big bore meets big block

Like its Boss 429 Mustang namesake, this
1911 delivers big block performance

First, let’s get this out of the way here. This sublime Les Baer Boss model 1911 in .45 ACP costs exactly $2,560 according to their website. And as much as you may not believe it since you may be stuck in a continuous loop circuit of 1973 thinking — that’s an exceptional deal for a custom 1911 of this quality. “Yeah, but I bought my 1911 in 1973 for only $179, so that’s nuts if you ask me.” Yeah, and we bought houses for $15,000 and new cars for $4,000. Have you priced a new car or house these days? Or a custom 1911?

According to a fancy computer program, converting 1973 dollars to 2018 dollars gives us about $1,100 in today’s money. Now I’m going to go out on a limb and say that same fellow with the $179 price would scream and stomp his feet if I suggested he pay over $1,100 for a 1911 today — which is the same as he paid in 1973 in comparison!

And, oddly enough, $1,100 is darn close to what a decent quality production 1911 costs today. And they go up from there. When we reach the rarefied air where custom guns live, be thinking along the lines of about $3,000 for a bare-bones starter model.

So suddenly, a $2,560 honest-to-gosh custom 1911 guaranteed to shoot 3″ at 50 yards might actually be a screaming deal. Huh? What’s that again?

Let’s take this little game a step further and have some fun, if you will. What else would about $2,500 buy you today? How about a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe with 194,000 miles on it. (“Some rust but not too bad, paint might buff out but maybe not.”) Dinner for four (almost) at Masa Restaurant in New York (not including drinks, tax and gratuity, of course). One pair of NikeCraft Mars Yard Shoes. (Really?) There’s also an Indonesian Ayam Cemani exotic chicken (alive) too. Except really it’s $5,000 because you have to buy a pair.

I had to add this one too — $2,500 will net you one micro-mini “teacup” pig that only gets to be about 20 lbs. All the rage in urban NY City we hear. But I have to admit, the cute factor was off the charts. So which would you ante-up $2,500 for? I’m sorta’ liking the idea of having a 1911 which would easily out-live me, shoot better than I can shoot, be the envy of my shooting buds and entertain me with no-end of self-gratifying satisfaction whenever I see it smiling back at me in my safe.
Okay, enough of that now. I hope you get my point though.

The Big Gun

That “Boss” name? You may not know it but Les comes from a heavy-duty racing background, and today has a muscle car collection that is, literally, legendary. He has, as he says, “several” Boss 429 ’Stangs of the original variety — these are not kit cars or clones or copies — but the real deals. Les started in what’s called “Bracket Racing” (drag racing) in “Mustang” types. Then he moved to a full-on dragster. He left that to compete in the Ford Pro 5.0 game, strictly Mustangs or Mustang-type bodies.

But, as Les explained to me, “It got sorta’ crazy and they had to limit it. Guys were hitting 220 MPH doing mid-sixes in the quarter mile.” Les gave up racing in about 2000, but even now, if you google Les Baer racing you’ll find old pics and info. But why does this matter?

Easy, Les cut his teeth on building powerful machines at the same time he was building his custom gun business. What you learn from one transfers to the other, and vice-versa. With the 1911 Boss .45, Les distilled how he feels about his own Boss 429 cars and delivered a rugged, brawny big bore able to run with the big dogs — having the horsepower to keep up and pass the crowd if need be.

Personal Thoughts

Let’s read this right from the Les Baer website.

“Most successful people know that when you find a formula that works, you really don’t need to change it. Of course, it’s still important to be innovative and to pursue new concepts and ideas. For well over a quarter-century, Les Baer Custom has focused on equipping the firearms community with the best quality, most reliable and accurate custom 1911 pistols and AR-style rifles on the planet. And, as always, they are made right here in America’s heartland. So we are still able to provide precision-built American classics for discriminating shooters while providing jobs for American workers and supporting both our local and national economies.

That formula works for us because you have continued to tell us it works for you.”

It’s signed by Les, and now you know who we’re dealing with here.

I’ve had the pleasure — honor? — to own several Les Baer custom guns over the decades. Every single one was a stand-out in accuracy, reliability and performance at every level. Baer guns work, shoot consistently well, last pretty much forever without wearing out, and offer a fit, finish and engineering excellence with no need to hide from anyone — or anything. So a history of solid design allows Les’ team to make incremental changes or improvements, well-thought-out, before offering them to we mere mortals. The Boss .45 is one of those offerings.

The Gun

“Since I love the Boss 429 Mustangs more than any other car, I thought it’d be nice to sort of design a gun around the concept, and back it up with a model of one of my cars, a Grabber Green one,” Les told me on the phone. “So, like the Mustang, the Boss pistol is a solid machine capable of high performance, and, as you said to me a minute ago, delivers a lot of power — like the car.”

The Boss .45 uses the iconic Premier II as the starting platform. The Boss deletes the front serrations, adding a chrome lower, blued top, a standard extended safety instead of an ambi, and a fiber optic front sight. As do all other Baer 1911’s, the Boss .45 also has a hand-checkered mainspring housing done at 20 LPI.

