Custom Work Improves Handguns

By author of Guns and Camo

Custom work and handguns just go together.

I’ve talked a great deal about rifles—particularly hunting rifles—on this blog. But I don’t want to give anyone the impression they are my only interest. I was a serious handgun shooter before I ever bought a hunting license. I’ve shot handguns competitively and have done a fair amount of hunting with both pistols and revolvers. I carry a handgun daily, and, truth is, I’m probably a better shot with a handgun than I am a rifle. I’m certainly better with a pistol than I am with a shotgun or a bow.

I’m consistently fascinated with dedicated craftsmen who take their livelihood to the peak of quality and precision. Whether that craft is building a gun, forging a knife, or cooking a meal, I love to watch a true expert at work. Watching them produce the fruits of their labor is fascinating. Stan Chen of Durango, Colorado, is one of the nation’s great 1911 smiths, He's a man who takes the precision construction of America’s favorite handgun to the extreme and is among the master craftsmen who helped merge two of my greatest passions.

Stan builds only a handful of guns per year, spending hundreds of hours carefully constructing each one to absolute perfection. Much like my friend and rifle maker D’Arcy Echols, he builds the gun as if cost is no factor. He does this in an effort to ensure no stone is left unturned, no surface is unpolished, and no dimension is unmeasured. I don’t even know what Stan charges for his pistols, but I know the waiting list to order one is measured in years. The market obviously sees the justification in whatever he charges.

Stan does some fairly unique things to the frames of the 1911s he builds. He applies what he calls “Progressive Traction Checkering.” He also shortens the grip of the pistol and installs a magwell of his own design, called the Maxbevel. This process returns it to the factory grip length. You used to have to wait years and write a check with lots of zeros to get these features on a 1911. Now, Stan is performing these modifications, as well as others, to customer-supplied handguns.

I sent Stan my own Colt 1911 to have the Pro-Trac and Maxbevel work done, and I can’t wait to see the finished product.