Best U.S. 1911 Custom Pistol Maker


Ala Dan
February 15, 2006, 06:13 AM

For the best U.S. custom pistol maker~!:uhoh:

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February 15, 2006, 08:04 AM
I've only handled a Baer and a Brown so I have no input on the others. While the Baer is a very fine weapon, I liked the Brown better. I am hoping to be able to afford a custom in a year or two, so hopefully I'll be able to weigh in with more authority on this subject in the future.:)

February 15, 2006, 08:23 AM
I have handled and shot several brands......but ultimately chose Wilson Combat. I have a CQB, CQB Compact and a stainless Professional.

February 15, 2006, 08:29 AM
Who the heck is Larry Snow?

February 15, 2006, 12:25 PM
Who the heck is Larry Snow?
You know, that guy that builds those dern 1911 type pistols:neener:

Seriously, I was wondering the same thing. I googled the name and nothing difinitive turned up. Ala Dan, can you shed some light on this individual.

Dale Taylor
February 15, 2006, 12:29 PM
Dave Sample !!

Ala Dan
February 15, 2006, 12:38 PM
Yes, Larry Snow is a very fine professional Custom 1911 builder who
mainly serves the southeastern part of the United States. Back in
the very early 90's, he built a "Custom" 1911 for me using a Safari
Arms frame and all Colt parts. I doubt whether Mr. Snow has a web
site, as he is a very small one man operation~!:uhoh: :)

Black Majik
February 15, 2006, 01:12 PM
I have handled and shot several brands......but ultimately chose Wilson Combat. I have a CQB, CQB Compact and a stainless Professional.

At first I read "stainless Professional" and I thought, whoa, stainless SA PRO!

...then it clicked.... ah, Wilson Professional :D

For me, it doesn't seem as if mixing the semi-production pistols vs. the true custom smiths is fair.

For a Semi-production/custom pistol, I'll take a Ed Brown. They definitely have the smoothest feel compared to any of the other SP/C pistols.

I love Ted's work, I think if I had the time to wait, I'd love to have a Colt 1* pistol over a SP/C pistol.

February 15, 2006, 01:20 PM
I wouldn't kick any of them out of bed, but I've always felt that a yost 1* was a great gun at a not unreasonable price. Then I got to meet Mr. Yost and the rest of the LTW crowd at the SHOT show, and now I want one even more.

I can't really justify spending what any of them cost, but if you laid them all on a table and told me I could have one, I'd go with Yost.

February 15, 2006, 03:06 PM
What about Paul Liebenburg at Pistol Dynamics. :D :D

Ala Dan
February 15, 2006, 03:31 PM
Who the heck is Paul Liebenburg? Oh, never mind I just found their
web-site. That Signature Series sure is some nice look'in

February 15, 2006, 04:27 PM
Well I'm not qualified to vote because I flat out don't know but I hope Ed Brown is up there pretty high because I'm sending off a $2K+ check for one of his Executive Targets tomorrow.

FWIW after a lot of research and anecdote gathering and some store fondling I ended up going EB to avoid teh overtightness issue and because I did not find one single complaint about his stuff from any user, dealer, thread or review. The same was almost, but not quite, true of most of the others I considered. The only other two with zero quibbles were the Nighthawk , which was more expensive and required a wait, and the Yost, which required a wait and which I did not like aesthetically as much as the EB.

My guess - and that's all it is - is that any of these high level names produce guns so darn good that normal mortal shooters would not be able to distinguish the difference in performance, just in feel and looks - so go that route to decide.

The thing that absolutely sold me on the EB -even though I was leaning that way already? Something as ephemeral as racking the slide on one in a store - it was the smoothest, most precise (yet not tight) mechanical feel I have experienced on anything. Is it worth $1500+ upcharge on a decent SA/SW?etc? Probably not in any utilitarian way, but it sure is nice.

February 15, 2006, 06:47 PM
I have a Ted Yost 1* Elite built on a series 80 Colt Gov't. model, finished in hardchrome; let me tell you, it is a thing of beauty, and is the "King" of my meager collection.

