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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It is easy to forget where the 1911 came from and who has come before us as users and smiths.

As the story goes my Great Grandfather traded one of two engraved Colt SAAs for a stolen military 1911. He and his wife were the first couple married in Oklahoma City. He grew up an orphan at the age of 7. He knew the James brothers and the Daltons well by his own admission in family documentation during the '50s.. While there is no history of him being on the wrong side of the law another relative of the same age that out lived Levi was a Deputy US Marshal at the time in Oklahoma Territory. Asked just several years before he died if he knew Levi, Grandpa Mitchel described Levi to a "T", looked my father in the eye and said "never knew him?"



(current SAA and a BCP Commander)

But it has to make you wonder what the pieces of steel we keep from generation to generation could tell. The engraved Colt is still in the family. The old 1911 is long gone. Never valued the way the six gun was by his children. The 1911 was valued by a hard man who grew up in hard times enough to trade a very valuable gun and boot for a stolen piece of USA ordanance.

There were many such men along the SW boarder at the turn of the century. The Civil War was not history then, it was very recent memory. As were the Mexican boarder wars.

The 1911 was sought after and used from the moment it became available to the Army. It was also available on a commercial basis from the beginning. There was more than one 1911 that came directly from the Army inventory straight into the hands of men in need, on both sides of the law.

Even as the gun first appeared in 1912 there were people trying to make it shoot better. You could at that time ask Colt in your order to "sweeten" the trigger, hand fit the frame and slide and "carefully" hand fit the barrel. And many did.

By 1915 the NRA was selling Government 1911s carefully selected from military stock to civilians as "accurate" guns. It didn't last long but it was a beginning of the "custom guns".

By 1919 there were National matches, first at Caldwell NJ and then later at Camp Perry, Ohio.

Henry "Fitz" FitzGerald as Colt's representative did a thriving business at Camp Perry replacing barrels and tuning triggers starting in 1920.

While we might think of these as "match" guns and they were, they were also fighting guns. The US Boarder Patrol, all the US services and many Police Departments fielded teams to shoot these matches. Most of the LE people used the same guns they used on the street. Enlisted men and Junior Officiers alike carried and used the guns they shot. (Interesting enough then Lt. George Patton distained the 1911 from a AD incident in 1916 while reholstering his)

http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=1344126&a=10772936&p=35804132

(1927 Colt National match gun)

By 1933 Colt was offering a "National Match" pistol from the factory. Little more than a slightly tuned 1911A1. They were most likely found was in the cabinet of a well to do gentleman or the holster of a LE officer who was also an astute gunman.

By the late '30s "Fitz" was joined by other's who specialized in the 1911, as a fighting tool and as a match gun. You have to remember hitting the target was a real issue for some of the men who came to Camp Perry. Many times their practice was on moving targets, who shot back!

J.D Buchanan of L.A. Cal. was one of a new pistol smiths that specialised in the 1911. Kings Guns was another. NOT the same Kings that is still in business. The original King's was in San Franciso and stopped working about the time Kings in LA started up in the late 1940s. By the fourties and fifties there were more makers yet.

Buchanan worked on guns for Askins, law men of the Texas Rangers, Customs, Prohibition and the Boarder Patrol among others.

Pachmeyer was a gunsmith from Europe who also settled in the L.A. basin and became known for his 1911 work through a couple of generations and amazing rifle work to boot. Great idea and completion goes to Tom Dornhaus and Craig Wetstein who though up the gun design (Dornhaus) and the guy who made most of them {Wetstein). Wetstein went on to duplicate those guns from his won shop for 6 years while Pachmyer attempted to get out of the custom pistol business.

Jimmy Clark Sr. was turning a few heads with a 38 special conversion and later Pin guns while most (ok all
) tried to play catch up with his ideas and his own National records.

Jim Hoag,(formally of Kings in LA and still in business) Jim Williams (some of the first comps) Bob Chow were others working at the business. Armand Swenson was a machinist and boat builder in Seattle when he moved to California and started building 1911s and rifles.


http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=1344126&a=10772936&p=42297446

(unfired Swenson NM circa 1973)

Col Jeff Cooper gave more than one of the new pistol smiths a jump start in his writings and several generations of smiths after that to boot.

