Few guns garner such strong feelings of love or hate than the illustrious 1911. Depending on which side of the love/hate equation you fall it is considered either a relic of a bygone era or still the most versatile and greatest handgun ever devised.

Regardless of your personal feelings about the 1911 most everyone agrees that it would lead any discussion of guns that are at home on the range, in competition or in a foxhole.

The myriad of different variations offered by gun companies today allows the 1911 to be available for any budget. A gun case housing the different 1911’s run the gamut from $4000.00 one-off masterpieces to $400.00 utilitarian models. It is truly a gun that can be all things to all people.


Springfield Armory is one of the many companies that can offer a 1911 in nearly every conceivable variation. Their Mil-Spec model is one of the most reliable out of the box versions available in gun stores today. It also makes a great base gun for a budget custom build due to its low price, lack of an external extractor or overly complicated grip activated drop safety.

For those reasons it was picked as the gun that would become my first semi-custom 1911.

Being of somewhat modest means I didn’t have the money to get all the work I wanted done at one time so I picked the most important items to get done first. Due to a medical condition my right hand is weak and the muscle at the base of my thumb has atrophied significantly.

That made having a beavertail safety with a memory bump a must. Also, a thumb safety designed to fit a large portion of my thumb for better leverage was required for the same reason.

Now that the base gun was picked, and the two biggest issues that needed to be addressed were identified, the question of how to pick a gunsmith stopped the project in its tracks. A search on the internet turned up more options than anyone could have possibly imagined. The options ran the gamut from highly priced famous gunsmiths to individuals that believed a dremel tool combined with a website made them a competent gunsmith.

As it turned out, I heard from a friend that Shawn Herman from Shawnstactical.com was bringing Chuck Taylor to Ohio for a basic pistol class. While looking on his website for information about the class, which I eventually took, it was clear to see that Chuck Taylor lent his name to Shawn for one of his 1911 custom packages.

If Shawn’s work is good enough for Chuck Taylor then it made a hard decision pretty easy because that meant it would be more than good enough for me.

Turns out it’s a small world and all it took to find a world-class gunsmith was a short trip up Highway 71 from one end of Columbus, Ohio to the other.

An email to Shawn got the ball rolling and shortly thereafter he took possession of my prized Springfield Mil-Spec with an agreement to address the grip safety and thumb safety issues mentioned earlier. Plus, to create a better all around 1911 we also decided to dehorn the pistol, do a trigger job, install Novak sights and do a reliability package, which includes polishing the feed ramp, adjusting the extractor and polishing the breech face.

In keeping with the simple nature of the gun a parkerized finish was chosen and is still a viable option for people on a budget in this day and age of wonder finishes.

Due to the one piece stainless barrel and stainless bushing that came with my particular Mil-Spec there was no reason to spend too much time or money working on the gun’s accuracy. Out of the box it was more than capable of adequate self-defense accuracy and even after the custom work it was never shot from a rest for groups. The excellent trigger job made trigger pull more user friendly, and as expected, combined with the new sights accuracy improved significantly.

Unlike many custom 1911s this gun was honestly built with the objective of being used for concealed carry. There were no last minute urges to have more bells and whistles than necessary added to the gun. So the final product fit its intended purpose as a true fighting pistol, not a tight tolerance show piece designed to be shot in the relative safety of a range and otherwise left to sit in the gun safe.

Since I can carry a full-size gun concealed I avoid the negative compromises many people make when they carry a smaller gun and are therefore forced to deal with the increased recoil and smaller sight radius. That is the case for me specifically, and your own experience may vary. If a small gun is the gun that you are going to carry then that’s great — go for it and carry what is comfortable to you.

The most important lesson here is that concealed carry permit holders shouldn’t automatically choose to carry a pocket pistol and disregard the possibility of carrying a full-size gun. Statistics show that criminals are starting to attack in larger groups, unlike the past where civilian related shootings were most likely a one on one affair.

That means the likely hood of needing a gun in a longer duration gun-fight is slowly becoming a reality.

Carrying a full-size gun makes dealing with multiple attackers easier because the larger size is a benefit when fine motor skills shut-down during an attack. The longer barrel and larger sight radius also make sight acquisition and alignment that much easier.

No doubt many have already shut out the idea of carrying a relatively heavy and large handgun as a concealed carry gun. Before anyone objects, it is not only possible to carry a full-sized 1911, but easy to do by using the right holster and belt. My 1911 rides in an inside-the waistband Milt Sparks Versa Max II on a matching black 1.5″ belt, both purchased from Lightningarms.com. The holster and matching belt holds the weight of the full-size gun and easily conceals it.

Even under just a T-shirt the gun all but disappears in its Milt Sparks Versa Max II and therefore daily carry of the large framed pistol is not an issue.

There are times when a smaller gun is required and the transition to a pocket-type version of the 1911 can quickly be made after carrying a full-sized gun. The slim profile of the 1911 platform also makes it ideal for inside-waistband concealed carry. Double stack pistols don’t afford the same slim profile and although many have a smaller overall size the much wider profile makes them harder to conceal than a seemingly bigger single-stack 1911.
Just two months after handing off my pride and joy to Shawn the call came that it was ready to pick up. The hour trip to his house was filled with anxiety and more than a little excitement. One look at the finished product, however, ended any fear that Shawn would override my needs and build the gun he wanted. Which I hear is a common problem among some gunsmiths who use their knowledge of the 1911 platform to build the gun they “think” you should have.

Ultimately, the goal was to build a first class custom fighting handgun without changing the dynamic of the Mil-Spec, or forcing me to mortgage my house, and Shawn couldn’t have done a better job. Total cost for the gun, including the purchase price of the Mil-Spec, came in at just under $1000. The gun, while very simple in appearance, is utterly reliable with ball ammo and so far every jacketed hollow point, which includes my current carry ammunition, Speer Gold Dots. It has also digested Federal Hydra-Shocks, Remington Golden Sabers and several of Cor-bon’s self-defense loads.

Due to its intended use, traditional accuracy testing was never done with this gun, but it was used during three different well known tactical gun schools digesting at least 1800 rounds in each class without a single failure. With a trigger set just at 4 lbs and a smooth action the beautifully crafted fighting 1911 provides better accuracy then the author’s capability and is “bet your life on” reliable.

Being my everyday carry gun, that is exactly what I do each day when I complete a final press check and holster-up before leaving the house.

Thanks to the United States Concealed Carry Association for this article. To get USCCA tactical emails free just click here and sign up.