One of the best-known custom builders in the 1911 arena is Cabot Guns of Sarver, Pennsylvania. Innovative and driven, Cabot Guns has quickly carved out a reputation as being one of the most dynamic custom shops in the country. As evidence of the company’s exacting requirements, Cabot 1911’s are crafted from a block of American billet steel and constructed with Aerospace precision standards. It’s this level of precision that has made Cabot’s custom 1911s regular contenders in competition. In 2012 and 2013, Brian Zins used a Cabot pistol to win the NRA’s National Pistol Championship.</br> <strong>Cabot’s Touches:</strong> Hand-fit frames and slides; 5-inch National Match barrels; hand-polished feed ramps; lowered and flared ejection ports; frontstrap rhombus checkering; 16.5-pound Wolff variable recoil springs; rear Trinity Stripe slide serrations.
The former president of Dan Wesson, Bob Serva, started Fusion Firearms. Serva has worked with the 1911 platform for over 20 years and understands the quality standards that are needed to build the finest custom 1911 pistols. Fusion’s custom builds include work with 6- and 5-inch-barreled models and Officer and Commander variants as well as hybrid 1911-style designs. </br> <strong>Fusion Features:</strong> Forged Fusion Pro-Series frames; custom trigger groups; Novak, XS or BoMar sight sets; VZ, G10 or cocobolo grips; extended combat mag releases; undercut triggerguards; beveled frames and mag wells.
One of the most experienced and respected 1911 custom shops is Heirloom Precision in Mesa, Arizona. Home to towner/craftsman Jason Burton, his shop has a long-standing reputation for creating one-of-a-kind masterpieces. Each gun Burton builds is made to the customer’s exact specifications and desires, and as such all Heirlooms guns are full-house pistols. Jason Burton work over the complete pistol and leave no part untouched. While Burton will work on and build anything the client requires, Heirloom typically focuses on full-sized 1911-style pistols.</br> <strong>Heirloom Essentials:</strong> Welded frame-to-slide fit; Kart National Match barrels; high-visibility sights; customized ergonomics, including safeties and controls; detailing of the frame and slide; component replacement of extractor, ejector, firing pin stop, slide stop, etc.
Jardine’s Custom Gunsmithing manufactures beautiful, supremely accurate and highly reliable custom 1911 handguns. Raised in a family of gunsmiths, John Jardine is a master pistolsmith who has enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for simply outstanding work since 1965. The company’s 1911 pistols are highly prized examples of old-world craftsmanship and dedication to building the very best in a customized 1911- and 1911A1-style handguns. One of the more unique custom handguns John has produced is a two-tone 1911.</br> <strong>Jardine Upgrades: </strong> Forged National Match frames and slides (4340 steel); 30-lpi checkered frontstraps/raised grips; 3.5-pound trigger pulls (or as specified); beavertail grip safeties; flat checkered mainspring housings; fitted .45 ACP match-grade barrels.
Started in 2004 building only custom-grade 1911 pistols, Nighthawk Custom has expanded into custom tactical shotguns, handmade knives and top-grade leather, as well as high-end parts for 1911 handguns. Nighthawk Custom specializes in crafting superbly accurate and durable pistols in a unique building process aptly called, “One Gun. One Gunsmith,” where one Master Gunsmith builds the pistol from start to finish. He then stamps his initials under the left grip panel, showing pride and ownership of that particular 1911. All parts used in Nighthawk 1911’s are machined. No MIM or cast parts are used.</br> <strong>Nighthawk Notes:</strong> Nighthawk Custom has over 30 different models in lines that include the Talon, Predator, Dominator, War Hawk, GRP and Falcon just to name a few. Owner Mark Stone and his team in Berryville, Arkansas, make sure that every pistol leaving the building meets the Nighthawk Custom standard of quality.
Pistol Dynamics is home to gunsmith Paul Liebenberg, a trained industrial designer who has been a professional gun builder specializing in the Browning locked-breech pistol platform for over 30 years. He is a certified four-gun firearms instructor and former professional pistol shooter who competed successfully in many disciplines in the shooting sports. A member of the world champion South African Practical Pistol team, an NRA Action Shooting High Master, an AA skeet shooter and an NRA F-TR High Master, Liebenberg is a highly qualified technical resource with respect to firearms. In 2001, he launched Pistol Dynamics, and it has earned countless accolades from shooters since. One of the unique pieces to come out of this shop is a .40-caliber compact with a titanium receiver.</br> <strong>PD Upgrades:</strong> Titanium receivers; Pistol Dynamics’ custom beavertail; Pistol Dynamics’ Hi-Performance ignition systems; 4140 carbon steel slides; custom 4-inch slide lengths; external extractors; ebony and hand-checkered grips; IonBond finishing.
