Production vs. Semi-Custom 1911s

In my last post, I discussed why a 1911 might be called a production model or a semi-custom model. I’d like to take that further and point out the things you are likely to get in a semi-custom that you won’t in a production model.

At the top of that list is the quality of the parts used in a semi-custom 1911. You’ll find no cast nor MIM (metal injection molded) components in semi-custom guns while they are common in production guns. Many will point out that cast and MIM parts are good parts, and that’s true. But those parts were not introduced into 1911 manufacturing because they were better than tool steel machined parts. They are just cheaper.

Beaver-tail fit
Beaver-tail fit

Next on the list of differences are the fit and finish of a semi-custom pistol. Everything about the gun is “just right.” The match-grade barrel lockup is solid (not all production guns even have match grade barrels) and it’s that lockup that means the most to accuracy. Beaver-tail grip safeties are tightly fit to the frame for hairline gaps and no side-to-side motion. Thumb safeties snap on and off with authority and the curve at their rear edge matches the curve of the frame exactly.

A pistol rug from Nighthawk Customs

Finish treatments (Cerakote derivatives, black nitride, bluing, bead-blasted stainless, and the like) are uniform and flawless. Machine marks, inside and out, are almost nonexistent. The packaging is unique to each builder and is not the plastic box we’re used to in production guns. You will almost always get a branded pistol rug to take to the range with room for spare magazines and assorted supplies.

Recessed and flush cut slide stop pin
Slide Stop Pin

Not only are there options to choose for key features of the gun, but many of those features are simply not available on any production gun. Take, for example, a recessed and flush cut slide stop pin. Or ball cut grooves in the top of the slide. And my favorite, hand-blended magazine well extensions.

Ball cut grooves in the top of a slide
Ball cut grooves

Even the parts themselves have been enhanced. Many semi-custom builders will add a notch where the slide stop meshes with the plunger tube pin to make it easier to snap the slide stop into place. Others machine a slot into the head of the guide rod so the barrel link stays vertical while putting on the slide so that getting the slide stop pin through is a little simpler. These don’t make, or break, the design, but are enhancements created with the knowledge gained from years of 1911 experience.

Customer service further differentiates semi-customs from production. When selecting your features and designing the build for your pistol, you will work with a customer service agent one-on-one. You’ll get advice and rapidly updated quotes as your design takes shape. After the sale, these makers will go to extremes to be sure you are happy and your gun is right.

If you are going to spend three to four times the cost of a production gun, there needs to be something about the semi-custom that sets it apart. I find that quality parts (usually all machined from tool steel or forgings), the near-perfect fit between parts (hand-worked by top-grade gunsmiths), numerous available options, and personal attention make a semi-custom pistol “worth it” to those fortunate to have the money to spend on one (or several).

Wilson Combat's Vickers Elite in Stainless
Featured Image: The Wilson Combat Vickers Elite in Stainless from their marketing website.
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