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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Are Alchemy 1911's considered full-house custom?

Are Cabot?

Ive never really understood exactly where the distinction lies. I assume that if a builder sells guns made to THEIR specifications (rather than a customers), they are considered "semi-custom"??

But... if Wilson Combat will build me a custom gun from a Colt, does that make that gun a "full custom", and them (by default) a full house custom shop??
 

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No No and NO they are all semi customs how you described. IMO
IMO the only way to build a full custom on a Colt is to have it Built by a smith retaining only the frame and slide.. Anything that comes from Wilson IMO is Semi custom as they have a set amount of features they will do and they are a Semi Custom maker. IMO Full House Customs are built By Custom Gunsmiths by hand not CNC which is 90% of what Wilson does.. This is just my opinion and how I look at it..
 

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"Full House" is a subjective notion and as they say all relative...Examples: WC has a lot of options available for one to choose from, so they do provide a lot of customization and they will even do some things not on their option list ta boot...Same with Infinity(aka SVI)...Compare these to guns by say sig, colt, and even STI, who have limited options and almost no customization (generally you buy "models" as is)...Full-House in its full "bloom" might mean they can take all the parts from you from many manufactures (frame from here, slide from there, barrel from yet another place, and build the gun you want to your spec (within reason of course), but I would guess even Full-custom shops have some limitations.
 

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Full House custom to me would mean it starts with a block of metal and the frame is made in house. Then every part is crafted in house. I’m not sure anyone actually does that. It the FULL that is over used. The CNC use from scratch billet would count in my book if it was in house. I think fully customized would be a better term for me to accept. The frame might be outsourced, then customized, then many other outsourced parts customized for function or cosmetics. Then the gun would be unlike a production but have many parts altered to the customers liking. Then the gun would be FULLY CUSTOMIZED. Which is what is actually happening. It’s all about words.
 

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Forget about full custom, the word custom is all you need. Custom, bespoke, is something made especially for 1 person. What Wilson, etc. sells are limited production pistols. They have been designed to appeal to a customer base. A firearm from Wilson could be a custom if it was built for 1 person, not a pistol from there normal production with a few options. I'm using Wilson as an example because they are probably the best known but every pistol manufacture that has a sub forum on this forum is a limited production or production pistol.
 

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I own two 1911's that I consider "custom". There is no other 1911 on this planet that exactly matches either of the two of them. I've always been a 1911 guy, so when I retired I decided to give myself a retirement gift of a "custom" 45 acp 1911. Fortunately, there was a top quality pistolsmith within an hour's drive. I visited his shop, he quizzed me about the features I wanted, he made some recommendations (i.e hard chrome) and I gave him the go-ahead. About 18 months later my pistol was ready to be picked up, including a test target he fired when I was there of under an inch @ 25 yds off a sandbag. Added a set of custom grips to complete my custom 1911. That was 20 years ago. As of today that pistol is approaching 100K rounds fired. It has never bobbled and is still a tack driver although my shooting skills are deteriorating. That's my opinion of what constitutes a custom pistol. :)

p.s. The second one is similar to the first in quality and workmanship, except it's in 9mm, Commander size and blued.
 

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There was a time when having a gun "built" involved having "custom" features added to a 1911, almost always a Colt. As many here will recall, all factory Colt 1911s, until relatively recently, were essentially FEATURELESS commercial versions of the 1911A1, lacking even good seeable sights (except the Gold Cups, which flew off BTW). So, back in the day we had "custom" guns built just like we had custom cars and motorcycles built. No one back then CNCd their own frames and the after market parts business was in its infancy. Many of us have a safe full of guns "built" by assorted talented smiths in times past long before there was even a choice of a base gun or frame. We know it's hard to believe that folks actually welded up thumb safeties and had S&W revolver sights milled into slides, but that was pretty common in the past. Try telling the owners of Swenson or Hoag or Novak, Nastoff or Vickers or Burton or Chen built guns that they don't have "custom" 1911's.
 

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I visited his shop, he quizzed me about the features I wanted, he made some recommendations (i.e hard chrome) and I gave him the go-ahead.

That's my opinion of what constitutes a custom pistol. :)
The two sentences I took out of your post is what I call a custom pistol also. My gunsmith took a plain Colt 1991 Compact and added a mixture of parts brands, metal work and finishing to make MY ultimate carry gun. Most custom gun makers have "off-the-shelf" models, pre-built to their catalog's specifications, but you can of course have a gun built with any feature they offer. Some gunsmiths are so low-volume that they have no restrictions to what you want.I guess technically "fully custom" might mean every part was changed out and metal work was done on the slide and frame. Mine retains the factory barrel, which I didn't believe needed changing and I like that it says Colt on it, so it's not "fully custom"..
 

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It means the maker is using a customer provided base gun and making it to their specs.

Wilson will not do certain things feature and caliber wise but they make every single thing in house. If they don't make the part it's not an option.

Nighthawk will do literally whatever you want but they do not make much themselves. You want a one off 9mm Dillon single port comped double stack stainless carry gun? Sure! A full on race gun in 9x23? They got it, a 4 inch ultralight 10mm.....say no more!

Single person custom smiths do a lot of blending and filing by hand on various parts from whatever brands the end user wants on the gun and this usually takes a long time and is very expensive due to having only one person doing everything and having to be master tier for every single process on the gun. Some smiths will not make certain types of guns since they don't know how to setup certain combos, I view this as a drawback since at this price the gun should have exactly what the shooter wants and it should perform at a level that eclipses all else.
 

