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Are the semi customs way overpriced?

Discussion in 'General 1911 talk' started by Sharptop, Mar 2, 2018.

  1. Sharptop

    Sharptop New Member

    Jan 20, 2018
    I'm not trying to start a firestorm, but merely trying to figure out if they are worth way more than DW or Colt or others. It just seems to me that they are really high on their prices compared to other guns. I suspect their prices back in 2008 were about half or less and they are riding the wave. Those of you who are far more experienced than me, please offer your thoughts as to why they are worth it or not, etc.
    salelcid likes this.
  2. blitz45

    blitz45 Cogito ergo armatus sum Supporting Addict

    Nov 6, 2017
    I write this as someone who hasn't yet owned a semi-custom.

    My first 1911 was a Rock Island GI. My second was a Remington R1 Enhanced that was about twice the price of the RIA. My third and most expensive was a Dan Wesson A2.

    Each time I got more and more for my money and in my opinion, the increase in quality was worth it.

    While I haven't owned a semi, I have handled and shot a few and again, in my opinion, the step up in quality is worth it.

    I'm still learning and much is still new to me, but I imagine there has to be a point where you can't get any better quality, just more personalized.

  3. Wilsonwessonbrown

    Wilsonwessonbrown Moderator Staff Member Moderator Supporting Addict

    Apr 11, 2015
    They are far nicer then any Colt Production or Custom shop. Cosmetically they are far nicer then a DW mechanically they are slightly better. It’s up to you whether you think the price difference is worth it.
  4. Jollyroger1

    Jollyroger1 Well-Known Member Supporting Addict

    Sep 19, 2015
    Take a trip to Wilson Combat or Nighthawk. See the tools, machinery, gunsmiths, reps at work. Watch the slides/frames/small parts being cut from barstock and then being fit/tuned by hand. There’s a reason why you pay what you do for a semi-custom.

    Is it worth it? That’s subjective. For me, the guns are worth every penny.
  5. Howe45acp

    Howe45acp Active Member

    Jul 2, 2017
    Depends on who you go with. My Baer TRS that had some custom touches & was only slightly higher that some custom shop Colts. My Colt SCG was $50. more than my TRS.
    boatdoc and wcanterbury like this.
  6. Sawgrass

    Sawgrass Well-Known Member

    Oct 9, 2011
    Regardless of what anyone says people will spend their coin doing the best they can for themselves and bend the facts to suit their quests.

    Spend your money, take and post your pics, enjoy the journey.
    It's a fun ride!

    Based upon my personal experience as I've learned more about our beloved 1911 it almost comes down to a gun by gun bases. No one manufacturer is the end all be all, no semi-custom shop is the end all be all. I've handled many full customs that weren't as good as a few semi-customs. Again...spend the coin and enjoy the journey.

    When you find one that you like, that you shoot well, that doesn't make you mad trying to clean it, keep it. Otherwise sell it and try another one.

    We're addicts for a reason :)
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
  7. Raylan Givens

    Raylan Givens Never Forget Supporting Addict

    Aug 18, 2015
    Good Lord. Where's my Army Chief post from 12 years ago. Let me find it.
    Billy Rao, Pedro and Kip like this.
  8. FWoo45

    FWoo45 The whole world is about three drinks behind. Supporting Addict

    Jan 13, 2017
    My Baer was like 50 bucks more than my DW. I can tell that the trigger is a little better but other than that not much difference in quality. They're both good guns but I do want to try something a bit up the semi custom food chain. I'm alright knowing that I'll be mostly paying more for aesthetics and more hand fitting of parts.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
    wcanterbury likes this.
  9. AJP

    AJP Active Member

    Jun 15, 2017
    That is a hard question to answer. I do think with some of them sitting in the over $4000 range that seems a bit high for a semi custom, but I really can't fault their quality. My Wilson CQB is considerably nicer than either my previous Baer or DW Valor, and is priced accordingly. Dan Wesson is a tricky one because they are really punching above their price point. $1200 of Dan Wesson gets you a lot further than $1200 of Colt. Then again if the plan is a full custom build, Colt is King.
  10. stlgecko

    stlgecko Gecko Lives Matter

    May 24, 2014
    For the most part each extra 500-1000 dollars gets you something extra. May be better parts, may be a nicer finish, etc. The point of diminishing returns kicks in at different points for each person.
  11. 605atthe wheels

    605atthe wheels In the staging lanes Supporting Addict

    Oct 19, 2012

    "HERE ENDITH THE LESSON" Prof Ms. SAWGRASS absolutely nailed this one with a sledge hammer & a 6" spike.

  12. wcanterbury

    wcanterbury NRA Life Member, GOA Member Supporting Addict

    Sep 25, 2015
    This is truth! Ms. Sawgrass has sat down under a superior gunsmith and BUILT her own. We loved hearing her daily posts about how she built a 1911!

