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
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
Grizzly Cartridge Co. Factory Loads
|500 grain Cast
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
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
For the highest quality bullets, brass, and dies,
you can order online directly from Cast Performance Bullets at:
To order the excellent Grizzly ammunition, go to:
To have John Linebaugh build a gun for you, check
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