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Old 06-15-2002, 11:03 PM   #1
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After reading the latest in the gun rags, one of the authors had a "Top 10 List" for 1911 guys, right after an article about Larry Vickers. All of the 'smiths on the list deserve recognition. While I don't necessarily have the same prejudices as the author, I was surprised at who made the list, who didn't, and what order they came in.
Anyone care to re-write it?
 
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Old 06-16-2002, 05:04 AM   #2
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There is really only one way to know the real answer, and it is kind of impractical. You'd need to get at least 1 gun made recently by each pistolsmith, but just made for a normal paying customer. Each pistol would then have to be subjected to independent scrutiny and a long-term shooting test to make sure they actually work and perform. Otherwise, making that kind of list is just meaningless.
 
Old 06-16-2002, 06:52 AM   #3
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im not worried about anyones top 10, as its generally as much speculation and name gaming as anything else.

what i am worried about is keeping the few smiths i will deal with happy.
 
Old 06-16-2002, 10:53 AM   #4
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Of the original AH list of 10, one is dead, (Swenson), one works part time (Vickers), and two more don't build for the public (Kelsy, Nastoff) And one does not do full house work for the public (Krebs) is my limited understanding.

That leaves 5 working.

Any list of masters at their craft would start with adding Ned Christianson, who has equaled and surpassed any on the original AH list.

Then giving credit where it is due add Jardine, Morris, Mulkerin, Dawson, Single, Tibbets and CT Brian, Brown (if a production gun can count) as the cream of the current crop, actually producing pistols. So make it a dozen :grin:

Take a look around and the list is rather short actually. Ted Yost, Capone's @ Kings, Cladio @ Briley, Novak's, Keller, EGW, Kurt Wickman, Terry Tussey, C&S, Dave Luack @ D&L, Ten Ring, Action Works. There are others, but not many if you are talking 1911 specific and doing exceptional work, full time. I am sure I have forgotten someone, but not many I suspect. Take a look at the APG list and filter out the gun writers, revolver guys, grip makers, finish folks and the list gets really short.

Until the forums I had not heard of Mulkerin, Tibbits, Teddy, Dave Sample, the "other" Novak :smile:, Wild Bill, and others who are here on the forum and by the looks of it building very nice guns. It pays to look around before you decide on who you want building for you.

Taking the bull by the horns here is my list of the top ten 1911s I want to own :grin: Which of course is what I called it...my list of most desired 1911 guns by maker which has changed over time after seeing other work and knowing the makers.

All full house guns in the maker's signature style on the new, Colt, Series 70 guns.

Liebenberg "Pachmyer Combat Special"
Hoag, "Theif" 5"
Garthwaite 5"
Mulkerin 5"
Ned's "carry comp" 5"
BCP (call it personal bias :smile:

Not probable but possible of course:
Krebs "Snake skin"
Nastoff 5"

and these two:
Colt pre War NM
Swenson 5"


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Dane Burns on 2002-06-18 13:04 ]</font>
 
Old 06-16-2002, 11:22 AM   #5
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Ive seen/shot guns by most listed on the AH list as well as Danes list.

I would add that Dave Staggs metal work is better than most of them, equal to ANY. Hes not a machinist as you would find in Neds & Petes work etc. But his hand work to my taste is unequaled. Dont get me wrong, he can do his sight cuts, ramped barrel cuts etc... but his "forte" is good ole hand bench work using files, stones and sand paper.

So, as far as "classic" Colt work, hes the man in my book.

Hamilton Bowen is another that is worthy of mentioning. NO he doesnt build 1911's, but the skill and work he puts into his revolvers is far beyond what most 'smiths will ever realize.
 
Old 06-16-2002, 11:49 AM   #6
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"Hamilton Bowen is another that is worthy of mentioning. NO he doesnt build 1911's, but the skill and work he puts into his revolvers is far beyond what most 'smiths will ever realize."

