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Winchester reloading tool in .45 Colt - Is it a unicorn?
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April 27, 2022 - 6:38 pm
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I am not a loading tool collector but I do have some that match the cartridges of the Winchester rifles in my collection. 

I also have a several Colt single action army revolvers.   I have one each in .38 WCF, .44 WCF (Colt Frontier Six Shooter) and .45 Colt.  It dawned on me I have never seen a Winchester loading tool for .45 Colt. 

I know they made them.  Yearout’s loading tool book mentions the .45 Colt for the Model 1875 tool and again for the Model 1882 tool.  I know Ideal (Lyman) made them too.  It got me to thinking that perhaps people back in the 19th century didn’t reload Colt .45 very much.  In the great scheme of things at the time the .45 Colt cartridge was only used in a few revolvers of the day, mostly Colt’s own products.  The single action army, Model 1878 double action, Model 1909 double action, some Remington 1875’s.  Any others?

You certainly see lots of .44 WCF, .38 WCF and .32 WCF tools on eBay.  People were definitely reloading those cartridges.  Lots of molds show up as well.  Of course they were not only used in Winchester and Marlin rifles, but Colt and other revolvers as well.

Is a Winchester reloading tool in .45 Colt a unicorn?

Maybe Maverick will jump in and give his thoughts…

I call myself a collector as it sounds better than hoarder

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April 28, 2022 - 1:16 am
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Hey Bill,   

I have a 3rd model brass Winchester mold that is marked .45 COLTS.   Several yeas ago, someone as selling an 1875 model tool with the same marking.

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April 28, 2022 - 1:38 am
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I got one as well.

Bob

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April 28, 2022 - 2:48 am
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Its funny to me that you use the term Unicorn, as they do in fact exist! At least from a certain point of view and your definition.

A lot of atheist love to point out that they believe the Bible is made up because the King James version uses the term “Unicorn”. But they fail to look any further and gleam from reality what is being described to them.

Unicorn.jpgImage EnlargerWhat “One Horned” animal is found on the plains of Africa?

Regarding Loading Tools I know for certain, Winchester made the 1874, 1875 and 1882 Tools chambered in 45 Colt. Along with at least three different versions of their Bullet Molds for 45 Colt. In what collectors call the 3rd, 4th and 5th Model Mold. But I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them having been made in the 1st and even possibly the 2nd Model Molds. I think the 1874 Tool being found in 45 Colt speaks to this possibility.  They first cataloged 45 Colt in the 1876 Catalog. The 1874 cartridge board, also known as the Rimfire board, has the rimfire version of the 45 Colt on it. The next board made the 1879 cartridge board has the 45 colt center-fire cartridge on it. 

They did vary how they marked the tools and molds. I’ve seen them marked Colt 45, 45 Colts, 45 C. and one 1875 Tool even marked 45 C. with Colt on the lower handle.

3rdModelMold-45Colts.JPGImage EnlargerHere is a 3rd Model Mold marked 45 Colts.

4thTypMld45Colt.jpgImage EnlargerHere is a 4th Model Mold marked 45 C.

1874Tool45coltCALMark.jpgImage EnlargerHere is a 1874 Tool marked Colt 45.

1875Tool-45Colt-1.jpgImage Enlarger Here is a 1875 Tool marked 45 C.

1875Tool-45Colt-2.jpgImage Enlarger Here is another 1875 Tool marked 45 C. with Colt on lower handle.

82Tool45Colt-1.JPGImage EnlargerHere is a 1882 Tool marked 45 C.

As too rarity, I wouldn’t consider them to be in the mythical unicorn status, but are certainly hard to come by. You’ll find them after you pass by all the standard 44 WCF, 38 WCF, & 32 WCF, then the S&W calibers, and then you’ll stumble across the Colt stuff. But there are certainly a lot more rarer hard-to-find calibers out there. In example the 1882 Tool in 44 & 45 BLANK, and plenty of the various Rifle calibers. It make take you some time, months or even years, but they can be found.

Also the older model the tool or mold, they are harder to find. For instance I can count of one hand the number of 1874 Tools in Colt 45 I’ve come across. And also believe you wouldn’t find the 45 Colt in certain model tools. The 1880, 1888, 1891, & 1894 Tools were basically only for Rifle Calibers.

Sincerely,

Maverick

P.S. Best of Luck to you!

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April 28, 2022 - 2:27 pm
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Thank you all.  I think it can be said that late 19th century shooters were not reloading the .45 Colt cartridge anywhere as much as the popular Winchester cartridges.  

