Ninety years ago, Elmer Keith wrote an
article titled “The Last Word” for the American Rifleman
magazine. Mr. Keith
had a lot of experience with Colt Single Action revolvers, and
this piece was the culmination of his years of experience, using
the gunsmithing skills of R.F. Sedgley, Neil Houchins, J.D. O’Meara, and Harold Croft to design and build “The
Last Word” in single action revolvers. Mr. Keith was a
proponent of a heavily-loaded 44 Special. His work with that
cartridge led to the ultimate development of the 44 magnum
cartridge. Mssrs. Keith, Croft, Houchins, Sedgley, and O’Meara
spared no detail in the creation of what has come to be known as
Keith’s Number Five.
The Number Five started as a Colt Single
Action Army. From there, everything that could be improved was
improved. The top strap of the frame was welded up into a
flattop configuration, with an adjustable rear sight added. The
front sight was changed to a Patridge style. To eliminate the
possibility of the base pin moving forward under recoil, an
ingenious design was created that uses a swinging lever to
retain the pin positively in its place. The head of the base pin
is enlarged for an easy grasp for removal. The hammer was
modified with a Bisley-type spur, and the trigger was curved and
moved closer to the back of the trigger guard. The unique grip
of the Number Five was created by marrying a modified Bisley
backstrap to a Single Action Army trigger guard, resulting in
what is probably the most comfortable-to-shoot revolver grip
Since Mr. Keith’s Number Five was built,
custom gunsmiths have tried to replicate the sixgun with varying
degrees of success. Custom Gunsmiths such as Alan Harton of
Single Action Service of Houston, Texas has built No. 5
revolvers. They use better springs and stronger steel than that
which was available to Mr. Keith and his gunsmiths. Bill Grover
built a few Improved Number Five revolvers under his Texas
Longhorn Arms brand, but with stronger steel than the original.
The TLA sixguns were built in a mirror image of the old Colt
design, to better suit right-handed shooters.
The Keith No. 5 revolver is one of the most
famous revolvers ever built, and is well-known to most diehard
fans of the single-action sixgun. Elmer Keith had the No. 5
custom built on a Colt frame, transformed into what he believed
was the ultimate single-action revolver. The base pin, as well
as the method of retaining that base pin in the frame was very
unique. It was designed for utility, but that design created the
most elegant and artful method of retaining a single-action base
pin that has ever been created. The grip is the heart of the No.
5, and was designed for comfortably handling heavy recoil; which
it does very well. The original Keith No. 5 sixgun will never be
handled by most of us, and if we could, it is still an old Colt,
with all its limitations.
Custom gunsmiths like Hamilton Bowen, and
Alan Harton have built Number Five revolvers, faithfully
following the design of the original Keith sixgun by starting
with a Ruger Blackhawk, and modifying it from there. Now, Magnum
Research, through their Custom Shop, is offering a splendid
Number Five revolver, replicating the great features of the
original, but on a modern, stainless steel frame. Offered in a
variety of chamberings, the one shown here is a five-shot 500
Linebaugh, proving the Magnum Research BFR is much stronger than
the Colt of ninety years ago.
are listed in the chart below. Weight is listed in ounces.
Trigger pull is listed as pounds of resistance. Linear
measurements are listed in inches. The cylinder length does not
include the ratchet nor the integral bushing. Height includes
the sights, with the rear set at its medium adjustment.
|Barrel / Cylinder Gap
|Trigger Pull As Delivered
||Depends on configuration ordered. Call
or go online for quote.
revolver featured here is much more powerful than Mr. Keith’s
original Number Five, being chambered for the 500 Linebaugh
cartridge. The 500 Linebaugh emerged from the brain of custom
gunsmith John Linebaugh back in 1986, and changed popular
opinion on handgun stopping power. This is a hunting cartridge,
capable of taking the largest game on Earth. Using bullets of
.512 diameter, it is really a 51 caliber, but the 500 Linebaugh
was the first packable fifty caliber handgun on the market. John
Linebaugh believes in caliber and bullet weight for stopping
power, and he has been proven right. The 500 Linebaugh uses
bullets in the 350 to 525 grain class, cast hard for deep
Linebaugh pioneered putting this level of power into handguns
that can be packed on the hip, and he is the reason there are so
many choices in powerful revolvers today.
several years, the 500 Linebaugh was a handloading-only
cartridge, but now top-quality ammunition is available from
Buffalo Bore, Grizzly Cartridge, and others. Handloading is as
easy as with other revolver cartridges, with no longer the need
to form brass. Top velocities are obtained using magnum primers
and H110 powder, and excellent moderate-velocity loads use cast
bullets and powders such as Trail Boss, for velocities in the
850 feet-per-second (fps) range. These moderate loads still
offer excellent penetration through flesh.
used a variety of Buffalo Bore ammunition in this Custom BFR No.
5, with each load exhibiting excellent consistency, velocity,
and accuracy. In several cases, the velocities exceeded the
velocities listed on the boxes, due in part to the tightness of
the BFR barrel/cylinder gap. While measuring a tight one
one-thousandth of an inch (.001), even when the revolver was
dirty from lead and powder fouling, it showed no hint of
cylinder binging. Both moderate and full-blown magnum loads were
fired. Every cartridge fired, with no failures of any kind.
Extraction was easy, even with the most-powerful loads.
the BFR shown here is no lightweight, weighing in at almost 50
0unces, it does carry well on the hip riding in a beautiful
Barranti Leather holster. The holster protects the revolver very
well, yet allows quick access when needed. Crafted from premium
leather, Mike Barranti added a nice tribute to the original
Number Five revolver by embossing a likeness of Mr. Keith into
the leather on the side of the holster. Perfect.
check out the entire line of Magnum Research BFR revolvers, go
order a custom BFR revolver built to your specifications, go to www.custombfrrevolver.com.
order beautiful Barranti holsters and accessories, go to www.barrantileather.com.
order top quality 500 Linebaugh ammunition, go to www.buffalobore.com.
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.