The .454 Casull Revolver Cartridge

By David Tong
David gives us some history and feedback on the 454 Casull Revolver Cartridge.

454 Casull
454 Casull
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

USA –  -(Ammoland.com)- Americans are smitten by “power.” No question. We love our high horsepower cars, our torque-laden diesel trucks and motorcycles, and of course more germane to this, the most powerful cartridges we can stuff into our firearms.

The ink was barely dry on the 1955 introduction of the vaunted .44 Remington Magnum, which was for a short time “the most powerful handgun in the world.” Just as its predecessor, the .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum, it featured a case lengthened from its smaller parent, the .38 Smith & Wesson Special, which in turn was a lengthened .38 Long Colt.

The reason for all these rises in cubic inches? The market for a handgun to hunt with at extended ranges. This role all but requires not only accuracy, but also flat shooting to at least one-hundred yards, as well as expansion and penetration to bring down the larger species in North America.

Enter the 454 Casull Cartridge.

Richard J. "Dick" Casull
Richard J. “Dick” Casull

The late inventor, Dick Casull, designed the .454 cartridge bearing his name just four short years after the .44 Magnum’s debut as a wildcat round, which means there were no factory loaded rounds available. Essentially it shares the same case diameter as the old .45 S&W Schofield and .45 Colt cartridges, but is lengthened by almost exactly one-tenth inch.

However, internally the case featured a reinforced case head and walls. This is a good thing, because the 1997 SAAMI pressure specs for the then commercial-spec round exceeds 60,000psi, which is in the range of high-intensity RIFLE cartridges. This was done to avoid case head separations, and Casull originally designed the case using small rifle primers, that have substantially more robust cups to reduce the potential for ruptured primers.

While the cartridge first saw use in what is now known as the Freedom Arms Model 83, a huge five-shot single action revolver of impeccable finish yet very traditional design ethos, other manufacturers such as Ruger and Taurus brought out “huge by large” revolvers to handle the round.

Bullet weights for the .454, so named after the .45 Colt round’s original groove diameter between the lands, run between a 240gr bullet, through 300, 325, 335, and 360 grain slugs, with speeds between 1,900 and 1,400fps corresponding to the increases in weight.

The Wikipedia article on the cartridge suggests that it has “75%” more recoil than a .44 Magnum, and five times that of the parent .45 Colt round. As a relatively experienced hand with the Smith & Wesson N-frame Models 29 and 629 revolvers, I can state categorically that the .44 is enough for me, as I do not see much point in a cartridge to do substitute rifle work.

I would expect it would be best used as a self-defense round against the great northern bear species while fishing or hiking in those environs.

Of course, this wouldn’t be America if someone eventually built something even bigger, and that happened around the turn of the 21st Century with the introduction of the .460 and .500 S&W Magnums, in even substantially heavier “X-frame” revolvers.

L to R .460 Magnum, .454 Casull, .45 Colt and the .45 S&W Schofield
L to R .460 Magnum, .454 Casull, .45 Colt and the .45 S&W Schofield

.454 Casull All That & More

Suffice to say that the “old” .454 is about all many shooters can handle, and too much for most of us. The beauty of it is the flexibility of the ammunition that can be placed into its cavernous chamber, as it would no sweat to hot-load the old Colt round beyond even what the more powerful .44 Magnum is capable of, yet make it feel like a pussycat relative to the mighty Casull round.

One would just have to work their way up the power scale on learning to shoot one well. Power is no substitute for bullet placement while hunting or for defense purposes, but from all accounts it is an ample killer of big game.

I suspect that due to the huge case volume of the .454, that downloading it might be a tricky proposition, as small charges of faster powders might cause interesting pressure variations, so I would recommend the use of .45 Colt rounds, .454 factory standard cartridges, or scrupulously following recommendations in loading manuals for its use.

It remains a really good choice for folks that feel a need to pack a Ruger Super Redhawk or Taurus Raging Bull into harm’s way.

Just like those big V-8 cars so often bought without much actual usability, the .454 stands as a testimonial of American love of “big pistons.”

Freedom Arms 454 Casull with Leupold Scope - img: by Bob Shell
Freedom Arms 454 Casull with Leupold Scope – img: by Bob Shell

Bonus Video Shooting the /454 Casull:


Addition 454 Casull comments by AmmoLand Author Bob Shell:

“At one time the 454 Casull was the most powerful revolver round available that is suitable for hunting any large game animal available. In the following years there has been some rounds that eclipse the 454 in power. Some examples are the 475 Linebaugh, the 460 S & W, and the mighty 500 S & W. “

“While more powerful they have a couple of drawbacks.  I am a big fan of versatile guns and the 475 and 500 have limited options. Most people will prefer to shoot reduced loads in those guns as the full loads are just too much for the average shooter. To an extent you can reduce those loads by using a shorter case such as the 480 Ruger in the 475 or the 500 Linebaugh in the 500 S & W.  Of course the cases can be shortened even more if desired since they headspace on the rim.  While helpful, you have a limited number of bullets that are usable. In addition, they are more expensive. If you are honest about yourself you will quickly realize that it isn’t necessary or desirable to shoot a lot of heavy loads.”

