Pugsley was born in Minnesota. He attended El Camino Junior College, the University of Florida, and graduated from UCLA. After serving in the U.S. Army, he spent a year cruising on a 38-foot sailboat, and another year living in Mexico with his wife and children. He then returned to the U.S. and spent the next two decades as a businessman.
In the late 1950s to mid 1960's Pugsley worked at General Dynamics - Astronautics Sycamore Canyon Rocket Test facility as a technical writer. Among other projects, he wrote countdown procedures for Atlas and Centaur Rocket tests.
In the late 1960s Pugsley entered the investment business, where he founded a publishing company (The Common Sense Press) and wrote his first book, Common Sense Economics. It sold over 150,000 hardcover copies. His second book, The Alpha Strategy (1980), was on the New York Times bestseller list for nine weeks in 1981. Pugsley distributed a PDF format edition of the book, free of charge. (as of Jan 2012, the author's domain has expired. A reposting of the PDF has been provided by fans) Even after 31 years in circulation (as of 2012), The Alpha Strategy is considered a standard reference on stocking up on food and household goods as a hedge against inflation. This has made the book popular with survivalists.
In Common Sense Economics he cites as influences, Murray Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, and Ludwig von Mises, and subsequent works also cite the influence of Andrew J. Galambos. In 1995 he authored an open letter to Harry Browne advising him against running for president; Pugsley's argument against Browne running was based on the principles of voluntaryism and non-voting.
In 1975 he began a newsletter on economic and political events, Common Sense Viewpoint (1974), which had 30,000 subscribers at its peak. In 1988 he began publication of John Pugsley's Journal, an investment-economic newsletter covering political, economic, and investment topics.
In the mid-1970s, after reading E.O. Wilson's book, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Pugsley began to study evolutionary biology. As his study continued over the subsequent 25 years, Pugsley founded The Bio-Rational Institute. Currently, the Institute's website is not regularly updated.
Pugsley was one of the founding members of The Eris Society. In 1997, Pugsley helped to found The Sovereign Society, an international organization dedicated to maintaining the privacy and protecting the wealth and liberty of its members. The society is primarily geared toward expatriate relocation and offshore banking and trusts. Pugsley was the Chairman of the society at the time of his death and wrote a monthly column for their e-newsletter The Sovereign Individual. In 2006, Pugsley founded "The Stealth Investor", a weekly e-letter stock advisory letter. He also wrote for The Daily Reckoning e-newsletter.
Pugsley had a blog that was infrequently updated.
Later years and death
Near the end of his life, Pugsley lived in Carlsbad, California, and just prior to moving to Carlsbad he lived aboard the 50-foot sloop named Eris Island in the Abacos, Bahamas, along with Kiana Delamare. Delamare has written for EscapeArtist.com  and the International Living e-newsletter.
He died at age 77 on April 8, 2011.
- Common Sense Economics (1974) ISBN 978-0-917572-00-5
- The Metals Investors Handbook (1983) ISBN 9780917572043
- The Alpha Strategy: The Ultimate Plan of Financial Self-Defense for the Small Investor (1980) ISBN 978-0-936906-04-1
- The Bank Book (1981) ASIN B00070VD7W
- The Copper Play (1980)
- The Interest Rate Strategy (1982) ASIN B0006QV052
- "FreedomFest Speakers List, 2007". Archived from the original on 2012-02-08.
- "A brief biography of John A. Pugsley". Archived from the original on 2011-10-03.
- "Best Sellers - Time Magazine Best Sellers".
- "book2 preface" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 November 2005.
- "Reposted PDF of The Alpha Strategy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-20.
- "SurvivalBlog.com mention of Pugsley's book". Archived from the original on 2012-10-16.
- "SurvivalBlog.com mention of Pugsley's book". Archived from the original on 2012-10-06.
- Pugsley, John, Common Sense Economics. The Common Sense Press, 1976, p. v-vi
- Pugsley, John, "An Open Letter from John Pugsley to Harry Browne: Harry Browne, Please Don't Run For President", published in The Voluntaryist number 74, June 1995, p. 1-7.
- A brief biography of John A. Pugsley Archived October 3, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- "The Eris Society". Archived from the original on 2014-05-17.
- "The Stealth Investor". Archived from the original on 2012-02-27.
- Life on Eris Island, part 3, Setting sail at long last: glorious days in the Bahamas Archived January 25, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- Jack Pugsley, RIP, LewRockwell.com (blog), April 8, 2011 Archived May 12, 2013 at the Wayback Machine