Tussey Custom Restro-
MOD 1911

60 Years Of Experience — Distilled

Fooling the eye is part of the fun. Here’s another bit of Tussey’s whimsy, an “original”
blued 1911 from the WWI era — except it’s not, it’s as modern as the day is long.
Shoot it and enjoy it!

I’ve known Terry Tussey for about 35 years — translating to just a bit more than half the time he’s been working on 1911s. Terry has, in all honesty, a lifetime of experience behind him. To call him an icon with the design is to sorely understate the situation. Without knowing it, you’ve likely already benefited from his innovation and expertise. Look to major makers in the industry and many have incorporated some of Terry’s ideas into their designs. And he continues to innovate today. When Terry calls, I always wonder what remarkable new thing am I about to hear about. “Roy, you know how the disconnector always …” — and then I find myself smacking my forehead asking why I didn’t ever see this before.

During the 1960s and ’70s, Terry worked for Colt and Safariland as a factory representative, building industry experience as he grew his 1911 knowledge. Finally, in 1980, Terry quit his “real” job and hung his shingle as a full-time gunsmith, never looking back. I used to attend the Del Mar gun show in San Diego in the middle and late 1980s and the highlight of the show was the time spent talking guns with Terry. His table was always full of surprises, delights, unusual design ideas and innovative custom touches.

Terry would unfailingly reach under the table and hand me a cloth-wrapped gun. “Here, tell me what you think,” he’d say. The first time I saw his “Carry Comp” Officer’s ACP with the built-in comp system, hard chrome finish, crisp trigger and attention to detail it floored me. I’d never seen anything like it — and no one else had either. “How is this possible, Terry? How do you think these things up?” I’d say. He’d always just grin.

As the years passed and my writing career grew, I had the distinct pleasure of showcasing many of Terry’s particularly special guns. The world’s first Damascus 1911 landed on the cover of GUNS Magazine courtesy of Terry, Caspian and an editor who liked to take chances. Customized Colt Mustangs (before anyone was doing them), multi-caliber sets built on a single frame (“Six Calibers In One: Tussey’s Multi-Caliber Marvel!” May/June 2015) and any number of often mind-boggling custom 1911s passed through my hands. A 1911 engraved “Dream Gun” (May/June 2004) landed on Handgunner’s cover — lighting a fire among readers. All had a single, consistent theme — they were all 100% reliable and shot like lasers. Working with Terry’s guns made me understand it’s possible to create a 1911 able to shoot into less than 1″ at 25 yards. I saw it, I did it, and he’d always laugh when I told him about it. “I told you it would shoot,” he’d laugh. “Why do you sound so surprised?”

Are Hi-Powers your forte? How about this pair, a hard chrome/blued custom long
slide (made using two slide, cut and welded) and a "Detective" using an Argentinian
short slide and a very rare Belgian police aluminum frame! Grips by
Esmeralda O'Sheehan, knife by William Henry.

Options Abound

The Tussey Custom shop can handle any repair or general gunsmith project coming up. But 1911 and Hi-Powers are highlights. Terry created a ground-breaking pair, a short “Detective” and “Long Slide” Hi-Power — from parts — ultimately gracing the cover of Handgunner (“Hi-Power Perfection,” March/April 2009). Until you feel a Hi-Power having a crisp 1911-like trigger and be amazed at the accuracy honestly possible when the right ’smith gets their hands on one, consider yourself unfulfilled.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention his work with revolvers of all sorts. I have a Python with a double action measuring an honest 6.5 lbs. on my gauge. A hard-chromed S&W Highway Patrolman’s DA pull is so smooth and light people who try it just stare at the gun afterward, mumbling about “Can I try it again?”

But it’s the 1911 work tending to be the most magical, if you ask me.

Being a full-custom shop, if you can dream if you can have it at Tussey Custom.
Got a hankering for a smooth-as-silk DA trigger on your Walther? How about a
case-hardened Officers or elegant Commander? You just found them.