Well said! Stagg and Doug Turnbull are two well worth mentioning. Kinda getting off the subject though with the exception of Stagg's work.

There are guys on this forum who own or have owned most of the makers mentioned. Be interesting to see some other lists based on personal experinece.



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Dane Burns on 2002-06-16 12:56 ]</font>
 
Old 06-16-2002, 07:08 PM   #7
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I "got into guns" mid-way thru 1999 (Y2K bandwagon). I started reading every gun rag there was (lot of wasted money). After a while they all started to look the same - different gun same story. Then you notice: story of product, advertisement of product/company. Last year I bought a mustang (auto) and started reading magazines - same crap different hobby. If you want the truth (99%) go to the forums and ask for it. Nelson
 
Old 06-16-2002, 07:23 PM   #8
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The magazines do direct the gun "economy" for better or worse. I am still buried under a back log created by one, small, AH article two years ago.

I still advertise there because I think it good exposure.

Some of the forums are indeed helpful, but the useful information often has to be dug out of the trash.
 
Old 06-16-2002, 08:29 PM   #9
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I really like the work of Chuck Rogers. Very talented in both hand-smithing and machining, Chuck has what it takes. Under-rated and most deserving, IMO! And yes, Terry Tussey also builds quite a nice gun!
 
Old 06-22-2002, 01:52 AM   #10
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BullsEye shooting

One that can be added to the list is mainly for those that shoot 2700 Bullseye matches. Jim Clark always guaranteed his group sizes and provided a target shot with the pistol that he built for you. His Long Slide was/is guaranteed to shoot a 10 shot group with a maximum spread of 1 1/2 inches at 50 yards, consistantly.

Even though Jim Sr. died a couple of years ago, Jim Jr. or Jimbo is an accomplished pistolsmith also. He has been working as a pistolsmith since he was a kid basically and now he's somewhere between 45 and 50 years old. The man who builds Jims 1911 target conversions still works at the gunshop and has worked there for over 40 years. A little known name unless you needed technical help with a converted 1911 bullseye gun and his name is Archie Anderson. Archie is known for his hand stippling also that can draw blood...if you want it to!

Jimbo's brother in law is also an accomplished pistolsmith who works at the gunshop when he's not on the road shooting. His name is Jerry Miculek. The only time I've ever heard a S&W Model 65 sound like a submachine gun at a shooting match it was in Jerrys hand. I think Jerry has a few conversions that Hamilton Bowen made for him that coverted a 6 shooter to a 7 or 8 shooter and now S & W has made it a production gun based on the Bowen/Miculek design.

I'm a hardsell on custom guns but I have seen and shot these guys weapons and they converted me. I now own guns that I will never be a able to shoot to their potential so when I miss something it's me and not the firearm! :-?
 
Old 06-22-2002, 06:43 AM   #11
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I gave my list. You are welcome to add anyone you like. Heinie certainly is a candidate for any top ten list. But King? I think if you take a detailed look at some of the maker's I mentioned you'll easily see the Republic is alive and the king has been buried for some time.

I suspect you'll find a couple of guys listed doing better than, exceptional work. You can just as easily replace half of that list with another 5 doing exceptional work.

Here is another 10
C.T. Brian
Vic Tibbets
Chuck Rogers
Claudio @ Briley
Kurt Wickman
Dave Dawson
Capone @ King's
Tussey
Ross Carter
Pete Single

I have seen guns by all and lusted over each and every one.
Like anything it is personal opinion. I listed only my personal favorites. I also have a number of other guns to make that judgement from. But top Ten is just not realistic IMO with so many fine pistols being built.
 
