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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The following photos are from the much discussed Larry Vickers' pistol that was featured in the July/August 2001 issue of American Handgunner magazine. The quality displayed here does not fully represent that which is avaialble in the magazine itself. All photos were scanned from the above cited issue and are posted here strictly for educational purposes. Please do not print or distribute copies of these scans -- buy a copy of the magazine. The photography credit goes to the inimatable Ichiro Nagata.

While I felt a certain degree of trepidation about posting less than completely flattering comments here, I think our members deserve to hear the unvarnished truth. The truth, IMHO, is that the pistol shown in American Handgunner is NOT a *best grade* pistol. In fact, I would submit it is not worth the $3,880 (on a customer-supplied base gun) price tag quoted by Cameron Hopkins. In some ways, all this talk of unsurpassed craftsmanship reminds me of the Hans Christian Andersen fable of The Emperor's New Clothes. I once posted a humorous take on this fable in another thread here. While I never intended to intimate that Larry Vickers was the subject of my parody, nevertheless, the comparison seems somewhat ironic now.

As consumers, I think we should all be aware of what sets prices in the market place. We have discussed this a number of times before and many have concluded the 1911 market is not completely free of manipulation. While the supply/demand equation does factor in here, the coverage a gunsmith receives in the gun press can be the real impetus for creating demand -- beyond what the markets natural forces would dicatate. I do find it interesting, that the pistol featured, was actually built for Cameron Hopkins. Seems to me, that it would be in Cameron's financial best interest to push the market value higher, for a pistol by a maker he was now giving flattering feature coverage to. Personally, I think he painted Larry into the corner. I am would wager, even Larry wouldn't have put that price tag on the pistol featured in American Handgunner. I wonder what Cameron really paid for his Vickers gun?

While I thought the pistol in Amercian Hangunner was very nice, it did have some visible flaws that (IMO) should keep it from commanding such a premium price. At the $4,000 mark, I think it is a reasonable expectation to require the cosmetics to be perfect. A $4,000 pistol should stand up to such close scrutiny. While bead blasting and parkerizing will hide more cosmetic imperfections than just about any other finish, the excellent lens work of Ichiro Nagata only served to illuminate that which might have gone unnoticed in images from a lesser skilled photographer. Let's take a look at some of these visible flaws.



Larger photo here.

The first thing that caught my eye, is the front cocking serrations. Look at the very first one. It is not running parralel to the rest. The last one is off too. The depth and angle of the front cocking serration does not match that of what is used on the rear. The stock BarSto barrel crown is disapointing. The slide stop has a visible tool marks and the serrations need touching up. Notice the front sight base. It is has sharp edges visible. The base should have been smoothed to match the contour of the round of the slide. The front sight blade has an akward radiusing done to it. There is a visible gap on the leading edge of the stocks, that should have been attended to when regulating the screws.



Notice the very visible tool mark inside the hammer? The sear pin just below the ambi safety is qualified, but it appears the pin is not flush -- it is slightly recessed.

...


The ejector is not flush with back of the slide. It is all the more noticeable with the serrations added. One has to wonder the merrit of serrating the back of the slide, but leaving the rear of the sight untouched. Novaks may have been speced by Cameron, but they look silly compared to a Heinie sight using the same mod. The poor slide to frame fit is quite noticeable in this photo. As is hole in the frame made visible by the extra metal taken off the thumb safety. The photo of the disengeaged thumb safety reveals more metal could have been left and the grip safety blending still acheived.



Larger photo here.



Larger photo here

For my taste, the makers mark used is way too big and far too prominent. When combined with the Springfield Armory logo and other markings, it is a bit too much IMO.



Larger photo here

The front strap checkering is NOT perfect. Notice the visible extra lines on the closest row. Note to the heavy cut on the top row. There is also no high gripping or re-radiusing of the front strap contour. The tool mark on the slide stop is more visible here. The bad cut on the first front cocking serration jumps out here. It creates a vector, not a parralel line to the rest.



Larger photo here



Notice the line on the first two vertical rows of checkering?



Notice that ledge where the mag funnel meets the frame in the back? A pinch preventing radius done on the front of the mag well would have been a nice functional touch here.

