A New Cartridge is Born
The 480 Achilles
By Jim Taylor with Lewis Ballard,
Aaron Bittner, Doug Mann and John Killebrew
During it's lifetime the Colt Single Action Army was
produced in a wonderful variety of calibers. Most people are familiar with the
.45 Colt as well as some of other more famous cartridges it was
chambered for. While the .45 Colt, the .44-40, the .32-20 and others are
pretty well known, not very many people are familiar with the largest
caliber it was made in, the .476 Eley.
A mysterious cartridge, it is hard for the average
sixgunphyle to find out much written about it. "Cartridges of the
World" has some data for the .476 Eley Mark II and Mark III but even
there the details are sketchy and leave many unanswered questions. For instance, what was the
actual barrel diameter of the Colt's pistol in that caliber? What did the
chambers look like? Were they bored straight through like the .41 Long
Colt or what?
We know the cartridge itself was a British military round
and that it was used for only a few years. The Mark II and Mark III
variation apparently could also be fired in the .455 Eley, meaning that if the
.476 Eley actually had a .476" diameter bore, the bullet was undersized, at
least in the later "Marks". I have read that the .476 Eley used a
.472" diameter bullet .. which just adds to the confusion. "Cartridges of the World"
says the .476 Eley Mark III used a hollow-based bullet with a clay plug in the base of the bullet to
get it to expand to bore diameter. That it was less than satisfactory
would probably be an understatement.
Dave Scovill in his excellent book "Loading the
Peacemaker - Colt's Model P" (Wolfe Publishing Co., 6471
Airpark Dr., Prescott, AZ 86301) says on pages 18 and 19 that the .476 Eley was
similar to the .455 Colt cartridge. He says it "..featured a 288
gr. .454-inch bullet over 18 grains of blackpowder.......A clay plug in the hollow base
bullet caused it to expand to fit the barrel." So a quick search shows some conflicting
statements between authors, at least
on the surface.
Not content with what I had found, I kept searching and
finally turned up a book entitled "Colt
Peacemaker Revolver Caliber .476 Eley " - a book devoted entirely
to the round and the Colt's revolvers produced in that caliber! I
ordered one immediately. Written by Keith Cochran and published by
"Cochran Publishing Co." in Rapid City, SD this 55 page book contains
more information about the 476 Eley than I knew existed, information about the
guns that I could find no place else. Available on the
Internet from Ray Riling Arms Books (http://www.rayrilingarmsbooks.com) if you are interested in these rare revolvers and this rare round, it's the
book for you.
In this book Mr. Cochran says that some .476 Eley
ammunition featured a "....straight lead bullet with one grease groove
outside the cartridge case ..." These, he says, will not chamber in
the ..455 Eley, whereas the later .476 Eley does in fact chamber in the
.455 Eley. I surmise from his writings that the first .476 Eley's featured
a heeled bullet, though it's hard to tell for sure. It could be that the
bullet was just too long for the .455 chamber. Whatever the bullet was,
the British Army apparently did not want the supply
problems of two different calibers and so their solution was to make all the ammo
all the pistols! Thus the .45 caliber bullet
with the clay plug to force it to fit the large .476 Eley bore but still shoot
just fine in the .455 Eley.
Mr. Cochran's data on the .476 Eley shows a bullet weight
of 270 gr. for the later variations of the cartridge. (He says
the earlier heavier bullet would not chamber in the .455 Eley, as I stated
shows the bore diameter of the .476 Eley as .476" - .477".
To say that there has been very little excitement over the .476
Eley would be over-stating the situation by a lot. It is a dead cartridge except
to certain collectors, historians, and those who love to dabble in the weird and
forgotten of the shooting world. Which brings us to the theme of this article
... the 480 Achilles
A Giant Step Backward?
The 480 Achilles is the product of 5 slightly warped
minds, Lewis Ballard, Aaron Bittner, John Killebrew, Doug Mann and me, Jim
Taylor. The project was a collaborative effort upon which we pooled our
brains. The puddle which resulted from this pooling may have been shallow but at least it was slippery.
