Jim 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 bullets and loading his own ammunition, training on his own.
In the early 1950s, Clark bought 20 Colt .38 Super pistols and converted them to shoot .38 Special wadcutter match ammunition. He wasn’t the only gunsmith doing so, but none of these conversions was more highly regarded than Clark’s. Another idea came when he bought (for 10 cents each) hundreds of 1911 slides the military had cut in two and sold 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.
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