The Very FIRST Custom Colt Pistols

This is a discussion on The Very FIRST Custom Colt Pistols within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I found this photo in an old Gun Rag. Please forgive the scan quality. The paper stock was really yellow & the original photo was ...

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Thread: The Very FIRST Custom Colt Pistols

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    The Very FIRST Custom Colt Pistols


    I found this photo in an old Gun Rag. Please forgive the scan quality. The paper stock was really yellow & the original photo was not all that crisp either.
    I actually passed up on a chance to have a Swenson custom built for me at a really super price. I did meet Swenson. His firearms are decently collectible these days.
    Armand Swenson built true early custom Colt .45s way back before there were any 1911 clones being commercially produced. Some military armorers were making more accurate military 1911 competition pistols.
    Back then...he was the one true master.
    His first early custom pistols date back to when there were no extended thumb safety's or slide releases or any ambidextrous thumbs & no Kart "easy fit" barrels or Bo Mar adjustable rear sights or combat sights or longer barrel links.
    No "drop in" or long triggers or beavertails...no nothing. The "extended" thumb safety (shown on the pistol in the photo) was done by brazing a piece of extension metal onto a standard Colt factory thumb safety & then carefully filing it to shape.
    Swenson used to take a "stock" factory Colt barrel & add "weld metal" to the lugs & the barrel hood & then hand fit the barrel to the slide. The slides were stock Colt slides tightened & hand lapped to the frame. The "slide to frame" fit was tightened by peening down & filing the slide & frame rails & then lapping them together. He would repeat that fitting & lapping until there was no vertical or lateral movement of the slide to the frame yet the slide travel was smooth as polished butter. That is a S&W adjustable rear revolver sight milled into the top of the slide. Swenson really knew his Colt .45s. He did whatever was necessary to build a .45 that functioned flawlessly but never did any "cosmetic only" or unnecessary modifications.
    There are some FANTASTIC custom pistol smiths working these days but Swenson was one of the first if not "The First" ~ His pistols were usually sent out to be hard chromed. No customer pistol ever left the Swenson shop until it passed a consecutive 200 round flawless function test. Swenson would let the slide slam home on a "just built" .45 & was not satisfied until it "rang like a bell" & locked up like one solid piece of metal. I also THINK (but I'm not sure) that he was the first "smith" to checker the front strap.
    This photo is of a 10 shot machine rest group ~ at 25 yds ~ after this tightened Swenson custom pistol already had 6,000 rounds through it. The 10 rnd (center to center) group size is 5/8" ~ I just thought some of you younger forum members might enjoy reading about Armand Swenson. He was the first Guru of our modern "tricked out" and super accurate 1911 pattern .45 pistols.
    I not sure about this but didn't he design the first ambi safety & then start selling it and also a rear sight that he designed ???? Help me out here if anybody remembers. Was the sight called Swensight????????
    Last edited by QKShooter; February 20th, 2005 at 02:46 PM.
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    excellent thx for this kind of info... most this stuff was done long b4 i was born ...

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    Not sure about the safety or sights question. Did the article give you any idea of what it cost back then? That would be interesting given constantly rising gun prices. I bought my Colt Diamondback in 1969 for $125 I believe. Don't think my Colt Commander Lightweight was much more, but it was a lot of money to me back then...
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    Bumper...I'll check

    A very nice condition original Swenson NOW is worth about 3 grand & maybe a bit more if you can find one.

    Swenson "metal stamped" his name (I'm not sure exactly) but I'm halfway sure A. Swenson on the slide disconnector run.
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    Swenson Guns

    Mr. Swenson used S&W revolver sights in the early days with them being machine into the slide and pinned. This was before the Swensight. Wayne Novak did his apprenticeship under him, and we all know where that went. He used to put a steel pin across the trigger screw to keep it from moving in or out. And yes he did invent the ambi-safety. He was a true master in the art of the spiral tube and a nice man. Jim Hoag also installed the S&W sights, another master. Had a chance to shoot both, they were GREAT!!!! Thanks for the great picture.

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    Thumbs up Thanks TAPS CCW

    Great addition!
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    I remember reading "Cooper on Handguns" in the mid-1970s, and the S&W revolver sight installation was highly recommended (as was Swenson's work, if I recall correctly). Custom-only options, in that era.

    Man, we've come a long way. Of course, the M1911 is still a top choice, 94 years after its adoption by the military!

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