Old 06-22-2002, 02:22 PM   #12
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Re: I have not been a member ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mushinto
... of this forum too long, but I suspect that there is a reason why "King Richard" has been omitted.
ML
"King Richard"?? The only man (in my mind) that can truly lay claim to the "King Richard" moniker, drove a stock car sponsored by STP. 8)


"King Richard" Petty


The whole concept of a Top Ten List is wwwaaayyy too limiting IMO. Entertaining perhaps, but not all that helpful to members. Part of the problem lies in the fact there are scores of guys (and a handful of gals) who are worthy of being called master pistolsmiths. Prior to the Internet, we only had the gun rags and the recommendations of friends, to help seek them out. This created a hierarchy that benefited a limited few smiths, and made for excessively long waiting lists. Interesting to note, Dick Metcalf recently mentioned, the infamous Heinie seven year wait (if you didn't get cuts ), is now down to just two years. Do you think Internet gun forums have affected how pistol buying information is now being disseminated? I certainly do.

Without these forums, I would have never heard of Ned Christiansen, nor would I have been exposed to so much first hand information on up and comers, like Scott Mulkerin, or Pete Single. Personally, I think some of these guys are pushing the envelope in a very positive way. I am stunned at some of Ned Christiansen's innovative work. Same for Pete Single. Damn fine machinists make awesome pistolsmiths. These guys are clearly thinking outside the box, and their innovations are proof positive, that the status quo isn't always necessarily the best.

While I consider Dane Burns a friend, I know he is not the only pistolsmith capable of building an heirloom quality masterpiece. Dane would be the first guy to tell you that. Few of his detractors understand just how passionate he is about pistolsmithing. I remember sitting at Dane's kitchen table last year, and observing the glee of an eight year old on Christmas day, as Dane broke out his collection of other pistolsmith's work. Genuine admiration for the art and craft of pistolsmithing was readily apparent, as he handed me his Craig Wetstein pistol. After drooling for more than a few minutes, I told Dane, "Wow, I gotta have a Wetstein pistol", and he answered, "I know, isn't his work incredible."

That story should give you a little insight into Dane's rabid fascination with great pistolsmithing, and some of the thinking that lead to starting a web site called Pistolsmith.com. Forget about all the gun biz political garbage -- this site IS really about awesome guns. Talking about them, looking at them, shooting them and then relating your experiences. It is learning about all the new and exciting innovations being unveiled, and most especially, what pistolsmiths are doing the best work. This medium is helping to create the most educated group of buyers ever seen, which in turn, is driving -- maybe even inspiring -- the smiths to raise the bar another notch. Everyone has gotta love that. The only ones who won't, are those who feel threatened by progress.

Pistolsmiths that are not (yet) well known, should be given more exposure -- and this forum provide just such an opportunity. Tell us who you think is worthy of wider recognition, and why we should seek them out. Lots of regional favorites are overlooked. Encourage those folks to join in the discussion. A forum allows perspective customers to get to know the gunsmith's personality, in a way that brief phone calls don't. Part of making the custom pistol buying experience a true pleasure, involves finding a smith with a personality that meshes well with your own. Not something to be overlooked IMO.

With so many really great pistolsmiths working out there, I feel a 'Top Fifty' list would more fairly represent what can reasonably be considered the 'cream of the crop'. Anything shorter is sure to slight some highly worthy professionals. A list of 'Talent Deserving Wider Recognition' would be intersting to consider. This truly is the best of times, for those who have an appreciation for the fine art of pistolsmithing. Not only are we seeing the craft being elevated to new levels of excellence, but we are also finding working pistolsmiths who demostrate superior customer service, through their obvious understanding that it is the customer -- NOT the pistolsmith -- who is "King".


