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Old January 6, 2017, 12:59 PM   #1
BoogieMan
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Higher end 1911's

I am prepared to drop some coin on another 1911. I love the platform.
I own a highly customized Kimber frame 1911/9 and an intact 41' Colt GI. I am thinking that I would like something in 45 that and off the shelf custom like a Wilson, Browne, Nighthawk, Guncrafters etc... I dont mind buying used as long as condition is VG. Can I get into any of these or other semi-customs around $2k-$2500?
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Old January 6, 2017, 01:20 PM   #2
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$2k-$2500 probably isn't enough for a W.W. II vintage 1911A1. However, what you plan on doing with the thing matters most. That vintage 1911A1 is more a collector's piece than a shooter. The aftermarket clones are for shooting.
A Wilson 'Classic' starts at 3 grand BNIB. Those guys have a 'financing plan' with the First National Bank of North Arkansas. Geezuz. Even used on Gunbroker they're running over 3 grand.
You can have a used Ed Brown for about 2 grand though. Also on Gunbroker. Go shopping on the auction sites after looking at the assorted high end cloner sites so you know what BINB costs.
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Old January 6, 2017, 02:16 PM   #3
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"Off the shelf custom"? So, you want high quality, but not custom at all.
I have handled and shot a few $3000-$4000 pistols from Nighthawk, as we used to have a local rep, and I've done the same with a buddy's Les Baer Thunder Ranch, which is closer to a $2000 pistol, and I don't know that I can appreciate the difference?
That said, I wouldn't spend more than $1000 for a gun that wasn't set up to my specific needs and wants; the whole idea of "production custom" is lost on me.
For instance, I prefer - insist on - an arched mainspring housing, and Wilson Combat does not make arched housings anymore, so you cannot specify an arched housing on your $4000 Wilson pistol; what sort of "custom" is that?
For that kind of money, the gun would have to be EXACTLY what I wanted.
If you are satisfied with one item from column A and one from column B, not a dig at you, then a high-end, not-really-custom might be just the ticket, as you won't have to wait two or three years for a top-notch 'smith's waiting list.
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Old January 6, 2017, 05:19 PM   #4
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@TOheir- I think you misunderstood. I have a intact vintage 1911 and a full custom kimber. I am looking for a high quality off the shelf like a Wilson or LB etc... My question is can I get the build quality of those guns in the $2k+- range.
@RickB- Thank you for the info. I am looking for a high quality 1911. They sell them as off the shelf custom because they are low production guns. Baer doesnt make in 5 years what Ruger makes in a month. I cant justify in my mind going to a gunsmith and waiting. I own a machine shop and to me its like outsourcing work. I could build one complete custom if I took the time. Are you saying that you dont feel the OTS customs are worth the money they ask?
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Old January 6, 2017, 05:49 PM   #5
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No matter how high the quality, I can't justify spending $3000 on a gun designed by and for someone else.
It's like ordering a $100,000 car that doesn't come in the color I want.
If you want what (apparently) 95% of the 1911 market demands - flat mainspring housing, Novak sights, forward cocking serrations, speed-bump beavertail, extended mag release, etc. - such that an off-the-shelf gun satisfies your needs, that's great.
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Old January 6, 2017, 06:08 PM   #6
CDR_Glock
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Originally Posted by BoogieMan View Post
I am prepared to drop some coin on another 1911. I love the platform.

I own a highly customized Kimber frame 1911/9 and an intact 41' Colt GI. I am thinking that I would like something in 45 that and off the shelf custom like a Wilson, Browne, Nighthawk, Guncrafters etc... I dont mind buying used as long as condition is VG. Can I get into any of these or other semi-customs around $2k-$2500?


For a Wilson, Guncrafter, Ed Brown, Nighthawk, absolutely.


