1911-A1 Pistols Post WWII 1911 pistols.
Comments from Bob Hutchinson.
Clark History & Long Heavy Slide 1911s
6 inch Long Slide >>
In operation of the family manufacturing business my Dad had occasion to have a few dozen parts machined from time to time by a local machine shop contractor. At about age 15, I would go with him to pick up the parts at the small shop next to the Jersey Gold milk factory in Shreveport, LA. I was fascinated by the other work being done in the shop. The machinist was working on guns, 1911-A1 pistols. The year was 1956.
The machinist was James E. Clark. Jim Clark became my mentor for pistols, rifles, shooting and reloading. He was like a father to me. I spent many hours with him learning all I could about firearms, shooting and reloading. I particularly developed interest in 1911 guns and how to improve them.
In The Old Days
Clark was one of the first to customize the Ruger .22 cal. semi-auto pistol with the superb premium Douglas barrels and "Clark" trigger. His Ruger custom .22 cal. bullseye guns became really popular in match competition. He then perfected winning center fire target 1911 pistols.
I used to watch him prepare, fixture, preheat and weld the end cut from a military slide to another slide or Colt 38 Super slide as the beginning of the long heavy slide .38 wad cutter bullseye guns. He made the six inch barrels by drilling and reaming the cut off rear end of military barrels to accept his custom six inch barrels with integral feed ramp machined from premium Douglas barrel blanks. He used an induction heater to silver solder the Douglas barrel into the prepared lock up stub. Later, after the long slide guns took off Clark had others make the the long slide blanks for further production.
Jim had great success in providing winning guns to bullseye shooters with his five and six inch .38 Spl. & .45 cal. wad cutter 1911A1 guns. This success prompted Colt to bring out .38 Spl. midrange bullseye guns. The Clark long heavy slide 6 incher originated the 6 inch 1911 guns. Most manufacturers ultimately offered 6 inch long slide guns.
In 1958 Jim Clark, a civilian, won the title "National Pistol Championship". Most don't know that in the .45 competition he used a slick.45 ACP model 25 S&W, 6 inch barrel revolver. I believe even now, still the only civilian to win that title. After, he knew the center fire bullseye matches would require semi-autos of heavier mass, long heavy slides and 1 1/2 inch 10 shot accuracy at 50 yards.
Clark Custom Guns continues today under the leadership of Jim Clark's grandson as his dad, Jim Clark, Jr. passed away too young in December 2015. in Princeton, LA.
Previously Clark was in Keithville, LA. My years of learning from Jim were previous to his Keithville operation. His shop was behind his home in far West Shreveport.
I used to help him setup to perform his 10 shot 50 yard print test of these fine bullseye guns. On occasion we would print 10 shots to a 1 1/2" group at 50 yards from the modified Ransom rest. This was before he started using the Giles slide guide which helps machine rest printing.
Jim, being a pilot with his own plane, regularly urged me to consider pursuing aviation and I did. In 1974, with fresh commercial pilot license, I moved to Houston to fly for an industrial distributor. I stayed in contact and continued urging him to pursue establishment of the Pistolsmith Guild.
The last gun he personally made for me was a Colt 70 Series Commander converted to a compensated "Pin Master" that is still in my collection of 1911 guns. It's been lost, but I had the test target for years with the 10 shot 1 1/2" group from the 4 1/4" Commander. This was the best double tap pistol I ever used.
Although mostly partially retired, I continue with some pistols and rifle work and manage of one of the largest 1911 and rifle collections in the Southwest. Modifying, enhancing and refinishing 1911 guns to perfection and beauty is a labor of love. I have always appreciated fine sporting rifles made by truly skilled riflesmiths, especially before and after WWI and WWII. Bought my first AR-15 in the 60s. Laid off ARs for a few years, and started back buying, collecting and assembling new and custom ARs in 5.56 NATO, 6.8 SPC, .30 ACC, 7.62x39 and 7.62 NATO, many with Piston impingement, left side and right side charge receivers.
The AR design, recognized as seriously flawed design as a volume bullet spraying combat rifle. Events certainly shows us how effective lobbyist can be in influencing government and military decision makers. Interesting that every later 5.56mm design of other NATO and Western militaries, would not utilize the crap-where-you-eat impingement actuation system. However, since there are some 40+ million of them existing and more coming, we just live with the cheapo design.
~ Bob Hutchinson