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Building the Best
1911 Firearm (page 1)
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By Dan S Defense

The model 1911 handgun is one of the most well-known, copied and successful designs ever conceived by man. To be more exact, the most famous of John Moses Browning's designs. Despite the countless variations of available 1911 handguns, some of us want something special, that isn't available off the shelf.

When such a need arises, one of the many custom shops (e.g. Wilson Combat, Les Baer, Ed Brown and Nighthawk Custom), can offer several choices, for a true custom built handgun. In this article, we'll look at such a special built 1911 and go over the different options that were selected during the build process. By the end of the article, you'll know how to order your very own custom 1911 handgun, from the custom shop of your choice.

When buying a ready-made 1911, be it a production handgun from Springfield Armory, or semi-custom from Kimber, or even full custom from Wilson Combat, you can select from a large variety of already built 1911 handguns. You have many choices, but the end result is available for you to see, and evaluate. You know exactly how the finished product that you'll get will look and there's no risk of being unfavorably surprised.

But when you build a custom handgun, a one of a kind if you will, the finished product will only exist in your mind, until the building process is done. At this point, it's too late to change your mind, and that's when some folks are hit with a sinking feeling of disappointment. Some get hit with significant budget deficits, since they failed to account for their state's sales tax. Worst still, some realize that they got what they ordered, but not what they wanted. This article will show you how to avoid that dreadful feeling and how to stay on budget.

Let's start with high level choices that will dictate the specifics that will come later. First, who'll build your custom gun, second, what form factor will your gun have and third, what caliber will the gun have, and forth, your all inclusive budget for the project, where "all inclusive" includes that handgun itself as well as any shipping costs, state tax, transfer fee and any additional gear that you'll need (e.g. extra magazines, holster, ammo,...). These are the most critical questions and you must think hard and research your choice, before making a decision that will affect the success or failure of your project.

Let's assume that you selected Wilson Combat, to build a full size 1911 (5" Government), in 9mm. You set aside an all-inclusive budget of $3500. First, deduct the taxman loot from this sum (i.e. your state's sales tax), and then the dealer fee and shipping if applies. The left over sum is your working budget. If you reside in Washington State, that means a budget of about $3100.

Now, the hard work begins. First, look at existing available models that fit within your price range. You mustn't select a base model that is equal or close to your budget. Keep in mind that each custom option that you'll want to select will cost you money and that will need to come out of your budget. It's always better to have a bit of money left over than being short on cash when you are done.

At this point, you ought to ask 'how can I select a model when I don't know how much my custom options will cost?' Good question. At this stage you are looking for a ballpark estimate and you want to eliminate models that are too expensive. In our case, the Wilson Combat Super Grade family is out of budget, and therefore not worth reviewing in this context.

Look at base price model of about $2500-2600, and see if you can find a model that already has some of the features you want (e.g. a light rail or bull barrel). Any existing options are already built into the base price, leaving a larger budget for other custom options.


With a base handgun in mind, you can start adding or removing features. For example, some people like the classic look of the original 1911. They therefore dislike the front cocking serrations. Because it's a custom build, you can ask to have this feature removed. The best way to select feature that you actually need, or think you need, is by thinking of the usage of your new custom gun. Will you use it for self-defense and carry it concealed? Will it be your home defense handgun? Will it only be used for target practice? Each of these choices will affect your options.

For example, a handgun that will primarily be used for home defense can be heavier than a carry gun. For home defense you'd also want to have a light rail but may choose not to have it on a carry gun, to make it easier to find a comfortable holster for it. Think long and hard about every choice. It's not just a matter of cost. Selecting the wrong features will also affect the usefulness of your new handgun. So to quote Winnie the Pooh: think, think, think!

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