Fine Sixgun Artistry by Dale Bass Engraving

by Boge Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn

April 28th, 2020

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Dale Bass engraved Freedom Arms Model 83 454 Casull

Many 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 engravers.

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 CAN.

Check out Bobby Tyler's work at www.tylergunworks.com, Email info@tylergunworks.com, Phone (806) 729-7292 / (806) 729-1943.

Contact Dale Bass on Facebook or by Phone at (806) 681-9182.

Boge Quinn

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Dale Bass engraved Freedom Arms Model 83 454 Casull (top), Dale Bass engraved Tyler Gun Works Ruger Bearcat Shopkeeper (bottom).

 

 

Boge (left) with Charlie Smith (right) at the 2007 Confederate Sixgunners Association shoot in Clarksville, Arkansas.

 

 

Dale Bass engraved Tyler Gun Works Ruger Bearcat Shopkeeper