As regular readers know, I've been a Cowboy Fast Draw Shooter for two years now. It's an intriguing game, shooting wax bullets at steel targets. The vast majority of our shooting is done with special cases, cut for shotgun primers, which provides the impulse that drives the bullet toward the target. That's okay, as far as it goes, but for a handloader, they're not really satisfying. They lack a certain.. je ne sais quai.
Oh, I like shotgun-primer loads fine for casual shooting, but the limits of them come to light during a big match. the host club supplies the ammo. This is for a number of reasons, not the lest of which is that some of our shooters fly to matches all over the country. The rule of thumb is to have 100 cartridges loaded and ready to go for each shooter. If you' have 100 shooters, then you need to have 10,000 rounds on hand.
That's problematic. I don't know of any club that has 10K pieces of brass on hand, the darned things cost 75 cents apiece. While that's not unreasonable for the average shooter, when you're talking a sanctioned shoot, even at bulk prices, it costs well over $6500.00 jut for th e brass. Normally, what a host club will do is borrow brass from other clubs and load during the match. We orten make this work, but it's never the best solution. Better to have the ammo loaded and ready to go, so that we can spend time actually running the match.
Luckily, Starline makes .45 Colt brass with enlarged flash holes, and the Association has done some research on what they call a Cowboy Fast Draw Cartridge. There's a .pdf that explain it, but it's basically a cartridge made from Starline blank brass, black powder substitute, and a large pistol primer. This brass costs $186.50 per thousand, which is a hell o a lot more affordable than the shotgun primer brass.
The problem with black powder and the various substitutes, is the same problem that we've always had. It's dirty, it's messy, and it gives off a big puff of smoke, which makes it unsuitable for working indoors, or even in a covered facility.
I've been a handloader for three decades and at the turn of the century, Junior Doughty and I were playing with reduced loads for the .30-30 WCF. Over the course of the months we worked on that project, it produced some very satisfying results, but not without the failures and hard work that come with such a project.
In the final analysis, a Cowboy Fast Draw Cartridge is nothing more than a handload with a weird bullet, operating at very low pressures. It should respond well to common reloading practices and testing. I need a powder that operates well under low pressure, is relatively clean, and meters well. Luckily, Hodgdon sells such a powder. Trail Boss. So, I got a jug and started this morning trying to work out the loading.
A standard wax bullet is the same diameter as a .45 caliber slug, but it weighs only 17 grains. We have found that it is best to seat the bullet deeply in the cartridge to get the pressure we need. The loaded cartridges look like this.
That's my third test batch of ten. cartridges each. The first hatch was .3cc of Trail Boss. Velocities were abysmal. The second batch was .5cc of Trail Boss. Velocities were better, but Es and Sd where horrible. This third batch is .7cc of Trail Boss. I believe that this will get me to my target velocity of 725 fps. The bullets are all loaded 0.375 below the case mouth, which is a standard starting point for these cartridges.
This is the trail I'm walking right now. It's like nothing I've ever done at the loading bench, but the process might be very satisfying.