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American Handgunner Jul/Aug 2011 Digital Edition - Page 28

BETTERSHOOTING Dave Anderson Jim fought in WWII as a Marine and saw front-line combat. Master Pistolsmith Jim Clark Sr. J im Clark Sr. (1923–2000) was a remarkable man. He could not only build match-winning pistols, he could shoot them too. Competing in NRA bullseye he won the US National championship in 1958. As a gunmaker he won the 1985 Pistolsmith of the Year award. A rough equivalent would be designing and building an Indy 500 racecar, then climbing into the cockpit and winning the race. Clark’s 1958 win is all the more amazing. It was an era when competitors who were supported and equipped by military shooting programs totally dominated. Clark (who had seen combat as a WWII Marine) won his title as a civilian; building his own guns, casting Jim Clark, the smiling man so many of his bullets and loading his own ammunition, training on his own. customers and industry In the early 1950s, Clark bought 20 Colt .38 Super pistols and people knew. converted them to shoot .38 Special wadcutter match ammunition. Jim — grin and all — He wasn’t the only gunsmith doing so, but none of these converwith a perfect target (five “tens”), a few sions was more highly regarded than Clark’s. Another idea came when he bought years prior to his win (for 10 cents each) hundreds of 1911 slides the military had cut in two and sold at the nationals. as surplus. What do you do with hundreds of half-slides? Jim Clark used the parts to make his famous “long slides” which many competitors came to prefer for their long sight radius. His many innovations were not limited to bullseye competition. When action/ practical shooting competition took off in the 1970s, the Clark “Pinmaster” was developed for the popular Second Chance match. John Shaw used a Clark Pin Gun to win the US IPSC (in the pre-USPSA era) in 1980 and again in 1981. Clark Bullseye Pistol he pistol shown here is a fine example of a classic Clark bullseye pistol. The Colt Government Model on which it’s built dates to early 1967. Clark built on customer-supplied guns, but also bought new Colts, modified them and then marketed them as competition-ready pistols. I suspect this is one of the latter. So, 40-plus years ago Clark tightened the slide/frame fit, installed a match grade barrel and bushing, tuned the trigger to a crisp pull (currently it weighs 3½ pounds), fitted an undercut post front sight and Bo-Mar adjustable rear sight, and generally honed and fitted it for flawless operation and accuracy. The mainspring housing was altered to a “semi-arched” design and stippled. The frontstrap has Clark’s renowned “tiger tooth” stippling, done freehand with a small sharp punch and hammer. This one was done for a right-handed shooter so the stippling was done from the left side so the raised teeth provide maximum traction to a right hand grip. The sharp stippling is fine for a bullseye gun where the shooter has time to carefully adjust his grip before the command to fire. I’d say it isn’t practical on a carry gun as it snags This nice bullseye pistol was built on a 1967-era Colt Governeasily on cloth. ment Model in .45 ACP by Clark Custom. Features include an undercut front sight dovetailed in from the front of the slide, It also makes Bo-Mar adjustable rear sight, long trigger, stippled it difficult frontstrap and mainspring housing. to make minor grip adjustments between “leather and lineup” as is sometimes necessary in practical shooting. The Clark Custom pistol is a pleasure to shoot, with its excellent sight picture, clean trigger break and fine accuracy. Five shot groups from a rest at 25 yards ran 2" with lead 200-gr. SWC bullets, and from 1" to 1½" with Federal 230-gr. ball. Clark pistols are notable for their reliability and this one was no exception. 28 T ClArk CusTom ToDAy A lthough Jim Clark Sr. died in 2000, the company he founded, Clark Custom Guns, is still turning out quality gun parts and fine custom guns under the direction of Jim Clark Jr. who not so incidentally is an outstanding and accomplished competitive shooter. Clark-built guns are still winning matches, including national titles in the hands of top shooters such as Jim Sr.’s daughter Kay Clark Miculek, who has won many national action and practical matches. Clark Custom builds custom revolvers and rifles as well as 1911style pistols for personal defense, action/practical shooting competition and bullseye competition. The current Premier Bullseye pistol looks very much like this old classic, except it’s fitted with a base for optical sights. In fact many of Jim Clark Sr.’s originals have been fitted with optics and are still being shot regularly. For more info: www.americanhandgunner. com/clark-custom-guns-inc * WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • JULY/AUGUST2011

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