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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For me it means this.

First, the gun must still have parts that are within original factory specs. For the .45 that would be within print specs that Kuhnhausen has in his second book. Their the only specs I got.

Second, and this is a big one. While everything should be within spec., that doesn't mean the builder can use all the tolerances in those specs. For example, I want my frame pins to be within .0005" of the bore in the frame. I want no more than .001" of clearance between the sear pin and sear, and no more than .001" between the hammer pin and hammer. I want my sear and hammer engagement faces to be dead true to those pin bores as well. The same thinking goes for the rest of the gun. Slide to frame fit should be appropriate for the end use of the gun. After the barrel is fit to the slide it would be final chambered, not finished from the factory.

Internally polishing parts is also necessary, but NOT until after everything is fitted perfectly and toleranced correctly.

I believe a custom gun should wear appropriate sights as well. Sights are the most exposed and most likely part to be damaged on a gun while carrying. I want my sights to be made of better material than is being used now, and I don't care if they cost 50.00 or so more.

Forged frame and slide goes without saying, and machined after heat treating. Best guns, be they shotguns or handguns should have only the best components.

I have noticed that handgunners seem to have an upper limit on what they suppose a pistol like the 1911 should cost. I think this stems from the fact that most handgunners see a pistol more as tool for use, rather than something that should be appreciated for the detail and precision that went into building it. In almost all cases this is probably true, since highly detailed dimensional work on an assemblage of afterrmarket parts would be very time consuming and isn't probably done today.

But, what if you had the opportunity to purchase a 1911 that was blueprinted and built to "perfect" specs, no shortcuts, and no flaws. Could a handgunner truly appreciate the time and effort that went into such a piece?

I like fine shotguns. There is an upper limit that I would pay for such a gun, limited by my financial means. But I can still appreciate the value of a 70,000.00 Purdey or Holland & Holland. As an owner of a machine shop and engineer I can also appreciate the time and detail that would be necessary to build the "perfect" pistol. While it would not be outwardly noticable, I would nontheless take great personal pleasure in knowing that my gun is the best that can be made at any price. I'm more than just a bit qualified to quote a job like this and as a mental exercise I have done just that. This gun would be worth 4700.00 to me. That's what I could build a gun for that cost me 1500 in parts at retail cost. Well, it wouldn't cost me more than the 1500.00, but I would value the gun at 4700.00.

I don't want to start a riot here, most here probably would not be able to afford such a gun, but would you be able to appreciate the fact that such a gun just might be worth more than your precieved upper limit?
 
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IMO,
I believe that the final cost is rarely the deciding factor on any cutom project and a large percentage of the buyers go on impulse directly after reading the latest full color review. (I'm guilty)
For most shooters/collectors with longetivity in the hobby have worked thier way up the cost ladder from trades/deals/upgrades etc..
I have personally worked my way into some very expensive firearms, I once owned pistol# 3 out of 5 prototype H&K P7- M7 .45 acp pistols ever built,it cost cash and two Rolex collector grade watches, currently I own several custom prescision rifles from Accuracy International, HS Prescision and MCMillian.
Up until a few weeks ago I owned one of a very few Browning High Power Special Forces pistols that I traded out towards an H&K PSG-1 that is 99% complete including all accessories. My collection currently reads like the last decade of American Handgunner with multiple 10mm and .45 Heinie psitols from Baer, Heinie, Brown, STI, and Wilson.
I have two revolvers from Weigand & Bunczek. I have an 9x23 custom from BUL in Israel, A comp gun from Behlert, an STI in progress at EGW and soon hopefully a Burns pistol.
I have purchased over 90% of them through private sales and I find that most of the original buyers could not in fact afford the guns, once the bills came they sold the pistols or they too trade to something else.
Am I completely over the edge or am I a light weight here on the forum?
What do most people think of collecting/spending?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
ddifabio:

Not over the edge, just one lucky guy. Sounds like you know what you want and get it.

