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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've a pre-70 National Match that has been worked on, but I can't decide if it was done by Armand Swenson or not. There are items on this gun that are Swensonesque, and things that don't seem to add up. If it was done by Swenson, it wasn't a full on job. This gun appears to have been a carry piece before it made it's way to the gun shop where it was purchased.

Things that appear to be Swenson:

1. Hard chrome finish. Truly durable and attractive.
2. Mag well relief.
3. Staked trigger stop.
4. Ambidextrous safety stamped "AD Swenson Fall Brook CA"
4. Maker's mark on underside of slide "AD Swenson"

After this it appears to be a stock National Match except for the extended slide release, recoil spring guide rod and aftermarket ramp front sight that has been heavily (and grossly) filed by the previous owner (clearly not a Swenson addition).

Things that don't add up:

1. Recoil spring alignment rod. I'm not sure if Swenson ever used these.
2. No added barrel positioner. This would have sealed the issue.
3. No other external maker's marks or added cosmetic embellishments Swenson was known for.
4. Maker's mark stamp on underside of slide added in a way that is not indicative of a smith of Swenson's quality.
5. From what I've gathered, Swenson didn't typically work on National Match guns. Not unheard of, just not common.

The gun is tight and the barrel and bushing have clearly been matched and honed. Shoots like a champ, even with the ugly front sight. I'm really on the fence about this. Some stuff adds up, some stuff doesn't. And, I'm certainly not an expert in Armand Swenson's work.

When purchased, the gun was not presented as being modified by Swenson. So, is it a Swenson, a forgery, or something else?





 

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My vote is for Swenson.

A pre-70 NM Like that probably wouldn't have needed the barrel positioner-many of them shot quite well.

Is one of the buffers leather? That was a Swenson thing.

The slide stop is a period correct Hoag.

I am most curious about the cuts of the front of slide. :confused: Never seen that....
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
The buffer is plastic sandwiched between two metal pieces.

I'm not sure about the cuts on the front of the slide either. I appear to be wrong about cosmetic embellishments, there is also a border along the top of the slide where the flat breaks into the radius. Very understated, but elegant. Again, this doesn't look like Swenson's "French Border" type of work, but may not be out of character.

I'm not sure if I enjoy shooting it more, or trying to solve the mystery. Nah, way more fun to shoot.
 

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I agree with this poster.

Whatever it turns out to be .....one thing is for sure, it's one good looking 1911! Very nice.
If the gun shoots as good as it looks. Then you have something there. This is not something that are going to find in the bargain bin at the hardware store.

My two cents. :rock:
 

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I don't know why Mr Swenson would have hit his stamp on the slide three times, but it does appear to be a single stamp, not individual letters. That would would be a lot of expense for a faker who would likely have followed existing Swenson styles more closely. A Swenson safety was a regularly available aftermarket part, can't go by that.

Never saw the like of the cuts on the bottom edge of the slide, but the border along the top of the slide look Swenson-ish.


The multi-coil recoil spring column with buffer and flgr looks like the old Detonics unit and may have been added for use with hot ammo by whoever filed down the front sight for carry purposes.


I call it tentatively legit, awaiting Mr Burton's evaluation.

Did you pay a Swenson price or a Colt price?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I agree about the stamp on the slide. Armand Swenson was a craftsman and the application of the stamp is the least craftsmanlike aspect of the whole piece (front sight notwithstanding). However, the font of the stamp appears to be conisistent with the font used for the stamp on the safety - at least to my poor eyes. But, if I were a forger, this seems to me to be the simplest, and likely least expensive, way to push a sale.

From the finish on the safety it looks like a hand built piece - a very nice bit of work. This I have no doubt came from Swenson's shop. I also agree on the guide rod/recoil spring set up. Possibly an add on.

In terms of price - I actually paid nothing for this piece. When I graduated from college in 1995, this was a graduation present from my father. Dad has never said what he paid for it, execept to say that he had never paid so much for any gun. It was purchased from a very reputable dealer who certainly knew the market (and again, did not present the gun as being built by Swenson). Knowing Dad, and what was in his collection at the time, and what he was willing to spend on guns, I'd guess he paid in the neighborhood of $2k. Back then, this may have been a Swensonish price to pay; but seems to me to be a bit under the market for that era. Needless to say, because of the sentimental value, there is no amount of money that could pry this one away from me.
 