The point of all this, is not to say Larry Vickers can't make a nice pistol -- maybe even a *best grade* gun. But IMHO, what was represented in American Handgunner to be a $4,000 pistol -- is not even close in my book. For $4,000, I expect ALL the metal work to be perfect and the finish to be something better than bead blasted parkerizing. For $4,000 I should get a pistol that is a cut above what ALL the other makers are producing. No offense meant to Larry, but the Larry Vickers' pistol I saw in American Handgunner is NOT setting a new standard for pistolsmithing excellence. As was the case in the Hans Christian Andersen's fable, it appears the Emperor in our story is buck naked too.

DD

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Desert Dog on 2001-06-03 23:07 ]</font>
 

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I noticed the checkering, it is hand cut. I remember a spread that was done on John Yanek in Guns mag. a few years back, Yaneks checkering also had the smaller intial row, i think thats the way it is with most hand checkering.

A few points i will add, to the positive- when i got my commander back from Larry, it was way smooth in action. Seems all the small parts and slide/frame were burnished after parkerizing. Another thing i like is there is no "break in" period with his guns etc...

On this topic i was recently thumbing through "guns" magazine. Saw Danes "give away" gun. Would like to see you post a pic of it and give it the same "go over".

Thanks, Matt



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: RMLamey on 2001-06-03 21:26 ]</font>
 

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I don't understand the reason for posting so negative about a persons product! I am happy if my gun shoots well and looks OK. Perhaps the above post about a smiths product would be interesting to discuss between some of the smiths to compare notes so to speak. Just my thoughts on the matter.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Matt,

An apples and oranges comparison between what is designed as an $1,700 semi-production gun and $4,000+ *best grade* gun is hardly the point here. Since Larry is postioning himself as the new industry pricing high water mark for custom 1911s, then I think it is reasonable to think we should expect to see a level of fit and finish on an entirely different plane of excellence, than that of a "give away gun". Dane (unlike Larry) has never publicly claimed to build a better 1911 than anyone else in the business. I am still wondering what one of Larry's $6,000 guns will look like.


FortyFive,

This is not intended to be a negative post -- it is intended to help point out what expectation should be met on a $4,000+ gun. We are going well beyond just wanting a pistol that "shoots well and looks OK." At this price level, the craftsmanship bar is raised considerably and the expectations are commesurably higher too. Most gunsmiths would be hard pressed to make such pointed critiques in a public forum. There is a lot of behind the scences politics in the gun biz. To me, the benefit of having a forum like this one, is that we CAN discuss such things openly. Do you only want to hear the same old patronizing 'atta boys'? If we can't speak the truth -- no matter how disquietinging it may be -- then IMO, we minimize the value our on-line discussions.

DD

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Desert Dog on 2001-06-03 22:21 ]</font>
 

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On this topic I was recently thumbing through "guns" magazine. Saw Danes "give away" gun. Would like to see you post a pic of it and give it the same "go over".
Matt I can make this easy and DD won't have to write much. The BCP FED cost as spec'ed out in the GUNS giveaway at $1700 or so including the ENTIRE gun.

While only one picture, I would say picture is worth a thousand words in this case. It is worth noting the finish is chrome also which brings every detail and flaw into clear view.

Funny I would have thought the difference between a $1700 basic entry level gun wouldn't need a comparison against a $4300 gun proclaimed as, to have "the detail of a David Miller rifle".

Set a Miller rifle down with a dozen other nice custom rifles and it will jump out at the trained eye simply for the quality and detail of the workmanship. It is generally clear in a picture too.

Here is a picture of the giveaway gun although clearly not of the quality of GUNS magazines photograph. Feel free to make any comparison you or DD like. The real test of course would be shooting them side by side for reliability and accuracy.





<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Dane Burns on 2001-06-04 15:35 ]</font>
 

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DD,

I have a new forum handle for you: Chamber Reamer! :grin:

Some of the stuff you pointed out is a matter of taste on your part, and some of it is actual imperfections or oddities. I'd be cautious about ripping on someone's handiwork as a general rule, but then again when you charge $4K for a (customer supplied!) pistol you need to be prepared to take your licks for anything short of utter perfection. After all, for that kind of price you could pay for the work to make TWO Kimbers into BCP Grey Ghosts! :eek:
 

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FortyFive,

I think DD's point is this: if you are paying 4 grand for gun, you should reasonably expect something more that "it shoots good and looks OK". My 600 HK USP looks okay and shoots good, would I pay 4 grand for it? NO way. For that amount of money, you should expect something that is basically flawless in every way.

