years ago, I acquired a Freedom
Arms Model 83 revolver, chambered in the wonderful 454
Casull cartridge, from a good friend and brother Shootist
named Charlie Smith. Charlie was already a member of the
Shootists when I was invited to join; he was one of the elder
members who really took me under his wing, and quickly became a
dear friend, as did his son Chuck, who is also a Shootist. I
shot and enjoyed this revolver for several years, until my
friend Charlie passed away in 2012; I did not shoot it much
after that, just every now and then as a remembrance to my
friend. I kept it in my mind to have some special engraving done
on Charlie's 454, but having truly fine custom engraving done
was way out of my reach, financially. Or so I thought.
I first became aware of the work of Dale Bass
a couple of years ago, when Bobby Tyler of Tyler Gun Works
produced his Limited-Edition
run of Ruger Bearcat Shopkeeper sixguns. These Bearcat
Shopkeepers were very well turned-out, and the engraving by Dale
Bass was exquisite. I was lucky enough to be able to get
engraved Shopkeeper #4 of 20 engraved sixguns, and non-engraved
Shopkeeper #40 of 200 total Tyler Shopkeepers produced. Since
that time, I have grown to be more aware of Dale's work, and to
become personally acquainted with him. Dale's star has continued
to rise, but he is still a fairly well-kept secret among
I sent Charlie's 454 to Bobby Tyler last
year, with no specific instructions beyond telling him what the
revolver meant to me, and maybe he could color case-harden the
frame or something, as I still was not thinking that a
"real" engraving job would not be something I could
afford. Bobby wasn't comfortable messing with the frame hardness
of a revolver that handled such a high-pressure round as the 454
Casull, but he said he'd do "something special" with
it. Boy, did he ever! Bobby started by sending the revolver to
Dale Bass and told him to have at it, and Dale went to work.
And WORK it was! Dale had never engraved a
Freedom Arms gun before, and as he later told me, that was the
hardest steel he'd ever tried to cut. It easily took twice as
much time to engrave as other sixguns, because he had to spend
half the time re-sharpening his tools. The extra effort proved
to be worth it, as it yielded what to me is the most beautiful
Freedom Arms revolver I have ever seen. Executed in the
"inked" style, which really makes the engraving stand
out against the stainless steel, the engraving contrasts
beautifully with the metal. But, at this point, I will let the
pictures speak for themselves.
As a final flourish, Bobby hand-fit a
beautiful set of stag grips to the revolver; these grips display
just the right amount of bark to make them beautiful without
turning them into a cheese-grater in the hand upon shooting a
high-recoil cartridge like the 454 Casull.
I will not presume to discuss Dale Bass'
pricing here, as each project is custom, with many variables
involved, but I will say this: the end result, as stunning as it
is, cost less than half what I would have expected, and I no
longer consider fine engraving beyond the reach of the working
man. Everyone should be able to possess fine firearms art, and
with the help of men like Bobby Tyler and Dale Bass, everyone
Check out Bobby Tyler's work at www.tylergunworks.com,
Phone (806) 729-7292 / (806) 729-1943.
Dale Bass on Facebook or by Phone at (806) 681-9182.
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