There’s no doubt that John Browning’s great design for the 1911 has become the classic American gun. It has served us for more than a century, both as the standard military sidearm and the choice for self-defense for generations. The very silhouette of this handgun has become instantly recognizable throughout the world and 1911 handguns have been for sale continuously ever since their introduction.
As with so many traditions, however, the 1911 began to fall out of favor; it seemed… old-fashioned, somehow. The criticisms built up over the years: the accuracy of standard M1911s seemed to be inadequate, its capacity wasn’t considered large enough and the ballistics of the .45ACP round didn’t compare favorably to newer ones. Just as the 1911 seemed to be ready to be shelved — or at least consigned to historical re-creation fans — some custom gunsmiths came to rescue this classic. Foremost among them is Les Baer, who has been making precision custom 1911s for nearly 25 years.
A review of the Les Baer 1911 Premier II has to begin with the concept of a custom handgun. Unlike many gunsmiths, Les Baer has found a way to provide custom precision in a production system. This is achieved by treating each individual handgun separately; they are built, not assembled. From the frame up, each part is fitted precisely to that gun, each given a matching serial number. At each stage, gunsmiths who specialize in the 1911 platform fit and tune each part to that particular frame. In fact, each pistol comes with a DVD that shows the production methods used. The result is a 1911 hand gun that is guaranteed to shoot 3″ groups at 50 yards. An upgrade for a 1.5″ guarantee is also available.
To begin with, the frame, slide and barrel are made from chrome moly steel (SAE4140), an ultra-high strength metal with a tensile strength of up to 180,000 psi. The slide is double serrated and the magazine well is beveled. Checkering on the front strap (30 lines per inch), in addition to the premium checkered cocobolo grips, provides firm, no-slip surfaces. Metal parts are given a blued finish.
The rear sight is a low mount LCB adjustable, with a hidden leaf, paired with a dovetail front sight. Baer provides a deluxe Commander hammer and sear and a beavertail grip safety with pad. The trigger is a custom Baer speed trigger with a crisp 4 pound pull.
Misfeeds and improper ejection have often been a problem with 1911s, so Baer has put a great deal of design consideration and gunsmithing work into preventing jams. The barrel is throated and the feed ramp polished to provide trouble-free feeding. The ejection port has been lowered and flared, the extractor tuned and polished and a custom Baer extended ejector installed.
The Les Baer 1911 Premier II is available with 5″ and 6″ barrels. Choose from .45ACP, .38 Super (with a supported chamber) or .400 COR-BON (a round introduced by Dakota Ammo in 1997 to emulate the 10mm round, on a necked-down .45ACP case). It is also possible to order a Premier II with dual .45ACP/.400 COR-BON barrels, each fitted to that individual handgun to ensure exact fit and guaranteed accuracy.
Although the Les Baer Premium II is often seen at IPSC Limited Class matches, it’s not just a competition handgun. Its accuracy makes for a great time at the range (not to mention the potential income from side bets with fellow shooters), home defense and as a carry pistol. The .400 COR-BON round was developed by Peter Pi at Dakota Ammo as a hunting caliber, which adds yet another dimension to the firearm. In the end, though, the Les Baer Premium II is a handgun to have just because it represents the best of American handgun tradition with the most advanced gunsmithing available.