    We need to bring the whole build posts together as a sticky or series as I would love to read it all again! @Wilsonwessonbrown
  13. Babboonbobo

    Babboonbobo Avatar is back to my favorite things! Supporting Addict

    Nov 18, 2014
    Tru dat!

    I’ve climbed the ladder, price wise, don’t regret anything. I am very happy with my collection and want to add other semi customs. I’m not sure how long before I go full custom but it’s going to be a while as I still see value in the semi’s.
  14. Steve Owens

    Steve Owens Well-Known Member

    Mar 20, 2017
    I have a semi-custom Ed Brown, bought it used for about the price of a New upper end Dan Wesson so caught a decent deal as it was slightly used. I will say this I like some things about it better and some things I don't like, but I do know that I hate COLTS unless it's a custom shop gun in my opinion they suck... They have ridden the name, been up and down on quality, produced so many TALO
    "collectibles" that you can't keep up with em all, and if you get a good one well then you got a good pistol, but if you get a bad one well, they just suck... And in my opinion the chances are 50/50 at best.

    Now that being said I think DW is a great bang for the buck, they hold up, they most generally are decently accurate, you can do small upgrades to even improve the performance and not break the bank, and other than lacking maybe a little flare, you usually see that in shooting and handling, fit and even finish when compared to some of the semi-customs reviews show them to be quite comparable. I prefer them because of my pistol budget, I would rather own 3 nice guns then one outlandishly expensive maybe great gun. Now my opinion might be quite different if I were rich. Cause I would have me some of them $4000-$5000 pistols, But, I am the type that prefer to take a $1500 pistol and try to make it into a $4000-$5000 pistol. Now that being said I too can see the value in this Ed Brown I own there was a lot of attention to details in this gun that is for sure. And to be honest, I would have to say over all if I could own them in my budget I would have 4-5 of them instead of 4-5 of the Dan Wessons.

    I wish I could afford to own a few more of the higher dollar babies though for sure. However I did sometime back shoot a WC that belonged to a buddy of mine, and I will tell you for the price of that thing. I was not impressed. it looked nice, felt nice but shot like utter ****. So, I am guessing you can get good and bad in any of em. Of course some of the higher dollar jobs come with great CS and great options... I mean I look at some of the GI guns on here and nearly wet myself I get so excited. Absolutely beautiful guns, but at the end of the day, my DW's get the job done, I have a few that our outrageously accurate guns and will hold a 1" group at 50 feet all day long if I do my part and I would sasy benched may very well do near the same at 50 yards.

    The more I shoot the ones I do, the more I like them.. I have however grown very attached to this Ed Brown in a very short period of time. So to sum it all up as I am a long winded type fellow if you want to own a bunch and you are on a budget DW can't be beat in my book, If you got the bucks and can afford the bigger boys, man by all means go for it, they are all great in their own way.... Except for COLTS....

    I think one of the other things I like about the DW so much is their consistency., I mean I haven't gotten a bad one yet. And I also like the fact that they pay enough attention to their factory line to pick out rough spots on their guns and call them blems and sell for a discount, this shows me that they are paying attention to details. And that they are striving to make a mechanically and cosmetically nice gun all the way around.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2018
  15. JohnnyEgo

    JohnnyEgo Well-Known Member

    May 17, 2017
    When I started out, I couldn't understand why anyone would pay more then a grand for a 1911. It took a while for me to learn to appreciate the semi custom and custom builders. I spent that time learning how to shoot, what I liked, and what I didn't. As my tastes and understanding developed, I started to become more specific about what I wanted in a 1911. I chased many that were kind of what I wanted, or had some of the features, etc... Semi custom is where I was finally able to get all the things I wanted in one gun. By that time, my taste was very specific, I had the money, and I wanted to spend it. And I moved on from there.

    One of the things I've come to realize is that I spent far more in pursuit of parts of an ideal then I ended up spending on custom or semi-custom guns. For example, I bought a Delta Elite because I always wanted a 10mm handgun. And I hated it. So I bought the Kimber Eclipse in 10mm, because it had many of the features I wanted, and was inexpensive. But it wasn't truly what I wanted, either. Then the newest iteration of Delta came out, and it had some features I liked, such as a high undercut, beavertail, safety, and sights, and it also didn't have front cocking serrations. But it didn't have front strap checkering or a ramped barrel. At this point, I also bought a Glock 20 for the reliability. And then the new Delta Rail. I had four handguns for which I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000, and none of them had everything I was looking for.


    So I sent my oldest Delta and a check for $3,000 to Nighthawk, and had them build me everything I always wanted in a 10mm. I could have saved myself years of frustration, had everything I wanted in one gun in a short period of time, all for the same or even less money.