DD
 
Old 06-22-2002, 03:42 PM   #13
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Sorry guys,

... it was not meant to be a serious title. I was being facetious. King Richard is a nickname given to him by Ernie Hill and I guess it just stuck with me. I do have a great deal of respect for Richard Heinie because he built my favorite pistol in the eighties and put up with my constant badgering. Although he has no "bedside manner", he does make my top ten list. My personal experience with custom makers is limited to my budget.
I would only put someone on my list that has built something for me.
I have to put Wayne Novak and Bob Coogan on my list because they have shown me great customer service and skill in building weapons for me. I would also have to omit Mr. E.B. from my list due to some bad experiences. There are several other pistolsmiths that I want to explore and intend to in the near future. Paul Liebenberg (my new neighbor), Dane Burns (my gracious host) and Jim West (creator of that dammed Alaskan CoPilot 45-70 that I don't need, but desperately want). I have examined their work and fully expect them to be on my list some day.
ML
 
Old 06-22-2002, 05:46 PM   #14
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Hardsell,
Agree with you about Clark, but don't leave Tommy Joe Bison out. He's worked beside Archie a number of years, buildin' and smithin' revolvers, good hand on the lathe and mill. Russel Dean used to work there, Russel's as good a tig hand on a 1911 as there ever was.

Nobody ownin' a Clark gun has to back up from a top ten list.

Thanks,
Bill Caldwell
Wild Bill Caldwell Tactical Weaponry
 
Old 06-22-2002, 10:26 PM   #15
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Would you be so kind as to elaborate on MR Nastoff. I have a friend that has a 1911 done by him that is very basic looking , but fit perfectly. The pieces look as though they were all one giant work of art that somehow shattered into parts. My friend was in the military in California and into the high end counter terrorism training including training military units to take back planes. My friend mentioned and showed me his Nastoff pistol as though I should have heard of him but I did not. My friend has access to all the MP5's and interesting weapons that he also declined my asking about.
Please elaborate about the guns of MR Nastoff and why they are not available to the public. Thanks...
 
Old 06-23-2002, 09:24 AM   #16
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NO secrets about Steve Nastoff that I am aware of. Lou Alessi is a friend of his but I don't know the man other than by reputation and his guns I have seen.

I believe he works for the INS (US Government in other words) and found his hobby for gunsmithing not as important as his carreer. He was also a solid competitor in IPSC/ USPSA in the early days so he knows how to run a gun. Only a couple of smiths have succeeded at the upper levels of competitive shooting and building the best of that generation of guns. Nastoff was certainly one of those select few. Those two attributes, the ability to build a simple, classic style 5" gun (his comp guns at the time were highly desirable) and built by someone who knows how to really shoot is important to me as a collector.

IMO again 8) Nastoff guns were exceptional and had all the attributes to make them classics. The last guy to add a forged mag well, which he did for other smiths as well, two of which would surprise you I suspect.

Nastoff guns IMO were highly copied at the time (mid 80s to early 90s) by all the usual suspects and his guns set a standard not easily equaled today. I'd buy a used one in a heart beat. I know Heinie did just that several months ago.

When knowledgable gunmen get together and the discussion of the serious makers comes up Nastoff generally heads the list of that generation.
 
Old 06-23-2002, 10:25 AM   #17
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Thanks for the info, I know that the government connection is how my buddy in California got his gun then. It was very simple and not highly stylized , but functional all the way. Exactly what I would want in a custom gun.
 
Old 06-23-2002, 10:35 AM   #18
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Nastoff used to take orders from the general public just as anyone else did. I was told he changed jobs (last few years) and hadn't or didn't want to at this time to start building guns again.

May be that will change again in the future.
 
Old 06-24-2002, 07:33 AM   #19
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I am not much on top 10 lists. For several reasons. First, I can't afford customs from all the makers it would take to come up with a top 10 list. Second, I think gunsmithing is like any other profession, things change, people change, tastes changes...a bit of a moving target. What is cutting edge today, may well be old and haggered 5 years from now. It is clear though that we are living in an age without peer when it comes to the custom 1911. A BUNCH of folks out there making our addiction a hard one to keep under control.

As an aside, I don't envy the job that custom artisians have. Yes, I would like to have their talent, but they are constantly dealing with a very demanding, fickle, somewhat psychotic mistress: The general buying public. Because of that, any 'smith I can get on the phone gets a tip of the hat from me.

