454 Casull vs 44 Magnum

BY Herschel Smith
8 months ago

F&S.

In 1955, Smith & Wesson and Remington teamed up to introduce the .44 Remington Magnum, and gun writer Elmer Keith was a great inspiration in the cartridge’s development. The .44 Magnum’s starring role in Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movie gave it immediate credibility and fame. It is, however, a handful to shoot, which is why it’s common to find used .44 Magnum revolvers being sold that come with a half box of ammo. Many shooters find they’re just not quite the man Inspector Harry Callahan was. Fortunately, .44 Magnum revolvers can also safely chamber and fire .44 Special ammunition, which has much less offensive recoil. In factory ammunition, there are more than 50 .44 Magnum loads to choose from, and about half as many .44 Special loads.

The 44 Magnum does not use a 0.44-caliber bullet. The bullet diameter is actually 0.429-inch in diameter, but, 429 or 430 Magnum just does not have the same ring to it. The cartridge is loaded to a maximum average pressure of 36,000 psi, which is about twice that of the .44 Special. As powerful as that seems, the .357 SIG is actually loaded to a higher pressure. The .44 Magnum has been used to successfully take every game animal on earth, and it’s a personal protection favorite with those who like to tromp around in big bear country. Marlin and several other manufacturers currently offer lever guns chambered for the .44 Magnum.

[ … ]

The .454 Casull was not approved by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI) until 1997, and their standard specifies a maximum average pressure of 65,000 psi. This is absurdly more than the .44 Magnum, and it’s where the .454 Casull finds all its power. The cartridge can push a 200-grain bullet to more than 2000 fps. By comparison, the .45 Colt is only loaded to a maximum average pressure of 14,000 psi. In a 50-ounce revolver, .454 Casull is intimidating to shoot with full-power loads, recoiling with around 36 foot-pounds of hand-numbing and wrist-twisting force. Rossi and Big Horn Armory both offer lever-action rifles chambered for the .454 Casull.

If power is your main consideration, there’s no comparison; the .454 Casull is the clear winner. With its most powerful loads, the .454 Casull can generate nearly 2,000 foot-pounds of kinetic energy at the muzzle. This puts it in the same class as some popular rifle cartridges, but with bullets weighing twice as much. However, with high performance +P+ ammunition, the .44 Magnum is not that far behind the .454. Take note, however, there is not a SAAMI standard for +P or +P+ .44 Magnum ammo. Dirty Harry’s cartridge will not shoot quite as fast or hit as hard as the .454 Casull, but like the .454 Casull, the .44 magnum is capable of handling any critter you want to tackle.

I find shooting a .44 magnum wheel gun quite enough, and after a couple of wheels of ammunition I’m ready to put it away.  I shoot it enough to know what to expect.  The power is great for the bush, but I don’t think I want to sport a .454 Casull handgun.

However, I would surely have a lever action rifle in 454 Casull, except that Big Horn Armory charges an arm and a leg for their rifles.  I know Rossi makes a rifle, but it surely doesn’t have the looks of a quality gun.  Henry doesn’t make one in that caliber either.

Ruger has several revolvers in 454 Casull but their choice is certainly limited.  That the selections in 454 Casull are so limited seems to me to limit the use and popularity of the cartridge.


Comments

  1. On November 17, 2023 at 10:41 am, Bill Sullivan said:

    My son has a Tarus Raging Bull that he bought used. His third shot broke the reticle in the Leupold that was mounted on it. Leupold said they had never seen that happen, and fixed it for free.

  2. On November 17, 2023 at 2:00 pm, jrg said:

    In my completely non expert opinion, the one reason I see for a large bore magnum round is to stop / slow a large animal from attacking you. Shooting targets / plinking with a Casull is too much power for shooting paper or other targets. If you don’t have such animals in your locale, you don’t need it.

    So with that in mind …

    I’d select the .44 Magnum. More than enough power.

  3. On November 17, 2023 at 2:37 pm, MTHead said:

    Actually, if I had been in different circumstances, I would have bought the 454 casull rather than the 44’s I own. (I already owned and was set up in 44 mag components.)
    The advantage being on the upper end. I handload, so that changes the dynamics. But one does not have to shoot full-house 454 power loads. And one can always shoot 45 long Colt just like 44 mag./44 splc. in the 454. And one can handload 45 Colt to 44 mag performance levels and greater if your firearm is made to handle it.
    But when one needs the power, it can be there. And generally proves to be more versatile.
    I’ve never felt under gunned carrying my 44’s. But then I’ve never been in a fight for my life with an angry bear either.

  4. On November 18, 2023 at 6:54 am, Nosmo said:

    I’ve been waiting for someone (hello, Ruger and S&W) to make a DA 6-shot 454 Casull with a 5 inch barrel; I suspect my great-grandchildren will be enduring a similar wait.

