A Nurse with a Gun

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Clark Meltdown Colt Commander

Back in 2006, I went to a gun show with a Kahr K40 to trade off. The Kahr had been a good and reliable gun, but it was a bit heavy, and I had moved away from the .40S&W cartridge. Click to enlargeIt was time. I ended up trading the Kahr for a Colt Combat Commander that had been modified with a ramp front sight with an orange insert, a fixed rear sight, and a flare cut into the ejection port. It was the perfect pistol to continue modifying.

The next couple of years saw a trigger replacement, a Nowlin hammer installation, a Ed Brown thumb safety, and an aluminum mainspring housing. The Pachmayr grips were exchanged for cocobolo. The pistol was a good gun, reliable, and accurate. It carried well. It did not really bother me that it was a rather homely pistol, it made up for the difference at the range. Still, I just felt it deserved better.

At the same time, I had always wanted a pistol that encapsulated Clark Custom's signature modification, the Clark Meltdown. Because the Commander was finished in electroless nickel, the refinishing costs would include stripping off the e-nickel. Not exorbitant, but more expensive than usual. So I waited. Click to enlargeA year went by, and the pistol still shot unfailingly. Another year went by. The pistol never failed.

Finally, I made the drive to Shootout Lane, and discussed the pistol with Jim Clark Jr. I did not want to upset the applecart on a great pistol, so we decided to just melt the Commander and hard chrome the result. The pistol had no need for a trigger job, tightening, or accurizing, and Jim did not try to sell me anything I did not need. We agreed to replace the front sight insert after the hard chrome was completed. I left my pistol in Clark's competent hands, confident that I would be pleased when I saw it again. That was February.

Yesterday, as I was closing up my last case, my cell phone rang. My Commander was ready. I made another trip to Shootout Lane and received a familiar friend with a beautiful facelift. There are some that call the Clark Meltdown the revenge of the belt sander. If that is the case, the sander is in the hands of an artist. Jim and I had discussed leaving the original bushing in the gun. I did not want to upset a reliable and accurate barrel fit. The fit of the pistol was exactly as I remembered, but every sharp edge had been removed. Click to enlargeThe rear of the slide had been rounded. No a corner remained. It had the feel of a well used bar of Ivory soap. Flawless hard chrome covered everything, including the steel low profile base plate of the Wilson magazine. Jim had even cleaned up my roughly done insetting of the slide release pin. The pistol was beautiful.

I caught up with the fellows who massage pistols in Princeton Louisiana, and I needed to inquire about one thing in particular. In Louisiana, a person with a CCW has a duty to inform an officer of the law who engages them on official business, of the presence of their firearm. I had heard rumors that law abiding licensed concealed carriers were having their handguns confiscated by the Shreveport police at traffic stops. I was informed the rumors were not only true, but the weapons had not been returned, and the mayor had the balls to say his officers could do whatever they liked. Attorneys have been hired, and court dates are pending. Hopefully, the Shreveport police department will become reacquainted with the US Constitution, as well as the Louisiana constitution soon.

While we were talking, Jim broke out a revolver he was working on for a customer. He was installing an XS Tritium shotgun bead in a dovetail he had milled into the barrel of a J frame revolver. Click to enlargeHe had widened the notch in the rear of the top strap to accommodate it in the sight picture. The set-up was sweet. He had serrated the top of the barrel to reduce glare. Jim informed me the modification was still experimental, but he expected it to work well.

I just happened to have my Smith & Wesson Model 649 out in the car. Several years ago, I had seen a pair of 44 magnum snubbies that Jim had melted and set up as a brace of bear protection for a friend who was traveling through the Yukon. I left my little 649 with Jim to be melted with a bead blast finish, and to receive a new front sight if the XS Tritium sight modification works out well. Another Clark gun coming up.........

FWIW, Jim also had a well worn but complete and original 1918 M1911 in his used gun case for $1000 even. If anyone is interested, give him a ring.....

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Anonymous Alan J. said...

I hope you can keep us informed on what happens with the Shreveport police. I normally always support the actions of any police department, but if they actually are confiscating guns illegally then they should be prosecuted the same as anyone else that takes away someones property illegally. Such people are thieves, whether they wear a badge or not, and thieves wearing a badge are worse than any other kind. They dishonor the ethics and professionalism of true peace officers. As for the mayor, he sounds like the perfect 'Boss Hogg' stereotype of a corrupt out of control politician who forgot who he works for.

10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't take this the wrong way.

It kinda looks "plastic" like an injection molded toy gun.

+1 for cool factor

10:50 PM  
Blogger Sabra said...

Gotta admit half of that went over my head, but I have to say the end result is one lovely gun.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous HankH said...

