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High End Custom 1911

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by jjmotsch, Jan 13, 2019.

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  1. jjmotsch

    jjmotsch Member

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    What do you guys consider the biggest problem with High End Custom 1911's?

    A few possible issues
    • Price
    • Wait Time
    • Lack of new innovation
    • Maybe the quality is not worth the cost
    • Other??
    The reason I am asking is that I am planning on starting a business building custom 1911s, 2011's or some other custom handgun. I would really like to know what it is people want or at least what people want changed about what is currently being offered. I would really appreciate your input.

    I know one common reply is often " you need to know what you are doing". I think i have this covered for the most part. I have spent over 20 years in gunsmithing, tool &die, machining and firearms instructor (among other related things). It is something I really enjoy. I especially enjoy the precision hand fitting.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019 at 5:33 AM
  2. Texas10mm

    Texas10mm Member

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    I don't have the $$$$ for one.
     
  3. Zerodefect

    Zerodefect Member

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    Nothing anymore, on the 1911's. 2011's have the features I want now.

    Used to hate the lack of melonite coatings, but all customs have it or Ion bond.
    Used to want thicker one piece Glockish grip frames with magwells. But 2011's have that now. So I'd just get a 2011 instead.
    Used to want a full length, full girth, dust cover on the frame. 2011's all have that now.

    I do hate logos. I wanted a logo-less slide. Guncrafter has that now.

    Well, I guess one thing, 2011's are mostly very ugly machines. You can't just hack a dozen holes into the slide everywhere. Come on, put some effort into the design. And if you are going to put serrations on the slide and frame, make them line up please. And lose the logo's.

    And a thicker Glock 20/21/41 style SS grip frame would be nice on the 2011's. Not all of us use a size 9 shoe.

    I guess price. An Atlas is $3900, but made in only 90 days. Any GOOD 2011 under $2000 would move quickly. It's only a matter of time until someone gets a new CNC and takes over the 2011 market.

    I suggest looking at Guncrafter. Some real nice customs over there. Then Atlas, and Cheely.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019
  4. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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  5. JTQ

    JTQ Member

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    Many of the top guys have multi-year wait lists just to get on their wait list.
     
  6. JTQ

    JTQ Member

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    Let me add, while there are some awesome business men in this field, some of these custom gunsmiths, like custom holster makers, are better artists than they are businessmen.

    Long wait, lots of money, possibility of never getting what you ordered ...
     
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  7. Steve S.

    Steve S. Member

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    My WC CQB is very accurate, precision polished and butter smooth, my LB PII is very accurate and swss watch precision tight. Both cost too much money but you have to pay for the skill and the bench time. Can you buy just about as much for less, yes you can. Was the upcharge and the wait worth it, it was to me.
     
  8. rpenmanparker

    rpenmanparker Member

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    I would buy a cheap gun and have it customized piece by piece. You will likely save 50% and still get the same accuracy. No wait list. Then dress it up with designer Cerakote. That is how I roll. No time for that celebrity BS.
     
  9. JTQ

    JTQ Member

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    This may be the category of 1911 the OP was asking about, but it wasn't the category of 1911 I was answering about in my previous comments.

    In the Ed Brown, Les Baer, Nighthawk Custom, Wilson Combat category, I'd have no qualms about buying any of them. All have been successfully in business, producing quality firearms, with excellent customer service, for many years. I'd buy any of them with confidence.
     
  10. tarosean

    tarosean Member

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    I think your putting the cart before the horse.. The people that have 10yr wait times, closed books, etc. earned it.
    All you can do is jump in the deep end of the pool.. Sink or swim your work will do the talking.

    I will say one of the most esteemed 1911 builders has a saying

    "CHEAP-FAST-GOOD Pick any two."
     
  11. rpenmanparker

    rpenmanparker Member

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    Let’s consider where a custom builder exerts influence on the overall quality of the gun. It is the fit, the finish, the rough edges and interfaces made smooth, the loose interfaces made tight. It isn’t the bulk properties of the major parts. The machine or cast frames, barrels, slides, etc. It is the polishing, grinding, and hand fitting of those parts after they are formed. It is the springs and tiny connection parts. For those with the patience and funds a prestigious custom gun is a fine idea. I just believe a similar result can be achieved more quickly and more cheaply by aftermarket modifications on an inexpensive model. Of course resale value won’t be the same for the two approcaches. But why would you sell such a fine gun anyway?
     
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  12. Winkman822

    Winkman822 Member

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    For me, wait time is the biggest drawback. If you're talking someone like Jason Burton, you're looking at a couple of years last I inquired.
     
