Custom Guns: Why?

A Nighthawk Customs 1911 in .38 Super Sheriff Jim Wilson
I was a guest of Nighthawk Custom at the recent NRA Annual Meeting in Nashville. It is no secret that I am a fan of the Nighthawk 1911 and I have one in .38 Super that is as fine a 1911 pistol as I have ever owned or shot. However, shooters—especially new shooters—often ask why anyone really needs to go to the expense of obtaining a custom-made gun. Let me see if I can explain the reasoning behind the things that motivate me to shoot and rely on custom guns.

To begin with, one needs to understand that taking a Chinese-made 1911 and sticking some flashy looking doo-dads on it does not constitute a real custom gun, regardless of what the manufacturer claims. A truly custom handgun—any handgun, not just the 1911—is built from only the best parts and those parts are hand-fitted. Quality parts and hand fitting costs money. What you get for your money is an accurate, reliable pistol that will last virtually forever.

It is important to remember that every time we fire a handgun there is a violent explosion inside that gun. And, when that explosion occurs, the parts of the gun are slammed against each other. Poorly made, or weak, parts won’t last nearly as long when they are poorly fitted or sloppily fitted. So, when I consider a custom gun, it is what is inside the gun that interests me the most… not what the outside looks like.

Not to be unkind, but people who claim that a Chinese-made 1911 is just as reliable as a truly custom 1911 are really telling you that they don’t know nearly as much about guns as they ought to. They have simply not reached the level as a shooter where they can appreciate something that is built right. It would be about like me contemplating a high-performance sports car when, in truth, I have a pickup truck mentality.

Just like most everyone else, the majority of the guns that I own are moderately-priced pieces. Nothing wrong with that for most hunting and shooting applications. However, when my life is at stake I want the best, most dependable firearm that I can get my hands on. I want a gun that will run when I need it to run and one that will last. And that is not being elitist… it’s just being practical.

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274 Responses to Custom Guns: Why?

  1. Makarov says:

    Back in the late 80s early 90s (Pre Kimber) you bought a 1911 took it to a smith and they put the parts on you needed wanted. Norincos were highly thought of as base guns. At a time when Colts were $500 plus a Norinco was $200, then Kimber came out with out of the box guns with the bells and whistles you needed for a reasonable price and Clinton banned the import of guns from China and thus ended the era. My Norinco has shot everything I put through it. including spear 200 grain ashcans, as long as you let them alone and rattle like a 1911 they worke fine. problem was when you upgraded them wrong, like anything else. they did not work.

  2. Makarov says:

    Back in the late 80s early 90s (Pre Kimber) you bought a 1911 took it to a smith and they put the parts on you needed wanted. Norincos were highly thought of as base guns. At a time when Colts were $500 plus a Norinco was $200, then Kimber came out with out of the box guns with the bells and whistles you needed for a reasonable price and Clinton banned the import of guns from China and thus ended the era. My Norinco has shot everything I put through it. including spear 200 grain ashcans, as long as you let them alone and rattle like a 1911 they work fine. problem was when you upgraded them wrong, like anything else. they did not work.

  3. David Loeffler says:

    Owning two custom guns, a Colt Series 70 in .45 ACP and a Winchester made M1917 in .416 Rigby, I can say that designing and owning custom guns gives a great sense of satisfaction. There is an even greater sense of satisfaction in using them.

  4. J.Moyer says:

    While I don’t have any custom handguns, i do have a custom rifle and think that every serious shooter should have at least one custom firearm so they appreciate the gun maker’s craft a bit more and get the satisfaction of knowing that this one is mine and there is likely none other like it. Not prideful, but satisfying. Good shooting Sheriff..

  5. Larry Berry says:

    I am not trying to disparage anyone . But why would anyone buy Chinese goods is beyond me. They have made dry wall, dog food , child toys and other things that had to be recalled. Saving a few dollars on a tool that might save your life is not good thinking in my opinion.

  6. PeterC says:

    Right you are! My two “best guns” are, if not custom-built, at least very carefully built. I paid quite a bit for them, but their performance justifies the cost. They are (1) a Guncrafters Industries 50GI 1911, and (2) a Freedom Arms Model 97 .44 Special “Pocket Model.” I forget who it was who said, “The quality remains long after the price is forgotten.”

  7. Rev. Fr. Joel Osborne says:

    My “Custom” pistol looks exactly like the original 1991-A1 that I bought. I was so disappointed at it performance out of the box that I complained to R. C. Whitiker, then president of Colt. I told him that my Norinco, made by slave labor with hand files was superior to Colt’s highly skilled workers with their CNC machining. I told him that in battery the barrel could be pushed over 12 thousandths out of lock! He invited me to send it back to the factory, where he sent it to the Custom Shop, where they replaced the barrel, bushing, link and slide, and handfitted all parts to 3 thousandths. They polished the feed ramp so that it will feed anything including flying ashtrays, and also did a trigger job thrown in and two factory targets showing 1″ groups at 25 yards. Yup, looks just like a 1991-A1 but is a real Custom piece; my daily carry and insurance policy.

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