Have you ever closed your eyes for a second and when opening them again seen  an entirely new view?   Now try 15 years.   15 years ago a fire forced the closing of my small gunsmith business in Oregon where out in the countryside next to a roaring river I ran my small shop specializing in custom 1911’s, long range precision tactical rifles, tactical AR-15’s, and all Ruger .22’s.  I also worked on anything my community brought through my door which was mostly farm rifles used for predators year round and hunting in season.


15 years previous I bought a small ranch and setup shop.   Unable to walk after multiple severe traumas I knew I needed a strong challenge if I was ever going to regain vertical status.  With the help of my sons, father, and a really good friend I built a small 40x40 foot facility, obtained my FFL, and now by myself it was up to me to make it work.  I can’t count the number of long hours I spent in that shop doing just that.  I came very close to moving a bed in the corner.

1995ish vintage large capacity aluminum frame Para before beign shipped out

1995ish vintage large capacity aluminum frame Para before ready to  ship out


At that time the political landscape was much different and so was the landscape of the weapons I specialized in.  If you wanted a rocking 1911 you contacted one of the few specialty smiths like Bill Wilson or Les Bauer, put a deposit down to get on their waiting list, and then you waited.  Possibly a few years and 2-4 thousand dollars later your hand built work of art was delivered built to your exact specifications which were often guided in part by the knowledge you brought with you and part with guidance from the smith.  The same was true with the other arms I customized.   Either you selected from a very few selection of factory models or you had one custom made.  Those were the days!


When I closed my singed doors I was a great deal healthier and still young my wanderlust got the better of me and with 10+ years living in Asia already under my built I went back and did over 15 more.  12 of them in Thailand, based in Bangkok I was on the road half the month either working as a photographer or teaching photography workshops to tourists.  I loved this life.  Family brought me home and here I am today.


My 15 year old BLINK was over.  With my eyes firmly open I walked into a small gun shop and was blown away by the variety of factory custom 1911’s, AR-15’s, 10-22’s, tactical precision rifles, every weapon I took great pride in custom building piece by perfect piece.. were now available from the factory at a great deal less money than I could ever have built one.   Some of these are really great, others are posers.  But to a smart consumer the value is undeniable.


To an experienced eye you can date 1911’s like an anthropologist dates a village.  A certain beavertail only sold from these two years, a barrel maker only in business these years, and of course style. Styles changed.  From extreme “melts” to five color finishes to a flat carry piece to a large frame with the entire tool box hung from the rails.


My work was more simple and I dare say much more elegant.   I made both Limited and Unlimited IPSC 1911’s and I made carry 1911’s.  What made mine different was that I based them on the relatively difficult to work on double stack Para-Ordnance models.  Back when they were built in Canada and still needed a smith to run well.  At the time they were the only wide bodies in town and I learned what it took to make them as reliable or more so than their single stack cousins.   Many hours spent on my mill and lathe turned out tolerances that frankly I didn’t see coming from other shops. 

1998ish vintage Para P12 wide frame 1911 customized for concealed carry.   What a powerhouse!

1998ish vintage Para P12 wide frame 1911 customized for concealed carry.   12 rounds of +p .45’s.  What a powerhouse


And my customers loved being able to get an extremely tight wide body Govt size 1911 that held 14 rounds (15 with one in the chamber and 17 with a standard +2 floorplate) to a smaller Officers size that held 12.  And I was one of the very few who accepted aluminum models which increased the number of hours needed to finish one.  Still, the promise of a 25ish ounce Government size 1911 that held 17 rounds cocked, locked and ready to rock had great appeal.  It still does.  Extremely small scale, extremely high quality.  And much more manageable than your experience would lead you to believe.  The proof was in the shooting.


So on my home coming I not only enjoyed our huge grocery stores and retail outlets, but I was like a small child in a giant Toys R Us if you got me anywhere near an stocked gun shop.  Great for so many people.   And add to that we now had more states authorizing concealed carry including the Great State of Illinois.   I’d already taken my “re-training” in all matters tactical to heart and as I studied the landscape noticed it’s needs had changed in the blink or an eye.  My eye and yours.


The need for custom built weapons is still there, but now most are buying “factory built customs” which is okay..  (still nothing like a hand built piece), and more are carrying and need quality training. I’ve been back three years now and I consider that perfect timing.  Three years to re-train to the level I consider adequate for training others.  Hundreds of hours on the range, even more in study and class, and even more rounds downrange.   Finally I felt I’d achieved what I needed to offer you more than an average CCW class.  And I’m not talking about metallic reloading and other NRA classes like in home protection.. but they help.  


It’s everything, years on patrol in of one California’s largest cities, decades of military experience, years as a gun smith, and of course years spent training others and carrying concealed in many states.  The landscape as changed and I’m making sure I change along with it.


Until next time..