Of Hardball Ammunition, Specifications and Duplications

As it is the quietly assumed standard ammunition of .45 ACP semi-automatic pistols, my general purpose reload for the caliber is what is commonly known as ‘hardball’. The rather ordinary 230 grain, fully jacketed, round nose bullet at about 850 feet per second muzzle velocity. Not as easy as I thought.

Short note: This ammunition is referred to as ‘hardball’ for two reasons. It is fully jacketed, common to all military cartridges, handgun, rifle and machine-gun. Also, in the case of the .45 handgun, the bullet is ’round-nosed’, nearly spherical in shape and reminds one – with a bit of imagination – of the small ‘hard’ ball used in baseball. This design is not particularly ferocious; designed not to expand on contact with any target. The U. S. Armed Forces – and other armed forces – refers to the ammunition as ‘ball’ ammunition. This derives from the muzzle loading days when ammunition was in fact loose balls to fit the arm and loose black powder. The modern term ‘ball’ means the projectile is, other than possessed of velocity, inert; opposed to tracer ammunition (which leaves a light trail), incendiary (to start fires), armor piercing or blank. Enough.

According to “Department of the Army Technical Manual (TM) 43-0001-27 Army Ammunition Data Sheets Small Caliber Ammunition FSC 1305, dated April 1994”, the “Cartridge, Caliber .45, Ball, 1911” the projectile weight is not listed, but the velocity is given as 885 +/- 25 fps. The manual also lists the propellent as “SR 7970, (weight) 5 gr”.

I was under the impression I had been loading a proper duplication load. My own ‘stand by’ reload is 5.2 grains of W231 powder. Then I tested a new (to me) pistol and the velocity came up short. Curious, I decided to chronograph test the same load in five other pistols in .45 ACP. (They are all examples of the Browning designed, Colt built ‘Government Model’.) All six pistols have nominal five inch barrels.

The six pistols gave ten-shot averages of 764.9, 754.6, 754.5, 747.4, 742.4, 742.0. The average of these is 750.9. This is roughly 135 fps shy of the specified velocity. The good news is there’s about 22 fps difference between the highest and lowest average velocities. So the loading is fairly consistent in these six pistols.

Looking in various reloading manuals, very few loads are listed which will in fact duplicate the standard .45 ‘hardball’ load. My usual powders for handguns do not appear to push the projectile to the specified velocity. Jumping back to the specifications in the TM, the minimum velocity is 860 fps (885 minus 25 fps)

However, in the Speer Loading Manual #14, I find some information that indicates I may be able to duplicate the load. To make things better, the powder is one I have in my inventory: Power Pistol. In fact, a ‘maximum’ load is not required, even better. Time to load up some test loads again.

Returning from the range I bear good news. I have a valid ‘hardball equivalent loading which less than a ‘maximum’ charge. I chronographed the shots fired and the results bear out my research.

Using regular Winchester (nickeled) commercial brass, a (in this case Winchester) Large Pistol primer, a 230 grain FMJ bullet and the charge of 7.2 grains of Power Pistol gunpowder; the projectile registers 878 feet per second with the chronograph 15 feet from the muzzle. This charge is about half a grain of powder less than maximum recommended; so it isn’t on the ragged edge of destruction. It is not a relaxing and serene load to shoot, the report is impressive and the recoil is fatiguing over time.

If factory “hardball” seems a bit ‘harsh’ to shoot, you will not like this load any better. (It is manly, however!)

WARNING: This load was done by me, at my reloading equipment and scale. Then it was fired in my pistol. YOUR loading technique, YOUR reloading equipment, YOUR scale and YOUR pistol ARE DIFFERENT! Please be cautious should you decide to duplicate my work. Get solid information from a reputable loading manual and begin with minimal charges. Work up to the velocity desired without exceeding the recommendations of the reputable loading manual. Use only in well maintained firearms designed for use with full charge .45 ACP ammunition.

And double check the charge loads with the manual.



Filed under Firearms and their use, Uncategorized

11 responses to “Of Hardball Ammunition, Specifications and Duplications

  1. .45 Ball ammunition specs call for 830 +/- 25 fps…which means that it can range from 805-855…with most GI ball that I’ve chronographed running about 820. 6 grains of Unique behind a 230-grain jacketed RN bullet should be close enough for gub’mint work.

    • Mr. Travis, I have for years (I’ve owned a Government Model of some type since 1966) understood the velocity of “G. I. .45 hardball ammo” to be 850 fps. This from numerous articles I read in various gun magazines, conversations I’ve had with shooters, military match shooters, Distinguished Handgun Marksmen, collectors and militaria enthusiasts.

