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Shooting collector ammunition: 45 Express
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November 9, 2022 - 5:44 am
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I have a 45 Ex/45-125 high wall I want to shoot and hunt with.  I have had an order in with RCC Brass since last February and I’m beginning to think I may have to give up on them.  I bought two old original cartridges and wonder : has anyone ever tried shooting the old ammo and reloading the brass or pulling the bullets, dumping the old powder, priming and shooting vintage brass?  Old 45 Ex runs $100 per cartridge but I will be shooting light loads and could get by with 5-10 cases.  Does old brass need annealing?  Is old brass weak in some way?  I’ll mention I’ve shot a lot of mid-20th century rifle and shotgun ammo without any problem over the years.  Yet, original 45 Ex ammunition is WWI era at the latest, I think.

I welcome any informed thoughts based on empirical experience from the members.

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November 9, 2022 - 7:28 am
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I would not shoot any old black powder cartridge, and I would also anneal the brass before reloading it and firing it.

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November 9, 2022 - 2:44 pm
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JC said  Is old brass weak in some way?
  

What are now called “balloon head” cases, in use up to & beyond WW I, are somewhat weaker than modern web-head cases, which have slightly less powder capacity; the reason, for ex., 40g of BP won’t fit in a modern .44-40 case. Confusingly, when balloon heads were first introduced, they were called “solid head” cases to distinguish them from the older folded-head cases. 

If you loaded them with BP (yes, despite the aggravations of shooting it, which I’m all too familiar with), I don’t think you’ll have any trouble.  And probably none with light loads of smokeless, though obtaining good results in such a large case poses its own set of challenges.

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November 9, 2022 - 5:38 pm
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I don’t know if you can use 45-100 or 45-120 but these are in stock.

https://www.northernshooterssupplies.com.au/category-s/416.htm

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November 9, 2022 - 9:28 pm
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Chuck said
I don’t know if you can use 45-100 or 45-120 but these are in stock.

https://www.northernshooterssupplies.com.au/category-s/416.htm

  

A case of smaller capacity would improve combustion of smokeless, which is one of the problems of using smokeless in large BP cases.

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November 10, 2022 - 12:04 am
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JC said
I have a 45 Ex/45-125 high wall I want to shoot and hunt with.  I have had an order in with RCC Brass since last February and I’m beginning to think I may have to give up on them.  I bought two old original cartridges and wonder : has anyone ever tried shooting the old ammo and reloading the brass or pulling the bullets, dumping the old powder, priming and shooting vintage brass?

  

 Yes I did and it ended ugly. The balloon brass on a 40-82 cartridge in a really nice 1886 blew. Fire out the top and I didn’t have to trim my eyebrows for awhile. That was 30 years ago and ever since I shoot modern brass with eye protection. Black powder in those old cartridges causes the brass to corrode. T/R

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November 10, 2022 - 7:36 pm
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clarence said

Chuck said

I don’t know if you can use 45-100 or 45-120 but these are in stock.

https://www.northernshooterssupplies.com.au/category-s/416.htm

  

A case of smaller capacity would improve combustion of smokeless, which is one of the problems of using smokeless in large BP cases.

  

I never have had a problem because I always use something to keep the powder next to the primer. 

The site I posted says these 45-120 Sharps Strait cases are 3-1/4″ the same as a 45-125.  The rim diameter is a bit smaller, 004″. The bad thing is the Win case is somewhat tapered.

 

I think I would have to figure out how to taper the neck a little to get it to chamber then fire form it.

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November 10, 2022 - 8:34 pm
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I found a Saami drawing and the Winchester head space is .063″ to .070″.  

EDIT:  See next couple of posts.

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November 10, 2022 - 9:07 pm
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I just found another Saami Dwg for Winchester 45-70.  All Win rimmed cases have the same head space.

This one is different that the first one I found.  This one says .070″ to .077″.

Screenshot-2022-11-10-at-13-02-14-VELOCITY-AND-PRESSURE-DATA-ANSI-SAAMI-Z299.4-CFR-Approved-2015-12-14-Posting-Copy.pdf.pngImage Enlarger

 

EDIT:   I went back through my last couple posts and removed my comments about the head space.  I was exactly wrong.  .06″ inches is too thin.

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November 11, 2022 - 2:52 am
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All: Thanks for your input!  
Regarding the 45 Ex. It is a bottleneck case bigger than the 45-120, unfortunately.  It’s very close to one of the versions of the British 450 BPE in capacity with a slow twist for a 300 grain bullet.  So I believe I’m stuck with waiting on RCC brass or trying my luck with original cases with bullets pulled and deprimed.  I would inspect the brass for erosion from the powder prior.  Has anyone here sectioned a case to see about the erosion or embrittlement?  TR’s experience has given me a lot more thought for caution, for sure.

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November 11, 2022 - 3:31 am
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JC said  Has anyone here sectioned a case to see about the erosion or embrittlement?  TR’s experience has given me a lot more thought for caution, for sure.
  

