The return of the National Matches (Post-WW2)

A new crop of civilian pistolsmiths began to replace those who did not continue after WW2.

“Accurizing the Auto Pistol” GUNS Magazine – June 1955 (Page 33)

John Giles

Jim Clark, Sr.

Here is a 1960-vintage profile of gunsmith and Bullseye champion Jim Clark, Sr. by Grits Gresham.
“He Broke the Pistol Title Jinx” GUNS Magazine – August 1960 (Page 16)

Col. Charles Askins profiled Clark again in 1972.
“Jim Clark – Master Pistolsmith” GUNS Magazine – January 1972 (Page 28)

Alton Dinan

Austin Behlert

Here is a 1972 profile of Behlert by Mason Williams.
“The Wonderful Wizard of Cranford” GUNS Magazine – February 1972 (Page 24)

A posthumous tribute
Behlert Collection

Bob Chow entry

Bob Chow – Olympian Rapid Fire Shooter, 1948

Ichiro Nagata shows off his Bob Chow carry pistol

Richard Shockey

US Patent #2,627,686 – Recoil reducer and accuracy improver

US Patent #3,365,829 – Apparatus for improving the accuracy of a firearm

George Elliason

1964 ad

One of the premiere civilian pistolsmiths of the 1950s-60s, Elliason represented the ‘E’ in HEG. The HEG-Triangle rear sight can also be found stamped with Elliason’s name as the Model GMS, and a variant was also sold by BoMar as early as 1962. Speaking of BoMar, the BMCS Deluxe was a variant of yet another Elliason design, the Model GMS-F, covered by US Patent D191112.

Elliason Model GMS rear sight

Of course, most will recognize Elliason as the designer of the adjustable rear sight used on the Colt Gold Cup starting in 1965. Elliason sold this replacement for the Colt Accro separately as the Model C. In addition, the original Kensight (pre-KFS Industries) rear sight was yet another Elliason design, possibly named the Model G. The latter was essentially the Model C sight mounted on a dovetail base. The Kensight’s appeal was that it did not require the slide to be drilled and tapped for the elevation screw. US Army National Match builds in 1966 used the Elliason-branded version. The following year saw the use of both Elliason and Kensight-branded versions of the sight.

I seem to remember a chart from a vintage issue of American Rifleman in which match-grade 1911 from top civilian pistolsmiths were set head-to-head against one of the Army’s own National Match builds. Few editors today would publish that for fear of lawsuits and lost ad revenue. Elliason’s sample topped the USAMU pistol, while one or two of the other custom submissions were actually less accurate than an unmodified GI pistol!

(FWIW: The ‘H’ and ‘G’ of HEG were Col. William A. Hancock and Herman D. Gano, both from the USAMU. Hancock had been the captain of the AMU’s pistol team during the mid/late 1950s and won the National Trophy Individual Pistol Match at the 1954 National Matches. Gano was a civilian employee working as the team’s gunsmith. Gano was one of the main forces behind the creation of High Standard’s electric-trigger Free Pistol, as well as the .38 AMU, the semi-rimmed fraternal twin of the .38 Special wadcutter. Gano’s experimental work with the .38 AMU in the S&W Model 39 also led to the development of the S&W Model 52.)

Circa 1950 – Pistolsmiths gave birth to .38 Special Wadcutter conversions of the Colt Super .38 pistol.

1954-1968 – Renewed military interest resulted in official service-built National Match pistols.  This resulted in a major increase in technical expertise and the production of match grade parts.

US Military Match and Marksmanship Automatic Pistols” (2005)

Circa 1955 – First integrally ramped M1911 barrel was produced by Jim Clark, Sr. for his .38 Special Wadcutter conversions.

Circa 1956 – After the NRA authorizes the use of adjustable sights in Service Pistol competition, USMC armorers begin mounting S&W K-Frame revolver rear sights to their match builds’ slides.

1957 – Colt responded with the Gold Cup National Match. 

1960 – Colt introduced its own .38 Special Wadcutter pistol – the Gold Cup National Match Mid-Range.

US Patent #2,959,107 – Automatic pistol firing mechanism

1965 ad

1961 – Smith & Wesson introduced their own .38 Special Wadcutter pistol – the Model 52.

US Patent #3,152,418 – Single or double action firearm

US Patent #3,158,064 – Firearm with a pivotable barrel having a spherical hump engaging a slide member

In the June 1961 issue of The American Rifleman, John F. Rollins and Richard L. Shockey identified the faulty headspacing issue of the factory Colt Super .38 barrel in their article “Accurizing the Colt Super .38.” Shockey ended up sleeving the factory chamber and recutting it to headspace on the chamber mouth.

Circa 1962 – Jim Clark, Sr. produced the first long-slide conversion.

Max Atchisson developed the first aftermarket full-length guide rod for the M1911

Pachmayr Signature Model conversion (Frank Pachmayr, George Hoening, and Edward Miller)

Here is a 1977 vintage review by J.D. Jones in American Handgunner. (Page 21)

The following are all of the patents for the Pachmayr Signature Model conversion.

Pistol barrel mounting structure

Gun barrel locating structure

Gun head space takeup elements

Gun barrel bushing structures

Gun slide guiding devices

Mounting structure for pistol barrels

Gun having movably mounted barrel

Gun recoil spring assembly

Jeff Cooper and the Creation of Practical Shooting Sports
Big Bear Leatherslaps (~1956), Bear Valley Gunslingers (~1959) & Southwest Combat Pistol League (~1963)

Southwest Pistol League Past Champions

Elden Carl’s Recollections of a Combat Master

The rise of the practical gunsmiths and “combat conversions”

Circa 1958 First extended M1911 thumb safety

Armand Swenson (1965)

“The Classic Swenson…” by Jason Burton

“A Swenson Custom Colt 1911”

“The Custom Combat Auto Pistol” GUNS Magazine – November 1968 (Page 22)

“Swenson Takes on the Browning High Power” GUNS Magazine – June 1970 (Page 28)

Here is a 1978 American Handgunner profile. (Page 44)

Swenson Custom 1911 ID Guide

Pistol safety mechanism adapted for right or left hand operation

Gun sight

Automatic slide guard

George Sheldon

Paris Theodore – ASP

Here is a 1979 review from American Handgunner magazine. (Page 24)

Grips for Handguns



Jim Hoag

“Custom .45s by Hoag” American Handgunner – Sept/Oct 1979 (Page 28)

“The Handguns of James W. Hoag”

A Guide to the Custom Handguns of Jim Hoag-Gunsmith to the Stars

Austin Behlert

Gun sight

Adjustable gun trigger mechanism

Pachmayr Combat Special (Tom Dornhaus and Craig Wetstein – 1972)

Pachmayr Combat Special Collectors Guide

1 Comment

  1. Wild, wild west says:

    Brief? Heh-heh. You do have a sense of humor after all.


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