During the college Christmas break of 1962, I did some gun trading. The trade produced a first rate Remington-Rand 1911AI and two boxes of GI ammo. My first ".45 automatic". I had heard much bad and little good about "Old Slabsides". Expectations were not high when I arrived at my plinking spot on the Rio Grande River in deep south Texas. In those days we used the Republic of Mexico as a backstop and nobody seemed to mind. Today, firing across the international border would be an act of utter foolishness, maybe even war.
After I fired the first magazine, I was hooked for life! Fire belched from the muzzle, dirt clods, sticks and cans jumped. The aroma of burned gun powder hung in the air. It just doesn't get any better than this! The bubble burst when ammo ran out. I drove to our local purveyor of all things gunny. He had loading dies, but no bullet mould. Ordering one would take weeks. Too long for a fellow who had a .45 bug bite. He did have a used mould that was designed for the .45 Auto Rim cartridge. "They won't feed in an automatic", he said. But, I could shoot single shot until something better came along. What's a fellow to do? Single shot is better than no shot. A used, but excellent, Lyman #452423 single cavity mould was mine. It was an Elmer Keith design semi-wadcutter, with his usual three driving bands of equal width and a generous square bottomed lube groove. The Idaho guru knew his bullets!
The plummer's furnace was fired, a hundred bullets were cast and loaded on top of Bullseye powder in the GI cases. The square shoulder of the Keith bullet was seated almost flush with the case mouth. I did have enough sense to cut the power charge back as the deep seated bullet reduced the case capacity and would cause higher than normal pressure.
A damp morning mist still hovered over the Rio Grande river when I arrived with pistol and handloads in hand. I loaded a round single shot and tickled the trigger. The round shot to the sights and everything worked as the day before. I noticed that the Keith bullet loads would load into the magazine. I stuffed a couple in the magazine, racked the slide, and cut loose. They fed from the magazine with perfection. The bullet that was not supposed to feed through the .45 Automatic, did! Joy of joys!
I had read in print a number of times that #452423 would not feed in the auto-pistol. Obviously written by folks who never tried it. It was not just my Remington-Rand either, over the years, I shot #452423 thorough dozens military, commercial and match 1911 pistols. There was never a failure to feed because of the bullet.
Linotype metal was cheap and plentiful. The resulting cast bullet weighted 230 grains on the nose. When wheel weight metal was used, #452423 gained about 10 to 12 grains.
The Keith bullet proved excellent on game. In my Colt Gold Cup, it accounted for two Whitetail does and quite a bit of smaller game. Nothing over 25 yards.
The 45 bug still had it's stinger in me, and I acquired several Colt New Service revolvers in .45 Colt. My favorite was a late commercial model with a 4 1/2 inch barrel. In a Myers Threeperson holster, it rode many miles on my hip. It was a jack rabbit and rattle snake terror. The old Colt slept under the mattress at night, and I slept peacefully on top.
In the .45 Colt case, I loaded #452423 over 9 grains of Unique. I went as high as 10 grains but quickly backed off when the primers smeared and the cases stuck.
The 1960's were the .45 years. Thousands of bullets fell from the mould and were shot through three 1911 autos and three Colt New Service revolvers. Pounding them out, I wished for a gang mould. Lyman made such, but I had better use for my money.
The 70's were gunless years. I went back to school and the great old guns were sold off. For a decade I did not fire a shot through a handgun.
The 80's featured my return to handgun shooting. The old 45 bug wound festered and it wasn't long before I degreased old #452453 and was back running lead. You just can't separate a Texas from his .45.
After a few after that, I decided to buy a #452423 four cavity mould, but Lyman no longer made them. A couple of years later, I decided to settle for a two cavity mould. By that time Lyman had discontinued #452423. My old mould took on the status of a shrine. How could Lyman discontinue the greatest .45 cal bullet ever designed? Apparently Lyman's sales did not reflect my regard for the great Keith design. The cult of #452423 must have very few devotees.
After recovering from the shock, I realized that all was not lost. Hoch bullet moulds of Frutia Colorado could produce any bullet design. I sent several bullets from the old mould, specified the alloy and the "as cast" diameter. In due time, I received a three cavity lathe bored mould that was as near to the original as I could expect. There was a few small differences, but nothing that changed the performance. The bullets fell from the mould at 242 grains weight and the exact specified diameter. That Hoch mould is a work of art.
Gone are the Remington-Rand, the Colt Gold Cup, and the Colt New Service. Their places are filled with a Colt Series 80 Government Model, a Ruger Bisley and an assortment of Smith and Wessons in both .45 ACP and .45 Colt calibers.
Honesty forces me to tell you that very few #452423s go down the barrel of the auto-pistol anymore. A few for nostalgia's sake. Lyman #452460 is my bullet of choice for "Old Slabside". When it comes to revolvers, it is still #452423.