My speciality in years past has been building classic lined express rifles on a custom order basis. Your statement about no correlation of price to project held true there also. Not one of the guns went for less than 5K and they didn't start out that high. My base price for a mauser actioned rifle was 3K. It got expensive when they wanted guaranteed zero multiple scope mounts, and of course upgrades in wood. Some oddball calibers didn't help matters either. But to a man/woman, they really did feel that they got more than their moneys worth. Most were not collectors, but rather hunters, really well traveled ones too. Most expensive was a 3 gun set in 7x57 mauser, 357 H&H, and 416 Rigby. Guess where this guy hunted? :>) I really enjoyed building these guns as they are my favorite calibers.

Point is, even these riflemen, who could have done as well with much cheaper factory rifles were willing to pay way more for a best built gun.

You bring up another good point with regards to the guns you have bought. Most of the top dollar guns you had were priced so due in most part to thier rarity. Understandable. I imagine the idea of a "best" pistol has never been, and is therefore difficult to come to grips with.
 

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Sounds like you have an awesome world calss collection of firearms...both of you:)
As far as perfect...Perfect is far too subjective a term. Perfect from a machinists POV, or an engineers POV, or a collector of antique military arms are completly different things. Now if you are telling me that you can make me a "perfect" 1911 with perfect tolerences for $4700, would I buy it? Depends. When I buy a Heinie or Burns or Vickers I am buying that smiths experience, personality, and artistry, and history. I am paying as much for the "pedigree" more than the parts. Your hypothetically "perfect" gun may or may not have these things. In theory, A machine built Kimber is a perfectly toleranced gun, and I don't own one at $800. I think there is a lot more to it then a assemblage of perfectly made parts. BTW please keep in mind I said "in theory", I do not think that a Kimber is a perfect gun, but i think it is as tight as modern manufacturing process can make them with cost and functionality in mind.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: MPower on 2001-04-06 20:09 ]</font>
 

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Answer a question for me. If a best gun is used hard for 20-40,000 rounds of IDPA practice per year, how long do the tolerances last? Won't you have to replace those perfect fit parts? Would that mean everytime you need a new extractor fitted you had to send it to the same gunsmith? I assume because they are fitted so well they last a long time but they do still wear out, right? It isn't like a best gun for a cape buffalo that doesn't get shot 1000 times in a lifetime, is it? Don't get me wrong I would love to have one of these pistols. I was only enquiring about their longevity.
 

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Peter - Interesting post.

Here's a couple of points of interest for you; David Miller and Stephen Heilmann are both friends of mine - I have a Miller rifle on order and I own two Heilmann rifles. For those of you on the Forum who don't know those names they are the absolute best custom riflemakers on the planet - The David Miller Company ( David Miller and Curt Crum )have the reputation of making the highest quality - and most expensive - bolt action rifles in rhe World. Stephen Heilmann has a reputation in the American Custom Gunmakers Guild as THE MAN if you want a complete rifle made, or a single shot, or a shotgun redone. The work they do compared to say Holland and Holland is roughly comparing mine or Dick Heinies work to Wilson Combat - No Comparision.

The main difference between these makers and shotguns or double rifles is none of these action types are autoloading - you simply cannot build recoil operated autoloading mechanisms to the tolerances you suggest and have them function - PERIOD.

Several of your mandates are perfectly reasonable - everything square and true for instance. But some of your requests are completely unrealistic - the pistol would never even be test fired if you held it to such strict tolerances for to just get the action to function at all tolerances would have to be allowed/created that you would reject out of hand.

Bottom line pistols are defensive weapons - which means they are meant to save your life. The tolerances you suggest, if held to even remotely, would serve to do just the opposite. This pistol would be found lying in your cold dead hand, hopelessly seized up from galling, after some scumbag shot you with a Chinese Tokarev with tolerances that would make you puke - If you were alive to inspect and measure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Mpower,

Well. I have seen more kimbers out of the box double and fire on their own than any other .45. That tells me they went way way too far with machining in hand work.

