Gun Digest

Hot-Rodding the .45 Colt

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Here it is in all of its buffalo killing glory, the Linebaugh-built .45 Colt Seville belonging to Ross Seyfried. Photo by R. Seyfried
Here it is in all of its buffalo killing glory, the Linebaugh-built .45 Colt Seville belonging to Ross Seyfried. Photo by R. Seyfried

Through the efforts of John Linebaugh, Dick Casull and Ross Seyfried, the .45 Colt took the leap from the Old West to modern-day big-game hunting.

Head afield with Gun Digest Book of Hunting Revolvers.

The discussion of hunting revolvers wouldn’t be complete without a look back at John Linebaugh’s work building “Super .45s” on Seville revolvers (U.S. Sporting Arms) in the early ’80s. Hot-rodding the .45 Colt cartridge was nothing new, but it wasn’t widespread either. Dick Casull had been doing just that since the 1950s.

The .45 Colt wasn’t really looked at as a contender, particularly with all of the old Single Action Army models that were in the hands of shooters. Instead, it was viewed more as a has-been that had seen its glory days a long time ago.

Linebaugh and Casull were visionaries in that they could see the potential the old Colt had to offer, if housed in an adequate revolver where the .45 could stretch its legs a bit. Casull’s exploits are legendary, but Linebaugh’s work with the .45 cannot be ignored and deserves to be examined.

Let me step off to the side of this conversation for a moment and introduce another player in this tale, a man by the name of Ross Seyfried.

If anyone has led an unusual and interesting life — including ranching, writing, guiding in the States and Africa, and trail blazing — that would be Seyfried. We have cited a number of his seminal works before, and for a good reason.

If he wrote about it, it was thoroughly vetted and tested, and you could take his conclusions to the bank. Without his contributions to handgunning, the likes of John Linebaugh may never have been known, which would have been tragic to say the very least.

The .45 Colt (center) still stacks up well against younger, big-bore behemoths, the .44 Rem. Mag. (left) and .454 Casull (right).

Growing up on a ranch in eastern Colorado, Seyfried got his first revolver, a Smith & Wesson Model 19 in .357 Magnum, when he was only a freshman in high school. He tried every commercial load available, including those with the highest velocity and lightest bullets, and reports that they didn’t live up to his expectations.

An avid reader of Elmer Keith, the young Seyfried sat down with a pen and paper and wrote Keith of his test results. Keith promptly replied back that the .357 was useless and that Seyfried should acquire a .44 Magnum, and that is exactly what he did. Seyfried even carried a 4-inch Model 29 in Africa, loaded with the requisite 250-grain Keith loads and found it left him wanting more, having used it on many wounded game animals.

Then, John Linebaugh entered his life, and the game changed. Linebaugh convinced Seyfried of an alternative, a perfect revolver for hunting big game that was a sizable step up, over and beyond the vaunted .44 Magnum.

An incredulous and skeptical Seyfried invited Linebaugh to his ranch to give him a demonstration from a good, safe distance away. Not only was he impressed with this display of power, but he was also determined to find out for himself how this rejuvenated .45 Colt would perform in Africa, a wonderful “laboratory” for testing his new pet caliber. The results spoke for themselves and culminated in Seyfried killing a Cape buffalo with a .45 Colt — with no big double rifle backing him up.

Renewed interest in the .45 Colt led to other big-bore advancements, such as the .454 Casull. This particular one is a John Linebaugh custom Seville in .454 Casull with a six-shot oversized cylinder.

As a gunwriter with Guns & Ammo magazine, he had a platform on which to float new ideas to a wary and skeptical audience. But unlike many, Seyfried walked the walk and was in a position to talk about it.

Seyfried stoked the fires of our imaginations with tales of slaying the wild beasts of Africa with only a revolver, introducing us mere mortals to such exotic and unknown calibers like the .475 and .500 Linebaughs, and the mythically powerful Maximums. He showed us that not only could the biggest and most ferocious animals be conquered with revolvers, but that their effectiveness was no fluke, with repeatable results. Seyfried didn’t just talk about it, he went out and backed his theories with quantifiable and tangible results from the field.

His contributions to big-bore revolver development, shooting and hunting cannot be understated. He was a seriously competitive shooter, having won the 1981 World Practical Pistol Championships. A licensed professional hunter in Tanzania and Zambia, he spoke from a place of authority. Until recently, he served as a guide and outfitter in Oregon.

Seyfried reports that he has come full circle and that after many rodeos with some truly big and nasty calibers, he is back to the .45 Colt. He claims to have crossed that line of old age and practicality.

We spoke at length, and in a candid and unguarded moment, he mentioned that his greatest regret in life was “not being able to hand Elmer Keith a five-shot .45 Colt. Not only would he have loved it, he was a man who would have been able to use it for all it was worth.”

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from Gun Digest Book of Hunting Revolvers.

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