Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Wayne, Pennsylvania
    (Chester County)
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    Arrow Reloading the .454 Casull

    The CV-19 “stay at home” quarantine by PA’s esteemed governor has placed many of us in difficult positions – especially for those who like to be doing something instead of sitting around bored out of our minds.

    So it’s with this preface that I decided to dust off some dies, consult 19 different reloading manuals (I’m serious about the number), and look for some loads for the .454 Casull that matched the available bullets and powder inventory. The older reloading manuals of course did not have load data for the .44 Rem Mag much less the .454 Casull for those calibers hadn’t been invented at the time.

    Since 95% of you already know about the joy of reloading , I thought I’d share a few thoughts about what I observed/learned in this process:

    1. For the very first time in 25 years of reloading, I discovered that just because a loaded cartridge plunks into a LE Wilson .454 case gauge, it doesn’t mean it will plunk into the cylinder of your pistol. The tolerances on my Freedom Arms Model 83 are so tight that even a .0005 size difference (usually observed in LSWC bullets) occasionally required the additional horsepower of my thumbnail so the cartridge dropped in and the cylinder can be rotated without issue. All of the cast bullet cartridges (using 255 gr LSWC) eventually “settled in” just fine.

    2. There were no issues with the 240 gr Hornady XTP Mag bullets for they case gauged just fine and dropped into the cylinder like an Olympic diver. Sadly but understandably, it doesn’t look as if we’re going to have an Olympics anytime soon.

    3. The three die RCBS carb set for .454 Casull didn’t have a reversible seating stem. I noted in the first few “dummy” rounds that the seating die left a perfectly scribed circle on the nose of the Hornady XTPs (YUCK!). So I switched out the RCBS seating/crimping die with a 45LC Dillon seating die which gave me the option to seat either a flat-nosed LSWC or a round-nose JHP Hornady).

    4. I moved the RCBS die to the 4th position on my Dillon 550B, backed out the seating stem, and used it to crimp the cartridges. But just a crimp may not be sufficient for this caliber.

    5. As many of you already know, neck tension on the cartridge is equally important, especially for higher-loaded velocities due to a condition noted as “bullet creep”. The recoil on some “Hammer of Thor” rounds can be so heavy (or the neck tension so poor) that with each shot, the bullets start to nose themselves out of the cartridges, eventually producing a cylinder lock-up. This is a condition that can be remedied, but can also spoil your day at the range if you left your tools at home.

    6. The RCBS resizing die took a new Starline case (a .4505” inside the mouth dimension) and sized it down to .4445”. The difference is about .006” – which produces the neck tension. You still have to put a very slight bell on the mouth of the case to facilitate correct bullet seating.

    7. How did I test the combination of crimp and “neck tension”? I made a few dummy cartridges for each bullet type (no powder or primer), reached for my trusty bullet puller hanging on the tool rack, and went to work. It took three to four solid wacks/strikes/smashes/impacts to pull each of the 255 gr LSCW bullets. Not too bad and apparently a reasonably good crimp for lower velocities. But it took six to seven of the same to pull the Hornady 240 gr XTP Mag bullets. Most of the difference can be attributed to lead having a slipperier “lubrosity” than FMJ bullets. For this reason, I don’t think “bullet creep” is going to be an issue for Load #3 (see below).

    8. We all know that .45LC can be fired in a .454 Casull pistol. I have more than enough of the .45LC’s loaded to a variety of velocities (from plinking velocities to Hammer of Thor velocities) that I use in my Marlins. The choice just depends on for what purpose and who shoots them. But I elected to use only .454 cases in all the Casull loads (even those replicating some lighter .45LC loads) just so I didn’t muck-up the nose of the cylinder with the shorter .45LC cartridge.

