The people at DoubleTap Ammunition sent me some .454 Casull rounds to test. And, in looking them over, I found that one of the rounds was a 400-grain, flatnose hardcast bullet, rated at 1400 feet per second. Now, that sounds pretty potent — heck, that’s up there in the neighborhood of a 12-gauge shotgun slug. Clearly, this called for an unlikely head-to-head test; 12-gauge shotgun vs. six-shot revolver . . .

Now, obviously, I didn’t expect the handgun to be anywhere near the same performance level as the 12-gauge shotgun slug. But the bullet statistics were intriguing, and I thought it’d make for an interesting test. As you’ll see in the video, it turned out that they were two very different performing rounds. The kinetic energy between the two was pretty close (about 92.2% the same), the weight was very similar (about 90% the same) and the velocity was nearly identical (1302 fps vs. 1312 fps). But the penetration and the damage cavity were very different, owing to the much larger size of the slug vs. the comparatively smaller diameter of the hardcast bullet (well, if we can call a nearly half-inch wide bullet “small”, that is…)

The slug penetrated to about 20.5″ through gel, but the hardcast .454 Casull 400-grain bullet penetrated 45″.  That was nearly three full gel blocks laid end to end!  I found the results of the 400-grain hardcast bullet quite impressive, but in really no way comparable to what the shotgun slug did. They were obviously two rounds intended for different purposes.

Since the results were so different, I looked at what else DoubleTap had sent me and found a round that I thought would be a lot more comparable to the shotgun slug; a 250-grain hollowpoint using a Barnes TAC-XPB solid copper bullet. Based on the recovered diameter and impact energy of the shotgun slug, I figured that the .454 Casull load with the Barnes bullet might actually come pretty close to performing like the slug did.

The Barnes bullet is a lot lighter than the shotgun slug, at 250 grains vs. 438 grains, but it’s also rated a lot faster (1850 fps from a 7.5″ barrel on the box, although I was using a 6.5″ barrel). So 300 to 500 fps of additional velocity would go a long way towards making up the energy difference between the two different-weight projectiles, and the Barnes all-copper bullet usually expands to nearly 2x caliber in other tests I’ve seen, and that type of expansion would put it right in the ballpark of a shotgun slug.

So, how about it? Can a handheld revolver match the destructive capability of a 12-gauge 18.5″-barrel shotgun firing a Remington Slugger 1oz shotgun slug? Seems unlikely, but the gel doesn’t lie, and comparing the size, penetration, and permanent damage cavities between the two revealed that yes, indeed, they can be pretty similar.

In general, I ended up quite impressed with the results of all three tests. The 12-gauge slug is everything I expected it to be, and it’s a tremendously destructive projectile. You simply do not want to be hit by one. The 400-grain hardcast bullet doesn’t do the same degree of initial damage the slug does, but it penetrates over twice as deeply, and if you’re facing a large predator, deep penetration of a big, heavy, solid, flatnose bullet can be very effective.

And the hollowpoint? Check the video for yourself, but to my eyes the damage it created looked very similar to what the shotgun slug did. All three were very impressive, although none were particularly suitable for defense against human attackers (for that task I’d still go with 00 or #1 buckshot in the 12-gauge, and a .454 Casull is a bit of overkill and hard to control for personal defense purposes). If your interests lie in hunting larger game or in defending against larger predators, you may find these results useful, and you may find one or more of these rounds would suit your needs.

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67 Responses to ShootingTheBull410: 12 Gauge Slug vs. .454 Casull

  1. “The 12-gauge slug is everything I expected it to be, and it’s a tremendously destructive projectile. You simply do not want to be hit by one”. If stb410 says it, it must be true.

  2. Ah, but he should have tried a 3″ slug! Pretty impressive performance from the .454 but I’m guessing the 12ga is a little easier to shoot. Neither weapon could be considered a concealed carry weapon without a full length duster. I’m not sure if one shot from either of these weapons would be any more deadly than 3 or 4 rounds of 9mm but it makes for an entertaining video anyway. Keep up the good work STB.

    • That really depends on the target.
      A 9mm isn’t going to penetrate very deeply on a kodiak or polar bear (or a giant Japanese robot monster), so four rounds will just be four times zero. Against a human or similar sized creature, several rounds of 9mm will probably be better…kinda like shooting buckshot versus a slug.

