Saturday, May 21, 2005

Objects of lust , Volume One - Custom Auto Pistols

Let's talk about some objects of great lust... at least from a firearms perspective anyway; the female variety I leave to others (my google search results are odd enough as they are already).

In volume one I want to talk about some ATTAINABLE itmes in the Custom Auto Pistol world. It's a realistic wishlist if you will. Nothing plated in solid gold, nothing super collectable, just good lustworthy shooters; I won't buy a gun I don't plan on shooting every week, or at least every few months (for say a hunting rifle, or a superthumenblitzenboomer).

Note I say volume one, more will be forthcoming.

So what prompted this was the recent 1911/.45 auto discussions. They have me thinking once again about Yost, Wilson, Les Baer, and Ed Brown (among others).

People look at the list of modifications to my carry 1911 and they ask me "Why in the hell would you do all that to a perfectly good gun" or worse "See, the 1911 isn't all that great. You yourself had to make all those changes to make it right"...

That's not it at all guys. A truly custom handgun is at the same time, a work of art, and a piece of engineering and craftsamanship perfection.

A custom buildup from a great smith (like those mentioned), will be EXACTLY what you want, and it willshoot exactly the way you want. Everything will be just right. Tolerance and gaps will all match up perfectly, finished will have no nicks and blemishes, sharp edges will be properly crisp and rounded edges will be properly smoothed...

I know it sounds like I'm nitpicking, but you really need to feel the difference between a custom piece, and a factory pice to understand. Even the semi-custom items like the production Wilsons, Baers, and Browns, are GREAT, but they arent quite perfect; because there are tolerances involved in production. With a custom piece, the only tolerances are the mechanical limits, and what you are willing to pay for

An aside on that subject:
I knew a guy with a LARGE custom and historical gun collection (as in probably a couple million dollars worth). He showed me a model 29 in deep blue, that I literally could not see the sideplate join on. There was seemingly no seam in the barrel to frame join. The crane to frame gap was almost invisible. The hard parts were color case hardened in the most beautiful pattern. The finish iteself looked like polished blue hematite with little brownish, silverish, and goldish reflections.

It was the most perfect revolver I've ever seen. This is the gun that GOD must use when he sees a pesky asshole he wants to strike down from heaven.

He said it cost him $2500 in the late '70s (god knows what it would cost today). He had hired a master smith who was retired from S&W by Bangor Punta to do it for him, it took the guy almsot a year to get it back to him, and the guy had died a few months later. He also said that it was worth every penny.

Now, I already own a Wilson buildup; I bought it for myself as my 21st birthday present. This was before the semi-production Wilsons were readily available, and it was $2700, from my frame and slide (which were $800 to begin with). It is the PERFECT Gov't length 1911 as far as I'm concerned. Everything is exactly right, exactly as I want it, and completely perfect.

Unfortunately, it's in a storage unit in Milpitas, California; and has been since 2001.

A side note:
This is along with my top end of the mid range (onkyo, denon, KLH, Boston) home theater system, most of my knives and swords (between 50 and 100k worth, including a full meiji era daisho, and a 16th century spanish longsword), another 30 grand worth of computer equipment (Sun, Intel, SGI, nokia, cisco, and a couple of macs), all my tools (full modeling and small piece machining setup, plus some furniture making gear), a full two bedroom condos worth of furniture, some of it specially made for my size and injuries (god do I miss that superking bed with the special belgian bad back mattress. Never slept better in my life), a lot of personal items and photos etc.., a few hundred DVD's, a few thousand CD's, and my two remaining guitars (a '94 Strat' ultra plus in special edition beryillium ble, only 300 made; and a takamine shellback with internal fishman preamp).

I packed up everything and put it all into storage prior to heading out for Ireland; when I was going to bring everything over. Then my marriage broke up, and I decided to just leave everything where it was for a while, and I started paying the storage fees ($170 a month).

Unfortunately I have a feeling they are NO LONGER in a storage unit in California, because I wasn't invoiced for the unit last year; and I've been trying to get them on the phone ever since to no result. I've just had higher priorities than dealing with it... and honestly I think I'm trying to avoid the concrete proof that whatevers left of my personal sacred items are now gone, along with everything that went in the fire, the flood, the marriage dissolution, and multiple transcontinental and intercontinental moves.

Anyway enough with my vent...

So, what do I REALLY want when it comes to handguns?

1. Full house Yost 1* elite pistol package:

But I want mine in stainless, commander length, bull barrel, wedge mainspring housing, external extractor and short trigger, on a Caspian Ti frame (10rd), with a Black-T finish.

