Gun Digest Interview with John Linebaugh

A trio of John Linebaugh custom sixguns.

A trio of John Linebaugh custom sixguns.

Sounds like some heavy-duty physics. Learn this in college?
I barely got through high school. Never went to college. I’m self-taught—with a great deal of help from some really good people such as Lee Jurras of Super Vel Cartridges, Dick Casull himself, dozens of other men all over the country who’ve been my friends for years and let me ask all sorts of questions and Hamilton Bowen, who is absolutely the greatest six-gun maker in the country today.

Did you grow up shooting and hunting?
Actually, I grew up in what you’d have to call a “gun-free zone.” My dad’s cousin was hurt in a BB gun accident, and my grandmother refused to have any guns around. I sort of broke the mold.

What was your first gun?
The first gun I personally owned was a 16-gauge, double-barreled Damascus shotgun. My first six gun was an old three-screw .357 Ruger Blackhawk with a 6 ½-inch barrel. I must’ve been about 15 or so when I got that.

So in 1986, the .500 Linebaugh comes out. What was the reaction?
It was on the cover of Guns & Ammo. The orders came in and they’ve never stopped. To date, I’ve probably built about 400 of the .500 Linebaughs.

In 1988, you also added the .475 Linebaugh to the mix. Why did you develop that revolver?
The .500 Linebaugh cartridge was originally built on the old .348 Winchester [rifle] brass. Just as the .500 Linebaugh was taking off, Winchester Ammunition informed me the cartridge was being discontinued. They told me they could make me the brass—but it would take an order of one million of them, minimum. No way I had that kind of money. So I started playing around with .45-70 brass, seeing if it might work. One night, I took a case, cut it and then machined a .475 key-style bullet out of a bolt, just to see if it would all fit. It worked. It was .500 at the case base and .497 at the neck. I had a new handgun round. Meantime, other companies started making brass for the .500.

If someone orders a handgun from you, how long does it take?
Over a year right now. It’s been that way for years, backlogged like that. I’ve been especially busy these last few years, with the work and the travel and the seminars that I do. I don’t even get to do much hunting any more.

Speaking of which, what’s the biggest animal you’ve taken with your revolvers?
I shoot a buffalo every year or so. I’ve got a buffalo on my wall right now that weighed over 1,000 pounds. I’ve killed a dozen antelope, four mule deer and 10 or 12 buffalo, all but one of them with a handgun. And I very seldom recover a bullet. They go right through the animal.

Even the buffalo?
Yes, sir.

What’s your favorite, every day handgun?
A .500 Linebaugh with a 4 ¾ inch barrel. That little gun doesn’t kick at all.

What’s the best thing about being the inventor and maker of the .475 and .500 Linebaugh revolvers?
All the great people I’ve met, all the truly good friends I’ve made over the years. I’m thankful for the freedoms we do have in this country, and I try to take the time to enjoy them, to appreciate the sunrises and pay attention to the sunsets.

This article appeared in the February 25, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. For more Gun Digest Interviews click here. For more information on John Linebaugh’s Custom Sixguns visit

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