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I’ve always wondered. Can Stan Chen or Jason Burton (those are the names I know) really make a gun that much better than some of the names I don’t know. At some point you can only make a hammer and sear fit so well, right?
 

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A custom 1911 should be capable of a one inch group at 25 yards. Most of us would need a ransom rest to test that. Of course that's just a personal opinion.
 

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I’ve always wondered. Can Stan Chen or Jason Burton (those are the names I know) really make a gun that much better than some of the names I don’t know. At some point you can only make a hammer and sear fit so well, right?
Edit: Upon re-reading I realized that you're likely asking about comparing better known "full custom" builders to less well known "full custom" builders. And my original answer, further below (I'll leave it intact) didn't answer that question.. So immediately below is another effort to provide an opinion/answer:

As to the best known of these builders, they got to where they are by a combination of talent, quality of work, number of satisfied customers .... and also marketing acumen. They've well earned their reputation, mostly the "old fashioned way".

Everyone else will be a mixed bag. One might get lucky (or be very good at finding talent) and come across a similarly talented builder but one who perhaps doesn't have the reputation due to fewer years of work, fewer customers, or less marketing acumen. Otherwise, there probably will be a drop-off in quality of the build.

As to how well a 1911 can be built, I'll always recall a past comment made on this Forum by a top tier builder's representative (a forum member, but representing his employer). He wrote that in an examination of even the very best 1911s in existence, a really superb master builder could find imperfections. The lesser the skill or time/effort put into building the gun, the more such imperfections, and the greater their significant, will be. So at this rarified level of the pursuit of perfection, I think one will likely find marked differences between the very best full house custom builders and those at the next tier below.

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Original answer (which is an answer to a different question than what I now think you're asking):

Just opinion, as very little can be "proven" to everyone's satisfaction in this regard:

From a functional/reliability perspective, assuming combat use (an important assumption, as one gets different results with different assumptions), I don't believe a full-house custom has any advantage over a WC, an EB, a NH, etc. (I'd probably choose WC or EB if this
is were the purpose).

Furthermore, builders such as the three above examples fabricate their own parts in-house as well as machining the slide and frame forgings. The parts are designed from the very start as a total package that's as perfect as possible for the master pistolsmiths in their shop to then expertly fit everything together. Ideas, suggestions, problem resolution from everyone involved in each aspect of the work are all handled by and as a team working under one roof.

Full house custom builds on the other hand oftentimes, if not usually, obtain frames, slides, barrels and small parts from multiple outside sources. These items are not designed and fabricated under one roof and not under the same ownership/management team. These items may indeed be among the best of the best when individually viewed. But it is how well they work together that more defines the gun's functional qualities. One should note, however, that fire control parts are often, perhaps usually, all obtained from the same source, albeit an outside source.

They both have a place, that's for sure, but the appeal to buyers is a bit different.

If one uses fired from fixed (machine) rest accuracy, measured under exacting standards at great distance, as the method of evaluation (not fired by a human), I think more likely than not an entirely different type of build philosophy -- neither the well-known semi-customs not the full house customs -- would come out on top. IOW, if that is the objective, then nothing matters but building a gun solely for that purpose.

Again, all if this is just my opinion, little can be "proven" in these regards; and all with respect and appreciation for other opinions. After all, in this realm of discussion, opinions are generally all we can share among ourselves.

Availability and quality of service years after the sale is another consideration, one that's often overlooked in these discussions. E.g., if the one-man master builder of a full house custom 1911 should retire, that's the end of any services, parts, etc., from that source.
 

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It seems like the "custom" focus is really heavy in the aesthetics area. French cuts, arrow pointed serrations, flat tops, tri tops, golfball patterns, chainlink, chamfers, ballcuts, Hi-Power cuts, countsunk and flat ended slidestops, etc.. Someone with a mill is sitting there as we speak trying to figure out the next cool cut. Those "cool cuts" add up quickly. Seems like $100 per feature on average.

So, when I see really clean, simple "custom" guns, I think they tend to stand out to me.
 

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I’ve always wondered. Can Stan Chen or Jason Burton (those are the names I know) really make a gun that much better than some of the names I don’t know. At some point you can only make a hammer and sear fit so well, right?
Yes, they can.

There are a lot of great smiths out there.

Those two men are in the top 5.

