Function and Form: An American Craftsman Story

Craftmanship is all about the details for custom motorcycle builder Colt Wrangler Lyons. “It’s about pushing the limits and never being satisfied. I may be happy with a result—but I’m never satisfied,” he says in his workshop in New Braunfels, Texas. “The stuff I’m building now, I wanted to build five years ago. I just didn’t have the skills yet.” The shop is tidy and almost as eclectic as Colt, who plays drums in a country-rock band and rides bucking bulls in the rodeo in his limited spare time. Clint Eastwood posters, Catholic prayer candles, and riding boots line the walls while parts and machines fill up the rest of the space.

Native to Central Texas and the younger son of two former professional bull-riders, Colt is no stranger to motorcycles and firearms. Colt recalls his introduction to bikes, riding on the back of his father’s motorcycle when he was thirteen years old. “To be honest, I was super scared, which is so funny now looking back,” he laughs. “And my older brother, Tyger, and I were always tinkering with things and making toy guns.”

That childhood ingenuity has come in handy for Colt. His current project is in the center of the shop, a commissioned 1977 Yamaha build that he is preparing to debut at the Hand Built Show in Austin. Colt tests and polishes each and every piece of his bikes, much like each firearm is tested and hand polished at Dan Wesson. “It’s not exactly new,” he says, “yet it looks completely modern.”

This balance of tradition and modernity is one that Colt sees reflected in Dan Wesson’s 1911 handguns—classic frames but with a touch of modern innovation that moves the craft into new territory.

Much like Colt’s Yamaha, Dan Wesson builds, such as the Tactical Compact Pistol—TCP for short—blend the old with the new. The iconic shape of the frame, crisp single-action trigger, and single stack magazine maintain the essential components of a traditional 1911. The four-inch bull barrel, ergonomic grips, and magwell add a modern touch. The result is a firearm that is comfortable, durable, and precise.

“The thing about Dan Wesson products is the precision, functionality, and sleek look. That’s exactly how I want to build my bikes,” Colt says. “It has to be functional, it has to work, but if you want it to inspire people, it has to look cool also.”

The Yamaha is Colt’s favorite bike to date. “With every bike build that I do, I try to go a little further and hone the craft a little bit more.” The result is impressive: a gold and silver frame reveals most of the bike’s internal parts, most of which, like the TCP, are hand-made. “Some of it isn’t even motorcycle parts,” he says, citing one piece comprised of an old air compressor.

Just 48 hours before the Hand Built Show, Colt is down to the wire, checking the bike for last-minute improvements and adjustments. He meticulously circles the bike, testing it for feel, fit, and function. “It’s a lot of putting it together and taking it back apart,” Colt says. He describes his routine of stripping the bike and putting everything back into place. The process is similar to the firearm assembly process at the Dan Wesson factory in Norwich, New York. Each firearm endures a rigorous design, production, refinement, and testing process.

As Colt takes a break from polishing to admire the TCP, he’s struck by the comfortable feel of the 9mm handgun. “You can have the sexiest looking gun, but if it’s not comfortable, you’re not going to shoot well. You’re not going to feel confident about it. Same thing with a bike. It can look amazing, but it also needs to work well,” he says.

From blending influences and technology to balancing function and form, the craftsmanship required in custom motorcycles and top-of-the-line Dan Wesson 1911s can never be compromised and must always be improved.

“To me, craftsmanship is about doing the best you can and continually getting better,” Colt says, standing beside his nearly complete work of precision and art. “If you’re not getting better, you’re not much of a craftsman.”

This commitment to excellence and innovation runs deep throughout Colt Wrangler Motorcycles and Dan Wesson Firearms. The result is a beautiful product that is hand-built and built to last.

The Craftsman Journal.