Lewis Ballard speaks:
One day I decided that what the world really needed was a new, big bore revolver
cartridge. Now there are plenty of fine big bore revolver cartridges out there
already. Used to be I could just say, “Pick any cartridge that starts with a
.4 and we’ll have a fine big bore revolver cartridge,” but that doesn’t
work anymore, especially now that we’ve got the various .50s (the
.50 AE, .500 Linebaugh, .500 Linebaugh Long, .500 Smith and Wesson, .50 Special,
and probably some others I don’t know about). Still, none of them
really offered exactly what I wanted and besides, improvisation is lots of fun
and keeps me off the streets.
I have always liked big bore, moderate power cartridges. The cartridge I’ve
shot most consistently over the years is the .45 ACP and I remain entirely happy
with it’s type of ballistics, a 230 grain bullet at about 850 feet per second.
Whether in a 1911, a double action revolver (several Smith and
Wesson 1917s over the years) or a single action revolver the .45 ACP is
easy and fun to shoot, giving simple big bore performance. Inspired by the .45
ACP I wondered what kind of big bore cartridge could be cooked up that would
There are mild big bore loadings available today. Buffalo Bore Ammunition (www.buffalobore.com)
a .475 Linebaugh load with a 420 grain LFN at 950 feet per second and
handloaders can come up with equivalent loads for the big bore cartridges.
However, to take advantage of these you need a sixgun to shoot them through. The
problem is, since these are subloads, the sixguns that shoot them have to be
capable of taking the full charge versions of these cartridges. The situation is
equivalent to shooting SAAMI-spec .44 Special loads through a .44 Magnum sixgun.
There’s just more steel there than the load really calls for.
At this point in my musings I was distracted by, if I remember correctly, a
Martini .22 target rifle. They say that one of the benefits of a liberal arts
education is the ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated
incidents or things. Well, as I looked at the Martini I realized that the most
common cartridge in America (if not the world) might hold the answer to my
predicament: the .22 Long Rifle.
The .22 LR is both ubiquitous and unusual in that it is both a rimfire cartridge
and it uses a "heeled" bullet. While most modern cartridges use a
bore-diameter bullet that fits inside the case with the case being larger than
bore size, heeled bullet cartridges use a two-diameter bullet with the shank
smaller than bore diameter and fitting inside a case which matches bore size.
The .45 Colt at the case mouth measures .480". Would it be possible to come
up with a heeled bullet of .475" to fit into a .45 Colt case for use
in a sixgun fitted with a .475" barrel and a bored-through cylinder? (The
cylinder would have no chamber "step") If so, a sixgun of
Colt SAA dimensions could be used as a base gun since the SAA is already
available in the .45 Colt case.
I couldn’t think of any reason it wouldn’t work. This in and of itself
doesn’t mean much. I am an idea man. But translating my goofy ideas into
reality is one of the reasons that there are gunsmiths out there. I chewed the
idea over with Doug Mann, Aaron Bittner and John Killebrew and they didn’t see
any reason it couldn’t work. So I got in touch with Jim Taylor. I figured if
anyone could discourage me in my madness it would be Jim Taylor. To my infinite
shock and delight it turned out that he’d had the same idea a couple of years
previously. (This happens all the time: look at the .244
Remington, which recreated a light bullet load of the old 6x57mm Mauser.)
The basic idea was to create a heeled, big bore bullet at roughly .45 ACP
hardball velocity, more or less 850 feet per second. With the basic idea
enunciated I became more or less useless, sitting on the sidelines and
enthusiastically applauding the bullet design, case design and ballistic
calculations that were carried out by Doug, Aaron, John and Jim.
Jim Taylor speaks again:
What is interesting is that I had the same
idea as Lewis Ballard. I spoke with Hamilton Bowen about the feasibility
of building the gun and cartridge 3 or 4 years ago. When Lewis contacted
me about the project and asked if I wanted to be a part there was no
hesitation! This is something I had been wanting to do.
Doug Mann speaks about his part of the project:
My initial involvement in the project came as a sounding board for Lewis - that is, whenever he gets one of these squirrelly ideas, he bounces them off me so that I can tell him he's nuts.
Well we started that way, but the more I pondered it the more I thought - why not? From that point - i.e., accepting that it could be done, Lewis involved Aaron and John - Aaron for his experience in bullet design and working with Dan at Mountain Molds, and John because, well because he knows a lot and can do a lot and after all, he is the Teddy Bear of Death.
