Who is the best 1911 Pistolsmith in the USA?


January 20, 2008, 12:44 PM
OK folks here is the question-- Who is the best 1911 pistolsmith in the US not already employed by a manufacturer. The folks at 2RCO --That being me as chief cook and bottle washer-- are currently looking at the possibility of a production 1911. I already have sources for all parts (many of which will soon be available from WWW.2RCo.COM. However other than a run of the mill 1911 like everyone else is making I want to turn out something special.

Standard features currently considering will be--

Stainless or blue

Match Grade barrel
Extended Serrated Ambi Safety
Extended Serrated Slide Stop
Full Length Guide Rod/ Possibly Internal Laser
Adjustable Trigger
Extended Competition Mag Release
Commander Style Hammer
Muzzlebrake Bushing
Checkered Mainspring.
Adjustable Sights
Checkered Fronstrap.

All parts made in USA

If I go through to production I would like to find the best 1911 smith in the nation and get them to help in the final steps/ accurization process.

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January 20, 2008, 12:51 PM
wow, now thats a question! perhaps we need some form of NCAA style bracket/ playoff system, complete with Outdoor Network coverage ;)

January 20, 2008, 12:53 PM
OK folks here is the question-- Who is the best 1911 pistolsmith in the US not already employed by a manufacturer.

I am sorry i cannot resist ..

Well of course its ME ( bubba ) and my too friends ( Billy Raye and Bobby Le Roy . ) Heck we just went to Home Dept last week and got the HIGH PRICED Dremil kits and Billy's mom let us make our ninja ipsc shop in the basement . Besides we got the newese Brownells catalog . Now if yall need any advise or help yall just ask , and Bobby says he can steal a cross slide vice from his daddys girl friends brother ( whaterver that is ) if that will help .

January 20, 2008, 12:56 PM
Maybe a bracket system would be good. I could do it like this I send out the frame and parts and whoever assembles the best gun gets a job. --Bubba's need not apply.

January 20, 2008, 01:22 PM
without some kind of "handgun tests" magazine format that would ensure the 'smithy didn't know this was other than just another cutomer, the resulting postings to this question will probably be just self gratification/assurance the responders spent their hard earned american inflationary notes wisely....


January 20, 2008, 01:30 PM
I've handled a few custom guns but the ones made by Terry Tussy were true works of art. The lock up and fit was like nothing I've ever seen. He even had a GI style 1911 he showed me that he had put together on sort of a bet. He was told a tight 1911 couldn't be reliable so he put together a 1911 in which the tolerances were as tight as he could possible make it. He maintained that is the parts were properly fitted, it would still be reliable. It had NO play in it, anywhere. He told me that so far it had been totally reliable and he had yet to even give a thorough cleaning and it had fired several hundred rounds. He may or may not be the best, but he certainly deserves an honorable mention as a true artist in his field.

Jim Watson
January 20, 2008, 03:38 PM
THE Best?
I dunno, but all the guys on Louder Than Words are well thought of in the business. Maybe one of them could help you out.

By the way, offering a muzzlebrake bushing kind of hurts your credibilty, I have never seen any shooter to have a good word to say about it. The only use I ever got out of one was to make my Ace .22 fit the holster for my .45 with a real expansion chamber compensator.

January 20, 2008, 04:09 PM
The best pistolsmith in the country is Richard Heinie.

January 20, 2008, 04:13 PM
Jim-noted on the muzzlebrake bushing. I had wondered on that one a bit myself but I have had considerable interest in the doodads from customers and they are one of my best sellers.

Rinspeed- I believe Heinie to be allied with Taurus

January 20, 2008, 04:14 PM
Sorry, but as you well know there is no one best 1911 gunsmith. And if you find one that thinks he is the waiting list will be 2 years+.

There are a whole bunch of good 1911 'smiths, the LTW guys are really well thought of among others.

January 20, 2008, 04:26 PM
Maybe I should look at more than one smith for the run.

I do want to keep costs down but not sacrifice quality. The goal is an out of the box gun with custom features that the ordinary can afford.

