James E. Clark was one of the great American competition shooters and pistolsmiths of the 20th Century. Full stop.
In 1953, Clark won the National Championship for .22 caliber with a Ruger Mark I fitted with one of his muzzle brakes. Five years later, he became the first and only full-time civilian to win the U.S. National Pistol Championships, a title normally earned by a military service member or LE competitor. In all, he would rack up no less than 64 national pistol records, including the national championship a full half-dozen times, before he retired from the competition circuit in 1975.
As a smith, he pioneered the Bowling Pin model of 1911, created the first ramped 1911 barrel, customized Ruger Mk Is and High Standard .22s, and did combat revolver work. All this is on top of making some exquisite National Match and Long Slide 1911s. In 1983, he was one of the first people to make an aluminum M1911 mount for Aimpoints, an optic that at the time was about the size of a soup can.
“Clark guns are not loaded down with gadgets nor are they prettied up just to look fancy. They are built with one purpose: to shoot with supreme accuracy and dependability,” wrote George Wessinger in the Nov./Dec. 1985 issue of American Handgunner.
And I recently had a chance to check out one of these guns:
More in my column over at Guns.com.