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Accurate Powder
Rifle Magazine
October - November 2002
Volume 37, Number 5
ISSN: 0017-7393
Number 219
On the cover...
The Cooper Arms .218 Mashburn Bee is outfitted with a Leupold 40X scope(photo by Stan Trzoniec). The five shot stainless Taurus Model 455 Stellar Tracker .45 ACP features a 4-inch barrel (Photo by Steve Gash). Red fox photo by Ron Spomer.
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Taurus International has come a long way in the handgun world. From modest beginnings a few years ago, the firm now offers a great variety of high-quality and unique handgun models - both semiautomatic and revolvers.

A case in point is the new Taurus Model 455 Stellar Tracker five-shot .45 ACP revolver in stainless steel. The exterior has a semigloss finish, and the Taurus Ribber grips are standard. Except for the grips, the little revolver looks for all the world like a miniature Raging Bull. There is a red-ramp front sight and a white-outline, click-adjustable rear. The barrel has four ports on either side of the front sight that do a great job of mitigating recoil of heavy loads. The new model is offered with either a 4- or 6-inch barrel.

Taurus lists the new .45 ACP Tracker’s weight as 28.8 ounces, but the 4-inch model I purchased checks in at a flat 25 ounces. (By contrast, a Titanium .357 Magnum weighs only an ounce less.) Actually, the Trackers’ greatest virtue is also their greatest vice: their light weight. While a delight to carry, they are a little hard to hold steady while squeezing off a shot but offer a great compromise between weight and shootability.

The Tracker .45 loads with what Taurus calls its Stellar Clips. These little steel gizmos are .021 inch thick and have a slit or notch between the cutouts for the cartridges. This makes loading and unloading the clips a snap. The clips are for ejection only, as cartridges load and fire just fine without the clips; you just can’t eject the empties. Five Stellar Clips come with the handgun. Extra clips will be available later. No, you can’t use .45 Auto Rim cartridges in this new Tracker. The rims are much too thick to allow the cylinder to close.

The fit and finish of this newest Tracker are the best I’ve seen on any Taurus. There is absolutely no cylinder end-shake (one of my pet peeves), and the barrel-cylinder gap is a near perfect .004 inch. The matte finish is slightly shiny and quite attractive, and the barrel markings are crisp and clean.

The trigger pull of the new revolver as received was smooth but pretty heavy. It will probably pain the nice folks at Taurus, but it is my standard policy to install Wolff Gunsprings (W.C. Wolff Co., PO Box 458, Newton Square PA 19073-0458) precision springs in just about every new handgun that comes my way. Wolff kit 17190 contains two trigger return springs (10 and 11 pounds) and three hammer springs (10, 11 and 12 pounds). I always start with the lightest springs. This reduced the single-action trigger pull to a crisp 3 1/2 pounds.

At the range some interesting discoveries were made. First, the 10-pound hammer spring resulted in about 10 percent misfires with either factory loads or handloads. I installed the 11-pound hammer spring, and that fixed that. This increased the single-action trigger pull to only 3 3/4 pounds, still quite acceptable. With the test loads of Hornady 200- and 230-grain XTP hollowpoints, some rounds wouldn’t enter the chambers far enough to close the gun. Upon inspection, I found the .45 Tracker’s chambers are totally devoid of a leade; the chamber just stops at the headspace shoulder, and the chamber throats are bored straight through.

The Hornady manual lists a cartridge overall loaded length (OAL) for its XTP bullets of 1.240 inches. After some careful measurements, I found that an OAL of 1.210 inches amounted to zero freebore. When these bullets were seated to an OAL of 1.205 inches, the cartridges went in with no problem. This deeper seating upped velocities by about 100 fps and increased pressures somewhat, which necessitated a slight reduction in some powder charges.

Using the “Mike Venturino bullet test,” I dropped some XTPs into the chambers. They passed the test by coming to a stop at the chambers’ ends. I next tried to insert a bullet into the front end of the cylinder. No way. The Hornady XTPs are listed at .451 inch, but the ones I used measured .4515 inch.

After all the hubbub in the shooting press as to the size of chamber throats and revolver accuracy, I dutifully measured those in the Tracker. The chamber throats were a flat .451 inch. I don’t know what all this means in the grand scheme of things, but I can report that, with the proper OAL, the .45 Tracker shot very well with XTP bullets and (thankfully!) with my standard cast bullet load for the S&W Model 625 (detailed later).