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Old January 6, 2017, 06:58 PM   #7
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New high end 1911's that can be had for $2,500 or less.
Ed Brown Alpha Elite http://www.gunbroker.com/item/611823140
Ed Brown Special Forces http://www.gunbroker.com/item/611724514
Les Baer UTC http://www.gunbroker.com/item/609158121
Les Baer Custom Carry http://www.gunbroker.com/item/610822956
Dan Wesson Valor http://www.gunbroker.com/item/611287707

For about $1,450 (Valor) one can have a new 1911 made with quality small parts (no MIM), night sights.
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Old January 6, 2017, 08:33 PM   #8
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I agree with RickB. Companies like Wilson Combat, Les Baer, Nighthawk Custom, and such are not custom builders. They are low-volume production builders, who sometimes offer a few options. There isn't a single pistol that any of them offer that I would want to own. For a quality production pistol, I'd buy a Colt. For a custom pistol, I'd probably go to Guncrafters, but not for one of his catalog models. I'd order a true custom. And I wouldn't expect to be able to get a custom 1911 made for anywhere near $2,000 -- which is why I don't own any custom 1911s.

Even outsourcing usually involves the buyer establishing the design, the specifications, and the tolerances. Buying an off-the-shelf model that somebody else designed and specified isn't outsourcing -- it's buying a commodity product.
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Old January 6, 2017, 09:27 PM   #9
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Imo of the ones you listed, bear is the most reasonably priced for what you get. Yes im biased, have two and they are excellent. But they are also at the max id be willing to spend for that type of pistol (production custom or whatever we are calling it). If you want true custom you'll need to spend more then 3k. You may get it done for 4K but depends on what you want and it's likely much much more. Look at Chuck Rodgers or Ted yost and be prepared to wait forever. Many others that are superb but the wait and costs are all pretty high.

You could also try Harrison design. Very good option.
http://www.harrisoncustom.com/Services.aspx?cid=1
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Old January 6, 2017, 09:30 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Aguila Blanca
They are low-volume production builders, who sometimes offer a few options.



I thought the industry standard term was semi-custom. Why would you feel the need to redefine what they are.
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Old January 6, 2017, 11:38 PM   #11
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I guess the industry standard term is semi-custom, but IMHO that's just as meaningless as the term "match grade barrel." These days it seems every $300 1911 claims to have a "match grade" barrel, but there is no industry standard for "match grade" so the term is just marketing hype.

The same applies to "semi-custom." It's like "pregnant" -- either someone is pregnant, or she's not. If a firearm is custom, it's custom -- one of a kind.. If it's not custom, it's production. Car manufacturers try to discourage it (and dealers try even harder to discourage it), but you can still order American cars optioned out to your exact choice -- as long as you choose options listed in the catalog. But even if you special order your dream-mobile, with exactly the color and option packages you and only you want, so your car is unique among all other vehicles of that brand -- it's not "custom," and it's not even "semi-custom." It's still a Ford or a Chevy or a Chrysler that rolled off the same production line as all other vehicles of that make and model.

I'm not trying to "redefine" what they call themselves, but I suppose I am trying to better define what they actually are.
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Old January 7, 2017, 06:11 AM   #12
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Dan Wesson....a customized version of any model can be ordered around that pric....or a standard Valor, Specialist, etc may be just perfect.

Les Baer.....Great guns at or near that price with great blue or SS finishes.

Wilson....Fine guns, but there are real limitations in he areas of sights and finishes to get EXACTLY what you want. You will definitely be shopping the well used market.

Ed Brown....Another fine gun, just over this price new.

Springfield Armory Custom Shop models......a little lower price, but great guns....may have 1-2 MIM parts, but you likely could order MIM free, if it matters to you.

STI....good opportunity to get a 12-20 round 2011. These are very nice hi cap guns.
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Old January 7, 2017, 10:15 AM   #13
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Id say in that budget range, i would go dan wesson, les baer, or springfield custom shop. Do some research and pick a manufacturer. The springfield will be able to build-to-order, the dan wesson and les baers are production guns but with very high quality parts and precise and near perfect fitting.
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Old January 7, 2017, 11:11 AM   #14
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I have an older Springfield custom, excellent pistol. Would recommend highly, not on par with Les Baer but very close.
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Old January 7, 2017, 12:14 PM   #15
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Before deciding on which "semi-custom/low volume production/production custom/off-the-shelf custom" (i.e., Wilson, Les Baer, Ed Brown, Nighthawk, etc.) pistol to buy, I'd do some serious research on which of these companies have the best/worst customer service reputation. Just from my somewhat cursory attention to this factor, there seems to be a fairly significant spread between them.
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Old January 7, 2017, 01:37 PM   #16
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This is what works for me.

