Without a doubt, most people in the firearms world have guns they dream of having. In most of those cases, the price tag attached to their dream gun can make the goal of ownership seem unattainable. For me this is especially true regarding 1911s. Consequently, there are certain guns that have come across my radar that made me do a double take and drool. The mix of classic gun with modern manufacturing is the canvas for some of the finest pistolsmiths in the world. Their creations are as much art as they are functional handguns. So, without further ado, let me share with you five high end 1911s you should consider owning if money is no object.
6 High End 1911s For Your List
Wilson Combat Limited 10 Number Four
Rare is the list of high-end 1911s that does not include a pistol from Wilson Combat. For this piece, I present the Wilson Combat Limited 10 Number Four. The Limited 10 is a special program that Wilson only runs periodically. They design and build 10 super-custom guns and the 10 pistols are then offered to their Top 10 performing elite dealers to then be sold to the public. It is a prestigious event to get one of the Limited 10 pistols into your gun shop. The latest model is number four in the series and is beautiful. For this gun, they have worked in collaboration with Layne Zuelke and their most experienced super-grade pistol smiths. They have yet again labored to create a classic custom pistol that will appeal to any collector of the custom 1911.
This beautiful nickel-finished 1911 has had every part of it carefully planned out and built. The gun has a professional-size stainless steel frame and 30 LPI high-cut checkered frontstrap. It also has the Wilson bulletproof round magazine well, high-ride bulletproof beavertail grip safety and a commander hammer. The beautiful, detailed engraving is done by FEGA Master Engraver Layne Zuelke of Southern Custom Engraving. His skilled hands have added a level of art to this solid shooter that is almost beyond compare. The gun is just short of 8 inches in overall length and is designed not only to be admired but shot if the owner should feel the urge: Wilson includes their “1.5-inch groups at 25 yards” guarantee. If you can be the first in line to get this newest member of the Limited 10 family, it will set you back around $8,900. For more information, visit WilsonCombat.com.
Nighthawk Custom VIP
Next up is a masterpiece from one of the best companies in the business. Nighthawk Custom Firearms, led by Mark Stone, produces what some can only describe as functional art. They live by the motto “One Gun, One Gunsmith,” and the result is the production of exceptional guns. Choosing a favorite gun from their lineup was difficult, but after talking to Mark, I chose the Nighthawk Custom VIP Nickel. This pistol is one of their most exclusive models and is designed as an heirloom piece. It has some incredible customizations, including a classic, antiqued nickel finish and full hand engraving done by a master engraver. The gun even comes equipped with a 14-karat solid-gold bead front sight and giraffe bone grips.
This gun is much more than a piece of art you break out at barbeques and special occasions—it is a shooter. Nighthawk is so adamant about it that they provided me with a pistol to take to the range. The idea of running a gun in its price range on my dusty Arizona range made me nervous, but I also could not resist the opportunity. What I found was that the Nighthawk Custom VIP Nickel was an even more beautiful version of all the other Nighthawks I have run. The rear of the slide is hand serrated to match the Heine rear sight, making acquisition easy. Chambered in .45 ACP, the full-size 1911 drilled ragged holes in every group I fired. A crowned barrel and exceptional fit and finish made this a hyper-accurate tack driver.
To complete this truly elite package, the VIP comes in a stunning custom walnut hardwood presentation case. Yes, it matters. You wouldn’t want your expensive caviar served on a paper plate, would you? The Nighthawk Custom VIP Nickel is listed at $7,999, which might make you pause a moment before breaking out the credit card. What I can say from experience is that this pistol is worth every penny.
Next on my list of dream guns is the Cabot Apocalypse. Cabot is no stranger to guns priced in the stratosphere, but there is a reason for that: They are incredible guns. One of the newest guns in their lineup is the Apocalypse. The founder and CEO of Cabot, Rob Bianchin, shared an image of the Apocalypse with me and I fell in love.
This high-end pistol differs a bit from others in that it is crafted from the ground up as a fighting handgun for the enthusiast who is unwilling to compromise. The Apocalypse is built around a deeply etched stainless steel Damascus slide that is as durable as it is striking. Cabot’s proprietary Heritage finish brings out the intricacies of the aggressively patterned steel, while shielding the parts with a rock-hard exterior. Front and rear angled cocking serrations further highlight the dazzling surfaces. As a result, like a fingerprint, each slide’s pattern is unique.
A True Fighting Gun
In that the Apocalypse is designed as a fighting gun, Cabot felt it necessary to make the gun red-dot ready. To facilitate this, Cabot engineered its own optional mount that sits low on the slide and co-witnesses the dot with the iron sights. This design helps make acquisition of the red-dot quick and easy. As with most super high-end pistols, Cabot offers a variety of options and configurations. They include full-size and commander-length guns chambered in either .45 ACP or 9mm, with the option of a threaded barrel and suppressor-height sights. An integral frame-mounted light rail is standard but can be omitted if the owner wishes.
