column By: Brian Pearce | February, 23
The remarkable history and continuing demand for the Model 1911 pistol is a testimony of just how great it really is. In short, it was designed by John Browning, first produced by Colt in 1911, and then officially adopted by the U.S. military that same year. It is a truly remarkable pistol that survived the military tests without a single failure while being fired 6,000 rounds during a two-day period. The U.S. Government purchased more than 2.7 million pistols, which over the next 75 years, served admirably through countless wars and conflicts. It proved to be rugged and tough as nails so to speak. It could get dirty and muddy and still function, while the .45 ACP ball cartridge loading hit adversaries with authority. In order to be NATO compliant, through no fault of its own, in 1985, the proven 1911 .45 ACP was replaced by the Beretta M9 pistol chambered in 9mm NATO as our “standard issue” sidearm. However, today the 1911 .45 ACP is still the sidearm of choice by specialized, savvy combat units that are put in especially high-risk situations and need greater power than is offered by the 9mm NATO. Soon after its introduction, the Model 1911 immediately gained widespread acceptance among civilians and became popular among law enforcement, target and bullseye shooters, action pistol competitors or anyone that needed a powerful, reliable auto- loading pistol for defense or other purposes.
The Model 1911 operating system is still widely copied and employed by many more modern pistols, including almost all synthetic frame, striker-fired versions. However, many manufacturers (worldwide and domestically) produce copies of the original Colt 1911 pistol. Some are produced as reproductions of classic period guns, but demand is especially high for pistols with updated modern features. Regardless, the quality of reproductions varies considerably, with poor examples tarnishing the reputation of this fine pistol, while high-quality versions can be truly marvelous!
Les Baer Custom Inc. is a standout Model 1911 manufacturer. The company was founded by custom gunsmith Les Baer Sr. around 1991. Over the years, Baer worked on and customized many 1911s and knew what is required to build a truly outstanding pistol. This knowledge and experience, along with a passion for high-performance pistols, has resulted in pistols that offer high reliability and amazing top-of-the line accuracy.
The company produces many 1911 variants with features ideally suited to a variety of purposes. Many years ago, the first Les Baer manufactured pistol that I fired was a Thunder Ranch version, which along with Smith & Wesson, were the only companies with authorization to use Clint Smith’s Thunder Ranch logo. Clint Smith is a highly gun-savvy firearms user, trainer and has considerable combat experience. In short, he has a very high standard before he allows a company to put his logo on a gun, but I digress. This particular Les Baer pistol was shot extensively, including side-by-side of more than a dozen other high-quality 1911 pistols. It proved exceptionally accurate, even at long range, and managed to produce better accuracy than all others tested at that time. This even included period bullseye match pistols built by legendary masters. I was highly impressed by this pistol and it is possible that this was the most accurate Model 1911 that I have ever fired.
Incidentally, Les Baer guarantees all of his pistols to shoot 3-inch groups or less at 50 yards (naturally with premium ammunition), however, for even greater accuracy, for less than $300, a gun can be special ordered to produce sub 1½-inch groups at that same distance. I can state from first-hand testing and experience, that Les Baer pistols will deliver the above levels of accuracy and are even capable of sub 1-inch groups at 50 yards with load development! This feature alone makes them highly interesting and outstanding, but they are also reliable and offered in various models with features ideally suited for any practical application that a 1911 will be used.
For today’s purposes, a 1911 Custom Carry chambered in .45 ACP was selected, which is also offered in 9mm Luger and .38 Super. It is constructed of high-carbon steel with a blue finish. It is a full-size variant of the original Colt Government Model with a 5-inch barrel, but with upgraded features and quality. For example, it features a National Match barrel, lowered and angled ejection port, custom-tuned extractor, extended ejector, double-serrated slide, flat mainspring housing, 30 tpi knurled front strap, ambidextrous swept safety, extended speed trigger, lightweight slotted hammer, high-position beavertail grip safety with memory pad, Trijicon patented tritium snag free-style sights, checkered walnut stock panels and two, eight-round magazines.
All critical parts are custom fit at the factory and numbered to the frame. In disassembling the test pistol and scrutinizing tolerances and every aspect of its fit and finish, it essentially seems more or less perfect. In addition to the slide being precisely fit to the frame, the barrel, bushing, link and slide relationship are exactly correct. In other words, the gun is as tight as a Great Depression-era banker! Incidentally, there is no Series 80-style firing-pin safety (located in the slide); rather it is patterned after pre-Series 80 slides. The trigger pull is crisp and breaks cleanly at 3.5 pounds.
Before testing for accuracy, a basic break-in period consisting of 300 rounds of my handloaded ammunition was fired that contained 230- grain Hornady XTP bullets pushed to around 950 feet per second (fps) using 7.9 grains of Alliant Power Pistol powder, CCI No. 300 primer and assembled in Starline cases with a .470-inch taper crimp. The gun was not cleaned during this shooting session, rather it was allowed to settle in. There were no malfunctions, rather the Custom Carry ran flawlessly. At this point, the gun was disassembled, completely cleaned and lightly oiled with synthetic oil. As can be seen in the accompanying table, factory loads often yielded an average of three, five-shot groups that measured from .80 to 1.30 inches. The most accurate factory load came from the Hornady Custom +P 230-grain XTP bullet at a listed velocity of 950 fps, but actually clocked 969 fps and produced an average of three groups that measured just .804 inch.
As can be seen in the accompanying table, four loads were tried. Three group averages (five shots each) measured between 1.20 to 2 inches. However, in additional testing of handloads just prior to deadlines, the Les Baer Custom Carry produced five-shot groups that were measured at just .662 inch! Incidentally, there were no malfunctions with factory loads or handload data. It is expected that as the pistol continues to wear and settle in, accuracy will potentially improve.
While the Les Baer 1911 Custom Carry has a slightly different “look” than the original Colt Government Model, as it differs with double-slide serrations, knurled front strap, high position beavertail grip safety, large ejection port and improved sights, it does not look futuristic like it came out of a sci-fi movie. Rather, it retains most of the traditional 1911 lines, is beautifully machined, with blue finish and is handsome. With 100 percent reliability with good ammunition and outstanding accuracy, the Les Baer Custom Carry is a standout variant that is ready to go right-out-of-the-box.