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Old January 10, 2013, 02:33 PM   #1
HK_Flo
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So my buddy is going to manufacture 1911's

I have a friend that owns a machine shop, apparently his next venture is going to be manufacturing custom 1911's.

Being a marketing guy my mind immediately went to how you would get the name out and get people to buy a 1911 from a previously unheard of manufacturer.

He said he is going to be going upmarket, my question is what would it take to get you buy one of his instead of say a Les Baer or a Wilson Combat?

The only real idea I had was giving one to a pro shooter to use in competition. That even seems like it could be tough, might have to start his own team?

I know about the SHOT show, I think he plans on going next year.
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Old January 10, 2013, 03:22 PM   #2
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undercut on price, show people that u can make the same quality gun for less money.
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Old January 10, 2013, 03:40 PM   #3
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Offer one or two up on several forums or at local events for members to test and spread the word about.
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Old January 10, 2013, 04:46 PM   #4
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Have the big well-known gun rags do range tests and reviews on his pistol. That'll get him the biggest audience the quickest.
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Old January 10, 2013, 05:03 PM   #5
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Does your friend already have a good reputation for doing custom gun work or expertise in gunsmithing? Does he shoot competitively and is well known in those circles? If not, than just owning some CNC machines and being able to read mechanical drawings is not going to cut it. Seems to me, long before he decided on the the idea of producing custom 1911s, he should have already done his marketing research. Producing something, without knowing the demand and the wants of potential customers in a market that is already saturated with models produced by well known and established manufacturers is gonna be a tuff row to hoe. Many custom 1911 makers were well known in their field for producing custom parts and doing custom work on other brands of 1911s before entering the market themselves. They created the demand before they produced the product.
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Old January 10, 2013, 05:43 PM   #6
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Tell him to check out Cabot before he commits. They are about as up-market as you can get for a 1911, so if he thinks he's going to go in above the "name" makers like Wilson Combat, Les Baer, Ed Brown and Nighthawk Custom ... Cabot is going to be his competition, and they're going to eat him alive.
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Old January 10, 2013, 06:14 PM   #7
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First off he has to be able to make a quality 1911, has he done that?

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Quote:
Originally Posted by HK_Flo
turns out he owns a glock and a hi-point...
well ya got reliable plastic and unreliable steel, put em together and hey it just might work
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Old January 10, 2013, 06:21 PM   #8
HK_Flo
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Quote:
Does your friend already have a good reputation for doing custom gun work or expertise in gunsmithing? Does he shoot competitively and is well known in those circles? If not, than just owning some CNC machines and being able to read mechanical drawings is not going to cut it. Seems to me, long before he decided on the the idea of producing custom 1911s, he should have already done his marketing research. Producing something, without knowing the demand and the wants of potential customers in a market that is already saturated with models produced by well known and established manufacturers is gonna be a tuff row to hoe. Many custom 1911 makers were well known in their field for producing custom parts and doing custom work on other brands of 1911s before entering the market themselves. They created the demand before they produced the product.
Not that I know of, no. I was talking to him a bit and it turns out he owns a glock and a hi-point...

Personally I think it is rather crazy idea. Crazy enough that it might work?

I think it will be fun to visit the shop and test out some guns for him though, as long as they don't blow my hands off
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Old January 10, 2013, 06:39 PM   #9
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RamItOne,

What did you do, take a quote from the post after yours and edit your post ... so the quote is prior to the original statement?
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Old January 10, 2013, 07:50 PM   #10
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if i recall my history somewhat, Sam Colt would create beautiful engraved samples to show around, and would also make sure people of influence and distinction had some of his guns.

know any talented engravers? know any rich or successful people?

he also innovated, and kept innovating to respond to market changes. your buddy going to make a 5" 1911 that takes single stack mags? everyone is doing that. he better have something to offer besides shiney or mean looking.
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Old January 10, 2013, 08:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bud Helms
RamItOne,

What did you do, take a quote from the post after yours and edit your post ... so the quote is prior to the original statement?
Yeah, if its an issue ya can PM me.
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Old January 10, 2013, 08:23 PM   #12
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Talk with him about buying a completely unfinished Caspian slide and frame. Get the slide in .45 and the frame as a .38., also buy a Kart match barrel.

