Pre-War Colt National Match

A Beater Becomes Beautiful

Okay, I’ll just say it out loud: Many of you will be upset to see what was done to this old gun. Cries of “foul!” will ring, no doubt. But keep in mind, this gun belongs to an experienced collector, shooter and custom gunsmith in his own right, Larry Vickers. And, since it’s Larry’s gun, it was up to him to do what he wanted with it. And what he wanted to do was have Jason Burton, of Heirloom Precision of Tempe, Arizona, bring this old gun back to life — but in a unique way.

While holding onto the feeling of what a pre-war Colt is — and was — Larry asked Jason to update some performance items, restore the cosmetics and create what is essentially, if you ask me, what Colt might have done had they had today’s technology, metals and parts available to them 80 or more years ago. So keep an open mind and see how Jason resurrected this magical gun.

The Decision

After talking the build over with Jason, Vickers agreed all the modifications would have to stand the test of time, honoring the tradition of the 1911 and the pre-war Colt pistols. And that’s why there are no mag wells, night sights or other bits detracting from the classic look. It’s not a clone of a pre-war Colt National Match, nor is it a textbook restoration of one. It’s more of a tribute, but unlike a kit-car made of fiberglass, for instance — this gun is built on the original.

According to Jason, building on a pistol like this is a “gut-check” — his words. First, according to Jason, “Larry is a discerning shooter with an extensive collection of custom pistols.” Second, was the base gun itself.

“I think it’s fair to say this is a rare gun and one which would be hard to replace even given the condition before the build,” explained Jason. And he’s right, since nice examples of pre-war National Match Colts are currently in the $5,000 to $7,000 range.

With many things a custom gun builder does there’s no room for error, but when you start-in with a file on a base gun like this, it can be game-changing. “It almost feels like putting it all on the line, and then some,” Jason told me. “Truth is, I’m flattered when any customer wants me to build a gun for them, so getting a chance to build a project like this on a pre-war National Match base gun, for a knowledgeable collector and shooter, is not something I took lightly.”

While Jason thought about the implications of changing the gun from its original condition, he and Larry seemed to be on the same page. “I know some folks would rather this gun have stayed original,” said Jason. “I think it’s pretty clear we’re both not part of that club. The base gun was less than perfect by far. It was heavily pitted under the stock panels and had many dents, dings and pits throughout the entire gun. It was also missing some of the original parts, like the barrel, and it had even been re-blued at one time.

“So I guess it staying original was kind of out of the question. For me it was a cool base gun and one, which I may never get the prospect to build on again. I certainly wasn’t going to waste this chance, and should I ever get an opportunity to build on another pre-war National Match I likely won’t hesitate any longer than I did on this gun. A project like this, with its uniqueness and intricacies, is part of what makes building one-off customs so much fun and rewarding. And at the end, the guy who owns it is happier than when he bought it.”?
By Roy Huntington

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