Heeled bullets are nothing new - indeed
they are a throwback to the early days of metallic cartridges. Many of the first
cartridge designs used heeled bullets. The early .44 Colt and more notably Colt’s .41
Long Colt enjoyed some
success, and the oldest heeled design of all, the .22 rimfire cartridge, is
still going strong. Yet, no one has designed a heeled bullet cartridge in the 21st
Century - until now.
Over the next few weeks, the four of us at various times - and with all this being done via
the Internet - kicked this idea just about to death. We went from using .45 Schofield brass to .45 Auto Rim brass and ultimately decided on cut down .45 Colt brass because: 1) it is plentiful and relatively cheap; and 2) once trimmed to .900, the resulting case mouth is fairly thick and should crimp down fairly tight on the heel.
This all being done, there was a need for legitimization - i.e., a respected member of the media or firearms industry or at least somebody who knew somebody, so Lewis suggested we snooker
Jim into this cabal. Mainly because we knew he'd try anything once. Also we needed a name and literary/artistic input.
So my main role has been to encourage the others to do their best work by telling them what wouldn't work or pointing out flaws or fuzzy thinking.
Jim Taylor's Perspective on the new caliber:
First and foremost, there exists no need for
this caliber. Other than being unique it is totally without merit.
Thus our motto:
Undaunted by common
Second, the idea was (in my mind at least) to create a modern
version of the 476 Eley. A heavy big-bore bullet at low velocity.
Third, we wanted to do this in a way that was as simple as
Designing the cartridge
Between us we came up with the idea of boring the .45 Colt
chamber straight through (like a .22 Long Rifle chamber) and using a
"heel" bullet as has been stated. Since the outside of the .45 Colt is
not to much larger than .475" this would put us right at the diameter of the bullet
Of Chamber Types
Smith & Wesson
through a normal
chamber you can see the
Note the step where it goes
from cartridge diameter to
Aaron Bittner set about designing the bullet and contacting the
mold-maker. He had a contact at Mountain Molds (www.mountainmolds.com).
Mountain Molds has online mold designing software so you can design your own bullet.
Discussions about the length of the heel were ongoing as
Aaron kept working on the bullet design. My suggestion was to keep the
proportions (bullet body to heel ratio) at close to what the .22 Long Rifle 40
gr. bullet has.
Aaron Bittner speaks:
On Designing the Bullet for 480 Achilles
When I first heard about Lewis's idea for the .480
Achilles I was intrigued. Think about it: A true .475 revolver cartridge that
fits in the standard six-shot SAA (or any other .45-caliber revolver, for that
matter) without any need for scratch-built cylinders or supplemental life
insurance. The idea seemed a winner.
The key to the Achilles' success was to be a bullet that occupied the full width
of the outside of the cartridge case — .476 in the case of the .45 ACP and .45
Colt. It was a happy coincidence that .475 is already a standard bore size. But
the success of the cartridge would depend, in large part, on how well the bullet
Designing a bullet is a little like designing an airplane in that it's an
exercise in trade-offs. If you want a better ballistic coefficient, you have to
give up some meplat; if you want better sectional density, you have to put up
with more weight. In the case of the 480 Achilles there was an additional factor
that I would have to account for: the heel, that part of the bullet that
extends into the cartridge case.
At first I thought the of the presence of the heel as a real handicap. Heeled
bullets require outside lubrication which tends to attract dust and dirt. A heel
also reduces bearing surface on the bullet for a given weight. Heeled bullets
require special tooling to crimp. Nevertheless heeled bullets have been used
successfully for over a century; witness the humble (and hugely
successful) .22 Long Rifle.
I started by making a list of the requirements for the cartridge itself. It
would use a .475-caliber heeled bullet at low velocity utilizing a cartridge
case of about the volume of a .45 ACP. I began to think of it as "like a
.45 Auto, only more so." (It seemed better than imagining
that we were re-inventing the .476 Eley.) To maximize the effectiveness
of the cartridge it should use a soft lead bullet with a wide, flat striking
surface. The proposed pressure levels were low (around standard
ACP levels or 16,000 psi) so it could use a soft alloy. I also wanted it
heavier than .45 ACP ball. And of course it would need that heel.
The first consideration was bullet weight. It would be over 230 grains at least.
The need for a heel added to bullet weight without contributing to bearing
surface, so everything forward of the case mouth would have to earn its keep.
