Who Is Wiley Clapp?

Who is Wiley Clapp? I’ve seen the name attached to Ruger revolvers and Colt Commanders. I had no idea who or what a Wiley Clapp was. This isn’t meant to be any form of disrespect, there are lots of things I don’t know, but I do like learning. I wanted to uncover who Wiley Clapp is. Why is his name attached to a certain handguns?

Wiley Clapp – The Man 

It turns out Wiley Clapp was pretty instrumental in the gun world. He was a very prolific gun writer. I seemed to have just missed him and most of his work as I got into guns and gun magazines. Wiley Clapp wrote for and, as of 2022, still writes for Shooting Illustrated. After learning a bit about the man, I’m sad to have missed his work as I grew up. Shooting Illustrated wasn’t stocked at the local grocery store I got my magazines. 

Wiley Clapp has been a gun writer for decades now. Beyond writing for magazines, he has written numerous firearms books, including being a coauthor of numerous publications. This includes guides on Concealed Carry, Law Enforcement Tactics, and the Gun Digest Book of 9mm Handguns. I’m reading the latter, and Mr. Clapp is a quick witt and master wordsmith. His portion on the origin of 9mm and its naming convention is informative and charming, and witty. 

That’s not something I would expect from a history lesson on ammunition. The man could make a reloading manual interesting to read. 

Outside of talking the talk, Mr. Clapp walked the walk in numerous ways. We are essentially working backward through his career. Writing was a big part of it, but he did more than write. He competed in numerous shooting sports, including NRA Outdoor and Gallery, Police Combat, and Internationa Silhouette. 

Wiley was, without a doubt, a man who knew his guns. He possesses an encyclopedia-like knowledge of firearms, but he seemed most interested in handguns. 

A Life of Service 

Outside of being a gun writer, which is clearly a very important job in society, Wiley Clapp lived a life of service. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute and became an officer in the United States Marine Corps. Wiley was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment. He became a platoon commander and led an infantry platoon in Vietnam. He even voluntarily extended his tour of duty and became the company commander of an infantry platoon. 

After leaving the Marine Corps, Wiley Clapp became a police officer with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. He served in law enforcement for 17 years before retiring. From there, he became a gun writer and expert whose name is scribbled on several guns. 

The Guns of Wiley Clapp 

Throughout a lifetime of shooting firearms, writing about firearms, and carrying one in uniform, the man learned a thing or two, as we’d all imagine. He writes that he grew up in California. He remarks it was at a time when you could still shoot a .22 in the orange groves. It’s not unusual for gun companies to consult with those knowledgeable. Well, at least for good gun companies to do so. 

What’s interesting is that Wiley is consistent in terms of his opinions on guns. That’s certainly helped shape the Wiley Clapp editions of articular handguns. In reading Mr. Clapp’s work, you’ll come across several mentions of different guns and configurations. 

In the Gun Digest Book of the 9mm, he compares the .38 Super to the 9mm. He mentions he owns a 9mm M1911, which he seems to be favorable of. It’s no surprise he worked with Colt to produce an M1911 Commander-sized handgun in 9mm. In his book Handguns ’89, he speaks favorably of the Ruger SP101 and GP100, and Ruger sells a Wiley Clapp model of the GP100 that’s quite popular. 

Now, if you are like me and weren’t sure what Wiley Clapp meant when it was attached to a particular model of firearm, you’re a bit more educated on why. Wiley Clapp was a Marine, a dedicated police officer, and gun writer with an encyclopedic amount of knowledge on firearms. Seems like the perfect person to have some input on firearms. 

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.