Making a Pistol Fit for a Tennis Bum or a Spy

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posted on May 22, 2014
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Four years ago, on March 24, 2010, we said goodbye to one hell of a man. Robert Martin Culp dropped dead from a massive heart attack while out for a morning walk (that proves it, exercise is for the birds). While Culp was best known as an actor in such TV shows as "I Spy" and "The Greatest American Hero," he was also an accomplished cartoonist, writer, (Culp actually wrote some of the screenplays for "I Spy") director and—believe it or a not—a pole vaulting champion. But, more than that, Culp was firearm enthusiast who not only enjoyed shooting, he applied his love for customized firearms to the characters he portrayed by outfitting them with custom guns.

For example, his character Kelly Robinson from "I Spy" carried a special short-barreled Walther P38. While often misidentified by fans as a P1 and P4 with a truncated barrel, and even more erroneous as a P38K. However, after purchasing the series on DVD, an episode  titled "Dragon's Teeth" offers a close-up of the pistol that debunks these claims. The rear of the slide clearly contained a firing-pin/firing-pin indicator cover—proving the pistol's top end was made during World War II. Curiously Culp's P38 contained post-war black plastic grips—probably to match the custom-made, glossy black shoulder holsters he and Bill Cosby used.

Not long ago, As a tribute to this endearing actor and the vivacious character he played in "I Spy," I purchased a P38 and sent to gunsmith Joe Hayes with instructions to give it the Kelly Robinson treatment. Upon receipt, I'm pretty confident both actor and agent would have approved.

 

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