Bearing surface would be at a premium so on the strength of TLAR theory (That
Looks About Right) I figured on 325 grains for an upper limit. This would
later be pared back to 300 grains as we hedged our bets.
Remember when I said that designing bullets was an exercise in trade-offs? This
time I found a win-win in the choice of profile. I thought it a good idea to
maximize the bullet's bearing surface…but I also like a bullet with a big flat
nose (meplat). Bearing surface and meplat happen to go
together real well.
The next step was to go to the Mountain Molds website and start fiddling around
with Dan's online bullet design program. Because Dan's program (http://www.mountainmolds.com
) doesn't have an option for a heel, I specified a long gas-check shank.
I started fiddling with options and having the program draw the bullets.
Here are some of the early results. Some of these are
heavier than our final spec:
In the end the design that won out was something very like this:
This design is an ogival flat point with three lube grooves and a heel .150
long. The meplat is 80 percent of the bullet diameter. The bullet would weigh
300 grains when cast of 20:1 alloy. The three fine lube grooves are there to try
to provide maximum holding power for dry wax lubricant.
Later testing would show that the heel worked better
lengthened to .20, so that change was made at the expense of bearing surface and
one lube groove. This is the final version -
Ultimately the 480 Achilles is a limited round shooting a limited bullet…but
within those limits I have high hopes. Perhaps the design is funny-looking. I'm
going to withhold judgment until we see how it flies.
Jim Taylor speaks again:
John Killebrew used the QuickLoad program to run some
computer tests and define what the bullet weight/powder charge/performance
parameters would be. We figured on a 300 gr. bullet at moderate velocity,
since the original 476 Eley used a 288 gr. bullet at moderate velocity.
What John came up with was an optimum case length of .90". This
figured right into our plans, since the .476 Eley used a .88" case length.
QUICKLOAD DATA FOR THE 480 Achilles
300gr heeled bullet in all loads, 7.5" barrel
NOTE: THIS IS NOT DATA FROM TEST
FIRING. IT IS COMPUTER-GENERATED DATA DESIGNED TO HELP US LEARN WHERE
TO START TESTING.
This data was developed for the first
version of the bullet which had a heel only .130" in length instead of
the .200" that the final version of the bullet has. This data is
approximately 7% off ... BUT it did give us a good starting point.
6.0grs / 34% fill / 14Kpsi / 829fps
5.5grs / 40% fill / 13Kpsi / 840fps
6.0grs / 44% fill / 15Kpsi /891fps
6grs / 52% fill / 12Kpsi / 825fps
6.5grs / 56% fill / 13Kpsi / 872fps
7grs / 60% fill / 15Kpsi / 920fps
11.0grs / 58% fill / 9.0Kpsi / 806fps
12.0grs / 63% fill / 11Kpsi / 877fps
The data generated by QuickLoad gave us a good idea of
where to start testing. I decided my first loads would be with
Unique. The reason I decided on Unique is that it is not as
"fast" a powder as Bullseye or 231 and it filled the case
decently. My experience with 2400 led me to want to wait until other loads
had been developed.
I settled on 5.0 gr. of Unique as a good starting
place. I would work up loads gradually, chronographing them to keep track
Naming the baby
During this time a name for cartridge was being tossed
around. Eventually we settled on "480 Achilles".
"Achilles" because of the heel obviously. "480" was
chosen because that's the way it popped out. And it stuck.
During all this deep and heavy brain work Gary Reeder of Reeder Custom Guns
) was contacted to see if he would be interested in building the guns for
us. After some discussion he agreed and ordered the reamers for the
re-chambering from Dave Manson of Manson Reamers ( http://www.mansonreamers.com
), Since Gary Reeder builds .475 caliber guns we knew he would have barrel
stock on hand. And he seemed slightly intrigued by the idea. I mean,
at least he wasn't noticeably yawning on the phone while I rattled on and on
about this new cartridge.
The First Gun
Looking around for a suitable gun to build the 480
Achilles on I had several criteria in mind. I wanted it to be on the Colt
SAA-size frame and I did not want to pay "new gun" prices for a gun
that was going to be completely remodeled. At least not if I didn't have to.