January 21, 2008, 03:15 AM
you really don't want the best 1911 pistolsmith around. they are used to making guns perfect through handfitting each one...not extremely practical for production.

i only bring this up because a large company did this awhile back and hired a well know 1911 smith as their advisor. he spec'd their 1911 and selected suppliers, he was used to dealing with to supply parts for them. the resaultant 1911 really hurt the company's image for quality

i think you should look for a 1911 smith who has experience with production guns.

Jim Watson
January 21, 2008, 08:54 AM
Pip has a point. Maybe you could check the retirement communitites and find the shop foreman for Remington Rand. He had to satisfy an Army inspector.

"Features" are easy. Look at a Springfield Loaded or Taurus. They have all the bells and whistles... done as cheaply as possible. Kimber has fine quality barrels, slides, and frames... and a lot of criticism for cheap guts.

January 21, 2008, 09:08 AM
Crowded marketplace.

I'd decide what "segment" of the marketplace you want, then from the retail price, work yourself back to see if you can make any money...realistically.

And, why someone would buy yours, instead of a "known" maker. What is it that you offer to sway a customer...since you can't do it on price!

That's not being negative, simply basic questions anyone in any business would ask.

You don't have to look far from here to get "expert" advice on working 1911s.

Tuner!! ;)

Adding beavertails, extended safeties, etc is "simple stuff" IMO, compared to "producing" a properly "speced" 1911. Meaning, if it's done right, then adding the "extras" is a no brainer.

1911 guy
January 21, 2008, 09:10 AM
There are some very good 'smiths who specialize in competition guns, others specialize in hard use guns. I wouldn't let a race gun guy build my next CCW piece, and the reverse is also true.

Every 'smith has their own particular style. I'd look at who offers the kind of work you want done and the general uses of their end products.

If you're looking at what amounts to a production run, you'll likely have to "settle" for a lesser known gunsmith who has the time (not three to five years of backlog) to do it. I said "settle" in quotes because there are in fact some very good 'smiths who just haven't gotten either the big break or publicity yet. I've got a 1911 built by a fellow who's a relative unknown and I'm extremely happy with the piece.

January 21, 2008, 12:18 PM
2RCO, I admire your enthusiasm. But, let's step back for a moment and examine this. The pistol smith should be one of the last things on your list. First, you need to examine what need/want/niche your gun will satisfy. Then, how do you plan on getting it done to whatever price point you choose.

Sounds to me like you plan on building an STI at a lower price. STI tried that, and had to outsource the bulk of the work to the Philippines to get it done.

January 21, 2008, 01:44 PM
I think that a "top" gunmith would need to know you for a few years before they will lend any endorsement to your product.

There has been a growing trend of "specialty" guns where a smith will authorize a production model of his custom design, but these will come from established gunmakers like Springfield, NightHawk...

January 21, 2008, 01:48 PM
I've used several smiths, and the best one in my experience is Clark Custom Guns. When I used them, Jim Clark Sr was still alive and active. He was a world class competition shooter which is where he developed his standards/technique for modifying handguns.

BTW, they do outstanding work on all types of guns, not just 1911s.

Bob Hostetter
January 21, 2008, 02:39 PM
How many pistols per purchase order do you want? What price range are you looking at?

January 21, 2008, 03:09 PM
Pip has a point. Maybe you could check the retirement communitites and find the shop foreman for Remington Rand.

Not sure why but that strikes me as very funny. :)

January 21, 2008, 04:10 PM
I have personally dealt with most of the top pistolsmiths and I say most because that is not all and by far the best and quickest is the 1993 world IPSC champion Matt McLearn at M2I custom Tactical.

January 21, 2008, 04:28 PM
Richard Heinie, Bill Laughridge, Ted Yost, CT Brian, Matt McLearn, Dave Lauck... the list is extensive, and I don't think you'll ever identify a clear winner.

Jim Watson
January 21, 2008, 06:32 PM
It was Matt McLearn in #21 who helped Sig-Sauer get started making 1911 mutants. Maybe he would help you out. Maybe he has learned better; SS had a lot of teething troubles and he has a gunsmithing package to straighten them out.