I call myself a collector as it sounds better than hoarder

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April 29, 2022 - 12:47 pm
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Bill Hockett said
Thank you all.  I think it can be said that late 19th century shooters were not reloading the .45 Colt cartridge anywhere as much as the popular Winchester cartridges.    

Interesting observation. I suppose that could be because the Winchester cartridges were used in rifles and the 45 Colt was not. Maybe handguns weren’t as common as the Westerns suggest.

 

Mike

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April 29, 2022 - 1:39 pm
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TXGunNut said

Interesting observation. I suppose that could be because the Winchester cartridges were used in rifles and the 45 Colt was not. Maybe handguns weren’t as common as the Westerns suggest.

 

Mike  

And of course many of the Colts were chambered in a few different Winchester calibers.

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May 2, 2022 - 4:20 pm
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I think you’d have to ask someone from the Colt’s collectors association for a more clearer picture. How many Colts were produced in 45 Colt? And verses how many other calibers they chambered?

Sincerely,

Maverick

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May 2, 2022 - 8:39 pm
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 The Colt Single Action Army Revolver was first shipped to the U.S. Gov’t in 9-2-73 starting at about s/n 177. Between then and 1891 they sold 37,060 SAA to the Gov’t ending with s/n 140,361 all in 45colt. The SAA in 44-40 came out in late 1877 about s/n 41,800 and was used in the civilian market. The caliber matched the Winchester 1873 and became popular. I don’t know if the Cavalry had loading tools, if not, then the 30,060 Cavalry Colts and the 44-40’s sold to civilians didn’t need a 45colt loading tool. I think the market for Winchester made 45 Colt loading tools was small and crossed brands.

  I collect only Winchester tools for Winchester guns. For some reason I don’t collect Winchester tools for my Colts. T/R 

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May 3, 2022 - 2:47 pm
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It appears that 150,683 first generation Colt single action army revolvers were made in .45 Colt between 1873-1940.  That’s out of a total production of 310,386 revolvers made during those years.  I don’t know how many 1878 double action revolvers were made in .45 Colt.  The later model 1909 double action revolver was also available in .45 Colt.  

About 192,000 SAA revolvers had been made by 1900.  There were plenty of .45 Colt revolvers in circulation during those years.  It appears that Winchester loading tools and molds in .45 Colt were available but not common.  Not at least compared to Winchester molds for .44, .38 and .32 WCF.

Speculation mode on, it appears that people probably didn’t shoot revolvers a lot, so they didn’t bother to reload the Colt .45 cartridges.  Rifle cartridges, on the other hand were used for hunting and varmint control, and were reloaded.  That’s why there are so many more Winchester reloading tools in Winchester rifle calibers available compared to .45 Colt.

Speculation mode off.

I call myself a collector as it sounds better than hoarder

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May 3, 2022 - 3:35 pm
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Bill Hockett said

Speculation mode on, it appears that people probably didn’t shoot revolvers a lot, so they didn’t bother to reload the Colt .45 cartridges.  Rifle cartridges, on the other hand were used for hunting and varmint control, and were reloaded.  That’s why there are so many more Winchester reloading tools in Winchester rifle calibers available compared to .45 Colt.

Speculation mode off.  

 I agree, makes sense.

 If you watch the Hollywood movies you think everyone carried a Colt 45 pistol in a holster on their hip, but when you look at old Colts very few have serious holster wear unless they were cavalry issue. Colts with high condition were probably in a drawer and saw little use after 1890. You don’t need a reloading tool for a gun like that.  Less guns, less usage, other manufacturers, and brand crossover equal less Winchester 45 Colt tools. What didn’t sell then is rare now. T/R

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May 3, 2022 - 4:48 pm
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Bill Hockett said
Speculation mode on, it appears that people probably didn’t shoot revolvers a lot, so they didn’t bother to reload the Colt .45 cartridges.  Rifle cartridges, on the other hand were used for hunting and varmint control, and were reloaded.  That’s why there are so many more Winchester reloading tools in Winchester rifle calibers available compared to .45 Colt.

Speculation mode off.  

It maybe more of a volume in quantity sold based on production than a correlation of actual use by shooters. Winchester sold more reloading tools in 44wcf, 38wcf and 32 wcf because they sold more rifles to go with them. Majority of the 1873 production of 720,000+ firearms were in one of these three calibers. Then when you look at the model 1892 production of 1,000,000+ in these same three calibers + the 25-20wcf, which you can readily find 25-20wcf tools.