      However, as noted in the essay I wrote and to which you responded, the figures of “885 fps +/- 25 fps (25.5 feet from the muzzle)” is specified in TM 43-0001-27.

      Which implies one of several possibilities.

      1. You are operating as I did, from gun magazine articles and conversations with people presumed to have factual information. However, the actual information you have is in error.

      2. The TM I have is in error. The figures listed are wrong.

      3. The TM I have is a fraud. It is NOT a real U. S. Department of the Army publication and consists of untrustworthy information.

      To be perfectly honest, I have some thoughts about #2 and #3 myself. For instance, the chapter on .45 caliber ammunition doesn’t list the projectile weight at all. Which I find ‘odd’. Still, it does look and read like many of the TMs and FMs I recall from my days in service.

      Any thoughts on the subject, sir? Not intending to offend you or discount your knowledge, but unless I have evidence to the contrary, I’ll credit the document I have as authentic and correct. Do you have official documentation published by an appropriate U. S. Government agency bearing the information you cite?

      And yes, I have in the past used a near maximum load of Unique for the same purpose. It works well, I just don’t have Unique these days.

  2. Every manual I’ve read specs it at 830+/-25 fps, but the latest one I’ve looked at was Vietnam era. Maybe a newer manual or new ammunition lots have changed that. Additionally, several lots of actual GI hardball I’ve checked have chronographed within those parameters, but I’ve never checked any newer lots than 1966 headstamp, and most were older. I don’t think I’ve even seen any headstamped later than 1968.(WCC)

  3. A thought just occured to me.

    The original .45 Auto loading )circa 1905) called for a 200 grain bullet at an advertised (nominal) 900 fps. Did yours specify a 230 or 234 grain bullet?

    The specs changed in 1909 to a 234 grain bullet, and later standardized at 230. I’ve seen boxes of UMC 234-grain with late 1920s headstamps.

  4. You cite ‘every manual’; is that not a bit vague? I will agree with you such information – which may or may not be accurate – is widely printed.

    Aside from that, does the manual published by – pulling a name from my ear – “Official Smart Guys Publications”, or one of the major firearms magazines, or one of the major reloading manuals, have more or equal authority as the Department of the Army manual?

    Incorrect information is STILL incorrect no matter how many times it has been repeated; no matter how many people accept the incorrect information.

    A quick perusal of online advertising shows the following results (these are advertised velocities, not my chronographed results):

    X45P: 230 grain bullet at 880 fps.
    W45D: 230 grain bullet at 850 fps.
    USA45JHP: 230 grain bullet at 880 fps.

    Federal ammunition shows two offerings:
    AE45N1: 230 grain bullet at 850 fps.
    AE45A: 230 grain bullet at 890 fps.

    So advertised and ‘designated’ velocities vary. However, does any manufacturer’s product information alter the specifications in the Army Manual?

    So far, all you have cited as sources are ‘everybody knows’ repetitions.

  5. It’s a bit “vague” because I don’t have one handy and wouldn’t know where to start looking in all this junk I’ve got.

    In addition to the manuals I’ve looked at…

    I was raised and mentored by two men…father and uncle…who scouted the gun shows in the early 60s for GI pistols to rebuild and shoot…and sell…and they bought GI surplus ammunition in large lots whenever they found it. It was so cheap, that nobody bothered to pick up the brass because nobody reloaded it except for Bullseye competitors. They both died and I inherited everything.

    I finally used up the last of it in the late 90s…shooting it mostly for the brass, and I Chronographed it every time I broke open a new lot just to make sure there were no issues with old ammunition. Some of it predated WW2.

    None of it came close to 885 fps, and most of it ran consistently between 820-840 fps, with a small percentage that broke 850.

    I don’t know about your TM or where it came from or even if it’s legit. What I do know is that +P pressures with slow powders are needed to hit those velocities, with the attendant muzzle flash…or overpressure with the Specified Bullseye #5…which was non cannister-grade Unique until the early 50s, when it became non cannister-grade Bullseye. The charge weights were 5.8 and 4.7 grains respectively.

    I’ll stop now.


    • Very good.

      You will note the archived threat from ‘AR15.com’ is all posts made by various contributors. The only information of note is the printing on the box shown, listing 820 fps for the match ammunition.

      That somewhat specialized bit of information is interesting. The manual I reference lists ‘match’ ammunition as having a prescribed velocity of the same as ball ammunition, or 885, =/- 25 fps. Which makes one wonder about the ‘multi-personality disorder’ nature of the federal government.

