You must remember that not everyone is cut out to be a business owner. Answering in emails, meetings, etc etc isn't for everybody. When a general building contractor, I longed for the days of "punching out", having a beer with the boys and going home. I hired and worked with some amazing craftsmen, talented builders beyond belief, that never "hung their own shingle out". Never did I consider them second rate, or less talented than me. So this is my answer to the question of why a talented 'smith would choose to work for WC, NHC, etc rather than open their own shop. I wouldn't consider them second rate Also ,whether a semi-custom shop or a full-custom owner / operator, everybody has a first project, everybody. While I don't currently own any semi-custom 1911s, I have; and I trust the big name shops , with proven track records, to have great QC, if needed.