      • True enough, although Buffalo Bore makes a 9mm round they swear will penetrate a large bear’s skull. I was referring to the most deadly animal any of us will ever encounter – man. The odds of surviving 3 or 4 center mass shots from even a 3″ pocket 9mm are pretty slim.

        • The problem with stating that 3 or 4 9mm shots to the chest will kill a man is it ignores the fact that he’s shooting back. Whether you kill him with those shots, he’s still shooting back quite a bit. Say your rate of fire is 3 shots for every 2 he gets off. That means you trade shot #1, and then your rate of fire advantage begins. Your extra third shot doesn’t cook off until his subsequent two shots, meaning your 9mm rate of fire advantage isn’t reaped until you weather 3 shots from the bad guy. If he’s packing something like a 454 Casull, or a 44 magnum, that’s a trade off, not an advantage. I hear this type of argument all the time but velocity is NOT mass. A 454 Casull is not a shotgun, and even if you can gerrymander it into near shotgun performance in ballistic gelatin in lab conditions, it’s not even remotely a shotgun. The same goes for 9mm. It’s not a big bore, and will not deliver even remotely the performance of a big bore in the real world.

      • I’d like to see a FA 260gr at over 2000fps (or that Barnes even at same velocity). I hate the 454 is spoken about in terms of what you seen loaded for the Ruger and Taurus rather than the original packable version. I still think the 3inch slug would win and then we could try to find the mythical 3.5inch slug just for overkill

  3. Neither one would be great in a house! After firing one you would have to replace the wall! Then find a ear and eye doctor, hee, hee! Remember to protect your flank.

  4. All good to know. I think I’m going to alternate slugs with 00buckshot in my $200 Chinese pardner pump. THAT’S the biggest difference between .454 casull & a 12gauge. What’s the cheapest giant revolver? And how much is ammo? I’d still like one though…

      • Why not the 500S&W Magnum? If you’re going to go over the top, why not get the over the toppiest gun you can?

        Big loud boom == fun

        • I have the 500 S&W it is not as versatile as the .460. Unless you reload or shoot hard to find .500 specials every shot is going to be a wrist breaker.

          With the .460 you can have your wife or girlfriend shoot .45 LC which are going to feel like .22’s in such a heavy gun.

          If you are a reloader…. .500 bullets are expensive. With the .460…. you can reload with common 230 grain, .45 acp bullets that you can easily find. They are the same .451 diameter.

      • Looking at the video of this test, why would anyone want to shoot anything more powerful than .454 again? So that the bullet can go through the bear and three trees behind him, rather than just two?

  5. I do a lot of reloading and testing. I prefer to work with calculated Energy for comparison. The typical .454 Casull factory ammo get about 1,500 ft-lb. You can get about 1,800 ft-lbs with higher end Hornady ammo. I think 2,000 ft/lbs is about the max you can get if handloading with the right combination.

    The 12 guage slug on the other hand has a much larger variance. You can get energy from 1,400 ft-lbs at the low end…. to over 3,100 ft-lbs out the high end.

    We need to make sure we are comparing apples to apples… or rather cheap ammo to cheap ammo…. and expensive ammo to expensive ammo. It is not uncommon for high end, HOT, 9mm to achieve a higher Energy the low end 40’s and 45’s… I once measured Tul Ammo .357 to have an Energy of only 300 ft-lbs.

    • You might find the 500 S&W to be an interesting comparison too. At the low end you are getting about 1,800 ft-lbs. Hornady yields about 2,200 ft-lbs. The true potential of the 500 S&W is not achieved until you start handloading. You can get this baby up to about 3,500 ft-lbs.

      Personally, I find the Hornady rounds painful enough to shoot at 2,200 ft-lbs.

      • .460 is a much better choice over the .500. More versatile, faster and more than enough energy to say no thank you to the .500. Much easier to keep on target if a second shot is needed. .460 is a real reloaders caliber.

        • But it’s not ‘the most powerful handgun in the world!’ as Harry Callahan used to say.

        • Yes, I agree the .460 is the best handgun out there… but I just “had” to the the .500 because it is “the most powerful handgun in the world!!!”

    • If you look at the original military loadings the 9mm is actually more powerful than the .45 since the .45 only managed an extra 5lbs/ft of energy from it’s extra inch of barrel (9mm, 4″ barrel, 124gr @ 1150fps = 364lbs/ft vs .45, 5″ barrel, 230gr @ 850fps = 369lbs/ft). However the slower heavier .45 slug dissipates it’s energy into the atmosphere less quickly than a faster lighter 9mm slug, so the 9mm can’t keep up past 25 yards or so. Either way the hottest +p factory ammo for either tops out about 500lbs/ft and there seems to be virtually no bottom to the soft shooting stuff in both calibers.

