The Sixguns Of Jack Huntington


As this is written, it was 40 years ago this month when my first article appeared. Over the past four decades, after writing five books and well over 1,200 articles, there is a “small” chance you may find me repeating myself. Actually I’m not, and what some think is repetition is actually a running review; with me the idea of a running review precludes any danger of my repeating myself now I am in my old guy period. So if for some strange reason anything I say sounds familiar, remember it is really only review. So to review, I will once again say what a pleasure and privilege it is for me to know the greatest sixgunsmiths who ever lived and are practicing their craft today.

A good sixgunsmith is an artist; and every artist signs his work either deliberately or creatively. There are at least a dozen gunsmiths whose work I immediately recognize whether signed or not. Some of these gunsmiths are oneman shops, others are mom-and-pop operations, while still others have a pretty good-sized staff of quality gunsmiths surrounding and supporting their work. Among many things impressing me about Jack Huntington is his statement to the effect his “crew members are VERY important to me.” To me that says a lot about his character.

JRH Advanced Gunsmithing consists of Huntington himself, as well as six others. Jack says he is the ramrod/owner as well as stock maker and barrel maker. He is backed up by Shawn Davidson, rifle builder, stock maker and barrel maker; Jason McNefee, .45ACP-smith and revolver smith; Kit King and Brian Hoyle, General gunsmiths; Brian Reno, machinist and barrel maker; and Ed Tillotson, polisher and general hand. Jack calls them unsung heroes who deserve recognition. I agree totally.

Jack built this 4" .500 Special on a Ruger 50th Anniversary
.44 Magnum Flat-Top — neat.

The Huntington 1911 is clean and tidy.

Compact Customs

In years past I’ve worked with several of Jack’s really big sixguns, however this time he sent along four “smaller” custom handguns, all of which are quite different and yet they have one thing in common, which is they are both powerful and packable.

Smaller refers to size, not caliber, and none are of such size they cannot be carried comfortably, all day, every day. Two are basically up close single action hunting handguns, one is a “last-ditch” double action effort to save one’s hide, and the fourth one is a supreme example of a semiauto defensive pistol. Let’s take a look at what we have.

There is a lot of concern, some real, some imagined, about bears among those who stray off the beaten path. There is no doubt this can be a real concern in Alaska so it is altogether appropriate for Jack to start with Ruger’s Super Redhawk Alaskan as the basis for this custom sixgun. Now the Alaskan is already available in .44 Magnum, .454 Casull and .480 Ruger, all of which are capable of handling heavy duty loads with 300 to 400 grain hard cast bullets. With full house loads one definitely knows there is power in the hand. Jack takes it a step further by converting the Alaskan to .500 Linebaugh. If you didn’t wince at the thought of that, you haven’t shot enough big guns!

Jack says this gun is “A bit of an ill mannered thing.” He admits it shoots well, however it doesn’t need to, as this big bore belly gun is meant to be used to scrape a bear off not shoot one in a hunting situation. In any confrontation with a big bear, especially a Grizzly in the Northwest or Rocky Mountains, the law will normally favor the bear UNLESS it is obvious the bear was attacking and shot at point-blank range. Jack said a couple of 525 grain bulleted loads from Buffalo Bore through this Alaskan will handle any bear up close.

Not being brave enough to try such loads I reached for “light” .500 Linebaugh loads from Grizzly Cartridge. I’ve shot enough full-house .500 Linebaugh loads through my John Linebaugh built custom Bisley to know what they are like. What was, was, and what is, is. That was then, and this is now, and now is definitely nowhere near the then. That is the long way around the barn of saying unless I have a bear so close to me I am choking on his bad breath, there is no way I could be persuaded to try full house loads in this little pistol. Grizzly’s 435LBT is rated at 1,050 fps, about 90 fps less in the 21⁄2″ barrel of the Huntington Alaskan, while the 410LBT will do 900 fps from a longer barrel. I did not like the former loads at all, however the latter was not all that bad. Actually they’re all I want in this little pistol and will certainly handle anything I am likely to encounter.

Huntington's custom 1911 shot tight, predictable groups.

Four shots (two in on slightly oblong hole) from the Huntington .500 Special.

The two single action sixguns from Jack Huntington are both chambered for the relatively new .500 Special. In 2003 S&W introduced their Model 500 chambered in .500 S&W Magnum. With an 83⁄8″ barrel the Model 500 weighs over 4 pounds and every ounce is welcome when shooting factory loads consisting of a 400 grain bullet at nearly 1,700 fps. The .500 Magnum cartridge is approximately 1.6″ in length and requires a long cylinder in a heavy sixgun. The power is there if you want it, however the next natural step was to shorten the cartridge case for use in standard length cylinders. Cor-Bon has two factory .500 Special loads as this is written, a 275 Barnes DPX rated at 1,350 fps and a Sierra 350 JHP at the same muzzle velocity.

Both of the single action .500 Specials from Huntington are five-shot custom Rugers. First, we have a Flat-Top 50th Anniversary .44 Magnum converted to the Special. With its standard grip frame and 4″ barrel it’s definitely a candidate for Perfect Packin’ Pistol. This little sixgun can be carried in comfort, all day everyday and is definitely sufficiently powerful for anything most of us are likely to encounter. This beautiful little sixgun is blued, with a pinned-in post front sight on a solid ramp base, a beautiful deep dish muzzle crown, a button-headed base pin to allow maximum travel of the ejector rod, and the standard XR-3 Ruger grip frame with faux ivory stocks with the Ruger medallion. It’s an exceptionally attractive package.

The second .500 Special is just about perfection when it comes to a Packin’ Pistol. Starting with a stainless steel Ruger Bisley Model, a fiveshot .500 Special cylinder is fitted, the action is totally tightened, the trigger pull is set to just over two pounds and the Bisley Model grip frame is slightly modified to make it smaller and round-butted just enough to remove the sharp edges. Now comes the crowning touch, which makes this 4″ sixgun so attractive. The barrel is a ventilated rib affair which started life as a Colt Anaconda .44 Magnum but has now been re-bored to .500 and fitted to the Ruger Bisley Model. The result is one of the most attractive sixguns one is ever likely to come across while still being perfectly practical; and it shoots as witness the results in the accompanying table. Both the Barnes 275 DPX and the Sierra 350 JHP loaded to 1,050 fps shoot exceptionally well.

The Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan may be small but it's still a handful in .500 Linebaugh.

Re-bored Colt Anaconda barrel is used by Jack on a Bisley Model .500 Special.

Jack’s Auto

This brings us to the final Huntington pistol which really is a pistol not a sixgun. I mentioned the names of Jack’s crew, and this custom 1911 was built up by Jason McEnfee starting with a Springfield Armory 1911A1. Anyone who doesn’t like 1911s is simply not to be trusted, and this 1911 is a top drawer pistol. It’s totally polished, tuned, and tightened, the hammer, trigger and sear are all replaced with custom parts, the trigger pull is set at three pounds, both the backstrap and front strap feature hand cut checkering, the safety is ambidextrous, both an extended slide release and beavertail grip safety have been fitted, the grips are finally checkered double diamond, the barrel is a Kart .45, and it shoots like a dream.

All of the niceties aid in shooting accurately, however you should not discount the importance of great sights. This custom .45 features a slanted post front sight set in a dovetail making it windage-adjustable, and the rear sight is a Heinie with a corresponding square notch. They are highly visible for me and combined with everything else make this such a pleasurable shooting pistol.

I have often, and earlier here, said what a pleasure it is to know and work with today’s great gunsmiths. The downside is I can’t afford to buy every gun I test. Everything I do is pleasurable except that trip to FedEx to return them.

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