The Legacy of Wayne Baker Founder of Freedom arms


Freedom Arms

Prototypes of the Wayne Baker Signature Editions of the Model 83 and Model 97 from Freedom Arms.

The wide array of sixguns we have today comes from the vision of three men, namely Sam Colt, Daniel Wesson and Bill Ruger. Both Colt and Wesson were gone by the time their companies offered the sixguns we consider classics today. Both companies built the best guns they could possibly produce to show what their companies could do.

However, there’s one small company challenging all three of these companies and their combined hundreds of years of experience. This little company in Star Valley Wyoming produces what is the finest revolver ever to come from a factory. It’s exceptionally strong, maintains extremely tight tolerances, and is the most powerful sixgun available in a Perfect Packin’ Pistol size.

In the late 1970s an entrepreneur by the name of Wayne Baker and custom sixgunsmith Dick Casull came together to form Freedom Arms. It was my privilege to meet both of these men nearly 40 years ago and I’m pleased to call them friends. Dick passed away this past year, while Wayne remains founder and owner of Freedom Arms. Freedom Arms produced the first .22 mini-revolver in 1979, while at the same time working on perfecting the .454 Casull Revolver.

Even before the advent of the .44 Magnum, Dick had been working on his idea of a .45 Magnum. He started with custom Colt Single Actions with 5-shot cylinders, and then built his own single actions to handle the power of the .45 Magnum. Dick came up with the .454 but it remained for Wayne Baker and Freedom Arms to actually produce it.

Without Wayne Baker the .454 Casull would never have become a factory sixgun and cartridge combination, nor would it have survived once it did. It was a long hard process taking nearly 30 years, but finally in 1983 the first factory-built .454 Casull from the new Freedom Arms factory on the Wyoming/Idaho border was delivered. From the very beginning the philosophy has been to build the best — or don’t build it at all.

Freedom Arms

Inscription to be found on the barrel of the Wayne Baker Signature Edition Freedom Arms revolver showcases Wayne’s strong entrepreneurial spirit!

Freedom Arms

Wayne’s signature will be found on the back strap of both the Model 83 and Model 97 revolvers.

Models 83 & 97

Originally the Model 83, chambered in .454, was a fixed-sighted sixgun. Dick was an admirer of the Colt Single Action and intended his creation to have the same sighting system, with a square notch trough running the length of the top strap matched up with a fixed front sight. However, the Freedom Arms .454 was definitely capable of outshooting the fixed sights. Wayne wanted Dick to design an adjustable sight for the .454, however, as a pure traditionalist Dick refused.

So Wayne designed one and as he shared with me, it was so bad Dick had to design one himself in self-defense. The result was the excellent adjustable rear sight now found on the .454 and which can also be removed to accept a scope mount. Today fully 90 percent of the Model 83s sold are set up with the adjustable sight/scope mount option. The incredible accuracy of the .454, at least for most of us, can only be appreciated with the proper sights. Game-gathering 200-yard shots with scoped Freedom Arms sixguns are not unusual.

In 1997, the second Freedom Arms Revolver arrived. This sixgun is smaller than the original and became the Model 97. Both of these sixguns are built of the finest materials and the closest possible tolerances. The Model 83 is available in such chamberings as the original .454, as well as the .44 Magnum, .475 Linebaugh and the .500 Wyoming Express.

The smaller, easier-to-pack every day Model 97 is available in .22, .357 Magnum, .44 Special, .41 Magnum and .45 Colt.

Wayne Baker

Wayne with the Model 97 and Model 83 Signature Editions. Wayne’s a WWII vet with 32 bombing missions over Germany under his belt!

Visiting Wayne

In a recent visit with Wayne Baker he showed me the prototypes of two limited production Freedom Arms revolvers. And as he shared I also saw his humility come through. Years ago Freedom Arms produced the .454 Dick Casull Signature Edition as a tribute to the contributions of Dick Casull. Wayne emphatically shared he did not want to take anything away from Dick Casull who was a pure firearms genius. Because of this he was somewhat reluctant to share the two prototype revolvers on the Model 83 and Model 97.

These two special sixguns will have Wayne’s signature on the back strap and he was not sure this was totally appropriate. However, many have asked for such a sixgun and encouraged him to do it so in spite of his misgivings Freedom Arms is going ahead with this limited run. These will be available on the Model 83 and the Model 97. Both will have octagon barrels, with the Model 83 being a 6″ .454, while the .45 Colt Model 97 will have a 3″ barrel and rounded butt for easy packing and concealment.

Both will have Wayne’s signature on the back strap as well as “An American Entrepreneur” engraved on the barrel above the ejector rod. The prototype pictures do not show it, however both will also be engraved. The plans are to make 20 Model 83’s all chambered in .454, while the Model 97 will be available in .45 Colt. The decision is yet to be made, however, the .357 Magnum may also be available in the Model 97. They will also be limited to 20 examples.

Most of us at least think about what legacy we will leave behind. Legacies come naturally as a result of how we live. Wayne Baker’s legacy is Freedom Arms, however it’s not his only legacy. In fact, it is not even his greatest. Wayne is a member of the fast disappearing Greatest Generation. He served in World War II, flying 32 bombing missions over Germany as the flight engineer on a B24 in the 93rd Bombardment Group.

However, even this is not his greatest legacy. Wayne is a firm believer in the four F’s: Faith, Family, Friends and Firearms all of which give us our freedom. I would say Wayne’s Greatest Legacy is his family. He married the love of his life, Mariam Baker. A wise man once said behind every good man is a better woman. Mariam was his partner and greatest encourager from the time they married in 1945. When she passed recently they had been married 73 years. They had eight children, 40 grandchildren, 120 great-grandchildren and he will admit he’s lost track of the great-great grandchildren. He’s a staunch supporter of the Constitution and a solid patriot. I know of no man I have ever met whom I admire more than Wayne Baker. You can read more about his life in his autobiography, Above The Clouds: The Story of an American Entrepreneur.

For more info: Freedom Arms,

, Ph: (307) 883-2468

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