Bill Wilson and Ken Hackathorn talk 1911’s

I grew up reading gun magazines, which means that my formative years were plastered with gun magazine layouts featuring 1911 pistols that, frankly, bordered on pornographic. I learned to revere the name Armand Swenson and my dreams were filled with visions of squared trigger guards and Pachmayr Combat Specials. I read about 1911’s in magazines and books, drooled over them in gunstores, and even bought video tapes about the 1911. For you dang kids who should be getting off my lawn, the term “video tape” describes a plastic cartridge that contains an actual form of tape on which video has been imprinted. They were played in devices called a “VCR” and you can probably go see an example of one in a run-down retail store security system or in the living room of a hipster who is interested in watching E.T. “ironically” while they sip their cruelty free, fair trade latte.

Anyhoo, one of the video tapes I bought many moons ago was one that featured Bill Wilson (founder of Wilson Combat) and Ken Hackathorn talking about what goes into making a good custom 1911. It was like a rosetta stone for the person who wanted to wade into the mysterious world of the 1911. My copy of that tape gave up the ghost quite some time ago, but the other day I went to youtube and lo and behold:

Yes, it’s two hours long…but if you have an interest in the 1911 pistol it’s two hours well spent. Bill and Ken are both experts on the 1911 pattern pistol and even though the video is from 1997 the information in it is as relevant today as it was then. If you want to know what exactly sets a good custom or semi-custom 1911 apart from something sitting on the shelf for $450 bucks, you’ll see it. You will see the gunsmiths at Wilson Combat (most of whom still work for WC today) actually performing various tasks like a trigger job, fitting a grip safety, beveling a mag well, and fitting a slide to a frame.

It’s unbelievably cool stuff and after watching the video I’m overcome with the urge to build a 1911 at home and maybe call up Wilson Combat and spend a ridiculous amount of money on a completely impractical gun that would make absolutely no sense but that I would doubtless love and adore with the fervor a sane person reserves only for their spouse or children. My fellow 1911 peeps get what I’m speaking, here. Few objects on earth are as satisfying to pick up and ogle as a really well done 1911, and the more you know about how they are made the more you come to revere the dark art of taking high quality steel and carefully shaping it into an object of lethal beauty.

Now that I think about it, Gun Nuts could probably use a long term review of a high-end custom 1911 pistol. You go ahead and watch the video. I’ve got to go sell Caleb on giving me a bunch of money for a 1911 send Caleb an email about an idea for a series.


  1. As a person who started with no experience whatsoever on the 1911 platform (self admitted glock fanboy), I decided I wanted to build one. So I just finished, and man am I glad I did it. I love that gun and I’m going to get some .45 acp dies and shoot it til the wheels fall off. It also gives me quite a bit of perspective on how the gun works and I’m pretty capable of diagnosing any problems. Just get high quality parts, especially where the frame and slide and barrel are concerned. I recommend Caspian, but I used a “drop in” Ed-Brown barrel so I didn’t have to deal with the hassle of fitting the lower barrel lugs.

  2. Never understood the desire for square trigger guards. Take the most beautiful gun and make it ugly, why don’t ya…

  3. OMG Lenny Magil. How many of you whippersnappers know his contributions to gun videos?

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