A Brief History of the .454 Casull Cartridge


David Tong writes [via 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 (above) 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.”

comments

  1. avatar GS650G says:

    If a rifle takes the 454 casull that would be the ticket. Like the 460 and 500 it’s a bit much to handle accurately and follow up shots are tough

    1. avatar anonymoose says:

      Rossi (Taurus) used to make Winchester 92 clones in it, under the Legacy Sports Puma brand (which I think was passed to them from an Italian company?). Not sure if they still make them. Back in the day they also made a .480 Ruger 92. Big Horn Armory is currently making a .460 S&W version of their .500 Magnum carbine, also.

    2. avatar Troutbum5 says:

      Rossi makes a lever action in .454. Been thinking about one, along with a Redhawk in the same. I’d feed them mostly hot .45 colt loads, but the option for full power is there.

    3. avatar Wreckerman says:

      I wouldn’t trust anything made by Taurus to contain 60,000 PSI.

      1. avatar Will from Oregon says:

        I have one of those Rossi 92s in .454. At 50 yards it’s shoots cloverleaf 3 shot groups with hornady 240 grain factory ammo. I even put a red and black Boyd’s laminate stock on it to match the red and black grips on my Taurus raging judge magnum

      2. avatar int19h says:

        It’s a Winchester 1892 design. It’s inherently strong, and it’s very hard to mess that up.

    4. avatar Randy in Idiana says:

      I have a Legacy Puma in .454 which I love. Until recently, an Indiana deer rifle needed to use a handgun cartridge, and the Casull is a “powerhouse” under those restrictions. It’s more than I would want in a handgun, but in a light lever carbine it should be close-range bear medicine.

    5. avatar Ted Unlis says:

      The calibers 450 Marlin, 45-70, & 444 Marlin are why there’s not much demand for for a 454 Casull lever action rifle. With those proven workhorse rifle cartridges available, a 454 Casull rifle doesn’t doesn’t meet enough of a need or practical purpose to be commercially viable.

  2. avatar anonymoose says:

    The original .454 Casulls were built on Ruger Blackhawks, converted to 5-shot. Of course factory Blackhawks in .454 didn’t come out until last year…

  3. avatar A Brit in TX says:

    I have never fired a .454 Casull but a few years ago rented a S&W .460 Magnum at a range in Tampa Bay. The recoil wasn’t as bad as I expected but the muzzle flash and loud ‘BANG’ made everyone else in the range stop and watch! No joke, the flash from the cylinder gap actually filled the lane. I put a couple of boxes of ammo through it before running out of cash……..

    I’m off to pick up a .44 Magnum Ruger Redhawk this afternoon, I think a .44 will satisfy my revolver needs!!!!

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “…and loud ‘BANG’ made everyone else in the range stop and watch!”

      I got the same reaction when I shot my Super Redhawk at an indoor range.

      Step up to the firing line. To the left and right of me I was hearing ‘Pop! Pop! Pop!’

      I let one loose. ‘BOOOOM’! Every head on the firing line pivoted to me.

      Yeah, .44 Mag is fun to shoot. 🙂

      (And God Bless to Dick Casull for developing the .22 lr Mini-Revolver…)

      1. avatar Todd G says:

        Recent indoor range when I brought out my 8 3/8″ SW M29, after letting about 2 full load 44 Mags fly: “Uh, sir, can you take that over to the rifle side? Tears up the pistol backstops.”

      2. avatar Rick says:

        Yep. Every time I go to the indoor range with my S&W Model 29 people stop. Ask me what the hell that is. When I tell them, they are like really? Then I usually offer to let them crank ONE round off. Most people get a huge kick (pun intended?) out of it.

        I honestly prefer to run .44 specials through it – It’s a nice gun in awesome condition, I don’t need to beat the crap out of it with full house rounds all the time.

    2. avatar Sean in Tampa says:

      What kind of diving gear did you take to find that shop?! /s

  4. avatar John in TX (Was CT) says:

    I first shot a .454 Casull when I was about 13 years old, out of a Freedom Arms single-action revolver with an 8″ barrel. I believe that at the time (around 1997) it was the hottest handgun round on the market.

    Anyway, I shot it from a barrel rest, with both my grandfather and his friend, the owner of the revolver, holding my arms down, and even then I saw about 2′ of muzzle rise.

    Great fun to try once, but I don’t think I’d ever have occasion to own one myself, other than for sentimental value.

  5. avatar Don Nelson says:

    Dick Casull was alive a couple months ago, still living in Freedom, WY. Did I miss an obit?

    1. avatar Don Nelson says:

      Looks like I’ll get to meet Casull and John Taffin, along with Linebaugh in January. Casull’s definitely still among us.

      1. avatar anonymoose says:

        Wikipedia lists him as a “was.” If he’s still around he’s got to be pushing 90.

        1. avatar Don Nelson says:

          He’s old, for sure. I understand he doesn’t travel anymore, so we’re going to Freedom.

        2. avatar Bill Jacobsen says:

          He is 85 I believe.