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I vote for it being a real Swenson. If it had been hyped to your Dad as "a big deal" I might be more suspicious. The overall look and quality (except for the stamping) seems likely to be his work. The recoil system could have been added at any time, before or after Swenson worked on it. CC
 

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Back in the mid 70's early 80's, I handled a lot of Swenson guns going thru Jerry Morans custom gun shop. All of them had Swensons signature on the outside in script. I don't know what the connection with this one is...
 

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The stamps can be had for next to nothing.
I don't know the name of the jig, but it is an inexpensive holder that holds stamp-character inserts.
Pick out the letters you want, drop them into the jig, and presto, you have a custom stamp.

Swenson would never have tortured the bottom of the slide like that. And if he had, he would have welded it up and started over. imho, someone with a stamp-jig copied the script on the safety.
It's a very beautiful gun, but I could never personally be convinced it is a real Swenson gun :(
 

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Here is a pic of the inexpensive jig and some letters.
The jig is made to be used in a manual stamp press. When used in this manner the stamping comes out uniform.
When done with a hammer, you get non-uniform high/low spots...exactly what is in the photos. If Swenson was using this type of tool, he would have had the press too. Not just used a hammer and stamped it repeatedly.

 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
You all have valid points that have not gone unnoticed. That's what makes this a fun investigation. This is why I haven't formed an opinion either way. There is quality in the piece, but there isn't a definitive part that makes it a slam dunk Swenson. I have e-mailed an inquiry to Jason Burton over at Heirloom Precision and I will share what he has to say. Thanks for chiming in folks, your opinions and thoughts are appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
This is the response from Jason Burton at Heirloom Precision on my inquiry:

Hi Steve --

Thanks for the email and sorry for the delay.

Without having the gun in hand it's hard to give a complete answer about this piece. The photos and description certainly help but without having the gun in front of me I have to preface my answer by saying it's the best I can assume based on the information I have here. With all that said, judging by the photos and your text I would estimate that at some time the gun was worked on by Swenson but it is not what I would call a "Swenson gun".

Like many other 'smiths Swenson would often do as much or as little work as the customer requested. His price list was a "menu" style listing individual modifications on a "per item" basis. One could request a full-house gun or just the amount of work they desired or may have thought the gun needed, your gun appears to be this kind of example. Without having the gun in my hands I can't say for sure what exactly may have been done by Swenson but from what I can see in the photos and what you have described it may have been "accurized" along with the installation of his ambi thumb safety, mag-well bevel, and hard chrome. Please bare in mind that the presence of Swenson's name (makers mark) on the thumb safety is not an indication of it being a Swenson gun. All of the commercially produced safeties he had made were stamped with his name, city, and state and they were available for purchase or as a stand alone installation.

In the case of your gun, the makers mark on the cartridge pick-up rail is the best indication of his work and the way it is stamped (repeatedly) is not uncommon among the examples I have owned or inspected. The work being done on a National Match Colt also isn't telling of anything... Swenson would work on most any serviceable 1911 and I have seen many examples on Series 70s, USGI guns, NM Colts, Commanders, and even a few Pre-War National Match Colts.

I hope this helps and can give you a bit more insight about your gun. If you have any other questions or need any additional information please let me know.

Stay Safe,
Jason

Heirloom Precision, LLC
www.heirloomprecision.com
I'd like to thank Jason for taking the time from his busy day to look at my gun and provide this response.
 

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I stand corrected. I guess it really is a Swenson gun. Congratulations.
A fine looking pistol made by the best :rock:
 

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Are we sure yet???

The poster above said that Swenson used to work on pistols piecemeal. I know he used to do repairs, and different degrees/amounts of work on individual customer supplied pieces. It doesn't say he tuned or built this gun And that would be very hard to prove... So, onward and upward....
 
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