I want to talk and see and learn more about custom guns (Rifles and Pistols) that people have had here. One of the funner aspects of shooting for me has been getting into the world of custom guns, or as noted Master Gunsmith Ted Yost calls them: Bespoke Guns. Over the last decade or so, I'm lucky to have acquired some great customs (pistols for the most part). And I know people here have some great guns, and I'm interested. So for this thread I'd like to read about what you've got: Glocks, to rare revolvers. Let's see'em and read about'em. Some ideas for a post:
- What's the "philosophy" of the gun. Or yours maybe. Is it for beauty? For a working horse? Some of both? I want to know the fundamental "why" of the gun. I know a lot of this is subjective, that's why I'm interested in the why of it.
- Which features you like because they look good? Which because they work well? Are ergonomic? Which were mistakes? What were the positive and negative surprises?
- Pics and details of what worked and didn't.
My first one on here:
A few years ago, I decided since I have some injuries (left elbow, both shoulders, and arthritis in my dominant hand) to move away from .45 1911's. I sold a couple of custom 1911's in .45, a Rogers Precision and a Berryhill. I very much regret selling the Berryhill since Dave got me into customs in the first place and is now dead. Anyway, I wanted to get into the 9mm of 1911. Well, I started with a 9mm 1911, and I'll review that later. But what I ended up into is custom Browning Hipowers/P35s. I've had the privilege of getting my hands on 3 from 3 of the top guys in that business: Don Williams, Jim Garthwaite, and Ted Yost. I'm going to start with the Yost, since it's sort of my holy grail.
My usual philosophy is work first, look good second. Ted's P35 is the first I've owned where I went a little (ok more than a little) past that. It was the third one I commissioned and I'd learned some about the P35. My first two, which I'll review later as well, were an older C-Series from Garthwaite and a custom "working gun" MK3 (Ted Williams), both with the standard stippling you see on many custom HPs. For this one I had one goal: Ted's Signature Grade HP conversion on a HP Practical so that I could have it checkered rather than stippled. For those who aren't HP nuts, most HPs have the serial number on the front strap and because of that 'smiths can't checker it. For a brief time in the 90s, the HP Practical was made which had the serial on the side of the frame, making checkering possible.
So I spent some time looking for good condition Practical and found one. Then I sent it off to Ted for the Long Wait. Finally, about a month ago I got it back. Wow. People at a certain level just have skills I dream of. So...after all that let's look at it:
First couple of pics and some thought process: One of the reasons I wanted the Yost Signature Grade was for the beavertail. The other, as I mentioned is the checkering. You can see both here. It's a very "1911" style tail. and the checkering is done at 40 lines per inch. BY HAND on a compound curve. I'm told that's ridiculous. I know I couldn't do it. So lets dig into that a bit.
Here's a picture of the frame being prepped for the beavertail (and the rails straightened and welded).
You can see, Ted welds a block of steel and THEN finishes the steel into the beavertail. I was blown away by that. I assumed the 'tail was like a 1911. You get a mostly prefabbed part and it needed some welding and fitting. Nope. Ted starts with a block of steel and then machines it down. So that block became this:
That just amazes me. The other thing you can see in the above photo is the checkering on the backstrap curves. I think that between the 40LPI checkering (by hand with a file) and the beavertail, you're looking at two of the neatest and toughest artisanal skills in the gunsmithing world.
Here's a pic of the beavertail and back after completion and finish:
There you can see the beavertail in detail, the backstrap checkering and the finish (Hard Chrome).
I'm usually not a hard chrome fan, but damn it's indestructible. I live in a humid environment and spend a lot of time on the water and Ted only offers traditional bluing and hardchrome. And I think it looks fantastic on this pistol. The custom Spegel grips are really nice too. They have a palm swell that the VZs don't have (although they recently released a palm swell version that I've not tried).
Another good pic of the front checkering:
Here's a good image of the pistol overall:
You can see the Ted Yost engraving where the grips would be. The hardchrome, the shape of the beavertail, the short reach trigger and the contour of the rear sight (which is excellent).
Another "bespoke" feature is the curved arrow pattern of the flattened serrated slide top. It's amazing work. This is one of the features I consider well beyond "working gun" but hell, it's a Yost. I wanted to go for the whole kit.
Sorry it's a little dark. My photo skills aren't the best. The other thing you can see here is Ted's gold line front sight. He inserts gold into the sight and serrates it. I'm now of reading-glass age and I've tried gold beads, fibers, different tritiums. None of them hold a candle to this sight. It is REALLY bright and easy for me to focus on
Here's a picture of that from the rear. It's amazing. My new standard. The downer is he only puts them on revolvers, HPs and 1911s that are full builds. If you're interested, he does work with John Harrison and Harrison will install them on non-Wilson 1911s.
The last couple of interesting items: In the first picture look at the safety. It sticks WAY up. At first I was not a fan. But as I've shot it, I've found it really works for me. Your thumb lands very naturally on it in the traditional 1911 thumbs-forward, "ride the safety" grip and it's easy to get back up when you need.
Ted's reliability job is, as expected, just fine. The gun feeds and shoots easily and accurately. The short-reach and short reset trigger is the best trigger I've found on a BHP. I don't think you CAN get as good as a top 1911. My Berryhill, Rogers, and MARS all have/had slightly better triggers. But this thing is the next best I've tried, and better than most semi-custom guns or just about anything else I've tried that's a 1911. Call it 98% of a nice custom 1911 which for all practical purposes makes it as easy to shoot.
The safety clicks on and off nicely, and affirmatively. You know where it is easily by feel.
Reloads: My biggest complaint of the HP is reloading. The grip is sufficiently small that the magazine well is narrow. It takes a lot of practice and still you're going to catch the front of the mag on the well. Never a problem I've had on 1911s (even without a well), Glocks, HKs, Sigs, or well, whatever. It's still a problem for me, but Ted's beveling is the best I've found yet. It's rounded and smooth and seems a little quicker than the angled beveling I've seen/had on other guns. Ted DOES offer a custom magwell, but I skipped it on this.
The beavertail is probably the key feature of this gun. It just makes it easer to take the already light recoil and manage it even more. It allows you also to really dig your hand in for a high 1911 style grip. Follow up shots are easy and quick combined with the gold line front sight and the rounded and serrated rear. I've found with my other HPs that don't have the beavertail that if you dig in super high the webbing of your hand sorta bunches up around the frame and it can get uncomfortable after a good amount of shooting. So this really makes it like shooting a 9mm 1911 that has more rounds. Fun, light to shoot, minimal recoil, accurate.
Overall, this thing is ridiculous. Does it do anything my old beater Glock or P228 does? Not really. But hell, it's beautiful, reliable, fun to shoot, and is a great chat piece at the range. It costs a bloody fortune. If you want a basic gun for putting holes in things, this really isn't that. But if you want a "why does the dog lick its balls" gun, you might give Ted a shot.
And if you want one, Terry at PT_Partners has a blued one for sale. Just don't blame me when your wife sees the bill.