“You can practice with lighter loads and if you do some serious hunting shoot a few serious loads to get the feel. That will reduce flinching also.”

“On the other hand the 454 and 460 have many options in regards to bullet and ammo selection.  For a majority of your casual shooting a 45 Colt case can be used with a cast bullet. With that you have an inexpensive option for practice and a Colt case can be loaded up to impressive velocities in a strong gun. Another advantage with the 454 is rifles are available as I have a Rossi for it. In honesty H & R does make a single shot rifle in the 500 so if brute force is important to you that may be the way to go. It would have more energy than a 30-06 though recoil would be substantial.”  

H&R Handi-Rifle 500 S&W
H&R Handi-Rifle 500 S&W

“I have shot both the 460 and 500 and with full loads, a couple of shots is all I want at a sitting. The same can be said for the 454 especially with a light gun. I saw one at the range that this guy has with a 2” barrel and small enough to carry fairly easily. He shot it a few times and his hand was as red as a lobster and swollen up.  He offered to let me shoot it. an offer I politely declined. Anyway, with a 454 or 460, you can shoot 45 Schofield and Colt and the selection of 45 caliber bullets is nearly endless. Just be sure that you don’t use fragile bullets in the full power 454 or 460 as they can come apart in the barrel causing problems.”

“With such versatility I would go with the 45 as opposed to a 475 or 50 caliber and the 45 is capable of taking any animal that you have any business shooting at with a handgun. ”   

“I handload for these guns and if anyone wants info regarding loads for the 454 or 460 feel free to contact me.”

Bob Shell E-mail [email protected]
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    KPX 1138james YoungKariKalaniGlen Healey Recent comment authors
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    KPX 1138
    Guest
    KPX 1138

    It’s quite true that the 454 is a handful, but I feel like the brutality of its recoil is a bit overstated. It all depends on the model of revolver, barrel length, muzzle porting and cartridge loading. I used to own a Taurus Raging Bull in 454 with a 6” barrel. I found that the weight of the full lug, ribbed and well ported barrel was not difficult to shoot using lower to moderately powered factory loads. Granted, it is cheaper and easier to shoot using 45 Long Colt rounds. My gun had no aftermarket hardware, to include scopes, and… Read more »

    Kari
    Guest
    Kari

    He’s still alive btw…

    Art Argim
    Guest
    Art Argim

    Does anybody have any experience, information, or advice about using half-moon clips (or the like) to shoot .45 ACP in a .454 Casull? Factory made clips are preferable but if DIY clips must be used, so be it.

    I am thinking that using .45 ACP would a good way to practice with a .454 Casull for a beginner. A beginner could possibly avoid flinching issues and ammunition is less expensive and more abailable.

    Glen Healey
    Guest
    Glen Healey

    Just use .45 colt and for get the half moon clips

    McWilliams Gun Smithing
    Guest
    McWilliams Gun Smithing

    I would like to become a dealer foe your product.
    McWilliams Gun Smithing
    Storm McWilliams
    209 996 6455

    Bill STarks
    Guest
    Bill STarks

    Be safe folks…It’s not a matter of if… It’s when…. I’ve broke my hand shooting big bore handguns, I’ve also tore and detached my retina shooting a big bore revolver. I’m now restricted from shooting anything larger than a .22 for the next year so I went and sold all of my big bore firearms. I have always loved big bore handguns. When I had the chance, I went out and bought a Magnum Research BFR in .45/70 as well as a Alaskan M4 derringer in .45/70. I’ve shot many rounds ranging from 260gr to 500gr out of the revolver… Read more »

    Bradford Scales
    Guest
    Bradford Scales

    The .454 Casull, when you need to kill a bad guy three houses down hiding behind a refrigerator !

    Raymond Miller
    Guest
    Raymond Miller

    Yes that would do the job alright, and at that distance.

    Mac
    Guest
    Mac

    Well yes it is a monster and in the right hands would be a very effective self defense round, but lets be real, in a self defense situation where success often depends on being to get back on target after the first shot, a lighter round would suit the majority of people, but like I said in the right hands it would certainly do the job, there is no doubt about it.
    .

    Raymond Miller
    Guest
    Raymond Miller

    Right on, I would choose the 45 rounds in the 454 for self defense purposes, because as you say getting back on target is more important than big bang. I would only use the 454’s for hunting. I don’t believe in +p ammo for defense for that reason. Hitting your target until the threat is over is the most important thing.

    Kalani
    Guest
    Kalani

    Hitting with the 454 should be all you need.

    james Young
    Guest
    james Young

    Just the wind whipping by should be enough for anyone that is missed by a bad shot. I used to won a .454, and build my own ammo, amazing firearm.

    SRH
    Guest
    SRH

    Actually the .454 downloads very nicely, and is quite capable of exceptional accuracy when down loaded. It’s a very versatile round.