    9. Load #1: it’s the lightest load with a 255 gr LSWC and 8.0 gr. Unique (FWIW, all powder was weighed on a Lyman Gen 6 and all primers were Rem 7 Ĺ Small Rifle Bench Rest) which produces an MV of approximately 791 fps. and 354 ft. lbs. I used this Bullet Energy Calculator to compute ft. lbs: I also marked the noses of these cartridges with a green sharpie in the event that the cartridge boxes somehow opened up and got cross-polinated with Load #2.

    10. Load #2: it’s a slightly heavier load with a 255 gr LSWC and 10.0 gr. Unique which produces a MV of approximately 1,150 fps. and 748 ft. lbs.

    11. Load #3: it’s a “Hammer of Thor” load with a 240 gr Hornady XTP Magnum and 36.0 gr H110 which produces a MV of approximately 1,889 fps. and 1901 ft. lbs. The 36 gr. load is slightly compressed which alleviates the attendant risks associated with improper use of this slower powder. Rule: never load this powder to less than 90% density.

    12. I’m still looking for a 4th load which I haven’t yet done that fits somewhere between Load #2 and Load #3 where velocity and energy are concerned. Alternatives I have considered are the 255 gr LSWC and 17.5 gr Accurate No. 7 for an MV of 1321 fps. and 988 ft. lbs. or 240 gr Hornady XTP Mag and 27 gr VV N110 for a MV of 1655 fps and 1459 ft. lbs. Unfortunately, I don’t have the VVN110 powder and would have to order it. I also have 300 gr LSWC bullets in .452, but I also don’t have the powder for this bullet weight.

    For those of you who may be concerned about pressure issues, this Freedom Arms Model 83 revolver has been tested at 65,000 psi which even Load #3 doesn’t even comes close to at 44,700 CUP. I recall reading on the Internet (so it must be true!) that this revolver can withstand 90,000 psi. Whoever wrote THAT post, nice try - now pull my other finger. While we have sufficient TP, I don’t need casts around broken wrists to create a new degree of marksmanship difficulty...

    In any event, it was instructive (for me) and fun doing these reloads over a four day period. Looking forward to you sharing what you’ve done with this caliber.

    Now all we need is a range that isn’t in lock down…

    200 loaded rounds.1.jpg

    Stay safe everybody – we're gonna beat this CV-19 thing (or die trying...).
    Last edited by bamboomaster; April 3rd, 2020 at 12:00 PM.
    - bamboomaster

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    age: 58 Dillsburg, Pennsylvania
    (York County)
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    Default Re: Reloading the .454 Casull

    My Uncle was a gun enthusiast and private dealer. When the 454 Casull first came out, he knew a guy who bought one and tried to blow it up. The claim at the time was it couldn't be done. He said they putting all kinds of crazy stuff through it, shooting it from around the corner with a string, etc. It never blew up according to him. Don't know if that adds any comfort, but it's true as I know it. It's quite a round. I never got to fire one. My 44 Redhawk has blown through every deer I ever shot and put them in the freezer. Can't imagine needing more. Have fun!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Nunya, Pennsylvania
    (Montgomery County)
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    Default Re: Reloading the .454 Casull

    Gorgeous revolver.

    I tend to run out of controllability before I push my Alaskan to itís limits. Iím using 16.3gr of HS-6 behind a 255gr LSWC.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    altoona, Pennsylvania
    (Blair County)
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    Default Re: Reloading the .454 Casull

    I've read that before....You cant load a 454 hot enough to damage an Alaskan or SRH.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Richboro, Pennsylvania
    (Bucks County)
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    Default Re: Reloading the .454 Casull

    Quote Originally Posted by Edg View Post
    I've read that before....You cant load a 454 hot enough to damage an Alaskan or SRH.
    Your post is so uniformed/dangerous that I doubt you read that anywhere. While I will agree your statement is probably true using H110/W296 powder but anything faster is dangerous.

    A quick search shows a 454 can take a max load of 39 grains of H110 with some bullets. On the same table it shows a max of 21 grains of HS-6 and posters here reported 16 grains as being brisk. What do you think will happen if someone takes your advice and loads a case full of 39 grains of HS-6?

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