Stan Chen
Jason Burton
Ted Yost
Greg Derr
CT Brian
Rob Schaud from Alchemy
And some others I am just not remembering are the top of the heap.

Their stuff is flat out awesome, and if you believe spending the money, worth having their work.

Alchemy Pistols are flat out bargains.

I have a local guy in CT I out on par with all of the other guys I mentioned above, but he is not nationally known.

And if I left some top notch folks off the list above it is not intended.
 

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A custom 1911 should be capable of a one inch group at 25 yards. Most of us would need a ransom rest to test that. Of course that's just a personal opinion.
Agreed.

Rob from Alchemy uses that metric, and that drives his method on fitting the barrel slide and bushing.
 

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There are a lot of great smiths out there.

Those two men are in the top 5.

Stan Chen
Jason Burton
Ted Yost
Greg Derr
CT Brian
Rob Schaud from Alchemy
Just depends on what you want to do. For a Bullseye pistol any of these folks will build you a great pistol.
Lots of other great folks (Dave Salyer, Frank Glenn, Sand Garrett, John Hallston, Jon Shue "BlackMass Custom", etc.), and many retired or passed not mentioned.
Here's a good list from my myopic view as a precision pistol competitor with a focus on performance over cosmetics. Some guys can do both, some guys do better trigger work, some guys don't do certain platforms, etc. Each Gunsmith is unique and knowing their strengths and weaknesses helps get the build you want. I have some great pistols from a Gunsmith who does phenomenal machine work/fitting, but I have the trigger work done by someone else that simply does them better. Everyone has limitation and I find its pretty rare to find a Gunsmith who can do it all.

David "Dave" Sams "Sams Custom Gunworks"
Jon Eulette
Ed Masaki
Roddy Toyota
KC Crawford "KC Custom Creations"
Greg Derr
Joe Chambers (I don’t think he is doing much Bullseye) "Chambers Custom"


A custom 1911 should be capable of a one inch group at 25 yards. Most of us would need a ransom rest to test that. Of course that's just a personal opinion.
Not disagreement, just another view, it depends on your game/desires. For me, for a full custom I'm hoping for around 1" but 1.25 isn't bad in 45 ACP with 10 shots at 50 yards in 45 ACP and for 9mm under 1".

All the targets below are 10 shots or more at 50 yards from a Ransom or H.E.G. rest. Just some examples pulled from some of the folks I listed above, with Jerry Keefer (RIP) being the exception.











 

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It seems like the "custom" focus is really heavy in the aesthetics area. French cuts, arrow pointed serrations, flat tops, tri tops, golfball patterns, chainlink, chamfers, ballcuts, Hi-Power cuts, countsunk and flat ended slidestops, etc.. Someone with a mill is sitting there as we speak trying to figure out the next cool cut. Those "cool cuts" add up quickly. Seems like $100 per feature on average.

So, when I see really clean, simple "custom" guns, I think they tend to stand out to me.
I looked at one attractive "semi-custom" for $2400 and then went down the a la carte option list, finding $1400 worth of add ons that contribute nothing to the shooting but are regarded as absolutely essential by a lot of their customers.
 

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A custom 1911 should be capable of a one inch group at 25 yards. Most of us would need a ransom rest to test that. Of course that's just a personal opinion.
I agree. 1" at 25 yds is a reasonable expectation for a full size custom combat gun that you have paid for a fitted match barrel and high quality ignition set to be installed. I consistently got that level of accuracy out of a SA Loaded Target, with a variety of factory ammo, which I simply fitted bushing in, a C&S ignition set, and crowned the barrel. I installed a DPP reflex sight for the testing and rested it. I was very pleased. So, its not too much to ask that a $3k or higher gun shoot that well or better. Even if it is a "combat" gun.
 

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Whether it’s a gun, car, motorcycle, boat, or house....

Custom simply means the the “CUSTOMer” dictates some or all of the design and build parameters.

Most “custom” builders of anything have basic models or designs that one can either purchase “as is” or for a higher price and more wait time, have customized to their liking.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
 

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Discussion Starter #31 (Edited)
Lets see if I have this straight now.

What I've gleaned from all the posts above is, "Semi-custom" is a term to describe the ability to choose from a menu of options on a production pistol, rather than a no-customization, off-the-shelf, as-is production pistol such as a Springfield TRP or Colt Gold Cup.

