchase/specify my own ammunition, it’d be a 5 inch DA .45 Colt, with something like the Buffalo Bore load: hard cast 255-265 grain Keith-style SWC (sharp edges, large meplat) at 1200-1300 FPS. More FPS is “much more betterer” but 260 grains at 1250+/- is not a trifling load, and something an S&W 25 should handle without abusing it too much. Hard cast large meplat 265s at those velocities are pretty much a full-length “coring tool” and are more than quite effective on deer-sized game. Put them in a lever rifle (if you’ve got the revolver, do go get a rifle for it too, you’ll deeply regret not doing so) and the 300 – 400 FPS gain makes the cartridge even more impressive.

    I’ve always been at a loss as to why the .45 Colt hasn’t been more popular; it’s quite versatile, as Mark D (above points out) with mouse-fart loads to house-shakers, 6 rounds is 6 rounds regardless of caliber, anything in a major caliber will be N-Frame-sized so there’s no gun size penalty over other calibers, etc.

    Baffling; could be ammunition availability, could be not enough guns made in the caliber, etc. The Cowboy Action shooters seem to have eschewed the caliber, preferences going toward SA revolvers with .45 Colt exterior dimension barrels but with bores for .38 Special (more barrel mass = less muzzle flip, but that’s needed for .38 Special “Cowboy” loads?). Way back when target shooters preferred .45s (ACP, not Colt, but remember where the ACP came from) because a larger hole in the target had a better chance at breaking a scoring ring to earn more points than a smaller hole.

    The herd lined up behind the .44 Magnum decades ago, so even Billy Bob’s Country Store almost certainly has a box of .44 caliber something on the shelf, but probably not so for the .45 Colt. Readily available ammunition is not something to be scorned; I have heard “rumors from reliable sources” to the effect that .44 caliber revolver ammunition can be successfully fired in a .45 Colt cylinder; accuracy, of course, suffers, but necessity is necessity.

    Colt shooters need to stockpile their own ammo, and it doesn’t hurt to have reloading capability in the caliber. That done, if one commits to a revolver there’s no reason for it to not be a .45 Colt.

    1. I can attest to the fact that .44 Mag can be fired in .45 Colt revos. I was lucky in that I was carrying “mild” loads (.44 Special equivalent) when I accidentally fired a .44 Mag in my .45 Colt 625 Mountain Gun. The case “fire formed” to .45 Colt diameter and the accuracy was not good, but nothing bad happened. After that I stopped taking both calibers to the range at the same time.

  4. WRT why the .45 Colt never “caught on” I would say a combination of (a) it’s an “old school” caliber and not a NEW! IMPROVED! caliber so manufacturers have less “fluff” to sell and (b) it’s a revolver-only caliber (due to the prominent rim) and thus an Old Guy gun since all the cool kids these days have semi-autos.

    I have nothing against semi-auto pistols, I own several and like them just fine.

    But I’ve said it before, the difference between a semi-auto pistol and a revolver is that a semi-auto is a machine while a well-made revolver is a work of art.

    1. Also, Law Enforcement pretty much settled on the .38 and .357, which is a majority of revolvers.
      And it’s not a bad thing- there’s a lot of excellent guns in those calibers, such as the Python, S&W’s incredible K-Frames, and so on.

    2. One reason, as Elmer Keith found, is that .44 Special revolvers have a smidgeon more metal in their cylinders and are a bit stronger. It’s a moot point with Rugers, but can be a factor in old Colts and Smiths.

  5. In my opinion the reason the .45 Colt never gained the modern popularity it deserves is because the gun companies have historically had barrel, throat and cylinder dimensions all over the map while the .44 Magnum has usually enjoyed uniform dimensions. The .45 is a great cartridge that can do anything the .44 Mag can do running the same weight bullet with a little less pressure. But if your gun has an oversized cylinder, tight throat and loose bore it won’t do it very accurately. This has recently been much better but you will still run into even new Rugers with cylinder throats that need to be reamed to see the old war horses true potential.

    1. I bought my my S&W Model 25-5 in 45 Colt about 1980. It had .458 cylinder throats, .453 slugged barrel diameter, but it was .452 thread choked just past the forcing cone. I call it my .45 shotgun, as I do well to get 8″ groups at 25 yds. shooting off a bag. In addition, the front sight was way too low, making it shoot 7″-8″ above POA at 25 yds. I think Smith took their fine Model 29 44 mag and bored it out to make it .45 Colt, having different departments do the boring without talking to each other and kept the same front sight from the faster .44 mag.
      Shortly after my year 1979 Model 25-5, they fixed the cylinder throats, but they still have random guns with thread choke, like my 25-9 from about 1990 in .45 Colt. Many shoot wonderfully well, but not mine. I slugged the barrel, found it was badly thread choked and the front sight was still too low.
      I should probably buy a Ruger to shoot .45 Colt.

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