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Just to me, for my personal view only, it starts with a frame. Not all of them are equal and I have my preferred make/model, mostly for durability but also “feel”. The frames are not production frames, so I can be sure they’re oversized to fit to an associated slide to get the best slide/frame fit possible without having to use accu-rails. From there I have all my Bullseye pistols setup nearly the same. That makes it easier for me to transition. Barrels are a mix. None of them OEM from a factory/semi-custom brand (KKM, Kart, etc). Each one is setup for a specific bullet type/weight and the throats/twist are specific unless the twist can support multiple weights equally well (rare). Sometimes you can’t get the right twist commercially for the pistol and you need to use a blank (Douglas, Shilen, etc) and machine the barrel from there. No drop in parts, with a few exceptions (mag release, etc) to get the most I can out of the pistol, some parts are made by Gunsmith if he’s not happy with what the market provides, and all the checkering is the same to mimic the feel between my competition set to make transitioning easier. All of my triggers are setup as a long roll, and I bring in my favorite of the group to have my Gunsmith get each subsequent pistol as close as possible. This take a little back and forth to get it to where I’m “happy” then it’s dry fire, fire, clean, repeat.

All the work gets done by 1 Master Pistolsmith, no outsourcing or delegation. I have a long relationship with the few guys I trust over many years and that’s important to me.
 

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No matter how expensive a gun is, if it's built to the manufacturer's specs, it's not custom.

A Rock Island with night sights added is more custom than a $5000 gun out of the Wilson Combat catalog.

"Production custom" seems to be the preferred term for guns built to a spec and to a very high standard.
 

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Lots of great input in preceding posts. And nothing that I'd have any notable disagreement with. A round of +1911s.

I'd probably define full custom as a gun that's built purely from the ground up (so to speak) and not connected with any "menu" choices. It needs to be one of a kind, envisioned strictly between the builder and the customer, and (again) not driven by a website menu (or other menu). Obviously, any menu-driven build process is likely to include predominantly the builder's own parts (in-house or outsourced), and as such is difficult to describe as truly custom.

Nor should it be a copy of another gun built by that builder, at least not an intentional copy. To the best of the builder's and buyer's knowledge, it should be strictly unique, with no other identical gun known to exist.

I wouldn't require that everything, every part, be fabricated in the builder's shop. But I would expect that oversized top tier components -- components designed for hand fitting by a master pistolsmith -- be used throughout the gun.

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Obviously the above thinking excludes many guns that someone, somewhere, describes as full custom. But that's fine. Each prospective buyer should decide for himself what he wants/expects in this regard.

With a wry smile, I think we're all aware that Kimber has a self-described custom shop that builds custom guns:rolleyes: So obviously there's room for different opinions as to what is "custom".

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Having mentioned these thoughts (thanks for reading and hope my thoughts are generally reasonable), I do not believe that someone should walk away with any ideas that a full custom gun is functionally superior to a WC, EB, NH, etc. gun. Sure, the fitting is likely to be fractionally better (if buying from the best), but any notion that the combination of parts and the fitting of those parts is certain to produce a functionally better gun is likely misplaced.

Instead, what the buyer does gain is uniqueness and possibly a greater sense that this is really his gun, in every design respect. If the buyer doesn't feel this way about such a gun and/or didn't have much of a role in the selection of components, etc., then I don't know that buying full custom was really so wise...but then again, it is the buyer's money and his choice.

Personally, bring primarily a functionally oriented buyer, albeit one who strongly prefers absolutely top tier parts and expert fitting/finishing, I'm quite happy with the offerings of WC, EB, NH, etc. I've happened to choose mostly WC, but that's likely because it just so happened that that was my first experience with a gun of this quality, and I never found a really good reason to "change horses".
 

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Discussion Starter #14
<snip>

The frames are not production frames, so I can be sure they’re oversized to fit to an associated slide to get the best slide/frame fit possible without having to use accu-rails.

<snip>

Barrels are a mix. None of them OEM from a factory/semi-custom brand (KKM, Kart, etc). Each one is setup for a specific bullet type/weight and the throats/twist are specific unless the twist can support multiple weights equally well (rare).

<snip>
So who manufacturers the frames and barrels you use?
 

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One hopes a truly custom gunsmith will still provide some guidance.
You could generate an expensive horror if he didn't.
 

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One hopes a truly custom gunsmith will still provide some guidance.
You could generate an expensive horror if he didn't.
Wise words. Especially if someone has limited experience in this rather esoteric realm.

E.g., if a particular combination of components/spec details has never been selected before, there could be a reason.
 

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So who manufacturers the frames and barrels you use?
I like Caspian frames, or at least the “feel” of them, just personal preference, but I’ve been looking at switching to Rock River in a future build as a test. I use KKM, Kart and barrels made from Douglas and some Shilen blanks. The barrel fixture is key. Some companies excel in different applications. I leave that up to my Gunsmith to figure out and I write the check. Typically I find out when the pistol was delivered what he used....lol. That’s a leap of faith some may not be comfortable with, but I get the results I need and I leave it up to the expert to get it there.
 

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Seems like there are as many definitions of "custom" as there are members posting on this thread. I didn't see any I could say they are wrong. Well, maybe one. The one about being built by hand, not CNC.
Nobody has to my knowledge, built a 1911 without machines...many machines for the many complex cuts they have. If someone has built one by hand, I don't want it.

Whether a machine is CNC guided or guided by a person turning a crank, it's still a machine and requires skills to cause it to produce a quality product. A CNC is not a substitute for skill. This same debate raged on a fine shotgun forum over and over and one debate was about whether Holland & Holland was now producing "machine made" guns since they incorporated modern CNC in their shop. That's rediculous. H&H shotguns were always machine made. But they were and still are, hand fitted and finished. CNC has given them much closer machining and therefore less hand fitting hours are needed.
 
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