“I’ve personally hand-checkered maybe 2,000 guns,” laughed Les. “I’m here to tell you, it sure beats you up! It’s tough on your hands and arms, but it’s the best way to do it. So, I have one guy who does all the checkering, on all the guns. And he loves doing it.”

Les doesn’t chase market trends so you won’t find new “colors” added each year, or “trending” design ideas — just solid designs having proven themselves over years, sometimes decades, in the real world. In the case of the Boss .45, having the Premier II as a parent gun means it builds a foundation on these seasoned design concepts, melding them with those few new design touches.

The list of specific features the Boss offers reads like a wish-list for any custom 1911 pistol aficionado. Rear cocking serrations, a flat mainspring housing, Baer National Match steel frame, slide and barrel/bushing, lowered and flared port, tuned, polished extractor, extended ejector, checkered slide stop and the Baer speed trigger with 4-lb. pull is just part of the package.

Baer’s deluxe Commander hammer and sear, beavertail, beveled mag well, polished feed ramp/throated barrel and high, checkered front strap (30 LPI) add to the line-up of must-haves. There’s actually lots more, but this gives you an idea. Each gun comes shipped with two ultra-reliable Baer magazines too.

Oh, did you know Les builds each frame and slide in-house from steel forgings? I’m not saying he machines the final rail cuts — he actually builds them from scratch. Which is why he can hold tolerances wherever he wants them to be, and is why his guns are so consistent — and accurate. The Boss .45 is only available in .45 ACP, keeping the “Big Bore” power concept alive. I mean, how could you have a “Boss 1911” in 9mm? I don’t think so.

Does It Shoot?

I’ve had a basic Les Baer 5″ .45 ACP model for nearly 20 years now. It’s had tens of thousands of rounds through it and is often my “go-to” test gun for accuracy testing .45 ACP ammo. I once shot a 4.5″ 100-yard group with it using Black Hills 230-gr. ball ammo. And that’s a stock gun, without the “guarantee to shoot 1.5″ at 50 yards” attached to it. And it always makes me look good when I shoot it. When I shoot a “lesser” model 1911, I simply don’t shoot as well. You won’t either.

Our test gun, serial number one, by the way, is typical of the breed from Baer and you need to sort of coax it open the first couple hundred times. I’ve found, if you get a particularly tight one, striking the front-lower edge of the dust cover (where the spring plug lives) against a piece of wood or table-top will sort of “break it free” so you can then get some extra-lube into things. Then it’s time to just shoot the snot out of it. I’d call it a “hard-fit” gun and while some pistolsmiths don’t think it’s necessary, Les has been doing it this way for 35 years. Interestingly enough, guns he built 35 years ago still shoot tiny groups. A lesson there?

Using a comfy wrist rest I put about 300 rounds through number one, shooting off my back porch. I know … I know … hate me. I hate myself sometimes for it. Lo and behold, the nearly magical Black Hills 230-ball load delivered the goods with an average of 1.40″ at 25 yards using my “really, really good” shooting glasses. If I took the odd “flyer” out, the over-all size would have shrunk even more. Federal 230-gr. bulk ammo chased that at about 1.55″. This gun is typical of the sort of performance I’ve come to expect from any gun the team at Baer delivers. Buy them, get them open, lube them, shoot them and you will soon be tired of smiling so much.

People will likely stare at you in public, too, wondering why you’re grinning for no apparent reason.

But there is a reason, isn’t there?

I have an 8″ round steel plate set about five feet high at 82 yards here. From the rest, I hit it way more often than not with the Boss. When I missed, it was my fault. Period.

I asked Les if I could buy this gun. He laughed. “You’re kidding, right? What a funny jokester you are. Did you see the serial number? That one’s mine.”

Got it.

Couple Of Thoughts

“We barrel these guns like it’s 1930,” Les told me. “We fit the hoods, fit the lugs — we do it the old way. Say what you will, it works, has worked — and will continue to work. This keeps them accurate for years, decades even,” he said, with no small amount of finality in his voice.

I had the privilege of owning a 1941 Packard 110 sedan until I foolishly sold it some 15 years ago. Slap me please. An original car, flat six, mohair upholstery — the works. It was about 50 years old at the time. When it idled you couldn’t hear it, it drove smoothly, shifted like new, floated down the road, could keep up with freeway traffic and never left us stranded. Old school build ideas kept it alive for all those years. The best materials, put together carefully, with attention to detail — all based on the best engineering of the time.

The concept still works. I promise you, 50 years from now, someone will still be shooting my Baer 1911 and smiling at the groups they’re getting.

Oh, the cool model of the Boss 429 you see in Rob’s wonderful photos? Les had those made. And, if you want one, he has some left. Give them a call and you might be able to talk Les out of one — for a price! But I wouldn’t dally.

For more info: Les Bear, Ph: (563) 289-2126, email: [email protected]

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