By the early '80s there was Ikey Starks, Bill Wilson, Detonics, Devel, Mike Plaxco, Dick Heinie, Wayne Novak, Steve Nastoff.



(recent 9x23 by Richard Heinie)


I am sure I missed a few or more. But you see where I am going here? It is worth noting guys like Nastoff, Plaxco, Novak and much later Larry Vickers all studied under John Miller. Same guy teaching 1911 smithing courses today for the FBI. I suspect now that the four largest influences on modern pistol smithing in our generation are Tom Dornhaus, of Pachmyer, Armand Swenson, John Miller and Richard Heinie.

There are any number of smiths working now. Most like Dick Heinie or myself started because we couldn't or wouldn't wait for a master smith to build us a gun.

But make no mistake on what a great gun is. They have been built for YEARS. From the very beginning. They have never been easy to obtain.

I have a 1927 National Match gun that is a treasure to me. The gun was put together by a true master smith. He is unknown and forgotten by everyone I suspect, but to hold his work in my hands tells me something very special about its maker.

I know I build a good gun. I have the skills to use that gun as good as many. (give or take a few nano seconds
) But what all that tells me is that from the beginning in 1912 we haven't gone far.

We as shooters are better no question. The guns are much easier to work on and build. In '83 I hand built parts like everyone else and worked with Colt parts when I couldn't.

But if some one tells you they make the best? I have to laugh! The best has been around a long time. Kinda like apple pie, the smiths now just add a little ice cream. Nice addition, but sorry it aint any better.

For your enjoyment and comment


Thanks to Jim H and Ken H for the updated and corrected info.



[This message has been edited by Dane Burns (edited 03-09-2001).]
 

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Hi, I didn't realize that 1911 has been customized since its debut. But I remember from 'The Wild Bunch' that 1911 has lots of influence on the people on both sides of the law. Thanks for a valueable piece of history. You summed it up pretty nice though at the end.

So, whom do you think is the all time master of 1911 smiths, besides JMB himself? Thks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Good question Wit. Like anything it is very subjective. But to be honest if I were to pick any one gun I have as being made by THE master it would be my factory Colt. A 1911 hand built by an unamed pistol smith in 1927 at the Colt Factory. It was hand picked and finished as one of 15, shipped on the Loan Account, Camp Perry, Ohio on August 25 1927.

The gun is untouched and like new. It has a 3.75# trigger and tight barrel. The NM barrel was picked and marked as an above average shooter. Sights are 1/10" of an inch in width with a U notch.

Fit and finish isn't perfect. But that is only because our standards are highter now as to what constitutes perfect. It is real obvious to me that who ever built this gun could have easily made his guns perfect by any standard if he'd been asked. As it is, there no question that you are holding something special. "HE" wasn't the only guy in the Colt factory who did such work. There were many skilled craftsmen working there. The men who put these guns together had generally been doing so for Colt, 15 to 20 years at least.

But that is my point...there are always a small group of people who produce the quality we are looking for. There is no "one", no "it".

My Swenson, Heinie, Morris guns are something special too. As I am sure my Vickers will be. But all of us stand on the shoulders of men that built guns 70 years ago or more. Our guns had better show some little worthwhile improvements generation to generation




[This message has been edited by Dane Burns (edited 02-28-2001).]
 

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My first recollection of pistols is of two, in particular: A Colt 1911, and a Colt SAA, both owned by my grandfather.

My first recollection of a 1911 carry gun is of an old neighbor who answered the door one night during a blizzard with long johns and a 1911 on a belt
I was probably 10, and had gone to his house to check on him for my folks. He looked to be 300, but was certainly in his 90's. He owned few guns. The 1911, a 30-30, an '06 and a double 12. And he could drive nails with any of them. He told me he had traded for the 1911 during the depression, and worn it every day [and apparently every night] since.

These two old dudes could shoot, and taught me whatever it is I now know about shooting. Wish I had their guns today, but that was not to be the case. Do have some of their old ball ammo though, and every once in a while I will load a mag of it and fire it, surely they enjoy the sound
The old timers did not have the fancy and trick HP ammo of today, best I could tell they didn't know they were missing any accuracy or killing power because of it, either.

Thanks for the post Dane. Brought back some good old memories.
 

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Hi Dane.

Very nice post, I enjoyed reading your historic account. *** NICE JOB!!!