Less Does Equal More

Terry’s latest idea, while not entirely a new one, innovates by being what I’m tempted to call “An Ultimate” version of the idea of a retro-1911. A handful of makers craft painstakingly authentic recreations of early years’ 1911s, genres from specific decades and even “battle-worn” WWI and WWII honor guns. All can be wonderful; all are welcome and all deserve high praise. But what we have from Tussey Custom benefits from the 60-plus years of time-in-grade experience.

Remember, this isn’t a restoration, it’s a brand new “retro” gun. A “shooter” WWI era 1911 starts at about $1,000 and goes up from there. And this would likely be a fairly rough gun. A clean, complete original hovers in the $2,000-plus range — at least. I’ve attended NRA shows and visited the Colt collectors booths, seeing dozens of minty early military 1911s, yet none ever get fired. They’re for looking only and rarely touching. I understand the desire to collect and preserve, but shooting is an integral part of the fun for me. Tussey Custom’s “Mil-Spec” 1911 opens the “shooter” door to anyone, including the collectors.

In the collector car world, the iconic Model T and ground-breaking Model A cars continue to remain at the top of the popularity chart. Yet each has hundreds of “modernized” components available to enhance their driveability and safety. Better brakes, more reliable engine and steering components, modern tire designs — all geared toward keeping them on the road safely. Look at this retro-gun in the same light. Except we’re starting with a brand-new Caspian frame and slide rather than a rusty Model T frame.

The man himself. Terry’s never let any life set-backs slow him down and he’s as
active and innovative today as he was 50 years ago. Those eyes have seen it all
when it comes to the 1911.

Build Specifics

Terry said, “We use Caspian frames and slides because they understand what’s needed in an ‘original’ 1911. We also use some other Caspian-sourced parts, but reach out to Clark for the barrel, Ed Brown for the sears and hammers and then various other companies as needed to assure the best quality goes where we need it.”

Terry hand fits the frame, slide and barrel just like he’d fit any match-grade 1911. Being a true custom gun, a customer can have a wide range of options but Terry prefers to honor the original gun. “The military-style hammer, thumb safety, grip safety, flat mainspring housing, lanyard loop and short trigger all contribute to the authentic look,” explained Terry. “If someone wants a custom gun, we can go in another direction, but to add adjustable sights or an ambi-safety to this style just doesn’t seem right.”

And I agree.

The barrel lock-up on my test gun is rock-solid, yet I could turn the bushing by hand to take things down. Handfitted to shoot 1.5″ at 25 yards, yet can still be field-stripped like an original. This takes talent and skill.

The trigger pull is a perfectly repeatable 3.0 lbs. give or take an ounce in either direction. Interestingly, it’s not the crisp break of a modern gun, but offers the classic feel of the military trigger, with some pre-travel, a sort of smooth, rolling break and a bit over-travel. It’s vintage military 1911 in feel, just smoother and more consistent. Very shootable too.

The thumb safety snicks nicely and a five-point safety check revealed all things operating as intended. The flat, smooth mainspring housing offers a subtle bit of authentic feel to an experienced hand and even the slight bump showing from the extractor on the rear of the slide made me smile. Lying next to my original WWI era Colt it’s hard to tell them apart at first glance.

Sights are like the originals so are hard to see, but then again, it’s part of the panache. You’ll learn them, I promise, and when you shoot it you re-live what a GI saw in the middle of a dense forest in Europe 100 years ago.


Keep in mind Tussey Custom has built their reputation on 100 percent reliable defensive guns. But Terry is always ready for a dream-gun build too. He’s also partial to Hi-Powers so if you have a dream there, make sure you ask him about resolving the issue. Why not a retro Hi-Power, but made to shoot like gang-busters?

Terry says a gun like our sample is in the $2,995 range, but might be a bit higher or lower depending on component costs and any options or specifics you might want. One of the best parts of this is he guarantees a three- to six-month delivery time. With many custom gun makers talking about five-year waits today, this is just a snippet of time. When you call, you’ll talk to Terry himself. I recommend you do it since you will honestly be talking to an industry legend.
Real ones are few and far between these days.

For more info: TusseyCustom.com, Ph: (775) 246-1533. Search “Tussey Custom ‘Resto-Mod’ 1911 Pistol” on YouTube.com to see Roy’s video.

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