    Raymond Miller
    Guest
    Raymond Miller

    I have never down loaded the 454, but have no doubt that you are 100% correct. I have found that to be the case a lot of times with other calibers. Fact is if you look in the Lyman reloading book you will find that lighter loads are listed as the most accurate in numerous cases. I load .45 Colt and use it in the .454 for general plinking, practice with the latter, then finish up with some .454’s, I love the pain it lets me know I’m still alive.

    Roy D.
    Guest
    Roy D.

    First off, Casull didn’t “design” the round, he developed it. And while the mention of the strengthened case, relative to other common cases is true, the fact that the guns themselves are far stronger than your run of the mill revolver is even more important. The whole saga of his making guns that would safely fire his round is quite the tale. Hopefully this short article will get people to investigate and get to know a true pioneer in the world of firearms.

    Stw
    Guest
    Stw

    The “now known” is a nice touch. Few people know they were manufactured pre Freedom Arms by a company in Salt Lake City that was unable to make a go of it. My uncle said that he was one of the few people who could lose money making guns.

    Raymond Miller
    Guest
    Raymond Miller

    I have to agree with you on the grip configuration on hand guns. I once shot a friends Colt Anaconda .44 mag. and found it very uncomfortable, when shot side by side with my Ruger Super Redhawk in .44 mag. The Ruger was much more comfortable to shoot, even my friend agreed with me. We laid one on top of the other and could see no discernable difference in the two guns but boy they sure felt different when they went bang. This was using the same ammo in both.

    HankB
    Guest
    HankB

    When Freedom Arms’ .454 Casull revolver came out, I examined one and found it to be very well made – but being a single action, I passed; the plowshare grip and high bore line of single actions make them very uncomfortable to shoot in the larger calibers. I prefer the grip contours of an S&W M29 or Ruger Redhawk, with proper aftermarket grips. Ruger and S&W have since both come out with bigger bore DA revolvers with good grip contours, but after a number of successful hunts with heavy loads in my Redhawk, I found I really don’t need more… Read more »

    Raymond Miller
    Guest
    Raymond Miller

    I am one of those happy .454 Raging Bull owners, and I love it. I know I’m crazy, in a lot of shooters minds, so be it. I do load .45 Colt for general shooting with this monster, and with the heavy gun the Colts shoot very comfortably and besides I can carry my Bond .45/410 as back up and use the same ammo. I also have the .445 Super Mag, and the .500 S&W. I like BIG BANG. Thank you for the article .

    Rock
    Guest
    Rock

    My S&W 29, is all that is needed, Accurate, dependable, and powerful enough.

    Glen Healey
    Guest
    Glen Healey

    I truly love the big bore handguns 454,480 Ruger and the mighty 500 S&W

    Ralph Koechert
    Guest
    Ralph Koechert

    How does the 454 perform out of a rifle? Who chambers a rifle in 454? Thanks.

    Robert Carter
    Guest
    Robert Carter

    I believe Rossi makes a lever gun in .454 but they are usually sold out due to popularity. I for one am not a Rossi fan since customer service of their parent company Taurus is so poor.

    Bob Shell
    Guest
    Bob Shell

    I have a rifle & if requested will publish data on it

    Brett
    Guest
    Brett

    I have a Rossi 92 (stainless) in 454 Casull and it performs -very- well. As it also chambers 45 Colt, that is what I shoot it in most often. Those “Ruger Only” pistol loads for 45 Colt put a world of hurt downrange in a big hurry coming out of a rifle. More than capable of taking anything that walks in North America, and most other places as well!

    ScottS
    Guest
    ScottS

    “Just like those big V-8 cars so often bought without much actual usability, the .454 stands as a testimonial of American love of “big pistons.” How typical, the I cant handle it so you dont need it response of the armchair outdoor writer. When are Editors going to return to the days of using the writers copy as toilet paper when thats all its worth? The power of a handgun round is so subjective simple numbers can not be used as an answer all. This author throws about bullet weights but not the velocities. One without the other gives NO… Read more »

    Vanns40
    Guest
    Vanns40

    Sarcasm aside pretty good comment. I would just add: Hey, why didn’t you mention the S&W 460 if you’re going to talk about guns to shoot the 454 in? A great gun with really good reviews.

    Go here for a fun and well written review : http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/01/ralph/gun-review-smith-wesson-460xvr-3-5/

    Silence Dogood
    Guest
    Silence Dogood

    Great cartridge until the ligaments in your wrist start to give out; and with enough use, they eventually will. Fine for the young but very hard on older handgunners. Soft tissue can only take so many years of vicious pounding, then nature takes over. Good luck to all those who can still shoot these marvelous high energy cartridges. Enjoy it while you can!!!!

    John Dunlap
    Guest
    John Dunlap

    Also, if I recall correctly, the .475 and .500 linebaugh were available as wildcat customs around the same time as the .454; the .480 Ruger is a shortened Linebaugh. Hamilton Bowen, who in my opinion makes the most beautiful revolvers on the planet, produced a .50 Special, which is a .500 Linebaugh cut down to approx. .45 Colt length and velocities. Less is sometimes more, I suppose, but there is a time and place for a very powerful handgun. Bowen made up a Ruger Redhawk to look like a 1917 Colt, chambered as a five shot .50 Action Express. Someday… Read more »