Handguns Of Dave Lauck

Fancy But Functional BBQ Guns!

Dave’s handy with single actions too!

Long before I had much in the way of expendable income for buying sixguns I enjoyed looking at the works of such past gunsmiths as O’Meara, Houchins, Sedgely and Eimer as well as custom sixguns from the King Gun Sight Company. They were among the top sixgunsmiths customizing Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers in between the two world wars. I found pictures of their works in old copies of American Rifleman as well as several books. Today we are blessed with a wide range of revolvers, semi-autos, and single shots in virtually every possible chambering, as well as being offered in not only the traditional blued steel but stainless steel, polymers, titanium, scandium and possibly even un-obtainium. Our choices are almost endless; in fact so much so one might think there would be no need for custom sixgunsmiths today — but think again. The greatest pistolsmiths who ever lived are practicing their creative art right alongside all the factory offerings.

A blued, retro-1911 made for a client who wanted a 95 percent retro-look, but also built
to be “shooter” he could use in Pike-style matches.

D&L’s Centennial model, serial no. 101, for the 101st year of the 1911.

Then And Now

Elmer Keith used the first three mentioned custom sixgunsmiths in building several of his special Colt Single Actions, including the famous #5 SAA that he considered the ultimate .44 Special. I never dreamed I would someday have a large shooting collection of factory revolvers, let alone custom sixguns, semi-automatics, and single-shots. It has been my privilege to have guns built by such top gunsmiths as Bob Baer, Hamilton Bowen, Dick Casull, John Gallagher, Jimmy Clark, David Clements, Brian Cosby, Ben Forkin, Alan Harton, Jack Huntington, J.D. Jones, Ken Kelly, John Linebaugh, Milt Morrison, Gary Reeder, Jim Stroh and Bill Wilson. The beautiful sixguns and semi-automatics pictured here are from another top line gunsmith who has also touched guns for me, namely Dave Lauck, the 1-man operation that is D&L Sports, of Chino Valley, Ariz.

I don’t know if the old line-gunsmiths from the 1930s era ever worked together in an organization to promote high-quality gunsmithing, in fact I doubt it very much. However, today the American Pistolmiths Guild exists to do that very thing. Each year, one of the members is chosen as pistolsmith of the year, and for 2012 that award has been presented to Dave Lauck.

Imperfection To Invention

Dave got into custom pistolsmithing for the same reason several others who are now Guild members started. In his own words: “I put aside money to send one of my personal 1911s to one of the big name shops of the time, and when it came back, it was a disappointment, so I studied on how to make the 1911 run ever since. Decades, and literally millions of rounds of .45 ACP later, they seem much better. When you literarily shoot things until they break, you learn what parts need to be improved, and then you continue shooting until it breaks in the process. That is where my heavy-duty line of sub-parts came from.” The unintended outcome of his first pistol, custom-built by someone else, is the fact it turned him into one of our top pistolsmiths.

Dave has used his own creations not only in competition but also actually on the street, as he spent 27 years in law enforcement with experience in investigations, SWAT, narcotics, sniper and patrol. All of this background shows up in his pistols, and as he says every one has to be one he would carry himself — or it does not go out to a client. Many of his customers are special operations personnel who absolutely must have the best possible equipment. And he also says his goal is every pistol he builds is better than the last one.

Taffin’s Lauck Sixguns

I know of Dave’s work personally as he has worked on a pair of Smith & Wessons for me as well as two Ruger Vaqueros. The Smiths are nickel-plated 4″ Model 29s, which Dave slicked-up internally and also smoothed and rounded the face of the triggers and reduced the size of the thumb piece on the target hammers, making them much more suitable for fast double action work. Stag grips were expertly fitted and I then added Tyler T-Grip adapters to make them much easier to handle in the double-action mode.

The Vaqueros, both stainless steel, and one in .45 Colt, the other .44-40, were also slicked-up, fitted with stag grips, and had the long barrels shortened even with the ejector rod to aid in speed from leather. All of these custom touches were very minor compared to much of the work Dave does.

Dave also offers a replacement fixed rear sight for Smith & Wesson revolvers. This sight is minus any sharp edges, gives a nice square easy-to-see sight picture, and totally fills in the area on the top of the Smith taken up by the rear sight assembly. This sight was designed for anyone desiring a heavy-duty sight, which cannot get out of adjustment.

It proved to be just the thing I needed to rescue a Smith & Wesson Triple-Lock, which dates back to the time before WWI. Someone had done his best to butcher what was at one time a fine sixgun. They cut the barrel to 4″, remounted the front sight, nickel-plated the entire firearm, and then cut a channel to accept a modern style Smith & Wesson rear sight assembly. When it came into my possession, at a very low price because of its condition, the channel was there, however no rear sight had ever been added. I had my gunsmith, Tom at Buckhorn, install the D&L rear sight assembly along with a post-front sight, and now at least I have a shootable sixgun.

Professional model.

A Master’s Tribute

Personally I have been shooting 1911s since 1956. I am no expert in either his use or quality, however I do know what I like. Someone who is an expert in the use of the 1911 is our own Clint Smith.