Loads for the two XTP hollowpoints were worked up and a variety of factory loads were evaluated. The results are shown in the accompanying table. Testing was done from a sandbag rest at 15 yards.

Of the five 230-grain factory loads tested, Federal’s HydraShok produced the best overall performance. Velocity averaged 871 fps, and the standard deviation was a tiny 5 fps. The average group was 2.07 inches, and the muzzle energy of this load was 388 foot-pounds (ft-lbs). Winchester’s Q Load, a 230-grain jacketed hollowpoint (JHP), turned in a velocity of 870 fps and grouped into 2.42 inches. I also had a box of Speer Lawman Clean Fire ammunition. These 230-grain total-metal-jacket roundnose (TMJ-RN) bullets also did very well, chronographing 810 fps and grouping a hair over 2 1/4 inches. The Speer 230-grain Gold Dot hollowpoints were the most accurate hollowpoint load tested and had an impressive velocity of 840 fps.

The last 230-grain load tested was some old Smith & Wesson FMJ-RN ammunition I had. Its velocity was 839 fps and grouped very well at 1.04 inches. Unfortunately I doubt there is any more of this fodder on the planet.

Federal’s Personal Defense Ammo with the 165-grain HydraShok bullet zipped along at a blistering 1,077 fps and made groups of about 2.66 inches. It’s a fine performer but hits about 6 inches lower than the heavier bullets. So, pick a load, sight in for it and stick with it.

Hornady XTP bullets have proven accurate in about every caliber in which I’ve tried them, and these .45s were no exception. With the 200-grain XTP, the highest velocity was with 9.5 grains of AAC-5, which produced 1,023 fps and 2.78-inch groups. This hot load would definitely ruin any varmint’s day. With 10.2 grains of Blue Dot, velocity was 963 fps, and groups averaged 2.02 inches. Recoil with the heavier loads is very manageable, thanks to the Ribber grips and the ported barrel.

Perhaps the best overall 200-grain XTP load was with Winchester Super Field (WSF) powder. The velocity of a charge of 7.1 grains of WSF was 952 fps, nearly as high as with much heavier charges of slower powders, and the standard deviation was 12 fps. Groups were very consistent at 1.76 inches.

For a best load with the 230-grain XTP, I’d probably stick with 8.7 grains of AAC-5. At 956 fps, 2.50-inch groups and a muzzle energy of 467 ft-lbs, it’s a winner. Also good with the 230-grain XTP was 9.5 grains of Blue Dot at 911 fps and 2.58-inch spreads. Hornady lists the minimum velocities for expansion with the 200- and 230-grain, .45-caliber XTP as 700 and 800 fps, respectively. All the 200-grain loads, and most of the 230-grain loads reported here, meet those criteria.

After initial tests, Federal 155 Large Pistol Magnum primers with AAC-5 and Longshot powders were tried. Compared to the WLP primers I started with, this reduced the standard deviations by about one-half, and accuracy improved slightly. I then switched to standard Federal 150 Large Pistol primers with the faster powders. This improved accuracy and consistency a bit more.

Out of curiosity several cast SWC loads were tried. They are unsuitable for this gun due to the aforementioned chamber configuration and, as a consequence, were generally inaccurate. If such bullets were seated deeper, they would probably work just fine.

Roundnose cast bullets were a different story. The Model 625 load mentioned earlier consists of 3.4 grains of Hodgdon’s TITEGROUP, and an E&E 230-grain roundnose bullet. Velocity in the Tracker is a lumbering 626 fps, but accuracy can only be described as one ragged hole. For a good plinking load, this is about all anyone could ask. The E&E 200-grain roundnose also did well with several powder charges. Using 3.4 grains of Clays, this bullet averaged 733 fps and 1.14-inch groups. If one needed a “major power” cast bullet load out of this revolver, 7.3 grains of Winchester Action Pistol powder and the E&E 200-grain roundnose will do it: 895 fps, a standard deviation of 15 and groups in the 2.28-inch range.

The average group sizes by ammunition type were: factory loads, 1.94 inches; 200-grain XTPs, 2.76 inches; 230-grain XTPs, 2.47 inches; and cast bullets, 2.16 inches. The average group size for all factory and handloads was 2.40 inches. With my eyes and iron sights on a light, 4-inch barreled revolver, this is about as good as it gets.

If you’re in the market for a neat, little carry gun, or just want a new toy, take a look at the Taurus Stellar Tracker. It is a top contender for AACG (that’s “all-around carry gun”).

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