Wiley Clapp’s voluminous practical experience is the basis of his…

Wiley Clapp’s voluminous practical experience is the basis of his opinions on guns, their use and what features they should have. The Wiley Clapp Colt Commander .45 ACP doesn’t have a number of the features that are common on today’s combat pistol, as he does not believe that a true combat handgun needs such devices. After all, a handgun is merely the extension of a well-trained shooter.

There have been but a few men who have penned gun articles that can be called iconic. Names like Skeeter Skelton, Bill Jordan, Jeff Cooper and Elmer Keith come to mind, but these men have all departed us. Their level of knowledge in regards to firearms and their application in both personal defense and hunting was legendary. While I was honored to meet Mr. Cooper and Jordan, I feel blessed to be called a friend of a man that I think shares the iconic mantle with these esteemed gun writers of the past…Wiley Clapp. I met Wiley almost two decades ago at a writer event sponsored by Winchester at Gunsite. I was still new to the business and I stood back and watched as a number of men that I read for years exchanged ideas and yes, argued about this or that gun subject. Knowing that I would not learn anything if I opened my mouth, I just stood back and absorbed.

A brass bead front sight may seem to be a rather old-fashioned way of offering a contrasting front sight, but it works very well on this 1911.

As the event progressed, I was on the line shooting several guns supplied by the sponsor when I felt a presence behind me. I put the gun down and turned to see who was behind me, and there stood Wiley Clapp. He never looked at me, only down range at my target and muttered, “You can’t be a gun writer, you’re hitting what you are shooting at.” He then turned and walked away. It was the only contact I had with the venerable Mr. Clapp at the event, but I continued to cross paths with him over the years and we became friends.

While I don’t see him as often as I would like, I do enjoy our time together mostly because I get to tease him. At the 2010 NRA Show, he was sitting at a table at the Colt booth discussing his latest project with a group of shooters when I walked up and said, “C’mon Dad, you’ve been out long enough, its time to take you back to the home. Say good bye to the nice people.” The folks he was talking with stood there with their mouths open while Wiley just turned and looked at me, rolled his eyes and acted like I wasn’t there. Man he is a lot of fun!

Gun Details
The pattern on the grips reflects the shape of how a hand wraps around the gun, maximizing the shooter’s grip while not snagging clothing.

What many might not know about Wiley is that he has a great deal of practical experience on which he bases his opinions on guns, their use and what features they should have. He was a Vietnam-era Marine with combat experience, followed by two decades of law enforcement as a Southern California Deputy Sheriff. His almost encyclopedic knowledge of handgun history and design is evident when you talk with him.

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  • Al

    After reading some on this pistol and the fact that I’ve always wanted a customized Colt LW Commander I visted my local gunshop and purchased this pistol. Once at home I gave it a very good cleaning. I used Kroil oil on the barrel several times and dried it completely before ever firing the pistol. I also lubed it at all the critical points with Tetra lube.

    I finally took the Clapp Colt LW Commander to the range. I shot 150 rounds off hand unsupported out to 15 yards. Using an NRA 25 yard pistol target and slow fire I put all the rounds inside the black with the exception of eleven rounds which I cooked off and placed just outside the black. My shooting is off due to a screwed up right rotator cuff and a strained right bicep.

    In essence, the gun did its thing extremely well if I did my part. While the trigger may feel slightly harder then that on my Wilson Combat Elite Professional Commander size pistol it shot just as well out to 15 yards. I would have gone out to 25 yards but time was an issue and as I said I had arm problems.

    Prior to shooting this LW Commander I had very limited experiance shooting them. I do remember feeling a bit more recoil on the LW Commanders I had previously shot. Not so with this one. I believe it shoots just as well as my other two all steel customized Commanders. The recoil was completly unsignificant.
    The accuracy was much better then any other “out of the box” (uncustomized) Commander. I really think the National Match barrel has alot to do with this. The only other time I fired an out of the box Colt Commander that was very accurate was when I shot their limited edition series 80 Colt Combat Commander National Match. Stock Colt Commanders are not know for their accuracy.

    I shot 100 rounds of Federal 230 grain FMJ’s and 50 rounds of Speer 230 grain HP’s. I did not experiance any malfunctions. I used the three Colt mags supplied with the gun as well as several from Wilson Combat. It feels significantly lighter then my old, all steel Colt Combat Commander and the aforementioned Wilson Combat. It’s a keeper. When it’s properly broken in at somewhere between 500 to 1,000 rounds and if there are no malfunctions I may just decide to carry it.

  • J. Jones

    The Wiley Clapp 21st Century Commanders are in stock here:


    Good luck!

  • Ralph. Bradford

    I am very excited about this article, I served in the U.S.M.C. Under Wiley Clapp I carried a 45 and fell in love with this weapon,I know Wiley Clapp is a serious weapons expert.I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these 45 specials .

  • Shawn

    I will guarantee from experience that you will prefer the checkered grip if the S€£t hits the fan.

  • Andy

    it’s a shame people don’t recognize a purpose built pistol when they see one. This is a working gun, a carry it bang it around all day in the field, take it hunting, slop in the mud, shake it off and shoot it weapon… much like the original.
    (there is a great video of Wiley discussing the purpose/intent of it’s relatively simple design on youtube)

    All you have to do is hold one in your hand to know there is nothing uncomfortable about the checkering or the taper… and if i ever need to draw my carry weapon, whether the grip is “comfortable” will be the least of my concerns…

    The oval tapered grips fit the hand much better than the generic factory pieces of wood and plastic. this one would be difficult to knock out of my hand.

  • William Cord

    I would think the checking on that grip is not going to be comfortable. I would replace those with the serpentine Colt grips that would look nice on this gun. Will they (the serpentine Colt grips) fit?… is the question I want you to answer

  • Bob

    What a great article & photo of the WC Commander! Thanks

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