Having said that, I guess the bottom line is this: Larry can charge whatever he feels reasonable, and if the customer is happy then that's all that matters in the end really. I definitely think the flaws that DD pointed out here are valid points thou, and a little criticism never hurt anyone. If I were
a custom builder of ANYTHING I certainly wouldn't mind a little
criticism of my work, because in the end that's what makes you better and helps you to improve your product. :smile:

Having rambled on and on about all that I have to say this: if I had my choice between the Vickers gun, and the BCP that Dane posted here in the thread I'd definitely take the BCP. And I'm saying this not knowing Dane, or ever having handled any of his work. It just LOOKS right to me. In point of fact I was kinda surprised that FED model was going to be selling so cheap. BTW Dane, don't take that as an indication that you need to raise prices, because then I might not be able to get one :wink:


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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: JLM on 2001-06-03 22:29 ]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: JLM on 2001-06-03 22:31 ]</font>
 

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Matt...I for one would like to see more of Vickers' pistols. Do you have any pics of the pistols he has built for you? If so, post them puppies.

Okay, so, a Vickers $4k, a Burns $1.6k, now, all I need to really make me envious is, yes, you guessed it...another pic of DD's TALISMAN!!! :grin:

Btw, Dane, damned good looking pistola'.

Serious question, for those in the know...how does Strider get all of his knives in that magazine? Does a guy pay advertising rates to have stuff included next to pistols, and the like?
 

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Bruce,

I was kind of wondering that too, because it seems like in every issue there is a Strider poking out SOMEWHERE :wink:


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: JLM on 2001-06-03 22:55 ]</font>
 

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I don't know Larry Vickers or whoever "Desert Dog" might be. But here's something that bothers me. This board requires "industry people" to use their real names.

There are a few special requirements of those that are professional gunsmiths, suppliers to the industry, or providers of either goods or services to the shooting industry. You must register using your real name. While we don't require this of the general membership, it is required of you. We feel that in order to be fair to all parties concerned, those that have a financial stake in the industry will be held to a higher standard. We would also hope that if you have vested interests in other members businesses, that you will not purposely hide such relationships. In exchange for this, we provide you the opportunity to reach your customers in the most direct manner possible. Free of the editorial constraints and the financial costs associated with print media, you have the unique opportunity to showcase your talents and work on an equal footing with all the other professional members.
I think that should also apply to the administrators of this board. If they are going to spout off there opinions in this manner, I think they shouldn't be afraid to put their names behind it. If they aren't willing to put their name behind their words, then their words aren't really worth all that much to me.
 

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Heinie best grade gun :grin:

My isn't working too well today, and I can't get the pic to show up here :wink: So, here's the link to it:



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: JLM on 2001-06-04 00:59 ]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Dane Burns on 2001-06-04 01:07 ]</font>
 

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Thanks for fixing that Dane :smile: For some reason when I went to do the tags it came out like:

"(IMG)
bunchofrandomURLstuffinhere(/img)"

Instead of:

"(IMG)bunchofrandomURLstuffinhere(/img)"

Note: brackets changed to ( for illustrative purposes only :wink: So the board software wouldn't pick it up.

Who knows :eek:


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: JLM on 2001-06-04 01:21 ]</font>
 

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DD,

I counted 16 "flaws" pointed out in the above post. Of these it aprears 8 of them are something that can be shown and not opinion. This thread was posted under the guise of an overview of what to look for in a Best grade gun and things that should not be overlooked. There were several things that you pointed out that I would have never noticed and that I learned from. The thumb safety hole was something I noticed immedieately as it is a pet peave of mine.

Putting so much personal bias into the thread only hurts your credability though. Things such as make of sight, front srtap reshaping, high cut frontstrap etc... are extremely subjective. To knock the gun because it is not what you would want is hardly reasonable. I would guess that if the members of this site were polled as to the ultimate best grade gun you would get dozens of different configurations. Is one person's more correct thatn the rest? That is why they are CUSTOM guns, teh customer can get the gun they want and to hell with what someone else thinks of the choices. If they don't like your gun let them pay the money and have one built for them with what they want on it.

You seem to be very knowlegeable about custom 1911's and I have seen pictures of some beautiful ones that you have posted, but to continue the personal battle you seem to have with Vickers really grows old. Accept that you and he disagree on the quality of the Kimbers coming from the factory, which is where all this seemed to begin and move on. There is a lot we can all learn from you.
 