I could have easily gone with a used Ruger Blackhawk. The Ruger single actions have a much stronger frame,
better springs and are very suitable for customizing. However, I wanted to keep my gun at
least somewhat on the lines of the old Colt since we were
"re-creating" an old Colt cartridge (at least my mind). After a few days a
friend contacted me that he had a gun for me that would work for this project, a "Cabela's Millennium"
revolver in .45 Colt. These are the cheaper version of the Colt SAA put
out by Uberti for Cabela's. The interiors of the guns are identical to the
other versions, but the finish is basically just sand-blasted (or
"bead-blasted') and looks more like Parkerizing than bluing. The
backstrap and trigger guard are of brass instead of steel.
When I picked up the gun I decided to shoot it a bit and
almost did not go through with using it to make the 480 Achilles! The gun
functioned perfectly and was smooth and accurate. Shooting some of my .45
Colt Cowboy loads I was able to keep my shots on a rock about the size of my hat
at a distance of nearly 100 yards! I used it in a Cowboy Action
match and the gun functioned perfectly. It felt right at home in my hand ... and I
had twinges about remodeling it.
However once I had it in the shop at home I got back on
track. Pulling the gun apart I removed all the "safety" features
in the hammer. On the "new" gun they would not be wanted. I also
installed a new cylinder bushing and a Belt Mountain base pin. Once I had
that done I packaged it up and sent it off to Reeder Custom Guns.
I had wanted to replace the brass backstrap and trigger
guard with a steel one. I asked a few friends and John Taffin was kind
enough to furnish a Colt backstrap and trigger guard. I included these
with the gun when I sent it off to Reeder Custom Guns, along with instructions
as to barrel length, grips, finish, sights, etc.
While Mr. Reeder was working on the gun, we went to work
trying to get some ammo to him so that he could test-fire it as it was being
finished. The bullet molds were not yet done so John Killebrew took a day
and turned some 440 gr. .500 Linebaugh bullets into 300 gr. 480 Achilles
bullets on his
lathe. A slow, time-consuming process, it never-the-less
gave us the first bullets for test purposes.
While John was making the bullets I prepared the cartridge
cases. I used .45 Colt cases that had neck splits or cracks. With a drill attached
to it I used my RCBS Case
Trimmer to cut them to length. The cases were then
deburred, chamfered, sized, deprimed, primed and then set aside to await the
arrival of the bullets.
When I received John's home-made bullets I loaded 10
rounds to send to Gary Reeder. 5 were loaded with 18 gr. of DuPont FFg
black powder, and 5 were loaded with 5.0 gr. of Unique.
I bell-mouthed the cartridge cases using an RCBS expander
plug that I ground to taper. I use this on my 454's and .45 Colt
loads. I expanded the neck just enough so that the bullet heel would start
into the case. The bullets were then seated to the
After seating all the bullets I ran the loaded rounds into
a 454 carbide sizing die. The die is a pretty tight one and I wanted to
"mash" the bell-mouth back against the heel of the bullet, since I did
not have a crimping die yet. Doing it this way seemed to work OK.
The final step was to lube the bullets. I rubbed
some Apache Blue lube into the grease grooves by hand, then applied a light coat
of Lee Liquid Alox to "bond" it all together.
One of the things we needed was a crimp die. We
figured the easiest way to make a crimp die would be the "collett-type"
dies that Lee Precision makes. John Killebrew contacted Lee Precision
and talked to them and they said they couldn't make one for us.
Something about the cartridge body being too short or some such thing.
That only made the engineer in John set up and say, "Hey, what do
mean?" and he decided to work on one himself.
In the meantime I contacted Keley Schlepp of Belt
Mountain Enterprises (the Belt Mountain base pin guy! www.beltmountain.com)
and asked him about a
crimping device. When I explained what the cartridge and bullet was he
said there were some colletts used in machining that might work and that he
would get on it! Cool. Two heads working on a project are better than one.
As far as the rest of the loading process, the empties
can be resized and depimed in standard .45 Colt dies. The necks can be
expanded with normal dies available or a person can make one like I
use. Priming is standard .45 Colt. Bullet seating can be
done with.45 Colt dies by running the seating plug quite a ways out toward the
base. All that is needed is the proper nose shape on the end to keep
from deforming the bullet.