      I wish they’d start calling that soft .357 magnum ammo .357 special. Words should have meaning and magnum means magnum.

  6. I was under the impression that shotguns burn all the powder well before 18 inches with modern powders. Does anybody now any different?

    • Even if the powder is all burnt the gas is still expanding. Longer barrel lets it use more of that energy. That’s why pistol caliber lever actions in .357 nearly double the fps.

      • True, but I think the value of a 26″ shotgun barrel is much less than it used to be, and the value of a 32″ barrel is completely non existent (as evidenced by no one making them anymore). People look at you like you’ve grown an extra head if you shoot at clay pigeons with a 20″ barrel, but as far as I can tell it works every bit as well.

    • Small Arms magazine did a test in 2007 where they chrono’d Remington Sluggers from a 30″ barrel shotgun, and then they cut an inch off and tested again, and again, until they’d gotten the barrel all the way down to 8″.
      http://www.smallarmsreview.com/display.article.cfm?idarticles=1410

      According to the graph, the longer barrels look like they did deliver the 1560 fps rated on the box (it’s a little hard to tell because the resolution of the graph is pretty low). By the time they got to 18″, it looks like the velocity was down to 1400 fps. That’s not a big drop considering they’d cut off a full foot of barrel length, but it is in the ballpark of what I experienced. My shot was actually quite a bit slower (1302 IIRC?); I don’t know what to attribute that to… different type of shotgun, ammo changes in the last 7 years, different chronograph, I don’t know.

      But yes, there is evidence that barrel length does play some role in shotgun velocity; very little change in the longer barrel lengths, and bigger changes the shorter the barrel gets. Here’s a picture from that article that graphs the average velocities they measured:
      http://www.smallarmsreview.com/images/articles/art_000960/005.jpg

      They only took three shots per length, so it’s not a high quantity of samples, but it’s a lot better than just one.

    • You’re mostly correct. Many shotgun powders have approximately the same burning rate as pistol powders. Some shotgun powders are perfectly usable in some pistol/revolver loads. An excellent example of a widely used powder that does pretty well in both applications is Alliant’s “Unique.” I’ve used it in 12ga loads as well as .45 ACP and .45 Colt loads.

      The issue where longer barrels in shotguns will still help you achieve faster velocities is this: Just because the powder is completely burned, doesn’t mean that the pressure behind the wad has dropped to zero. As long as the pressure behind the wad is still applying a force to the base of the wad, the shot/slug payload is being accelerated down the bore.

      The reason why rifle rounds slow down so much once you get to the point where the powder has burned is the level of friction in the rifle bore. Shotguns have much less friction loss of velocity from barrel to wad/shot cup than there is from a rifle bore to the jacket or lead material.

      Some rifle barrels will vary in muzzle velocity by as much as 175 fps – same load, same bullet, same barrel length, but change the maker of the barrel and you can see a difference in velocity. It has to do with the width of the rifling grooves, how well the bore is lapped (or whether the bore is lapped at all), etc.

      In a shotgun tube, if you have a nice, clean barrel (with no powder or plastic fouling) and you have a bit of “back bore” to the barrel, you can reduce your friction considerably. Some modern sporting gun makers have taken to chroming their back-bored barrels to make them very easy to clean. The result is that you can pick up a bit more velocity (and less barrel heating) from a standard load.

    • Get a .460 if you you can. The .460 is a .454 magnum. It will shoot .460, .454 and .45 LC.

      For anybody that does not know…. the .454 is a .45 LC magnum. You can shoot .45LC in any .454 gun

      • Agreed. The .460 makes the .454 look like a .38. Over 500 fps and 400 energy in most grains compared to each other. Shoots three large calibers and can be loaded to get more fps and energy than the .500 mag.

        • But does the trigger guard rap your knuckles like my .44 magnum Blackhawk?

        • But what’s the purpose of that extra energy? A .454 should do a fine job on a grizzly already, and there are no rhinos in Alaska.

        • Because its there, my son. Plus its just so freaking versatile. If I’m in moose/bear country .460 has a better chance than .45 without breaking my wrist like a 500. Were I in the market for a big revolver, .460 would be a no brainer.

