The search for the Holy Grail is not the only lifetime quest of man. I too have been on a quest of more than thirty years in search of the perfect packin' pistol. Not the perfect target pistol, nor the perfect hunting pistol, no not even the perfect silhouette pistol, these are all too specialized. My quest has been for the perfect packin' pistol. A handgun that rides easily on the hip, can be counted on to deliver the goods quickly and efficiently, and is small enough to rest under the pillow or bedroll at night. If necessary, it can handle any chore given it and can also be counted on to put down any indigenous animal with proper dispatch. Not necessarily a hunting pistol, but a sixgun that if necessary could be called on to handle any animal should the occasion arise. In short, a packin' pistol must carry easy, be totally reliable, and must be capable of being counted upon in any emergency, be it two-legged or four. Such is the perfect packin' pistol. We may never arrive at the goal but we can enjoy getting closer and closer.

Every sixgunner has specific ideas about packin' pistols. For me it means big-bore, and probably single action although from time to time I have opted for double action packin' pistols. The first big bore choice for me as a teenager was a four and three-quarter inch Colt Single Action .38-40. That was in 1956. By 1958 it had been replaced by a Flat- top Ruger Blackhawk .44 Magnum with its original six and one-half inch barrel cut back to four and five-eighths inches. That old Ruger was carried for countless miles in Idaho hills, mountains, and deserts through the 1960's and 1970's always riding in a Lawrence #120 Keith holster.

When I wanted a lighter sixgun, I stole the barrel off the old Ruger .44 and had it fitted to a Three-Screw Ruger .357 Blackhawk that had been re-chambered to .44 Special. A beautiful lightweight but powerful sixgun, the .44 Special was destined to be replaced by a four and three-quarter inch Colt New Frontier .45 Colt which was to be supplanted by a five and one-half inch .45 Colt Abilene which was replaced by a .....Well, you get the picture by now. The quest always continues.

Along the trail, single actions were spelled with double actions, always Smith & Wessons and always big bores. The four-inch N-frames in .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, and even .41 Magnum. And once in a while, the packin' pistol of choice turned out to be the very easy totin' .357 Combat Magnum. I never found the perfect pistol, but I've certainly enjoyed the trip.

Then along came the Freedom Arms .454 Casull and I ordered up an early silhouette pistol, a ten and one-half inch .454 set up with BoMar sights for competition. The long barreled .454 now wears a 4X Leupold instead of iron sights as I soon found that it would outshoot its iron sights. The more I enjoyed the long barreled .454 Casull, the more I knew I would have to have another one. A real honest-to-goodness .454 Packin' Pistol. The choice was easy to make: a four and three-quarter inch adjustable sighted .454 was chosen. Two custom touches were added. It received a Freedom Arms action job before it left Wyoming and then the grip frame went to Charles Able to be fitted with ivory micarta grips.

This was before the Field Grade .454 was available and had it been offered I might have taken a serious look at a Field Grade fixed sighted .454 and filed the front sight down to match perfectly with one load. But had I done that I would have missed the next chapter in the never ending packin' pistol saga.

Let's back up a little here for those readers who are not familiar with the Freedom Arms single action. Even before the .44 Magnum had become a reality, Dick Casull had started experimenting with heavy loaded .45 Colts. While others were experimenting with the .44 Special, Casull chose the .45 Colt case as it was available in solid brass before the balloon head .44 Special brass was replaced with the newer stronger solid head brass.

Early in the 1950's, Dick Casull set what some would certainly consider an impossible goal of 1800 fps with a 230 grain .45 bullet and sent a number of fine revolvers to handgun heaven in the pursuit. Using the Colt Single Action as a test weapon with specially heat-treated frames and floating firing pins, Casull wound up with burst cylinders that took topstraps with them when they let go. But he learned as he experimented.

The problem was not with the .45 Colt brass, but with the .45 Colt SA cylinders. A Colt SA has very little metal either over the bolt slots or between chambers. The answer seemed to be: Turn the old traditional sixgun into a fivegun, that is, make a SA cylinder with five chambers instead of six. This would allow more metal between chambers and also permit the bolt slot to be between cylinder chambers instead of underneath them. It took considerable engineering to change both the ratchet and hand design, but Casull accomplished it and the new `Most Powerful Revolver', the .454 Magnum, as it was called in the 1950's, was born.