Clint had this to say: “Dave Lauck, of D&L Sports from Gillette, Wyo. (now Chino Valley, Ariz.), built the first Thunder Ranch Special. Dave is a well-versed instructor, tactician, writer and gunsmith. This quiet man built and gave me the pistol as a gift in 1992 in recognition of the opening of Thunder Ranch. The silver-finish, full-sized 1911 is built on a Colt pistol. It has a small ambidextrous safety and Novak sights with night insert, and the slide has forward press check serrations. The slide lock ‘button’ that normally extrudes from the right side of the receiver is milled flush. The pistol has an extended beavertail and Commander-style hammer. The front and backstraps are hand checkered. The Lauck gun bearers a Thunder Ranch shield, sans the lightning bolt with the words ‘Thunder Ranch Special’ engraved diagonally across the shield where the three cross stripes are. There has been only one of these pistols built in this configuration with these markings. It has been, and is today, a very reliable and accurate handgun. I still have this pistol, and it was the first custom pistol I ever owned.”

An interesting hard-chrome 4" Model 29 .44, done for UFC Champ Randy Couture,
when he came for a hunt on Dave’s property.

Great Guns=Grand Photos

Let’s take a look at some of Dave’s creations in the beautiful photos by Chuck Pittman. Here at American Handgunner we have been blessed with great photographers over the years. So much so, we often take them for granted. Years ago, at least 30 or so, there was a fellow who did superb photography to back up many of Skeeter’s sixgun articles. When I ran into him at an NRA Show and complimented him on his work he said I was the first one to ever express such. As a writer, I definitely understand a picture is worth a thousand words, so enjoy Chuck’s great photographs of some truly grand handguns by Dave Lauck.

There are several 1911s pictured. First comes the Centennial 1911 which is serial numbered 101 for 101 years of the 1911. Dave is one of those, like many of us, who believe the 1911 has never been bested and is basically the best combination of handling, safety, reliability, shootability, power, size, weight, capacity, accuracy and on and on and on. Dave says with the right tuning it is still, after 100 years, the best overall defensive handgun package. The Centennial is his tribute to a great pistol.

Ever since I was privileged to visit Charlie Schreiner’s private museum on the YO Ranch, I’ve been interested in Texas Ranger history reading many books covering all their various time periods. One thing is for sure no matter whether the Rangers were in or out, up or down, they were definitely flamboyant. To celebrate the Rangers, Dave has created a pair of Texas Ranger 1911s. These are beautiful examples of what is known as BBQ guns in Texas. A BBQ gun is known for its striking appearance and is normally worn at special occasions where form highly trumps function. However, a unique aspect of the Texas Rangers is the fact BBQ guns were standard daily wear, and as such, function must at least equal form.

A 3" J-frame with D&L sights “melted” into the frame.

BBQ Guns That Work

Dave’s pair of BBQ 1911s are actually his full house Professional Models. They are definitely beautiful on the outside, however this is teamed up with perfection in performance. Dave refuses, as he says, “… to bling-out a stock base gun” that does not have total inner reliability, allowing it to be trusted as a carry gun. Any of these beautifully enhanced pistols and sixguns pictured, are also totally dependable working guns.

Along with the pair of Texas Ranger 1911s, we also have a pair of sixguns representative of earlier Texas Ranger sidearms. At least up until the time between the two world wars, the standard Texas Ranger sidearm was the Colt Single Action. These were usually worn in pairs, often engraved, and most assuredly equipped with ivory or pearl grips, which were also most assuredly a badge of office for the Rangers. Dave’s .45 Colts, whether 1911s or Single Actions, are a fitting tribute to a great, long-standing law enforcement organization.

And not to forget another great organization we have a custom 1911 done for a former Marine as a tribute to his service and the Corps. We can never, ever thank our servicemen and women enough. This Lauck gun is definitely a fitting tribute. The final 1911 is a most striking example, complete with presentation box. This was built up for a client’s use in Wild Bunch matches.

The chambers of my sixgunning heart are just about equally spaced between 1911s, Single Actions and Smith & Wesson .44s. I like ’em all. Dave, as mentioned earlier, did a pair of Smith & Wesson .44 Magnums for me. Pictured, we have a couple other beautifully enhanced Smith .44s. One is a silver-plated and engraved 4″ .44 Magnum that was ordered by a highly supportive and dedicated wife for her husband upon his retirement as Deputy Sheriff. The second one, done in hard chrome, was done for UFC Champ Randy Couture when he came for a hunting trip while Dave was still residing in Wyoming. Earlier, Dave made up a Presentation Grade 1911 for the ultimate proponent of the use of our greatest pistol, namely Jeff Cooper, when he visited in Wyoming. That pistol now resides in the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody.

Leather by Purdy Gear

Dave does regular work with the Texas Rangers. Here’s the Professional model with custom touches.

Signature 1911 Professional Model with SureFire light.

Make My Day

If you’ve been around shooting long enough, you remember how hard it was to find a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum in the 1970s. If one was located it usually went for double or triple retail. Smith was working around the clock trying to meet the demand which was caused, by of all things, a movie. In the early 1970s, Clint Eastwood brought his portrayal of Dirty Harry to the big screen. Remember “make my day”? As Dirty Harry he was armed with a .44 Magnum Smith, and the rush was on by folks who had no shooting experience, yet simply had to have a Dirty Harry .44. We managed to survive all this and eventually not only did the price come down on Smiths, but Ruger and Dan Wesson also started making double action .44 Magnums. Dave Lauck’s tribute to Clint Eastwood was instituted by several of Clint’s friends. Clint graciously accepted the beautifully embellished Model 29 and now keeps it in a special place in his personal office.

So, congratulations to Dave Lauck on his selection as Pistolsmith of the Year for 2012 by the Guild, and more importantly, congratulations and thank you for providing us with examples of handgun art, which are also highly efficient fighting or hunting handguns.

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