January 04, 2018
By Layne Simpson
Handloading the .454 Casull is fairly straightforward and trouble-free as long as a few rules are followed. First, when putting together loads for hunting, always use either new or once-fired cases. Second, always use a .454 Casull resizing die rather than a .45 Colt die because it usually squeezes a case to a smaller diameter for maximum tension on a seated bullet. Third, to avoid bullet creep from loaded rounds caused by recoil--which can absolutely ruin a good hunt--make sure the full-length resizing die you have actually is reducing case diameter for maximum tension on a bullet and then follow up by heavily crimping the bullet into its case. Rather than seating and crimping in one step, seating the bullet first and then crimping it in place allows the application of a heavier crimp without collapsing the case. If you are unable to prevent bullet creep with the bullets and cases you have on hand, relegate them to practice duty and stick with factory ammunition for hunting.
Finally, to prevent hangfires and the potentially hazardous misfire, never load slow-burning powders such as W296, H110, and Lil'Gun to less than 90-percent density. If this rule is ignored, the primer can fail to ignite the powder charge but deliver enough force to drive the bullet from the case and partway down the bore. Then, if the next round is rotated into position and fired against the barrel obstruction, both the gun and its shooter can suffer serious damage. Some handloading manuals list the densities of various loads. According to Nosler, a maximum load of 27.5 grains of W296 occupies 94 percent of the powder space when used with the 300-grain Partition-HG bullet, while 33.5 grains of the same powder with the 260-grain bullet is heavily compressed at 115-percent density.
As for lighting the fire, about any Small Rifle primer should get the job done, but the Remington 7 ½ has worked so well for so long for me, I simply stick with it.
When I ordered my Freedom Arms Model 83, I specified .454 chambering and a 7.5-inch barrel and was told that the only gun in stock was in .45 Colt with its barrel marked accordingly. I had them ship the gun with an extra cylinder in .454 Casull, and while I find having two cylinders on hand quite nice, it is not a necessity if the gun is cleaned properly after every firing session. If your gun has just a .454 Casull cylinder, remember that the firing of .45 Colt ammunition loaded with cast bullets can leave a ring of lead fouling in its chambers, and it can happen with either handloads or factory ammo. Firing .454 Casull ammo in the gun without removing those fouling rings with a bronze brush and solvent can result in a very unpleasant experience.
|Layne's Favorite .454 Casull Handloads|
|Bullet||Powder Type ||Powder Grs. ||Velocity(fps)|
| || || || |
|Hornady 240-gr. XTP-MAG|| H110 ||37.0 || 1844|
|Barnes 250-gr. XPB|| AA No.07 || 22.0 || 1726|
|Nosler 260-gr. Partition-HG|| Lil'Gun ||35.5 || 1852|
|Hornady 300-gr. XTP-MAG|| W296 ||32.0 || 1684|
|Nosler 300-gr. Partition-HG|| Lil'Gun ||31.0 || 1711|
|Swift 300-gr. A-Frame|| H110 ||30.0 || 1725 |
|NOTES: Velocity is the average of five or more rounds measured 12 feet from the muzzle of a Freedom Arms 7.5-inch barrel. CorBon cases and Remington No. 7 1/2 primers were used in all .454 Casull handloads.|