The .500 Linebaugh

   
   

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

August 23rd, 2004

 

 

 

 
 

For many years shooters have been searching for more and more powerful handguns. Some have gone the way of single shot pistols firing rifle cartridges. Other shooters have sought out higher velocities from standard caliber weapons, which resulted in the excellent .357, .41, and .44 Magnum cartridges.

While the Magnums are very good revolver cartridges for most purposes, including hunting medium game such as whitetail deer, they are lacking for the largest of big game animals.

A few years ago, a gunsmith by the name of John Linebaugh began working on pushing heavy bullets from handguns that were portable. While today we have handguns chambered for the big .500 S&W and .50 Beowulf, they are large and heavy. Linebaugh sought to get the maximum power from a handgun that could be worn on the hip comfortably all day. Converting Ruger and Seville sixguns into five shot revolvers, Linebaugh started on the way to building what has become just about the ultimate revolvers that are still easily packable; the .475 and .500 Linebaugh revolvers. Several custom gun builders are now turning out .500 Linebaugh revolvers, and John Linebaugh still builds these five shot revolvers on  Ruger Bisley and Bisley Vaquero frames.

While the cartridge cases for the .475 were fairly easy to make from cut-down .45/70 cases, the .500 was made from .348 Winchester cases, and required a bit more work. These days, cases are readily available for either of these cartridges, as is high performance factory ammunition.

While the .500 Smith & Wesson magnum pushes its bullets faster than does the .500 Linebaugh, it does so at much higher chamber pressures.  Also, the big Smith is hardly as packable, weighing in at just under seventy-three ounces, compared to only forty-eight and one half ounces for the Linebaugh custom Ruger. That weight difference is substantial if carrying the gun on your hip all day.

There is however, a price to pay for the relatively light weight, and that is recoil. Recoil with the heavier weight bullets is stiff. It is not painful, but it can be tiring if firing several shots in a short time. A day of chronographing and accuracy testing of the .500 Linebaugh can take a toll on a shooters wrists.  The .500 Linebaugh pushes bullets of .511 to .512 inch diameter weighing between 350 and 500 grains to speeds of up to 1300 feet-per-second from the five and one-half inch barrel. When you squeeze the trigger, you definitely notice it. The gun comes up and back quickly, but the Linebaugh doesnt sting my hand as does the .500 S&W.

The gun that I used for testing was built by John Linebaugh, and belongs to Kelly Brost of Cast Performance Bullets.  Kelly makes some excellent hard cast bullets for the .500 Linebaugh, and is also the exclusive source for the Hornady .500 Linebaugh cases.  Cast Performance can supply bullets, brass, and loading die sets for the .500 Linebaugh. His bullets are of the LBT style, and are the best choice if going after large game with a handgun.

Linebaugh builds five shot cylinders which are of larger diameter and a bit longer than a standard Ruger cylinder. The Linebaugh revolver also uses a free-wheeling cylinder, which makes loading and unloading the fat cartridges much easier, and is really a nice feature if you have a bullet to jump crimp and tie up the gun. This heavier five-shot cylinder allows the cartridge to be loaded for maximum effect, without loading to magnum rifle pressures.  Firing heavy loads of factory and hand loaded ammunition, the cases fell out of the chambers easily, without any signs of sticky extraction.

The best powders for loading the .500 Linebaugh that I have found are H4227, H110, WW296, 2400, and LilGun. I have also heard that Blue Dot is a good choice, but I have not tried it in the .500 Linebaugh. For heavy loads, LilGun is my favorite, and I use CCI magnum primers with all of these loads. For light loads, which is a relative term, as it is hard to call a .511 inch diameter 350 grain bullet at 975 feet-per-second "light", I really do like Hodgdon Titegroup. This powder was very consistent, turning in respectable velocity, with a standard deviation of only 4.2, which is about as good as it gets. An even ten grains averaged 972 fps at twelve feet from the muzzle, and is pleasant to shoot. It also exhibited very good penetration.  Accuracy was in the one and one-half inch range at twenty-five yards, which is about as good as I can shoot an open-sighted handgun.

The Grizzly Cartridge Co. factory ammunition proved to be very consistent also, with the velocities listed below. Note that Grizzly offers two different loads using the 435 grain Cast Performance Wide Flat Nose Gas Check (WFNGC) bullet. The slower load would work very well for game that does not need the heaviest bone-breaking velocities.

 

Grizzly Cartridge Co. Factory Loads

Bullet Velocity (fps)
400-Grain Hawk Soft Point 1303
435-grain Cast Performance WFNGC 1292
435-grain Cast Performance WFNGC 970
500 grain Cast Performance LFNGC  1140

The Grizzly Cartridge Company ammunition allows shooters who do not load their own, or who would just prefer to use factory ammo for hunting, the opportunity to use the same Cast Performance hard cast bullets that are available to hand loaders. Grizzly also offers a Hawk jacketed bullet for those who want that type of ammunition. Grizzly uses the same high quality Hornady cases in all of their factory .500 Linebaugh ammunition. Recoil with the Grizzly ammo was stout, except for the moderate velocity 435 grain load, which was relatively pleasant to shoot. However, all of these loads are manageable to anyone who shoots other magnums with regularity. Just dont try to shoot several boxes of the heavy stuff at one session.

In conclusion, I find that the .500 Linebaugh is the most practical of the big half-inch revolver cartridges. The gun is as portable as any Ruger Bisley. It can be carried easily on the hip in a proper holster, and the .500 Linebaugh throws heavy lead slugs  that will penetrate huge amounts of flesh and bone.  It is a very good balance of handiness, portability, and bone-breaking power, and now factory ammunition and quality components are readily available, making the .500 Linebaugh as easy to load as any other cartridge.

For the highest quality bullets, brass, and dies,  you can order online directly from Cast Performance Bullets at: www.castperformance.com.

To order the excellent Grizzly ammunition, go to: www.grizzlycartridge.com.

To have John Linebaugh build a gun for you, check out: www.sixgunner.com/linebaugh.

 Jeff Quinn

 

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

 

Click pictures for a larger version.

 

John Linebaugh custom Ruger Bisley revolver in .500 Linebaugh.

 

 

 

 

Belt Mountain Enterprises' excellent #5-style base pin is highly recommended for heavy-recoiling SA revolvers.

 

 

.500 Linebaugh cylinder (left) shown in comparison with a Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum cylinder (right).

 

 

Cartridge comparison (left to right): .44 Magnum, .50 Beowulf, .500 Linebaugh, .500 S&W.

 

 

Accuracy with Grizzly factory loads or handloads was in the 1-1/2" range at 25 yards, which is about as well as Jeff can do with open sights.

 

 

Grizzly Cartridge Co. makes high-quality factory ammunition for the .500 Linebaugh. The bottom picture shows some of the different loads available (left to right):

 

 

For the handloaders, Hornady .500 Linebaugh brass is available exclusively from Cast Performance.

 

 

Among the bullets offered by Cast Performance are (left to right): 410-grain plain base, 350-grain WFNGC, and 435-grain WFNGC.

 

 

Hornady die sets for the .500 Linebaugh are also available from Cast Performance.

 

 

John Linebaugh custom Ruger Bisley revolver in .500 Linebaugh - a truly powerful and elegant work of art.

 

 

 

 

 

Send mail to webmaster@gunblast.com with questions or comments about this web site.
All Content Copyright 2000-2008 GUNBlast.com
Last modified: February 19, 2008

Web design by: Boge Quinn