------------------
Fraternally yours

Jimmy Ward
Combat Tech
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
From (then) Captain Charles Askins, 1939.

"Before you fire the 45 auto be sure to possess the best gun money can buy. The Lord knows it is tough enough getting decent scores from the best of 'em. Both of my automatics are new National Match grade guns. The confidence a new gun inspires in the gunner more than repays the extra dollars spent."

Originally Askins was not a big fan of the 1911. He also admits that his first 1911s were worn out pieces that he should have never been purchased. 20 years passed before he allowed the 1911 was a good fighting pistol.

Between 1924 and 1934 no hand gun was considered a fight stopper by Askins. The US Boarder Patrol used Winchester semiauto rifles with 10 shot mags in .351 along with Browning A5s with mag extensions and 00 buck.

His personal guns BTW look very much like the original GSP. They included a match barrel and slide fit, long trigger @4#, high visability sights and a flat mainspring housing with a lanyard loop.

Details from THE ART OF THE HANDGUN by Captain Charles Askins, JR., printed in 1939.

One of the things I find really interesting was the use of SAA Colts and 1911s. There was an entire generation of men who used both. It was very common to see a lawman who carried a SAA in 45 Colt and a 1911 in 38 Super at one time. Frank Hammer being one of the most recognizable.

[This message has been edited by Dane Burns (edited 02-28-2001).]
 

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Originally posted by Dane Burns:
Fit and finish isn't perfect. But that is only because our standards are highter now as to what constitutes perfect. It is real obvious to me that who ever built this gun could have easily made his guns perfect by any standard if he'd been asked. ........But all of us stand on the shoulders of men that built guns 70 years ago or more. Our guns had better show some little worthwhile improvements generation to generation
Dane, thanks again for the great philosophy. It is well thought and I can see it all shows on your guns.




[This message has been edited by Wit (edited 02-28-2001).]
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
This one has been seen before but I am partial to the gun and how it shot so I like to show it
The camera is back up and running so I should have a new crop of guns and photos soon.




Remember Doc
You don't have to buy the guns! This is a volentary relationship

Dane aka the DEALER



[This message has been edited by Dane Burns (edited 02-28-2001).]
 

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Dane,

That is what I want my gun to look like.
Damn, that is a good looking gun!!!

Hope no one got hurt and all is good where you are at.

Hurts to look. The last couple of days I haven't even looked at the cute nursing students running around the hospital. I've just been looking at your website between patients
.

Edwin
 

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Dane- Two of the many things I like about you are your appreciation for history with respect for your peers and predeccesors, and your willingness to share.

Keep up the good work.


Steve
 
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Burns Custom Pistols Green Ghost

Who say pistols are only avialable in vanilla and chocolate? Why not pistachio too!


DD


[This message has been edited by Desert Dog (edited 03-05-2001).]
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Geezeeee....DD, those poor kids with out the fat tubes have got to hate you


Shay the HC gun is a 9x23 with a lightened slide with hand cut serrations.

No "bee" the 1927 is NOT for sale at the moment. Things change on a monthly basis though. Check back.

(Hard to believe I can't give the guy one of my guns but he'll buy a $5000 one, neither of which he can use
)

I appreciate the compliments from all, thanks!

Things are a little shaky in the Seattle area but no worries here


One of the really cool things to do if you're ever in the area is take a peek at the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco Texas. There is history to be seen on 1911s.



[This message has been edited by Dane Burns (edited 02-28-2001).]
 
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Well Dane, a month in laptop dialup hell, and I can't help myself... How do you spell relief? D-S-L!


Speaking of Texas Ranger pistols, take a look at this one:



What caught my eye, was the clipdraw like device attached under the stock. Was this a common mod, and method of carry, for Ranger work (non bbq) pistols?

DD


[This message has been edited by Desert Dog (edited 03-01-2001).]
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
May be Lou Alessi can add to this commentary, but I think the clip was fairly popular in the '60s may be even earlier. Don't know. But I seem to remember a S.E. US thing with those funky shirts (guabara?sp) and clips on the autos or jframes with rubber bands all carried Mexican style.

HPs and S&W 39s seem to be the ones I remember. Maybe others have something to add to this one. Hell, I was ony 5 at the time!

The Rangers do have a high percentage of Commanders in the museum. I just figured the retired guys donated the guns they didn't use
 
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