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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A constant theme in my head is how lucky I am to be doing this work. I say it a lot, and mean it every single time. I don’t consider this work something I just fell into, nor do I look at every project as ‘just another gun’. I think each one has a life, beginning as a creative spark and collaborative effort between myself and the client.

Sometimes as each gun is in the build process the details, whether subtle or extreme, will change. This can be something simple like the front sight insert or the additional of ball-cuts and other times it’s an element that adds a greater degree of difficulty and/or risk. The latter generally triggers another theme that is constantly in my head, the “don’t screw this up” theme.

I have always liked being challenged. I remember the first gun I ever checkered, I practiced for about fifteen minutes on a piece of round stock followed immediately by transitioning to the stainless steel Colt I had in front of me. I was confident I could do it and, although I am not completely risk averse, I adhere to the rule of not attempting something new on a client’s gun. Practice, technique development, research, learning, etc. should all be done on your own stuff and whenever possible augmented with actual experience behind the gun pressing the trigger. Case in point is the aforementioned stainless Colt, not only was it my first checkering job but also my first attempt at a weld-up frame and slide fit… all done on a gun that was owned by me and being built for me to use and shoot. That first checkering job worked out very well and gave me the confidence to do it on a paying customer’s gun. In general that gun was also one of my early lessons about risk and time.

Simply put, risk takes time and there will always be a hierarchy of risk amongst the modifications done to a gun. Things like a squared and checkered trigger guard, modifying a frame for a mag-well, machining a frame for a ramped barrel, or just about any welding done to a frame. These are just a few examples but generally speaking they all represent more risk than something as mundane as a thumb safety install.

Putting file to steel on a clients gun has an inherent risk associated with it. However, on some base guns the rarity or lack of readily available replacement will add an entirely new level of risk. Some years ago I built a gun on a Pre-War National Match, kind of a gut check considering you can’t just get another one.

But what about a finish? For the most part that too would seem pretty pedestrian in terms of risk, but as you start combining various risk elements with a tricky finish prep it adds a whole other facet to completing the project. Every once and again a project has all of these things and more... this was such a project.





Yup... that’s a rare one and with roll-mark restoration already complete. Produced by Colt in 1948 the gun was hand selected for this project and absolutely not something I can just replace with a base gun out of my safe.

One of the first things to do is frame and slide fit… do I look nervous there?




Now that I’ve got that part our of the way, how about I cut the bottom of the frame off and add the Chen GEN 2 mag-well. Risk? You bet, but a bit more gets added later when I have to checker that part that I have carefully fit to the frame.



A beavertail fit, barrel fit, and trigger job came next. In most cases these are all relatively low risk to the frame and the slide with the exception of cutting the frame for a ramped barrel. While not a complicated machining procedure, cut too much and the barrel no longer stops at the right spot during link down. So I measure, check, re-check, and double check before I cut this one.



Sights are next, in fairness this is one of the more pedestrian machining modifications but worth checking, re-checking, and double checking before cutting steel.



While were at that end of the gun why not re-cut the cocking serrations... mild risk here but they were ugly and needed a remedy.





Back to the mag-well for some checkering and while I’m in the groove I’ll checker the front strap too. You guessed it, there can be some significant risk here too.





Now it’s time to really get after it... risk I mean... cut the trigger guard off, make an insert, weld it in, blend it, and checker it.









Sometimes weird stuff pops up during a build, some with risk some without. This area at the front of the dust-cover, which is somewhat thin, needed fixing so time to break out the TIG torch and add a bit of risk.









With all that and a bit more done the gun is now shootable, if I did my job correctly this is a low risk portion of the build. Even still I like to shoot a couple of hundred rounds through every gun as well as groups at 25 yards.



With the gun shot and sights confirmed I can finish up the build with final details like rear slide serrations. So, mild risk or lotsa’ risk on this one?

 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Once all this is done (plus other details like de-horn, front sight insert, etc) the finish prep becomes the order of the day... or in this case days. In most instances a polished finish is pretty low risk but in this case the client (who is A+ awesome to work with) and I decided on a fully polished finish. Other than inside the checkering, serrations, mag-well, or beveled de-horn it was polished everywhere so the challenge (read risk) is to carefully mask what needs to be polished and matte blast the areas to be matte finished. Follow that up with lots and lots of polishing by hand. Screw up a line or slip and hit one the matte areas with the sandpaper and you guessed it tape it off again and do it over.


















It took me a while to write this one up and post the finished photos because I wanted to make sure I told the story as best I could, representing the clients finished gun and our communal vision for the build. This build was challenging in a manner that I had never been challenged, but when all is said and done I am beyond thankful that I got to build this gun. I very much look forward to working with this client again!









 

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Jason, beautiful job on that gun, and looking at the story and finished results, it is no wonder your clientele comes to you on repeat business.
 
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I really enjoyed this and it is a flawless creation. Thank you for all the write up and pictures. Reading this gives custom Smith a whole new meaning and it shows in your work.
 

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Very nice clean ups and details, beautiful pistol!

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