Q: Recently I picked up a new Ruger
Super Redhawk .454 Casull with a 7 1/2-inch barrel. After ordering brass, I began loading
ammunition. According to the manuals, loads selected were on the upper end of pressure
limits but should be safe. To date I have used H-110, 2400, AAC-9 and W-296, all with
300-grain jacketed bullets from Speer and Freedom Arms. The first load tried consisted of
33.0 grains of H-110, which was accurate, but the fired cases stuck in the chambers. To
clear cases, the ejector rod had to be pushed hard with a wooden block. I have scrubbed
the chambers, but there was no improvement. I reduced the recommended powder charges,
which has helped, but the muzzle velocity is now only 1,300 to 1,450 fps, and cases are
still occasionally hard to extract. To say Im disappointed is an understatement, as
I didnt buy a .454 to shoot reduced loads.
What is wrong? Are my loads too hot
or is there something wrong with the gun? Any suggestions to solve the problem would be
- J.D., California
A: When Sturm, Ruger & Company
introduced the Super Redhawk .454 Casull, there were many that had concerns about using a
cartridge that develops 65,000 psi maximum average pressure in a six-shot revolver. In
spite of the Redhawk being a big, stout gun, the cylinder walls are not as thick or as
massive as the five-shot Freedom Arms revolvers - the gun that brought the cartridge to
life. On the other hand, since Ruger has always engineered its guns with plenty of
strength, I had little concern the new Redhawk would be safe.
I was sent one of the first
production guns and, guess what? Cases stuck in the chambers the same as your gun, but did
so with factory ammunition from Hornady and Winchester. And I have heard this problem
described many times by other shooters in the past four years. Incidentally, the same
factory loads worked without a hitch in a Freedom Arms Model 83.
Ruger uses a Carpenter series 465
stainless steel for the .454s cylinder, which is reportedly made in its own plant.
This is a strong material with sufficient strength to handle the 65,000 psi generated by
factory fodder or handloads that generate similar pressures, but a Ruger engineer tells me
it tends to move or stretch when under pressure. In other words, because of the
significant pressure generated by the .454 Casull, the chamber swells slightly and
temporarily as the cartridge is fired. Naturally
the brass case also expands to
the same shape or size as the stretched chamber, and
when the chamber bounces back to its original dimension, the case and chamber fit is tight
and results in difficult extraction. Again, this is not a safety issue, as there is plenty
of strength to handle the big cartridge, but is characteristic of the steel.
As to remedies for your problem, I
would suggest calling Ruger first. It will likely want the gun returned so that chambers
can be polished or possibly a new cylinder installed. Whatever is done, it will probably
help, but frankly with full-house loads you may not get the problem completely solved.
However, there are a couple things you can do. Try switching to cast bullets, preferably
with a gas check. This will allow you to reduce the powder charge, but more importantly
the chamber pressure, yet still achieve the same velocity as the factory loads you are
trying to duplicate. For example a 310-grain cast bullet, Lyman mould 454629, produces
1,647 fps with 30.5 grains of H-110 using a Winchester case and Remington 7 1/2 Bench Rest
rifle primer. (These velocities were obtained from a Freedom Arms Model 83 with a 7
1/2-inch barrel.) This reduction in chamber pressure will decrease the chamber
stretching discussed and make case extraction easier.
Just for the record, your load with
33.0 grains of Hodgdon H-110 and the 300-grain Speer PSP bullet is generating right at
65,000 psi and is safe. As a side note, if you choose not to reduce the powder charge but
simply switch to the Lyman 454629 310-grain cast bullet, which was designed by Dick Casull
specifically for the .454 Casull, velocity will increase 150 fps and pressure will
decrease slightly, but not enough to cure the problem.
You may also check the size of the
chamber throats, as some Super Redhawks have been observed with undersized or tight
throats, which further increases chamber pressure and diminishes accuracy. If they measure
less than .452 inch, it would be beneficial to have them opened to .4525 inch. As a bonus
this modification almost always increases accuracy. The job is easy and can be performed
by most specialized sixgun shops for around $50 and only requires shipping the cylinder
rather than the whole gun.
If case sticking still persists, try
applying a light coat of water-soluble RCBS case lube on the cases just before firing,
which will help cases extract easily. This last suggestion will no doubt raise some
eyebrows and additional questions, but I will second-guess some of them by saying that
this procedure only slightly increases case head thrust and is not dangerous. This
practice is only recommended for fair weather (or warm) conditions, as it can become stiff
(or frozen) and cause extraction problems in colder temperatures.
The last solution is to have a
specialized custom gunsmith make a new cylinder for your Super Redhawk, but this option
will cost more than the gun.
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