So you can see the crimping die is THE die that we
The crimp is essential to keep the loaded
round from "pooping". By that I mean that without a crimp it
is quite possible for the bullet to be moved from the cartridge by the force
of the primer before the powder charge has ignited. Proper pressures
will not be developed, nor will they be consistent, all detrimental to
accuracy. With a heeled bullet like the 480 Achilles it is all the more
critical since you have the major portion of the bullet outside of the
cartridge case. Thus the cartridge itself does not help much in the way
of adding to the force required to get the bullet moving .. "bullet
pull" in technical terms.
Gary Reeder called me in the middle of all
this to say that the gun was "coming together" and that they had
test-fired it with the cobbled-up ammo I had sent. Since it did not have
a crimp he only loaded one cartridge at a time, but said the gun worked just
fine and all the shots went "...into a small cluster at the bottom of the
black at 15 yards..."
We agreed that it would be best to leave
the front sight extra high so that it could be regulated with the correct ammo
once we had all the dies. Mr. Reeder said the gun was going back to the
shop for finish work and to have a set of grips fabricated. After
discussion we agreed
upon a set of Mesquite grips for it.
This was getting exciting!
The bullet mold arrived at John Killebrew's
around this time and he began to cast some bullets and take photos of them for
us. The bullet weighed right at 290 gr. which
was a target weight for us. The main body is .477" and the heel is
.455". John cast a bunch of bullets and then sent the mold to
me. As soon as I got it fired up my lead pot and made about 200 from
pure lead. My plan was to make some of pure lead, some of 50/50 pure
lead and wheel weights and some of straight wheel weights to see if there
would be any accuracy difference.
After weighing and measuring the bullets I
christened the mold the "Bittner 480-290-FNH". The
specs on the bullets are:
Weight: 290 gr. ( wheelweights & 2% tin)
292 gr. (pure lead)
Body diameter: .4778"
Meplat to heel: .435"
Heel diameter: .455"
Purse Out Of A Sow's Ear
While experiments were still on-going in the efforts to
develop a proper crimp die Gary Reeder called and said the gun was finished
and that he was shipping it back. The next few days I was on pins and
needles waiting for it to arrive. I don't usually get this anxious but I
was excited about getting my hands on this gun.
One Tuesday as I was on the shooting range I noticed the
UPS truck coming my way. I went to the gate to meet him and he said he
had a package for me! He also said that when he found I was not at home
he figured I would be on the range. Love that brown truck! I took
the package, opened it up and found a completely new gun! I had sent a Millennium
revolver to Reeder and I got back what looked like a custom Colt SAA! It
was beautiful. And it did not bear any resemblance to the gun I had sent
||Left - Before
Right - After
The gun had a 7 1/2" barrel with a custom front
sight. The grips were of Mesquite and nicely finished. If you look
closely at the photo of the grips you can see the worm holes Mesquite is
famous for. Reeder had fitted the Colt SAA
backstrap and trigger guard and mated them perfectly. There was enough
engraving on the gun to really set off the deep black finish. On the
left side of the barrel it was marked "480 ACHILLES" ... on the top
were the names of all the team that worked on it .. BALLARD - BITTNER -
KILLEBREW - MANN - TAYLOR. The right side of the barrel was marked
PROTOTYPE in gold lettering.
I immediately went to the shop and grabbed about 30
rounds of ammo I previously loaded. On the range I fired the first shots
and found the gun to be extremely pleasant to shoot. A big thumper,
recoil was very mild. Reeder had the sights centered and I found it easy
to hit hedge apples (about the size of a softball) at 25 yards offhand.
I did not do any testing at this time. I was just
enjoying shooting the gun too much. That would wait for a later
day. Right now was a time to bask in the enjoyment of a plan coming
together. Whether the accuracy would prove to be adequate later on or
not, for just plain fun this gun was a blast!
Reeder had indeed taken a "sow's ear" and
turned it into a "silk purse". This gun looked good and shot well with our home-built ammo.
While the crimp die was not yet operational I had come
up with an alternative that would get by for a time. At least I hoped it
Using a .45-70 Lee Factory Crimp collett-type die I had
figured out that if I inserted a loaded 480 Achilles round into the die until
the case neck was even with the end of the crimping portion of the die, and if
I had a "spacer" of the correct length, I could crimp the 480
Achilles rounds with the .45-70 Lee die! I trimmed a .45 Colt cartridge
until it was the correct length for a "spacer" and started loading
some test ammo. It made a funky-looking
almost-necked down cartridge BUT the crimp held!