  6. avatar Accur81 says:

    The biggest hole I ever put in a whitetail was with a .454 Casull running 240 grain Hornady XTP at an advertised 2000 FPS. Hornady has since decreased the advertised velocity to 1900 FPS. The handgun was a beautiful Target Grey Ruger Super Blackhawk with a 7 1/2″ barrel. I took 5 shots at a deer running through the woods at 50-60 yards. Two were complete misses. Two nicked the front and back of the 6 point buck, which was running with great purpose. One back lung shot knocked the deer down for good, with an exit hole the size of a softball.

    My ears rang for three days.

    But I was seduced by the dark side and the “need” for more power. I sold that beautiful Ruger to purchase my .460 XVR. That gun still rests in my safe, although the original green Hi Viz sight is probably in a decaying orbit somewhere above the South Pacific.

    I took the .460 and an AR-10 build out again this season, but this year was really more of an armed hike than a deer hunt. The only deer I shot were with an iPhone camera. That sweet hunting spot I mentioned above fell victim to my grandmother’s declining health, and she was forced to sell to pay for medical expenses.

    The Mrs. and I are currently saving for new land in WI. I hope to get a dual purpose property where I can walk out the door and hunt in my own backyard.

  7. avatar Jack Noel says:

    Glad to see so many of the younger generation shooters talking about the .44 Magnum. I’m definitely an old timer, my first handgun after turning 21 in the mid-60s was a Ruger Super Blackhawk. Back then, hardly anyone had one, I was always the only one with a .44 Mag on any range in the Sixties, well before the Dirty Harry movie made it famous. And yes, it was the same then as it is now: touch off a round and everyone on the firing line was staring at you. And the benches on both sides would be suddenly empty. (LOL)

    More fun: back then I’d practice at 100 yards shooting at 11-ounce coffee cans and people had never seen a pistol able to consistently hit a target that small at 100 yards. When out in the woods deer hunting, other hunters would ask, “Where’s your rifle?” and I’d open my hunting coat to show my Super Blackhawk and say, “Right here.” and smile. Once another hunter questioned the power of “any pistol” against deer-size game. I took aim with my .44 at a 12 inch diameter cedar tree trunk and blew a hole clean through it. That ended the conversation. 🙂

  8. avatar GS650G says:

    My super Redhawk 44 is plenty of horsepower for whitetail deer.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Put a scope on it with some mass and it tames the muzzle rise considerably.

  9. avatar RidgeRunner says:

    I bought a Ruger Alaskan in .44 a few years back, considered 454 but opted for .44 because i had other guns in that caliber and, well, .44 is enough. Not the most practical purchase I ever made, but man I sure love to shoot that Alaskan.

  10. I love the .454. It’s total excess overkill, of course, but it’s manageable and awesome. In my RJM, the .454 delivers energy, bullet size, and bullet weight that all dwarf a 300 Blackout rifle. Loaded with a 240-grain Barnes copper expanding hollowpoint, it delivered damage to a gel block that looked exactly like what a 12-gauge Remington Slugger slug did — same expanded size, same penetration depth, same shredding of the initial stretch cavity.

    I shot plenty of rounds with RF’s S&W 460XVR, and it’s definitely noticeably more potent than the .454 Casull, but … frankly, it seemed like too much. It wasn’t nearly as fun. The 454 from the RJM is stout, there’s plenty of recoil, but it’s kinda goldilocks — it’s just right.

    1. avatar Will from Oregon says:

      I concur. I’d rather shoot .454 out of my 3″ RJM than hot .44 mag out of my 10.5″ Super Blackhawk any day of the week. It’s astonishing how accurate that raging judge is.

  11. avatar Mark N. says:

    I’m with the author. A single action revolver and a lever gun in .45 Colt is plenty for me, and both are pleasant shooting. I’ll pass on the .454 or larger.

  12. avatar MidGasFan says:

    For some odd reason, I can handle the .454 Casull just fine at 5′ 10″ and 170 pounds dripping wet. I have trouble with big rifle rounds as they can rattle my brain but handguns don’t seem to bother me.

    The looks I get shooting the Freedom Arms revolver at the range is priceless! I’ve burned more than a few neighbours targets that were at 25 feet, which is kind of fun.

    Most of the time the gun gets fed .45 Colt but for Alaska best or big hogs, only .454 will do. What a great cartridge that has many uses!

  13. avatar jimmy james says:

    A good friend of mine borrowed or was prodded into taking a Freedom Arms 454 Casull on a hog hunt with me and 2 other gentlemen. When we got to the hunting lodge we were asked if we wanted to check our zero’s on our hunting guns. In the process of “checking the zero” on the borrowed scoped 454, various and sundry parts started falling off including the cylinder. Good thing my friend brought a back up gun. I did get to shoot the 454 once before it fell apart. Never had any use for one since.

  14. avatar gerald. welcome says:

    I have a new in the box 454 raging bull pro Hunter 8in black stainless. Don’t now if I should shoot it ????

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email