Heirloom Precision | decennial
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In 2005 I was given the opportunity to dive head first into the custom 1911 world to turn what was, at the time, just a hobby into a real profession. The years before spent swapping parts here and there and getting my feet wet in the inner workings of the 1911 had become more than just a casual interest. I was no longer just a collector or enthusiast of custom 1911s and with this unique opportunity at my feet I remember thinking, “don’t waste it”. Since then my goal has always been to build the best I can and, no matter what my current skill level, learn more, get better, be a better builder.  In 2015 as I approached the 10th anniversary of my professional career I began to think about how I could make something special out of the last decade of building and furthering my craft, the Decennial project is the result.


The base gun itself is unique, a 1969 slant-groove Colt Commercial model, these Colts are often referred to as the AMU Colt Commercial due to their distinctive slides featuring a traditional round top with angled NM style cocking serrations. These slides were likely an over-run for the AMU that found their way out to the commercial market, making these Colts the most rare base guns of the era. My first exposure to such as base gun was in 2002 when a Paul Liebenberg built AMU Colt Commercial was featured on the cover of American Handgunner magazine. Knowing nothing about the base gun at the time, that pistol and the work of Liebenberg in general has remained an influence on me to this day. I later acquired a Swenson built AMU Colt Commercial that drove me to search out an unmodified example to use as an eventual base gun for a custom project. In the interim I have been fortunate to build quite a few of these AMU Colt Commercials for my clients, but throughout that time I have reserved this base gun for a special project such as this.


In one form or another this craft is an adaptation of the ideas of others, with each gun I build and every modification I perform in some way being a tribute to a custom builder who came before me. I feel fortunate to continue to adapt the influence and inspiration others have given to me into the functional art of the custom 1911. Many of the features and modifications seen on this gun were selected with a specific idea or influence in mind and some of the examples from this gun are noteworthy.  


The squared and checkered trigger guard, on this gun hand-checkered at 50lpi on the bottom of the guard, is a reference to many previous custom 1911 makers including Swenson, Hoag, Heinie, Liebenberg, Nastoff, etc., all influences on me.


The use of a traditional round-hole Commander hammer as well as the grip safety shape and contours reference back to the custom 1911 styling from the late-80’s and early-90’s, respectively. While the thumb safety is my take on the perfect blend of useable size and shape while retaining a classic and not oversized appearance.  


The rear sight is an original Heinie 300 with some further modifications and contouring. This sight is likely my favorite rear sight of all time and the use on this gun seemed fitting considering Heinie’s impact and influence on not only my work but the custom 1911 industry as a whole.


The 30lpi hand checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing is a classic modification done in a traditional manner. It is something that was once only done by hand but now is quite often performed on a machine. Hand checkering is still something I am proud to offer and is a hallmark of any gun from my bench. The influences that drive me to still checker each gun by hand one at a time are many.


The idea to use a mag-well on this gun comes from the work of both Liebenberg and Heinie (as well as others I’m sure). Both men have made custom mag-wells of differing designs. However, the mag-well I chose to use on this gun is part offered by my friend Stan Chen, a great 1911 smith and influence on my work as well.  


The Decennial gun combines features and modifications that pay homage to the builders and craftsmen who have influenced my work, my style, and the ideas with which I approach building 1911s. The project is commemorative effort and is offered with a unique presentation that accompanies the Decennial pistol.


A leather bound book documents the creation of the Decennial pistol with photos that follow the build from base gun to finished work. Descriptions of select modifications and processes along with detailed imagery help to tell the story of the efforts that went into crafting the Decennial.


A framed display showcasing some of the tools used on the Decennial build as well as the etching stencil used to inlay my maker’s mark on the pistol. The files cased in this display saw their last work on the Decennial build and include the spacing files used to checker the various surfaces on the pistol. A centered display card used to describe the gun while on display at SHOT Show tells a brief overview of the project.   


A framed print of “The Legacy” painting is also included as part of this one time Decennial package. This limited edition piece by artist Ellison Keomaka was modeled after and created in conjunction with my Decennial gun. The artwork pays further tribute to the history and craft of the custom 1911.