The 45 Colt may have not been as popular based on Winchester sales of that particular caliber. But the same can be said of the following pistol calibers, such as the 32 S&W, 32 Marlin, 32 colt, 38 s&w, 38 Marlin, 41 Long Colt, 44 webley, 44 colt, 44 american, 44 russian, 44 marlin, 44 remington, 44 evans and so on. All of these calibers were produced in Winchester Reloading Tools and yet practically none were chambered in Winchester firearms. And they can be found today but are certainly comparatively harder to find than the 44wcf, 38wcf, 32 wcf, and 25-20wcf. But Winchester was also the leading ammunition manufacturer in that time frame and sold ammo in all these calibers. Seems a good logical business to try and sell tools for all of these as well.

I do wonder how their sales would have favored if Ideal Reloading Tool Co. hadn’t been such a competitor for them. I also don’t know why Winchester ever got out of the Reloading Tool business and let their competitors get the share of the market. And why they tried to stay out of reloading smokeless calibers, when their competitors thrived in that regard. 

Sincerely,

Maverick

P.S. I’ll be ecstatic if I can ever find some production figures on the Reloading Tools.

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May 19, 2022 - 1:45 am
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Personally I think the rifle owner handloaded more than revolver owners. Just a hunch! Don’t forget that the military continued to use rim fire cases from Frankford through 1884 while the civilians used center fire cases from Winchester and UMC.

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May 19, 2022 - 7:46 pm
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Frankford Arsenal started making 45 center fire in 1873.  This is not the earliest box but it is the first year.

45-Colt-SAA-a.jpgImage Enlarger

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May 19, 2022 - 8:43 pm
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Chuck said
Frankford Arsenal started making 45 center fire in 1873.  This is not the earliest box but it is the first year.

45-Colt-SAA-a.jpgImage Enlarger

  

Nothing on that box denotes it being “Center-Fire” primed and therefore reloadable. How do you know its not Rim Fire? Or what is rather likely Benet Inside Primed Cartridges?

RimFire-45Colt.jpgImage EnlargerAs these appear to be, and appear to be the same box.

Sincerely,

Maverick

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May 19, 2022 - 9:04 pm
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Maverick said

Chuck said

Frankford Arsenal started making 45 center fire in 1873.  This is not the earliest box but it is the first year.

45-Colt-SAA-a.jpgImage Enlarger

  

Nothing on that box denotes it being “Center-Fire” primed and therefore reloadable. How do you know its not Rim Fire? Or what is rather likely Benet Inside Primed Cartridges?

RimFire-45Colt.jpgImage EnlargerAs these appear to be, and appear to be the same box.

Sincerely,

Maverick

  

I don’t and you are probably correct.  I’ve never opened one of these to take a look.  Makes sense though.

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May 19, 2022 - 9:34 pm
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According to Kopec the primed cartridges were available from Frankford Arsenal in 1880.  There is a picture of a box on page 192 in the Cavalry and Artillery Revolvers, a Continuing Study that is dated December 9, 1880.  Field reloading tools were supplied by 1881, see page 190 and 191.

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May 21, 2022 - 7:40 pm
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Chuck said
Frankford Arsenal started making 45 center fire in 1873.  This is not the earliest box but it is the first year.

45-Colt-SAA-a.jpgImage Enlarger

  

I compiled a list and photos here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1UAaKCmwp_R7J3IfnLogKmx4Mk8E724Blh0OHrfglxgk/edit#gid=884820685

I am constantly searching for data to add, or correct existing data.

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May 21, 2022 - 8:35 pm
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Brian, Colt and UMC started developing a commercial load in 1871 but I don’t have any data or pictures for these boxes.  I’m sure a Colt collector may have more data.  The earliest boxes have an 1872 Patent date on them.  Later the 1875 Patent was added.  Giles and Shuey show a Winchester box with the later Patent.  The picture you mentioned as stolen was actually used by several companies at the same time. This is documented in one of my Colt books.  I am not sure when Winchester and the USCCo actually produced their first boxes?  No one, as far as I know, ever made the 45 Colt in a rim fire version.  The Benet primed ones do look like rim fire though and technically are center fire. I believe that Colt would never build a gun and not have commercial ammo for it from the very start. Hopefully someone has some early pictures.

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May 22, 2022 - 11:55 pm
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Thanks Chuck!!

Maybe we can get some early examples soon. I tried to put together some 44-40 black powder primer information here: https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/chasing-the-44-40/cartridge-details/winchester/primers/black-powder-primers

 

I have yet to venture that avenue for the 45 Colt

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