Of course perfect means different things to different people. But a best pistol has all the qualities you list. Some may not like it, but the majority would find it appealing.


BillD,

I have a question for you. Would you spend say 50K on a stopping rifle and then proceed to shoot the hell out of it just to see how long it will last? I bet not. Your still thinking of this type of handgun as a tool. If it's just a tool to you, then clearly this type of pistol would hold no special interest for you. Yes, it should last longer all things being equal, but thats not the point.

Mr. Vickers,

I am at a complete loss in understanding your post. What you are basically telling me is that a gun built with parts that measure nominal size will not shoot. I find this very improbable. My .0005" tolerance for the frame pin fits has absolutely no bearing on the operation of the weapon, none. My tolerances of .001" for hammer/hammer pin and sear/sear pin are twice what the blueprint minimum clearances are. These were the only tolerances I included in print, and they are well within design specs for the 1911.

I would like a further clarification since you seemed so adamant that my gun will not function. I would also like to know which of my requests specifically are completely unrealistic?
 

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Larry, when you build a pistol for someone that tells you they want your best, do you have a set of tolerances that you use as a guideline? Or, perhaps a certain line of pistols that is just always within the parameters you require to be able to get your best out of it? I guess it could be that each is so individual that it requires you to adapt as you go, but you must have a "bottom line" so to speak, that is, too far from spec to work with?
Never having a pistol of the caliber that you build, it's hard for me to picture what you require as a start point I guess...My imagination runs amuck, so to speak!
Thanks...if you can even follow that question/s...:wink:
 

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Peter - The way I read your post is you wish to eliminate the tolerances/tolerance stack that occurs in a 1911. My point is in many cases that is what allows the gun to function-within reason.

We all understand that excessive tolerance stack can be a real bad thing but I will say this - a very skilled 1911 smith who completely understands the gun can compensate to the point that the end user, in many cases, would/will never know. In alot of cases it's done the old fashion way - by hand. I've seen 1911's - esspecially Colts - that where so far out of spec in certain areas it would scare you - but in each case I was able to compensate and deliver the customer a reliable, cosmetically appealing pistol. That is partly why I have the reputation I do.

As far as fabricating the components you are talking about the current stuff from Caspian, Kimber, Rock River is pretty close to what your talking about at a very reasonable cost. Could they be better? - Sure but that would raise the cost to the point that only one guy would buy a slide and frame set - you.

Times have never been better in terms of 1911 components to choose from - Thanks to guys like Chip McCormick and Bill Wilson who know what needs to be made and has the ability to make it happen. Guys like these 2 and others have raised the bar to the point that companys like Colt are not even treading water.

Peter, If all that was available at this time was the Colt products of yesteryear I'd be right with you preaching a somewhat similar sermon.

My point is be careful what you ask for - you just might not want it.
 

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I agree with Larry, in that I think we 1911 fans are in a pretty great place -- we do have the best components we have ever had. The advances made in CNC manufacturing has brought us parts with more precise and consistent tolerances than we have ever enjoyed. However, there still exists a point of dimishing returns for bulding the ne plus ultra 1911. In terms of money, I don't know what that exact dollar amount is, but I'll bet it would be an expensive experiment to find out. Maybe that is why we don't see 10k+ 1911s?

Getting back to "best grade" 1911s, I think it would be highly instructional to us laymen, if some of the professionals would explain exactly what extra work is involved in building your "best grade" 1911, as opposed to your normal grade fullhouse pistol.

DD
 

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DD - When I have more time I'll outline some of the things I do to my 'Best Quality' guns vs 'working guns'. It all boils down to detail work - mainly by hand. And that as you know turns into BIG $$$ pretty fast.

Peter - I just remembered that Bar Sto was going to make slide and frame sets along the lines of what your talking about - probably the closest ever. I asked Irv Stone Jr. the status of that at the SHOT Show this year and I forgot what he told me - You might want to call him - for the right price you may get what you want after all ( or close to it )
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Larry,

I understand you now. Your telling me in your business you often work on customer supplied weapons, and it's your job to make the best gun given the limitations of the weapon you work on. That I fully agree with. But that wasn't exactly what I had in mind here.