It looks beautiful! Enjoy :o)

12:00 AM  
Blogger Workingstiff said...


6:40 AM  
Blogger stbaguley said...

There is a whole essay waiting in there on the essential difference between that most beautiful piece of customized clean, functional efficiency and the flames, glitter and dongle adornment of the run of your Ugly Gun Sunday contestants. Wow. I was thinking especially of the aesthetic contrast with that pimp's gun with the gold inlays of perversions. They say that there is no accounting for taste and I guess there isn't; but some things just make you cringe don't they? Like "What rock did that guy crawl out from under?". (Never end a sentence with a preposition!)

8:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ray Nagin's infection is spreading. . . .

B Woodman

8:37 AM  
Blogger stbaguley said...

To add to my recent comment, as for whatever reason the wheels keep turning on the subject. I have nothing against adornment, per se. In fact were money no object at all, my current definition of the "perfect" in this class of object, would be that melted Colt, engraved in the classic style with a few oak leaves or vines or a scrimshaw full rigger romping down the trades...where do you stop!!! How about a laser etched houndstooth or checkerboard very small across the whole surface? ACCCK!, here quick take it back before I spoil it. ;-)

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Mike Harbour said...


I really like the gun, but not the mini-billboard up by the muzzle...of course, it's not my gun, and I'm sure Clark would gladly leave that off if so asked.

BTW, I thought it was ironic that you mention the Shreveport PD confiscations at the same time you revealed your cool CC piece; this is exactly why carry Commander is a park'd '91A1. If that ugly thing gets confiscated, I won't be losing too much sleep over it!

Mike Harbour
Helena, Montana

Mike Harbour
Helena, Montana

10:21 AM  
Blogger Ed Rasimus said...

Now, you've gone and done it! That is a slick looking job. I had to look up Clark and quickly found out that it might be a reasonable day trip from my place. Or, I could just ship the raw material off to him. I see a trigger job and a Bomar adjustible low-profile rear in the making for my Kimber. Maybe more...

11:03 AM  
Blogger Turk Turon said...


12:55 PM  
Blogger Vote For David said...


1:44 PM  
Blogger lee n. field said...

.44 Magnum snub in the Yukon? I thought that stuff was verboten in Canadia.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Chris M said...

We had a cop up here in Missouri, Chief Wolfe of Hazelwood, try that right after CCW became reality in 2004. Several reliable sources have told me that his boys tried that on the wrong party, reportedly an attorney from out of town, and it resulted in Chief Wolfe mending his ways upon receiving an admonishment from the State's Attorney General.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I agree with Mike about the mini billboard up top. He should really leave that out. I think the melt job would look even better if it were a completely clean slide (no logos/markings at all). I don't know if it's really my thing overall but the quality of the work looks great.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Beautiful result on the Commander

I believe the S&W M&P 340 comes standard with a similar sight arrangement. It's a great idea for those who already own J-frames and would like to see the sights more easily. How much does he charge for changing the sights?

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

belt sander abuse mine if that's the result...excellent blog peice as always,Xavier

6:31 PM  
Blogger Old NFO said...

Yep, they do GREAT work at Clarks!

7:46 PM  
Blogger Mike W. said...

Wow! That is one stunning 1911!

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Pinoy Pistolero said...

Beautiful pistol. The question is, can you bring yourself to carry it?

10:21 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Actually, Jim had forgotten to put his branding iron to the slide. I almost took the pistol as it was, but then I decided to get him to brand it. If I ever decide to let the gun go, I will want the Clark logo on it to show the work was done there. I suppose a reciept could have worked as well though.....

Yes, I will carry it. I shot the hell out of it today, making certain it was still reliable (as though it wouldn't be.....)

Jim isn't certain what he will charge for the XS shotgun bead on a J frame. It will be relatively inexpensive I think. The cost of the bead, and redoing the rib on the top of the barrel with checkering and a dovetail. He also has to hog out the notch that works as a rear sight.

It's a slick mod. I just couldn't see having him melt the 649 and not put a new front sight on it.

Now I am trying to decide whether I want to keep the rubber Uncle Mike's grip or buy me some nice checkered walnut for it.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had almost ruined a Springfield 1911, rusted on one side. After sanding,polishing ,resanding ,the gun needed welding on the trigger guard. Tony B. an employee of Clark s ,had a heat treating oven so I left the gun in his capable hands.Tony told me he took my Springfield to Clark,s for a proper bluing, wow there it was on the cover of the magazine.It is hard to claim a second hand gun you paid cash for. Mayme ffl logs could shed some light on the first meltdown ....@

1:26 PM  

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