In the .45 Colts, the bullet goes on top of 20 grains of H-4227. The Ruger Bisley and Smith and Wesson Mod. 25-7 have cylinder throats in the .452 - .453 range. Accordingly the great bullet is sized .452. With this load either pistol will produce 1 1/2" groups twenty five yards. I have had some sub 1"groups but they do not come on demand. The chronograph gives a velocity of 983 fps in the 5" Smith and 1,016 from the 7 1/2" Ruger. This is all the accuracy and power that I require. I have quit searching! Although a full snort load, it is not a +P load and should be safe in any good condition .45 Colt revolver.
The .45 ACP loading situation is more complex. In my various revolvers, one load most definitely does not fit all. I vary the sizing diameter, power and charge weight. The old 1917 revolvers receive mild loads while the newer model 25-2's and 625-3 receive hardier fodder.
My five inch 625-3 is wonder. The first six shots from a rest at twenty five yards produced one ragged hole of 3/4 inch. The load was Federal Match hardball. A major factor in this level of accuracy is the tight cylinder throats. They measure between .4525" and .2530". Bullets sized .452 are just the medicine. For accuracy, the Model 625-3 is a double throw down, snatch the tie of your neck, triple terror wonder.
The have two older Model 1917 and two Model 25-2 Smith and Wessons that are trickier. The 25-2 models have cylinder throats of .455" to .456". The cylinder throats of the 1917s are a uniform .456 in one and a equally uniform .4545 in the other. In all these revolvers, I size #452423 to .454 and get good results. .455 might be better, but would require a custom sizing die. I am quite happy with the level of accuracy I get with .454. The standard sizing diameters of .451 and .452 give poor accuracy in these large throated Smiths. My Smith & Wesson Model 25-2's were made in the late 60's and early 70's. My Smith & Wesson 1917s were produced for the Brazilian military. One was made in 1937 and the other assembled by Smith & Wesson in 1946 from mostly WWI parts.
Loads which the Model 25-2s handle with aplomb, would choke the 1917s. Always use light to standard pressure loads in Pre-War Colt and Smith and Wesson revolvers. Never exceed published loads in recent loading manuals in the fine old revolvers. Given mild loads, they are accurate and safe. Push the pressure envelope and at best you will damage a fine old gun. At worse, you will damage yourself! Don't even think about it! Shooting is supposed to be fun, not dangerous.
In the 1917 Smith and Wessons, I size #452423 to .454" and load them in a ACP case on top of 5 grains of Winchester 231. A firm crimp is given in the bullet crimp grove. This mild load and very accuracy. Both of my 1917 Smiths produce 2 1/2 inch 25 yard groups. Sometimes better, but who cares! They are great plinking guns. Anytime I pick up a .45 ACP round with #452423 on top, I know it is a 242gr/5 gr./Winchester 231 load and safe for any good condition revolver appropriately chambered.
In the Model 25-2 Smith & Wessons, I use Elmer Keith's old load. He recommended #452423 on top of 7.5 grains of unique. Again, the bullet is sized .454 and crimped in the crimp grove. This load produces higher than standard pressure but is fine in my Model 25-2's. The primers are not the least bit flattened and the fired cases fall from the cylinder into my hand. As with any load that exceeds recent loading manuals, I do not recommend that you do what I do. I do it, have no bad consequences and sleep well. You are on your own! I put this load up only in the Auto Rim case. The Auto Rim case is not stronger than the ACP case, I just want to know at a glance what the load is. Anytime I pick up a .45 Auto Rim round with #452423 on top, I know it is a 242gr./7.5gr./Unique load and only goes in a Model 25-2. Elmer's load produces sterling accuracy. My favorite packing pistol is a 4" barrel Smith Model 25-2. In this pistol I get 1 1/2" 25 yard groups and 964 (chronographed) fps velocity. If that sounds like .45 Colt performance in a .45 ACP revolver, it is!
I don't load #452423 for the auto-loading pistol much any more. When I do, I size it .452, set it on top of 4.5 grains of Bullseye and seat the bullet with 1/16 inch of lead above the case mouth. I apply a taper crimp and that is that. If you choose to load #452423 for the auto-pistol you have couple of extra considerations. First you will seat the heavy bullet deeper which reduces case capacity. Higher than normal pressures will result unless you reduce the power charge. This can be dangerous if you don't know what you are doing and there is very little reliable data on using heavier than standard weight bullets in the .45 ACP round. Secondly, with the heavier than standard bullets you increase recoil and slide momentum with the subsequent wear and tear on the pistol. Heavier than standard bullets, unless the load is quite mild, can batter a good pistol in short order. For both of these reasons, there are better bullets for use in the auto-pistol. I used #452423 for years in commercial and military .45 auto-pistols, because it was all I had.
When your hair turns silver and your belt size increases, you remember with fondness what worked for you when you could jump a three rail fence. If it still works for you now, it is truly wonderful. Elmer Keith's old #452423 is wonderful! There will be no other bullet in this Texan's 45 revolver.