By David Tong
David gives us some history and feedback on the 454 Casull Revolver Cartridge.
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.
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.
.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.”
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.”
“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]
OR– [email protected]m
Contributor to Handguns Magazine
Contributor to Guns Australia
Contributor to American Shooting Journal
The Black Powder News Magazine
Contributor to Canadian Firearms Journal
Guest on Gun Talk Radio Shows
Life Member NRA & NAHC