Yosts buildups are 100% custom, he really on lists the packages as guidelines, and his work is as good, or better, than anyone in the business. I may not agree with Col Cooper on everything(on lots of things, but not everything), but for the last aslmost 20 years, whenever you heard him braggin on the gunsmith team at Gunsite, it was Ted he was braggin on (until a couple years ago when he went out on his own).

Oh, and he'll build'em in 10mm as well

Price: about $2500 as ordered
Availability: 18 months to two years
Possiblity: Almost certain. I WILL order one of these some time in the next few years

Oh and while I'm ordering from Yost-Bonitz Customs, I might just order one of these as well...

But for the BHP, I'm leaning more towards this:

Much as I think Ted Yost is the best 1911 guy around, Wayne Novak is the acknowledged god of BHPs. There are a few guys in England, and one guy in Ireland who does some F'ING INCREDIBLE work (I've fired a couple, and I wanted to steal them); but they only work for the military. Getting someone who REALLY knows what they are doing with a BHP is well nigh impossible anymore (this was not the case in the '60s and '70s when there were probably better BHP smiths around than 1911 guys); and Novak is really the only guy I know of, who I would trust to build a great pistol.

NOTE: Reader Randy suggest Bill Lathrop, master gunsmith of Cylinder and Slide as well. I have heard great things about their full house buildups, but I've never known anyone who had one, or had a chance to shoot one so I can't make any recommendations. That said, their custom smithing packages are VERY nice, with a great reputation; and unlike many other smithing shops with good reps, they will do serious work on almost any type of high quality pistol, not jsut specializing in one(usually the 1911). I HAVE tried a couple of C&S 1911s and a C&S SAA, and both were damn near flawless. The only negative I've ever heard on C&S from a technical standpoint, is that the Safety Fast Shooting system (a hammer down single action conversion for 1911s and BHPs) is an iffy prospect.

I'm a huge fan of the Browning HiPower; John Browning considered it his best handgun work, correcting the problems the 1911 had (See Unc, I KNOW the 1911 has problems, I just think they are all fixable, and when fixed it IS the greatest handgun of all time); and he and Dieudonne Saive deserve a huge vote of thanks for making the GOOD high capacity handgun a practical reality (in 1935 no less).

If we are going with a custom buildup anyway, I want a forged stainless frame and slide, and the full 1 of 100 Special Ops Package with Black-T finish

But here's the kicker, since it's on a new forged frame and slide, I want it built up for .357 sig instead of 9mm or .40.

Now if only someone would build it in .45acp (or even better, 10mm).

Price: about $3000 as ordered
Availability: Two years plus
Possiblity: Incredibly tempting, but probably not any time soon. A stock BHP with a little tweaking is almost as good without the two plus year wait

Back to 1911's, and thinking of carry pieces specifically, I'm intrigued by this:

It's the Ed Brown KobraCarrY (no I have no idea whats up with the spelling and caps, thats just how they do it).

Eds Kobra guns all have a scalloping treatment he calls "snakeskin", that looks like it will have a nice grip to it. I've tried other scalloped guns, and some were good, some not. Scalloping tends to either be too sharp, or not enough; but if you can get it right, I think its a better surface than sharp serrations.

The Ed Brown Bobtail system is a great idea for carry guns. What they do is cut the mainspring housing and rear of the frame into a reverse angle from the middle of the mainspring hosuing, to the back of the magwell; then smoothly radius the cut. This greatly decreases both the printing tendency of 1911s (the sharp butt prints handily), and the snag tendency as well. Plus, it's very confortable, and can improve your grip. I've held and fired an Ed Brown Bobtail gov't length gun, and I think it might make a great carry piece in commander length.

And of course I'd like it in Black-T with all the toher things I like on my ideal 1911's

Actually, although I generally dont recommend going below 4" in barrel length, I think I'd like to see a 3.5" bobtail version with a full frame, as pretty much the ultimate concealment 1911. The Springer and Kimber ultracompacts and ultracarrys have reliability problems because they are so short; the slide cycle time and lockup gemotry are right on the edge. With a custom gun however, I think we can get a 3.5" gun to be completely reliable; as is required for a carry piece.

Price: about $2500 as ordered
Availability: 30-90 days (this is the advantage of the production line customs)
Possiblity: There's a fair chance of it, but if I buy the Yost and I'm as happy with it as I think I will be, then theres really no reason for it

I've been thinking really hard about buying arace gun. Nothing TOO fancy, I'm not looking for heavy optics or anything; but I think I'd like to give USPSA a shot.

