Keith’s Crown Jewel

The 454424

I recently shared my favorite .45 caliber bullet molds from Lee Precision. My intention was to illustrate how low-priced molds can produce excellent, accurate slugs, and these choices surely do. But some confused my affinity for Lee molds as my favorite molds.

Here’s the line-up — .454 Casull, .45 Colt, .45 ACP and .45 AR.

Sleight of Hand?

With the risk of sounding like an inside-the-beltway politician, let me explain. Although I like Lee .45 molds very much — having cast hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of bullets with them over the years — they fall slightly short of being my favorite .45 mold overall. Remember, my previous article said favorite Lee molds …

The Winner is …

My sentimental favorite .45 mold is Lyman 454424. If I could only pick one .45 mold, this would be the one. I made my first big game handgun kill with this bullet. Elmer Keith is what got me interested in casting my own bullets, and since he designed the 454424, it only makes sense it would be my favorite .45 slug. The wide meplat on this slug hits hard, while the shoulder punches neat round holes in whatever it hits. It has enough mass to penetrate deeply and shoots accurately out to long distances of several hundred yards. What else is there?

Tank had TC Custom modify his Redhawk so it accepts moon-clipped
.45 ACP cartridges. Versatility is the name of the game. The accuracy was excellent!

Square Deal?

I have a favorite Lyman/Ideal 4-cavity 454424 mold that is a favorite from the early 70s. It doesn’t have the square grease groove Elmer demanded, but that’s why I like it. Elmer used pump grease on occasion for his bullet lube and needed the square lube groove to hold the grease. A round groove just wouldn’t work like they do with today’s wax-based lubes.

The problem with square lube groove molds is casting bullets with them. As lead alloy cools, it shrinks slightly. The square lube groove of the cooling bullet tends to pinch the square edge of the mold, effectively hanging up in the mold, requiring several hard taps on the handle hinge pin to knock them loose. This is why Veral Smith of Lead Bullet Technology (LBT) designed his molds with shallow, round lube grooves. His super-efficient bullet lube meant you didn’t need as much, and freshly cast bullets literally fell out of his molds.

Today, those choosing polymer powder coating as their lubricant can order bullet molds from a few vendors without lube grooves. I’m a big fan of this method, as gravity is all I need for my grooveless bullets to plop out of the mold.

Here you can see the work TC Custom did to modify the cylinder.
Also shown is the TC tool for loading your moon-clips.


One feature I love, even the demand of my bullets, is versatility. That is, being good for several different purposes or cartridges. The 454424 does just that — in spades. The 454424 can be loaded in .454 Casull, .45 Colt, .45 Auto Rim & ACP, and shoot like gangbusters.

In the .454 Casull, pushing the Keith slug to 1,500 fps is no chore. The plain base is the limiting factor, with leading. Using 14 grains of Unique will get you there handedly.

My pet load for the .45 Colt in my large-framed Ruger‘s is 20 grains of 2400 for just under 1,300 fps in guns with 7.5” barrels.

Here’s a Ruger dual-cylinder .45 Colt/ACP Blackhawk.
The cartridge mouth headspaces on the cylinder.

The Shorties

I’ve known for years Elmer experimented and used his 454424 in the .45 ACP/AR but had never loaded any … until recently. One of his favorite heavy loads with these cartridges for revolvers was 7.5 grains of Unique with 454423, a 235-grain slug. Later, Elmer tried the heavier 454424 and found it worked as well, if not better than the lighter bullet.

Out of most guns, the 260-grain 454424 clocks out in the mid 900 fps range, making it a handy, hard-hitting, compact cartridge. A revolver carrying moon-clipped .45 ACPs makes for fast and efficient loading/reloading.

This S&W Model 25 allows either moon-clips or Auto Rim. Convenient for sure.


Elmer Keith is revered for his work with the .44 Special with his 429421 slugs, leading to the development of the .44 Magnum. I believe the 454424 is his best design — for biased reasons. It’s my favorite cartridge!

I often wonder what would have happened if Bill Ruger had been born 50 years earlier and his large-framed Blackhawk was released after Elmer blew up his Colt SAA .45 Colt that fateful July 4th?

I picture Bill Ruger contacting Elmer, “Hey kid, try this gun.” Boy, what would have happened then? I think the .454 Casull, or its equivalent, a .454 Keith, maybe, would have come along sooner.

It’s fun playing “What if?” but one thing is certain: Elmer’s 454424 is still as viable today as it ever was — as it should be. In my opinion, it is the crown jewel of the Keith bullets.

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