Gun Stories – Joe, his son and the Gaboon

Two years ago I received a call from Dustin Bonar; son on the late Joe Bonar who was a friend and the lead 1911 scientist at Novak’s for many years. Joe and I were close. He was in my wedding and threw me in the New River while I was still wearing the tux and the Lightweight Commander he so eloquently engineered for me. Joe passed several years ago and has been deeply missed by family, friends and those who relied on him to build 1911s to keep them safe.

Joe and I climbing out of the water after my wedding. Tux, guns and all.

Dustin was already working at Novak’s but soon took over his father’s duties there. He was just out of his teens but still knew how to build a 1911. Hell, his dad had been showing him how since before he was kissing girls. Dustin left Novak’s in 2008 and started LST when he decided his creative mind needed more leeway.

Dustin and LST’s signature 1911 is called the Gaboon after the snake. The Gaboon just looks wickedly cool! This of course adds nothing to the effectiveness of the handgun but as a friend once commented, “Life’s too short to carry an ugly gun.”

The LST Gaboon.

Like his father, Dustin believes, more than anything else, a fighting pistol has to work every time you pull the trigger; function first, accuracy second. But reliability and accuracy can coexist and they do in the Gaboon. According to Dustin, that is best accomplished with a barrel bushing and standard recoil management as opposed to any of those fancy guide-rod contraptions.

As I watched Dustin work the chamber on my Gaboon I asked him, “How do you know when you get it right?” He nonchalantly replied, “It’s such a minute alteration I doubt anything less than a machine could tell it has been done but it’s what allows an accurate 1911 to feed anything you put in it. Dad showed me how to do it…It’s just feel?” Feel? I guess it’s like picking your nose or scratching your bottom side; do it long enough and it becomes a natural activity that you don’t have to measure to know when you’ve got it right.

The Gaboon's unique snout.

Like back in the old days when craftsmen passed down the secrets of their trade, Dustin Bonar is a third generation gun builder that is not only carrying on the techniques and secrets his father and grandfather taught him, he is doing something more. Dustin is an innovator that has modernized the 1911.

Dustin Bonar (left) and the other fine craftsmen at LST.

Not long after I picked up my Gaboon, Dustin called to tell me Excalibur was ready. I’d left the 1911 Joe had built me with Dustin for a tune-up, and refinish. After over 10 years of hard carry it was looking a bit rough. Dustin told me, “Between Josh, Brett and me, this is the finest 1911 we can make. With the exception of the XS Sights and not being stainless, it’s just like Dad’s Grim Reaper.”

LST had polished the sides of the slide to a high luster and removed all the nicks and scratches 17 years of shooting had left. Dustin also stippled the underside of the trigger guard, the ribs on the grip safety pad and even the stock screws to match the stippling on the top of the slide done by his dad. When Joe built this gun he etched the Novak logo on the right side of the slide. Dustin left the Novak logo in place and etched the LST logo on the opposite side. What really set the gun off were the grips and matching mainspring housing LST installed. They were the most exquisite and unusual rendition of damascus steel I’ve ever seen. Now Excalibur looked like a weapon bearing that name should.

Excalibur after a rework by Duntin Bonar and LST.

Right now I imagine Joe Bonar is hunkered over a work bench out behind the pearly gates, painstakingly grinding away on St. Peter’s 1911; Joe’s penance for all his, let’s say…adventures. I can see Joe handing over the finished pistol to the elder apostle and as the gate-keeper looks adoringly at the custom 1911 Joe will proudly proclaim, “My boy Dustin builds a damn fine 1911 too, but I hope it’s a damn long time before you get one.”

If you’re looking for a good, custom 1911, this is indeed the year to buy one. After all, it is the 100th anniversary of the greatest fighting pistol ever. Give the boys at LST a call but don’t expect one to tomorrow. They are backed up with over 100 custom orders. But you know what, good things are worth waiting for.

Joe at a local police match, undoubtedbly as surprised as I was that I had out-shot him.


About gunwriter

Born and raised in the West Virginia hills, Richard literally grew up in the woods. He has chased coon hounds until daylight, waited out whitetails perched high in an oak, canoed the New River and hunted from the Montana Mountains to the Green Hills of Africa. During service in the Army and later as a municipal police officer and Special Agent with the railroad police, Richard obtained numerous certifications in small arms instruction. He has trained military personnel, law enforcement officers and civilians in the application of firearms for defensive, competitive and recreational use. Richard won the West Virginia Governor’s Twenty Award for law enforcement, the West Virginia National Guard State Pistol Competition and earned his Distinguished Medal with pistol. Badge turned in, Richard is now a contributing editor for several magazines. He was the compiling author of the book, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter and conceptualized and contributed to Selecting and Ordering a Custom Hunting Rifle. Richard also contributed a chapter to the John Velke book, The True Story of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. Richard has patents on a riflescope reticle and a revolutionary bullet testing media. A hillbilly at heart, Richard lives on Shadowland - his shooting range in West Virginia - with the most understanding wife in the world, their three kids and a very protective ridgeback hound.
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2 Responses to Gun Stories – Joe, his son and the Gaboon

  1. Vic Allen III says:

    Indeed Joe was the finest gunsmith to ever lay hands on a 1911. I was only a youngster when I met him and to this day I still remember how it amazed me what he was capable of doing with a pistol. Some people would dream of driving the fastest car or flying air plane’s, for me I just wanted run a mag or two through that Grim Reaper.
    Needless to say Joe has left a lasting impression me. I am honored to have known and shot beside him. I just hope he knows he is truly missed by us all.
    It’s very apparent that Dustin has carried on the legacy his father left behind. The Gaboon is a masterpiece. it is very clear that the creative mind of his father was passed on.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane Richard.

  2. gunwriter says:

    Well played.


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