jerry ahern column, p2
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e (then Customize) Your Weaponty. Household name gunsmiths like ArmandSwenson and Austin Behlert would take stock1911s and turn them into ultra-slick combatshooting machines, while Paris Theodore andCharlie Kelsey, working independently of oneanother, took Smith & Wesson Model 39 9mmautos and cut and whit-tled and tuned them untilthey had semi-productionhideout pistols like littleelse on the market.Across the continent, inthe Pacific Northwest, SidWoodcock had done thesame thing with creatingthe CombatMaster froman ordinary 1911.
The purpose of cus-tomizing may be merely tosatisfy ones ego, or to improve performance or bet-ter meet a perceived need. It can be mere fluff orextremely important. After all, we may be dealingwith the tools for doing good and saving lives.
And, custom handguns for concealed carry mayshow up in the oddest of places. Lets take theexample of the late Robert Culp, an actor of con-siderable renown and one who seemed to favorcustom handguns when possible. For example, inI Spy, also starring Bill Cosby, Culps character ofKelly Robinson very frequently carried aGestapo-Barreled Walther P-38, the gun sonamed because limited numbers were made duringWorld War II for Hitlers despicable secret police tocarry as concealment guns. They were standard P-38s, with the barrel cut to justin front of the slide face, thefront sight re-positioned. Culpsgun was doubtlessly madeafter the War, turned off a stan-dard P-38. It was not, as I haveseen it said to be, a Walther P-38K. With these post-Warguns, guns that appeared inlimited production in the1980s, the front sight was onthe slide bridge and the thumbsafety was a re-bounding ham-mer drop.
I got a DVD for Christmas2010, in which Culp proves hisinterest in custom handgunsonce again. Our son, Jason, and his wife and chil-dren gifted me with the pilot and several episodesof The Greatest American Hero. The series, whichran for three years, from 1981 through 1983, onABC, was the brainchild of the late Stephen J. Can-nell, creator of numerous successful televisionseries, The A-Team among them. In The GreatestAmerican Hero, William Katt plays special educa-tion teacher Ralph Hinkley. While taking hisrowdy, but good-hearted kids, on a field trip, he hasvehicle trouble and bumps into an FBI Agent
named Bill Maxwell. Maxwell is played by RobertCulp. Ralph and Bill have a close encounterwith an alien spacecraft and Ralph is given asuper-suit to use in fighting crime and injustice.Sadly, Ralph loses the instruction book and mustliterally learn to fly by the seat of his pants. Bill,
an experienced crimefighter, manages Ralphweek after week, sce-nario after scenario.
All the actors ConnieSellecca, Faye Grant,Michael Par and others did a terrific job and thetheme song (Believe It orNot, sung by Joey Scar-bury) even made it on therock charts and still getsradio play. The Ahern fam-
ily followed the show faithfully, but most particu-larly for Bob Culps ultra-gunny, in-your-face,America-first Ironclad Bill Maxwell. Culp did alot in the movies, but was also a prolific televisionactor and screenwriter. He played Texas RangerHoby Gilman in Trackdown, as well as writingmany of the episodes. He was American superspyand tennis pro Kelly Robinson with Bill Cosby inI Spy and appeared in episodes of everythingfrom The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to Columbo toThe Cosby Show to Everybody Loves Raymond.If you watched Culp in any of his roles thatinvolved firearms, you may have noticed how cor-rectly he used guns, whether custom or otherwise.The reason was that Culp was a successful compet-
itive skeet shooter and lifelonggun owner.
On The Greatest AmericanHero, Culps Ironclad BillMaxwell carried a snubbyrevolver I think a J-FrameSmith & Wesson Bodyguard in the pilot episode. After that,before changing to a doubleshoulder rig with two 1911s,he carried one of CharlieKelseys 9x19mm Devel Model39 conversions in an Alessishoulder holster that the leg-endary Arvo Ojala convertedfrom a diagonal rig to anupside down carry. There were
two Devels, apparently, both owned by Culp. If Iremember correctly, some years ago, I heard thatone was set up for blanks and the other wasnt.
Check out The Greatest American Hero andthe Bob Culp as Bill Maxwell. Then, sit back andenjoy. Robert Martin Culp cartoonist, pole vault-ing champion, writer, director, actor and shooter was born August 16, 1930, and died of a massiveheart attack on March 24, 2010, collapsing whileout for a good, healthy walk.
Visit Jerry on the web at jerryahern.com.P
Nataliain AhernsTHE SURVIVAL-IST used two of theserevolvers.
In The Great-est AmericanHero televi-
sion series,Robert Culp
carried a custompistol in a custom
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