454 Casull vs 44 Magnum

Banana Ballistics • November 09, 2023

So, you’re in the market for a hand cannon and just can’t decide between the 44 Magnum or the 454 Casull? While they are both very powerful handgun cartridges, the 454 Casull and the 44 Magnum offer very different performances with conventional offerings. To help make your decision a little easier, we will be going over these differences as well as any similarities shared by these cartridges.

Physical Attributes

When it comes to physical similarities, the 44 Magnum and the 454 Casull do not share many. In fact, the only real similarities shared by both cartridges are a straight-walled, rimmed case design as well as each chambering the ability to fire 2 different cartridges.

Because the 44 Magnum is a lengthened version of the 44 Special (parent case), revolvers chambered in 44 Magnum can also fire the much less powerful 44 Special. Like the 44 Magnum, the 454 Casull is a lengthened version of the 45 Colt (parent case), meaning that revolvers chambered in the 454 Casull can also fire the 45 Colt.

Stood side by side, the 454 Casull is noticeably taller than the 44 Magnum. The 454 Casull’s nominal case length of 1.383 inches, stands almost a full hundred thousandths taller than the 44 Magnum’s nominal case length of 1.285 inches. This increased length and width gives the 454 Casull an approximate* H2O capacity of 45.5 grains. By comparison, the 44 Magnum has a much smaller H2O capacity of approximately 37.9 grains.

Perhaps the other most noticeable difference between these cartridges is the diameter of their projectiles. While the calibers 44 and 454 may not seem all that far apart on paper, the difference may be larger than you think. As contrary as it may sound, the 44 Magnum does not truly use 44 caliber projectiles. Instead, the 44 Magnum utilizes 0.429-inch diameter projectiles.

44 Mag actual diameter
44 Mag Actual Projectile Diameter

Don’t let the naming of the 454 Casull fool you either. While it may be using 45 caliber projectiles like the name suggests, the 454 Casull uses 0.452-inch diameter projectiles (0.451” in some instances) instead of 0.454-inch like the naming would lead you to believe.

Regardless of any naming confusion, 454 Casull projectiles provide just over a 5 percent increase in diameter over 44 Magnum projectiles. This increased diameter allows for heavier bullet options as well as arguably better performance on game.

454 Casull Actual Projectile Diameter
454 Casull Actual Projectile Diameter

Power

When it comes to power, the 454 Casull and the 44 Magnum are on completely different wavelengths, at least with conventional loads. This is primarily because the standard 44 Magnum has a maximum pressure rating of 36,000 psi (according to SAAMI). While this may seem like a lot of pressure, it pales in comparison to the 454 Casull’s maximum pressure rating of 65,000 psi (according to SAAMI).

This pressure rating places the 454 Casull at the same pressure levels as Magnum rifle cartridges such as the 300 Remington Ultra Mag, 7mm STW, and 338 Remington Ultra Mag to name a few. Although it doesn’t produce anywhere near the muzzle energy of these cartridges, the 454 Casull is substantially more powerful than conventional 44 Magnum loads.

If we look at Hornady’s 240-grain XTP load offering in 454 Casull for example, we see that it is producing 1,923 ft/lbs. of kinetic energy at a muzzle velocity of 1,900 feet per second. By comparison, Hornady’s 240-grain XTP load offering in 44 Magnum is only producing 971 ft/lbs. of kinetic energy at a muzzle velocity of 1,350 feet per second. That is barely over 50 percent of the power of the 454 Casull.

We must remember, however, that these are conventional loads for the 44 Magnum. If your firearm can handle* +P+ loads, the 44 Magnum comes close to matching the performance of similar 454 Casull loads. Looking at Buffalo Bore’s 340-grain hard cast 44 Magnum +P+ offering, we see that it’s producing 1,649 ft/lbs. at a muzzle velocity of 1,478 feet per second. This is nearly 1.7 times the power of the conventional 44 Magnum load previously referenced.

