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GUNS Magazine February 2010 - Page 82
a halF Century with sixguns The .454 Casull he year was 1954. The words “under God” were added to the T Pledge of Allegiance and the Dow reached an all time high of 382.74. Elvis was telling us That’s All Right, Bill Haley and the Comets sang Rock Around The Clock and Alan Freed, who read the comic strips to us on the radio every evening when I was very young, coined the term Rock & Roll. A new house cost $10,000, a new car was $1,700, polio was conquered by Jonas Salk, we were all going to see Blackboard Jungle, and a young Utah gunsmith by the name of Dick Casull was blowing up Colt Single Actions. Casull, like Elmer Keith a generation before him, was an experimenter trying to come up with a truly powerful sixgun load. In 1925, Keith had blown up a Colt Single Action .45, switched to the .44 Special, had several custom Colt Single Actions built including his famous No. 5 SAA, and developed what would forever be known as the Keith Load. In the early 1950s Casull chose the .45 Colt because he considered its slow moving bullet a much better killer on game than the .357 Magnum, and also because .45 Colt brass was available in the solid head version while the .44 Special was still the old style balloon head. He would need the strongest possible case for what he wished to accomplish. the outer walls and especially over the bolt slots. In pursuit of a more powerful .45, Casull bulged many cylinders; the cartridge case itself was sufficiently strong however the cylinder was not. In his work Casull used frame-mounted firing pins, special barrels and heattreated frames, but no matter what he tried, cylinders burst and top straps blew just like they had done for Elmer Keith three decades earlier. Not only did he have problems with the strength of the sixgun, he also found he had ignition problems with his loads. Primer pockets were reamed to accept rifle primers, however he did not have the right powders to accomplish what he expected with his .45 Magnum. Keith had ground black powder to an almost flour-like consistency to get as much power as he could from the .45; Casull went with triplex loads. The best powder available at the time was Hercules 2400, however it did not ignite satisfactorily and in fact gave erratic results and unburned powder granules. A triplex loading, consisting of three Hercules powders, Bullseye, Unique, and 2400 was developed. These powders were loaded in sequence and were held in place by compression. Since the advent of H110 and WW296 not only is triplex loading not necessary, the newer powders also provide better results. Add Beef Something had to be Taffin’s sixgun done to provide more choice for sixgun strength. Special Africa was this 5-shot cylinders were 7-1/2" Freedom made as large as possible Arms .454. and still be able to fit the Colt Single Action frame window. By using 4140 several chamberings in the Colt from steel, Casull was able to top Keith’s .22 Hornet, through the .44 Special, but Heavy .44 Special load by 100 fps. Next eventually centered down on the .45 came special heat treating of cylinders Colt. As great as the Colt Single Action is, .45 Colt cylinders are very thin on continued on page 81 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • FEBRUARY 2010 Ka-Blooie The Colt Single Action was, and is, a marvelous sixgun. For me, especially in .45 Colt, it balances and points better than any other sixgun I have ever experienced. Casull played with 82