So, with that said, Wilson Combat, Nighthawk, Ed Brown, Les Baer, Guncrafter, Alchemy are, technically speaking, all PRODUCTION pistols since the customer dictates nothing in the actual design of the build.

Do I have that right, or am I still confused?
 

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What I've gleaned from all the posts above is, "Semi-custom" is a term to describe the ability to choose from a menu of options on a production pistol, rather than a no-customization, off-the-shelf, as-is production pistol such as a Springfield TRP or Colt Gold Cup.

So, with that said, Wilson Combat, Nighthawk, Ed Brown, Les Baer, Guncrafter, Alchemy are, technically speaking, all PRODUCTION pistols since the customer dictates nothing in the actual design of the build.

Do I have that right, or am I still confused?
Wilson Combat, Nighthawk, Ed Brown and Alchemy all have pages on their website with customization options. I can’t speak to the others you have mentioned.

Magwells, ambi safeties, accuracy guarantees, carry cuts, French borders, top strap milling options, finish options.

So you do have options on the base gun.

My WC CQB has an Ambi Safety and a Magwell. The base CQB does not.

So that is A “Customized” version of their production gun I guess.
 

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What I've gleaned from all the posts above is, "Semi-custom" is a term to describe the ability to choose from a menu of options on a production pistol, rather than a no-customization, off-the-shelf, as-is production pistol such as a Springfield TRP or Colt Gold Cup.

So, with that said, Wilson Combat, Nighthawk, Ed Brown, Les Baer, Guncrafter, Alchemy are, technically speaking, all PRODUCTION pistols since the customer dictates nothing in the actual design of the build.

Do I have that right, or am I still confused?
I think you're getting overly specific about an area of the industry that has blurred the lines of "custom gunsmith", "custom manufacturer", and "production manufacturer".

Calling those makes "production" pistols, is misleading at best. It's like calling a Purdey or Holland & Holland "production guns".
 

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I think you're getting overly specific about an area of the industry that has blurred the lines of "custom gunsmith", "custom manufacturer", and "production manufacturer".

Calling those makes "production" pistols, is misleading at best. It's like calling a Purdey or Holland & Holland "production guns".
Most start with a base model and add options from there. cqb, elite or whatever they call it. So yes the lines are blurred as some will not do certain things the customer wants. Maybe they should be called custom production guns.

When I look at a wilson.brown.baer or who ever I don't think custom but I do see a high quality well built gun.
 

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What I've gleaned from all the posts above is, "Semi-custom" is a term to describe the ability to choose from a menu of options on a production pistol, rather than a no-customization, off-the-shelf, as-is production pistol such as a Springfield TRP or Colt Gold Cup.

So, with that said, Wilson Combat, Nighthawk, Ed Brown, Les Baer, Guncrafter, Alchemy are, technically speaking, all PRODUCTION pistols since the customer dictates nothing in the actual design of the build.

Do I have that right, or am I still confused?
On purely technical grounds, but still involving opinions as to semantics, I think you're probably correct. At least more correct than incorrect. IOW, it's difficult to strongly disagree.

On the other hand, as you well know (I know you have good tastes in better 1911s:)), these manufacturers can and should be described as top-tier builders.

So in common, everyday usage of language, technicalities notwithstanding, it seems potentially misleading to describe these top-tier builders in the same manner -- i.e., no different -- as under $1,000 1911s.

Also, as I think you know, with these top-tier builders, it is not entirely accurate to state that the buyer is absolutely restricted to website menu options. For example, when buying (especially) at the Wilson SG level, and buying direct from Wilson, you do have an in-shop representative to talk with. While Wilson might not be willing to build a Wilson 1911 with non-Wilson small parts, I have found them to be quite responsive to verbal requests as to various details...again, as long as one is not asking them to build with non-Wilson parts. The same seems true with Alchemy Custom, and perhaps NH and others. The website menu is there to guide and assist; but it's not absolutely rigid.

A great example is the gun Alchemy built for Donald Trump, Jr., currently shown on Alchemy's website. That's not a menu-option-only gun.:rock:
 

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IMO semi-custom, at least in the 1911 world, goes beyond the parts menu. It refers to a quality, fitment and price point threshold as well.
Look at the Springfield Armory line of 'customs'. Each model is offered with no options yet they dwell in the semi-custom category because the quality of components, time spent to achieve a good fit and pricing put them on a level with Nighthawk, Guncrafter, Alchemy etc.
 

