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Thread: 38-45 ACP chambered 1911 barrels

  1. #1
    Boolit Master




    bruce drake's Avatar
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    38-45 ACP chambered 1911 barrels

    Does anyone still have one of these old 1911 wildcat barrels or have they all gone into dust trails of history? CH4D still stocks the die sets and I've already got a 1911 in .400 Corbon that I load 155gr SWC and sized at .401 and use .38 Special load data to shoot it with so I was wondering if anyone had such a barrel just sitting on a shelf already willing to sell to another fellow gun nut.

    If they are now just a retired stage in pistol history, I can recut a 38 Super 1911 barrel with a PTG reamer and try to replicate the cartridge over the winter. Its not going to be a dedicated 1911 Bullseye upper as I know the history behind the cartridge and its limited Bullseye success rate in matches back in the day but since we've advanced in powder and bullet technology, perhaps it might lead to a resurgence....nah, but I still would like to see how it shoots.

    Bruce
    Last edited by bruce drake; 12-05-2018 at 06:04 PM.
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  2. #2
    Boolit Master sawinredneck's Avatar
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    I’m usually pretty good at finding oddities like this, no love, sorry! I’ve read several have happened across them on evilbay now and again, but nothing listed now. The other sources referred to, old, no longer list them either.
    You did just miss this, http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...arrel-for-1911
    Sorry I can’t help more.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    In its day it only met to be a target round. The trouble was guys would try to hot load the round and burst the neck down 45 toward the rim sometime blowing up the grips. Guys got afraid shoting them because burst rounds reports. Use common sence reloading for it.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master




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    Yes, I still believe in common sense reloading. I don't load my 400 Corbon anywhere close to its full potential either for the same reason. Shooting the 400 Corbon with 155gr SWC with light loads in a full size 1911 literally pops the brass down at my feet for easy pickup afterwards. much more accurate that way also.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by sawinredneck View Post
    I’m usually pretty good at finding oddities like this, no love, sorry! I’ve read several have happened across them on evilbay now and again, but nothing listed now. The other sources referred to, old, no longer list them either.
    You did just miss this, http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...arrel-for-1911
    Sorry I can’t help more.
    I saw it also in January. I was like no. 4 in line to try to get it.

    Bruce
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  6. #6
    Boolit Buddy TRX's Avatar
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    Call Bar-Sto, Nowlin, and Schuemann first. Then work down the list. Bar-Sto used to list .38/45 and .38 Casull.

    What happens is, they drop low-selling calibers from their catalogs, even the online ones, even though they sometimes still have the reamers and gages to chamber them. I wound up buying my own reamer and gauges because nobody listed .40 Super any more; turned out Bar-Sto will still make you one, but you have to ask.

    I was interested in the .38/45, discovered the .38 Casull and was planning to build one, discovered .40 Super brass, which would be a lot easier to form into Casull than .45 brass, and eventually decided to just skip the "swage down to .38" step and go with .40 Super.

    I've seen the lackluster accuracy reports for the .38/45 too, but I suspect the problem was people using the wrong bullets for the twist rate. And I'd look into one of the bulky powders instead of Bullseye, something that would fill more of the case, to avoid powder-positioning problems, which would probably be more of a deal with a bottleneck case than a straight one.

    BTW, the Voices urge me to inform you that the .38 Casull factory load pushed a 147 grain bullet at 1800fps, for 891 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, right up there in .460 Rowland , .44 Magnum, or .357 Auto Mag territory.

  7. #7
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    IIRC the O.D. of the 1911 38Super barrel is not the same as the O.D. of the 1911 45ACP barrel.
    I have 38-45 Clerke Dies and have not been able to find one of these barrels either.
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  8. #8
    Boolit Master Jedman's Avatar
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    I have never heard of or seen the round but a 45 ACP is so short already that to neck it down to 38 cal. And have even a .200 length neck it's going to be very small powder capacity and to get even 38 spl ballistics would require loading it to quite high pressures.
    I may be wrong as I am a lot anymore but it doesn't sound like a wildcat with any purpose.

    Jedman

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedman View Post
    I have never heard of or seen the round but a 45 ACP is so short already that to neck it down to 38 cal. And have even a .200 length neck it's going to be very small powder capacity and to get even 38 spl ballistics would require loading it to quite high pressures.
    I may be wrong as I am a lot anymore but it doesn't sound like a wildcat with any purpose.

    Jedman
    Back in the '50s and '60s when Bullseye was THE pistol competition, the 38-45 won a lot of centerfire matches for guys who were competitive with their 22 semi autos and 45 hardball guns and wanted a good "third gun." They were accurate and won matches, but the extra work proved unnecessary as many shooters found they could shoot a 45 wad gun in both CF and the 45 leg and only have to build one gun with negligible difference in performance. The lack of factory ammo (or even brass) didn't help, as many shooters didn't want to spend the time to make their own ammo. There WAS a purpose for the gun, but it was just too specialized for it to have a very large niche.