I REALLY like the Ed Brown Executive Target, an am plotting on how to afford one as my next high grade 1911:D :D

Take a look at Ted's 1911s at

February 15, 2006, 07:03 PM
Not knocking Yost at all. They were right there in the running and I have heard nothing but good about them. If I end up ever feeling the need to get another custom 1911 I will certainly consider them again. None of the makers but Baer seemed to have feedback that put me off them per se - and even then it was the initial overtightness not any long term problems.

Personally though I would ask him to lose the 1* logo and serrate the top of the slide. Just personal preferences that happened to be already there on the Brown. The logo may be a good conversation piece and more importantly have real meaning to people with different careers than my own, but just not for me.

February 15, 2006, 09:19 PM
Lynn "Doc" Holt

For $800.00 He built my commander. This included the hard chroming.
And the best part of all, I got to choose EXACTLY the options I wanted, not what someone else thought I should have.

Just my $.02

rock jock
February 15, 2006, 09:32 PM
I really like Stan Chen's stuff. So much so, that I ordered one from him. Only 2 1/2 more years till I get it.:D

February 15, 2006, 09:49 PM
Glad to see Yost so highly regarded...getting ready to send him a check for my first really nice 1911!

February 16, 2006, 01:03 AM
I really like Wayne Novak's work. His shop has built two 5" Colt Government models for me (.45 ACP & 38 Super) and a Browning Hi-Power. I have found his work to be first rate and the pistols to be absolutely reliable.

February 16, 2006, 03:44 AM
I would have to say that the very finest 1911 smith is John Jardine. Having handled and fired many of his pistols I'd say he surpasses the others. I will admit that most of the people on the poll are very fine gunsmiths indeed. John is a master.

February 16, 2006, 03:50 AM
All of them are waaay out of my budget, so I don't really care...:cool:

February 16, 2006, 03:52 AM
I would wager that the very best custom maker of 1911's probably works quietly in a very small shop somewhere in the middle of nowhere, known only by word of mouth among a close tied group of shooters as well as the locals who probably have him instal scopes on their deer rifles.

February 16, 2006, 07:28 AM
I guess Clark doesn't count? :confused:

Ala Dan
February 16, 2006, 07:56 AM
Hey Big G Ole' Bud-

I figuered I might overlook some well known custom 1911 designer, as
I did the poll in a very fast pace time in my life. Not making excuses,
but I needed too be in three places at one time~!:uhoh: Sorry, bout
that Ole' Pal as Clark is very much alive and well.:D Thanks for the

February 16, 2006, 09:20 AM

The custom makers including one that you mentioned position their work above the 'limited production' guns made by Brown, Les Baer, Nighthawk, and Wilson Combat, to name a few.

They maintain that none of the limited production guns are truly custom pieces because they are made by shop employees instead of the 'name' that appears on the invoice.

Then, other custom makers argue that a package job performed on a customer's gun is not a custom job either. Each custom pistol is distinct and unique from all others and incorporates those mods requested by the patron (customer) and innovations from the artist(gunsmith).

So, according to the opinion of many custom makers, you have mixed guns from three different and distinct categories in your poll.

My pride of possessions involves objects that I can enjoy every day and showcase to everyone without hearing shreiks from the nervious neighbors and antigunner idiots.

When I can outshoot my Gunsite Smithy "package' gun I will send someone four of five thousand dollars to make an accuracy package that will make a difference at that level of skill. Until then, some grendels and highpoints make me look bad.

February 16, 2006, 10:29 PM
In the "production custom" realm I like the Baers. In a "gunsmith custom" Mr. Yost's work is exceptional. Roll Tide!

February 16, 2006, 11:44 PM
Jim Hoag or Karl Sokol

February 17, 2006, 05:28 AM
For "custom guns", my impression is that Ted Yost is not likely to personally work on your gun if you send it there. But I could be wrong. I think that Yost's shop is something akin to Ed Browns shop... guns are built by people who's name is not on the marque. Not that the work isn't very good... just that you aren't really getting the work of THE man! For that, one might want to look to the true "one man" shops like Ned Christiansen, etc.