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What I've gleaned from all the posts above is, "Semi-custom" is a term to describe the ability to choose from a menu of options on a production pistol, rather than a no-customization, off-the-shelf, as-is production pistol such as a Springfield TRP or Colt Gold Cup.

So, with that said, Wilson Combat, Nighthawk, Ed Brown, Les Baer, Guncrafter, Alchemy are, technically speaking, all PRODUCTION pistols since the customer dictates nothing in the actual design of the build.

Do I have that right, or am I still confused?
Yes except nighthawk. They are actually custom, I have a gun from them that is a one off that has many options they don't offer off their menu
 

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Most start with a base model and add options from there. cqb, elite or whatever they call it. So yes the lines are blurred as some will not do certain things the customer wants. Maybe they should be called custom production guns.

When I look at a wilson.brown.baer or who ever I don't think custom but I do see a high quality well built gun.
I was thinking about the difference between a "custom maker" and a gunsmith type custom gun.

Before the availability of high quality frames and slides, custom gunsmiths would only work on certain brands, modifying production guns, to create the "custom gun".

Now, with the multiple sources of high quality frames and slides, it seems even very small shops have moved into the "custom maker" category, by obtaining a 07 FFL (manufacturer's lic). The 1911 "custom maker" trade looks a lot like the old London and Birmingham gun trade 100 years ago, in terms of how small shops are producing high quality "custom guns" using parts from various suppliers. Todays small 1911 maker can procure essentially every part needed to "make" a 1911. They can add the skilled fitting, modification, finishing, and assembly labor as they see appropriate for their market. Pretty neat for the 1911 customers.
 

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Not that this is an important point, but not on board with calling the semi's "Production pistols" in the context of this thread.

Here is the definition of "production" from MR Google: "the action of making or manufacturing from components or raw materials, or the process of being so manufactured."

That term is so general it can apply to anything from a rack 1911 to the most hand-fitted, super gizmo, custom 1911...So the word "production" doesn't tell us a thing.

So lets look at this definition as it is the entire key to the discussion: Customization: "the action of modifying something to suit a particular individual or task."

Lets look at the boundary condition of the above definition:

Guns with no option, they come as is only: Say sig, Kimber, and their class of guns (sometime called "rack" guns, a metaphor from the garment industry, purchased off the rack and taken out of the store without any tailoring to suit the customer. IE NO customization per item sold).

On the other end of the spectrum, a full custom. Of course, even full custom guns have some limits, but we can ignore these for this discussion.

But what about btwn the boundary conditions? That is usually the grey area.

Certainly a WC has more options a customer can pic vs a kimber (which has none). Hence it has a level of customization. Actually quite a high level. Infinity(aka SVI) is in the same boat...To call these guns "production" as if they are equivalent to rack-guns is misleading.

Best to keep "production" out of the description, anything produced in any way is defines as "production"...So if you call a semi a production pistol, you also need to call a full-custom a production pistol. Again, the word "production" doesn't tell us a thing in the context of this thread.

Better way to differentiate the 3 tiers of 1911 production are:

1) Rack (see definition above, no customization per sale item).
2) Semi Custom, anywhere from a little to quite a bit of customization per sale item depending on the manufacturer.
3) Full custom, even more customization per sale item.

In the end as I stated way above in an earlier post, customization is a continuum, from none to a lot, and many points in between.
 

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I think if you are having one on one conversations with the only person who will touch your build...that is a full house custom. "Parts swapping" does not create a full house custom.

Definitely Nothing wrong with Wilsons, Browns and others. Those a la Carte style semi customs represent a ton of value for the money with tolerable wait times.

Alchemy is notable for their intense focus on staying small and keeping it right. (and delivery times measured in months not years)

There are also some very talented local smiths if you can find them. (NOT the local GLOCK parts swapper....the "kid" that runs mill and a lathe in a backyard shop with no AC!)

Gunsmith's don't start out as American Pistolsmith's Guild award winners...they work their way there! You get on that list by doing it right- all the time- everytime, treating customers well, and building what you love. None of those guys started out trying to make a fortune on 1911's- they did what they loved- and got noticed!
 
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