The .454 Casull

By Chuck Hawks

.454 Casull
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

If you are a .45 Magnum person, this is your cartridge. The .454 Casull was designed by Dick Casull and Jack Fullmer in the 1950's as a cartridge for big game hunting. Its case is basically a longer (by approximately 1/10th inch) and much stronger version of the .45 Colt case, and a .454 Casull pistol can also shoot .45 Colt ammunition, much as a .44 Magnum revolver can also shoot .44 Special ammunition. The SAAMI did not accept the .454 Casull as a standard cartridge until 1998, when the maximum average pressure was set at 65,000 psi. The highest pressure shown in the Hodgdon Data Manual using the older copper crusher method is 55,000 cup. These pressures are similar to those of the .300 Weatherby Magnum rifle cartridge!

.454 Casull factory loaded ammunition is available from Federal (300 grain JSP at 1630 fps), Freedom Arms (240, 260, and 300 grain jacketed hard-core bullets), Magtech (260 grain JSP at 1800 fps), and Winchester (250 grain JHP at 1300 fps, 260 grain JHP at 1800 fps, 300 grain JSP at 1625 fps). These velocities are all taken in 7.5" vented (revolver) test barrels.

For handgun hunting, most reloaders will choose jacketed bullets ranging from 200 to 300 grains, depending on the intended purpose. Use the conventional 200-260 grain JHP bullets for deer hunting, and the tough 260-300 grain premium bullets for large game. Note that the .454 Casull cartridge is designed for use with small rifle primers due to the extremely high pressure at which it operates.

Most .452" bullets are designed for optimum performance at .45 Colt velocities and should not be driven to the maximum velocity possible from a .454 pistol. Naturally, magnum pistol powders like Hodgdon H110 and Winchester 296 are best for the .454.

The Hodgdon Data Manual No. 26 shows the following muzzle velocities using Freedom Arms JHP bullets in front of maximum loads of H110 powder sparked by Remington 7 1/2 primers. The .454 achieved a MV of 2090 fps with the 240 grain bullet in front of 39.0 grains of H110, 2005 fps with the 260 grain bullet in front of 37.0 grains of H110, and 1780 fps with the 300 grain bullet in front of 31.5 grains of H110 powder. All of these loads were chronographed in a 7.5" pressure test barrel. The maximum average pressures of these loads was between 53,800 cup and 55,000 cup.

The price for all of this power is increased recoil, greatly increased recoil. The .454 generates almost 5 times the recoil of the .45 Long Colt, and about 75% more recoil energy than the .44 Magnum. (See the Handgun Recoil Table for specifics.) It is way out of the class of all but the most experienced and recoil tolerant shooters.

Note: A full length article about the .454 Casull can be found on the Handgun Cartridge Page.

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Copyright 2002, 2013 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.