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Lehigh Defense Ammunition for the S&W Governor and Taurus Judge

May 18, 2015
Bill Waugaman - Staff Writer , Ohio Valley Outdoors

The .45 Long Colt (a.k.a. .45 Colt, .45 LC) was introduced in the 1870's as a black powder cartridge that has developed over the years into a cartridge using smokeless powder. While it may not be on the power level of revolver cartridges like the .454 Casull or .460 S&W, it has been gaining popularity. Revolvers, lever action rifles and derringers are chambered in this cartridge. It is very popular for Cowboy Action Shooting. The Smith & Wesson Governor and Taurus Judge are in a unique category of handguns able to fire .410 shotgun shells and .45 LC ammunition.

Lehigh Defense (Quakertown, PA) has recently developed a new load for use in the Governor and Judge called the .45 Colt Maximum Expansion. While the case, primer and powder may be like any other .45 Colt ammunition, the 220 grain, .9" long hollow point bullet is far from being typical. This long bullet makes the overall cartridge 1.91" long, and has a rated muzzle velocity of 850 fps.

The bullets are made from a 12' bar of 99.95% pure oxygen-free copper loaded into a CNC lathe. The copper is machined to length and shape on the exterior, grooved on the exterior and hollowed out on the interior, all in one process. The bullets are given a mineral spirits bath to clean them, and then polished.

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Lehigh Defense states that this bullet is designed to expand upon contact with a fluid-based medium, but not in dry mediums like wood, drywall, bone, or sheet metal. The penetration is rated at 9" in ballistic gelatin with potential expansion to as large as 1.7".

Using a S&W Governor, a ProChrono chronograph at 5 feet showed the actual muzzle velocities were very consistent ranging from 822 fps to 849 fps, averaging 837 fps. The recoil was noticeably 'snappy' for this cartridge. To test bullet performance, a round was fired into a tub of water, a pile of mud, a 6x6 treated wood post and layers of wood (three 3/4" pine boards and six 3/16" sheets of luan). The bullet performed exactly as claimed opening up in 'wet' mediums but not in 'dry'. 'Wet' penetration was about 10" in water and 6" in mud. 'Dry' penetration was 3" in treated lumber. For the layered wood, the bullet penetrated all three pine boards, three pieces of luan and dimpled the bottom three pieces of luan.

Lehigh Defense manufactures other Maximum Expansion cartridges in .380 Auto, two in 9mm, .38 Special +P, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, all of which have normal cartridge lengths. The .38 Special +P and .45 Colt come in a box of 12; the others are boxed in 20's. MSRPs range from $19 to $42.

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.45 Colt Maximum Expansion Results

Another interesting .45 Colt cartridge manufactured by Lehigh Defense is their Xtreme Penetrator that is not limited to the Governor or the Judge. As the name implies, this cartridge has a bullet that is CNC machined from solid copper bar stock and designed for deep penetration. There are two loads for the .45 Colt with the 250 gr. XP bullet: a standard pressure load (14,000 psi, 800 fps, 28" of ballistic gelatin penetration) and a high pressure load (30,000 psi, 1,100 fps, 32" of ballistic gelatin penetration).

In testing the standard pressure .45 Colt XP, the muzzle velocities actually exceeded factory specs ranging from 846 fps to 888 fps, and an average of 869 fps.

In addition to the two .45 Colt XP loads, the Xtreme Penetrator is available in 9mm, .357 Sig, .380 Auto, .38 Special +P, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, 10mm Auto, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP +P. MSRPs for a box of 20 cartridges range from $26.70 to $45.83.

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If you have a S&W Governor or Taurus Judge, the Maximum Expansion and Xtreme Penetrator give you two more options in .45 Long Colt bullet performance for these revolvers.

For more information about the Lehigh Defense line-up of handgun cartridges, rifle cartridges and bullets for reloading, check out their website at:



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