    Froggie

    PS As I've mentioned in a previous thread on this topic, a close friend of mine, now deceased, held the CF Timed Fire National Record from Camp Perry back in the day using a 38-45 he built while on the Navy Pistol Team... so this is pretty close to first hand knowledge!
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  10. #10
    Boolit Master Pavogrande's Avatar
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    No barrel, but have a form/trim die buried in the shop someplace --

  11. #11
    Boolit Mold
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    I have an old CH Armory barrel and bushing I have not loaded for in a very long time. Even with .358 bullets that little case neck had difficulty keeping them in place. I had a lot of bullets pushed down into the case. When I get serious about this round again, I'll make a better bullet seating die and a proper case neck sizing die.

    No, accuracy just was not there with the horrid case neck tension and skinny barrel . I bought a SIG 38 super barrel a couple months ago to ream the chamber out to 38-45. It is a good solid barrel, much more substantial and higher quality than the Armory barrel.

    In my misbegotten youth I tried making a 9mm super out of it, but that case volume is just too much. I was getting ~1800 fps with lightweight bullets, but this was not loading to this rounds strengths.

    I had another problem with case life. It is easy to make 38-45 brass from 45 auto in stages. I used about 5 different dies to form 38-45 in stages on my Pro-Jector press. I have a lot of case neck and body splits using once fired/many times fired 45 acp brass, but hey, the brass was free and I made a coffee can of it.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedman View Post
    I have never heard of or seen the round but a 45 ACP is so short already that to neck it down to 38 cal. And have even a .200 length neck it's going to be very small powder capacity and to get even 38 spl ballistics would require loading it to quite high pressures.
    I may be wrong as I am a lot anymore but it doesn't sound like a wildcat with any purpose.

    Jedman
    using a PSI reading, SAAMI has determined that 38 Special has 17,000 PSI; 38 Special+P has 18,500 fps and 45ACP has 21,000 PSI and 45ACP+P is rated at 23,000. 357 Magnum at 35,000 PSI is a bridge to far for the 38-45 Clerke which was designed to shoot bullets accurately with less pressure and recoil. building loads from 38 Special load data should develop a nicely functioning cartridge. The 38-45 necked cartridge does increase the pressure slightly due to a smaller diameter neck and shorter powder column that the 3 other straight walled cartridges don't quite have...so use 38 Special data to start and then move up to the point where you have to ramp back your powder at the first sign of an overpressure issue.
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  13. #13
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    BarSto Barrels will make a 38-45ACP barrel for $240 and 6-8 weeks for delivery according to their reply to my email.
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  14. #14
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    I see this thread and experimentation in resurrecting this cartridge keep popping up. If we still had the large number of Bullseye shooters we saw 60 years ago, there would probably be much more interest.

    The same could be said for 38 AMU and even the 38 Special semi-autos. Of course serious shooters tried everything to get an edge. Thirty-two caliber target guns have been in the background as well, but there just weren’t the number of hardcore Bullseye shooters to make a demand for them among the manufacturers... did you know there was a prototype 32 S&W L High Standard over 60 years ago? How about the 32 conversions for the Model 41 Smith?

    Back to the original topic, just so I won’t be accused of inciting thread drift, the 38/45 as originally conceived was successful for its intended purpose. It was a very accurate and dependable Bullseye round that could compete in the CF leg of the National Matches, using technology developed by military and civilian smiths for the 1911 Government Model platform. What killed it was the effort to hand make each round of ammo was so intense and that the competitive advantage offered was so slim that the cost benefit ratio just didn’t justify continuing building the guns. Trying to use the 38/45 as a high performance round outside the range is probably not going to have the same level of success. JMHO, YMMV!

    Froggie
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  15. #15
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    I found a barrel, bushing and die set on Gunbroker.com today for my 38-45 Clerke 1911 pistol project. Once the barrel and dies arrive, I'll work to set up some range time to give a report on how it goes.

    If all works well, I'll have a pistol with three fitted slide groups for that particular frame: 45ACP; .400 CorBon and now 38-45 Clerke.

    And Froggie, this will be for target use only. There are enough people out there willing to blow their firearms up with hot loads. I'm planning to retire to the big firing line in the sky with all my fingers, toes and with both eyes intact.
    Bruce
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  16. #16
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    You going to try any SWC's in it? I keep thinking a Keith 150gr SWC at 900fps is all i would need for a great woods loafing pistol... Got to see if a friend has these dies floating around in his shop. Hope you post range results soon. I grew up always wanting thus caliber too! Todd/3leg

  17. #17
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    I found my barrel and dug out my die set yesterday. The barrel is marked “Colt 45 AUTO” near the link Lug and appears to have been relined to 38-45. My dies set is a RCBS 3 die set consisting of a form die, a decap/FL size, a expander die, and a SWC seating die.

    I cleaned the die set then formed some test cases using FA42 brass. The form die function flawlessly leaving the case clean and scratch free. The FL size die left scratches on cases indicating a previous owner sized dirty brass. I cleaned the dies again then using a cleaning patch coated with JB bore cleaning compound in a jag connected to a cordless drill I polished the FL size die as well as the form dies. They now form perfect looking brass.

    At this point I need to polish the exterior of the barrel then order and fit a barrel bushing. I have a Series 70 NM frame that needs something new...
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