Custom or "Semi" Custom - What's the difference?

Discussion in 'Beginner's Corner' started by fc2464, Feb 21, 2019.

  1. fc2464

    fc2464 It's normal to talk to your gun, right?

    Jul 24, 2016
    I hear terms like "full house custom" versus "semi custom" (referring to the likes of Wilson, Nighthawk, et al). What's the difference? Why the distinction? Aren't all the 1911's at this level custom fit by gunsmith's and not just assembled on a line out of pre-made parts? Just curious.

  2. Guy Montag

    Guy Montag Well-Known Member

    Oct 24, 2014
    8 hours vs 80 hours

    The extent of "hand fitment" is where the rubber meets the road.
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  3. k38

    k38 Active Member

    Aug 4, 2014
    I think the main difference is that the semi's have a menu you can choose from, and there's no way to order off the menu, so to speak. A full custom can be made exactly how you want it (although some custom smiths will not use certain parts).
  4. BigJimP

    BigJimP Well-Known Member

    Mar 12, 2018
    Its not a black & white line in my view....its a blurry line..

    Wilson Combat is viewed as a semi-custom....but there are a number of things or options that Wilson will do to a gun - that are not even in their catalog / like a variety of different sized thumb paddles on thumb safeties only as one example...

    But yes, in theory, a custom shop spends more time on a single gun...but is there a big difference between Wilsons upper end guns and full customs, no, not in my view.
  5. Dwe

    Dwe I'm a terminal 1911 Addict!

    Sep 4, 2011
    Customs start about 3k above semi customs and go up from there.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2019
  6. Busa Dave

    Busa Dave Well-Known Member

    Mar 3, 2018
    Well Wilson lol builds on an assy line except the top of the line model which is not custom because you cannot Choose your parts except from their menu. NHC uses one gun one Smith for example and are nice. Cabot or at least the ones I have are flawless and some were special build one offs or "custom" to a certain extent. THE biggest difference and I have more than a few full custom builds is the attention to detail to a small degree on Cabot and NHC and using whatever parts/configuration my Smith and I agree on. Many of which the big semi custom folks will not consider using a Schuemann barrel (yes I know the old man sold the company) just as an example or maybe a Caspian Damascus slide, 9x23 chambering, Ionbond finish etc.etc.

    Examples of a couple of full custom 1911's from Marc Morganti the Damascus is a .45 the other, dragon grip is a 10mm: SITE will not allow me top upload something is haywire.....
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2019
  7. azguy1911

    azguy1911 I'm done buying guns, I'm just a bystander now

    Oct 22, 2015
    $3,500 vs $8,500 plus :)
    UBOATDOC likes this.
  8. ZoidMeister

    ZoidMeister Consider my signature line before replying . . . .

    Dec 4, 2014
    Truthfully, I think it's more a matter of "WHO" did the work vs. "WHAT" or "How Much."

    A Semi-custom is made to order by a manufacturer who has a catalog of guns they make or use as a base gun.

    A Full Custom is made to order to your specifications (on your gun) by a guy or shop of guys who are Dedicated Craftsmen (aka Custom Smith's).

    You can find many of the more notable Smith's on the list in this link . . . . .

    Just my twocents.gif . . . . . . .
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  9. BigJimP

    BigJimP Well-Known Member

    Mar 12, 2018
    This is always an interesting discussion ...(and everyone should buy and shoot whatever they want). But this conversation comes up all the time over a beer after a range trip.....the difference in semi vs full custom, does it matter, is full custom better, which is better long term, more durable, more accurate, etc...

    If you have this discussion among a dozen guys that can easily buy whatever they want ...(put an arbitrary budget of $ 10K on the gun)...and see what they think the best way to go is / it will be interesting. We all have bias based on our own experience and guns our buddies own...on which is better - full custom or semi - and in the dozen or so guys that I know who could easily spend $10K on a gun ...there is no consensus.../ some think custom is the only way to go, some think its a waste of time & money, some think Guncrafter, Cabot, Wilson, Ed Brown ..etc....make the best guns. For what its worth, in my group of a dozen guys ( that each have a few 1911's ) ... as they argue what is the best way to go and what are their favorite guns...there are 2 big Nighthawk fans, one like Guncrafter, two on Cabots, 4 or 5 on Wilsons, a couple on full built customs .... some used, most new .../ there is just no consensus on semi vs full custom...

    Its just like the vehicles the guys in the same group drive....a few Lexus, Mercedes, Tesla, a few GMC & Chevy, a couple of Range Rovers, even 1 Dodge ( not sure who invited him...) consesus there either....