So, I back-track in making my list. Back to the basics, the one thing that must be there in any firearm: Reliability. If it is not dead-nuts reliable, it doesn't get a room at my Inn. If it is reliable, then, work forward to things like fine-point work, how it feels to shoot, personality of maker, schedules, price, etc.

The pistol I carry most is a BurnsCP 9x23 5". If I had to hand a family member 1 pistol to depend on, it would be this one. After tossing 2 Wilson mags that did not want to feed well, I have never experiened a problem with this pistol. I know it will fire, eject, and fire again. It is very accurate, and fits *my* hand. Personally, I have never shot anything better.

On high capacity pistols, I have a .38super STI built by Benny Hill in Corpus Christi, Texas [triangle shooting sports]. Benny knows the STI. A GM, and top 3 gun competitor, his guns are used by several of the top dogs, including Max Michel Jr., and Jerry Miculek. Benny, like Dane, answers the phone when you call. Major plus. A no bullshit guy who knows how to build a pistol that carries a lot of rounds, and works. Build time is short, a matter of weeks from the time you pay him. If the gun has a problem [mine has not], he says he will fix it fedex fast...and I believe him. This particular pistol has a commander length slide, and it is squirrel-hunting accurate [a rating us rednecks use in place of phenom ].

John Jardine's Valtro. Talk about a shooting iron. 2 friends own this pistol and have sold or traded what they had previous to it. For the price, I don't know that it has a peer. At retail, the Valtro is $1200, a CQB $1795? John, a nephew of Swenson, is a great guy to talk with about guns, and you can tell cares about what he puts out there. Have 1 on order and can't wait to get it. The 2 pistols I know of have been shot very heavily, no problems. Have seen 1 of John's full custom pistols, and I sure wish I owned it.

Ned Christiansen. On his list and sure wish all of you in front of me would ask him a personal favor...put Bruce ahead of me. Again, very responsive and it is clear that when it comes to metal work he has a magic touch. From a working-piece-of-art standpoint, the guns I have seen from him are in a class by themselves. Check the pics out on his page, if you haven't already.

Brian Bilby...wish like heck I could find one of his 10mm's.

Teddy @ Actions by T: Has always been a gentleman to me on the phone, and delivered what he promised...the best action job going. If anyone has one of his custom 1911's for sale, I would like to talk with you.

Dave Sample. Sold me the finest .45 Colt revolver I have ever owned, or shot, and I have shot every .45 Colt revolver I got close to. Would love to get my mitts on one of his 1911's.

Kurt Wickmann. Made a Kimber hi-cap run when Kimber wouldn't / couldn't...and it took more than just a little tweaking. His work for me has been top drawer.

On a straight quality for cost basis, have to include T. Mark Graham of Arizona Response System here. A buddy and I each own one of Mark's Browing Hi-Powers, and, for $750, what a steal. Very reliable, very accurate. Btw, his FALs are hardy as a hammer. Honest man that I highly recommend.

And though this list is in no particular order, what would any list be without Lou Alessi? That he doesn't build 1911's, or any gun that I know of, is irrelevant. Any time I say "top 10", and it is for a good thing, Lou will be on it! One of the greatest guys going, so had to add him


That is my experience, sure wish my wallet would have allowed more names here.
 
Old 06-24-2002, 10:02 AM   #20
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Bruce, I would like to help you out with Ned but as I write he is working on my full custom Delta elite carry comp. I have allowed him to use all of his metal making talents to make a very special 5" carry comp gun with a special mag well. It will be truely a one of a kind gun.

My list of smiths will include Dane Burns as I own four of his guns and each one is a work of art. I also have two more that are almost done. I just received a Mark Morris tactical on a 1991A1 gun that is in the same league as my Burns best grade Kimber. Both have a very special feel and are reliable. I also own a best grade guns from Swensen, Heinie x2, Christiansen, Hoag, Liebenberg, Tussey, Ed Brown, Jim Boland, EGW and King's guns (made by Hoag while at king's). My take on all of these guns is that the old time smiths were craftsman who had to make parts along with all of the other duties that were involved in making a custom gun. Smiths today have very well made parts that allow them to make awesome custom guns.
To handle a Hoag, Swensen or Liebenberg gun is special. When I reach into my safe, I seem to grab a vintage gun first. I consider myself very lucky.