Since this article was
written we have continued to improve the crimp. Click
Here for the story of our crimping experiments.
I had picked Harry O's brain for as much information
about the heel bullets as I could get. One thing he was adamant about - CRIMP
IS IMPORTANT with heel bullets. So .. we had a way to crimp them until a
regular crimp die was produced.
Initial loadings were light. Since I really had no
idea how the ammo would work I stated out very light. So light in fact
that the cartridges were not sealing in the chamber and got very smoky.
But I would rather be safe than sorry. Our plan was to work up
slowly using the chronograph. My thoughts were that if we could get an honest
825 to 850 fps without causing undue strain on the gun we would have quite
I had been making the Achilles brass by taking my
cracked .45 Colt cases and cutting them down to .90" length. The
cases had cracked because of becoming brittle due to sizing, shooting, sizing,
shooting etc. These cases sometimes tended to crack again when fired in
the 480 Achilles. In the first 4 rounds fired I had one split full length. To
remedy that problem I began annealing all the cases by heating the case mouth
a dull red and dropping them in water. Anyone using previously cracked
cases might consider annealing before loading the 480 Achilles.
It was a windy day and I was pushed for time but I
wanted to get the chronographing started so I
headed to the range. The first loads I ran through the gun I knew would
be light but they actually produced more than I thought they would averaging
near 800 fps!
I ran 2 different loads of Unique and one load of 231
through the chronograph, then fired 3 rounds on a target at 25 yards.
The groups was 2 1/2" low and bit to the left, falling into a triangle 1
3/4" center to center. I was out of ammo! If I had not had a
busy day scheduled I would have loaded more, but it would have to wait.
RESULTS FOR THE DAY
All loads with the Bittner 480-290-FNH lubed with Lee
Liquid Alox Tumble Lube
All with CCI Large Pistol Primers
All powder charges weighed
|Powder & Charge
|231 - 6.0 gr.
|Unique - 6.1 gr.
|Unique - 6.5 gr.
These were encouraging and showed that Quick Load was in
the ball park. I ran out of ammo during the chronographing, but saved 3 rounds
to shoot a target at 25 yards.
The first target - 25 yards
1 3/4" center to center
| From the first day of testing
Some recovered bullets
More testing was In order but this was a good
start! I found that shooting the 480 Achilles was a hoot and couldn't
wait to get more ammo loaded.
Testing is ongoing as I write this. We do not know
for sure yet how accurate this bullet is. There just is not a lot of
information about heel bullets and we are feeling our way along. The
crimp die that we need for a proper crimp is not yet finished. But we
have a good start with what we put together ourselves and it has given us an
idea of it's potential.
This is not a "magnum" nor is it intended to
be "magnumized". In the Colt-sized guns one could quickly get
past the safe point should they try to hot-rod it. As stated at the
first, our goal was a large bore bullet at moderate velocity. That we
have achieved. Now we work on developing accurate loads. Somehow I
have the feeling this will not be an easy path.
We will keep folks updated as it goes on.
So far I have put about 100 rounds through the gun,
mostly chronographing. It is very pleasant and mild to shoot. The
report of the shots is not loud (yes we wear ear protection) and recoil is
very mild. It is FUN to shoot and I am having a ball!
The name of the gun is "480 Achilles". Note
that there is no "." in front of "480". This is not
a caliber, just a name. We are in the process of copyrighting the name,
not to keep folks from using it. We could not do that anyhow - not that
we want to. Any gunsmith who builds one can put the name of the gun on
the cartridge or gun without violating the copyright.
We are copyrighting it as a reminder to folks that we
would like a surcharge of $20 from the purchaser of each gun to go into a
Missions Fund to help Sixgunner Missionaries - such as Paul Moreland.
Paul is an avid sixgunner and a great guy as well as a good friend. He
can use all the help he can get and we hope by this idea to make folks aware
of his work and in a small way, help him in his endeavors. You can check
Paul's work out at http://www.sacm.net/
Also there is Bryan Pettet, ministering to the
Athabascan Indians north of the Arctic Circle. Bryan is a big-bore sixgunner
and a good friend. You can check his work out at http://www.northernlightministry.org/
Hopefully this will not only be a fun project, but a
useful one also.
Oct. 8, 2004
Left- 45 Colt cylinder
Right - 480 Achilles cylinder
© Copyright - Jim Taylor - 2004