Using the five shot cylinder , Casull acheived his goal of 1800 fps with the .45 Colt. Both Colt Single Actions and Bisleys were converted to the new .454, and by the early 1970's, the .454 was a catalog item as a production gun and magazine writers had the privilege of testing the .454 Casull, but it was to be 1983 before the first factory produced .454 Casull was sold to the public. That first .454 was produced in a totally new plant in Freedom in the beautiful Star Valley area in the northwest corner of Wyoming.

The .454 Casull is a traditionally styled, but completely modern single action revolver. Dick Casull's love and appreciation for the Colt Single Action can immediately be seen in the Freedom Arms .454 Casull. It is made of the most modern materials available but looks and feels like a single action out of the old west.

Everything about it speaks of tremendous strength and yet it is only slightly larger than other single action revolvers. The Casull grip is not the traditional SA grip that rolls up in the hand on recoil. If it was it would probably roll up and continue right out of the hands using some of the heavy loads that are possible. The grip is much straighter than either the Colt Single Action or Ruger Super Blackhawk. And it did take some getting used to for this hand that has been curled around a standard single action grip almost daily for more than thirty years. THe .454 Casull grip is an achievement in human engineering that actually makes felt recoil in the .454 Casull feel less than that of .44 Magnums and heavily loaded .45 Colts in other single action revolvers.

Tremendous power is available for the .454 Casull user and even with the short four and three-quarter inch barreled .454, the shooter has access to muzzle energy levels never before approached with a traditional revolver. Here are muzzle velocity figures for factory loaded ammunition for the .454 Packin' Pistol:




A 240 grain bullet at 1800 feet per second! A 260 at 1750! And a 300 at 1600! All of these were unheard of ten years ago and all concepts of packin' pistols are now totally changed. We now have rifle-like muzzle energies not only availble in a handgun but a handgun that has a short barrel,is relatively light in weight, and can be easily packed all day.

I was totally pleased with my packin' pistol, using both .454 loads and heavy .45 Colt loads in it. And I must admit to using more .45 Colt loads than .454 loads as I did not always need the full power afforded by the heavy loaded .454's. If I lived in grizzly or brown bear country, I would. But I don't so .45's fill the bill quite nicely most of the time.

One of my favorite .45 Colt loads is the BRP 300 grain cast gas checked Casull bullet over 21.5 grains of WW296. This is only a 1100 feet per second load but it is very accurate and continues to be so at long ranges. I have used it to a full 800 yards shooting at two foot square targets and actually manage to hit them once in awhile by watching the bullets strike in dry dusty dirt.

Here are some favorite .454 loads for the Freedom Arms Packin' Pistol:




300 Gr. FL/LYMAN #454629GC

32 GR. H110


310 Gr. NEI #310.451 Keith*

26 GR. WW296


325 Gr. NEI #325.451 Keith*

26 GR. WW296


325 Gr. NEI#325.451 Keith*

18.0 GR. #2400


340 Gr. SSK #345.451 FN

32 Gr. H110


340 Gr. SSK #345.451 FN

24.0 Gr. H4227


*crimped over front band.

The following loads are assembled with .45 Colt brass and for use only in the Freedom Arms revolver:




310 Gr. NEI #310.451 Keith

26.0 Gr. WW296


325 Gr. NEI #325.451 Keith

26.0 Gr. WW296


Recently Freedom Arms has turned the .454 Packin' Pistol into an even more versatile handgun by offering an auxiliary cylinder in .45 ACP. My four and three-quarter inch .454 was returned to the factory to become a true Triple Threat Packin' Pistol by having it fitted not only with a .45 ACP cylinder but a .45 Colt cylinder as well.

Now why would anyone want a .45 ACP cylinder for a .454 Casull? Simple. I for one have hundreds, probably thousands of rounds of various persuasions of .45 ACP loads around. When used in the Casull single action they make an extremely pleasant shooting outing and I do not have to chase brass all over Idaho nor do I have to mess with full or half- moon clips. With a single action revolver both rimmed and rimless brass all extracts the same way. Shoot 'em. Drop 'em in the Dillon Case Vibrator. Load 'em on the Dillon 550. Start all over again.

