Next up is another main player in the semi custom world, and that is none other than Ed Brown. Ed Brown got started in the 60's as a gunsmith and opened his own shop in the late 80's primarily building parts. It wasn't long before he was the owner of a shop that hand built complete guns. Today, Ed Brown is considered by many to build the best 1911s in the land. Their 1911s are beautiful to look at and certainly second to none in terms of build quality and fit and finish. I'm not going to call them the best semi-customs, because I like them all, but what sets Ed Brown apart is the fact that they use a great deal of in-house parts. Furthermore, Ed Brown's parts find their way into many other company's 1911s as well. The beavertail is probably the best and most easily recognizable part of its type on the market and the bobtail is an Ed Brown invention used by many. Like Wilson, the two Ed Brown models I own are both the most popular and the top of the line model, in the Kobra Carry and Classic Custom respectively. Ed Brown Kobra Carry Starting with the Kobra Carry, we have a commander length 1911 with a bobtailed frame. Mine is all stainless, but this model is available in carbon steel as well as two tone. This gun features an Ed Brown metal work pattern called "snakeskin" on the front strap, slide, and mainspring housing. While I prefer the looks of classic checkering, this pattern works very nicely also, having plenty of grip. Mine has the ambi safety option, but that is not standard on the Kobra Carry. As with all Ed Browns, this is a clean 1911, with the name marked on the right side and the left side left blank. Newer Ed Browns use a slightly different style in terms of marking. I prefer the old markings, but both look nice. Grips are double diamond checkered cocobolo, the sights are combat style night sights, and the recoil spring guide is the standard plug setup. This is one of the most accurate commanders I ever shot, bar none. The bobtail itself takes some time to get used to, but I love the look and feel. Its main purpose is to reduce printing by the butt of the gun when concealed. The Ed Brown Kobra Carry is not only the most popular Ed Brown, but also one of the most popular high end 1911s of all time. This 1911 uses no firing pin safety. Unloaded weight: 35.6oz Slide: Forged stainless steel Frame: Forged stainless steel Country of origin: United States Approximate 2010 street price: $2300 http://www.edbrown.com/cgi/start.cgi/customhandguns.htm Ed Brown Classic Custom The Ed Brown Classic Custom is a masterpiece in every way. This has all the bells and whistles and is Ed Brown's flagship handgun. What sets this 1911 apart from the other Ed Browns is not build quality, as all Browns are built to the same level of quality by the same smiths, unlike Wilson. What sets it apart is the high polished slide. Its like a mirror. It also has virtually all the options that Ed Brown offers. The slide rear is checkered, the slide top is flattened and serrated, the safety is an ambi, the mag release is oversized, and a two-piece guide rod is standard. The front strap and mainspring housing are both checkered beautifully at 25lpi, which is my favorite level of coarseness. The Ed Brown magwell was a $75 option and not standard equipment. The sights are large adjustable target style. It goes without saying that the Classic Custom is a magnificent shooter, so if you're looking for a 1911 to impress both on and off the range, you would be hard pressed to do better than this Ed Brown. As you can see, I went with the two tone version, but its also available all carbon and all stainless. This 1911 uses no firing pin safety. Unloaded weight: 41.0oz Slide: Forged carbon steel Frame: Forged stainless steel Country of origin: United States Approximate 2010 street price: $3100 http://www.edbrown.com/cgi/start.cgi/customhandguns.htm The next manufacturer on the list is Les Baer. This man has been in the 1911 business for many years and used to head up Springfield Custom, before starting on his own. He now owns a semi-custom shop that produces a couple hundred pistols per month and is considered by many to build the best pistols in the business. Les Baer 1911s are always remarkably tight. The supplied bushing wrench is an absolute must when field striping. While they do "break in" to an extent, the tightness remains. Les Baer 1911s have real personality, in my opinion. From the cardboard box they ship in, to the signed certificate by everyone who took part in building it, to the obviously hand checkered front strap, Les Baers have some characteristics that set them apart from their competition. What they don't have is all the refinement of a Wilson or Ed Brown, but make up for that with character and "soul". The two models I own are the Concept V, which is an introductory model, and the flagship carry gun, the SRP. Les Baer Concept V First, I'll discuss the Concept V, which is a full size, full stainless target pistol. The Concept series are basically Les Baer's entry level guns. The least expensive is the blued Concept I at a current retail of $1690. The Concept V is full stainless with target sights and retails for $1870. Both have a street price of maybe $50 to $100 less. These pistols are very well appointed