January 21, 2008, 08:47 PM
does anyone else see a conflict in designing/spec'ing a pistol for manufacture and then offering a package to "straighten them out"

why wouldn't you design it right to begin with? i can see offering an enhancement...due to product liability...but, to get them to feed?

January 21, 2008, 08:55 PM
I'm sorry to report that my experience with custom 1911 gunsmithing would only qualify me to tell you which big name smith NOT to go to. :uhoh:

Jim Watson
January 21, 2008, 08:57 PM
I expect he would say it is not his fault they could not make a $1500 gun of his specifications to sell for $800. He will fix its problems for $595.

January 21, 2008, 09:30 PM
I would call Bob Dunlap at PISCO "yes he is the AGI guy" but don't hold that against him . He knows how the 1911 works"better than most" and has worked with many factories on problems they could not solve and is also responsible for training at least a few hundred maybe thousand gunsmiths in his time at LCC . When I worked a PISCO we were the first Para warr station . And I think He built the Vega 1911's for a few years until they went out of business . He has seen allot of companies come and go in the gun industry

January 21, 2008, 11:53 PM
Thanks for the input so far folks.

Bob not sure on quantity or price I would like a Retail under 1K and obviously it's going to have to have a decent margin for Gunshops to sell it.

This is still a very exploratory maneuver I was using THR to bounce around the idea. With liability issues and heavy competition it is going to be a risky undertaking. I've also looked into making a repro of the .45 US Army test luger in both blue and stainless and possibly even a modernized Luger variant.

Right now as it stands 2RCO is basically a hobby for me I'm considering throwing some real time an assets into it.

Bob Hostetter
January 22, 2008, 12:01 PM
If you are planning on a MSRP of under $1000.00, with an industry standard discount for dealers and wholesalers, and a reasonable profit for yourself and the person who is going to build it you are going to have problems. You will quickly find out that just about everyone in that target price market is buying parts from overseas and usually having the guns built there as well. AND they are buying in very large volumes.

I was involved in designing and building the Bar Sto Precision pistol so I have more then a little experience with this. Plan on start up costs being well into the high 5 figures or low 6 figures and this assumes you already have a fully equipted shop and no outside labor costs.

The Luger copy would be a lot more then that because of the complex forgings and machining. You would need at least a 3 axis CNC, perferrably a 4 or 5 axis machine. Most shops don't have more then a 3 axis machine and a decent 5 axis machine from someone like Hass is going to set you back an easy $200,000.00 just for the machine without tooling.

Good luck, give me a call if you decide to do it and have the financing.

January 22, 2008, 04:36 PM
The 1911 is probably one of the most cloned handguns in the world. Like anything that gets cloned too much eventually you end up with a few "Retarded Children" ie. poorly fitted parts and malfunctions. The first 1911 I ever bought was a standard Springfield Armory 1911A1. That gun turned out to be the worst jamamatic I ever had. I never could get the thing to feed right even with factory ammo. I sold it, got rid of it and swore that I'd never buy another 1911 again. Then one day I was at a gunshop, saw a Wilson Combat KZ45 kevlar framed 1911. This pistol was expensive but I'd always heard that Wilson Combat built some reliable handguns, really stood behind their products, and alot of competition shooters swore by them. On a whim I decided to give JB's 1911 another try. This .45 turned out to be one of my favorite handguns. It feeds and cycles perfect even with the cheap Wolf practice ammo I like to buy. I still replace the shok buffers in the recoil guide and spring assembly once every 600 rds or so. The original recoil guide that came on it was also made out of plastic but I replaced it with a more durable steel one that I purchased at a gun show a while back. Other than that she still purrs like a kitten and doesn't jam. For those who've experienced 1911 regret I'd highly recommend you give Wilson Combat a try. They cost a little more but by the time you spend getting one handfitted and tuned by a gunsmith to work reliably you would end up spending just as much or more money than what you'd pay for a Wilson Combat product.