Because the 454 Casull is already at the top end of pressure that almost any firearm can handle, it does not have any higher pressure loads to offer. Looking at Grizzly’s 335-grain hard cast offering in 454 Casull, we see that it is producing 1,787 ft/lbs. of kinetic energy at a muzzle velocity of 1,550 feet per second. While this is certainly more power than the 44 Magnum +P+ offering, it is significantly closer than the conventional loads.

Recoil

With the insane amount of power produced by each cartridge, there must be a lot of recoil, right? The short answer is yes. While the 454 Casull produces slightly more recoil than +P+ 44 Magnum loads, the recoil produced from either cartridge can be described as excessive (especially when fired out of short barrel lengths).

So, if you’re in the market for either of these cartridges, it’s probably safe to say that you aren’t afraid of recoil. That is at least, if you want to shoot full-power 44 Magnum and 454 Casull loads. If you aren’t a fan of recoil but still wish to have the power when needed, it is important to remember that revolvers chambered in either of these cartridges can also fire a different cartridge.

With 44 Magnum revolver’s ability to fire 44 Special, and 454 Casull revolver’s ability to fire the 45 Colt, you are able to turn what would be excessive recoil into virtually nonexistent recoil. Not only are you saving a lot of wear and tear on your wrists by doing this, but you are most likely saving money as well.

Cost

Although recoil may ultimately dictate how many rounds you shoot at the range, cost is another limiting factor for most of us as well. While the 454 Casull may be a common revolver cartridge, it is nowhere near the popularity of the 44 Magnum. With its lesser popularity as well as its often-premium load offerings, factory-loaded 454 Casull ammo cannot be found as cheaply as 44 Magnum.  

That is not to say that 44 Magnum ammo is cheap. However, it is currently one of the most popular revolver cartridges in existence. With the 44 Magnum’s popularity comes significantly more factory load offerings than the 454 Casull. In some cases, conventional 44 Magnum loads can be found for nearly half the price of even the cheapest 454 Casull offerings.

If we move away from conventional 44 Magnum loads, however, the pricing increases rather quickly. When comparing similarly loaded 44 Magnum offerings (especially +P+ designations), we see that the pricing between the 44 Magnum and the 454 Casull becomes comparable.

So, if you want to shoot as many rounds as your wallet can handle, conventional 44 Magnum loads would be the obvious choice, right?

Although 44 Magnum can be found cheaper than 454 Casull, we must remember that 454 Casull chambered revolvers can also fire the 45 Colt. While the 45 Colt may not be producing anywhere near 454 Casull power levels, it can generally be found at similar prices as conventional 44 Magnum or even 44 Special loads.

44 Mag vs 454 Casull
44 Mag vs 454 Casull

Which One Should I Get?

Perhaps the first question to ask yourself when deciding between the 44 Magnum and the 454 Casull, is how much power do I really want?

Though the 454 Casull may not be the most powerful revolver cartridge produced, it is unquestionably more powerful than the 44 Magnum. Paired with its larger projectile diameter of 0.452”, the 454 Casull is arguably a better hunting cartridge as well. That is at least if you can handle the extra recoil.

While conventional 44 Magnum loads may not compete with the 454 Casull’s performance, +P+ load designations come very close to similar 454 Casull loads (if your firearm can handle them). In general, conventional 44 Magnum factory load offerings can be found much cheaper than the 454 Casull as well.

With the added benefit of revolvers chambered in the 454 Casull and the 44 Magnum being able to fire two different cartridges, it would truly be difficult to go wrong with either. Regardless of whether you decide on a 44 Magnum or a 454 Casull, hopefully, this article helped make your decision a little easier.

*Not all 44 Magnum chambered firearms are rated for +P+ loading designations. Always verify that your firearm is rated for the ammo that you intend to use.

The case capacities listed represent the approximate amount of H2O that will fit inside an empty case. These values can vary based on the manufacturer as different companies will typically result in slightly different case capacities.

--Banana Ballistics