A Retro-Mod 1911

Making Something New — Look Old Again!

Seventy-five years of wear on this 1944 vintage Colt (right) tells an authentic story.
The modern “Tribute” 1911 is on the left. What’s new is old again?

Pistolsmith Jarret Wehunt has created what looks like a battle-worn WWII era Colt — but there’s actually a race car lurking underneath those familiar lines. The secret? The insides and fitting-work make it a target-grade 1911 any shooter would be proud to own. All the while fooling the eye, a bit like a piece of trompe l’oeil artwork — but in steel.

In the car world, this would be called a “Retro-Mod” where incorporating new engines and drive trains inside classic-looking bodies keeps the original “feel” alive while making the cars more reliable and enhancing performance. We love this idea and are anxious to see the concept spread. It’s a bit like modern carmakers who release “retro-looking” cars — think: 2002–2005 Ford Thunderbirds. But in this case, the “shell” is clearly a 1911, unlike the retro-designs for autos.

Is it a well-used 1911 from the WWII era — or something else? If you guessed something else, you’d be right.
In this case, hiding in plain sight is a 1911 “Retro-Mod” full of surprises. Gunsmith Jarret Wehunt’s Cerakote
and bench-made “wear” lends a new-old feel to this 1911. Note “finger wear” on grip.

The Secrets

The gent who commissioned this cloaked deceiver is a friend of mine. Being an industry-savvy guy and long-time gun guru, he wanted to meet some specific goals.

“You know me,” he said laughing. “I like old-school, but I also love high performance, like with my motorcycles. I had this Springfield Armory base gun and after looking at it hard one day, the idea popped out. Let’s retro-mod my 1911!”

Gunsmith Jarret fit a new barrel bushing, did the de rigueur action work like re-cutting the ramp and polishing, new GI sights, 3.5-lb. trigger (including over-travel screw), de-horned the insides, removed the Springfield logo, tuned the extractor, did a bit of external blending, polished out machine marks, lowered and flared the ejection port — even blending the mag catch to be flush on the right side.

All in all, sort of “old school” mods to mostly existing parts, the way any custom pistolsmith might have “tuned” a basic 1911 in the ’50s to ’70s. But don’t let this fool you because some of those guns shot like hells-afire — like this one does. At 25 yards, even with my cranky old eyes, this sleeper delivered 1.5″ groups with various hardball loads and might do a tad better if I had 25-year-old eyes again.

One of my straight, vintage old Colts from WWII can manage about 3″ to 3.5″ but the crummy trigger doesn’t help. So, with just some gentle massaging, this modern classic shoots like a match-grade 1911 — cutting groups in half or better — while still duping onlookers nicely.

Finishing Up

Interestingly, the finish is good old Cerakote, rubbed down to “wear” the gun some, then clear-coated to protect it from the elements. The wear looks honest — check out the “finger wear” on the front strap — but was all done on the bench. The double-diamond Hogue grips add a final touch of authenticity. This “old Colt” would look right at home riding in a flapped WWII holster.

This has gotten me inspired. I’ve got a modern, blued S&W Model 10 hiding in the safe. I did a complete rebuild on it (action, crowning, etc.) and it shoots great. Now … how would it look as a “Victory Model” from WWII?

Pardon me while I adjourn to the bench.

For more info: www.jwgunsmithing.com

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