Introduction: When it comes to big and badass revolver cartridges, the .44 Remington Magnum and the .454 Casull reign supreme. These two legendary rounds have proven their mettle against a wide range of game, from feral hogs to African buffalo. However, the burning question remains: which one is truly the best? In this comprehensive comparison of the .454 Casull and the .44 Magnum, we delve beyond basic ballistics to uncover the nuances that set these powerhouses apart.
.44 Remington Magnum: Introduced in 1955 through a collaboration between Smith & Wesson and Remington, the .44 Remington Magnum owes much of its development to the influential gun writer Elmer Keith. The cartridge gained instant fame and credibility with its starring role in Clint Eastwood's iconic Dirty Harry movies. While undeniably powerful, the .44 Magnum can be a handful to shoot, often resulting in used revolvers being sold with only half a box of ammunition. However, it's worth noting that .44 Magnum revolvers can also safely fire .44 Special ammunition, which significantly reduces recoil. With over 50 factory loads to choose from for the .44 Magnum, as well as half as many for the .44 Special, shooters have ample options to suit their needs.
Contrary to its name, the .44 Magnum does not utilize a 0.44-caliber bullet. Instead, it employs a bullet diameter of 0.429 inches. Loaded to a maximum average pressure of 36,000 psi, which is twice that of the .44 Special, the .44 Magnum has successfully taken down every game animal on Earth. It has also become a preferred choice for personal protection in bear country. Additionally, several manufacturers, including Marlin, offer lever-action rifles chambered for the .44 Magnum, further expanding its versatility.
.454 Casull: Originally known as the .45 Magnum Revolver, the .454 Casull was developed by Dick Casull in the late 1950s. It features a cartridge case that is 0.10 inches longer than the .45 Colt cartridge case (often referred to as the .45 Long Colt). This unique design allows .454 Casull revolvers to safely chamber and fire .45 Colt cartridges. The .454 Casull is widely recognized as one of the most powerful revolver cartridges available, with over 20 factory loads currently offered. Its compatibility with .45 Colt ammunition provides a dual-power versatility akin to the .38 Special and .357 Magnum, as well as the .44 Special and .44 Magnum.
The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI) did not approve the .454 Casull until 1997. The SAAMI standard specifies a maximum average pressure of a staggering 65,000 psi, significantly surpassing the .44 Magnum. This elevated pressure is where the .454 Casull derives its immense power. Capable of propelling a 200-grain bullet to over 2000 fps, the .454 Casull produces around 36 foot-pounds of hand-numbing recoil in a 50-ounce revolver. Lever-action rifles chambered for the .454 Casull are available from manufacturers such as Rossi and Big Horn Armory.
Power Comparison: If power is the primary consideration, there is no contest - the .454 Casull emerges as the undisputed winner. With its most potent loads, the .454 Casull can generate nearly 2,000 foot-pounds of kinetic energy at the muzzle. This places it in the same league as some popular rifle cartridges, but with bullets weighing twice as much. However, it is worth noting that with high-performance +P+ ammunition, the .44 Magnum is not far behind the .454 Casull in terms of raw power. It is essential to mention that there is no SAAMI standard for +P or +P+ .44 Magnum ammunition. While the .44 Magnum may not match the velocity or impact of the .454 Casull, it remains more than capable of handling any game or predator with authority.
Versatility: When considering the versatility of the .454 Casull and the .44 Magnum, it is crucial to examine the other cartridges that can be fired in both. For plinking and recreational shooting, the .44 Special and .45 Colt offer a more pleasant shooting experience with similar recoil. However, in terms of high-performance factory ammunition, the .45 Colt provides more powerful options that can rival the .44 Magnum. This further reinforces the power advantage of the .45 Colt/.454 Casull duo. Nevertheless, the .44 Magnum boasts a wider range of factory ammunition options for both the .44 Special and .44 Magnum, providing unparalleled versatility. While ammunition for all four cartridges can be expensive and challenging to find, .44 Special and .44 Magnum ammo tend to be more readily available.
Guns: The selection of firearms that chamber each cartridge is another crucial factor to consider. Shooters have diverse preferences when it comes to firearms, and Ruger alone offers 19 .44 Magnum revolvers, compared to just five for the .454 Casull. In terms of long guns, Henry boasts 14 .44 Magnum lever-action rifles, while the .454 Casull has no presence in this category. Ruger even offers a .44 Magnum bolt-action rifle, showcasing the sheer variety available for this cartridge. Although custom gun makers can tailor a .454 Casull to individual preferences, the broader range of options and affordability make the .44 Magnum a more accessible choice for most shooters.
The Practical Choice: For those seeking a powerful, large-bore handgun primarily for hunting or protection against formidable predators like grizzly bears, the .454 Casull stands as the practical choice. Embodying both power and intimidation, the .454 Casull ensures that you leave a mark that cannot be rubbed off. Considering the substantial recoil of both cartridges, the number of rounds fired is typically limited. However, if you desire a rifle or a combination of rifle and revolver that shares ammunition and allows for more extensive shooting sessions, the .44 Magnum is the ideal choice. With a vast array of factory guns and loads available, the .44 Magnum offers unparalleled versatility. Regardless of your decision, be prepared for an exhilarating and impactful shooting experience. As my grandfather used to say, "Those guns are for grown-ass men."
Conclusion: In the epic battle between the .454 Casull and the .44 Magnum, both cartridges exhibit immense power and have solidified their place in firearms history. While the .454 Casull reigns as the undisputed champion in terms of raw power, the .44 Magnum excels in versatility and firearm options. Whether you lean towards the unyielding force of the .454 Casull or the multifaceted nature of the .44 Magnum, both cartridges embody the spirit of true power and are sure to satisfy the desires of any discerning shooter. The choice ultimately rests in your hands, ensuring an unforgettable shooting experience that leaves a lasting impression.