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Does anyone know where I can find some history of the 1911, specifically some of the early gunsmiths and the custom work they did on them? I'm interested in what a 1920 or 1930 "working gun" might have had done to it.
 

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Due to my limited knowledge of the 1920/1930 time period, I'll be brief ... and then read others' input.

Up to now, I'll confess that I've thought of 1911 customization as being something that began in the 1960's, with names such as A. Svensson.

In the post-WWI time period, there was some international "copying" of the 1911 and experimentation with other chamberings. But I'm not aware of much in the way of what we now call customization.

Will be interested in others' input here!
 

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The only thing I can think of, so I dug out the article is in the 2001 Guns & Ammo Handguns. I found a article by Leroy Thompson about J.E. Bill Decker Sheriff of Dallas county Texas years ago. In 1940 his friend ordered him a pair of engraved Colt national match45's with the trigger guards removed, This seemed to be a custom touch on guns in the early days. Other special touches are one eighth inch front sights and both triggers set to five pounds. Also custom grips of coarse. Deckers car led the motorcade when President Kennedy was assassinated.
 

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Modifying the 1911 wasn't commonly done in the 1920s and 30s except for minor accurizing for service pistol matches. Colt's National Match was an out-of-the-box competition ready handgun meant for this exact purpose. But it wasn't until the post-war period that accurizing pistols hit full swing, with gunsmiths offering up pistols with hard-fit barrels and bushings, tightly-lapped slides and frames, tuned triggers, and large sights. It needs to be understood that none of these modifications were meant for combat, the pistols were built for Bullseye matches and that was it. If you wanted to go fight with your 1911 you used a box-stock or USGI pistol. It wasn't until the mid 1960's when Armand Swenson began offering work where pistols combined accuracy-enhancing modifications with practical combat-oriented features such as ambidextrous safeties. But things didn't really take off until a decade later when IPSC was founded, and the custom combat .45 craze that resulted from guys wanting something they could win IPSC matches with became a huge business.

Here's a good article to read, BTW: http://www.americanrifleman.org/articles/evolution-of-the-custom-combat-45
 

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Pachmayr in Los Angeles was one of the few businesses tuning .45s before the War. As dsk noted, it was for bullseye mostly. They had a gunsmith named J D Buchanan that worked on Charlie Askin's Colts, including a 1911 that the COL carried in N Africa. Buchanan was one of the first to figure out how to actually accurize a 1911 beyond hand-fitting parts.
Bob
 

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Comp42 Now that is some history, I'd be ticked. If a gunsmith can't finish the job in a year, and I'm being generous, then he shouldn't take the job.
Perhaps you should check with some of our contributing smiths and see what their wait times are. If they're worth a damn, it'll be measured in years.

Bob
 

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Jess HARPE was a Tampa, FL locksmith and gunsmith who customized the 1911 for bullseye shooting from the 1930s to the 1950s. There is some info on him out there but not a lot. I have one of his customized guns - starting with a very thick barrel bushing (requiring a bushing wrench to remove it) to trigger work, the gun is a great shooter:








Old School Classic Bullseye Gun.
 

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Perhaps you should check with some of our contributing smiths and see what their wait times are. If they're worth a damn, it'll be measured in years.

Bob
No kidding. My new 1911 build was done by a relatively unknown but very talented young gunsmith in my area. He's a one man shop and quite busy with the usual day to day gunsmith work in addition to custom rifle and pistol builds. It was a bit over a year for my gun, and well worth the wait.
 

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Jess HARPE was a Tampa, FL locksmith and gunsmith who customized the 1911 for bullseye shooting from the 1930s to the 1950s. QUOTE]
Very cool Piece. I had a few old Jim Clark and Austin Behlert customs that I sold off this past spring. It's amazing what those guys were putting out back in the day, true pioneers of the custom 1911.
 
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