Kinda doubt very many cartridge collectors would be eager to do that.  (Except my dear friend “.44 WCF,” who’s no longer here to share his vast knowledge of BP cartridges.)  It’s definitely true that fired BP quickly begins to corrode brass, hence the importance of cleaning cases as soon as possible after firing.  It’s also true that BP left in a cast iron powder measure will cause rust, but that’s due to its hydroscopic action, not a chemical reaction.   TR’s experience has likewise given me a lot more thought for caution, too. 

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November 11, 2022 - 12:44 pm
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It seems there are two issues here.  One is the corrosive impact of black powder sitting in cartridge cases for very large periods of time (e.g. longer than the oldest ones among us have been alive).  And then there is the design of the balloon head cases.  These two factors are typically combined.  An exception would be where a box of empty balloon head cases are found (i.e. never loaded and sold originally as brass).  I would have much more confidence in these – with light loads.  

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November 11, 2022 - 1:01 pm
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Black powder is carbon, Sulphur, and potassium nitrate.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunpowder

My understanding is that black powder could last a millennium if kept dry and cool and the salts are created due to the chemical reaction at combustion.  Therefore, a properly loaded round (new case or cleaned reloaded case) should not be corrosive when in the inert (unfired) state, indefinitely.

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November 11, 2022 - 1:34 pm
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mrcvs said

My understanding is that black powder could last a millennium if kept dry and cool and the salts are created due to the chemical reaction at combustion.  Therefore, a properly loaded round (new case or cleaned reloaded case) should not be corrosive when in the inert (unfired) state, indefinitely.

  

That’s my understanding, too, but after TR’s frightening experience, I think I’d still be nervous about using such cases.  Although the SS action is stronger than TR’s ’86.

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November 11, 2022 - 5:16 pm
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clarence said

mrcvs said

My understanding is that black powder could last a millennium if kept dry and cool and the salts are created due to the chemical reaction at combustion.  Therefore, a properly loaded round (new case or cleaned reloaded case) should not be corrosive when in the inert (unfired) state, indefinitely.

  

That’s my understanding, too, but after TR’s frightening experience, I think I’d still be nervous about using such cases.  Although the SS action is stronger than TR’s ’86.

  

Agreed, to me the issue is not necessarily the strength of the action as a case rupture could cause gases to escape from even the SS. Gunpowder’s shelf life depends on how it is stored and old ammunition may not have been stored under ideal conditions.

 

Mike

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November 11, 2022 - 6:17 pm
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I’ve taken apart a lot of Henry cartridges and have a bit of old powder.  The problem is I really don’t want to test this in my Henry or 66.   Maybe a light load in a 22 WCF highwall?

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November 11, 2022 - 7:33 pm
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Chuck said
I’ve taken apart a lot of Henry cartridges and have a bit of old powder.  The problem is I really don’t want to test this in my Henry or 66.   Maybe a light load in a 22 WCF highwall?

  

It is highly unlikely you could damage a high-wall with that experiment, but what would it prove?

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November 13, 2022 - 8:28 pm
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Well, it would show that 100+ year old black powder will or will not go off.  I dumped all of the powder into 1 container so maybe some of it is still good?

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November 14, 2022 - 12:13 am
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Chuck said
Well, it would show that 100+ year old black powder will or will not go off.  I dumped all of the powder into 1 container so maybe some of it is still good?

  

The weak link in the chain is the primer compound (probably mercury fulminate), which isn’t as stable as BP.  If the primer is still live, & the cartridge undamaged, there’s no reason to think it won’t fire. Potassium chlorate primers replaced fulminate because it was more stable, though corrosive.

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November 14, 2022 - 2:18 am
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Folks, I finally have to put in my two cents worth here.  First, understand it gets rather humid here, and most folks didn’t have air conditioning around my small town, until probably the 1970s or so.  Thus storage conditions were often not ideal.  Having said that, my 84 year old buddy rescued a cartridge collection put together by a significantly older gentleman upon said person’s death.  Bernie still has many of those old, original cartridges but now they are in environmentally controlled space.  For all that, several of the old cartridges have tiny pin holes all the way through the brass.  At least in the approx 60 years Bernie has had them, they have not been cleaned on the outside, so the perforations are seemingly from the inside (powder side) to the outside.  My assumption is they drew moisture into the powder and then corroded the brass enough to perforate.  I would think this would perhaps happen to some extent on many original cartridges not maintained all their lives in controlled environments.  Add in the instability of the mercuric based primers, I would not ever try shooting the originals as the brass may not hold up and allow severe gas leakage if the primers actually worked.  Pulling the cartridges down and carefully viewing the inside of the brass may negate problems, but I wouldn’t care to bet my eyebrows on it.   (or beard!)  Tim  PS. I have old brass that had been inside primed .45-70 Gov blanks recovered off a field at Ft. Huachcua, AZ that have merely turned nearly black from the alkaline soil.  One was still loaded, with the cardboard wad at the mouth gone.  Powder seemed good, etc.  AZ is rather low humidity though! 

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