January 24, 2008, 06:45 PM

Financing is in place it just depends on the Risk/Reward ratio that I am trying to balance in my head.

Not to Hijack my own thread but I am thinking even more about the Luger idea daily. I've been looking at some larger non gun machine shops to do alot of the work with the ATF regulated parts made in house. As I said earlier this may be a new thread topic soon.

January 24, 2008, 09:41 PM
John Jardine is probably the best available. That being said, I doubt that very many really good custom 1911 guys would be enthusiastic about completing a project that involves YOUR company copying their best work after paying for a single gun. You need to get someone with a lot of manufacturing experience AND world class custom gunsmithing experience. You would then have to pay a hefty consulting fee to the original smith.

January 24, 2008, 11:57 PM
106rr Copying a Smith's work is not my intention. Hiring a Smith as a consultant / possible shop manager was.

January 25, 2008, 12:46 AM
Colt is the best

January 25, 2008, 12:49 AM

January 25, 2008, 02:01 AM
Colt is the best
Ron, you need some experience with other 1911 makers before you post anything else about Colt.

At my local range they have a Wilson, an Ed Brown, and a Nighthawk for rentals. The guy that runs the range, a very experienced shooter, claims that the Nighthawk has been the most reliable 1911 out of the group and is very accurate.

January 25, 2008, 02:15 AM
John Jardine is probably the best available.

Doubt John would have any interest since he is selling his own imported Valtro 1911's.

The Valtro is a perfect example of a semi-custom 1911 brought out by a "famous smith", built in Italy and 'massaged' by John in the USA. The prices keep going up, and up since introduction.

January 25, 2008, 02:46 AM
you need some experience with other 1911 makers before you post anything else about Colt.


the Colt might be the most desirable, but it certainly isn't the best

January 25, 2008, 09:42 AM
I guess it depends on what is meant by "the best". In terms of a gun that runs right out of box, puts lead on target, the Colt is as good as anything in the 1911 world. If you want a gun with a fancier finish, Novak sights, checkered frame, etc. then maybe a Nighthawk is for you. Just be prepared to pay three times as much money for a gun that likely doesn't run any better. I've owned a few 1911s, everything from a bone stock Springfield GI to Les Baer stuff. They all run. The only differences are the bells and whistles. :)

January 25, 2008, 05:23 PM
I think you need to do more research. Most of the specs in that list are not things most serious shooters want. I think what is needed is a basic 1911 built to the original blueprints. A gun that people would know would run straight out of the box. With original quality parts.

Besides, the good smiths are charging $400-$800 a gun just to massage it and upgrade a few parts. Seems unrealistic to hire one. All you really need is the blueprints and a good engineer with a stong background in QC. And 1911Tuner.


January 25, 2008, 05:53 PM
Ed Sanders, of Sander's gun shop in Augusta Ga. Was voted one of the top 100 pistolsmiths in the country by "American Handgunner" Magazine (many years ago). He is Every bit of 80 yrs old now, and I think that he will fall over on his C&C machine dead, before he quits. He recently fixed a small prob on my marlin 336. he is a very nice person, unless you come into the shop with a gun, and start demanding things, or telling him how to do his work. Then he'll show you to the door. kind of like the "soup nazi" from sienfeld, but with guns. Good old guy.

January 25, 2008, 07:09 PM
I have only seen and fired examples of three of the Big name shops , Pachmayr Gun Works , Ted Yost and Carks custom guns .

All were fine guns worth $3,000+ .

If the sky were the limit and I wanted a 1911 built I would call Paul Liebenberg at Pistol Dynamics 2 http://www.pistoldynamics.com/index.html

After Paul I would consider Yost , Clark and Robar .

If I wanted a semiproduction high end gun I would go with Nighthawk , Ed Brown or Wilson .

January 25, 2008, 07:26 PM
If the sky were the limit and I wanted a 1911 built I would call Paul Liebenberg at Pistol Dynamics 2 http://www.pistoldynamics.com/index.html

I would have to agree that Paul is one of the very top smiths in the country. The only reason he is not more well known is because he spent 10 years running the S&W PC.

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