The .45 ACP cylinder also allows experimenting that would never be possible in any other .45 chambered for the service (former?) cartridge. I recently heard from friend and fellow gunwriter Terry Murbach about a fellow who had loaded a batch of .45's for use in his Smith & Wesson 4506. At about round 200, a case seperated and the shooter decided to stop and check his loads which he said had considerable recoil.

Bullets were 200 grain cast bullets and when Terry told me the charge I surmized they had to be exiting the 4506 at no less than 1400 feet per second! I will not give the load as the next person to try it in a 4506 may wind up wearing parts of the gun. I did load up one round and paint it all over with red ink from a felt tip pen so it would not find its way into any other .45 ACP chambered handgun. When I clocked it from the four and three-quarter inch barrel of the .45 ACP- cylindered .454, the Oehler Model 35P registered one thousand four hundred and twenty three feet. That is 1,423 feet per second! In .45 ACP brass! In a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic! The brass extracted from the Casull cylinder as if it had been fired at 900 feet per second. The Casull cylinder will obviously handle magnum type loads in ACP brass.

Both retro-fitted auxiliary cylinders lock up tight and are fitted just as precisely as the original .454 cylinder. The back of each cylinder is marked with the caliber while the original .454 cylinder is serial numbered to the gun so each cylinder is easily identified.

The following loads were shot in the .454/.45 Colt/ .45 ACP Casull using the spare tire of my Bronco as a rest and chronographed over the Oehler Model 35P. Groups are for five shots at 25 yards:


.45 ACP X 4 3/4"




Black Hills 200 SWC


1 1/4"

Black Hills 200 JHP


2 1/8"

Blazer 200 TMJ Combat


1 1/4"

Blazer 185 TMJ Match


1 3/8"

Federal 185 JHP


1 1/8"

Federal 185 MC


1 1/2"

Federal 230 MC


1 7/8"

Federal 230 Hydra-Shok


1 1/2"

Winchester 230 FMC


1 3/8"

Winchester 185 STHP


1 1/2"

Bull-X 200/7.5 Gr. Unique


1 3/8"

.45 COLT X 4 3/4"




Black Hills 230 RN


2 1/8"

CCI Blazer 255 Lead


1 5/8"

Federal 225 Lead


1 7/8"

Winchester 255 Lead


1 1/8"

Bull-X 255/9.0 Gr. Unique


1 3/8"

Bull-X 255/20.0 Gr. H4227


1 1/2"

BRP 300 Gr. #454629/21.5 Gr. WW296


1 3/8"

.454 CASULL X 4 3/4"




Freedom Arms 240 HP Med. Vel.


1 1/2"

Freedom Arms 240 JHP



Freedom Arms 260 JFP


1 1/2"

Freedom Arms 300 JFP


2 1/2"

BRP#454629/31.) Gr. WW296


2 1/8"

I am well pleased with the new versatility of my Freedom Arms .454 Casull Packin' Pistol. I can carry it with the .454 cylinder fitted with either full house loads or milder, though still heavy .45 Colt loads. Installing the .45 Colt cylinder precludes the use of some .45 loads I like as the wide front bands on the bullets will not enter the tight .45 Colt cyinder although they work fine in the .454 cylinder. If one uses .45 Colt loads in the .454 cylinder, it is necessary to keep the cylinder brushed out so a ring does not form in the cylinder at the end of the .45 case mouth.

Replacing the .454 cylinder with the .45 cylinder finds me ready to use factory and factory type .45 Colt loads in the Casull as well as some of my heavier loads made up for the Ruger .45 Blackhawk. The full house .45 Colt/.454 style loads are loaded only with bullets that will enter the .454 Casull cylinder and not others such as the .45 Ruger Blackhawk or Colt Single Action.

And when I want a real pleasant day of plinking or close-range varminting with a revolver in goes the .45 ACP cylinder. And the best factory defensive loads for the .45 are not made for the .454 or the .45 Colt but for the .45 ACP, so as a house or camp gun, the .45 ACP cylinder could well be the best choice for the Triple Threat Packin' Pistol.