Mix-N-Match Shooters


The amputated slide from one 1911 was grafted on the front of another by Jim Clark, Sr.
to create this long-slide Colt .38 Special wadcutter gun.

In Mary Shelley’s timeless novel, Dr. Frankenstein created his eponymous monster from body parts stolen from the grave and reanimated. Shooters have been known to do something similar, though the parts don’t necessarily come from no-longer-functional donors and often work out better for all concerned than Dr. Frankenstein’s creation.

Let me share with you some “Frankenguns” of my acquaintance that worked out just fine.

Python barrel on K-Frame Smith. The “Smython” is a classic Frankengun.

Massive Apex barrel, Aristocrat sight rib and Reeves Jungkind action turned this
old Colt Official Police .38 into an awesome PPC match gun.


In the early days of “police combat” revolver competition, the 6″ barrel .38 was the max you could use. Colt versus S&W was the handgun world’s version of Ford versus Chevy or Coke versus Pepsi and it was the Colt’s slightly greater accuracy versus the Smith & Wesson’s more “even” one-stage double-action pull. The Colt Python’s barrel tapered a thousandth of an inch toward the muzzle, driving the lead bullet tighter into the rifling grooves, which on the Colt were a 1:14″ twist compared to the Smith’s 1:18.75. The Colt seemed to better stabilize 148- to 158-gr. lead slugs.

Gun-savvy cops were grateful when Bill Davis, late of the California Highway Patrol, pioneered the concept of putting a Python barrel on a K-Frame S&W. The result, known variously as a “Smolt” and a “Smython,” combined the best of both brands. The NRA managed PPC competition soon caught onto this and changed the rules. They required in Distinguished or Service Revolver competition, the gun had to have its barrel made by the same company that manufactured the gun. My own Davis Custom Smython, via my good friend Chuck McDonald, is a treasured part of my collection even though it was soon supplanted by “PPC guns” with monster Douglas and Apex barrels and mounting BoMar or Aristocrat sight ribs.

I came to own some of the latter, Frankenguns in their own right, made by legends like Ron Power and Andy Cannon. My single sweetest, though, may have been a pre-war Colt Official Police tuned to single-stage DA by master Python mechanic Reeves Jungkind. The massive barrel was an inch and a quarter under its Aristocrat rib, but it always put the bullets where I aimed them.

John Lawson created this early Ayoob Special, a Combat Commander .45 with a 5"
ported Bar-Sto barrel, S&W micrometer sights and Hoag beavertail safety.


WWII hero Jim Clark Sr. became, in the early 1950s, the first and still the only civilian to win the National Pistol Championship in bullseye shooting without the benefit of having been funded by a military team. One of the great master gunsmiths, he was also the man credited with creating both the long-slide 1911 and a 1911 which could feed the blunt, rimmed .38 Special wadcutter revolver cartridge. An inch would be amputated from another 1911 slide to go onto the one of the chosen Colt .38 Super, a 6″ match grade .38 Special barrel would be enshrouded within and Jim would work his magic to make it all work with 100 percent reliability — not to mention a 2.5-lb. trigger pull.

By the time I could afford a Clark Custom long-slide, my bullseye days were long over but there were some PPC matches where it was allowed in Open Semi-Auto class. Mine won me a bunch of local PPC matches and also some falling plate shoots. It’s a most specialized piece of equipment, one of the finest firearms I own and I will always cherish it. Jim has left us, and just as sadly so has his son Jim Jr., but the family legacy of fine bespoke firearms lives on with his daughter Kay Clark-Miculek, his son-in-law Jerry Miculek, and the outstanding crew at Clark Custom.

Smith + Colt = Smolt, courtesy of the great gunsmith Bill Davis.

A Special Gun

The first “Ayoob Special,” built by the late, great John Lawson in Tacoma, was kind of a Frankengun. I had bonded with my first Colt .45 auto, a 5″ GI surplus model, at age 12 in 1960. By the ’70s, I had discovered the 4.25″ all-steel Combat Commander balanced a little better for me but seemed to have a bit more muzzle jump. I installed a 5″ barrel in one, planning to have the exposed part of the barrel Mag-na-ported, but it turned out the barrel lugs weren’t compatible between the Government Model barrel and Commander slide, and it broke. I sent it to John, who installed a 5″ barrel properly fitted, and it went thence to Larry Kelly at Mag-na-port — sure enough, muzzle jump was less than with the longer, heavier Government. It later got a Bar-Sto barrel, also ported, to enhance accuracy. I have it still, a sweet reminder of what was then state-of-the-art in a carry and competition .45.

Mix and match: I can confirm from personal experience that, at least sometimes, the concept works — and we’ve only touched a tip of the Frankengun iceberg.


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