    Full disclosure ...I'm a Wilson & Lexus guy..../ ...not that the others are bad guns...Nighthawk, Cabot, Guncrafter, etc ...I just don't think they are better ( but the Dodge does suck.... )..;)
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  10. Busa Dave

    Busa Dave Well-Known Member

    Mar 3, 2018
    With the exception of Rob (Cabot) I use folks from here on my "full" customs.
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  11. AZ Husker

    AZ Husker Well-Known Member Supporting Addict

    Oct 14, 2017
    Rogers, Yost, nor Burton are not on the Arizona list in the above link.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2019
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  12. Busa Dave

    Busa Dave Well-Known Member

    Mar 3, 2018
  13. ZoidMeister

    ZoidMeister Consider my signature line before replying . . . .

    Dec 4, 2014
    It's an association. One must pay dues, submit multiple guns for months at a time for evaluation, and be accepted for membership to be on the list. Do they have standards? Very stringent standards to be sure, but a Craftsman who chooses not to join should not be dismissed because he made a business decision not to participate.

    JNW, Guy Montag, SCS1911 and 4 others like this.
  14. AZ Husker

    AZ Husker Well-Known Member Supporting Addict

    Oct 14, 2017
    And here I always thought they earned their way into a prestigious society.
  15. ZoidMeister

    ZoidMeister Consider my signature line before replying . . . .

    Dec 4, 2014
    Largely true, if one sees membership, and the cost of said membership, align with their core business goals.
  16. BCD 45

    BCD 45 Well-Known Member

    Feb 13, 2019

    Are you saying Dodge=Colt?

    Jim D
  17. Bugs

    Bugs Well-Known Member

    Oct 19, 2011
    The are not going to shoot any better with the 5K+ custom vs. a 2-3K semi. Most individuals do not shoot often enough or well enough to realize the benefits that "might" be obtained from a full custom. Full custom you can get it built however you want to a certain extent. Really comes down to what you want and what you are willing to spend.
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  18. B81

    B81 Well-Known Member

    Aug 12, 2018
    Having spent way too many years in Academia, I've come to learn that membership to "prestigious societies" tends to involve a lot of politics and knowing which hands to kiss. It shouldn't be that way. Excellence in your field should be enough. But it often isn't.
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  19. mbacker_99

    mbacker_99 Well-Known Member

    Jul 3, 2017
    A full custom is an experience like no other if you work with a top tier smith. I will use a simple thumb safety as an example.

    I wanted a Kings 201 style thumb safety on a 1950 Colt build. I suggested that we modify a Novak safety as it should look and feel close enough. Mr. Ted Yost told me no. He made what I really wanted.



    Notice the moderate high cut of the front strap. We decided to use a Wilson grip safety but it does not allow for as high of a hold as a Brown or EGW part. The moderate front strap cut balances the grip safety. The gun feels fantastic in the hand and the position of my finger to the face of the trigger is perfect. A super high cut or even Ted’s normal high cut would change everything.

    If you know the 1911 platform a full custom build has no equal. Let me stress that you really have know what you like and not just think you know. It took me years and quite a few guns to figure it all out.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
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  20. Busa Dave

    Busa Dave Well-Known Member

    Mar 3, 2018
    Weellll in the big picture in the future years from now and I use many Smiths from the (Engravers) FEGA, ACGG, APG and even primarily one of the founding members of Maker Knifemakers Guild (was a pallbearer at his funeral Martin Pullen). It will be a differentiator in the future and is why many who can qualify to gain entry do as it adds to the value of his or her work. Yes there are the dreaded politics of course however, it is something that in the future that will add to the ultimate and lasting value to your produced product. Have experienced many times over the last 30 years.

    Do I dismiss a builder because he or she is not in one of the "Guilds" absolutely not. My rifle builder of my competition rifles and precision sporters is one of my good friends Speedy Gonzalez (have a safe full of his work) who builds arguably some of the best rifles of their type on the planet (google him). Speedy and I have discussed this for many years and he lived and had his shop while instructing at the Brownells Advanced Gunsmithing Program at Trinidad State 10 years ago where the then President of ACGG Chuck Grace lived and has built 5 different rifles for me, Speedy just did not really want to take the time or do some of the activities the Guild does because of the time involved.

    That being said I do believe it is fair to say that I do not discount or disqualify from producing product for me, as a result of not being in one of the respective Guilds. If all things are equal 100% in my value analysis of what one maker is capable of and has shown with his or her work it is the differentiator. Just so you know and this is a stone cold fact------there are many in each of the aforementioned fields that were or were not admitted due to shall we say issues that were not associated with his or her actual "produced work".. There is a lot more to this than the average consumer knows. :)

    Everyone is free to spend his discretionary $$$$$'s on whatever they choose albeit a RIA, Wilson, NHC, Cabot or a Chen product. For me it is kind of a game to ensure that what I buy is in some cases unique and also as much as I can determine be built or worked on by the best in class in the field because in the end it just works out better for present and future value in my actual experience.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019

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