    Lacking that, S&W does make a 4-inch (actually, a 3-inch with a 1-inch compensator) in the 500 S&W Magnum; only a 5-shot, though. Cor-Bon produces a 440 grain hard cast load for the 500 that should turn the trick; 400 grain MagTech jacketed soft point ammo chrographs at 1295 from the 4 inch 500, I suspect the Cor-Bon 440 is a little faster (that’s based on “recoil sensation” – I didn’t have the chrono with me that day, and something told me I would need to recruit a volunteer to run 5 rounds of that off the bench over the chrono screens because I would like to keep using my wrists), which puts it at least at the lower end of the energy level of 12 gauge, one ounce slugs from an 18″ barrel (and one avoirdupois ounce is 437.5 grains, so Cor-Bon’s 440 grain bullet is a “one ounce slug equivalent’).

    Now that chest holsters are “a thing” and getting better, were I regularly in bear country, an S&W 500 cut down to a 5 inch barrel – and oh, yes, please !! with an added comp to make it 6 inches – a good chest rig, and the Cor-Bon 440 grain ammo, I would not feel at much risk. That said, I would still have a lever rifle in .45-70 near at hand, but never be without the chest rig.

    And, just as a side note, preferably enough armed and skilled people in the party to maintain 2-hour watches 24X7.

  5. On November 18, 2023 at 7:11 am, Differ said:

    OT
    Just found your archive stuff on 26 MEU. My son (0311 w/ 1/6 Marines) is deployed right now in Eastern Med aboard Mesa Verde.
    Thanks for the great journal.
    Differ

  6. On November 18, 2023 at 10:05 am, Don't mind me. said:

    Here we go again. You all need to retake pistol class.
    My 115# wife and similarly framed friend shoot my Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan in .454, 2.5 barrel and my standard Super Redhawk in .454, 7.5 barrel without any problem at all. We live in bear country and carry lead spray when out and about.
    They don’t have the slightest problem with recoil. They don’t like the weight of the 7.5, but can shoot both very comfortably.

  7. On November 18, 2023 at 10:13 am, Don't mind me. said:

    @Nosmo
    Rossi makes a .454 lever action that makes a great saddle gun and it’s easier on the shoulder than the 45-70.
    We usually carry HSM 325 grail WFN bear loads in that and our pistols.

  8. On November 18, 2023 at 1:46 pm, BRVTVS said:

    The newer Rossi 44s have a nice smooth action. Shoot specials from the 24″ model and it’s nice and easy on the ears.

  9. On November 20, 2023 at 7:49 am, Nosmo said:

    @Don’t Mind Me ;

    RE: Rossi’s 454 lever gun – thanks, it sounds interesting, but I’d prefer one in S&W 500 Magnum (yes, I know Big Horn Armory makes one, but it’s priced well out of my range). As for .45-70 and shoulders, when lots of energy absolutely, positively needs to be delivered Right Now, I’m not all that concerned about the effect a couple of rounds will have on my shoulder.

  10. On November 20, 2023 at 10:41 pm, Dan said:

    If you need a larger caliber than 44 mag you need a rifle. And there’s a lot of better choices once you go long gun.

  11. On November 21, 2023 at 12:09 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ H.S.

    Don’t know if it is of interest to you, Herschel, since you specifically mentioned 454 Casull, but Marlin just announced the reissue of its Model 336 in 44 Magnum. Just thought you’d like to know… these are Marlins made under the guidance of Sturm& Ruger, so quality and value ought to be quite high.

  12. On November 21, 2023 at 12:13 am, X said:

    I have a .44 Redhawk with a 5.5″barrel. It’s really not that bad to shoot IF you have a firm two-handed grip and decent stance. Problem is you might not have time to achieve that in a defensive situation. Your choice of grips on the gun makes a difference. The DA pull is a bit long for my taste but I’ve learned to live with it.

    With those caveats it’s quite accurate.

    Using hardcast full-power lead loads with 296 powder seems to reduce the recoil a bit and make it shoot flatter. The cast lead load would probably be preferable for bear defense over a JHP. I get zero leading.

    Although it’s not the biggest .44 out there it’s still plenty big and heavy. Personally if I were in brown bear country I would carry a G20 instead.

    For home defense against humans I just stuff it full of .44 Specials. The big, heavy revolver shoots like a .22 but hits with about the same energy as a .45 ACP. Judicious handloaders can load .44 Specials quite hot and safely use them into a magnum revolver, the famed Skelton load of 7.5 Unique with a 240 hardcast is one such load. A lot of people seem to like 8.0 of Power Pistol in a Special case with a 240 cast bullet, but I have not tried that one yet.

    I think that a .44 Mag is about the practical limit for a handgun in terms of power, anything bigger than that is basically just a pissing contest and/or a dedicated specialty hunting gun, whereas the .44/Mag/Special is much more useful for daily shooting.

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You are currently reading "454 Casull vs 44 Magnum", entry #36153 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Ammunition,Firearms,Guns and was published November 17th, 2023 by Herschel Smith.

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