When I travel to ShotShow each year I go to work. I’m not there as a star gazing fan boy. The celebrities I see are there to do a job and I’m there to cover the show and get information on the industry. That being said, there are exceptions to every rule. I occasionally see people that really get me excited and if I am lucky, I may have legitimate reason to meet them.
This year I was very lucky to meet a man that is a bit of an icon for me, Jesse James. I have been following his work for well over ten years. When I first saw Jesse he was building custom motorcycles at his West Coast Choppers shop on television. The styling of his work was like nothing I had ever seen. The choppers had an aesthetic that was unique and beautiful. Every time I saw a bike finished it seemed to be the pinnacle of motorcycle achievement and then he would make a new bike that surpassed it. Needless to say anything that Jesse was doing became appointment television and a miniature of my favorite bike to date had a spot on the shelf nearby.
James is an artist and like most artists his creativity was later channeled into a new medium. The show Jesse James Outlaw Garage documented a little of his vision on four wheels.
Later, I was enthralled by his quest for more creative knowledge as he learned a new set of skills. Jesse traveled to Israel to learn blacksmithing and from what I could see he learned an impressive amount.
Up to this point, anything including Jesse James would peak my interest; then my two worlds collided. Jesse James started making guns. The fanboy gained legitimacy and I could claim professional interest. As with everything else he’s done, I find the Jesse James Firearms Unlimited weapons to be breathtaking. Each weapon seems to have it’s own look and personality. The 1911s have an attitude that should make Jesse quite proud.
In my brief conversation with Jesse, I asked him how he compared making guns to his previous endeavors. Jesse said “Back when I was making Motorcycles, by the time I was done I just wanted to ride it off a cliff. They took so long to finish and I got sick of looking at them. But this is so different.” The gist was that he was able to accomplish so much more in a much shorter timeframe. It seemed very satisfying to him to be able to look upon a completed firearm and enjoy his work so quickly by comparison. After all it isn’t taking close to a year to build like some of those epic bikes. Then he gets to move on to the next one and do something completely different right away. I asked one other quick question of him; “Do you have any particular favorites so far, or do you look upon the guns as if they were kids and love them equally.” Jesse told me that he really enjoyed making them and “they’re guns, I just want to keep them all!” But for now the favorite was probably his Damascus slide 1911 which he’s holding in the photo above and featured heavily on his custom work page.
I feel lucky to have met the man and look upon his work. I would suggest everyone take a peek.
****A NOTE TO SHOTSHOW ORGANIZERS: The only downside to my meeting Jesse was his location. I know that Shotshow is competitive as hell and booths come at a premium. But the organizers of Shotshow should recognize and leverage celebrity when they can. I know of at least one premium spot on the second floor that had a new vendor. Shotshow would have been better served to put Jesse James Firearms Unlimited in that location and placed the new vendor in the first floor side room instead. As things were, I doubt Jesse got the traffic he deserved and I doubt much media came through the area. NSSF, you’re smarter than this.