Let me try this. Say I want a gun built, from scratch. Price is not that big a deal, but I wanted it built to spec, with minimum tolerances. You supply all the parts. I want this gun to be completely hand fitted, so an oversize frame and slide that you fit is required. Lets say the gun isn't for personal defense. I just want the gun to be as right as it can be. This would hopefully include the top lugs all seating after about 750 rounds fired, you get the idea. It might not be your idea of a perfect 1911, but hey, it's the customers money. If I'm the customer, I chose you in part because of your reputation, and I like the cosmetics of your weapons, so thats not an issue. What value would you place on making a gun like that? Use a reasonable labor rate, not the pennies you guys usually work for. Something in the 50/hr range sounds right to me.

Larry, why do you think it is that I would be the only one willing to pay for a sldie/frame set like that? What is the mind set of people in your opinion that brings you to that conclusion. I think the answer to my original post is in this answer somewhere.
Ddifabio brought up the interesting point about going up the cost ladder. While his post more or less refered to rarities, does that not also apply to a smiths finest efforts, or is there a pshycological boundary preventing this?

Desert Dog,

I think most of the ultra-expensive guns be they rifles or shotguns have gone way past the point of diminishing returns. Once while I was in Germany, I went into Frankonia Jagdt, and handled a Heym Double Rifle in 600 Nitro Express that sold for geez, 125K dollars. That's 62.5 weeks of labor at 50/hr. It was beautiful, bulino engraving, gold inlays, but man, what a ticket. The gun did sell by the way. Beauty and value is in the eye of the beholder.

I'm guessing that there is some sort of boundary in the shooting community in applying the same reasoning for purchase price of handguns. I'm just trying to weed out that reasoning.

I would also like to hear about what the smiths here would offer as their "best" efforts, and what they would do.
 
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Larry,
I would purchase the pistol Peter is suggesting as I believe it to be more of an exercise in perfection than true use as a defensive firearm ( I would not intend to take it on a trip to the Amazon).
It is the kind of difference between wearing my presidential rolex with my Seacamp in my rosen ostrich and elephant skin pocket holster with an ivory handled Walter Brend folder clipped next to it for a formal political reception. Then the next day dressing down into a SS Submariner, Heinie 10mm in a Garrity Stingray holster and belt to go to the range for the afternoon
with an Emerson CQC8. All of the items have function and all of them can be categorized
as watches, knives, holsters, pistols, but there is a difference and the intended purpose stays the same within a specific scope of application. (please note that I used the Hienie 10mm only for examnple, it is my favorite carry pistol and the Emerson is my favorite carry knife and yes I know that my Rosen pocket holster cost more than the monthly payment on my Mercedes, I liked it and had to have one. -it's the whole collor photo thing...??)
Peter,
What materials would you make the pistol from
please detail some further specs, drafts, then we will find a pistol smith to make it?
 

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David,

As I am fond of saying; one mans floor, is another mans ceiling.

I have a friend who is a watch snob, who considers his Patek Philippe watches his dress timepieces and his Rolexes simply adequate hard use watches. He drives either a Ferrari Modena 360 or his Bentley Turbo R -- he keeps a Mercedes in the garage for his housekeepers use. It is all relative.

For my last birthday, I opened two bottles of vintage wine worth more than a dress down Rolex. It is also a matter of priorities. :cool:

BTW, I had always wondered who bought those Rosen ostrich and elephant skin pocket holsters. :wink: All kidding aside, you do have excellent taste. I am now even more anxious then ever, for you to get the digital camera.

FWIW IMO, Walter Brend is the Richard Heinie of the knife world. If your Heinie pistol is not up to the task of pairing up with your Brend folder, then (if I may be so bold) please send it back to Dick to have him refurbish it. A Heinie pistol deserves at least that consideration.