An off the shelf "custom" gun shoots 2"-3" groups at 25 yds.

My guns will shoot 2"-3" groups at 25 yds for $2000-$2500 less outlay.

I can buy a lot of shooting accessories and components with the difference.

One maker that has several options to choose from is STI. Their prices are where you are looking. They have an in house gunsmith that handles all issues, whatever they might be.

https://stiguns.com/
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Old January 7, 2017, 01:39 PM   #17
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Can I get into any of these or other semi-customs around $2k-$2500?
You bet!
I paid $2500 OTD each for my two used Ed Brown Executive Targets. $1900 and $2300 OTD for a couple new Les Baer Premier II's. And while I paid more for my Wilson Combat new, you can get a used Classic for around $2500.

BTW, a production gun comes pretty much one way - as built. A semi custom means you can order it with a variety of available options - Wilson combat offers the most. A true custom can be built any way you like it as long as the builder agrees. One thing to remember, even a custom made gun from a builder still starts with a standard frame, just like everyone else's. It just a matter of what "options" you make to the gun and how he builds it.

Jim
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Old January 7, 2017, 01:46 PM   #18
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An off the shelf "custom" gun shoots 2"-3" groups at 25 yds.
Maybe with an average shooter. They are much more capable and I can shoot mine much more accurate than that.
In fact, Wilson combat claims 1" at 25 yards with the right ammo and shooter.
Les Baer guarantees 3" at 50 yards on standard guns with an available option for 1.5" at 50 yards, again assuming the right ammo and equally good shooter.

There is a lot more to it then just accuracy but it still comes down to driving a KIA vs. BMW. Some folks like nicer things.

Jim
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Old January 7, 2017, 08:09 PM   #19
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Nice way to sum it up Jim. I am aware of the marketing hype with all manufacturers. I called this a off the shelf custom because they do. I thought that would simplify the discussion. I received a PM with some info about a Wilson dealer semi-local. I am going to go check out what they have on the used market. I am really looking for the fit of the frame, slide, barrel and link. After that it's pretty much bolt on. Change beave tail or MS housing is a matter of ordering to taste and a few minutes of install. Also, I'm not sure I could define exactly what I want "off the cuff". But I will know when I see it.
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Old January 7, 2017, 09:49 PM   #20
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I got my Springfield Pro for $2300 (very lightly used). Can't say enough good things about it.
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Old January 8, 2017, 11:29 AM   #21
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New high end 1911's that can be had for $2,500 or less.
Ed Brown Alpha Elite http://www.gunbroker.com/item/611823140
Ed Brown Special Forces http://www.gunbroker.com/item/611724514
Les Baer UTC http://www.gunbroker.com/item/609158121
Les Baer Custom Carry http://www.gunbroker.com/item/610822956
Dan Wesson Valor http://www.gunbroker.com/item/611287707

For about $1,450 (Valor) one can have a new 1911 made with quality small parts (no MIM), night sights.
Dan Wesson makes a nice production line gun but they aren't 'high end". The hand work and attention to fit, finish, etc., aren't anywhere near what Baers, Browns, Wilsons, Nighthawk, GI, etc., receive.


Quote:
I guess the industry standard term is semi-custom, but IMHO that's just as meaningless as the term "match grade barrel." These days it seems every $300 1911 claims to have a "match grade" barrel, but there is no industry standard for "match grade" so the term is just marketing hype.

The same applies to "semi-custom." It's like "pregnant" -- either someone is pregnant, or she's not. If a firearm is custom, it's custom -- one of a kind.. If it's not custom, it's production. Car manufacturers try to discourage it (and dealers try even harder to discourage it), but you can still order American cars optioned out to your exact choice -- as long as you choose options listed in the catalog. But even if you special order your dream-mobile, with exactly the color and option packages you and only you want, so your car is unique among all other vehicles of that brand -- it's not "custom," and it's not even "semi-custom." It's still a Ford or a Chevy or a Chrysler that rolled off the same production line as all other vehicles of that make and model.

I'm not trying to "redefine" what they call themselves, but I suppose I am trying to better define what they actually are.
Aguila Blanca - I agree with your definition and explanation 100% and have often used the same automobile analogy myself.