  7. I’m saving for a .454 Super Redhawk right now, and this write up makes me want it even more.

    I mean, if I had to pick just one, I’d want a 12 gauge every time, but I don’t have to choose, do I?

  8. Excellent video and commentary ShootingTheBull410.

    You hit the nail on the head with your analysis of hardcast lead bullets: they are designed for penetration which is desirable when facing off against really tough critters such as grizzly bears, moose, bison, 500+ pound black bears, and possibly even hogzillas (feral hogs in the 500+ pound range).

    You also observed the tremendous wounding mechanism of hardcast lead bullets: they create a permanent wound channel that is roughly double the diameter of the bullet when you shoot them from revolvers with really long barrels. I assure you that no creature on the North American continent functions well after receiving a 0.90 inch diameter hole extending nearly four feet long into their vitals.

    If you really want some fun, shoot a hardcast lead bullet in .44 Magnum or .454 Casul from a rifle: the longer barrel will drive their muzzle velocities up into the 1800+ fps range. If you thought the wound channel from that hardcast lead bullet was frightening at 1300 fps, wait until you see the damage from a hardcast lead bullet impacting at 1800 fps. And then you will understand why I have a rifle in .44 Magnum!

  9. Usually, the long guns are much more effective than normal pistol and revolver rounds. Which is why we fight to get to our long guns.

  10. I really enjoy my .460 XVR, and its not terrible to shoot with 200 grain high velocity CorBon or Hornady ammo. The Buffalo Bore 300 and 360 grain are downright memorable – achieving about 2700-2800 FPE from my 8 3/8″ barrel.

    The deer is shot with a .454 Hornady 240 grain XTP at 2000 FPS (since downgraded by Hornady to 190″ FPS due to sticky ejection and such) but a hope through a 6 point white tail large enough that I could stick my hand in. It’s one of the biggest holes I ever put into a deer. The shot was from 45-50 yards – running. 5 shots, 3 complete misses, 1 nick, and 1 very solid hit.

    The 460 and 500 Smith are ferocious. I’d love a 460 and / or 500 lever gun, but they are all pricey custom affairs.

    Thanks again to STB for another sweet test.

  11. I’m surprised no one has yet come out with a hand gun in a larger shot size than 410. A 20 Ga would be a real “hoot to shoot” If it was heavy enough, the recoil should be manageable………………………………………………………………………………………………………..Sorta

    • Taurus tried a few years ago. It didn’t pass the ATF since they said it created a handgun larger than .50 caliber which qualifies as a Destructive device/any other weapon (can’t remember the exact term without my coffee.)
      Currently, the civilian market is limited to .50 cal at the upper end.

  12. I really enjoy. STB’s ammo videos. Obviously, as a gun guy, they’s just interesting to watch. More than that, they’re really enlightening, and sometimes myth busting, too. Not everybody has all of these various firearms, facilities and equipment to experiment like this for themselves. So it’s a real pleasure to be able to sit in on someone’s work like this and learn a thing or two.

  13. It is nice to see what my super redhawk is capable of, and as mentioned before hand loading is a must. I regularly carry .395 grns of hard cast with 21 grns of h110 for an average of 1300fps. But then again I do live in alaska and it is a must, if I carry in town it is 250gr .45 lc.

  14. It would be nice if he compared a standard velocity 12ga slug (1600 fps) instead of a low recoil slug (1325 fps). I bet he wasn’t using low recoil ammo in the pistol. We need to see apples to apples testing.

  15. Interesting to say the least, still an apple too orange Comparison, an animal, a person, really doesn’t care what caliber you kill it with, Try a 125 lb or bigger cross bow and a 12 ga. now that would be interesting

  16. My first thought for the 400gr hard cast round wasn’t a 12 gauge slug, it was the original 405gr loading for the .45-70.

  17. Once again, we see that “mass is your friend.”

    The reason why I like handgun bullets of greater than 200 grains is that I find it inconvenient to carry a concrete block in my back pocket.

    Anyone who has seen what a rifled slug from a 12ga does to a deer knows that all the silly debates of caliber wars stop when a shotgun and a slug steps up to the firing line. The contest is pretty much over at short ranges and the slug wins, hands down. I’ve seen whitetail deer at a full run hit with a rifled slug at 50 yards cartwheel ass over antlers, they were dead so fast from being center-punched with a slug.

    Mass is your friend.

  18. I can’t believe how similar the hollow point 454 Casull is to the 12 gauge- in penetration and damage tearing

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