To that end, I've been thinking about one of these two guns:

The STI Edge

Or the STI Eagle

Unquestionably the Edge is the better competitive piece for USPSA, but I'm not so sure I want to get quite so racy...

On the other hand, the eagle actually seems like a relatively practical gun. IN fact the bushinged version is even IDPA legal.

Of course the whole point of this IS to have a race gun,... plus, honestly, although I said I didnt want to have any optics, I'd really love to try out one of these:

Above: the DOCTER red dot, mounted on a 1911

This is the smallest, lightest etc... red dot there is; and I'd really love to play with one. Well if I'm gonna have optics anyway, why not go for the big magwell, full race etc...

I dunno, it's just something to think about.

Price: about $2000 as ordered (for either) +$400 for the docter and mount
Availability: 30-90 days
Possiblity: Hmmmmmm... if I get into USPA, and realy like it, VERY likely

Finally, I really want to replace my Wilson. What I'm thinking, is one of the supergrades:

But man, I can't decide on which one. THey're all so good....

Price: $2000 - $3500 depending on exact model and options
Availability: 1 year or so (highly variable, some as short as 30 days some as long as 2 years)
Possiblity: Eventually, almost certain.; in the next two years... probably not.

Alright so whats with nothing other than the 1911s and BHPs? Don't I like toher guns? Hell yeah I do; but there really isnt much call for full on custom work on other guns. I've seen some mildly customized SIG's that I like; and I'd surely love a CGR Glock, or a fully worked over USP Tactical; but I'm not lusting over any of them. As great guns as they are, honestly, they jsut arent all that interesting to write about or speculate over.

Of course when I do my STOCK autopistol list, that'll be a different story entirely.

Now... A note on the possibilities of purchasing ANY of the above; especially to those of you who think that spending $3000 on a gun is just "an obscene waste of money" or those who would say something like "You're lucky you don't have kids".

I'm unmarried, under 30, I have no kids, I have almost no debt (and what I DO have is certainly being paid off first) and a decent inheritence coming to me from my grandfathers estate when my Nana passes (high six figure to low seven figure after taxes, depending on how long she lives) God knows I don't want her to die; and as mean as she is she'll probably live to 100 (her mother is alive at 97), I'm jsut talking about numbers.

When I'm working, I make good money; and I'm working right now. I make full 401k contribution wth matching (6% of my pay matched for 12%, in a fund with 13% annualized right now), I get full medical dental, and optical.

My rent is only $650 a month, and my other bills only total up to about $1000 a month.

My main expense right now is my mother, who is extremely ill, and is unlikely to live out the year (they give her about a 1 in 5 shot of surviving the brain surgeries she needs). When she passes her insurance will pay off her house etc.. plus she has a TON of insurance besides (about 2 million beyond her debts) which then goes to me and my brother.

When I wasnt working for several months (mostly because of my mother). I DIDN'T buy anything like this. In fact after I went through my savings paying her bills and mine, I SOLD a bunch of my stuff to help me keep us going. I finally got down to the point where the only things I had left to sell were very personally important to me.

Hell, I'm STILL BROKE right now. I've just had my first full paycheck, and it's going to pay bills. What's left over (along with the next two paychecks) is split between saving for 3 months worth of bills in reserve, and going to pay off the few thousand dollars (less than 5k) in debt that I've incurred over the past few months. Oh and to those folks who gave me, or loaned me money; thank you, god bless you. I can't tell you how much it helped me so much to get through those last two months.

Only when that debt is paid off will I start buying anything; and the first step will be car repairs. After that I need to buy some new furniture, to replace the bed and sofa that both broke while I was broke. Then I will put away at least $5k more for bills and emergencies, maybe 10k (I had 7k last time and it was gone too quickly).

Only after that is done will I start looking to buy anything high end again; but you can bet I am going to do so, and I'm going to enjoy it (and I'm going to start flying, and performance driving again).

I live in a half decent condo in a nice neighborhood; I have a girlfriend who isnt' expensive to maintain; and I don't live extravagantly.

What I spend my money one is my toys, my friends, and my hobbies. DVD's, music, video games, and the gear to play them on; Guns, and gun stuff; Watches; Car stuff etc...

It's guys like me who buy Porsches and Breitlings and Ducatis, and custom guns; because we can.

I earned this shit, and you are damn right I'm going to enjoy it. If that offends your moral sensibilites, good for you; now go away before I bitchslap you with my $3000 watch.

Honestly I'd rather have a great wife, and great kids. I would do ANYTHING to have a mother who isn't dying. Unfortunately I don't have any of those things; I have to find and take my pleasure in life where I can, and this gives me pleasure.