Buy a grip safety from Brown, Wilson, etc. the new magwell / mainspring housing from Nighthawk, and extractor, thumb safety, slide release, barrel bushing, barrel link, trigger parts from Wilson, EGW, etc.

Then he can machine the rails on the frame and slide to fit, throat the .38 frame to .45, fit the barrel to the slide, fit all of the other parts and see how much work there is in manufacturing a 1911 without starting with billets and trying to machine everything to match prints.

It would certainly give him the opportunity to find out how much work is involved without starting totally from scratch. It will also help him develop the fixtures needed to hold the parts and he will also find out the tooling needed.

He may be grossly under estimating the amount of work, tooling, fixtures, etc. required. This approach would let him produce one with a moderate investement just to get a feel for what he would need for full production.

Last edited by buckhorn_cortez; January 10, 2013 at 08:30 PM.
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Old January 10, 2013, 09:06 PM   #13
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You are the marketing guy. If he is a good friend, help him out by sitting down and walking him through some market research. The 1911 marlet today ranges from the Umarex Regal 100, made in Turkey, that sells for around $400, all the way up to the fancy Cabot 1911s that run $5000 and up. And pretty much all the price points in between are covered, with the heaviest coverage (as a marketing guy might expect) in the price range most people are willing to spend -- call it $500 to $1500. Within that range you can find everything from a plethora of Philippine brands to Taurus (Brazil), Springfield Armory (also Brazil), Colt (naturally), Auto-Ordnance, Para USA, the aforementioned Wilson Combat, Les Baer, Ed Brown and Nighthawk Custom. And if you jump to the next price level ($1500 to $2500) you still have Wilson, Baer, Brown and Nighthawk, plus now you get into the "name" custom makers as well.

And then you go over $2500 and there's Guncrafter Industries, Cabot Guns, and still more custom gunsmiths.

Frankly, he'd probably do better trying to build Hi-Powers. Lots less competition, and the shooting world could use an affordable Hi-Power now that the Charles Daly/FEG guns are gone and Argentina sends almost zero FM Hi-Powers to the U.S.
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Old January 11, 2013, 12:46 AM   #14
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Dude, if he's going to jump in, why not start with 80% AR lowers. No manufacturers license needed and the demand is there.
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Old January 11, 2013, 01:21 AM   #15
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I hope he's known enough to make introductions and take a 20+years-experience 1911 production guru out to a really nice dinner to pick his brain for a couple hours before he thinks another thought about it. He's GOT to have an insider mentor...
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Old January 11, 2013, 03:19 AM   #16
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before he starts making chips he had better look at insurance , local & federal requirements and a lot of money
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Old January 11, 2013, 08:17 AM   #17
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Make good guns at reasonable-to-bargain prices. I wouldn't worry about Cabot - not unless he plans on trying to get $10,000 for a 1911. Use all forged frame/slide and parts. He better be an artist, because all 1911's start to look the same (to me) after a while. Have the guns proven in competitions. If they perform well in competitions, then your friend probably built a good 1911.

An unknown manufacturer can't just jump into the "high-end" gun market. That would be like paying $8,000 for a watch that the maker claims is as good as a Rolex....without the name. Well, people pay premiums for names. No-names don't get to charge a premium - they will be lucky get get 80% of what their product is "worth".
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Old January 11, 2013, 11:19 AM   #18
HK_Flo
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Thanks guys. Good ideas.

IDK how much he has researched it or if he knows what he is doing but I know he used to machine aircraft parts so he is well versed in dealing with federal regulations and insurance.
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Old January 11, 2013, 01:35 PM   #19
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I would suggest that your friend try getting hired on as a machinist or an apprentice with a gunsmith so he can learn a few of the ropes behind the business. the fact that he has dealt with regulations doesn't mean much when it comes to starting your own business and dealing with the federal and local regulations. I would also suggest that your friend enroll at a good gunsmithing school as maybe (or hopefully) they will cover all aspects of starting up a gun business. the 1911 business is already pretty crowded in my opinion so he really is going to have to offer something really good

Last edited by steveno; January 11, 2013 at 01:46 PM.
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Old January 11, 2013, 02:07 PM   #20
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Here is the Rub:

Being a skilled machinist with a great shop does not make you a 1911 smith. Head over to http://www.1911addicts.com and look at the threads by pistolwrench(chuck rogers) or JoeC(joe chambers) or any of the other pros that are there. 1911s are not pulled out of a CNC machine, smoothed on the edges, finished, and assembled.