Quote:
Nice way to sum it up Jim. I am aware of the marketing hype with all manufacturers. I called this a off the shelf custom because they do. I thought that would simplify the discussion. I received a PM with some info about a Wilson dealer semi-local. I am going to go check out what they have on the used market. I am really looking for the fit of the frame, slide, barrel and link. After that it's pretty much bolt on. Change beaver tail or MS housing is a matter of ordering to taste and a few minutes of install. Also, I'm not sure I could define exactly what I want "off the cuff". But I will know when I see it.
BoogieMan - You can find plenty new of Baers and Browns, and occasionally Guncrafters in your price range, but the used market is where you find deals on these guns. Last year I bought a NIB Baer Boss, a gently used Brown Executive Elite, and a lightly used Baer Custom Carry, and paid well under $2k for each of them. You just need to keep an eye on your local market, gunbroker, and some of the dedicated 1911 forums. I have custom 1911s also but some of the "semi-custom" guns can be real bargains if you're not looking to have something spec'd out specifically for you. As you go forward, though, you should keep in mind that few things other than grips are "bolt on" in the 1911 world, particularly with guns fitted as well as the ones you're talking about.
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Old January 9, 2017, 10:40 AM   #22
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Dan Wesson makes a nice production line gun but they aren't 'high end". The hand work and attention to fit, finish, etc., aren't anywhere near what Baers, Browns, Wilsons, Nighthawk, GI, etc., receive.
I don't agree at all. I have compared a Dan Wesson PM-7 to various Baer .45s (haven't had a chance to do that with Nighthawk or Wilson) and frankly, I thought that the fit and finish on the Dan was better. Reliability was better too. Baers tend to jam until you've put a thousand rounds or so through them. The Dan Wessons are reliable right out of the box due to the precision with which they are manufactured. By analogy, a hand-made table or rocking chair may have more charm, but a CNC manufactured one will be made better and cheaper. That's why you don't see much hand-made furniture (or much else) these days.

The real difference between Baers and Dan Wessons is the manufacturing process. Baers are hand-fitted "by a member of the Baer family." Dan Wessons are manufactured by means of state-of-the-art CNC machinery which allows for very fine tolerances in a production process not requiring much or usually any hand-fitting. This allows the cost of the Dan Wesson to be much less for what appears to me to be a better gun. Digital manufacturing processes make for greater precision than can be realized by expensive hand-fitting (which is 19th Century manufacturing technique.)

In terms of accuracy, Dan Wessons are about as good as any. It may (or may not) be true that expensive hand-fitted guns will shoot a tighter group than a high-end CNC-made gun such as a Dan Wesson, if the guns are compared on a fixed rest, eliminating human error. But any difference is likely marginal. I've shot both and I certainly couldn't tell much or any difference.
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Old January 9, 2017, 01:37 PM   #23
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Rogervzv;

Absolutely disagree with your statement with regard to a Baer needing 1000 rounds before it shoots reliably. In my experience with three different Baers (Thunder Ranch, PII and Monolith) this was not even close to the truth.

All of them fed and fired every single round with no failures from the first shot. I've since put thousands of rounds through them with nary a problem.

I believe most really good 1911's are hand fitted. State of the Art CNC is meaningless as all high production guns (read cheap) are done by CNC.
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Old January 9, 2017, 03:24 PM   #24
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State of the Art CNC is meaningless as all high production guns (read cheap) are done by CNC.
Just because all high production guns might be CNC manufactured doesn't render the process "meaningless". "State of the Art CNC" is very meaningful in the sense that you can purchase moderately priced firearms today that approach, if not exceed, the close tolerances that not long ago only expensive (read conspicuous consumption), hand-labor could deliver.
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Old January 9, 2017, 05:42 PM   #25
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Baers tend to jam until you've put a thousand rounds or so through them. The Dan Wessons are reliable right out of the box due to the precision with which they are manufactured.
I've had the exact opposite experience. My Baers have been trouble free from day one, zero malfunctions. My Dan Wesson PM-9, on the other hand, locked up tight at less than 50 rds. The slide was stuck half way back. It apparently suffered from Dan Wesson's well documented galling issue.
My Dan Wesson was also the least accurate 1911 I've owned.

Jim

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