It is also a feature-rich gun with a stainless steel, match-grade barrel, polished feed ramp, a flat-faced serrated trigger set at 3.5 to 4 pounds, billet ambidextrous safeties and rhombus-cut frontstrap checkering at 24 LPI. All this is wrapped into a package that Cabot guarantees will shoot better than 1.5-inch groups at 25 yards. The price on this epic 1911 comes in at $7,495, and is absolutely on my want list. For more information, visit CabotGuns.com.
Les Baer Limited Edition
A name that has been synonymous with high-end 1911s is Les Baer. Of all the guns he has in his lineup, the Les Baer Limited Edition Presentation Grade 1911 is a gun that ended up on my want list. This is a fully engraved masterpiece that belongs in the collection of a true aficionado. The breathtaking beauty of this 1911 coupled with the limited availability of only 40 pistols per year will help ensure its continued collectability and probable investment value.
Each Les Baer Presentation Grade 1911 is a fully equipped Baer Premier II that has been enhanced with the addition of some very special features. Most strikingly is the minutely detailed hand-chiseled engraving, an old-world art form rarely seen in today’s high-tech world. Other features include special charcoal bluing on all polished surfaces, the “LBC” engraving on the top of the slide is inlaid with gold, and you have the option of having your name or the name of the recipient engraved on the slide with: “To (Name) by Les Baer.”
I had the fortune of visiting with Les, and he shared many of my gun beliefs. While the polymer guns fill an important niche in the gun world, there is something special about the 1911, especially the examples that reach the quality and beauty of the Les Baer Limited Edition Presentation Grade 1911. Priced at $7,807, it is as much an investment as it is a beautiful gun. For more information, visit LesBaer.com.
Ed Brown Jeff Cooper Commemorative
Last but by no means least is a mix of beauty and history. The Ed Brown Jeff Cooper Commemorative 1911 is built in memory of the late Colonel Jeff Cooper. This commemorative 1911 is officially endorsed by the family of Jeff Cooper and was designed in collaboration with them. This allowed the family to render, as authentically as possible, what Jeff Cooper himself desired in a 1911.
The final design was based on input from their builders, the Coopers and many of Jeff’s closest friends and fans. The goal was to create a 1911 for combat shooting/personal defense that he would have been proud to carry. The final product speaks for itself. If you were to own only one commemorative 1911, this would be the one. A portion of the proceeds from this project will go to the Jeff Cooper Legacy Foundation to help them continue their work letting the next generation know who Jeff Cooper was and what he meant to us all.
While the gun has a simpler look than some of the other guns we list here, it is feature rich. It has 25 LPI checkering on the frontstrap and an integral lanyard loop mainspring housing with 25 LPI checkering. The highly polished blued slide features traditional “square cut” serrations on the rear of the slide only. It also has Jeff Cooper’s signature engraved on the ejection port side of the slide.
The righthand side of the slide is inlaid with “DVC” in 24-karat solid gold, which stands for the Latin phrase, “Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas,” meaning, “Accuracy, Power, Speed.” Complete with a concealed-carry beavertail grip safety and exhibition-grade cocobolo smooth grips with the engraved Jeff Cooper logo of the pen and sword, it is subtly beautiful. The price on this masterpiece tops out at just over $3,100, making it the most “affordable” on our list. For more information, visit EdBrown.com.
BONUS PICK: A “Turnbullized” VIP
As mentioned in the beginning of this piece, it was incredibly hard to trim my list to just five guns. I have to admit I was ultimately unable to and thus we will look at just one more gun. The gun I just could not leave off is another pistol from the master gunsmiths at Nighthawk Custom. The Nighthawk Turnbull VIP 1 is just that impressive. As one of their most exclusive models, the VIP is built as a true heirloom piece that is the result of a collaboration between Nighthawk Custom and Doug Turnbull.
Because of the time and skill that is required to give this 1911 its unique appearance, it is very limited in availability. This pistol is crafted with all the finest customizations, including a classic case-hardened and polished frame. The Turnbull high-polished blued slide matches the slide stop, magazine release and thumb safety. To top it all off, they added a 14-karat solid-gold bead front sight, mammoth ivory grips and a custom case.
Because of the relationship between Mark Stone and Doug Turnbull, they have created a partnership that has resulted in the finest 1911 pistols on the market. This incredible pistol needs to be on your list, so start saving for the $7,999 price tag. It will indeed be worth it. For more information, visit Turnbullrestoration.com.
This article was originally published in the Combat Handguns July/Aug 2021 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email email@example.com.