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45 Schofield

45 S&W SHO

Introduced circa 1875, the 45 Schofield was designed to allow Smith & Wesson to chamber a 45-caliber cartridge in its break-top revolver, originally designed for use with 44 Russian cartridges.  This revolver was faster and easier to reload than the Single-Action Colt Army Revolver, especially while on horseback.

To achieve this goal, it was necessary to shorten the case and reduce the propellant charge.  Therefore, Schofield ballistics were significantly inferior to 45 Colt ballistics.  Original loads launched bullets of about 200-grains at about 850-fps using 27-grains of blackpowder.

While not nearly as powerful as the 45 Colt, ease of reloading (particularly for a rider) was a big factor in the Schofield Revolver’s favor.  However, the S&W revolver chambered for this round had an inevitable problem that led to serious difficulties.


If the case rims were significantly worn and the gun developed much of the inevitable play in the ejector system, it was common for cases to slip past the extractor as that lifted from the cylinder.

When this happened, the empty case would fall back into the cylinder.  As such, the gun was entirely disabled.  It did not even make a decent club and it took two people and a ramrod to clear the offending case or cases from the cylinder.

Because the material used to build the guns was no better than pig iron (best material available in that era) and many of the small parts used in the extractor system could not be case hardened, wear of the many small parts was rapid.

Equally, because the copper-cases used in the ammunition rapidly and significantly developed verdigris (especially when stored in leather belt loops), it was necessary to clean the cases often.  That rapidly led to reduction in rim diameter, along with rounded case-rim edges.  These issues both contributed to cases slipping past the extractor during extraction.  For this reason, disabled guns were common in battle.

Today, the 45 Schofield is a better choice for mid-range revolver loads, compared to the 45 Colt because the reduced capacity makes it less sensitive to propellant position.  As with other large revolver chamberings, Trail Boss eliminates that problem.

As with all cartridges used in guns with a tubular magazine, a properly applied crimp can smooth and ease chambering and a crimp is critical to lock the case mouth into the cannelure and thereby prevent recoil and chambering forces from driving the bullet into the case.  In some instances, a roll crimp might be the best option But the Lee Factory Crimp Die usually does a better job and the crimp it applies will not damage a cast bullet as chamber pressure drives that from the case.

This is a shortened version of the case used in the, circa 1873, 45 Colt.


The text associated with the cartridge description reflects opinions and conclusions of the author, M.L. (Mic) McPherson. Lee Precision and its employees do not necessarily either agree or disagree with any of his comments. We present these with due deference to his recognized expertise in the firearms field. His acumen extends to handloading and all aspects of ballistics - internal, external, and terminal.
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