15,000 PSI
Colt Peacekeepers and clones
23,000 PSI
Ruger New Vaqueros, mid-size Ruger flattops, S&W N-frames
30,000 PSI
Ruger Blackhawks, Redhawks, Abilenes, Sevilles, El Dorados,
Virginian Dragoons, Freedom Arms 97, Dan Wessons
40,000 PSI
Over-size 6-shots, minimum cylinder o.d. of 1.80"
60,000 PSI
Freedom Arms 83 & custom 5-shot Rugers
Focusing on the third and fifth categories I hope to objectively cover bone-
stock versus custom five-shot Colts.  Gains will be realized but the degree
of uptick may be a suprise to some.

Ruger finally offered a 45 Blackhawk in 1970. Built on the New Model
frame it was safe to 30,000 PSI and launched 250 – 260 grain bullets at
1,400+ fps.  Sure, the 44 Magnum could do 1,500 fps with 240s but it took
33% more pressure to get there.  Even so the debate over 44 versus 45 will
inevitably rage on.  And while I have no desire to join the fray I will say
this.  The 44 Magnum and 45 Colt are argued in lock-step while the 41 is
deemed the "middle magnum".  Applying simple math tells us that 44
caliber is 0.019" larger than 41 and 0.023" less than the 45.  So when
assessing the 357 to 45 Colt continuum I'd say we have two middle
magnums.  But comparing and contrasting the two is a waste of time. Each
are outstanding in their own right and offer stellar performance. If forced to
choose however I’d pick the Colt. Added caliber and the ability to shoot
heavier weights would be the reasons.
My first exposure to beyond “Ruger Only” 45 Colts was a home-built 454.  
Done on a stainless Blackhawk in 1996 the conversion has taken big doses
of Casull and five-shot Colt.  I wasn’t sure how the platform would respond
but after 17 years it’s still tight.  Then in 2003 I purchased an Acusport
Bisley with every intention of switching it to five-shot.   It didn’t happen
even though I struggled to get accuracy from that piece.  Corrected throats,
fire-lapping, and a recut cone improved things a bit.  I also found that it
needed to be run wide-open.  When filled with 335 grain and up cast bullets
and packed over ball powder it grouped.  Let off the gas and it patterned
like a 12 gauge.  I can’t explain the why or how but that held firm all the
way to 6,000 rounds.  When it turned ten I decided to tear it down and build
a 45 Colt to my liking.  A long five-shot cylinder, premium barrel, and
matched specs were all must-haves.  I also wanted it to be working class in
appearance.  Nothing against high-end customs but I prefer my guns to be
simple and clean.  Fancy sights, exotic wood, and presentation grade blue
with color case photograph well....they do nothing for accuracy, durability,
or terminal punch.
The big-bore five shooter has come a long way in the past thirty years.  
Custom shops and production runs like the BFR and FA 83 have solidified
its place in mainstream handgunning.  And while a logistical must for some
cartridges, a five-shot cylinder is an upgrade for the 45 Colt.  But what
does the added strength give the shooter in terms of performance?  To
answer this we first need to define the
five power levels of the 45 Colt:
Dick also partnered with North American Arms around 1977 and assembled a
couple prototype 454s. These were fixed sight, stainless steel, and similar in
appearance to the Model 83. That initiative stalled and Casull moved on to
team with Wayne Baker.  North American Arms countered with their ill-fated
450 Magnum Express Eagle in 1984. Quality was mediocre and only 530
shipped before the plug was pulled.