and Baer builds all of its 1911 with the same level of care and quality. The Concept V is a target gun and equipped with a large thumb safety, an ambi safety, and Baer rear target sights. The front strap is hand checkered at 30lpi, the mainspring housing is serrated, and the frame is machined to give a high hand grip. This, along with a comfortable beavertail, makes the Concept V a pleasure to shoot. The grips are checkered cocobolo and it utilizes a standard GI recoil guide and plug. I will add that I find the fine slide serrations of a Baer aesthetically pleasing and very easy to grip. Slide markings are typical of Les Baer with “Baer Custom” on the left side and the caliber stated on the right. The Concept series comes standard with a 3" at 50 yard accuracy guarantee. This 1911 uses no firing pin safety. Unloaded weight: 39.2oz Slide: Forged stainless steel Frame: Forged stainless steel Country of origin: United States Approximate 2010 street price: $1800 http://lesbaer.com/Concept5.html# Les Baer SRP My other Les Baer is their flagship duty gun, the Swift Response Pistol or SRP. This is a carbon steel gun with the optional hard chrome finish. Mine also has the $295 1.5" at 50 yard accuracy guarantee. The SRP retails for $2490 or $2785 with the upgraded accuracy. This gun is incredible in every way. There is obviously some extra machining that takes place on this 1911, as the frame is very nicely deburred in every area. The front strap and mainspring housing are both hand checkered at 30pli. Combat night sights and an ambi safety are also standard. Along with its cardboard box, the SRP comes with a wood presentation case and several magazines. Needless to say this is one of the most accurate pistols I own, 1911 or otherwise. Its also one of the tightest pistols I own, both between the slide and frame and where it really counts, the business end. While the Ultimate Master is their most decked out top of the line competition pistol, the SRP is my favorite when it comes to Les Baer 1911s. At $2500, I also feel its certainly one of the better values in the semi custom world, bar none. This 1911 uses no firing pin safety. Unloaded weight: 39.6oz Slide: Forged carbon steel Frame: Forged carbon steel Country of origin: United States Approximate 2010 street price: $2500 http://lesbaer.com/Swift.html I'm going to include Rock River Arms in this section even though they are not taking 1911 orders at this time. I feel they are simply too recent and just too good to leave out of the main part of this guide. RRA stopped building 1911s during the AR craze a year or two ago. That was truly a shame, as Rock River 1911s were outstanding and even better values. The folks that started Rock River Arms used to work for Les Baer, and there are certainly some similarities between their 1911 models. Rock River Arms Limited Match My RRA is their top of the line Limited Match. I have given this gun heaps of praise over the years and I'm not going to miss this opportunity to give it a bunch more. This 1911 is one of my three favorite semi custom models, along with the Wilson Super Grade and Springfield TGO1. The Limited Match has it all, to include awesome build quality, amazing accuracy, and about every feature you could possibly want as standard. The list of standard features includes an ambi safety, magwell, oversize mag release, Bo-Mar rear target sights, a serrated slide back to match the sights, a flattened and serrated slide top, and your choice of 20, 25, or 30lpi checkering on the front strap, mainspring housing, and trigger guard. The Limited Match is also standard with a two-piece guide rod and a 1.5" at 50 yard accuracy guarantee. This matches the best guarantee in the business and, as I mentioned, is a $300 option on the Les Baer models. You get all this, plus an optional upgraded finish (Black T or hard chrome) for $2500. The value is simply the best in the high end 1911 world, bar none. I find this gun exceptionally tight, especially up front, where it really counts. Its also an incredibly smooth and accurate shooter. The barrel is a Kart NM and this gun utilizes an Ed Brown grip safety. I will also note that this 1911 is one of the most comfortable I own to shoot. The grip is very high cut, with no radius whatsoever. Its one of only a couple 1911s I own that way. Between that and the Ed Brown beavertail, its fits in my hands incredibly. As with all RRA 1911s, the Limited Match is very clean looking, with no marking at all on the right side and only "1911-A1" on the left in small lettering. The slide has a subtle French border around the outside, with is tastefully done. Mine was also built with no front cocking serrations. Its extremely unfortunate this gun is no longer available new, because its one of the best ever built. I fear if RRA resumed building them, prices would be considerably higher. These guns command some high prices on the used market already. If you can find one, that is, because RRA wasn’t in the 1911 business long and didn't build many when they were. This 1911 uses no firing pin safety. Unloaded weight: 41.4oz Slide: Forged carbon steel Frame: Forged carbon steel Country of origin: United States Approximate 2010 street price: $2500-$3000 Wanna kill these ads? We can help!