Bear Spray! In 500 Linebaugh

Let me be clear, this is NOT about a pepper spray that you might carry for protection against bears. Bear Spray, is the name my chosen gunsmith, JRH Advanced Gunsmithing decided to use for this project. The initials JRH, stand for Jack R Huntington. After much deliberation about what I wanted in a custom large-caliber revolver, I had to choose a gunsmith to take the ideas in my head and bring them to fruition and Jack was my choice.  

At the time I already owned a full custom Ruger revolver in 500 Linebaugh Maximum, but I bought it already made. So it was someone else’s ideas that I just sort of agreed with. What I wanted was something that was all my own ideas. I also owned a short-barreled Ruger Vaquero in 45 Colt that was a joy to carry during ranch chores and guiding feral pig hunters. It had proven itself as comfortable to carry and provided enough sight radius to make 75-yard shots easily feasible, this would be my starting point.

This 45 Colt, would be the basis for my new build.

I had joined a forum that was dedicated to single action revolvers, SINGLEACTIONS.COM, and looked at a lot of custom revolvers that others had commissioned. I also listened to who did the work and whether the new owners were happy with the finished product. Names like Bowen, Linebaugh, Clements, Stroh, Huntington, Harton, Gallagher, and others. Some of the wait times for work were in the year’s timeframe, I didn’t have the patience for that. Huntington claimed 6-8 months’ wait time and his cost for the work was very reasonable. I provided a Ruger Vaquero in 45 Colt that I bought cheap due to some amateur gunsmithing attempt. As well as a Bisley grip frame, ejector rod housing, and hammer/trigger parts. What I was looking for was a bigger brother to my short-barreled SS 45 Colt Bisley/Vaquero.

This gun would be a 4” barreled 500 Linebaugh. It would sport an octagon barrel and a fiber optic front sight, the rear sight trough would be modified by me prior to sending the gun to JRH. I have always struggled to get a good solid sight picture from the rounded rear end of the Colt SAA or Ruger Vaquero style. The Ruger 45 Colt that I was using as a guide had been modified with the addition of an XS Sights dovetail rear sight that was originally designed for use on a shotgun rib. I was not concerned about the dovetail weakening the top strap of the gun in 45 Colt, but for a 500 Linebaugh…well? So I went a different route, one that wouldn’t require removing any more metal than absolutely necessary.  

Simple file work allows for a much cleaner sight picture.

I also wanted the Vaquero to be converted to a Bisley grip since it helps with heavy recoiling guns, the Bisley grip would then be round butted slightly. My last idea was that it should be weather resistant and tough, so I thought having it Black Nitrided by H&M Nitriding would take care of that. Everything else I left in the hands of JRH Gunsmithing.

The Ruger Bisley grip does a very good job of helping with recoil management.

While I waited my 6-8 months, I acquired cases, bullets, and reloading dies. I also contacted Thad Rybka and Bullard leather for holsters, my favorite has become the Thad Rybka. It is a strong side version of his cross draw holster. It makes carrying the little 500L, like nothing is there. I cannot believe the comfort that is afforded with this holster.   

Bullard leather on top, Rybka leather on bottom. Both incorporate my business logo.

Also as I waited I loaded ammo, originally I was looking for two loads, an everyday load and a serious load. I was thinking a 400gr. bullet at 1000fps for the everyday load, and a 450gr. bullet at 1200fps for the serious load.  What I would find out later was that the two loads would not land close enough to each other to be used together. I discovered from shooting my 500L Maximum, that a 450/465gr. bullet at 1000fps was very accurate and would provide enough oomph to handle 98% of what I wanted to hunt. This gun wasn’t intended to be a hunting gun though, it was designed to be a “carry a lot and shoot a little” gun. Its purpose was the same as a gun you would carry for your own personal defense any day of the week. Only it would be used during hunts or other outdoor excursions where you might need a large caliber bullet to end a dispute or save a life.   

Assorted ammo used in the 500L, 400gr. cast, 415gr. FP, 450gr. JHP

It was early November 2017, when I got a call from Jack saying it was time to send him the balance owed. I sent the payment and anxiously waited for my package to arrive. On the 17th, I opened up my package and was instantly pleased with what I saw. There were a couple of changes from what I originally had asked for, but we had discussed them over the phone, so I was expecting it. The gun was entirely flat black, except for the red fiber optic front sight, everything including the grips are black. It looked very business-like, no flash, no glitz, or shiny parts,…it looked awesome. One acquaintance described it looking like a riled-up mule with its ears laid back, just waiting for a reason to go off.   

Fresh out of the shipping box, I was very pleased with my new little gun.

Bear Spray as the builder refers to it, has proven to be accurate beyond my expectations. After realizing that using two loads was not feasible, I decided to try picking one bullet weight. I really wanted 1200fps, but also wanted to use a 450gr. or heavier bullet. I couldn’t do both, the 450gr. bullets would not reach 1100fps from the short 4” barrel. They were however very accurate, a 12×12 inch steel plate was able to be hit at 100 yards every time if I was able to maintain a good solid hold and trigger squeeze despite knowing that fury was about to recoil in my hands. 100 yards is way beyond any expectation I had for this gun, the groups it provides at 50yds. average 4 inches. Even though it was never intended to be a hunting gun, I have no issues hunting with it out to 75 yards. My projectile of choice has become 400gr. bullets, I am able to push them to 1200fps and Cutting Edge Bullets(CEB) makes an all copper solid at that weight. This allows me tremendous penetration without deformation. The 400gr. bullets are still able to be fired quickly and accurately from the holster if I’m faced with a point and shoot scenario. If I want a bit of expansion I can use a cast 400gr. bullet or Hawk bullets will make me a thin jacketed expanding bullet of that weight. So it doesn’t matter if I need Bear Spray for bears, or wolves, or two-legged predators – it is up to the task. 