      The second link you post gives the same information as noted in my article.
      The initial page and precis shows 830 fps, but if one looks at the link “Click here for more information” under the section ‘ammunition’, one finds the 885 specification listed in the manual. Which may indicate the writer or editor of the ‘inetres’ web site should read more carefully.

      I will agree with you ‘most shooters’ probably think either the 830 or 850 figure is correct, as that is the commonly repeated figure. I will agree most of the popular ammunition companies probably use the lower figure as their basis. I will agree most evil doers or enemies of the Republic could not differentiate between the two upon receiving either projectile intermuscularly in the heat of conflict.

      However, I was seeking the ‘official’ designation and a means of achieving it. Which I did.

      And please, Mr. Travis. Return and disagree about anything (and have evidence, of course). If no one contradicts me, I get lazy and stultified in my thinking.

  6. “What I do know is that +P pressures with slow powders are needed to hit those velocities, with the attendant muzzle flash…”

    Speer reloading manual #14 lists four powders giving the range of velocity specified in the TM; at least two at less than ‘maximum load’.

    “…or overpressure with the Specified Bullseye #5…which was non cannister-grade Unique until the early 50s, when it became non cannister-grade Bullseye.”

    According to the Alliant website, Bullseye powder has been commercially available since 1913. The Wikipedia entry says Bullseye was developed by Laflin & Rand in 1898. I’ve never run across a reference to “Bullseye #5”; I’ve been reloading .45 ACP since about 1970 or so. Studying every reference I could find since 1963 or so.

    “The charge weights were 5.8 and 4.7 grains respectively.”

    I suppose so. It still is close to that, depending on the loading manual.

    I see the problem. You believed without question, and still do, what your father and uncle told you. I believed my father and older mentors as well. But as one starts looking at reality, sometimes one notes those mentors were in error. Not lying, not deceptive, just inaccurate. You just go on believing what you want.

    Feel free to come back and argue – discuss – about anything I publish here. Try not to be offended when I’m not impressed by ‘so and so told me’.

  7. Thomas

    I am trying to find a commercial practice load that is similar to Federal 45 ACP HST 230 grain (890 fps). I thought I found it in the American Eagle (Federal) AE45A, but I find it listed at 890 fps AND 850 fps and although the Federal website says it is 890 fps, the fact that I find it listed many times on vendor sites at 850 fps, well… makes me wonder?

    Are the site listing 850 selling older versions of the AE45A? Or are they just incorrect? Nah… that couldn’t be correct. I mean anything written on the Internet is wrong. Right? Just like everyone knows when to use “then” and “than” on the net….. Lol

    • Frankly, I don’t think anyone really knows.

      I have a small cache of Federal 45ACP 230 grain Hydro-shok, I use it as defense ammo in my pistols so chambered. Using my chronograph, at my range with my pistols, it clocks exactly (within the variance of the ammo) the same as some version of commercial 230 grain FMJ ammo. So I load a practice round of 230 at that same velocity. It seems to shoot the same, function the same and register on target the same.

      One of the many things I have noted is most ammunition will present different velocities in different pistols, on different days and so forth.

      Since I published the article to which you reply, (as of this writing it is Sep 2016) I have NOT been able to discover just where the figure posted in the ammo specifications document derived. Total silence. I’ve checked several commercial loadings – and somehow don’t have them to hand to report – and they’re all ‘around’ the same performance level, but they do vary.

      Is older ammo faster? Very suspicious. Ammo from all companies vary from lot to lot. The ammo ‘this season’ may be faster or slower than the ‘same’ ammo from ‘last season’. Usually, it’s within the margin of error or variance. I do know in the past – before chronographs were cheap and common – some ammunition manufacturers would test their ammunition and advertise at the very highest velocity attained in testing, and sometime ’round up’ just to impress the locals. Not to mention much ammo was tested in ‘pressure testing devices’ which are not the same as a regular firearm. (And as mentioned, two ‘identical’ firearms really aren’t. Not as far as velocity and internal pressure is concerned. And, some, like .22 long rifle ammo, is tested and advertised velocities announced from rifles, not handguns.

      So. Back to your initial comment or query. Your initial impression is probably correct. What you need to do is to compare – on target – the results of the practice ammo with your carry ammo. If it shoots to the same point of impact, functions in the pistol correctly and operates the pistol as it should, I would not be too concerned about the velocity. Most handgun ranges are less than fifty yards and the slight variances make no difference, unless one is a top level Bullseye shooter. Truthfully – and check this out on the range if you prefer – the difference between the Federal HST and most commercial ‘hardball’ is negligible at ranges of less than twenty-five yards.

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