  13. forrest r

    forrest r Member

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    The people that buy them 90%+ is the biggest problem with the high end 1911's. Got $1400 in both of these.
    SWoUbe4.jpg HSWrGAR.jpg
    While I was at it sold of the s&w 41 with the extra bbl.'s/grips/weights/etc and bought a marvel conversion kit for $500.

    $1900 later the marvel will do +/- 1" @ 50yds with ammo it likes. I mostly shoot 50ft bullseye anymore so that's what I tested the loads for in the 45acp & 9mm nm 1911's.
    N6XBlbc.jpg

    10-shot group with the 45acp 1911
    lxO5I66.jpg
    I did start working up 50yd loads for the 9mm 1911, this is as far as I got. Decided if I'm going to shoot at the 50yd line might as well stick with the 50m free pistol. The black is 1.6"
    yRoLzs2.jpg

    That's what box stock $700 nm 1911's bring to the table. Anyone that wants a high end 1911 please by all means take your time and get one that you really like. Just keep in mind $$$ can't buy you love
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019 at 8:45 AM
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  14. Rockrivr1

    Rockrivr1 Member

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    I had a custom 1911 built by Derr Precision and I couldn't be happier with the outcome. It took a year and a half and a good amount of coin, but in the end I'm very happy. One thing I'd have to say is you need to be very open with the options that guys/gals want. You also need to leave your opinions at the door. People will want things you may not like, but it's what the customer wants and is willing to pay for. You enjoy gunsmithing, but have you thought about what it will be like making a gun you hate on principle? Not trying to talk you out of it, just bringing up something for you to consider.

    As to your original question the biggest thing I think gun makers in general need to focus on would be setting expectations and customer communication. My gun took a year and a half and I was OK with that as the timeline was set up front and I got updates as to progress on the way.
     
  15. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    While I have several "custom" 1911's (1911's built by companies like Colt with quality, professional work done to them) I think the biggest obstacle is the price, followed by the availability, regardless of the reason for lack of availability. Another significant factor is people who just look at a handgun as a tool (which is exactly what they are) and just need this tool to do a specific job- a job that can easily be done by many modern handguns that one could just purchase at a store like Academy right now, at a fraction of the cost of a 1911- custom or otherwise. While I do enjoy shooting 1911's, what "puts me off" is the level to which these things have flooded the marketplace. It seems like handgun magazines (gun porn) typically showcase these things as an unobtainable object of desire to an audience most of whom either can't afford them or end up settling for a "lesser" 1911. Other than the free magazine I get every month from the NRA, I don't even buy gun magazines any more- they have become unaffordable too! Besides- Hickock45's videos on youtube are free!
     
  16. WC145

    WC145 Member

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    This ^^^^^^^!!! Your work and how it is accepted by the market will determine how "high end" you are. Burton, Rogers, Chen, etc didn't just put up a shingle and slap a $7k-$10k price tag on their guns, they earned their reps and their places in the market.

    The problem you'll have is competing with the higher end manufacturers like Wilson, Brown, Nighthawk, GI, Baer, etc., It can be hard to compete with what they're offering, particularly at Baer's prices. IMO, if you want to offer something that will be readily accepted, simple builds on customers guns at reasonable prices and turn around times would be a great place to start. Reliability work, accurizing, action job, checkering, sights, refinishing - in a reasonably priced package with a relatively quick turn around would sell. Build your reputation there and work up. And, you should be flexible enough to be able to add or subtract to that as the customer desires since some folks may want polished blue instead of matte or DLC instead of Cerakote or a French border or whatever.

    I've bought Baer's and Browns and numerous gunsmith built customs and I've had 1911s and revolvers built to order. As far as your original question price and wait are always factors but I'm willing to pay and wait for what I want. If the quality isn't there you won't get my work. Innovation isn't a big deal, there's only so much you can do to a 1911.
     
