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.
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 contributes the most to accuracy. Beavertail 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.
Finishes (Cerakote derivatives, hard chrome, black nitride, bluing, bead-blasted stainless, and the like) are uniform and flawless. Machine marks, inside and out, are virtually 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 case to take to the range with room for spare magazines and assorted supplies.
Not only are there options to choose from 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 serrations in the top of the slide. And my favorite, hand-blended magazine well extensions.
Even the parts themselves have been enhanced. Many semi-custom builders will add a notch where the slide stop engages with the plunger tube pin making it easier to snap the slide stop into place. Others machine a slot into the head of the guide rod to be sure the barrel link stays vertical while putting on the slide so that getting the slide stop pin through is a little easier. 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 with the money to spend on one (or several).