To build 1911s of that caliber is an art of its own. Much more than being a great machinist.
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Old January 11, 2013, 02:16 PM   #21
HK_Flo
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AFAIK he doesn't run the machines himself. I am assuming he is going to hire a machinist/smith that has built guns before.

Sorry I am a little light on details of what exactly he is doing. I haven't talked to him for a few months and he called me with a domain name question and I asked what was new and he said he was going to start manufacturing 1911s.

I plan on going over to his shop when it is setup to get a better idea.
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Old January 11, 2013, 02:30 PM   #22
Skans
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Quote:
1911s are not pulled out of a CNC machine, smoothed on the edges, finished, and assembled.
I just don't get all of the mystique surrounding the 1911. They are really not that much different than other semi-auto pistols. Pistols other than the 1911 can and are built to strict tight tolerances. I just don't see how any 1911 can cost more than about $2,500 (unless you're paying for a bunch of fluff & hype), and I think that price level is generous.
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Old January 11, 2013, 04:04 PM   #23
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Quote:
AFAIK he doesn't run the machines himself. I am assuming he is going to hire a machinist/smith that has built guns before.
Quote:
I just don't get all of the mystique surrounding the 1911. They are really not that much different than other semi-auto pistols. Pistols other than the 1911 can and are built to strict tight tolerances. I just don't see how any 1911 can cost more than about $2,500 (unless you're paying for a bunch of fluff & hype), and I think that price level is generous.
Look at the link that I posted above and do some research. Its about hand fitting and custom work that makes them worth that money. Anyone can take machined parts and put them together into a production pistol. They sell for under a grand. When you talk about wilson combat or les baer you are talking about artwork. Custom handfitting and a whole new level of fit and finish. This is not achieved by a CNC machine and a buffing wheel. Sorry, but its not.
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Old January 11, 2013, 05:42 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HK Flo
AFAIK he doesn't run the machines himself. I am assuming he is going to hire a machinist/smith that has built guns before.

Sorry I am a little light on details of what exactly he is doing. I haven't talked to him for a few months and he called me with a domain name question and I asked what was new and he said he was going to start manufacturing 1911s.

I plan on going over to his shop when it is setup to get a better idea.
I hate to rain on anybody's parade, and I love the 1911 so I think more coices are always good, but ... to be blunt, I think he's nuts if he thinks a one-man show with NO reputation as a custom gunsmith can just fire up a CNC machine and successfully make and sell 1911.

Even if he can turn out functional pistols (and that's a big if), who's going to buy them? ALL the price points in the 1911 market are saturated. You're a marketing guy. What should ANYONE looking to start a small business do?

Look for a niche, right? There just is no "niche" in the 1911 market. Grab a copy of Gun Digest from this year or last year and go through it with your friend. Log onto M1911.ORG ( http://forum.m1911.org/forums.php ) and take a look at the "Manufacturers" area. That'll give you a basic idea of how many major manufacturers there are in the market, but keep in mind that there are more than a few lumped together under "Other 1911 Manufacturers."
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Old January 11, 2013, 05:54 PM   #25
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From what I've read...

Glocks and other modern guns are relatively easy to make (patents, etc. aside) as they are designed to be mass-produced by CNC machines and function with generous tolerances.

The 1911 design stems from an era where machines would rough it out and skilled human gunsmiths would do the final steps. There was a lot more human hands-on in that era. Tolerances were a lot tighter.

With 1911s, you run into tolerance stacking (the combined sum of all variance) which may not be obvious if each piece is in spec. It's a more difficult gun to manufacture because it's a less forgiving design.

The big name manufacturers start with a base of many years of accumulated knowledge about 1911 quirks that a newcomer is unlikely to have.

OK, so that's the sum of what I've read about making 1911s...I'm sure someone will correct anything I've misunderstood.
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