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  17. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    • Price
    There are a number of fairly new shops out there building guns on commodity parts. It looks like it is going to take $2500+ to make any money. What will you offer to be worth that? Note that the Wilson EDC X9 is about $800 less than the EDC and Brown is advertising a lineup of "batch produced" guns about $800 than their one-offs. The Big Names are working to fill the niches.
    • Wait Time
    Custom work takes time, no way around it. To start with, you have to round up enough orders to fill your time. If they get noticed, you will find yourself with a backlog. How much will you do in-house, how much will you farm out? A full time bluer, plater, metal treatment contractor can save you a lot of capital cost, but then you add their turnaround time to yours. Maybe concentrate on stainless steel, nicht wahr?
    • Lack of new innovation
    Innovation in the 1911/2011 field is an oxymoron. Depart much from the base design and it isn't a 1911 any more, see EDC X9. Not that it and other mutants are not doing well, but coming up with something innovative and putting it into production is a challenge for a small operation. A lot of places are hanging their hat on cosmetics. One place that got established with a line of well made but very plain guns has been adding ever more garish stying exercises. Full custom shops showcase all sorts of add ons; the best ones are tasteful, but they are still adding non-functional frou frou to catch the customer's eye... and pay the rent.
    • Maybe the quality is not worth the cost
    Well, it is up to you to prove it is worth the cost.
    • Other??
    As said, maybe you could start out customizing and improving instead of custom building. Do you really truly know the gun to where you can troubleshoot? You could really help out the guy who says "A $700 gun will do anything a $3000 gun will." when he finds out it won't. Reliability work and what Jeff Cooper called a "half accuracy job" might be good sellers.

    Other guns? I see modifications being made to everything, you might find a home with Brand X. But don't try to "specialize in everything."

    He is wrong. It is really "Pick ONE."
     
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  18. rpenmanparker

    rpenmanparker Member

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    That actually looks like a 1inch group which I would call + or - 1/2 inch, not 1 inch. Very nice indeed.
     
  19. rpenmanparker

    rpenmanparker Member

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    Don’t forget that this whole custom thing with 1911s got started on mil-spec pistols that folks wanted to use for competition. Basically they did not prove that a $700 gun could do anything a $3,000 gun could. They proved that a $25 gun could do that. And I suggest it is still true today albeit inflated a bit. There is no reason my $329 (delivered) ATI can’t be made the shooting equal of the best custom 1911. Not the aesthetic equal perhaps, but even that can be significantly approached. Now for what cost. I would guess under $1,000 additional. And to me that is where OPs opportunity is and the obvious place to start. If I were him I might even buy a few dozen ATIs and customize, accurize, etc. them all, then offer them for sale as a product line.
     
  20. rpenmanparker

    rpenmanparker Member

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    And don’t forget OP could get a couple dozen ATIs or so at wholesale dealer price. What could that be, $250 each? Lot of profit potential there. If he found himself an up and coming, talented shooter to sponsor with his best finished gun, the competitive results would sell the guns.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019 at 12:33 PM
  21. Texas10mm

    Texas10mm Member

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    A $1000 might get you 50% of the way there. That next 50% is going to cost a lot more than that. All you have to do is look at what 1911 smiths charge for services. You can easily put 25 hours into a 1911 doing basic work. At $75 an hour that's $1875 in labor.

    https://www.alscustom.com/gunsmithing_1911.php
    https://clarkcustomguns.com/gunsmithing-services-2/1911-handgun/
    https://www.midwestgunworks.com/mm5/graphics/00000001/Pistol Service Price List (Web).pdf
    https://s3.amazonaws.com/wilsoncombat/files/WCCustomWorkForm_1911_v2.pdf
     
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  22. rpenmanparker

    rpenmanparker Member

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    Then something is wrong. The same processes are being used to make Browns, Wilsons, Baers and they start from scratch and can be had for what $3,000. PLUS those brands have to charge big bucks for the production of the major castings, millings, and forgings that OP would get for about $250. There has got to be some daylight in there. Hired , lower cost labor is one way to cut cost. OP’s role would be to supervise and inspect. Don’t tell me Les Baer is making every gun that carries his name with his own hands.
     
  23. JTQ

    JTQ Member

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    I've read some posts on various forums from top 1911 pistols smiths - the lower end the starting point, and some won't take certain starting points, the more time and effort they spend "fixing" problems with them than actually performing standard work on them.

    For instance, folks like to take pot shots at Colt's, for their high cost and lack of "features". What a Colt base gun gives the custom gunsmith is generally true lines on the frame and slide, a pretty good barrel, and all the holes in the right spot. Fixing those issues on many of the non-US produced 1911's often makes customizing those guns cost prohibitive.
     
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  24. tarosean

    tarosean Member

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    I was going to say the same thing JTQ said..

    There is a reason the top smith's use Frame/Slide sets from specific manufactures or require certain base guns and its not to inflate their prices.
     
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  25. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Well of course not, but they have all trained there and don't work on customer's guns until they are good enough.

    Whether you agree with what they charge or not has nothing to do with people wanting them.

    And you do not seem to understand that the difference in quality as well as fit of the parts. You cannot take just any 1911 and turn it into the equal of these truly custom jobs that start off with best quality parts or guns with a good enough frame/slide to build on.
     
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