Innovation Abounds In Custom 1911 Parts


As devotees of the 1911, we live in a really good time. We’re now reaping the benefits of many years of innovation and craftsmanship normally reserved for only the finest in custom guns in years past. Not all features were available from all gunsmiths, so sometimes we had to decide which new features we could live without, or employ multiple gunsmiths to help finish our projects.

It seems every gunsmith “in the day” had his own “signature” modifications, many of which were handmade, or proprietary, and available on the guns from their shop alone. Often, the parts market offered few solutions for the complex problems encountered, and few hobbyists had the resources or equipment to fabricate what was needed.

The explosion in the hobby 1911 building world has continually brought new products and tools to light, resulting in a wealth of imaginative parts serving gun owners. As the industry grows and the availability of quality parts expands, it’s only natural we see better and better 1911s. Reliability has improved, accuracy is enhanced, and the guns just look better than at any time in the past.

One constant remains, though — “good enough” doesn’t stay good enough for long. The process of improving is ongoing, spurred by the imaginations of gunsmiths and the pursuit of a better-built gun. As much deference as I have for the old masters of the custom 1911, I believe we’re seeing many more meaningful innovations from today’s best ’smiths.

Bunker’s radical, radial bushing solves lots of fitting issues.

A name well known in accuracy circles is Brandan Bunker. His pursuit of precise tolerances and the highest level of accuracy led him to redesign one of the simplest of the 1911’s parts — the barrel bushing. A tight-fitting bushing can cause a number of performance related issues, from barrel binding to poor reliability. Brandan’s rework eliminates the need for painstaking fitting of a straight-bored bushing.

Brandan dismissed the traditional straight bore design requiring a wedge-style lock-up. Instead, his radial bore bushing has a carefully calculated radiused bearing surface allowing full contact with the barrel in any position, throughout the entire cycle, improving accuracy and reliability. It’s simple, and it works. And it only took a hundred or so years for someone to figure it out! The Radial Bore bushing is available through Harrison Custom.

Comfort is key in the 1911, and the beavertail gripsafety has become a standard for most. There are a lot of styles in a variety of materials, but most have one thing in common — they’re big. The long sweep required to shield the hammer and still provide a higher firing grip often results in a long “tail” adding size to an already large package. With the popularity of “retro” styling for carry guns, New England gunsmith Greg Derr has introduced a new gripsafety bringing back the style of the ’80s.

Fully machined, shorter in length, and without the “hammer pocket” seen on most beavertails, the Derr part offers one more advantage — it can be shaped and shortened to suit individual styles and preferences. It’s as easy to fit as any aftermarket gripsafety, with a 0.250″ fitting radius, and is available from Derr Precision.

Greg Derr’s fully machined “retro” gripsafety offers plenty of options for today’s 1911 builders.


With the wide variety of manufacturers and parts, one annoyance I’ve always had is the unsightly gap around the 1911 ejector when viewed from the rear. For many years, I’ve soldered small blocks onto the rear of the ejector so I could re-cut the edges and eliminate the gaps. Other gunsmiths have even gone so far as to fabricate completely new oversized ejectors from hardened stock and machine it for a precise fit. Both ways were time intensive, but necessary ways to address the issue.

John Harrison, the honcho at Harrison Custom isn’t just another world-class pistolsmith — he’s a problem solver. He’s come up with a new oversized ejector covering all the bases. In addition to being an extended design, there are “fitting pads” located on the rear of the ejector that can be carefully filed to fit the slide recess. They’re even stepped so only one makes contact at a time. This lets you fit one surface before going on to the next — brilliant.

His 9mm/.38 Super ejector also has clearance for even the tallest magazine feed lips. The “legs” of the ejector are maximum diameter, with extra length on the rear to allow better fitting. John’s new ejectors are available in blue and stainless, .45 and 9mm/.38. For now, they’re available only through Harrison Custom.

For more info: Harrison Custom, Ph: (770) 419-3476, Email: [email protected]; Derr Precision, Ph: (781) 834-3225, Email: [email protected]

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