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OK, just in the interest of fairness, let's take a peek at the Heinie "Best Grade". Nothing personal here, just an unbiased analysis. Ready? Here's the first 10 observations:
1. Grip safety to frame fit is poor. Look at top edge of g.s. in relation to top edge of frame. Underside clearance between g.s. and frame is quite irregular (tight in back and loose up front).
2. Are those wear marks on the lower portion of the g.s.?
3. Sear, hammer, and thumb safety pins sre qualified, but all have different amounts of relief past frame, and none are flush.
4.Is that a tool mark on the frame immediately adjacent to the hammer pin?
5.Lower, rear edge of slide is rounded immediately adjacent to frame, which (along with everything else in this area)is unrounded.
6.Bottom of mainspring housing protrudes past bottom of frame.
7. Look at the amount of protrusion of the msh pin past the frame.
8. Look at first vertical column of diamonds on front strap checkering. Appear to go from blah to dull diamonds and back to blah again. Look at very bottom "lug", where a diamond is supposed to be.
9. Starboard side of mag. release inset significantly from frame (far from flush).
10. Bevel on front, vertical edge of slide is not of consistent width, but has a slight taper, top to bottom.

Again nothing personal, just playing armchair critic. My point here is that errors are quite easy to find in someone else's work, even Mr. Heinie (who I think is awesome, bye the way!). Would I pay $4000 for this pistola? Nope. Doesn't have Novaks :grin: .


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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: dpcdivr on 2001-06-04 01:42 ]</font>
 

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JLM, I hope you didn't mind me linking your photo into an image. Thanks for posting it.

DD isn't an administrator on the board and has no official capacity here although he has helped an enormous amount and still does. Alessi, Kanalley and Heinie are aware of DD's identity. He is not a part of the gun industry, just a well educated customer of all of us.

More importantly, Hopkins/AH and Vickers made the bold statements that this gun and Vicker's skills were a new bench mark in the 1911 industry worthy of not only $4000+ in a custom gun, but $10,000 because of the rarity of the maker's products. The Nagata photos clearly make a different statement IMO.

Stating the obvious in this case isn't rude or personal. DD's comments just pointed out the detail in Nagata's photos.

What has been under discussion on several threads is the level of detail claimed in the Vickers article. That level of detail is the "best grade" gun. If you are going to claim "best grade" and demand that pricing, I suggest you be able to back up that claim, starting with the published photos of your products.

What some may find offensive is that it can be easily pointed out on the internet that what is claimed in the printed press isn't always quite the truth of advertising some might like.

Welcome to the real world where things ARE changing.

On a side note:

I don't think $1700 is a great deal for a FED package. That gun could easily be duplicated for $700 by Kimber if they would take the time to do it right from the get go. The answer to a better production hand gun isn't more money or more time IMO, it is doing it right the first time.

If you are going to offer a comment of a maker's gun it helps to realise that beavertails are fitted in the depressed position and the "gaps" that appear (as on Heinie's 9x23 shown) will disapear into a tightly seamed line on depression of the safety. That 9x23 stainless Springfield gun I believe was for sale just a short time ago from Heinie @ $3000. I think for an extra $1000 Dick would be happy to clean up any cosmetic defects you might imagine on his work.

Even Springfield recontours the grip frame on a Springfield PRO Model as do most who build expensive guns on the Springfield frames unless requested other wise for the reduction in labor costs.

We are setting some EXTREMELY high standards here for custom work in these threads. Someone mentioned wanting a $4000 gun for $1500 which has been a problem for me all along with the $1000 FED packages on a Kimber.

This forum is all about educating the 1911 custom gun customer. A little frank commenatry on any maker is always welcome.

This isn't supposed to be Vicker's roast. Lets' make it an educational thread on what needs to be done for a best grade gun.

That won't hurt the makers, editors, the customers or list members.


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Dane Burns on 2001-06-04 15:38 ]</font>
 

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Dane,

No, I didn't mind at all. Thanks :smile: I just couldn't get the damn thing to work right for some reason :eek:

Concerning the FED price, I guess its all relative. You could easily pay that much for a Wilson or Baer, so when you look at it in those terms, then it becomes a good deal. At least to me :smile:
 

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It's a shame that the american firearms press is going to butcher the meaning of " best grade" by applying it simply to the "best efforts" of some gunsmith. It speaks reams of their ignorance and the general "suck up" nature of so many scribes.

This degredation of the true meaning of "best grade" really pisses me off.
 
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