The Thad Rybka holster has become my favorite carry platform for Bear Spray.

It’s going on 3 years since I took possession of my little 500L. It’s been carried on my hip for two elk hunts where I walked 8 to 16 miles a day. As well as two mule deer hunts, up and down the foothills of the Buffalo Wyoming area. I carried it last year while waterfowl hunting in Montana north of Missoula, there had been Grizzly Bear reports in the area as well as a documented attack on an upland bird hunter, a few years ago. It carried unobtrusively under my field coat, in the Thad Rybka holster as we walked from pond to pond.  

I’ve made some minor alterations to its original configuration, the square sides of the grips have been rounded on the end a bit and the front sight changed to an all-white polycarbonate blade. Other than this it is as I received it, except for a couple of hundred rounds through it to get familiar with it.

Just a few changes from its original configuration, a white polycarbonate front sight, and grips thinned and rounded a bit on the end.

Bear Spray was recently called into action during an Aoudad hunt when the factory rear sight of my main hunting handgun failed on me and I had to draw my back up and use it to take the shot. A 415gr. FP from the little 500L at 55yds. brought my first handgun Aoudad to the ground.  

Called into action and it did not disappoint.

If you’re thinking about carrying a handgun for general purpose use or defense when you’re afield and want something special, give JRH Advanced Gunsmithing a call. Jack can talk with you over the phone and discuss options. He does very good work on both single actions and double actions, as well as offering nonstandard caliber options. He can make your 44 magnum or 45 Colt stronger if that’s all you want or put you in a big bore, like .475, .500, or .510. I’ve already contacted him for another project. 

Exceeding expectations, and proving far more useful than imagined.

In reading up information for bear attacks and how to avoid them, as well as recommendations by park officials from parks known for bear encounters, and wildlife biologists from all over North America, all the advocates and manufacturers of pepper spray,  claim that it is not guaranteed to work 100% of the time on bears, even if properly deployed. Well, I feel very confident that my Bear Spray will work 100% of the time if properly deployed. It will also be effective for any other danger or predator I happen to encounter. Even if it doesn’t need to be deployed, it is most comforting going to sleep in the great outdoors, knowing that it is there.

Point at bear and deploy!

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • James July 7, 2021, 10:04 pm

    Interesting article. Awesome revolver.
    I’m sure everyone is wondering, how much recoil does this produce?
    I have read articles that talked about revolvers chambered in 444 Marlin. One fellow said he fired it so much that it damaged his wrist. Ouch.
    A fellow shooter showed me his custom revolver in 30-30. New in the box.
    It would be great if one of the lever action rifles were chambered in 500 Maximum.
    And also in 357 Maximum, 414 Super Mag.
    What’s the old joke about grizzly bears liking pepper on their meals.
    Some of these hunting banning groups want to expand grizzly bears all across the Rocky Mountains. These groups want to reintroduce jaguars into the national forests. What about the mountain lions?
    They want wolves in all 48 states. These wolf cults used staged photo of tame wolves where they pet them and kiss them and say they are harmless. Look back to WW2 in Europe, wolves were so bad at attacking people, that governments had their armies go out with machine guns and hand grenades to fight off the wolves.
    In southern Colorado, there is a cat sanctuary when e they have 100’s of lions and tigers. Homeowners and ranchers are worried as all there is keeping them in place is fencing.
    Always carry protection when you are in the National Forests. There are wolves, mountain lions,. black bears, grizzly bears and who knows what animal got loose from a private owner. There are few if any laws against owning a lion or tiger. Remember a few years back in Ohio, some fellow had a private zoo and one day flipped out and set all the animals loose. Of course, police claimed they shot them all. Uh huh.
    Protect and support your right to keep and own all types of firearms and accessories and the right to hunt.
    Don’t let gun banning groups and hunting banning groups take away our Rights.

  • Roscoe July 7, 2021, 11:13 am

    Can you say hand canon? My one failing in life is to never find a revolver that I liked. First thing on in the morning and the last thing off at night is a Sig 365 X with a red dot.

  • Robert McLemore July 7, 2021, 8:25 am

    Retired police…love wheelguns … great looking weapon…

  • Give Me Freedom June 10, 2021, 9:47 am

    The biggest caliber I can shoot accurately with handgun is .45 Auto +P. These powerful pistols are beyond my present shooting skills.

  • Jim88 June 8, 2021, 8:53 am

    Looks like you did it right, Job well done

  • Scott June 8, 2021, 7:17 am

    Sure is a nice looking rig. Did Mr Huntington make those grips as well? It’s the only thing that wasn’t discussed and would love a pair for one of my Bisleys. Thanks.

    • Trapr Swonson June 9, 2021, 7:42 pm

      Yes, he supplied the grips with the gun.

  • Jeffrey Locke June 8, 2021, 6:36 am

    That is awesome! I have a customized model 329PD that is my walk anywhere self-defense tool. I use a stainless steel cylinder instead of the titanium cylinder it came with though.

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