Jim was born and raised in Moab, Utah and forged from a long line of families steeped in hunting and fishing traditions. Jim’s passion for guns started at an early age when got his first BB gun. Later his mother, Wanda, taught him to shoot a .22 rifle. His first mission was to rid the farm of skunks and snakes. His second mission was to get a bigger gun.
Jim began working in the local gun shop at the age of 14 when Dean, the shop owner, took him on as a helper. Jim quickly mastered the art of sweeping the shop and taking out the trash, tasks he gladly performed for the chance to be around firearms. Dean recognized Jim’s natural talent for all things gun related and began teaching him the basics. Jim was particularly gifted with pistols and shortly took over the pistol repairs. Jim honed his gunsmithing skills over the years and was admitted to the American Pistolsmith Guild in 1995, an achievement he is particularly proud of.
In 1992, with the support of his wife Kristy, Jim was finally able to pursue his dream of having his own gun shop. From the humble beginnings of a two man shop, Jim rapidly became the gunsmith of choice in Anchorage. Jim initially focused on custom pistols and general repairs but turned his sights to a custom rifle, the Co-Pilot, when he merged his role as a pilot and guide with his role as a custom gunsmith.
The Co-Pilot rifle, a custom take down lever action rifle designed for survival in the harsh Alaska wilderness and capable of fitting under the seat of a small airplane was born in 1994. The Co-Pilot has been featured in numerous magazine articles and was listed as one of the best new designs by Jeff Cooper in “The Art of the Rifle” published in 2002. To further increase the power and versatility of the Co-Pilot, Jim developed the .457 WWG magnum round capable of projecting a .350 grain bullet at 2250 feet per second, a level of power not available in the standard .45-70 round. The .457 Wild West Guns (also known as the .457 WWG) cartridge and chamber design was approved by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute, Inc. (SAAMI) in January 2014. The Co-Pilot and Alaska Guide rifles are chambered to accept .457 WWG while still able to shoot .45-70 rounds.
In addition to the Co-Pilot and the non take-down version, the Alaska Guide, Jim has developed extremely light weight rifles, Summit-Lite Rifles, and heavy duty hunting rifles designed for large cartridges typically used for dangerous game hunting.
Passion for Firearms and Shooting
Jim’s passion for custom firearms and shooting took hold years ago when he began shooting pistol and rifle competitions. Active in IPSC competitions for years, Jim has won the Alaska state championship title with a “Master” level rating and attended many national competitions. In addition, Jim garnered the title Best Shot in Alaska.
Passion for Hunting
Jim has been a lifelong, avid hunter and speaks fondly of the times he accompanied his father, Jerry, and his grandfather, on hunting excursions throughout his youth. Hunting and fishing played a vital roles for the West family. Not only did Jim enjoy the outdoors, the camaraderie of his family and friends and the hunting experience overall, but Jim was proud to help his parents provide food for the growing family.
Jim’s love of hunting and fishing has never abated and he finds most rewarding the opportunities to share experiences with others. In fact, for many years Jim has done less hunting and fishing for himself finding that he appreciates the joy others feel when he assists them whether it be family members he has taken under his wing or clients that he guided professionally since 1986 from Klutina Lodge.