Magnum Research Custom Shop BFR Number Five Revolver in 500 Linebaugh

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn & Jeff Quinn

February 18th, 2020 Video Link


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The Keith-Style Base Pin Latch is a key feature on any No. 5 Revolver. It elegantly and securely locks the base pin from creeping forward under recoil.



Top of frame is drilled & tapped for use of a scope mount.







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 ever designed.

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.

Specifications 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.

Chambering 500 Linebaugh
Overall Length 11.37 Inches
Overall Height 5.96 Inches
Weight, Unloaded 49.8 Ounces
Barrel Length 5.512 Inches
Cylinder Length 1.845 Inches
Cylinder Diameter 1.778 Inches
Barrel / Cylinder Gap 0.001 Inch
Barrel Diameter 0.822 Inch
Trigger Pull As Delivered 2.5 Pounds
MSRP Depends on configuration ordered. Call or go online for quote.

The 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 penetration.  John 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.

For 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. 

I 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.

While 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.

To check out the entire line of Magnum Research BFR revolvers, go to

To order a custom BFR revolver built to your specifications, go to

To order beautiful Barranti holsters and accessories, go to

To order top quality 500 Linebaugh ammunition, go to

Jeff Quinn

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Cartridge comparison (left to right): 357 Magnum, 44 Magnum, 500 Linebaugh.



Holster from Mike "Doc" Barranti of Barranti Leather features an embossed likeness of Elmer Keith.