Past Masters Of The Double-Action Sixgun Part VII

Bill Jordan & John Lachuk

Bill Jordan, John Taffin and Harry Reeves at the 1993 Outstanding American Handgunner
Awards Foundation banquet where Bill and John presented Harry with his bronze.

There is no doubt we are living in the age of the semi-automatic pistol. However, this was not always the case and during the last century, especially from the 1920s to the 1970s, the double-action sixgun was definitely the King.

There were many men who raised the use of the DA revolver to both a high art and science. These men need to be remembered for their contributions and with this in mind we go back in history when six shots were the norm. All of these men are now gone. As a kid never did I ever imagine I would actually know many of these sixgunners.

Bill Jordan

One of the most popular TV shows in the 1950s was called You Asked For It hosted by Art Baker. Viewers would write in asking to see certain things and their wishes would be fulfilled. I was just a kid when I saw Border Patrol Assistant Chief Inspector William H. “Bill” Jordan, as requested by a viewer, performing his feats of quick draw on camera using his favorite Smith & Wesson .357 Combat Magnum.

Later, in 1965, Jordan published his book appropriately titled No Second Place Winner, which I eagerly purchased. I had no inkling at the time, nor would’ve ever believed our paths would cross in the future. Some 25 years later Bill presented me with a second copy of his book inscribed: “To John Taffin—Like your writing. Keep it up. Bill Jordan”

The receiving of the book was a most memorable occasion in the very early 1990s as I met with both Bill Jordan and a young shooter just really getting started by the name of Jerry Miculek as we gathered together at the home of another fine gentleman, Jimmy Clark outside of Shreveport Louisiana. It didn’t take my Northwestern ears long to tune in to the southern speech of these three men. Since that time both Bill and Jimmy have passed on, Jerry has been married to Jimmy Clark’s daughter for several years, and of course has become the most famous double-action shooter of all times. Within a few years I would become the chairman of the Outstanding American Handgunner Awards Foundation with Bill Jordan serving as my VP.

Bill Jordan was a big man in more ways than one standing 6-1/2 feet tall. He, of course, was instrumental in getting Smith & Wesson to produce the Combat Magnum which was basically a K-Frame Military & Police with a heavy barrel complete with an enclosed ejector rod and chambered in the more effective .357 Magnum as compared to the .38 Special. Bill called it the answer to a peace officer’s dream.

Bill also designed the Jordan Holster first produced by S.D. Myres and then by Don Hume. Bill took the basic Border Patrol duty holster, removed the excess leather around the triggerguard, inserted a steel plate in the shank to make it rigid, and raised it higher on the belt. While the old design allowed the holster to flop around, Bill’s holster stayed in the same spot.

He also designed special stocks that completely covered both the front and backstraps of his Combat Magnum and were also rounded, with no sharp edges anywhere. Herrett still produces this design as the Jordan Trooper. Two modifications were also made to his Combat Magnum, all designed for speed. The front of the triggerguard was narrowed instead of being totally cut out as done by Fitz and he also removed the hammer spur as all the shooting was done double action. Another double-action sixgun favored by Bill Jordan was the Heavy Barrel Model 10 M&P .38 Special which he often used in his shooting exhibitions.

Jordan had a varied career spending 30 years in Federal Service and retiring from the Border Patrol in 1965 with the rank of Assistant Chief Inspector. He then became Southwestern Field Representative for the NRA. As a Marine he served in both World War II and Korea. Not only was he directly responsible for Smith & Wesson bringing forth the Combat Magnum, he also worked with Elmer Keith to convince them to come out with the .41 Magnum. Bill Jordan was one of the fastest men with a double-action sixgun from a holster in a serious situation who ever lived. He was also one of the friendliest people to ever be part of our industry. I was proud to be his friend.

As fast as Bill was with a double-action sixgun, he was also very precise and able to hit aspirin tablets at combat distances. It was Bill who said most appropriately: “Speed is fine but accuracy is final.”

The first .357 Combat Magnum from Smith & Wesson was presented to Bill Jordan.

John Lachuk

My imagination was caught by John Lachuk back in the 1960s as he wrote about the sixguns I liked—no loved—the big-bore revolvers such as the Colt Single Actions and Smith & Wessons in .44 Special and the then relatively new .44 Magnum. Lachuk is one of those pioneers who seemingly had been forgotten in the accolades handed out for the development of the .44 Magnum.

Keith used the .44 Special and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind (at least there shouldn’t be) that his work with the .44 Special led directly to the creation of the .44 Magnum. Keith brought the .44 Magnum about, and he did not invent it as I see so often in print. Lachuk actually invented it before it was a factory load in a factory sixgun. Working with the Colt Single Action, Lachuk re-chambered .44 Special cylinders for his wildcat based on .405 Winchester and .30-40 Krag brass. Lachuk’s pre-.44 Magnum load was 22.5 grains of 2400 under Ray Thompson’s 255-grain gas-checked .44 bullet in brass the same case length as the future .44 Magnum would have.

Lachuk tried to publish his results in 1949 in the only gun magazine of the time, the American Rifleman. They would not touch it. Unfortunately, the dedicated handgun magazines were decades into the future when he did his experimental work. When the .44 Magnum arrived, Lachuk retired the Lancer and replaced all the cylinders of his wildcat single actions with .44 Special cylinders, and went to work providing real working data with hunting bullets using the new Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum.

A lesser man may have pouted as he took all his marbles home. Lachuk published many articles on shooting and hunting with the Smith & Wesson .44 and .41 Magnums as well as an early scoped .357 Magnum Colt Python. I still refer to information from John Lachuk published more than 50 years ago with loads for use in the .357, .41, and .44 Magnums. John wrote of using the .41 and .44 Magnums for larger game, however the .357 Magnum in his Colt Python was reserved for small game and varmints.

One of my all-time favorite quotes from any writer came from John Lachuk in the mid-1960s with the introduction of the Marlin 336 levergun chambered in .44 Magnum. At the time I was attending college full-time and also working full-time to support my wife and three young babies. I needed all the inspiration I could find to keep going. Then I read John Lachuk say, “If I had my druthers, I’d take this handy lever-gun and my .44 Maggie and head for the backcountry! One-caliber rifle-pistol duos are a Western tradition, handed down from the days when ammo counters were few and far between.” This helped keep me going as I looked to what could be in my life in the future. Three years later I followed Lachuk’s advice and added a Marlin .44 Magnum to my arsenal to match up with my Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum.

The first time I ran into John Lachuk at an NRA Show I went up to reintroduce myself and I didn’t have to as he recognized me and told me how happy he was to meet me and how much he appreciated my writings. That made this then relatively young gun writer feel awfully good. John only had the use of one hand, however, it did not let it slow him down when it came to reloading and shooting.

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