Based in Crete, Nebraska, Chambers Custom Pistols has become one of the premier 1911 builders in a short amount of time. Pistols made by Joe Chambers have been used to win over 70 class champ-ionships at the NRA National Matches at Camp Perry as well as many other regional, state and local competitions over the years.</br> <strong>Chambers’ Customizations:</strong> Custom-cut slide serrations; custom-built and blended gold bead front sights; cus-tom recoil plugs; blended triggerguards; trigger adjustment screws in the mainspring housing; trigger pulls set at 3.5 pounds.
Since 2001, Stan Chen has crafted some of the finest custom 1911 pistols in the world. He has built a solid reputation in the industry for his innovation, skillful craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail. Stan Chen Custom 1911s are prized by serious aficionados of true custom 1911s who recognize the difference between “good” and “truly superb.” The shop utilizes in-house CNC machines and manual milling, surface grinding, precision TIG welding, heat treating, hardness testing and a large assortment of custom tools to achieve its eye-catching results.</br> <strong>Stan Chen Style:</strong> Herringbone-checkered slides; fluted barrels; polished slide flats with satin matte frames; complete hand detailing; recessed crowns with matching countersunk bushings; sculpted/blended grips and thumb safeties; angled and serrated magazine catches.
Based in Littleton, Colorado, Volkmann Precision has developed a solid reputation for beautiful and reliable pistols. The company’s goal is to offer enough custom options for its clients so that they can actually create one-of-a-kind pistols every time. While not as expensive as some other custom shops, the guns coming out of Volkmann are fantastic pieces equally at home in either the collectibles case or on the range.</br> <strong>Volkmann’s Marks:</strong> Volkmann Gripwell; high-cut grips; custom etching, engraving and inlay; flushed and beveled slide stops; fluted hoods; BattleHook sights; monogrammed bushing set; IonBond and Rockote finishes.
Wilson Combat is a world-famous custom pistol manufacturer located in Berryville, Arkansas. Bill Wilson has built the company into one of the premier manufacturing and gunsmithing shops in the world for both stock and custom pistols. Whether you want a handcrafted warhorse like the impressive Tactical Supergrade or finishing work to take your existing 1911 to a new level of polish and performance, the gunsmiths at Wilson Combat are true craftsmen when it comes to enhancing “Old Slabsides.”</br> <strong>Wilson’s Wonders:</strong> Checkered or stippled frontstraps; Battlesight rear sights; Bullet Proof beavertail grip safeties; match-grade barrels; basic reliability examinations; guide rod replacements; Bullet Proof one-piece mag wells; Armor-Tuff finishes.
Owner Benny Deal’s company hasn’t been around for many years as of this writing, but you’d never know it from the masterpieces that are coming out of his world-class 1911 gun-smithing shop in Perryton, Texas. All of the guns produced at Republic Forge are made by hand with American parts, one gun at a time.</br> <strong>Forging Ahead:</strong> Republic’s biggest claim to fame is its high-tech way of ordering up your personal, one-of-a-kind 1911. Republic lets you build a virtual gun via its “Build Your Own 1911” ordering system, where, via drop-down menus, you can choose from dozens of options. We’re talking eight models, two different sight options, 10 frame colors, 10 grip styles (including mammoth ivory), 11 slide colors, five different calibers and nine other custom options. The choices are mind-blowing. Better yet: You won’t be disappointed in the end product—the gun you see online will be the one you bring to the range.
The gun world has changed dramatically over the last 100 years. While the advent of lightweight, polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols has become an industry essential, a steel link to the past remains. The classic 1911 pistol, declared “outdated” and “obsolete” by some, has managed not only to hold its ground, but gain a larger following in today’s firearms marketplace. This is especially true with custom 1911s. Fully functional firearms and pieces of arts, these custom guns are on many people’s wish lists. While there are a number of great 1911 builders in the U.S., let’s take this opportunity to look at 11 of them and their outstanding artwork.
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Chambers Custom Pistols
Stan Chen Customs
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