Jack
 
Old 06-24-2002, 10:39 AM   #21
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First I gotta say that Jack is a gun hog A really nice gun hog but no question a gun hog! Mighty nice of you guys to be so generious and complimentary but it aint gonna speed things up here either. While my project @ Ned's WAS ahead of Jack's until recently some how I only got half of it done before Ned swooned to Jack's new baby :roll:

Which by the way I volunteer to take pictures of. Sounds like another one of a kind ultimate blaster from Ned!

Last time anyone went that far out of the box IMO as Charles Kelsey. try buying one of his guns these days. (If you can find one Novak doesn't already own Kelsey while no longer building guns, while he was Devel, has to make that "ultimate 10" himself.
 
Old 06-24-2002, 10:53 AM   #22
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JackB, being the kind gentleman we know you to be, one solution to my Ned list crisis is, I trade you my spot for the 10mm now in the works. I will even pay for the ol' 10mm! It would give you more time to plan the *perfect* project.....rather than rush you into something...right?
 
Old 06-24-2002, 11:06 AM   #23
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Bruce, I would but Ned said if I ever sold one of his guns, he would have to shoot me. Knowing how good of a shooter he is, I have to pass. Ned is a top quality guy and I can't wait for the pistol.

Jack
 
Old 06-26-2002, 08:00 PM   #24
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Hiya Guys,
While I was reading the last few posts, I noticed the mention of Charles Kelsey and Novak. I was the proud owner of a Devel Gammon (Actually IMHO it was the DEVEL Gammon) It was one the Charlie had converted from Chip McCormicks competition Gammon into one built for his own cartridge he developed named the 9mm Devel. It was basically a 9x23 built far before that cartridge. I had all of the brass ever developed the loading dies, etc. Well Wayne talked me out of it and now its his, but in talking of Pistolsmiths the one who built that gun and had alot to do in developing the Gammon in general, was Bruce Gray. I am lucky enough to own many of his guns, and consider him one of if not the Best. I also amd lucky enough to own Bolands, Kings, Hoag, Behlert and a Heinie. His gunsisare the ones I reach for when I want a big smile. One of my prize guns is a HK P7M13 that Jim BOland and Bruce built together when they were sharing space at Dean Wilkersons in Van Nuys back in the day. Thanks for letting me give my humble opinion.

Anthony
 
Old 06-26-2002, 09:33 PM   #25
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I would easily concur about Bruce Grey's work. And a very nice gentleman too boot. I remember shooting an HK M13 myself at a match that belonged to Anglo Spangonelli. ( I am sure I didn't spell that one right) I remember Bruce having some connection to HK at the time ('83/4) But the gun was a Grey/Boland creation IIRC and then there is Boland himself with the first high cap 1911s using S&W 59 mags. The guy cut a 1911 in half, fitted the mags up and welded it all back together!

No question Grey and Boland were/are two of the better guys to grind on a 1911 IMO. You can add Ron Sharp to that list too. But are any of them building today?
 
Old 06-28-2002, 05:57 AM   #26
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My top ten list?

Well right on top is John Jardine. I was scre... by several smiths before I met him and just about done with getting things reworked. Heck I started doing most things myself on handguns. Then Jardine came along and I am not allowed to work on my own guns anymore. His request. LOL

I would like to include Burnes, but Dane I am waiting to see what you put together for me? lOL

Mike Miller
 
Old 07-04-2002, 01:53 PM   #27
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All Time Best 1911 Builders

Would anyone care to take a swing at a list of "all time" best 1911 plumbers?

Chuck
 
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