When you have spent a lifetime serving your country in the military, protecting and serving your community in law enforcement, and promoting the importance of the 2nd Amendment to ensure that U.S. citizens are better prepared to be self-reliant during troubled times, it seems fitting that your efforts are formally recognized. Such was the case recently at Gunsite Academy when owner Buz Mills announced that the institution’s new classroom would be called the Wiley Clapp Training Room.
Following graduation from VMI in June of 1957, Wiley was commissioned in the United States Marine Corp. In 1965, Wiley found himself in Vietnam with the 1st Marine Division commanding a company of Marines. This was early in the conflict, prior to the Marine Corp’s transition from M14 to M16 rifles. When I say “in Vietnam,” I don’t just mean in the country. He was engaged in ground combat, living in the mud and the rain trying to keep a bunch of young men alive. Like many combat veterans who have received and delivered live fire, Wiley doesn’t speak in details of his activities, nor did I press him on specifics.
For various reasons, Wiley left the Marines Corps and in January 1969 began his law enforcement career with the Orange County Sheriff’s office in southern California where he served until late 1986. As a serious “gun guy,” by the time he retired from the Sheriff’s office, Wiley had acquired a vast knowledge of firearms and their proper application during times of peril. Not surprisingly, he took that knowledge with him and begain his new career as a gun writer starting with Gun World magazine located in Orange County.
If you read any gun magazines in the late eighties and through the nineties, you saw countless Wiley Clapp articles, not just in Gun World, but in many of the Peterson publications like Guns and Ammo and Shooting Times. With his accrued knowledge of firearms, field experience and “easy reading” style of writing, it was only a matter of time before his work began appearing in the various NRA publications. Besides his articles as a mast head writer for the big magazines, Wiley wrote a number of free-lance articles. Gun manufacturers began seeking his advice and technical inputs on various models of handguns they wanted to produce. Most specifically, he worked with Colt and provided his suggestions on features that should be included on Modle 1911s. The first time I heard the phrase “Everything you need, nothing you don’t,” it was from Wiley. Since it would have been inappropriate for him to review his “products,’ I had the pleasure of doing the evaluations on those weapons, and like Wiley himself, they were (and are) classy products.
By 1993, California’s gun policies and laws had transitioned from less than friendly to downright hostile, so Wiley packed up the gun safes and moved from southern California to Minden, Nevada. Talk about a breath of fresh air and a renewed sense of freedom! Periodically, but not as often as I like, I get a chance to spend some trigger time and share some manly gossip with Wiley at Gunsite. He continues to amaze me with his depth of knowledge on numerous handguns both old and new.
I mentioned earlier that I don’t press Wiley (or any veteran) for details on his time in Vietnam, but I did ask if there was any one thing that stood out in his illustrious and varied career. His answer was simple. “There is no greater privilege known to man than commanding a company of Marines!”
Congratulations, Wiley, on becoming a permanent part of the Gunsite Institution. And thank you for a lifetime of service and sharing your wisdom over the years. Please keep those fingers tapping on that laptop.