    I wasn't underserved by my Colts and Kimbers and Sigs, but my tastes and preferences moved on from what they could provide out of the box. Now the quantity of guns I purchase has gone way down, but the quality has gone way up, and what I get is not some approximation of what I want, but everything I want, in terms of reliability, function, and aesthetics. That is the real value the higher end guns provide, but only if the individual truly values them more then the price they command.
  16. TangoWhiskeyFoxtrot

    TangoWhiskeyFoxtrot Well-Known Member Supporting Addict

    Dec 28, 2017
    This is not an opinion, it's just a calculation. I don't know what pistols used to cost (except everything used to be cheaper), or have enough knowledge to judge anyone's choice. But I did think about this some.

    If you assume that a custom gun has somewhere around $1,500 in base high-quality parts (maybe this is too high or low but it seemed like a reasonable guess) that means that only $2,000 of a $3,500 semi-custom is the "value-added" portion.

    These parts are then expertly machined, cut, milled and polished, and (I believe) usually hand-fit and tuned by an experienced pistolsmith.

    If it takes between 25 and 30 total man-hours (also a guess but seemed reasonable) of skilled labor, plus specialized equipment, to finish the pistol then you are only paying $65-$80 per hour for some of the finest craftsmanship available.

    A friend of mine paid a plumber $350 to spend 30 min swapping a valve in a toilet. My son paid a garage $400 to swap some spark plugs and not fix a car.

    Maybe the parts are only $1,000 and it's $100/hr, it's still buying some awfully specialized skills for less than a toilet-valve swapper.

    I'm not saying any of it is right or wrong. It just is. Top-quality machine tools are expensive. Top-notch machinists make good money. Hand fitment takes time and skill. Whether all this work put into a pistol is worth $3,500 to someone is an entirely personal matter but, from an economic perspective, it seems like a pretty good deal to me.
  17. Steve Owens

    Steve Owens Well-Known Member

    Mar 20, 2017
    That is a very good assessment I would have to say, I tell you I have found out first hand what kind of time it actually takes to machine cuts in a pistol and to make the look good, I have also done a lot of work by hand prior too, I have also done quite a few flush cuts, crowns, countersink and flush of slide catches, a couple fitted beavertails, a few hand checkering of front straps, these guys that work on these pistols for a living are craftsmen, most of them love their jobs and take great pride in doing the best they can possibly do... All this equates to time is money, and you get what you pay for... I only don't have some really expensive hand worked guns (I.E.) Customs cause I really can't afford them... One day I may have one. But, only time will tell.
  18. boatdoc

    boatdoc Well-Known Member Supporting Addict

    Aug 3, 2015
    great thread idea

    it is in th e eye of the beholder. I am sure each of us at some time has said" it is crazy to spend X on a 1911 ..I do not get it" and then we try one or buy one --and get it

    sure I would LIKE to spend 1-2 grand less for the products I have come to love( so would my wife Carol--)... I would also like to buy gas for 50 cents a gallon, a dozen rolls for a dollar, heck a box of cereal for a dollar or less. The world has changed and it is expensive to be an AMerican. WE are paying the extra $$ to skilled gunsmiths to create something special for us . Something we will enjoy for years. (it seems the only area where prices have decreased ( that I am aware of ) is mass produced electronics. WE spent thousands back in 2001 for very heavy, bulky old style TVs only to see plasma and led tvs take over the market and go from thousands a piece to hundreds for HUGE screen units.computers a are the same I think..but not cellphones. they defy logic)

    Gunsmiths are a rare breed with unique skills(kind of like submarine builders). becaus e of that, they command top dollar among the best of them. They are a proud group who work very hard to bring us clos e to perfection with each gun made.

    I am beginning to think that the prices are at a tipping point though. they seem to have hit a ceiling. I am sure DW and NHC( who raised priced yet again) might now agree. I wonder if their sales are still as high as they were before the prices were raised.

    for me 2 grand for a DW is to high. I can get a LB or a Deep River Custom made for me for a bit more and my enjoyment of them is light years above what they produce(IMHO)

    my opinion is the same for NHC. LOve their guns. loved them mor e below 4 grand. I do not set the prices. I decide what my limits are though

    whatever you decide--enjoy the ride
  19. Steve Owens

    Steve Owens Well-Known Member

    Mar 20, 2017
    This is true, I would say mechanically nearly any semi-custom may shoot close to as good as an actual custom, but when it comes to the personal touches, the hand fit precision barrels, etc... you can get to a point where all that can be done has been done, and yet you can still find another great pistol with not as much work done, not as much personalizing but, still shoots very comparable to the latter.
  20. boatdoc

    boatdoc Well-Known Member Supporting Addict

    Aug 3, 2015
    I thought like you do until I read that Wilson has state d it takes close to 100 hours to make one of their guns.. whethe r it is 30-50 hours or over pay for the unique skills that they have.

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