By the way, there certainly is NO "best" here... just a number of skilled pistolsmiths cranking out some nice guns, that's all... ;)

Master Blaster
February 17, 2006, 10:00 AM
None of the above

Rock River Arms is currently the best.

February 17, 2006, 11:37 AM
I own a Wilson Combat CQB and a Les Baer TRS, Wilson Combat hands down when comparing fit and finish and detailing finish of slide, frame and slide rails, very disappointed with Les Baer.

I have never owned or shot the other guns mentioned, I would like to buy a Nighthawk Custom .45 ACP, I would have faith in their ability sight unseen as they are the guys that built my CQB.

I like the looks of Ed Brown's new "Tactical" pistol but I read on another forum that Ed Brown has no intention of seeking California approval for this firearm at this time, oh well another fantasy weapon.

February 17, 2006, 02:02 PM
Dan: Paul Liebenberg is a S. African expat who was an IPSC pioneer, came to the US, started working for (and eventually ended up running) the Pachmayr custom shop, went to S&W and founded what became their Performance Center. He is the man whose brainchild, the "Centimeter" cartridge he conceived while at Pachmayr for IPSC gamesmen, became the .40 S&W.

Of the higher-volume boys, I like Les Baer. Ed Brown and Wilson tied for second.

Of the real artisans, Liebenberg and C.T Brian. Followed by Novak and Heinie.

larry starling
February 17, 2006, 06:29 PM
Add a vote for Ed brown....:D

Bob R
February 17, 2006, 07:47 PM
For "custom guns", my impression is that Ted Yost is not likely to personally work on your gun if you send it there.

I don't know how true that is, but, when I visited his shop when my Delta was getting built, he was there and talked to me.

He brought my gun out in pieces and we talked about what I wanted done. I am pretty sure he fit the Schuemann barrel. The first one went back because he did not like the way it fit. So, waiting for another added about 3 months to the build, but worth every minute. How much of the other work he did, I don't know. I feel that if he doesn't do every bit, he is at least looking over somebodies shoulder as the work gets done. Afterall, it is his name on the gun when all is said and done.


February 17, 2006, 07:53 PM
My vote goes to Vic Tibbets.

But then I'm just a bit bias. ;)


February 17, 2006, 07:54 PM
i voted for ed brown

Ala Dan
February 18, 2006, 07:07 AM
Hello Again Folk's-

The way it see it, I don't think there is a bad custom designer of 1911's
out there~!:D

I see that nobody has voted for my friend Larry Snow. Grant it, he does
not have as per say "a machine shop", but he does one hell of a job in
building 1911's from the frame up using parts from other manufactuer's.
The weapon he bulit me, using a Safari Arms stainless frame and Colt
barrel, slide, and small parts with Bo-Mar click adjustable sights was
one fine weapon; that ran flawlessly. And, his work was reasonable
at only $400.00:) Honestly, I can't see how the poor fell'a made a
dime on that deal~!:uhoh: :D

February 18, 2006, 02:48 PM
Of the people on your list I'd have to go with Ted Yost. But you omitted so many talented people.
My vote and my money goes to Paul Liebenberg. He's at the very top of the field in my opinion.

February 18, 2006, 04:44 PM
I don't know Snow, but the rest, with the possible exception of Yost, are "Production/Custom" shops. I don't think you can get a ground up custom, built by the man in charge, from any of them. That's not saying that they aren't darn fine pistolsmiths, but their business models have changed.

My vote goes, in no particular order, to Steve Nastoff (I had heard that he was building some guns again, but I haven't been able to verify it) Paul Liebenberg, C.T Brian, and John Harrison. If you haven't seen John's work, he has an almost cult-like following in Georgia. Exceptional work, and a true Southern Gentleman.


February 18, 2006, 05:39 PM
I 'd have to go with LBC....Les Baer custom. Admittedly a "production custom" shop, as opposed to a one man shop, where one does purchase a "custom gun".

February 18, 2006, 06:24 PM
Micheal C. Bay of Tulsa, I wish I could afford his work right now but I can't. I have shot a couple of them, No breakin period needed, built just right.

February 18, 2006, 09:19 PM
Don't forget Larry Vickers-if he's still around.

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