[I do understand the point you were making -- just a little friendly ribbing :smile: ]

DD

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Desert Dog on 2001-04-07 14:15 ]</font>
 

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Uh Oh we are going to start talking about watches, wine, cars amd custom knives...this forum is definitly going to hard on my wallet. :smile:
 
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DD,
I should have mentioned, my 3710 SS Patek is my golfing watch and I drive my M5 on golf days and my SS Behlert .38 super N.M rides in the large pocket of my Ping hoofer.
A wine post section would be nice I use WineCellar 2 to manage my collection and they reside in my VinoCrest model 600 in Western red cedar, with the oval door.
In my study/Gun/Computer room I have the MB Paul end table humidor and two cases of Fuentes Opus x, care for a King Louis Cognac while we review my collection?
 

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David, you da man! :cool:

BTW, the wine was 1975 vintage Biondi-Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva -- an absolutely spectacular wine. :smile: I have seen it on a wine list from an Italian restaurant in your neck of the woods, La Famiglia Ristorante? Ever been there? Superb Italian wine list. Take a look here.

DD

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Desert Dog on 2001-04-07 19:29 ]</font>
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
ddifabio,

Well I would like for it to be made of steel , not stainless. At least the frame and slide. Barrel of 416SS would be OK with me, and it would have a link, no built in ramp either. Hand lapped in bushing to slide fit is in order too. Staying pretty much on the traditional side here.

Finish would be a deep rust blue as a first choice, but I wouldn't balk at a well done hot blue either. Top of slide would be matte blasted. Rounded top looks attractive to me, no need to flatten it.

I really like a 4 lb pull weight on a trigger. Tool steel for the fitted hammer and sear engagement. A nice lightweight trigger for me. I'm not exactly sure if I want a short or long trigger on the gun. I'm leaning to the short side, just cause I like the looks of it.

Personally, I think fixed sights look the best atop a 1911. It keeps the simple attractive lines flowing to my eye. I want the sights zeroed for use with 230 gr ball at 20 yards. I want the sights to be smaller in length than a Novak or Heine. Not by much, but a bit, at least the rear one. Matte blasted rear and lined and blasted in the front. I would probably indulge myself and get a gold bead in the front sight.

For the safety lever I would like a type similar to the one on my series 70 NM. That one is big enough for me, and I'm not partial to ambi-safeties. A Beavertail grip safety and skeleton hammer look nice. I want the hammer blued or blackened too. On that subject I would also like to have the barrel hood blasted and blued. I wouldn't want the slide to marr the hood either.

The front of the grip could be lined vertically, and that goes for the mainspring housing too. The housing would be flat for my hand.

As for the actual grips, thats a tough one. Here is where I would probably go with a personal touch, just to make the gun mine. Stag and elephant ivory are both nice, but not quite right. If the gun is rust blued, I would probably want some blue tinted mastadon outer bark scales. It depends on what the mastadon ate as to the tint of the ivory. If the gun is hot blued, probably Gabon Ebony. That would make the gun mine.

This would of course be a 5" gun, based on the series 70, not 80.

After reading this it looks like I'm willing to settle on a pretty plain jane looking gun. But that's OK, at least I will know how it was built.

I'm sure I missed something, but that will do for now.
 

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Peter - I have a better idea of what you mean now. I have never had anyone propose such a thing to me - I'll have to give it some thought.

I can envision building an M1911 to such degree - but I would extend it even farther to making all the components to the highest standards ( Beavertail milled from bar stock, M/S housing from barstock, Thumb safety from bar stock, etc.) All detailed by hand to the highest degree possible. Some parts could be purchased if up to spec - say a bar stock plunger tube for instance.

To be honest I can't even give you a real good guess but I would say somewhere between $15,000 to $25,000. And to be honest that would probably be a money loser - think about the work involved with making a one of a kind beavertail out of Bar Stock - actually somewhere in the $35,000 range would be where you would have to be to actually relise a profit probably.

Interesting subject.
 
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